Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 21, 2005
She yearned for something more
Ursuline taking her time deciding on making final vows
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Back in her native Chile, Pilar Valdes was a Sunday Catholic with little interest in religious life. But soon after she arrived in Edmonton more than two decades ago, the religious bug started biting her.
Today she is less than two years away from becoming a full-fledged member of the Ursulines of Jesus, a 200-year-old international congregation with members in western Canada and nine other countries in Europe, South America and Africa.
There are 14 Ursulines in Alberta, most of them serving in pastoral ministry, education, care of children and the sick and other ministries with a constant concern for the people most in need.
Valdes, a childcare worker, lives in community with two other women and works in a day care centre in the westend Jasper Place area. She spends her weekends at Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Catholic Parish being a presence to the community, helping newcomers and visiting the sick.
She was in her thirties when she joined the Ursulines in 1995, more than a decade after she first heard God's call. She made her first vows two years later and is taking her time making her final vows.
Valdes left Chile for Edmonton in 1983 to escape the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, just like her brother Mario had done before.
Soon after arriving in the city she found herself immersed in the Spanish Catholic Community, assisting in religious services or helping community members with their problems.
"I had always been close to the Church but here I got closer and I felt for the first time that God was calling me (to religious life)," she says. "Like I felt God seducing me, calling me, saying 'You have to do more; you have to give more.'"
Valdes became more involved in her community but did little to respond to her specific calling. She now realizes why. "I was looking for happiness, which in my culture means to have a husband and children," she said. "I dated, I had boyfriends, but I still kept yearning for something more."
Things became clear to Valdes in October 1988 when she welcomed two Ursulines who were visiting Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Catholic Community. The Ursulines have a chapter in Chile but Valdes had never met them.
"I liked the way (these sisters) were," she said. "I liked the fact they were simple women and that they dressed like me. I already had a prayer life, a spiritual life, and I didn't want to change a lot in my life." She felt an immediate attraction.
It still took another five years for Valdes to take the first step. "I entered (the Ursulines of Jesus) in 1995 to have an experience of how the sisters lived their everyday life," she related. "I was curious about it and I went in there."
She felt at home with the sisters and decided to take it a step further by making her first vows in 1997. On average, sisters take three to five years to make their final vows but Valdes is in her eighth year and still discerning. She has until 2007 to decide.
"I love living in community with other women and sharing our lives."
- Sr. Pilar Valdes
God calls gently
"I tell myself 'Please make that decision soon' but I'm just not ready yet," she admitted. "But God knows I'm slow (in making decisions) so he calls me gently."
So far religious life is meeting Valdes' expectations.
"I love living in community with other women and sharing our lives," she says. "The sisters treat me as an adult and they allow me to make my own decisions.
"I love children and from Monday to Friday they let me work with children in a day care. They also let me work in the Spanish Catholic Community helping the immigrants."
Any doubts? "I'm happy with my choice; my only doubt is if I'm going to be faithful to my vows," she smiles. "I don't have doubts about marriage any longer. But this is like being married; I have to say yes to God everyday."
Valdes thinks young people who are reluctant to step into religious life should take the risk. "Religious life is good," she stresses. "Come to religious life. We need young people in our Church."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.