Sr. Maria Sagrario, SCTJM
My name is Sr. Maria Sagrario, SCTJM, and I am a Servant of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, serving in the Diocese of Orlando. I am from Venezuela and came to the United States in 2015.
I was born into a Catholic family, but we did not practice fully our faith or enter into the mysteries of the Church. I am the youngest of three siblings and the only girl. I grew up very close to my immediate and extended family. After my dad passed away, the Lord brought my family close to Him. I began to practice my faith more seriously, and in the midst of that, I attended a retreat where I had a profound encounter with the Lord. I felt His love, and I never imagined that someone could love me in that way. That encounter with Lord was so deep in my heart that it changed my life totally and completely. After that encounter, I had the sense that the Lord was asking me for more, to donate my life totally to Him, but I did not how to respond, so, I simply began to serve in the Church in several different ministries in my parish, as well as in Faith Formation, but I continued feeling an emptiness in my heart that grew.
When I came to the United States in 2015, I had the conviction in my heart that the Lord and Our Lady were guiding my path. I remember going to the chapel in St. Rita, being in front of the tabernacle, and feeling so strongly in heart that this was the moment to give my life totally to Him – to donate myself to Him. My heart was full of every emotion – I was joyful; I was afraid; I wanted to cry; I was shaking. My intellect couldn’t fully grasp what the Lord was asking me, but I understood so perfectly in my soul. Feeling overwhelmed with so many emotions, I literally ran away. I went to the car, I exited the parking lot, and immediately entered again through the other entrance. I had to come back to Him, because where else would I go if not to Him? “Lord, who whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” (John 6:68)
After that experience, I consecrated my life to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother on the feast day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and I had the sense that something would happen in my life, something was going to change. Just 2 months after my consecration to the Immaculate Heart, my best friend invited me to go to a Eucharistic Cenacle, and since I didn’t know what a Eucharistic Cenacle was, she sent me a link. When I opened the link, I saw many nuns, and I started crying, because I knew in my heart that this was the Community where the Lord was calling to be all for Him.
The next day, I attended an activity that the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary were holding to celebrate the Centenary Year of Our Lady of Fatima. When I entered in the church, I had the conviction in my heart that Our Blessed Mother brought me there, brought me to this Community, and through this Community, I would go to the Heart of Jesus. I did not know anyone, but I knew in my heart with whom I needed to speak. I approached one of them and asked her, “Are you Mother?”…in Spanish, “¿Ústed es la Madre?” I had never seen her before, but my soul recognized her. As soon as she answered, “Yes, I am,” I told her that I wanted to enter in the Community as a Religious Sister. Soon after, I began my process to enter Religious Life, and a few months later, I entered in the Community. After completing a time of Formation, I professed my First Vows on June 14, 2020 as a Bride of Christ and spiritual mother of many souls.
From my heart, I would like to tell you, as St. John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors [of your heart] to Christ,” and allow the Lord to reveal to you the purpose for which He has created you. Guard the gift and the treasure you have received with care and love, allowing Him to guide your life and all your choices, responding with profound love to the One who has called you to be His. This response requires a life of prayer and openness of heart to the Will of the Lord. By allowing His Love to strengthen you, you will be able to respond to His Love with generosity, docility, and the full potential of your feminine genius.
To learn more about Sr. Maria’s community go to Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary
Sr. Isabelle Maina, TOR
Sr. Isabelle Maina’s beautiful voice has been missing from the St. Ignatius Loyola Cathedral’s 8:30 am
Mass for several years now but it is heard in the convent of the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother in Toledo, Ohio. For many years, novice Sister Isabelle has been preparing for a religious life of service. She served as a Medical Associate in a Pediatric Clinic and as a volunteer with REACH, caregivers for the homeless in Hagerstown, Maryland. At Florida State University, she served as a student leader in the Catholic Student Union while earning a degree in Voice Performance. After graduation, Isabelle served with Saint Paul’s Outreach as a Mission Leader in Seton Hall University.
In addition to serving the needy, music has always been a constant in Sister Isabelle’s life and it has taken her to Carnegie Hall, the Maryland Theater and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Her voice is a gift from God that Isabelle can now return daily in joyous worship!
