After taking her Final Vows as a Dominican Sister of St Cecilia, Sr Maria Joy Zeitoune OP, says she has “the best spouse ever”.
The former parishioner of St Charbel’s Maronite Catholic Parish in Punchbowl, professed her Final Vows—also known as perpetual vows—on 24 July this year, along with nine other Sisters, in Nashville, Tennessee.
“There are no words to truly describe the day,” Sr Maria Joy told The Catholic Weekly. “I was overjoyed, at peace, and at the same time, completely overwhelmed by His presence and love.
“Being married to the Lord – what a gift, a complete blessing! I know I have the best spouse ever. Also, living in community with other Sisters who love the Lord, spread the God News, as well as desire sanctity.”
The 27 year-old Sister grew up in the south-western Sydney suburb of Greenacre, and attended St Charbel’s College in Punchbowl.
Before entering the Dominican Sisters in 2011, Sr Maria Joy was studying a Bachelor of Education at Notre Dame University.
She first encountered the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia when she was just 16.
“I was never discerning religious life in the beginning, until a friend introduced me to them …,” she said.
“I knew I was being called when I could not stop thinking about the Sisters, or when I would go on retreats and my friends would comment on how I was ‘glowing’. Being with the Sisters, there was a deep sense of peace that I did not feel anywhere else or with anyone else.”
Even though she knew she was being called to religious life, Sr Maria Joy says the journey towards finally entering the Dominican Sisters was not an easy one.
“It was difficult to discern my vocation because I knew what was at stake; family, friends, marriage. I come from a close Lebanese Maronite family and so I knew that there would be some major sacrifices that I had to make.
“I also knew it would be hard for my mum and dad because I was the youngest and the first to leave home.”
After seven years as a Dominican Sister, Sr Maria Joy says religious life has its ups and downs, just like any other state in life.
“Like any vocation-single, married, consecrated or the priesthood-they all have their challenges. No one is exempt because of the vocation one has chosen,” she said.
“However, for me the single challenge that really outweighs all the others is really myself, which I know sounds weird, but in truth I am the one who either intentionally or unintentionally puts up walls of protection, or I somehow place obstacles in the Lord’s way.”
Despite the fact none of her family were able to make the trip to Nashville to witness her Final Vows, Sr Maria Joy says her special day was unforgettable.