Newly professed Dominican, Sr Moana Grace OP, says religious life is a “gift” and “a beautiful path to heaven.”
As reported in last week’s The Catholic Weekly, the 23 year-old from Sydney made her first profession of vows as a Dominican Sister of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee, on 28 July.
She entered the Dominican convent there two years earlier after announcing her decision to become a religious sister on her 21st birthday in 2016.
“The lifestyle of a consecrated religious is such a gift and a beautiful path to heaven,” Sr Moana told The Catholic Weekly soon after making her first vows.
“There is, with all transitions, challenges, but in this transition they are challenges that are worth taking. In living the religious life and trying my best to be faithful to it, the Lord is so pleased.”
“In saying that, I love the lifestyle; for it is both contemplative and active, spiritually and physically (balance is a good thing in life). I just try to give Jesus my all.”
The formation period for Nashville Dominican Sisters is seven years until final vows. In three years time—all going according to plan—Sr Moana will renew her first vows. “God willing I will make my final vows in 2023.”
Sr Moana said she was nervous before taking her first vows but she soon felt a sense of peace and joy about taking such a significant step in her life.
“At first I was nervous, which I like to call ‘healthy nerves’, for it is quite normal to be nervous about an important chapter in one’s life. Just like a couple, we could imagine their nerves on this day, for they love one another very much and are ready to commit to each other in love, promising to support and cherish each other until death.”
“So too in this case, there were nerves, reminding me that I am normal and that I love Him, Jesus Christ, and am willing to love Him and His people, the Church. By God’s grace these nerves turned into peace as soon as the liturgy started, and then an excitement for celebration and rejoicing.”
“Walking down the aisle as a newly professed I felt complete childlike security knowing that I belong completely to God as a consecrated religious.”
Sr Moana says she didn’t choose the Dominicans but rather it was God who chose them for her.
“I didn’t choose them, God did! I am so blessed and humbled to be among the Order that St Dominic founded under the Rule of St Augustine. It is from the charism given to Dominic that our mission is focused on the glory of God for the salvation of souls—encountering a spirit of joy in serving the people of God.”
Many of Sr Moana’s family were present to witness her First Profession, including her parents and five of her seven siblings.
Her religious name—Moana Grace—is an acknowledgement of her family’s ethnic background, with “Moana” being the Tongan word for “ocean”.
“Sr Moana Grace is the name inspired by the Holy Spirit… The ocean is a powerful image of God’s beauty and more so in how I have experienced, and continue to, His infinite love, through His mercy and grace,” she said.
“The name ‘Moana’ was chosen so that I would have a Tongan name that would connect me to my roots as a Pacific Islander and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, connects me to my homeland, Australia, no matter where I am.”
“His love, mercy and grace endures forever! We may be oceans apart but by His grace, united in heart.”
Sr Moana’s motto for her new life is very simple; “Do the best you can, with the time you have, for the love of God—as a Dominican Sister.”