Temporary Vows

Trust in me and live in peace in humility, love, and joy
Arlene van Zyl pronounces her first vows

ArleneMy soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!  For He has looked with favour on His humble servant!  The almighty has done great things for me! 

It was with a deep sense of gratitude at this gift from God, that I pronounced my first vows in the chapel of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Montreal, surrounded by majority of my sisters, my parents, and my brother who came for the event from BC. 
When I think back on that amazing day (Sept 13, 2009), I remember, within me, an indescribable joy that will remain with me as I continue to walk with Love.  I felt the presence of so many people, for countless had promised to pray and others sent their love and support. 

Reflecting on my vocation, I believe that God has been preparing and forming me from the moment of my birth to follow Him on this journey to which He has called me.  My calling can be described as a series of births leading me to the Institute that I now call home:

  • The birth of a love for missionary life when I went to Mexico (at the age of 16),

  • The birth of a love for community life when I lived and worked in L’Arche Victoria,

  • The birth of a love for Mary when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in Abbotsford,

  • The birth of a love for Francis and his way of perceiving the world with the Secular Franciscans,

  • The birth of a love for adoration with CCO (Catholic Christian Outreach), and 

  • The birth of a desire to give myself fully to God during ten months of discernment in Saskatoon.

The celebration of my first vows was very significant for me, due to the fact that I was able to prepare it with Sr. Marianna, the mistress of novices.  In addition, Brother Louis, Franciscan Capuchin, generously accepted to celebrate the mass with us which was all the more meaningful for he had been my spiritual director over my two years of novitiate.

‘Jesus Christ you are my life’ (from World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto) was chosen as the opening hymn which touched me a great deal as I gave myself to God and His people (and the fact that it was sung in the three official languages of the Institute).  The first reading was proclaimed by my brother Roger, the story of Moses, chosen by God, to liberate the Rogerpeople from slavery.  The second reading by St. Paul (read by Sr. Francoise Bourdage who lived with me in the novitiate community) speaks about the gift of God and of Him in whom we put our trust.  Psalm 115 was sung by one of my sisters (in Christ) from Senegal, Agnes, which sings of gratitude and pronouncing one’s vows before all God’s people…very appropriate don’t you think?  The gospel speaks of the mission of Jesus to bring good news to the poor, proclaim freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind, and free the oppressed.  This gospel speaks to me about the plan of God for humanity. 

After the homily (which refers to how religious life is perceived in our world today), I pronounced my first vows with my baptismal candle in hand (which I feared would drip all over my hand…it was given to my parents 31 years ago…however it did not, to my great relief).  When I think of this moment, I do not recognize this woman full of confidence, without a spark of nervousness.  It was a long journey to come to this point with the love, fidelity, and patience of my God who wove me together in my mother’s womb.

I then proceeded to the alter to sign the formula where I promise to live the constitutions (our way of life) of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, and to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience (which are vastly misunderstood by many people but I will not get into that now) for the next three years.  Sr. Simone then presented me with the medal of our Institute, the sign of my commitment.  Brother Louis invited the assembly to offer each other a sign of peace.  What happened then was something I could never have imagined.  It was just like a mass in Mexico, where they take at least 5 to 10 minutes to hug everyone and wish them the peace of Christ which we all possess.  This is such an essential element to our mass, in my opinion, the only time that we turn towards our Christian brothers and sisters to offer them the peace of Christ.  What an extraordinary feeling of Franciscan joy overflowed within our chapel at that moment!

prayerOnce everyone was seated, several sisters and my family members proceeded to the back of the chapel to bring up symbols for the prayer of intercessions (read by S. Isabelle and Sun-Ah).

 The circle of friends, which represents for me the Church and its mission of reconciliation
 The constitutions which represent our Golden Rule
 Rice, signifying the poor that we love, following the example of Francis and Mary of the Passion,
Go to fullsize image A Latin American cross represents the gift of self and signifies my calling to religious life in Mexico,
 A feather which represents the First Nations people
who taught me the interdependence of all creation,
the calabash that represents the woman
who gives and protects life, and
A plant which represents growth in faith
(the same plant was offered during my entry into novitiate) blessing

After receiving Jesus, in the Eucharist, I received my first mission from my provincial Sr. Simone.  I was chosen to be sent to ….the city of Quebec.  Two sisters belonging to this fraternity welcomed me warmly with open arms.  Kneeing, I then received a moving blessing written by my parents and also one sung by all the FMM sisters present. 

After the conclusion of the mass, everyone was invited downstairs to share a meal and listen to music prepared by various people.  We all listened to the delightful singing of the novices Marie-claracMarie-Clarac sisters (in Spanish) who participated in the Inter-Novitiate program with me and a dance composed by Kendal Freeman accompanied by the song ‘You lift me up’ by Aled Jones.  My family also prepared a PowerPoint presentation to show the sisters a bit of my life before I entered with pictures and music that was important to me at different Kendalstages in my life.  What a blessing to be so loved!!!

So there it is; a little resume of a day that will stay in my heart for the rest of my life.  Thank you to everyone for your prayers and for making this day so memorable.  I repeat what Francis invited his brothers to say: May God give you His peace!

© 2010