What led me to join La Retraite?
Standing in a school assembly, out of the blue, I wondered, ‘Could I be a nun?’ I didn’t think much of it then... I finished school and went to College abroad. Leaving home and getting used to a new culture all took energy and I found myself in a religious minority with some students eager to know why Catholics believe what they do. It brought me to look anew at my faith and to want to know more.
Life went on…. I went to lectures, made friends, partied, met guys, and did exams, just like everyone else. Somewhere along the line exploring faith led me to pray a bit more, to seek out space for God in my life and to wonder what God was calling me to. To be a sister? I had a friend who was joining the Faithful Companions of Jesus so I met many sisters and learnt about their way of life and how to join a Congregation through her. Towards the end of College, I also began talking about my spiritual journey with a Cenacle sister one of the University Chaplains had recommended. She helped a lot but when she gave me a list of Congregations I filed it in a bottom drawer.
By the time I finished College and was preparing for further training as a Solicitor I really wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to do with my life. I had a sense there was something more calling me. Unsure, I took a year out & joined the Jesuit Volunteer Community, a lay community committed to simple lifestyle, spirituality, social justice & community. Very significant for me during that year was an 8 day silent retreat which brought me to experience God in a new way. It was a turning point for me.
Still, life went on, I worked first in social services and then as a lay school chaplain. But, the questions weren’t going away. Could God be asking me to do this? I had to do something, so I dug out that list of Congregations and wrote away for information. When I got the letter from Sr. Liz in La Retraite, I knew there was something there. I was attracted by their way of praying & living together – also by their ministry; retreats, spiritual direction & formation. Wasn’t that where I wanted to put my energies too? But I was afraid….so the letter went into the bottom drawer. I visited the other communities who had replied but they didn’t sit right with me. How could you be calling me to be a sister if I don’t feel at home with these people I asked the Lord?
The answer came by surprise. The one community I hadn’t visited was La Retraite. On moving house I found myself by sheer unknowing accident in a La Retraite community. I liked the sister I met. As I got to know her, what I admired most was her love of the Lord and her desire to follow Him amidst all the ups & downs of ordinary life. Through her I met other sisters, visited communities, lent a hand here or there. Over time the question for me changed from ‘could God be asking me to be a sister?’ to ‘is God calling me to La Retraite?’ The question just would not go away no matter where I lived or what my line of work was. I decided that the only way to know was to try it out…..so I did and that was just the beginning of the adventure of following Christ in La Retraite.
Sr. Avril O’Regan joined La Retraite in 1995. Following her candidacy and noviciate, she made first vows in 1997 and final vows in 2002. Since first vows she has worked in University Chaplaincy, first in Newman College of Education, Birmingham and then in NUI, Galway. This summer she will move to Dublin and begin work in Manresa House as a full time member of the retreat team there.