Vocation Stories

Sr. Victoria Maria

Sr. Victoria Maria’s Story

“Becoming a bride, this thought must occupy the heart of just about every girl while growing up… the romance, the adventure, the love. I was certainly one of them, and by the time I was 21 I knew who my Spouse would be -- Jesus - The Eternal Bridegroom -- nothing seemed more exciting or more romantic! The thought entered my heart while I was reading “The Diary of Divine Mercy.” I did not know how to go about this, so I asked a priest I had recently met if I could talk to him about my vocation. Fr. Mark Wagner became my spiritual director. After our first meeting he encouraged me to look into the ‘contemplative life.’ “A contemplative vocation! Is he crazy,” was the reaction of just about everyone I knew. I must admit, even I was not sure about it when I began to learn what a contemplative vocation meant. While the deep union with God attracted me, the thought of all the silence and solitude, mortification and penance, well… scared me. For those who know me, know I can be somewhat spontaneous at times, always enjoying the activity of being out and about, which included conversations of which I was usually never shy to take part in… not the making of a contemplative, so I thought. Fr. Mark shared with me about the life of a Carmelite Nun who lived in the late 1800’s, St. Thérèse, of which I knew only some. He had me read her autobiography, which I did. The result, as I was just sharing, the deep union with God attracted me, but all the silence and solitude… Fr. Mark was patient with me and said yes to my request to visit ‘active’ communities -- I always returned disappointed. At times I wondered if I did have a religious vocation.
He and his priest friend, Fr. Joseph Illo, arranged a trip for a group of women in the Stockton diocese who were discerning a religious vocation. The group spent the day visiting different communities in the Modesto / Stockton / San Francisco areas. We met many different Sisters from many different communities, and they were all beautiful. But wouldn’t you know, an overwhelming beauty attracted me during our time at the Carmelite Monastery. After a short visit with the nuns in the parlor, Fr. Mark asked me what I thought. “The cloister grille is absolutely beautiful,” was my response. He laughed while my friends asked me how a few bars that separated us from the Sisters could be beautiful. The mysteries of Divine Love are awesome! I still pushed aside the idea of actually becoming a cloistered Carmelite Nun, and yet God, in His Mercy, did not stop asking me for my total surrender. I assure you, Fr. Mark was not the only one being patient with me.
I decided to focus on the upcoming World Youth Day that was in Paris, France that year (1997). I was thrilled to be joining one of my roommates on pilgrimage. As “chaperones” we accompanied the youth at the parish I was attending at the time. The whole experience was amazing. I could not list all the bountiful blessings and graces I received from the Hearts of Jesus and Mary! By the time the closing Mass of the W.Y.D. took place, I wanted so much to share my joy, to share Jesus with all the world, though did not know how this could be possible. More importantly I desired only God’s desire for my life, whatever that might be. Our beloved Pope John Paul ll gave me the answer. In his homily he spoke about the life and spirituality of St. Thérèse. (Yes, the same saint my spiritual director held up to me for inspiration). The Pope called upon all the thousands gathered at the Mass to follow the way of St. Thérèse. I received his words with great joy, for I was sure what his words meant, I had no more doubts. I excitedly shared with my friends that the Pope was telling us to enter Carmel. However, they did not respond with the same enthusiasm. Actually, they could not quite believe what I was saying. My roommate looked at me with astonishment and said that maybe the Pope was asking me to enter Carmel, but not her, and all the others with us seemed to side with her. My excitement only increased as I realized, among that huge crowd of people, God was giving me a personal invitation to enter, not just the enclosure of Carmel, but the enclosure of His Heart. I was overwhelmed! God had given me the gift of a contemplative vocation…
Sr. Victoria Maria with the Child Jesus
Fr. Mark was delighted to hear the news. I was privileged to have both him and Fr. Joe present to con-celebrate the Mass of my Solemn Profession and witness my profession of vows and veiling in 2003. With God all things are possible! I am able to share Jesus with all the world, so is the mystery of the hidden life of prayer and sacrifice, in union with Jesus, under the loving care and protection of our glorious father St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother, Queen and Beauty of Carmel. How does one put into words such a mystery? The Carmelite nuns life is one of prayer in the Church and for the Church – we live apart in silence and solitude to better develop an atmosphere where we can grow in deepest intimacy with Christ. Truly it is one of those Christian paradoxes, that contemplatives have an effect on the world, precisely because they are set apart from the world, to pray for the world, or as Holy Mother Church has expressed, “Being wholly for others, puts contemplatives wholly apart from others.” I can say with all my heart: What joy is mine! Is there any greater joy to fill the heart of the bride, than that joy she experiences when the Goodness and Mercy of her Beloved is known and shared by others? I have been greatly blessed! I thank you for asking me to share with you a little bit of my journey. The adventure has never been wanting, for experience is proving that the Eternal Bridegroom is full of surprises. May He bless you and keep you in His Heart! And about the cloister grille… I will tell you a secret: it is even more beautiful from the inside looking out. ”