Cecile Pagliarulo 2017-08-09 00:14:05
CLIFTON When Julissa Espinal was 23, she started on a journey to follow God’s plan for her life. She moved to Casa Guadalupe, the Diocese’s house of discernment for women, in 2012 and at the time, she told The Beacon that “Living here has allowed me to spend time in the quiet and pray about my life. Casa Guadalupe has also taught me about living in community life.” Five years later, Espinal’s vocation journey has taken her to making her first vows as a Sister of Life. Her religious name is Sister Anastasia Chiara Luce and she couldn’t feel any more at peace and happier following God’s call for her as a religious sister. Sister Anastasia felt called to the Sisters of Life, saying, “My heart found a home.” She returned to Casa Guadalupe for a celebration in her honor on Aug. 5, receiving congratulations from friends and former housemates at Casa Guadalupe. Her parents, Maria and Julio Espinal, came to Casa Guadalupe from Queens, N.Y. to celebrate their daughter’s entrance into religious life. They told The Beacon, “It’s a kind of emotion you can’t explain. We are just thankful. After her ‘yes’ to God, we definitely got more into prayer and closer to our faith.” Along with 10 other women, Sister Anastasia made her first vows to the Sisters of Life at Sacred Heart Parish in Suffern, N.Y. Aug. 4. She entered the order three years earlier to start her formation, first as a postulant and later entering the novitiate. During Sister Anastasia’s novitiate, she spent time separated from the world in deep prayer and to understand her religious call. She also spent time at convents of her order. According to the order’s website, “The Sisters of Life is a contemplative, active religious community of women founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal John O’Connor of the Archdiocese of New York for the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of every human life. Like all religious communities, we take the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We also are consecrated under a special, fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.” At her first profession, she received the blue band and medal of the Madonna of the Streets along with her first apostolic mission. She will serve in Philadelphia alongside five other sisters to provide help and support to vulnerable pregnant women in the order’s “Visitation Mission.” The Philadelphia Visitation Mission is a new ministry in the area for the Sisters of Life. The order already has Visitation Missions in New York City and Toronto. Through these missions, the sisters have helped countless pregnant women say “yes” to life and have continued to support these women during pregnancy and beyond. Sister Anastasia described the moment of her first profession like one of the Gospel passages. “I thought about when Jesus asked Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ Peter responds, ‘yes’ and Jesus commands him to ‘feed my sheep.’ The moment felt like this was a right fit for my life,” she said. The new religious sister recalled experiences such as attending the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., praying outside of abortion clinics and participating in 40 Days for Life, which helped her answer her calls specifically as a Sister for Life. It was during her college years that she went on a silent retreat for women that the Sisters of Life hosted. It was her first encounter with the order. “From there, I always felt connected and that’s where this stirring started to happen.” But even with this encounter, Sister Anastasia wasn’t ready to say, ‘yes’ to God at that time. Instead, she entered Casa Guadalupe and resided there for two years, attributing the residence as a true hallmark for helping her finally say, ‘yes’ to God “During my time here, the Lord has really persuaded me in looking outside of my comfort zone and taking steps of faith in embracing great things that require much sacrifice.” While at Casa Guadalupe, she traveled to Honduras, which she considers another life-changing experience and was involved with Corazon Puro, an international prolife and chastity ministry. She was also serving as a youth minister for a local parish at the time. Now, as a religious sister at 28, she said to other young women in discernment or still searching for God’s call in their lives, “Do not be afraid. I was afraid, but the experience at Casa Guadalupe helped me see that other women my age can do this. Once you get past that it’s beautiful. Discernment itself helped me to fall in love with Jesus more and his will for my life.” Her parents said, “While our daughter is a gift from God to us, she belongs to God and this is what he has called her to do. We couldn’t be any prouder of her that she is following God’s plan.”
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