By MINA AMSO
She chose a path less travelled, one of contemplation and spiritual devotion. Now Sr Marie Ange of Jesus – a Carmelite nun at Royal Oak in Auckland – has made her commitment for life. On September 9, she professed her final vows before dozens of friends and religious, fully confident of her vocational journey with Christ as her spiritual spouse.
She chose to find solace in the silence of the cloistered life. Her journey is a testament to faith, perseverance, and the profound calling of the divine.
At first glance, one might wonder if Sr Marie Ange misses the world beyond the monastery’s walls. To this, she responds with a resolute “no”.
“No, not at all. I am really sick, whenever I go out. Because I’ve been staying inside [the monastery] for a long time, I get used to the inside. So whenever I go out for medical reasons, I feel really tired.”
Her life within the monastery has become her sanctuary, her haven of serenity and prayer.
She laments the overload of digital devices in today’s noisy world.
“When I go out, I see people; everyone is on their phones. I don’t like it because, even though it helps a lot with communications with people far away, people need to interact face-to-face. It’s better because you show expression and feel closer when you talk to each other. And I don’t like when I talk with someone, and he or she has a phone, and is not focused on others; it’s not nice.”
In the cloistered community of 11 sisters – one resides with the Little Sisters of the Poor – Sr Marie Ange found a sense of belonging and purpose. Reflecting on her lifelong commitment to this way of life, she expressed gratitude for the support she has received, especially during moments when her family could not be present during her final profession. She finds solace in the warmth of the community, which has become her spiritual family.
Sr Marie Ange’s journey to the Carmelite Monastery began with a profound sense of calling at the age of 15, she recalled.
“When I used to go to Mass, after everybody had left, I used to stay by myself in the chapel. Only me in the chapel with the Lord in quiet. I liked that time very much.”
Her attraction to the peaceful and prayerful presence of the sisters in her parish stirred her heart. She shared her innermost desire with Jesus, saying, “I want to help you carry your cross”.
Her discernment led her to contemplate joining the Apostolic Mission Sisters, but she soon realised that it wasn’t the right path, as she felt she was too introverted to be dealing with people all the time, she laughed. Rather, she sought a life of contemplation and solitude. After searching the web, she was led to the Carmelites in Saigon, South Vietnam. She decided to embark on a journey that would ultimately take her to New Zealand.
Sr Marie Ange entered Carmel on October 4, 2013. The initial years were not without challenges, she said. She faced internal struggles and doubt, feeling as though falling flat on the ground. She turned to the psalms, crying out to God for strength when she had none left.
“I had no strength left in me to continue.”
She had some very dark hours, but her faith prevented her from taking any wrong paths. She remembers the pivotal moment when she surrendered to God’s will, acknowledging his strength and authority.
Soon after these events had taken place, the prioress of the monastery asked Sr Marie Ange to learn English. She joked about not liking to learn the language [because who needs to in Vietnam? she explained] but she accepted, as part of her commitment to follow God’s plan for her life. This decision ultimately led to her journey to New Zealand, a place she knew little about at the time.
Sr Marie Ange’s arrival in New Zealand was marked by trepidation, due to her limited English. However, her fears were soon dispelled by the warmth and friendliness of the people she encountered. Despite facing doubts about her vocation on several occasions, she remained steadfast, guided by her promise to God to accept his will.
Her daily routine is a testament to her unwavering commitment. Her day begins at five in the morning and ends at ten at night, doing all sorts of things including divine office, meals, recreation, solitary prayer, and spiritual readings. This rigorous schedule reflects the dedication required to live a contemplative life.
The path leading to her final profession was not an easy one either. Sr Marie Ange emphasised the importance of discernment, both on her part and within the community. She acknowledged that it takes time to ensure that a person can commit to their vocation for life, in her case 10 years. Her analogy of marriage highlights the significance of this commitment, highlighting the need to discern thoroughly before making such a lifelong pledge.
Sr Marie Ange believes that God guides people who allow him the freedom to do so. She is grateful for surrendering control to him, and allowing his will to prevail, as she jokingly says that “He has his way anyway, so might as well”. As she matured in her walk with God, that desire to do his will eventually sprang from her love for him too.
The Carmelite community played a pivotal role in her discernment, voting to determine if she was the right fit for their contemplative way of life, which is defined by solitude and prayer for the Church, its people, and its priests. Hers is a life dedicated to seeking the divine through quiet contemplation, far removed from the noise and distractions of the outside world.
Her remarkable journey of faith and resilience is a reminder of the enduring power of faith, and the transformative nature of surrendering to a higher calling. Within the Carmelite monastery, Sr Marie Ange of Jesus has found her purpose, her community, and her profound connection with God.