SOAR! recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Sister Grace about her years in religious life as a member of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart in California. Read the interview below.
What attracted you to become a Sister?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, and I was baptized at about age 12. Before I entered our Community, I taught English as a second language in high school. I often felt that someone should tell others about Jesus, so I became a catechist in our church close to my home, but in the 1960s, there wasn’t much training available for catechists.
A friend told me about the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart and its foundress, Sister Ida Peterfy. I felt drawn to religious life at that time, so I decided to go to California to see if this is where Jesus wanted me to enter.
It was a big step for me to go 7,000 miles away from home, especially as my dad was not a Catholic at that time. But I went and visited community in July 1970 and then entered that September.
Our foundress, Sister Ida, was my teacher, mentor, spiritual guide, and a dear friend. From her I learned how personal Our God is. His love is unconditional. Sister Ida taught us a dynamic method to teach our faith. I fell in love with Our Lord more and more each day.
Our Lord was so kind to me that in 1978, my dad and my mom came to Los Angeles for my final vows. My dad became a Catholic a year before he passed on. In 2022, I will be celebrating my Golden Jubilee with Sister Mary Tomasella, our Superior General. We entered together in 1970.
As you look at your years of faithful service, what has been your greatest joy? Your greatest challenge?
I have lots of great joy, and it’s hard to settle on just one. But the most memorable one was when Our Lord gave my Dad the gift of becoming a Catholic right after my final vows. He was baptized in our Novitiate house in Los Angeles.
Being a catechist preparing lessons with the inspiration of Our Lord’s Holy Spirit was often a joy to me. He often inspires me with His Holy Spirit.
Throughout my life, I’ve always asked Jesus that my students or friends would know how to love Him more and feel His love after our meeting or class. I know that what I give, through the material presented or lesson, is limited. I ask the Holy Spirit to keep on helping them to love Jesus when our class is over. When they came back and told me about their encounter or prayer with Jesus, I was so happy for them.
There are many challenges that come to us in life, including aging. But people can find solutions and joy in their challenges. Challenges give you a chance to go back to Jesus and to talk with Him, and nothing seems so bad after that.
Each part of our life journey is touched by the holy, and we in turn are asked to bring Christ to others. Can you share such a moment from your life?
I had two assignments when I was in our Taiwan mission between 1989 and 2006. I was in Catechist Formation for the Archdiocese of Taipei as well as forming the Pastoral Care Team in Cardinal Tien Hospital in Taipei. I loved my pastoral work in the hospital. I was able to pre-evangelize (the phase of helping those showing interest in the faith) as well as evangelize there. I had the privilege of helping the directors of the hospital, heads of the nursing department, nurses, staff, patients, and families to become Catholic.
While I was teaching an RCIA class, I asked this doctor, who was a gynecologist, how he knew there is a God and why he wanted to know Him. He said, “The time I delivered the first baby, he was so perfect and beautiful. I knew then it is really God who can make him so perfect. I know then God is where life comes from.” He was baptized after his RCIA process with us in the hospital.
I have many more stories from my time in pastoral care there. I made over 23,000 visits with patients in Tien.
Today, I am so happy that I can still teach people about Jesus. These days, I am teaching a Bible study via ZOOM to a Catholic group based in Irvine. The classes are in Mandarin. Because of the technology, I even have students as far away as Hawaii!
Do you have a word of wisdom you’d like to share with people today?
Evangelization is very good. But pre-evangelization is very important as well. Because people don’t just want to know how to come into our Faith, they want to know the Love of God is true and how to love God back. From the way we love each other, they can see whether we are truly loving. Just as the song says, “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord. …they will know we are Christians by our Love.”
The most important part of our faith is Love. The Son of God came to us to tell of His Father’s love for us. Jesus knows what we’re made of and what we need.
I love my life. Jesus gives us signs of his love, and I love being with Him.
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