WITH conviction her life belongs to God, Teresa Gasparin embraced her profession of temporal (or first) vows as a Verbum Dei Missionary Sister on August 4 at the Isle of Wight, England.
The Catholic Leader traced the former Stanthorpe parishioner’s journey towards formal discernment just over two years ago, as she farewelled close family and a supportive parish community, to follow a calling towards the Word of God-centred charism of Verbum Dei.
Sr Gasparin described the path since then and towards the August Mass as “a beautiful journey” of formation, including a month-long spiritual retreat prior to her first vows.
“The retreat was a really important time for me to understand, more deeply, the vows I would be taking,” she said.
“(They are vows) of poverty, chastity and obedience within the Verbum Dei charism and fraternity, as well as understanding what Jesus desires personally for my total consecration to him.
“I understood the importance of embracing the vows as a means to reflect Jesus’ life and love in the world.”
The 28-year-old said she understood the importance of “embracing being poor”.
“It’s when I accept this littleness before God that I’m called to surrender to Him and His love,” Sr Gasparin said.
“This is a true freedom that leads to my openness in allowing God to love me and lead me in my capacity for loving.
“When I’m open to receive His love in my littleness, then I can become a channel of His love to each person I encounter.”
In understanding this “littleness” and that life was not her own, Sr Gasparin said she surrendered all to “the Father, (to) Jesus and the Spirit, accompanied always by the love of Mary, our Mother”.
“I want to live each and every moment with and in dialogue with them, from the smaller happenings of the day, to the bigger discernments that I’m presented with,” she said.
“I’m convinced that God’s love is unimaginably bigger and more beautiful than we could ever know or have ever experienced.”
Sr Gasparin’s first vows were made at the Verbum Dei Retreat Centre on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of England, in a Mass celebrated by Benedictine abbott Fr Xavier Perrin.
The Mass was concelebrated by dean of the Isle of Wight Fr Jozef Gruszkiewicz and parish priest of St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Newport, Fr Emmanuel Odoemene.
Also present was Verbum Dei female branch General Responsible Magdalena González Sr Magdalena Gonzalez Santos and secretary to the general responsible Sr Liliana Gonzalez.
During the Mass, two other women were professed, Pearl Rebusit, originating from the Philippines, and Isabel Kirby, from England.
Local supporters and those from Verbum Dei communities in London and Southampton offered their prayers and presence.
Sr Gasparin described the Mass as “a beautiful celebration of the call of God in our lives, and the gift it is to be totally consecrated to Him”.
She said she felt accompanied by Mother Mary on the day itself.
“I had a beautiful encounter with Mother Mary where I understood this moment of taking my vows to be like my official ‘annunciation’, to give my official, ‘Yes’, to let God’s life dwell and live in me, and allowing Him to be born to the world through my life,” Sr Gasparin said.
“(I understood) that the Word may become flesh through me.
“I felt the strong and firm hands of Mother Mary, encouraging me to give my life completely, in this moment, and that she will help me always to give my ‘fiat’, as she walks beside me.”
From here, Sr Gasparin will study theology and philosophy, and deepen her appreciation and understanding of the charism of Verbum Dei, whose members are committed to prayer with the Word of God and sharing these fruits in their preaching and mission.
Her final vows will take place in six to eight years.
With limited Internet and phone access to contact relatives, Sr Gasparin enjoyed being among family in Stanthorpe and interstate during a brief holiday following her first vows.
She said such limitations were a benefit, allowing “a lot of space for prayer and contemplation” while recent time with family was priceless.
“I had the beautiful opportunity to spend a month with my family and friends which I will have every three years from now on,” Sr Gasparin said.
“It was most beautiful to see how my six nieces and nephews have grown and their family life.
“The loving support of my parents and family, for my vocation, is also a gift.”
The exuberant woman of faith remains grateful for “hearing God’s gentle voice” through this gift of faith.
“The gift of faith is truly something to be valued, especially since it’s through faith that we can begin to be opened and enter into the process of healing that allows God’s merciful and unconditional love to reach and penetrate our hearts,” Sr Gasparin said.
“Each person is called to be Christ to one another, being faithful to the Father as He is faithful.
“I see that we are all on this deep search for love and truth … (and) I see that our lives are very busy, noisy and fast-paced.
“How important it is for us to be listening to His voice and living out His Word to us first.”