Vocation Story By Sister Patricia Rodríguez Leal, CSC
An Invitation I Did Not Expect
Since I was young, the suffering of children due to violence affected me deeply. I dreamed of doing something to help them. As a result, I decided to study to be a teacher. Working in different public schools, all of them on the margins of cities where violence prevailed, I found the same need for peace.
After three years of working as an educator, a friend of mine invited me to the Vocational Center of Monterrey in northeast Mexico. She was discerning her call to religious life. I went without expectations, just to accompany my friend. As I attended each meeting with her, I learned about different religious communities. Through their sharing, I saw another possibility for serving people in need in a radical way. Even though I felt something deep in my heart, that was not the time for me to respond.
Later, my older sister met the Sisters of the Holy Cross and started visiting them regularly. On different occasions, my sister asked me to accompany her to the monthly meetings the sisters held through a program called Finding My Way. I enjoyed the meetings I attended, but I wasn’t interested in doing another discernment process.
Come and See
After that another friend, who was also visiting the sisters, invited me to another program the sisters offered called Come and See. This program consisted of living in the convent for three months, without any commitment, just to get to know the sisters’ culture and to see religious life closer. I accepted the invitation. My friend was enthusiastic about living with the sisters, and for the third time, I accompanied someone with an interest in religious life.
During those three months, I had the opportunity to pray with the sisters and to share meals in the evenings. It was a good time to get to know them in a very familiar way. Every month I had an individual meeting with one of the sisters. There were questions like, what do you think about us? What are your dreams? How do you see yourself in the future? Even though at the beginning I went just to accompany my friend, I took the discernment process seriously. I was grateful for the opportunity to be there.
Near the end of the three months, my friend left the program. As for me, I experienced something I did not expect—I did not want to leave. I thought maybe what I was feeling was not real, so I asked to stay three more months. After I finished the second term, I was scared because the feeling of wanting to stay continued. This time I did not request to stay longer; instead, I went home. Before leaving, I told the sisters that I would come back in six months to start the discernment process to be a Holy Cross sister.
When I returned to the convent, there were three other young women in the Come and See program. It was great to be accompanied in the discernment process. The days of prayer, sharing stories during mealtimes, celebrating birthdays, and accompanying the sisters in their ministries were very helpful in viewing myself as a Sister of the Holy Cross.
My own mission
While discerning, I was asked to write my life story. Doing this helped me to put together all the memories of God’s presence in my life. There was one memory that came to me, the Mass of Resurrection for my niece Vivian, who died two years earlier. I remembered the words of the priest: “Vivian had accomplished her mission in life by making her parents happy.” Then he asked us, “What is your mission?” His question made me reaffirm my call of caring for children through peace education and to create safe spaces where violence has no place.
Living with the sisters helped me to realize that the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross was the community where I felt welcomed. I had the freedom to be myself and to fulfill my mission. Without a doubt, I wanted to continue in the next phase of my initial formation: the novitiate.
New language and culture
As a novice, I went to live in the United States. It was not an easy process, learning the language and culture and being away from everything that was familiar to me. But time and feeling loved by people in ministry helped me to feel at home. Those experiences, along with the ones in the community, were always opportunities for growth and increased my desire to be a sister.
On May 9, 2009, I made my first profession of vows. I committed to God to be vulnerable, accepting the help of my community to grow as a sister, in moments of joy and sorrow. Recently I celebrated 14 years as a professed sister. Throughout all these years, I have experienced religious life in different communities and ministered with sisters from different countries, in Mexico and the United States.
My dream of helping children came true. I established a new ministry called Niños por la Paz (Children for Peace). It is an afterschool program that helps young ones to recognize themselves as children of God, learning to love who they are, others and nature. Niños por la Paz began in 2010 in Guadalupe, Nuevo León, Mexico, during the most critical time of violence in the country.
I can now say choosing to join the religious life has been a blessing. I am grateful for all these years of living with compassionate women who are willing to share life with others and who hold the same desire to spread God’s love to all people.
When I accompanied my sister and my two friends to discern their vocations, I never imagined my life turning out this way. I am thankful to God for this invitation to the consecrated life and for helping me to stay open to the beauty of the unexpected.