“a vocation in service to God’s needy is a cause for joyful song”
Sara (Jennifer) Addeo
Sr. Katie Flanagan, FMA
Sr. Katie Flanagan is a Florida native who grew up in Wellington. She is the third of four children and a proud aunt to a niece and nephew.
One evening, while she was an education major at the University of Florida, Sr. Katie shared with a few friends her hopes to change the world through educating and loving children. Two of her friends responded by telling her that she sounded “Salesian”. They went on to rave about the education they received from the Salesian Sisters at Christ the King School in Tampa, Florida. Sr. Katie thought a Salesian environment might be a great place to work, but actually being a Salesian Sister did not cross her mind.
Sr. Katie graduated from the University of Florida with a Masters in Elementary Education in 2006. She spent six years teaching in Palm Beach County Public Schools and served as a catechist and high school youth minister at St. Rita Catholic Church, her home parish. As happy and fulfilling as her life was, Sr. Katie could not shake the feeling that God was calling her to something more. After years of running and ignoring God’s call, Sr. Katie finally made a visit to the Salesian Sisters, remembering the comments of her college friends from years before. After wrestling with lots of fear, and countless hours of prayer, Sr. Katie asked for an application to enter into formation to become a Salesian Sister on January 31, 2012. She had no idea it was the feast of St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian Sisters.
Sr. Katie entered into formation in August of 2012, professed first vows on August 5, 2016, and final vows on August 5, 2022. She has served as Campus Minister and Theology teacher at St. John Neumann High School in Naples, FL. Currently she is a Theology teacher and member of the campus ministry team at Immaculata-La Salle High School in Miami, Fl. To find more about Sr. Katie community go to Home – Salesian Sisters of Saint John Bosco
Sr. Myriam of the Annunciation (Nicole Falzone), OCD
What could inspire this Florida girl to give away all her belongings and move clear across the country to Southern California? Only the Lord!
I grew up in Wellington, Florida where I attended St. Rita’s Catholic Church. The first stirring of a religious vocation occurred during one of my confirmation classes. The topic that evening was “vocations.” Each one of us was asked to answer one question “Would you be open to a religious vocation” As my turn got closer and closer my heart started beating faster and faster. I thought to myself “I know the right answer is ‘Yes’. Because if I say “no” God is going to have to teach me a lesson about being open to his will and then He’s going to make me be a nun!” So, in a misguided attempt to skip that very unappealing lesson, I answered with a hesitant but sincere “Yes.” That “Yes” cracked the door of my heart just enough for Jesus to continue the conversation several years later.
I spent the next 5 years of my life falling in love with the Church and developing what I thought was the “perfect” life plan. I would be a doctor missionary! That way I could give my whole life to Jesus AND I could still get married. During my sophomore year at the University of Florida, I began to realize that I had gone as far as I could in my faith journey on my own so I looked for a spiritual director who advised me to spend the first 30 minutes of every day in silent prayer. It was a year of profound discovery as the Lord revealed different parts of His heart to me through the scriptures and showed me on daily basis that he hears us when we bring the real, honest “stuff” of our heart to him.
At the same time, I became aware of a pattern of deep restlessness within me. I was pressing on “full-steam ahead” to Medical School but every few weeks a persistent voice within me would whisper “ Are you sure you want to do this? Is this really going to make you happy?” I would convince myself that this is what I wanted, but in a week or two, the same questions would resurface in my heart.
One night, after I had finished praying Night Prayer with some friends I realized that I had always asked Him for help with my plans, but I had never actually asked Him what his plans for me were. In a moment of courage, I asked, “Lord, do you want me to be a doctor”. In the depths of my heart came a strong and unmistakable “No, I have bigger plans for you” I responded, “Lord, there are only two things I have ever thought of as being bigger than a doctor. One of them is being a missionary, which I’m alright with. The other is being a Sister, which I am NOT alright with. But if this is what you’re asking of me, don’t stop asking.” That is exactly what he did.
