Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said that, “purity of heart is to will one thing”. In a post-modern world that is scattered, fast-paced, and multi-directional this integration can be hard to find. Throughout her teenage years and early adulthood, Sr Gabriela Maria Mega searched for that wholeness (holiness).
Indonesian born, culturally Chinese and raised in Sydney, she felt torn between wanting to be a “normal” teenager, and wanting to “live her Catholic faith 24/7”.
“I felt a deep desire to integrate my faith into my life … but I didn’t know how,” she said.
As she entered her 20s, she became “more and more involved” with her local parish, All Saints in Liverpool. However, she remembered; “It just felt like I was not doing enough.”
Gabriela heard the call to the religious life when she was about 22, but it was a few years before she discovered the community that was right for her.
“It was like the Gospel passage where the Kingdom of God is like a pearl. Once somebody finds it they can readily sell everything to purchase this pearl. But I couldn’t sell everything because I hadn’t found my pearl, I hadn’t found my community,” she said.
After completing a double-degree with honours in arts and social work at Sydney University, Gabriela went on a retreat. It was here she saw the Sisters of Life: “When they came out of their bus it was like they were glowing,” she said. “Talk about neon signs!”
In November 2012 she travelled to America to a ‘Come and See’ retreat. It was the week of Hurricane Sandy (22 October-2 November), and JFK airport re-opened two days before she flew out.
She was on the others side of the world, with strangers but she felt immediately “at home”.
It is always beautiful to hear the love-story a religious calling. How did He ask? When did you “know”? These questions are just as relevant to religious life as marriage. In Sr Gabriela’s case, there was even an airport scene.
Four years on, and Sr Gabriela Maria Mega SV has made her first profession. At the time of this interview, she was in Sydney on her 10-day home-visit to celebrate with her family: her father, mother and younger brother.
Sr Gabriela was drawn to the Sisters unique vocation to life.
A contemplate-active order, the Sisters support nearly 1000 pregnant women each year.
They have two sites, a live-in centre in the West Side of Manhattan, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Convent and a counselling centre on the East Side, the Visitation Mission Centre.
As well as this, they see about 4000 people in the retreats (from Theology of the Body to post-abortion healing) at the Villa Maria Guadalupe Centre in Stamford, Connecticut.
When she returns, Sr Gabriela will be placed in the Visitation Mission Centre.
Sr Gabriela told the story of Racquel, one among the thousands, as an example of their work.
“Racquel was a woman who lived with us many years ago. When she was pregnant [on the way to a doctor’s appointment] she met this woman. They started to talk. The woman said, ‘I’m pregnant’, and Racquel said ‘congratulations’.
“The woman said ‘No. I can’t do it. I’m going to have an abortion’ [she was booked to have an abortion that day] But Racquel said; ‘Oh no, you are not going to have an abortion. You are going to have a little girl. And you are going to dress her up in pink and pigtails and you’re going to name her ‘Racquel’, or ‘Jasmine’–because my middle name is Jasmine’.
“Then, Raquel said ‘I’m going to have a boy, and he’s blessed’. The woman asked, ‘why is he blessed?’ and Racquel answered ‘because he’s here, if you are here than you are blessed.’
“So they got off the elevator and went their separate ways. A few years later Racquel went back to the hospital and this woman yelled out her name, hugged her and she said; ‘Racquel I love you, I love you I love you’.
“This woman decided to choose life. She ended up having twin girls. She dressed them in pink, she put their hair in pigtails and she named one ‘Racquel’ and the other ‘Jasmine.’”
“It just shows,” said Sr Gabriela “that when you receive love, it enables you to believe in yourself. You have faith that you can be a mum and that you can give that love back to another person.”
Sr Gabriela says this in keeping with the “truth” about our existence.
“God first thought of us in his mind, and fell in love with us so much that he wanted to be with us for all eternity. That’s His desire and it is remarkable.”
This is a Good News story, in the truest sense of the idea.