By: Sister Thaddeus Rajca, CSFN
My vocation story begins when I was a young girl in Utica, NY, attending Holy Trinity School, which was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Somedays, I would stay after school to help the Sisters set up the classroom for the next day or go to the Convent to help them with their chores, pray with them, and be of any help that they needed. I always admired the Sisters’ kindness, compassion, goodness to everyone, and their love for Catholic Education. I thought about being a Sister, but I was not ready to commit to that life, so I attended the public high school in my city for two years.
Then one day, my girlfriend’s sister, who was in 8th grade, came home from school with a yearbook from a school in Philadelphia where girls went there who were aspiring to be sisters. It was then and there that I knew God was calling me to live my life as a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
So at sixteen years old, I spoke with the Sisters about my intention to enter Religious Life. Sister Gemma, my sponsor, asked me why I wanted to be a Sister; I had only one thought in mind “To love and serve God .” The Eucharistic Liturgy, communal prayer with my Sisters, and Sacred Scripture have nourished me and helped me receive the graces necessary for serving the Lord.
Throughout my religious life, God has blessed me with numerous opportunities for service to my Sisters and to families to extend God’s Kingdom of love. I began my ministry as an elementary school teacher, high school teacher, principal, and superior, provincial secretary, and in 1992 was elected as secretary general of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Rome, Italy. Wow! What gifts and blessings were bestowed on me!
While in Rome, I had several encounters with the Holy Father, Saint John Paul II, where we, the Sisters, would sing in his private chapel and pray with him. I was also able to travel to the different countries where our Sisters minister and see how they live our charism to spread the Kingdom of God’s love among ourselves and others and to minister to families.
When I returned to Monroe, CT, after serving in Rome for nine years, I made a phone call to Monsignor Robert Weiss, Pastor of Saint Rose Parish in Newtown, CT, and his response to me was: “I know that you are back from Rome and you need a job. Give me a day to think about it.” And so I began my ministry at St. Rose, two years in Religious Ed; seven years as Preschool Director; eleven years as Spiritual Coordinator and Middle School Religion Teacher, the position I presently hold today. It is an honor and a blessing for me to minister at St. Rose – a ministry that brings me much joy and lots of happiness!
As I reflect on my life as a Nazareth Sister, I offer a deep prayer of gratitude to God for my dear family and friends, my Nazareth Community, and for all the people who have helped me throughout my 61 years as a Sister. Each day, I thank God for the gift of my vocation and respond joyfully with the words of the Psalmist “Ecce Venio; Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” (Psalm 40 7-8)