Sister Andrea Chiang, SDSH

Ps. 116 “How Can I Repay the Lord for His Goodness To Me?”

This verse of Psalm 116 has echoed in my heart for many years. I converted to Catholicism when I was 24 years old. When I became a Catholic, I wanted to serve God with all my heart and ability. I was looking for ways to express my gratitude to God and to reciprocate all the favors and blessings that I received from birth. I thought of being a catechist, since I had not heard of God’s name while I was young. I thought that teaching children to know God would truly be a blessing for them. I was also hoping to marry a Catholic, and then have a nice big Catholic family with all of my children being baptized. At that time, I had a well-paid job as a computer system analyst in Silicon Valley; I gladly gave some of my earnings to the Church every week. Still, the feeling of not giving enough of myself to God tugged at my heart. I asked God, “What else could I possibly offer You, so that I won’t have this feeling of ‘not enough’? Are you asking for ‘me’?” Then, I realized that all the offerings that I wanted to give to the Lord were just part of me. I never gave God me. The thought of being a Sister overwhelmed me. As I said earlier, I am a convert, my parents are not Catholic; they always wanted us children to have good marriages and families ever since we started dating. Besides, I didn’t know any religious Sisters at all in my life, which Community was God calling me to?

I talked to a Jesuit priest who was my spiritual guide while I was in graduate school in the Bay Area; he walked with me on this journey of vocation discernment. Father Liu suggested that we pray to our Blessed Mother. She will always lead you to her Son, no matter what vocation God is calling you to. I took his advice to heart; the more that I looked at our Blessed Mother’s life, the more I was drawn to religious life. The thought of total “yes” to God and only wanting to do “whatever He tells you” brought me great joy and peace. Father Liu asked me one time, “Which religious Community do you want to join? Do you want to go back to Taiwan to join a Community there or here in the United States?” My answer was, “It doesn’t really matter, as long as the Community loves and honors the Heart of Jesus. The Heart of Jesus tells me so much of the love of God for humankind.” Father Liu said that he knew of a Community of Sacred Heart Sisters, maybe I would like to find out more about them. He didn’t know the Community personally, but through another Jesuit priest, Father Edward Malatesta, he gave me the contact phone number of the Sisters. I called the vocation director that summer and arranged different trips to Southern California from my home in Northern California to meet the Sisters.

The first time I met the whole congregation was at the Golden Jubilee of the Community’s Foundress, Sister Ida Peterfy, in 1990. A Sister introduced me to Sister Ida personally, and Sister Ida called me by name. I was surprised that she had heard about me. What gave me greatest impression of that day was the joy that radiated on each Sister’s face and the genuine kindness they had for one another. I felt very much at home with the Sisters whenever I was with them. I found out that they not only love and honor the Heart of Jesus; they also want the whole world to know about His Sacred Heart by catechizing people of all ages through video catechesis, religious education, retreats…etc. One of my offerings to God was to be a catechist for His children. With these two signs of “catechizing” and “Sacred Heart”, I was certain this was the Community that God prepared for me. However, telling my parents and family was difficult and challenging; my parents couldn’t believe that I was giving up a good job and “throwing my life away” and didn’t understand, “Why couldn’t you serve the Church and God with a family just like everyone else?” Eventually, because of their love for me, they agreed to my decision.

I joined the Community in 1991 and through the postulancy, novitiate and juniorate formation, I came to know and love my religious life. There were many chances for me to embrace this life wholeheartedly. To grow together with my Sisters in faith, hope and love and to grow in deep union with Christ, my Lord, through prayers and Sacramental life everyday has brought me the greatest joy. In God’s love and mercy, I professed my perpetual vows in March 2000. As stated in the Catholic marriage vows, the newlyweds say to each other: “I will love you and honor you this day forward till death do us part….” My vows to the Lord are forever; not even death will separate us. How grateful I am that He has offered me this precious gift of my religious vocation.

It still echoes in my heart daily: “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? My vows to the Lord I will fulfill before all his people.” – Psalm 116:12, 14