Celebrating 60 years of religious life – Sister Josephine Mary of the Cross, OCD

Sister Josephine Mary of the Cross, OCD

MIRI — On 16 July, Discalced Carmelite Sister Josephine Mary of the Cross celebrated her Diamond Jubilee of religious profession. Bishop Richard Ng presided over the Jubilee Mass with 16 priests concelebrating.

Hundreds of faithful including friends and relatives of the Diamond Jubilarian gathered at the Eucharistic celebration which was followed by a fellowship dinner.

Sr Josephine Mary was born in Kuching on 28 February 1940. As a child she went to school at St Teresa’s Convent where she received a good education from the Franciscan Sisters. During this time she developed a desire for vocation to the religious life.

On 8 May 1957 at the age of 17, Sr Josephine joined the Carmelite Sisters of Kuching. Two years after on 16 July 1959 she made her simple profession.

During her religious life she has served as Sub-prioress and Portress in Kuching. After she moved to Miri on 23 May 1985 she continued to serve as Portress for many years offering advice and prayers to those who came to seek her.

Due to her advanced age she was relieved from the office of Portress in November 2017. Her daily activities now include gardening, feeding birds of the air, adorning statues with fresh flowers from the garden, and selecting good pieces of host to be packed and sent to all parishes.

In his homily, Bishop Richard described Sr Josephine’s motherly role a reflection of her special relationship with Mother Mary who is the mother of the Carmelite Order.

Following is an interview of Sister Josephine’s vocation story through Carmel.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a simple Carmelite nun who left home and family at an early age of 17 to enter Carmel to devote myself to God to pray for bishops, priests, sinners and all who are in need of prayers. Through my penances and sacrifices I hope by God’s mercy my good intentions can alleviate their pains, sufferings and ignorance of God’s goodness.

What attracted you to be a Carmelite Nun?

It started like this. After knowing the Sisters for some time, my friend Apollina and I became very enthusiastic about joining them. One day we visited the turn in the monastery. We told Mother Beatrice of our great desire. She was very happy and she welcomed us. During an interview she warned us of the difficulties and sacrifices in Carmel but none disturbed us. So on 8 May 1957, on the evening after Benediction, Fr Harry blessed me and I entered Carmelite Monastery.

Why Carmel?

I was attracted to the prayerful silent life, the solitude and the isolation from the world.

Is the life of a nun difficult? What were the most difficult challenges you encountered?

Jesus values sufferings and sacrifices very much. When I entered Carmel I had all the picture of health. But as we know, Jesus needs a lot of victims to save souls. So when I reached my 28 years Jesus targeted me with painful operation one after another. My Superior encouraged me to be brave and to offer everything to God. I did and Jesus blessed me and restored my health, though not fully. At least I still can serve him in my community.

Have you ever experienced something that made you re-evaluate your vocation? How did you overcome that experience?

Time passes quickly and now I am reaching the threshold of eternal life for which I long. I am very grateful to Jesus for directing me to Carmel. I feel so happy and contented all these years of my religious life, though not without crosses, trials and temptations. But God’s grace overcomes all difficulties, provided one is humble enough to forgo one’s ego and pride. I never look back or regret.

What advice would you give to a young person who is considering religious life?

I would like to advise them, if you notice you are drawn to spiritual things, say, like going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion, love to pray and listen to the Divine Words, are disgusted with all the allurement of the world, you can be certain that Jesus is calling you.

Now that you have reached the 60th Anniversary of your religious profession, what can you say about God who has chosen you and brought you to this day?

After all these years of my consecration to God, I feel very settled and contented. I realised as I grow in age and knowledge of God who is all love, mercy and compassion, I have become wiser and more matured in my contemplation of the spiritual and eternal life.

How do you express your love for God?

I am very grateful to God and each day as I go on living, I feel more indebted to his love, his blessings, his graces and care for me. In return for his love, I accept and offer up to him all the sicknesses that he has allowed me to endure.

What are the benefits of community life that you’ve experienced these 60 years?

The solidarity of the community is very beautiful and outstanding. Besides, there is also the joy of sharing, caring and concern for the elderly and young.

What are the challenges of community life that you experience? What did you do to overcome them?

Community life is not all roses. We have occasional ups and downs as present in all societies, and our characters are all different. I have seen and experienced that, when some disagreeable scene breaks out, the best remedy is to ignore it, as something of no importance, and hold your peace. Otherwise your soul will be very disturbed. The fidelity of keeping well the presence of God will always hold us up from any disorderly spirit.

Sophia Soo


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