Enjoy this personal vocation story of Sr Guerline Joseph, a young Salesian Sister who lives and works in our diocese.
I am Sister Guerline Joseph, a Salesian Sister of St John Bosco. My early years as a child were spent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and I moved to New Jersey when I was ten years old. My parents are very hard workers, a quality I believe that my sibling and I inherited from them. I am very grateful for the opportunities my parents gave my sibling and I by bringing us here to the States.
I met my religious community during my second year of college. A Salesian Sister was assigned to the Archdiocese of Newark Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. She started a young adult council which included young adults from different parishes in the archdiocese. That year, she took us to a conference at Steubenville University and there I remember getting a copy of Vision Magazine. I took it home and like any other teenager or young adult, feeling it was not something normal or “cool,” I hid it! I was afraid that someone would see that I had an interest in religious life. I recall hiding it under my pillow if I thought someone was going to enter my room. My “Ah-ha” moment was when I came across the advertisement for the Salesian Sisters. “This is the same outfit (I did not know the proper term habit then) that Sister Loretta is wearing”. Then I made the connection that she was a Salesian Sister. I continued to read the ad. It talked about their apostolate which included youth ministry and camp. At the time I was helping with the youth group in my parish and felt a growing passion to help the young. I told myself “This is what I am doing now. I can do this for the rest of my life!” I went on the website, sent an email, and the rest is history!
Prayer drew me to religious life. I grew up in a very hope-filled, charismatic, and devotional environment. Prayer was the answer to most of my worries, and my success. I learned to listen in prayer, even if sometimes the answers that I received were not what I wanted. I knew it was important to have a close relationship with Jesus. I did my best to be faithful to prayer as a means of keeping in constant contact with the Lord.
I used to enjoy reading children’s books because they were simple and to the point. I remember reading the book, “St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal”. I recall the scene where Catherine was in her cell sleeping and an angel took her and brought her to the chapel where she had an encounter with Mary. I remember having a vivid visualization of what was happening and I was in awe of the idea of having a chapel in one's home. I loved thinking about having a chapel my house so I could go there and pray at any time!
I had a good prayer life then, and I was eager to increase it. As it grew, it drew me toward religious life. Now, I’ve learn to make every moment outside the chapel a prayer in addition to the times spent praying in the chapel. I’ve learned in the Salesian Tradition to “Live Jesus” (or as the Sisters say in Italian, “Viva Gesú,” striving to bring my prayer and my action together, to be a contemplative in action.
When I was in Haiti, I wanted to be a flight attendant. That seemed so cool to me at that time. After a few years in the States, I had a few other dreams. I wanted to be a professional athlete and later, a dancer on Broadway; I wanted to have a job in which I could travel the world. My last dream was to own my own business so that I could be self- employed and set my own hours. While I had those aspirations, I was also influenced by the “Feed The Children” commercials on TV. I had a special feeling in my heart when I saw them, a feeling that is still a mystery to me. I remember feeling that one day I wanted to have an organization that would help educate and feed the hungry children of the world. Then, I focused on Africa, but as I grew I realized there are children who are poor in various ways all over the world. I remember sending the money I earned. It wasn’t much, sometimes just a dollar, but I remember getting certificates and letters telling me how many children I fed. I placed the picture of my sponsored child on the refrigerator door at the house. Now I see the part of helping people, especially the poor, had a special place in my heart even at a young age. Looking back, I think God was preparing me for my life now.
I am preparing to begin my five year as a temporary professed Sister. My present ministry is at Sacred Heart Center in Newton, NJ and I am also the DRE at St Thomas of Aquin in Ogdensburg, NJ. I enjoy proving hospitality at the Center, being part of retreat teams and helping the young encounter the presence of God in informal ways, such as singing. On my spare time, I enjoy exercising, especially going for a run.
One thing that gives me hope about religious life is the desire of the young people in my generation to fall in love with Christ and the Church through service, Eucharistic adoration and work. Religious life is really growing, especially the Salesian community, and many of the young are open to respond to Christ's call to come and follow Him.
The best part of living in community is being here for each other. Living in community has taught me the truth that when you think you are giving a lot, you are actually receiving even more. My journey of formation has helped me to grasp this at an even deeper level: I wanted to give all of me to God through the Salesian Charism, yet I have received much more than I could ever ask for.
Some words of wisdom for those considering religious life is to sit, pray, reflect, listen, and then ACT.
Sisters are normal people. You just need to pray, discern, and hopefully find the congregation that’s best for you. Religious life is not a place to run away from your problems and that of the world. Enter religious life because you have the desire to radically live for Christ through which ever means. For me and the Salesians family of St John Bosco, it is through the young, for others it might be through the extremely poor, the sick, you name it. But, let Christ be the ultimate reason for which you chose to enter and do everything else that follows.