During this Year for Consecrated Life Sr M Dominika who, last August, celebrated the Silver Jubilee of her  Profession as a Dominican Nun shares with us her vocation story:

There is no one among us who does not have a divine vocation. Vocation is about our deepest identity: it is the call to be utterly free, free to be fully who I am. Each call takes place concretely in ways that are always new and always different, always beautiful and wonderful, because God is always wonderful in all that He does.

 Who are Dominican nuns? What attracts them to a life of prayer and penance, a life seemingly useless to the eyes of the world?

 Every Dominican is called to be a preacher. Our particular mission is the Proclamation of the Word of God. This is true for us the Nuns as for all our Brothers and Sisters. We have been entrusted with God’s word for others, not a multiplicity of words, but the most basic and fundamental one- GOD IS LOVE.

Love is our primary work. Love for God Himself because He is Love. We bear witness to the fact that there is God who loves all people, who loves them as individual persons, intimately precious in His eyes. This is our message, our word spoken not with our lips but with our lives. We give witness to the reality of God, to His Absolute Being, proclaiming with our every breath that HE IS, and that in Him Alone ultimately do our hearts find rest. We are completely focused on God but by that fact speak a word to our world, a world in which God’s Presence is often either denied, forgotten or completely ignored. From that world God called us and to that world He sends us. The Lord is using us He is doing so in our brokenness and weakness; in our efforts; in time of falling and rising. He is speaking through our humanness.

 I was born in Belarus, when it was part of the Soviet Union. My parents kept the faith during the persecution of Christians and they had me baptized in a village church 40 kilometres from their own town. Our family went to Mass every Sunday to that Church travelling by train. Ten years later I received here my First Holy Communion at night in secret. My parents themselves prepared me for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. My father taught me the Catechism and prayer, but my mother gave me a brilliant example of mercy and compassion for the poor and sick.

   In 1977 I went to school, but there we were always told that God did not exist, and that there was no Resurrection, and we never learned a true History. Maybe that emptiness of Truth was a motivation for searching for it more seriously and deeply – but where?? Truth is not an idea, Truth is a Person – the Living God, and He found me before I realised that I was searching for Him.

    One Sunday when I was in my teens, with my mother in church, a young lady asked me in a whisper if I would like to come for Adoration. I had never heard that word before, and I asking my mother to explain what this lady was asking me. My mother didn’t explain, but nodded approval. This person was apparently a Dominican nun, but she didn’t wear a habit, as that was forbidden. When I asked her what I had to do, she answered: Nothing – you only have to Be. I though that would be easy-it is for me and it really was and still is for me. I’m not sure what I was doing at my first Adoration –but He was present and He was looking at me tenderly. The Fathers of the Church translated the word’ Adoration’ – as mouth to mouth – or kiss.  Yes, it was my first Kiss, and every 1st Sunday of the month, I came for another kiss, and met my new friends, but I didn’t know who this young lades was for a long time.

  After two years the sister who was the first to invite me to Adoration asked me if I wanted to give my life to God as a nun. I was very surprised. Sometimes we spoke about Faith and Prayer, but that question I never expected. But how would this be possible because there wasn’t any monastery in Belarus and no Sisters? She explained it is possible – you will be the first …One thing the kisses but contemplative monastic life, about which I knew nothing and never even heard of such. It was beyond my capacity to understand or imagine. It was pure gift, I never merited it but I accepted it and joined the Dominicans in 1988 in Lithuania. How great was my joy when I realised later that the Order of Preachers was the answer to my deep desire for Truth and the Salvation of souls.

 On the occasion of my Reception Ceremony into Order, the first question the Prioress asked me was-‘What do you seek? ‘I was very  moved by that question- one which is not frequently asked .In the culture in which I lived at the time mostly we accepted what otter was given to us to do or to think. As I gave my answer to the question-‘God mercy and yours’ as prescribed in our Dominican Ritual, I felt as at home as a fish would feel in water.

In Hebrew ‘Mercy’ is translated by three words: promise, grace and womb. I feel that our Order is this ‘merciful womb’ in which we are born to a new life, a new way of thinking, and a new way of looking at the world and ourselves. St. Dominic’s God, is God of mercy. If we take from our Bible all that is written about ‘mercy’ there will be nothing left! To be formed by the Word of God means to be formed by His merciful love. Our monastery is a school of mercy. Nothing can make my heart so gentle and understanding as receiving forgiveness and mercy for my sin and the sins of our world. Truth and Mercy do not know diversity. In our Dominican spirituality we do not first gaze on God but WITH HIM as friends. God invites us to look on the world through His merciful eyes and this is the way of Dominican contemplation.

  In Vilniusin Lithuania 1938 a Dominican nun from Krakow began a new foundation, but in 1939 War stopped it.  Some Sisters came back to Poland– -some were living in Lithuaniawith their families and in secret. When I entered in that Community in 1988 Sisters were still living underground, meeting together once o month, for prayer and Conference. There was 17 Sisters in Community between Lithuania and Belarus. After receiving the habit I had to hide it and continue my life with my family for 2 years, so as not to arouse suspicion. Only at Weekends could I go to Minsk to pray with other 4 nuns. In 1989 I made my 1st Profession in hands of Sr. Teresa- Prioress of Vilnius.

   In 1990 the Soviet Union began to break down .Between Lithuaniaand Belarusthe border began to be built. Freedom for the Church slowly arrived. We found an opportunity for the young Sisters from Belarusto live together in Minsk. The granny of one of the Sisters was very kind and she shared her only one room with us. For us it was ‘heaven on earth’! Our life was very regular, prayerful and lived very much in common, joy and forgiveness. When in 1991 our Master General – Fr. Damien Byrne OP visited us he was very impressed of our way living as Dominican nuns. In 1992 we began to live in a larger house. We had a little chapel with Blessed Sacrament and 3 more rooms to live in and we wore our ‘hidden habits’…

   Sr. Miriam op from Poland became the new Prioress in Vilnius. She decided that the tree young Sisters from our Community would study theology in Cracow. I went to Poland and began my studies in 1993. I made my final vows in the hands of Sr. Miriam in 1994 in Minsk. The Sisters in Lithuaniadecided to restore the foundation in Vilnius, and for that reason to close our small house in Minsk. After my studies were completed I continued to remain in the monastery in Cracow.

    The desire for a foundation in Belarusnever left my heart and prayer. The need of monastic- contemplative life in Belaruswas very clear to me. Thank God we now have many Apostolic Communities, but they need to be steeped in prayer, many new Churches have opened and people need the witness of our prayerful lives. A Church without contemplative Communities is like a Church without a heart. In response to that desire and need, God sent me to Irelandon the other side of the earth! Only He can do it like this and only Himself I can trust, that is the best way for me today ’’to BE’’ in the heart of the Church. Future in His hands.

 My first few years in Irelandwere difficult for me- not only by learning English, but also learning how to live with one mind and one heart. It was very valuable for me to live with 8 different nationalities but it was demanding .I had never imagined that it would possible to accept one another as I found in this community. Another thing is that brings me great joy is the atmosphere of silence and daily Eucharistic Adoration. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the reason we expose Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is not so that He can become more present to us but so that we can become more present to Him. Now the Lord every day reminds me of His first kiss…but not the last!

There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel.

 God is still calling ‘Come! Follow me…’  His Word is alive, pronounced by Somebody who looks at us – it is desire passed on from heart to heart.

Vocation is a continuing inner journey, each step the first.