Perth’s newest religious order is throwing open its doors to women who are asking themselves if they are called to be a religious sister.
By Robert Hiini
The Missionaries of the Gospel, a fledgling community inspired by the life and teaching of the late John Paul II, will host a discernment retreat at their house in Willagee from Friday January 30 to Sunday Fedruary 1, promising that attendees “will be able to taste what it is like to live our way of life for a couple of days.”
At present, the nascent community consists of the recently consecrated Sr Bernadette MG and postulants Beatrice Yong and Natalie Thomas.
Speaking to The Record at their Willagee home, the three women explained why, in these postmodern times of agnosticism and heightened individualism, they should choose to be so counter cultural.
“Sometimes there are one too many signs that you can’t ignore,” says Ms Yong regarding her own entrance into the community.
“I didn’t look for them but I recognised some signs when they came along.”
But exactly what kind of life is she postulating? What does it mean to be a religious; to be a sister today?
Prefacing her comments as a work in progress, the community’s “Mother” or leader Sr Brenadette, says that a religious is someone “called by God to give themselves completely and with an undivided heart to Christ and His mission in the Church, someone who is always wanting to give more of themselves.”
Far from being a slight against marriage and the lay vocation that was given prominence at the Second Vatican Council, she says that a religious vocation is simply a different call from God that people who are discerning can arrive at from a variety of different life experiences.
“They may have been in a few relationships or not and they value families and see the great need for them but there’s still a “more” that they want to give.”
“They don’t want to feel bound to a particular place but to the whole Church, to be available for the Lord to use them in any way; to take Jesus to the world,” Sr Bernadette says.
The women say that simply living in a community with each other is a sign of hope to the world; that despite their very different personalities and cultural backgrounds, God is giving them the grace to live together despite their daily struggles.
Natalie Thomas describes herself as a “perpetual discerner” before she entered the community last year.
She considered her vocation while studying in the relative solitude of Melbourne, far from her very active involvement in Catholic life in Perth.
“I was commitment phobic. I thought about marriage and religious life and they were both very attractive to me.”
“I saw the beauty of marriage but there was a deeper inkling,” Ms Thomas said, recounting her exploration of several different orders before settling on the Missionaries of the Gospel.
Like all religious congregations, the Missionaries have a charism – a special gift of the Holy Spirit – that shapes the way their faith is lived out.
“For us, following in the footsteps of John Paul II means sharing the faith in a very personal and experiential way; developing relationships, not preaching at anyone,” Sr Bernadette said.
“It’s a very different way of being with people and that’s focused on building relationships and experiencing Christ and revealing Christ through those relationships, through the love that is shared between us.”
“It sounds really airy fairy but we’ve seen John Paul II do that in a very tangible and fresh kind of way that a lot of young people are really drawn to.
“There’s an authenticity there. He’s speaking about the truth but he’s not shy to be human as well; to deal with the human frailties that come with life.”
The retreat will feature an introduction to the Missionaries of the Gospel community, personal testimony and a talk about the process of discerning God’s will.
For more information about the Missionaries of the Gospel and their discernment retreat go to www.mg.org.au or email email@example.com.