Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sister Irma's Dream

The following was written by Sister Irma Vargas, D.C., for The Lord's Call, a publication of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

When I was 8 years old my godmother took me to see a movie called "The Nun's Story." I was so struck with the Sister and amazed at how lovingly she tended to the people in Africa she was serving. When I got home I told my mother that I was going to be a Sister and be a missionary. My mother told me, "No, you can't be a Sister because Sisters are holy and you are not yet holy because you are always fighting with your brothers and sister."

Although I was not happy with her response, through the years, I kept it in my heart.

Growing up here in San Antonio, I had boyfriends in high school like everyone else, and dated in college. Then I went to work for Dr. Tom O'Brien, M.D., who brought my dream back to life. Around the time when Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred, Dr. O'Brien made me aware of what was going on in El Salvador and other countries. He had me, as a translator, go with him to do physicals for refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador who were on their way to Canada or Australia, where they would be accepted.

He also took me with him to work at St. Phillip's Clinic, where I was also a translator. My first encounter with Sisters was there at St. Phillip's Clinic. I kept my distance. Soon I discovered they were Daughters of Charity. I still kept my distance. I noticed though how one had such a beautiful smile, a sense of happiness in how she served. And she wore tennis shoes! I liked that!

Then one day Sister Dorothea asked me to go with some volunteers to get pizza. I went, thinking it was just a social event. After chatting a while over our pizza, she invited us to think about becoming a Daughter of Charity. I said, "This is not for me." Sister Dorothea gently responded, "Just stay and listen." The others were so I interested that I thought they were signing up right then!

In the following days Sister Dorothea occasionally invited me to several diocesan vocation events or to come to the Sisters' house to visit. I always responded that my car had something wrong with it so I could not go. Another time some of the volunteers were going to St. Louis for an event for young women. Sister Genevieve asked me if I was interested. Oh, no, I was not!

Later at the office, Dr. O'Brien asked me if I was going. I responded, "No. I don't have the plane fare."

"I'll pay it," he said.

I continued to protest, "I can't take the time off."

"I'll give you the time off."

So I agreed. During the flight, I figured if there was no one at the airport to meet me then I'd just go right back home. At the airport in St. Louis, I heard my name paged! Sister Kieran was waiting for me with the others who had already arrived. When we walked into the Provincial House, I was surprised to discover that I felt at home!

After the closing Mass, Sister Kieran called me aside and gave me a brown envelope and said to me, "I believe you have a vocation. Think about it. The application is in the envelope."

I went home and put it under my bed. It stayed there for two years. It must have been the Holy Spirit who urged me to finally send it in.

There were seven of us in formation together. We were all professional women who had careers, cars, bank accounts, etc. I was amazed at how we let go of them for the bigger mission of serving God in those living in poverty. Our prayer life and our living in common sustained us. We also supported one another in our various ministries.

My mom has always had a deep love for St. Vincent de Paul. Was it any wonder that I would join the very community that he and St. Louise de Marillac founded! A missionary community!

Being a missionary had always been my dream. But I have not gone to another country. I have learned, however, that we, the Daughters of Charity, are missionaries by nature. Serving Christ in persons who are poor, wherever they are, is our charism, our passion. So I am actually living not only my own dream, but God's dream for me, implanted in me so many years ago.

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