Memories of Newman: Grace Upon Grace - Sr. John Mary

"In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences." - St. John Paul II
I have fond memories of my time as a parishioner at the Newman Centre from 1999 – 2000 where the seeds of my vocation to religious life began to be nourished. I had finished my undergraduate and graduate studies and moved to Toronto for my first job as an editor at the University of Toronto Press. Unfortunately a few months in, we had to relocate from our spacious offices on College Street to temporary space on the top floor of Robarts Library. It became very appealing to leave the  building at lunchtime to get some fresh air and natural light which Robarts did not provide! I found myself drawn to the building across the street and began attending the midday daily Mass at the Newman Centre and frequenting the GrabbaJabba coffee shop that was then in the basement. 
The Newman Centre became a home away from home for me and afforded three things that became a foundation for my vocational discernment. Firstly, the regular sacramental life allowed me to build my relationship with Christ on a firm foundation. Midday Mass and a little time in prayer afterward became a focal point of my day. I remember after a long time away from the sacrament of confession, receiving the grace to walk into the confessional and humbly confess many things that were holding me back from a deeper relationship with Jesus. The priest told me that this could be the beginning of a new chapter in my life and such graces of confession were watershed moments leading to transformation in Christ.
Secondly, I began to meet friends who shared my Catholic faith and for the first time, experienced the joy of belonging to a Christian community. And lastly, the many service opportunities at Newman opened my heart to the reality of another’s suffering and the gospel imperative to serve others in need through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. I remember being inspired at the dedication of the new stained glass windows during the Jubilee Year by the cloud of witnesses in the modern Church who are now saints – St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John XXIII, St. Gianna Molla. 
It was because of my time at Newman and the friendships I had there that I learned of an incredible job opportunity to serve the Church in New York. I moved there and indeed, for two years had the life and job of my dreams. Little did I know that the Lord brought me there to meet the Sisters of Life who were not present in Canada yet. Following the grace of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, I opened my heart to the possibility of a religious vocation and after much prayer and discernment, entered the convent in 2005.  A few months before, a multitude of friends gathered to pray together and wish me well at a farewell party at Newman where I had received grace upon grace. 
Sr. John Mary is a member of the Sisters of Life.

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