– Sr. Judith Yuen, fmm
After entering the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, my hands were off from all work and responsibilities, I left the noisy world to enter into quietness. Inside the convent, I had enough time for prayer, especially for adoration before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, enjoying the presence of God near me. Life in the community was full of new findings and challenges. To start with, I needed to follow the very organized time table of the community, next was to learn how to keep silence. As I was accustomed to the rhythm of busy life outside, to slow down suddenly and to follow a regular time table of life took me time to adjust. Though without big responsibility or big things to be done, but everything needed to be done for the love of God.
The way to do the housework in the convent was very different from the way I did it at home, a good example is sweeping the floor: at home I was taught to sweep with a broom from one side to the other side in front of me towards myself, in the convent, I was taught to use a long handle flat brush to push the rubbish away. In the beginning I could not control the brush easily, either it hit objects on its way or scattered the rubbish. I took long time to clean a small place, the way I struggled with the broom became the story for a good laugh.
The first challenge came quickly: after one month of quiet life, the superior told me I could go home to visit my family. My companions were delighted to go home, but I was quite the contrary. I would like to go home to see grandmother and comfort her, but I am afraid to face my uncle. My superior knew that my family was against me entering the convent and I am afraid to face them, but she still encouraged me to go. She sent another aspirant to accompany me to go home. That day, we said the Rosary fervently on the way, asking Our lady to guide and protect us. Arriving at the door, I gathered courage to press the door bell, hoping that grandma would be the one to open the door. When the door was opened, uncle was the one appeared in front of me, I saw grandma standing inside the house, her face was turning pale. I was about to introduce my companion and show my good will to uncle when he took the first move and said, ‘Since you ran away from home, I have no more relation with you, take what belong to you and leave here.’ Then he threw my clothes and photo albums out. I tried to control myself to keep calm, wishing to say a few words to grandma, my uncle already closed the door, I could only heard the sobbing of grandma behind the door.
My heart was painful as pierced by a sword, my mind was blank. I held my tears and picked up the albums with my companion. The clothes were not important, they were not suitable to be worn in the convent, but I could not leave the photos of my family and friends lying there. We tried to squeeze the albums into the only plastic bag we had but could not do so, so we needed to carry some in our hands. The plastic bag succumbed under the weight of the old style heavy albums, the handles gave way, and we need to half dragged the bag to go along. Going back to Ma On Shan was a long way, so I thought of asking help from the ‘Idiot’ brothers. I was not able to contact any of them, the coins were finished (we needed to use the coin public phone). Under the heat and with hunger, we managed to arrive the convent safely with the albums. The two of us were exhausted. When the superior saw us, she was scared and approached us quickly to see what had happened. Before I opened my mouth, tears rolled down. The superior embraced me, comforting me while I narrated the event to her. After hearing, she said in a firm voice, ‘Now you follow Christ with peace of heart, no more going home.’ Her words not only gave me comfort, but also strengthened my desire to follow Christ, despite of hardships on my way, I would continue the path with determination. I trust in my Lord, believe in his love for me, I am sure I can conquer difficulties and advance.
Seeing my determination, the sisters in charge arranged to let me join the pre-novitiate, since the pre-novitiate was in Taiwan, that brought me new difficulty. Those days, there was no communication between Taiwan and mainland China, that means, I would have difficulty to communicate with my family, or even brought trouble to them. Before I left, the superior told me, to avoid giving trouble to my family, I would send an address in Singapore to my family for communication, but would not tell them where I was going, just said that I was going abroad for study. She also reminded me not to tell anything to my grandma, uncle and aunty, or any friends about my where about. I was a little worried, my family would go with suspicion when they were not told about where I was, the more for my father, since he was sick and his condition was off and on, knowing that I was far away might worsen his condition.
Christ is calling me ardently, his love attracted me and urged me on, I trusted in the love of God and the arrangement of the sisters, I entrusted everything into the hands of God who loves me, putting down all my worries, I followed my Lord to go to far off place, with joy and expectation! The day I took flight, only the sister in charge of the aspirants and the other two aspirants sent me off, the sister told me there was no worry, sisters from the pre-novitiate had been informed to fetch me. It was my first time to go abroad by plane, with fear and excitement in my heart, I felt God was with me, there was no fear! (To be continued)