By Natalie Salameh who will be joining the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light convent from Sydney Australia.
I would like to share about my second visit to the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light from November 11 to December 11. I happily begin my faith journey with the Maronite Servants in early 2014. So I approached this trip secure in the knowledge that I would be serving God and His people in a wonderful way soon.
I am drawn to the vocation and charism of the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light because I want to be God's instrument in nurturing and fostering the spiritual growth of our Maronite people. As the Bethlehem Star was radiant and led the Magi and Shepherds to the newborn King, I too wish to become another Bethlehem Star that radiates God's light and leads others to Him. This is precisely what a Maronite Servant is called to do. As a Maronite Servant, I will be at the service of God's people and His Church as a spiritual mother who nourishes and fosters the growth of her children.
During my recent visit, I immersed myself in the life that God is calling me to, and that I wholeheartedly and joyously embrace. What can I say, except, what a wonderful four weeks! I was very sad to leave my new home (the convent) and my new family - even if only for a little while, but I was able to witness the diversity of spiritual and religious events, programs and activities engaged in by the Maronite Servants.
In my first week, the Maronite Servants hosted a combined MYO gathering for the teens of the New Bedford, Brockton and Boston parishes. The Mother of the Light Convent was absolutely buzzing with the fresh faces of these youth. The Sisters helped them prepare for the Glorious Birth of Our Divine Lord.
In my second week, the attention turned to the young children of the New Bedford parish for their monthly Maronite Faith Formation (MFF). The focus of November’s MFF was the centrality of Divine Liturgy (or Qorbono) in our Maronite faith, and Jesus’ complete self-offering. I loved the fact that the children embraced the Syriac roots of our faith.
I might also mention that in my second week I had my first taste of delicious roasted turkey cooked to perfection by Mother Marla Marie. It was such a delight to celebrate my first Thanksgiving with the Sisters. The third week was filled with mission events. The Maronite Servants hosted and facilitated bible sharing for couples at the home of a parishioner.
A couple of days later, Mother Marla Marie, Sr. Therese Maria and myself, began a six-day silent retreat. I must say I approached this retreat with some fear and nervousness. I hadn’t been on retreat for years, and the last retreat I did participate in was not a silent one. But I found it very peaceful, prayerful and full of many graces and blessings. God is so good, but we need to listen to Him in the quiet of our hearts. As soon as I had regained my vocal powers, I called my family back home in Sydney, and my father could not believe that I had remained silent for six days.
On the Sunday following our retreat, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I witnessed Sr. Therese Maria renew her vows during the Divine Liturgy at Our Lady of Purgatory Parish, New Bedford. It was a great honour for me to see this and the pure joy on Sr. Therese Maria’s face as she renewed her “yes” to Christ. I could see and feel the elation and jubilation in the Sisters and it spoke to me in volumes.
In the evening, the Sisters hosted the monthly Ramsho and Supper gathering at the Mother of the Light Convent. I met some of lovely parishioners from Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Parish in Boston and from the local Catholic Church, St Julie Billiart. These parishioners joined us for our Maronite evening prayer (ramsho) and a great supper with lots of fellowship and sharing.
Mother Marla Marie has helped me in every way possible to discern my vocation. She has supported and encouraged me throughout my discernment with regular spiritual direction and has been very accommodating throughout both my visits to the US. Indeed, Mother Marla Marie's unstinting support, guidance and encouragement helped me a great deal in making the commitment and saying "yes" to Jesus.
Well, four weeks went quickly, but I am grateful to Mother Marla Marie and Sr. Therese Maria for their great hospitality. I was at home, I felt at home, and I can’t wait to come back home in the New Year and embark on the greatest adventure of my life with Our Lord and Our Lady by my side. I ask you to remember me in prayer.