By Sister Ricca Dimalibot
A burning bush enticed Moses; Jeremiah claimed he was duped; a whale swallowed Jonah to elicit his obedience; and the sheer energy of a voice rousted Paul from his horse and he swiftly mended his ways. God’s mysterious style delivers the most serious messages! Far from the spectacular way of the prophets’ summon, however, the call to join religious life came to me subtly in the quiet promise of a life still unknown that will flourish fully in God’s time. Once hooked, I grasped tightly to religious life, mindful of its discreet charm and its imperfections. I stayed the course that led me to love and serve God’s people anticipating the unfolding of who I am in the mind of God.
I encountered a passionate, yet very personal God while attending a Catholic renewal group. Something shifted in me as I began to accept that I am most at ease in my own skin when I am consciously aware of the presence of a loving God. This holy call pursued me even through medical training and as I immigrated to the U.S. It came to a point where the only intuitive recourse for me was to consent and join religious life to follow the ways of the man called Jesus.
Grace built upon grace with every step of my formative years in religious life which began in 1999. My friendship with the Novices in the Intercommunity Novitiate in St. Louis, Missouri, where we pursued graduate studies in theology, provided opportunities for enthusiastic sharing and theological reflection. Reflections broadened my understanding of my faith and in turn allowed me to be a voice of comfort for patients as I walked the corridors of a Congregation-sponsored hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana. It was then that I started to dream again and to wonder, “Wouldn’t it be something if I could actually blend medicine and religious life?”
I never thought that I would ever return to medicine when I became a Sister, but for reasons that God alone knows, medicine was given back to me. With a spirit of gratitude, I went through residency training in Family Medicine at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, trying desperately to become even a fraction of the compassionate healer that Jesus was. My knowledge of medicine flowed over into my missionary endeavors in Kenya where I saw a different, yet so familiar, face of God. As I prepared to make my Perpetual Profession, all the experiences of the previous eight years came together as I saw my whole life with Jesus during my forty-day retreat in Guelph, Canada. I began to see myself in God and a new perspective came to mind: everything in my life is gift.
Perpetual Profession is the naming of a moment when I offer my life back to God—marking in human time what God has always known. I am acknowledging “to whom I have always belonged” from the very beginning—to Jesus, the lover of us all.