He was never forceful; he simply allowed the question to repeatedly rise to the surface of my heart. The truth is I was terrified of what it might mean. My heart was in an agonizing tension as I fought against what the Lord was trying to reveal to me. That summer I went back to Wellington and helped to lead the Vacation Bible School classes at St. Rita’s. The theme that year was superhero’s of the Bible. The second day focused on Mary, so I asked the children “Why is Mary a superhero? She wasn’t God.” I must have repeated the answer 25 times that day…”When you say “yes’ to Jesus, He can do incredible things with your life.” In the silence of my heart, I could feel Mary saying to me, “He’s waiting for your ‘yes’”
That evening I attended Mass at Holy Name of Jesus Church. I had been running from his plan for a long time, and frankly, I was exhausted. After communion, I knelt down in my pew and found the courage to pray a prayer that I had never been able to pray before. “Jesus, whatever your will is for me just make it undeniably clear and give me the grace to respond.” Mass concluded and a woman I had never met came up to me and said, “You know you have a vocation right?” I was stunned. She continued, “You know to the religious life” As she, left I knelt down and began to cry as her words penetrated my heart.
That weekend I shared the story with my spiritual director, cautious about basing such a big decision off the words of a complete stranger. She asked me “If you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord was calling you to marriage, what would your reaction be?” In a moment of complete clarity, which must have come from the Holy Spirit, I said, “I would be relieved. I could have a normal life, a normal family, and a normal house. But honestly, I would be disappointed.” As I heard those words come out of my mouth, it was as if the Lord had reached his hand into my heart, all the way down to my deepest desire. He was holding it out before my saying “What you want is ME.”
I spent the next year looking into different religious communities. I watched an online movie called “Light of Love” that followed five different religious communities through average day. One of them was the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. As the Sister Marie Suzanne shared about our community shield, she explained that the river of grace flowing from our encounter with Him in prayer flows out onto all those we serve and that our encounter with the people we serve in turn fuels our prayer. Everything in me resonated as I heard our charism explained for the very first time. I called the vocation directress who walked with me one step at a time as I visited the community in Miami and then in California. With each small step, the Lord continued to confirm my discernment. I began our Candidacy program in 2015 and joyfully professed my first vows in 2019.
For any young women who might be seeking the Lord’s will in their own discernment journey I offer these two very simple pieces of advice.
1) Spend time with Him in prayer. Bring the honest desires, thoughts and feelings of your heart to him and listen to what he has to say to you there.
2) Do not be afraid. Fear is very normal AND completely unnecessary. He will never be outdone in generosity and his plans for us are so much better that we could ever imagine. Trust Him and let him do incredible things with your life.
To learn more about Sr. Myriam’s community go to https://carmelitesistersocd.com/about/
Sr. Tonia of the Heart of Jesus Borsellino, HMSS
I never knew becoming a Sister was a possibility. I grew up in Boca Raton, attending some of the best public schools in Palm Beach County and having dreams as big as the mansions and ocean around me. Though I loved the Lord, sang in the church choirs, and altar served all throughout high school, vocations were never mentioned and I really wanted to become an actress, get good grades, get married, and achieve the greatness I desired. In the midst of my plans falling apart after High School though, I was invited to attend a Steubenville Conference. It’s there that I encountered the Lord for the first time in Eucharistic Adoration and heard the Father’s voice tell me that I was His child. The anxiety I had about my future, going off to college, and studying something I never planned faded away, but I still decided I wanted to have the college experience. That didn’t last too long. The friends I made “just happened” to be Catholic and started getting involved at the University of Florida’s Catholic Gators. My parents encouraged me to go to an event with the Catholic Gators, and although I was resistant at first, I ended up going. I encountered young people my own age fully alive. I didn’t feel empty like I did when I tried hard to be involved in various things on campus or went out on the weekends. My heart desired more of what they had, more of Jesus.
There was also a culture of discernment at the Catholic Gators. I was witnessing my friends pray about their vocations, enter seminaries and convents, and I met Sisters who had a joy and beauty that was captivating and stirred a desire in my own heart to be a Sister. Again, for the first time, I was being asked if I had thought about Religious Life or even about what the Lord was calling me to. But like everything else, I thought this was something I could figure out and do, so that’s what my prayer became until my Junior year, when I was utterly frustrated that I wasn’t hearing what the Lord wanted of me though I was going on discernment retreats, praying novenas, and doing everything I could. When I expressed this to the priest, he told me, “why don’t you just let Jesus love you?” I was shocked. I didn’t even know what that meant. This led me to being still in prayer and really dwelling in relationship with the Lord. I learned that He didn’t love me for what I could do but that I was simply His…something He was trying to teach me all along.
