SR TERESA'S STORY
My name is Teresa Dunphy. I entered the monastery in 2005, when I was 26 and on the 29th of June 2008 I had the joy of making my first profession.
After College I worked in an Accountancy Firm, in Tax Consultancy and qualified as a Chartered Accountant shortly before I entered here. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a Religious. It always seemed to me to be the only possible response to God’s great love for me. As a child I was absolutely convinced that God loved me and so I was determined to do something ‘great’ for God when I grew up. Of course that didn’t mean that I was a particularly good child – I was waiting until I grew up!
It was only later on that I realised that it wasn’t I who would do something ‘great’ for God but that God was doing something ‘great’ for me. The year after finishing college I decided to begin ‘discerning’ my vocation by meeting religious orders. Everything about the Dominicans appealed to me – especially their motto “Truth” and the fact that they were founded to preach the Word of God. Their idea of study and contemplation in order to know God had a great appeal for me as I have always longed to ‘know’ God better – you cannot love someone you don’t know.
So I was determined to be a Dominican and then I started getting “niggles” about being a contemplative nun. But I fought it, I told the thoughts to shut up and go away. I told myself that I was going to be an apostolic Dominican Sister and being a contemplative nun was no longer a possibility. But the “niggles” got more and more frequent and then I discovered there were enclosed Dominican Nuns in Drogheda and arranged to visit for an afternoon. On that day we arranged for me to come to the guest room for three days – during this time I felt as certain as one can be without having lived the life that I was meant to come here. On the last night, at Compline I thought that I could be completely happy here and then I thought “God desires my happiness”. I arranged to get 4 weeks off work in November in order to come for a ‘live-in’. I loved it and knew that I would come back. I entered as a postulant the following October.
One of the most frequent questions I was asked was why choose to be enclosed, why not join an active congregation and ‘do some good’?
1. The core of it is that I think here is where God wants me to be and so that is what I’m doing. Sometimes I think of it like being an artery in the Body of Christ. By being here and open to God’s Will, grace can flow through the ‘artery’ to the world. I’m not aware of it, or of who is benefiting but the important thing is to be open to God. I believe that many of the problems of the world today can only be solved with the help of prayer.
2. Ever since I was a child I have been gutted by Jesus’ question in the Garden of Gethsemene “Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Mt 26:40 & Mk 14:37). What Jesus was looking for was so little but the disciples slept. When I read this as a child my heart ached for Jesus’ sadness and his disappointment and I decided that I would ‘watch with Him’. Here in that line I see Jesus appealing for companionship, for those who will stay with Him, i.e. for contemplatives.
I would like to mention some things which have particularly impressed me since I entered here.
- There is a very strong sense of family within the community, so much so that you almost see the sisters’ relatives as your own, and also with the rest of the Order. The Friars, Sisters and Lay Dominicans often visit, ask our prayers for themselves and their projects, give us retreats, talks etc.
- The singing of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist as the focus of our day around which everything else revolves. ¢ Eucharistic Adoration – For me this is an essential part of contemplative life, ‘to watch with Jesus’.
- The strong emphasis on Lectio Divina. The idea that our pondering/praying the Word bears fruit in our lives and also in the lives and preaching of our brothers and sisters in the Order.
- The joy and friendship within the community.
- Community Life – We come to God with and through the members of the community. When I go to choir and don’t feel like praying their prayers support me. The emphasis on mutual responsibility for the Common Good and decision-making.
- Study – I have already in just 3 years discovered so much about the liturgy, monasticism, prayer etc., which means that the various aspects of our contemplative way of life are now much more meaningful for me eg the celebration of the liturgy, lectio divina, prayer etc. I can see more clearly what great things God has done and come to know Him better, and I have years left to know more.
To those who are considering a vocation I would say: “Jesus continues to call young people to follow him. If you think you might have a vocation you are not alone. I have met many others who are discerning a vocation to this or other communities and others who have just entered religious life – Have courage, do not be afraid to try!”