by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — Travelling was Jeanne Ng’s passion until she found something more worthwhile to pursue.
She will be travelling to New York on September 3 to be the third New Zealander to join the Sisters of Life.
“I was mostly Catholic by name. I would go back to the Church but it was easy to fall off when you’re friends aren’t Catholic,” she said. “Going to Mass on Sundays was a chore. It wasn’t like, ‘This is the body of Christ!’ Sure, I knew about the true presence, but
did I really believe it?”
Her faith journey started in Sydney during the World Youth Day celebration in 2008. At that time, she was struggling most about the issue of chastity.
“It seems like a big no, like the Church says no to something good. But I didn’t understand what is chastity,” she said.
“After World Youth Day, that’s when I actually became really Catholic. I discovered Theology of the Body, which made a whole lot of sense. It’s not just no to sex before marriage but it’s a yes to something way more beautiful: marriage and God’s plan and design for us. I discovered the Theology of the Body, I discovered the truth of the Catholic faith,” she added.
She met her spiritual director after that and continued on her faith journey: praying more, learning about the faith and attending retreats and seminars.
In 2012, she went to Hearts Aflame, a Catholic summer school for young people aged 18 to 35.
“The rhythm of the school is quite like religious life, in the sense that you have your schedule. And it starts with optional adoration in the morning, morning prayer, and then breakfast together with the school,” she said.
They sang the Liturgy of the Hours, which she found moving.
“The whole 10 days really drew me deeper into union with Christ. We had adoration and I really loved the Liturgy of the Hours. And at the end of the school, I thought I could do this for the rest of my life and I’d be happy,” she said.
At that point, she wasn’t sure if she was being called to the religious life. She was getting impatient, too. “I was actually like, why won’t God tell me what my vocation is? I want to know, tell me,” she said.
She wasn’t quite ready to give up travelling, though. She worked at a travel agency in 2010 and went to Madrid for World Youth Day there in 2011.
“I realised that my aversion to religious life was that I couldn’t travel where I wanted to when I wanted to. And that I had to give that up,” she said.
“One day, I was praying and I said, God if you are calling me to religious life, please let me go back to Rome. I couldn’t afford it. This was a throwaway, kind of like casual, comment,” she said.
When she won an incentive in her company for a trip to Europe that flew in and out of Rome, she said that made matters clearer to her.
“I realised that my attachment to travelling is melting away. I just won a trip to Europe, I didn’t have topay for it. And if I didn’t travel again all my life, I’m happy,” she said.
She won a few more trips as an incentive and was able to put her life in order. In May, she applied to the Sisters of Life, a congregation she felt most attracted to, and was accepted. She said the first Kiwi to join had since left after discerning that religious life was
not for her. But Sr Maria Filumena, formerly Karen Geaney, who Miss Ng met at Hearts Aflame, is still there.
“God has led me this far and he’s quite good at changing directions — which I found throughout my journey. But yes, I think I have confirmation that this is his will and this is my path,” she said.