My Senior Year began with a job offer with a Catholic News organization and still a desire to become a Bride of Christ. In November 2016, before Mass, I heard the Lord tell me in prayer to start thinking about Religious Life again and, with some attitude, responded, “no, I’m going to work in Denver, besides, I haven’t heard from any of the Sisters I was in contact with.” That night, I saw I had a missed voicemail from the Vocation Director of the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who called me right before Mass. So, I ended up visiting our Sisters, following the Lord’s lead in making the journey towards applying to our Community, and entering upon graduation. There were many profound encounters with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration, and through the faith-filled people around me, I was given the grace and trust I needed to surrender and follow. Looking back, I see how it was all God’s love breaking through and pursuing my heart to bring me to the greatness I desired, which was found in relationship with Him. My response each time was to give Him everything and love Him with all my heart. My advice to anyone discerning their vocation is to be open and let Jesus love you. Our vocations are a response to His love, so if we focus on Him, everything else follows.
I was born to a mixed faith family with a Hindu father and Catholic mother. As a little girl I went to both the Hindu temple and Catholic Church until her baptism at the age of 6. Having moved to the US at 14 in high school had many unresolved questions about the Catholic faith. Soon after, at a retreat organized by an ecclesial movement, Jesus Youth, I encountered the Person of Christ who I knew was God and also deeply loved and understood me in a way that was incomparable to everyone else. After another encounter with Jesus right before college I could not help but be focused on loving Jesus and wanting to do whatever I could do to make it possible for others to encounter him through campus ministry, mission trips, prayer groups and studies of various church documents.
Alongside I was also planning for a career in accounting and a beautiful married life and dating. As the relationship I was in became more serious and conversations about the future came up naturally I found myself feeling like something was missing and for whatever reason I did not feel how my friends who were moving forward with marriage were feeling but I did not have a name or word for it. One evening as I spent time with my boyfriend at the time a voice inside my quietly said “Even if he gave me everything he had, it would feel like a few drops of water in a dry, empty well.” I knew then that marriage with him or another man would not satisfy my heart and I would feel like I was living someone else’s life. I was scared but knew I had to allow myself to understand what was happening – thankfully I was already signed up for a missionary year in Haiti.
In Haiti, living and working with Scalabrinian priests and sisters from various congregations day in day out including Mass, holy hours, liturgy of the hours, time spent in the missions all day, and quiet prayer and rest in the evenings felt very natural. I felt like for the first time I was not going against the grain of what I was made for and I didn’t have to pretend. One of the images of my hope for marriage was an evening tea with my husband where we would be able to share about each other’s day and simply rest in each other’s company. I was very aware that that desire was being quietly fulfilled in the presence of Jesus in the quietness of prayer in the evenings in tiredness and joy. I could get married but the truth was I was already known deeply by Jesus and I did not want to know anyone else more than Him. I realized that I did not think of my first encounter with Him as a 14 year old as an “espousal” because my view of marriage was very human. We had already exchanged our promises in some sense that I did not comprehend but was able to experience.
Discernment was a challenging and long season since my heart was not at peace while discerning religious life with different communities but I also knew I was not called to marriage. I decided to move to South Florida to study Theology at the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and began working at a local parish as an accountant and received regular spiritual direction. Studying with men preparing live a “diocesan spirituality” and heroically serving the local Church and seeing the beauty and importance of the gift of womanhood for the holiness and fruitfulness of the Church opened my mind to perceive the beauty of Consecrated Virginity: the most ancient form of consecration which “inscribes” the woman into her diocese to be the “image of the Church as bride” – to live in the world as Mary did, as the Church does but not to be of the world. To be busy loving her spouse Jesus Christ and making Him known – to be loved and to be fruitful. The examples of the Virgin Martyrs of the Early Church like St. Agnes, St. Lucy, St. Cecilia and others intuitively made sense for what I was made for in a way other forms of consecrated life never did.
I was grateful to be received as a Candidate for Consecrated Virginity in 2019 and after a time of formation to be consecrated at the hands of Bishop Gerald Barbarito on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 2021 at the St. Ignatius of Loyola Cathedral to love and serve Jesus Christ and his Church and to pray for the salvation of the world. I currently serve as a Program Director for a young adult faith formation program called “Anointed and Sent” at Amoris Christi Institute in Delray Beach while being an active parishioner at Emmanuel Catholic Church.