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Sr Moana Grace Taufa’ao OP on the special blessings of her perpetual profession

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The young sister’s family came in full Tongan garb to celebrate her final profession. Photo: Supplied
The young sister’s family came in full Tongan garb to celebrate her final profession. Photo: Supplied

Sr Moana Grace Taufa’ao was one of 12 young women who professed their final vows with the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee, on 25 July.

The young sister and former parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Sefton is the first fully-professed Nashville Dominican who was taught by the sisters here in Australia.

Of Tongan descent, Sr Moana Grace first announced her desire to enter religious life in 2016, at her 21st birthday party.

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She took time from her busy schedule teaching primary school in the US to share her reflections on her special day—and a few words of practical wisdom for Catholic Weekly readers.

CW: What was the experience of making your final profession like?

Leading up to the day of my perpetual profession I would get asked by the sisters, family, and friends, “Are you ready?” Of course, my answer was yes! However, in hindsight and reflecting on my “yes,” interiorly it was different compared to my “yes” five years ago, when I had made my first profession of vows in July 2018.

As I walked down the aisle, kneeled next to Mother, publicly professed my vows in a full cathedral, and signed my vows on the altar, my “yes” was fulfilled. I was ready to give myself completely to God, all that I am and all that I have.

In a simple and sweet way to describe this experience, I felt anchored after vowing myself to God for all my life. There was a sense of security, relief, and protection knowing that I belong completely to God and nothing can separate that—praise God.

On a celebratory note, the profession ceremony and reception were beautifully overwhelming. To received God’s love and support through the Dominican sisters of St Cecilia, the bishops and clergy that attended, family and friends from all over the globe—even the land down under. It was a day for 12 women rejoicing with all of heaven, the universal church, our congregation, our family and friends.

Sr Moana Grace Taufa’ao OP with prioress general Mother Anna Grace Neenan OP. Photo: Sr Mary Justin OP
Sr Moana Grace Taufa’ao OP with prioress general Mother Anna Grace Neenan OP. Photo: Sr Mary Justin OP

CW: Have your family been supportive?

Yes! My family have been and continue to be supportive throughout my years of discernment and religious life. It has been a gift for my family and for myself, to have them journey with me and the Lord, and the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia.

My family got to know the many sisters who served in Australia for the past 10 years or so, which is a huge grace. For my family, the sisters became their family. They have always been supportive through their love and prayers seeing as we are oceans apart.

It was a blessing to have a handful of them fly from Australia to America to support me in person. I was overwhelmed and filled with such gratitude. Those who flew over were my parents, my siblings (except one), nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even friends—that was a surprise!

CW: What are the next steps for you?

Having made my perpetual profession, it is only the beginning of the adventure that Jesus has in store for me and with me. At this moment I am missioned in Kennesaw, Georgia. I am teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th grade religion as well as 4th and 5th grade language arts at St Catherine of Siena School. That is God’s will for me right now.

CW: Have you had any special graces or blessings during this wonderful time in your life?

During the years 2022-2023, my personal prayer was for the Lord to continue to show me the fullness of my consecrated life as a Dominican Sister of St Cecilia, so I could receive and embrace every blessing and sacrifice it encompasses. So, when it came to professing my vows, I would do so with full knowledge, permitted by God, to give my complete “Yes!” On 25 July that grace was granted. The grace of security and being anchored by God’s love. To belong completely to him!

God has showered many graces over my family and friends and continues to do so. My prayer is: “God, please take care of my things (family and friends), and I will take care of your things” (his will in the present moment). This prayer has been a blessing because even though I am on a different continent and have minimal contact with my family, our love for each is stronger than it has ever been.

This reciprocal love is definitely by God’s grace from prayer and is united in the Eucharist. A tangible grace was the witness of my family and friends flying across the continent to support me at my profession. I was overwhelmed by their love and so were the Dominican sisters.

Being Tongan and embracing the culture, my family brought Tonga with them as they dressed in the cultural attire and I said my vows in Tongan, which touched their hearts. Both customs meant a lot to my family and me.

To extend the warmness of the culture and the love of my family, my niece and nephews performed a Tongan dance at the reception. It was a day of rejoicing and celebration, like any other wedding.

Sister Moana Grace (front right) with 11 other newly-professed sisters. Photo: Sr Mary Justin OP
Sister Moana Grace (front right) with 11 other newly-professed sisters. Photo: Sr Mary Justin OP

CW: What are some of the big lessons for you in your journey so far, and have you got any advice for readers in their spiritual lives?

These lessons are nothing new to the ordinary Catholic, but great reminders that God is in charge and that he loves me, and all of us.

At times of doubt in my calling to this state of life, I remember and know that God is faithful and will never lead me astray. I ask the Lord to protect me. When I am not “competent” or “sufficient” in the eyes of the world, I know and remind myself that I am enough in the eyes of God.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God. St John of the Cross says that “at the end of life God will ask us how much we have loved.” So, make it count!

Yes, there will be times of struggle and suffering, but unite that suffering to Jesus’ suffering and to offer it up for someone. Try to live life with a supernatural lens, in light of eternity. St Mary MacKillop says that “we are pilgrims on a journey.” She is right, and that journey is quick. Life is short but heaven is eternal. No suffering or sacrifice goes unseen, so be intentional about everything. Again, make it count!

When I’m struggling or homesick, I know God is stretching me so that I can essentially have a heart that is big enough to love the whole world with him and for him, but one person at a time. I know that in his great mercy he is forming me into the saint that he has destined from all eternity.

Therefore, God is purifying me and preparing me for heaven. When you come to a difficult moment in life or hit rock bottom, put your faith and hope in God. God is inviting you back into his love and will never give up on you, so don’t give up on him. We have a gracious and merciful God.

Last, surround yourself with a great community in which you can practice the faith, make time for God, (even if it’s five minutes a day, because he can do a lot with that), spread the love, and be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God wants to do great things in your lives. Let him—take a leap of faith and trust!

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