Editor’s Note: Sr. Emmanuela Le became the new National Director of Vocations in January of this year. Below is her recent reflection on her first three months in her new ministry. Sr. Emmanuela entered the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in July 2000.
by Sr. Emmanuela Le
I was once told that only in dreams do dreams come true. I think that it all depends on how much one desires to make their dream a reality. It’s hard for me to put my feelings and experience into words but, over a year ago, deep in my heart, I had this great desire to make God known, loved and served by ministering in the field of vocation formation.
My life took a sharp turn when I heard the statement: “If not now, then when,” which was the logo of our province assembly. It jarred me into thinking I was not doing enough for my Nazareth family. But how, when, and where to start? I discerned through prayer and received the courage to express my dream and my desire to our provincial leadership. God who knows our hearts and desires had a greater plan for me than I had envisioned. I asked for a simple ministry in vocation work and was given the responsibility of National Vocation Director.
My new ministry has provided me many opportunities to be with God’s people through teaching, youth ministry, discernment weekends, come and see programs and retreats. Through these experiences, I have met so many influential people who have left an impression on me. Through their examples, I have been humbled and exalted, pruned and nourished. Nevertheless, my life continues to be seeded by God and nourished by prayer and loving support from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. I have come to understand that every ministry needs servants and I learned that well from my sisters. There is no greater joy than to know that we, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, are all in this vocation formation ministry together. “Family is where life begins and love never ends.” I am not alone, never have been and never will be in this ministry. Thanks be to God!
In the past three months, it has been a challenge to adjust and adapt to new schedules, create doable programs and set my priorities right. I keep reminding myself that God was working with many sisters in this ministry before me so I should look for what God has been doing, and is still doing, then just continue to do that.
In this ministry, sometimes it seems I am “doing nothing” especially when no one joins our religious community. At other times, there is a danger of getting myself into a trap of feeling “unfulfilled.” Whenever I begin to feel this way, I am reminded of this beautiful message from one of our sisters. She quoted Pope Francis: "Vocations aren't the result of planning, but an encounter with God that changes your life.” It has become very clear to me that before I can even speak to youth, teens and young adults about a religious vocation, I need first to speak about the presence and encounter of God in their lives. It would be so hard or even impossible for them to respond to religious life when they don’t have that strong bond of a relationship with God. The heart of the matter is to help all those who come to our home to know Jesus, to fall in love with Him, and to stay in love with Him. I strongly believe that once they are touched by God they are given new life, new sight, and they’ll have the courage to respond to Him wholeheartedly.
As I become more acquainted with vocation ministry, I realize that it allows me the opportunity to connect more with family life. Together with parents, we make an effort to stimulate and cultivate a climate of vocation awareness in the family. I often challenge parents with these questions: “Does your child know where you stand and how you feel about religious vocations? Would you support your child who is considering the priesthood or religious life as a first option, or do you expect them to save it as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted?” I have found that God does not just call men and women from families who are supportive. God calls whom He wants and wills. That means all families need to have an understanding of the meaning of a religious vocation, and the readiness to accept it for their daughter, should this call from Jesus come their way.
During my meetings with young ladies during these past few months, I have experienced many memorable moments. One that I will never forget is when a 19-year old young woman shouted out “Aww, look! They really do love each other!” at the February discernment retreat when she witnessed a group of Holy Family of Nazareth Sisters, wrapped in a cozy blanket, sitting on a swing and listening to their stories. What a wonderful way to remind us of Jesus’ new commandment: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35).
I am so grateful for this opportunity to share with young women my love for God and for my Community, and I find that I am growing with each encounter. Sometimes I think that I am gaining more than I am giving, and I thank God for His kindness in allowing me to serve Him in this ministry.