Teodozija Myroslava Mostepaniuk is a Ukrainian sister of the Order of St. Basil the Great (Province of St. Michael the Archangel, Croatia). Her academic background is in Ukrainian and English language and in religious pedagogy and catechetics. After final vows in 2018, she worked in parish ministry in Eastern Catholic parishes in Prniavor, Bosnia, and Kyiv, Ukraine. Currently, she is doing her licentiate studies in church history and teaching religious education in secondary school in Osijek, Croatia, and has contributed several columns to Global Sisters Report.
It is difficult for me to remember exactly how I felt on the night of April 28, 2018, the eve of my final vows. I may have double-checked the ironed clothes and the souvenirs for the guests, repeated the formula of the vows and prayed in the chapel for blessings for the next day. Instead, I would like to share with you the memories of another night, one that accompanied me from my entry into the monastery until my final vows.
I entered the monastery in 2008. Coming from a crowded city with an intense pace of life, I had to make a conscious effort to adapt to the measured schedule of the monastery. I had to go through many adjustments: the daily schedule, the way of prayer and communication, and accepting the traditions and culture of others. Sometimes, it also meant dealing with complex human relationships in the community, strange forms of devotion and learning endless daily routines.
I think my mistake, which caused my spiritual dark night, was the perception that God wanted me to give up my dreams, desires, knowledge, analytical thinking, artistic and scientific pursuits, and spiritual preferences. I thought I had to renounce communication with my friends outside. When you start believing in a God who restricts your life, you begin to die slowly, and then the dark night descends. During the novitiate, I wrote a poem with these words: "In the darkness, my heart feels God's footsteps."
My resurrection journey began in December 2016 at an Ignatian retreat. It was there, when I found myself in complete silence, with my phone turned off and all my usual distractions put aside, in the midst of the beautiful winter nature, meditating on the words of the Holy Scriptures, that I deeply experienced that God is still very much alive, beautiful and majestic and that He has his own plans. I knew he wanted me to live and breathe fully within the monastery. This began my coming out of the dark night.
Within the next two years, I wholeheartedly professed my lifelong vows, knowing that the Lord also promises to always be with me. When the foundation of your life is a loving and living God, the difficulties and even moments of falling become an opportunity for experiencing His mercy and closeness. Perhaps, sometimes, it may seem to you that He is dead or absent, but look for Him — and you will find Him Risen in the garden of your life.
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists reflected on the question: How did you feel the night before your perpetual vows, and how did you cope with those feelings? CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.
PHOTO: Sr. Teodozija Myroslava Mostepaniuk makes her final profession as a Sister of the Order of St. Basil the Great (Province of St. Michael the Archangel, Croatia), placing her hand on the Gospel on April 29, 2018, in Osijek, Croatia. (Courtesy of Teodozija Myroslava Mostepaniuk)