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My Vocation Story: A special charism for girls and women

By SR. M. PILAR VERZOSA, RGS

“Pilar, if you go to Vietnam to volunteer as a nurse, you will be so lonely, you will fall in love with the first doctor you meet there!” exclaimed Fr. James Reuter, SJ (my spiritual director ) when I mentioned that I thought of entering the convent but I also was being invited by Operation Brotherhood as soon as I graduated BS Nursing from St. Paul College.

Fr. Jim’s words must have hit me right in the heart cause I put aside immediately that invitation and started inquiring seriously about the Good Shepherd soon after.

Being a nun was not a strange idea to me. I grew up with nuns in St. Theresa’s College. In fact, all of us - my four sisters and three brothers studied there while my mother was school physician. What surprised everybody was why I entered the Good Shepherd Congregation, not with the St. Theresa’s College or the St. Paul College nuns.

But it should not be too surprising. My parent’s wedding invitation was printed at the Good Shepherd Printing Press in Caloocan in 1938. I did not know till I was about five years in the Good Shepherd when my mother casually mentioned it to me. And she added, “Do you know that I used to pray around in your 1043 Aurora Blvd. Compound as a child? Your grandfather was the partner of Mr. Lord, the American owner of your property. That was in the 20’s. Your grandpa owned a bus company and he would bring men from Vigan to Quezon City to be taken to Hawaii or California to work in the plantations.” Wow! So my family was into OCW’!

Then, I got fed with Marian Bread everyday for breakfast when I was in grade school. Yes, I recall the Marian Bread delivery van passing by our house every morning. Little did I know the bakery was owned by the Good Shepherd Sisters. I entered the RGS in spite of my mother warning us children every so often, “If you are naughty, I will place you with the nuns over there at Aurora Blvd. On the way to Ateneo (where brothers went to school). You know that convent with the high walls? You will never be able to get out.”

Although my parents would have wanted me to work a couple of years first after college, they did not object to my going to the Aspirancy Program by June. I praise the Lord for their understanding and I am sure that it was their prayers that has sustained my vocation through the years. We prayed the rosary every evening as far back as I can remember and having our First Communion was a special event for each of the eight of us children. I remember walking to church every morning with my mother and father ever since I was in Grade Five. My other siblings would join us sometimes but I was the most regular even during weekdays. I even volunteered to go with my mother for her parish church activities.

The STC Belgian nuns instilled in me a missionary spirit. They would tell stories of the poor Igorots in the Mountain Provinces and they taught me how to knit sweaters for them during the noon break in school so that I could send them to the children who must be feeling so cold up there.

The SPC nuns, on the other hand, taught me how to be caring and nurturing, gracious and sensitive to the needs of others. I had at first wanted to join a congregation that would take care of the physically handicapped but I did not know of any in the Philippines. One day, I saw an article in a weekly magazine about Heart of Mary Villa, the RGS Home for Unwed Mothers ( I still have that article I cut that day). My curiosity led me to asking Fr. Reuter about the RGS. He instructed me to visit the Superior that weekend. And so I got to know about the Good Shepherd Sisters. I visited the convent a couple of times more before I entered that same year after graduation.

I have never regretted it! The community life of sisterhood, the life of prayer, and the various assignments have challenged, inspired and sustained me to do my best to follow Jesus in the life He called me. Working in the home for unwed mothers as a young Sister fulfilled the dream I had when I cut out the article on Heart of Mary Villa. It was there that I gained a special compassion for these girls and women - a special charism I developed into the pro-life mission that I have been sustaining for the past thirty years. The Pro-life organization that I founded has grown nationwide and through my radio programs, TV appearance, books written and training programs I have developed, the saving grace of the Good Shepherd has reached out into schools, parishes, offices, factories, depressed communities and rural areas. Women come to us who would have aborted, girls are referred to our shelter because of rape or incest or prostitution, students and teachers receive materials and training on Christian sexuality, while couples learn responsible parenthood. My work with Pro-life has never been separate from my RGS assignment. The mutuality has enhanced both areas toward effective ways of bringing God’s salvation.

Congregational support and appreciation for my participation in the work of God has never been lacking. And sisterly concern and admonition (nobody is perfect!) likewise has not been lacking. And so, the highlight of each year has been the annual retreat. The congregation assemblies also fill me with pride and inspiration, knowing that each of us 150 Sisters have nothing else at heart than the desire to live the love and compassion of the Good Shepherd.

Joy and peace - this is what I would want other young women to experience. This is what I experience here at RGS and I know that for many women out there, God is waiting to give this to them too through the Good Shepherd vocation. God is a generous God. He cannot be outdone in showering us with the promised hundredfold. I am sure He will continue to outpour His love on me from day to day in pasture yet untrod. I would like to dwell in His house forever.

(Written as a response to a 2002 invitation by the RGS Vocation Ministry office for Good Shepherd Sisters, apostolic and contemplative, to write their vocation stories.)