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Carmelite Sister Catherine Ann writes about St Thérèse and the ‘beautiful gift’ of her vocation

Sr Catherine Ann Therese celebrates with a well-wisher
Professed: Carmelite Sister Catherine Ann Therese hugging a friend at the end of her profession of vows in 2014. Photo: Emilie Ng

I WAS a young adult in 2002 when the relics of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux) first came to Australia.

I lined up at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, with hundreds of other people, full of anticipation, but was unsure what to expect.

I had come because she was my Confirmation saint, yet I knew very little about her.

The atmosphere in the cathedral was a mixture of excitement and awe.

As I waited I could not keep my eyes away from her photo; I was looking upon another young person whose gaze seemed to hold a wonderful secret and an inner joy.

I was full of a sense of wonder and a longing to know more about her.

Unfortunately with such a large crowd wanting to venerate the relics, when I finally arrived at the front I was only permitted to spend a brief time to pray and walk around the reliquary.

Some time later I was blessed to discover she was at a parish closer to me.

I was able to visit after work when only a small number of people were present.

Kneeling down in front of her reliquary I was oblivious to all around me, my focus directed to God and St Thérèse.

After a little while I was overwhelmed by a gentle stillness that calmed my thoughts; with it came a reassurance that God was with me, and His will would be fulfilled in my life.

I also sensed that St Thérèse would be an important link in my journey.

This grace meant so much to me because I had felt a calling to religious  life  for  a  long  time  and  had  faced  so  much  misunderstanding,  mockery  and discouragement from many people for years, that I had been tempted to lose heart.

Over  the  next  several  years,  St Thérèse  helped  me  to  gradually  recognise  the  gift  God  was preparing for me.

Reading her book Story of a Soul, I longed to have the same intensity of love for God as she had.

I made contact with the Carmelites, went on retreats and joined the Young Carmelite Group.

At first I didn’t feel an attraction to their hidden life of prayer; I was a very busy, outgoing person who loved helping people.

I had always thought I would join an active or missionary order.

Gradually I came to appreciate Carmelite spirituality; and one day during a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, after receiving my Beloved Lord Jesus in Communion, God spoke in my heart and called me to be a “Carmelite”.

I was filled with an indescribable joy!

I now understood the apostolic ministry of prayer and sacrifice, that is missionary, going beyond barriers and distances, to reach all people: a vocation which is “Love in the heart of the Church”.

St Thérèse was my constant friend during my years of formation in the monastery.

I studied her “little way” of trust in God’s merciful Love, total abandonment, humility, selfless charity and fidelity to everyday tasks, which I am still striving to follow.

When I found adjusting to monastic life difficult, had inner doubts, ill health and trials to face, she was my support and inspiration, along with my sisters in community and other Carmelite saints.

I have been a fully professed sister for six years and I still discover new surprises and joys in my beautiful vocation.

My heart is full of gratitude to God and to my spiritual sister and guide, St Thérèse.

As I look back on the past I can say with deep conviction “All is Grace”.

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