Vocation, not the location

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Sister Mariam Assaf enjoys time with four-month-old nephew George. Photos: ALPHONSUS FOK

Despite living 15,000 kms from Sydney, home is where the heart is

While home is “wherever the Lord is”, Sydney still has a very special place in Sr Mariam Assaf’s heart.

Visiting from America for the first time in three years due to COVID, the Dominican Sister got to spend some much anticipated time with family and friends as well as meet new additions 2-year-old Mariam and her 4-month-old baby brother George.

Both were born while she was away. She said it was a huge blessing not only celebrating her first anniversary since final vows back home but also meeting her niece and nephew for the first time.

“They are both so very sweet, and it’s particularly lovely and quite humbling that my little niece is also named Mariam,” she said.

Sister Mariam Assaf enjoys time with 2-year-old Mariam. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“My family is Lebanese, and the Arabic form of the name Mary is Mariam.

“In our community, we receive a religious name when we are clothed with the habit as a sign of our new life following Christ.

“I love the title of Mary as a Refuge of Sinners, and so I wanted to be named after her as a reminder to likewise reveal the tender love and mercy of the Father.”

Currently on mission as a religion teacher in Carmel, Indiana, the 29-year-old had very different plans for her future until she discerned a calling to religious life while studying a Bachelor of Commerce at Macquarie University.

“During my first year and through holy friendships, prayer and the sacraments, God gave me a grace to experience that He knew me and loved me,” she beamed.

“This sparked a deeper conversion in my life and a few months later, I committed to a ‘single year’, to fast from dating and to grow stronger in my relationship with Jesus.

“I also attended a USyd Chaplaincy ‘Nun Run’ for young women considering religious life, and after visiting many convents, I realised how much I was drawn to the Dominican charism and continued to visit the sisters over several months.

“Everything about how they were living for, and with the Lord; set times of prayer, community life, and a preaching apostolate, was what I longed for deep in my heart.”

Left to right: Dominican Sisters, Sr Susanna, Sr Moana Grace, Sr Anastasia, Sr Mariam, Sr Cecilia Joseph and Sr Cecilia Rose at their Regents Park convent. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Sr Mariam said that while many might consider her vocation as a very restrictive way of life, she said answering God’s call and dedicating her life to the work of the Church offers a true sense of freedom.

“To the world, it seems that to give up the good things which we offer in love to God through our vows, would make for a miserable life,” she said.

“To the one whom God chooses and calls to live this way, the total offering of our lives back to God through the vows configures us to Jesus Christ, and brings great freedom and joy … Living my vocation feels more that He is doing a great thing for me, and I get to enjoy the adventure of following Him.”

The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia were founded in Nashville in 1860 and their charism is to preach the gospel for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Founded by St. Dominic, the Order of Preachers live a unique blend of the monastic and apostolic life of prayer, community, study and preaching.

Sister Mariam returned from the US for the first time in 3 years to visit her family, friends. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

The St. Cecilia Dominicans are also under the patronage of St. Cecilia, the Roman virgin and martyr.

As consecrated women, their fruitfulness flows from their union with Jesus, through the living of their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

To find out more about the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia go to https://www.nashvilledominican.org or their facebook page @dominicansistersaustralia

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