April 2019

Donna’s readiness to live her vows

Donna Belle Ferrer made her first profession as a Sister of the Good Samaritan earlier this month and is looking forward with “readiness” to living her vows faithfully.

BY Annette Loughlin-Smith

Donna, aged 35, first heard about the Good Samaritan Sisters during her exposure stage with the Society of Foreign Mission (Société des Missions-Étrangères du Québec – SME), a lay missionary movement in the Philippines.

“I had completed my BS Psychology degree at West Negros University,” said Donna, who is from Bacolod City in the Province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. “Then in 2012, after completing a Masters of Religious Education in Manila, I spent a month with the SME in Digos Davao City.”

“I enjoyed missionary work, particularly visiting the Lumads, one of the Indigenous tribes of the Philippines, and helping them with subsistence farming, but I longed to be part of a community, and to pray with a community,” Donna said. “Prayer life is very important to me.”

It was during her time becoming as a lay missionary, that Donna felt a deeper calling to religious life.

“I shared my reflections from my time exploring life as a lay missionary, and the realisation that I felt called to become a religious sister, with some friends of mine who were religious sisters,” said Donna. “I wanted to become part of a congregation that had a missionary charism, and I didn’t want to wear a habit like my religious friends who do wear a habit, so they suggested I contact the Good Samaritan Sisters.”

Donna first met Sister Maree Nash in 2012, who was living in Bacolod at the time, before being appointed as the Novice Director in Australia.

After a few information sessions with Maree, Sister Eiko Mukae, became Donna’s accompanying sister for the initial stage of inquiry.

“Eiko walked with me on my journey, telling me more about the congregation and introducing me to the spirituality of St Benedict,” Donna reflected. “I completed modules of study and shared my reflections to develop a deeper understanding of the Benedictine spirituality, the congregation and the mission of the Sisters.”

Following this period of inquiry, Donna was certain she was ready for a religious life, however her family circumstances meant she had to return home to help care for her dying father.

“My family and my father, who was very sick, needed me at home, so we decided I would wait before entering the congregation,” Donna said.

In 2015, following the death of her father, Donna entered the congregation living in community as a pre-novice, while working as a guidance counselor at St Scholastica’s Academy-Bacolod, run by the Missionary Sisters of Tutzing. After a year as a pre-novice, she travelled to Australia for her formation at the novitiate community in Lawson in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

After two years of novitiate formation, which includes a study program and living the rhythm of community life, Donna has experienced the life of prayer she was so strongly called to during her lay missionary work.

“I love praying my personal prayer. I feel like I am having a date with God. Talking to God face-to-face without pretensions, opening the ears of my heart to the Word of God speaking to me. It makes me fall in love with God again and again,” Donna said. “I was thinking about this kind of prayer when I was with the SME, thinking I can still be with them and continue my prayer life, but praying with a community is strong and powerful for me as well.

“Communal prayer gives me the inspiration to persevere in my prayer life when I don’t feel like praying,” she said. “Whenever we pray together, I feel that our hearts join altogether singing and praying to God all our intentions and our prayers of our world.”

Donna with Congregational Leader Patty Fawkner SGS.

Donna made her first profession on Saturday 6 April at St Scholastica’s Chapel, Glebe during Mass celebrated by the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Nativity Lawson, Father Paul Slyney.

Reflecting on first meeting Donna in the Philippines in 2012, and now accompanying her to her first profession, Maree said the journey she has taken has been significant.

“It’s my first experience to have met someone at the early inquiry stage, and now as Novice Director, to support them in making their first vows,” Maree said. “It’s been a few years ago now that I first met Donna and to see, over these years, how she has grown and deepened her call to religious life is significant.”

Speaking to The Good Oil on the eve of her profession, Donna was excited and a little nervous about making her first vows, joined by some of her family who she hasn’t seen for a year – her mother, Ma. Jolly Ann, her sister, Jennybelle, and brother-in-law, Edward Sillador – as well as some of the Good Samaritan Sisters, oblates and partners in ministries.

“I’m excited about tomorrow, but also feel nervous in my stomach,” she said. “Tonight, after night prayer, I will enter a period of silence to prepare for the profession tomorrow.”

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” she said. “I have a readiness to say my vows and to live Good Samaritan life faithfully, as much as I can.”

Donna will soon return to the Philippines to continue her discernment, explore ministry opportunities and study, taking her place in the congregation’s life and ministry.

If you would like to know more about becoming a Good Samaritan Sister email us vocations@goodsams.org.au

Annette Loughlin-Smith

Annette Loughlin-Smith has worked in communications and the media for Catholic education and other organisations.

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