Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (RSV)
My name is Alison Weber. I am from Houston, Texas. Actually, the way I like to describe where I am from is: I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Oklahoma, and lived in Houston since I was 15 years old, over 27 years. It is in each of these states that I received a different sacrament while growing up within the Catholic Church. I am the youngest of four children and my parents have been married for over 52 years.
Growing up in the Catholic school system for most of my school years, I learned about God’s existence, but I never knew God. The best way to describe my past relationship with Him is that we were merely passing acquaintances. I went to church on Sundays and holy days, visited the confessional at least once a year, received my sacraments, and said my prayers at bedtime. Nothing more; nothing less.
As I got older, I simply went through the motions of living my Catholic faith. I had no clue how to defend my faith when I was questioned about it. My answer to the questions of “why do Catholics do this or that” was always “because that’s the way we have always done it”. Not very convincing.
After college, the monotony of life and church set in. At one point I even stopped going to Mass all together. It took a friend sending me to the mega non-denominational church to give my heart a jump-start. It took but just a couple weeks before I began to go to the mega church in the morning, and attend Mass in the evening. The day they had their “communion” was the last day I set foot in that church. It was then that I came to believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Years later, I received an invitation to go on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia in 2008. This is where everything changed for me. It was there that I encountered the Holy Spirit. My heart was set on fire and I was ready to go out and conquer the world. The theme that year was Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” There at World Youth Day, where thousands of young people from the universal Church got together, this scripture came to life in my heart. I was a new person. I had a hunger deep down to serve the Lord. When I got back home, I became more involved in ministries, serving at church, going to bible studies, attending retreats, etc.
In 2011 I found my way to the Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston where I met the Companions of the Cross. It did not take long for me to find my home there. I continued to stay involved and in 2013 became a Lay Associate of the Companions and also met the Servants of the Cross. I believe this was when I began to discern thevocation call to the consecrated life.
Over the next few years, I would see the Sisters when they came to Houston for our Lay Associates retreat. Each time I visited with them, there was a stirring deep down in my heart. In Houston we are blessed to have an Office of Vocations and I began to work with them through discernment meetings and retreats. I was able to find a spiritual director and began to seriously discern this calling from Our Lord. I had my “come and see” in September 2015 and was present for Sr. Penelope’s first promises. By December, my spiritual director and I agreed that it was time to take a step forward, put into action what I was feeling in my heart. I contacted the Sisters and applied to the Applicancy program.
The interviews quickly came, and the challenge of debt payoff loomed ahead of me. It was by the grace of God that in four short months I was able to pay off $21K in school loan debt through many generous benefactors. Now as I begin my formation, I am in awe of how quickly this past year has gone. I turn in prayer to the Lord and ask,“Why Me? Are you sure it is me that you want?” the answer always comes back “Why not you? I love you and you are mine”. I received a deep peace knowing how much He loves me andI look forward to what the Lord has ahead of me as His plan continues to unfold. I trust in His word in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. With this spiritual journey which the Lord has begun in my life, in the spirit of the ancient pilgrimage in Spain, the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, I say “Buen Camino” which means “Have a good way or journey”.
God is so good, so patient yet generous with us. I have found this more and more as I journey on this walk in faith. Allow me to share with you a bit of my faith journey thus far.
I have grown up in Winnipeg, MB, I suppose you could call me a ‘cradle catholic’. I grew up attending church weekly as well as actively participating in Sunday school catechism and the Sacraments. Growing up, I would say that I enjoyed my Catholic faith and knew that it was important, but yet I am not sure that I had truly experienced a personal encounter with the Lord, sometimes faith was more of a routine.
I am thankful to God that I never fell away from the faith, although I did have some dark valleys to walk through. It is actually through these difficult moments that I was able to see God shine more brightly in my life. One time in particular was during my high school years. My friends weren’t very open to discussing matters of faith, and it was difficult to really know what beliefs others practiced, or who I could connect with about my faith in God. I felt alone at times in this way. In the midst of this struggle, I had to start leaning on God in a very real way to get me through this valley. I began to see how God loves me in a very personal way. Sometimes I would be struggling with something and I would open my Bible, my eyes falling on the exact words I needed to hear. God was listening and speaking to me. I also started going to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament regularly, we are so blessed to have a church in Winnipeg that has perpetual adoration, so I could go visit Jesus anytime I needed.
During high school, my Mom and I also started to pray that God would bless me with some good Catholic friends. God answered this prayer tenfold once I was out of High School. I began to connect with one of my cousin’s who was also very involved in her Catholic faith. She introduced me to a youth prayer meeting at our Archdiocese, called ‘Emmaus’. Suddenly, I was surrounded by like-minded people who cared about each other and about living an authentic life in Christ. I have made many beautiful friendships through this faith-community. They have helped to grow me into a more confident person and brought out leadership qualities in me that I had not yet used.
I believe I was gradually led to discern my vocation when I began to feel somewhat restless in the summer of 2014. I had been working as a nurse, which was fine, but I knew I had not yet found my spiritual vocation. There was still something very important missing. I continued working as a nurse, but still feeling a void. I started to wonder if maybe God was calling me to consecrated life, since He hadn’t opened the door to marriage. I began to contemplate this, something that was a big deal, since I will admit, I had always ran away from the idea of consecrated life, thinking, ‘that is not for me!’. I began to sense God asking me to give Him everything, and that it would become clear in time what this meant. One day in the summer of 2015, I was hanging out with three friends when we came along the topic of vocations. One of them mentioned that she was thinking about consecrated life. Myself and another friend agreed that we too were considering it. I was so shocked at this moment because I hadn’t realized that they too were thinking about consecrated Life! One of the girls and myself ended up going to a ‘Come and See’ visit in the Fall of 2015 with the Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate. I was surprised how much I enjoyed staying with the sisters, and I saw the work they did as being very meaningful. They were joyful and funny. They had a joie de vivre that many people don’t have. After this ‘Come and See’, I returned home while my friend continued on to visit more religious orders. I decided in early 2016 that I needed to look into Religious Life more seriously and I figured by seeing a handful of different communities, I would have a good idea if this still interested me. I connected with my friend and we agreed to do a ‘Nun run’ together, as we called it. In May 2016, we visited two communities in Ottawa, one of them being the Servants of the Cross, then three communities in New York and one in Toronto.
I came home and reflected on the whole month-long experience. I felt attracted to the Servants of the Cross because they were Charismatic. I have really grown to love our Charismatic community in Winnipeg, one of our ministries being, ‘Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services’ or ‘ CCRS’. I have seen a lot of people be healed through this type of prayer (myself included) and a renewal of the spirit. I was also drawn to the fact that the Servants of the Cross make evangelization their mission. I have always wanted to be able to share Jesus in an authentic way with those I meet. I feel that sharing the faith is one of the necessities of the Church faithful, but one that we are struggling in right now, especially in terms of sharing our witness with non-believers or fallen away Catholics. I want to grow in my ability to evangelize and I think the Servants will be able to form me well in this regard. I have also appreciated how the sisters belonging to the Servants of the Cross community are very real. They are honest and very loving, easy to talk with.
Along the way of my discernment, I have learnt that if this is to be my vocation, it is not dependent on what I want, it has to come from the Lord. The most life-giving yet difficult decision I have had to make is to constantly remind myself, ‘Lord, not my will, but Your will be done.’ It is a constant decision to surrender my desires and my vocation into the Lord’s hands knowing that He works all things for good. Jesus, I trust in You.