~ A compassionate heartbeat in the world ~

Sr Cecilia D'Mello

Sr CeceliaI share a short story of my call to a religious life which, I am sure, will touch your life. 

I was educated in Santa Therezinha’s Convent High School in India- Goa. As a teenager, I traveled to Bombay from Goa, to visit my elder sister’s family, my uncle and cousins. While in Bombay, I had an opportunity to visit St. Catherine’s Home and Orphanage in Andheri with my uncle. There were 800 children, youth and adults living there. My uncle was a good friend of Mother Anna Huberta, a Daughter of the Cross of Liège from Germany, one of the many missionaries to India. It is amazing, the way the Lord touches our hearts and directs our paths. While visiting each cottage and looking into in the eyes of the young people and adults, I was overwhelmed. Many of them had run away from home, some were brought in by the police while wandering and begging on the streets, and others had been born in the home to young unwed mothers who came in for shelter and help. I was overwhelmed, at what I saw.

At Mother Anna Huberta’s request I decided to live and help in the home for couple of weeks. After a while, I felt the inner voice within, calling me to be a Daughter of the cross. Back home in Goa, I thought very seriously about my call, and after much prayer, reflection and spiritual guidance, I made my decision to be a religious and be of service to all. It was a great joy and excitement, when I was accepted into the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross of Liège. All through my training as a candidate, postulant, novice, and even after my first vows, I experienced the loving way God was leading me along my life-journey. I walked in His ways with joy and happiness through the directions of my superiors and mentors and gave my very best in different missions and works of the Congregation in India.

In 1983 after my perpetual vows, I was sent as a first missionary to Rome, Italy. I worked happily in one of our homes for the aged for seven years. In 1993 I was faced with a difficult situation and challenges. My family was in need of help. I returned to India for three years to try to help them. In 1993 I made the decision to go to the United States to earn money to send home to my family. During my struggles I recalled the charism of our congregation and the challenges Blessed Marie Thérèse had in her life. I lived and worked in New York State for 16 years. Having lived in the convent for 23 years I had many personal challenges to face. During those 16 years I worked very hard but they led me closer to God and to Blessed Marie Thérèse, whom I truly loved and looked to for help, guidance and blessings. I was faced with loneliness and had to experience pain, hardships and struggles in order to make ends meet in this unfamiliar country. The Daughters of the Cross kept in contact with me through their letters. Sr. Arlinda, who became the Mother General of the Congregation and whom I knew in the novitiate sent me circulars regularly, keeping me informed all that was going on in the congregation as did other sisters and colleagues. It brought me comfort and consolation to know that my religious sisters were supporting me with their prayer and friendship. I prayed constantly to Jesus and to Blessed Marie Thérèse for the strength to face each new day. I felt at peace within myself. Blessed Marie Thérèse always stood by me. I felt her presence particularly when there were deaths in my family: my elder sister, my godfather and my beloved mother. During those sad painful moments, days and months after my mother’s death, Blessed Marie Thérèse appeared twice in my dream bringing me comfort, serenity and hopefulness. God never leaves us alone in the time of grief. Therefore, I was convinced, that He sent Blessed Marie Thérèse to walk with me with her support and strength. 

My life in New York was hectic and at times tough but my strong faith and trust in God helped me to move forward, to see things differently and to work on it. I was determined to educate myself and move up in life working and studying in the medical field and I was successful. In 2005 I graduated as a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) Certified EKG Technician (CET) Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT) and received a Psychology / Social Diploma. I worked at St. Francis Hospital in the Medical Critical Unit for a couple of years. By then the situation with my family looked good and so I wrote several letters as well as phone calls to Mother General and her Council of my greatest desire to return to the Congregation. The Provincial of the English Province Sr. Veronica Hagen and the Superior of the sisters in Tracy, California, Sr. Maureen O’Brien both flew in to New York for a week, to see and meet with me and talk about my becoming a member of the English Province and working in California. 

I moved to Tracy in April 2009 and made my vows on April 11, 2010. What a great day for me and for all those who supported me with their prayers and friendship. I made my vows as a Daughter of the Cross in the presence of Msgr. Ivo D. Rocha, pastor of St. Bernard’s, as the main celebrant, Sr. Veronica Hagen, Provincial, Sr. Maureen O’Brien Superior, the sisters from Tracy and Stockton, the associates of the Daughters of the Cross, deacons, and our faithful parishioners, all joining in the Eucharistic Celebration followed by delicious luncheon.

I feel so fortunate to be a part of this great parish community and to service with joy and happiness as a Daughter of the Cross of Liège. I sincerely pray for those searching and finding it difficult to listen God’s call to serve Him. May they have the courage and strength to be open to the voice of the Spirit to come and follow Him in this beautiful, rewarding and happy Congregation of the Daughter of the Cross - A Compassionate Heartbeat in the World here in Tracy, California. 

My Parish Ministry

My main work in St. Bernard’s Parish is in arranging funerals, by working together with the directors of the funerals homes here in Tracy, as well as outside Tracy. I took over this ministry from Sr. Maureen O’Brien who guided me and supported as I learned the parish process. Parishioners look at me with surprise when I tell them that my chief work is in arranging funerals and ask if it ever makes me sad and depressed. The opposite is very true. I experienced the same pain when I lost my dear ones and so, it gives me the opportunity to journey with those who are suffering for, though we know we should rejoice that someone has gone to the Father, death can be a painful and vulnerable time. It is a time when people find it hard to think, to sort out their emotions. I know it is the Lord who gives me the words to say to families as I help them to discern the kind of services they want for their loved one, to choose appropriate readings, and accompany them as they meet with the funerals directors. (See further details on this ministry at www.st-bernards.org.

St. Bernard’s is a very large parish, which seems to grow day by day. Each year there are about 100 funerals. However there is one other area in which I work. Monthly 30 to 40 new parishioners register with the parish receiving information about the parish and its many activities. I make sure each new family receives a phone call within a few weeks of registering, letting them know that they are welcome to our parish community and answering any questions they might have. There are two parishioners one for English-speaking and the other for Spanish-speaking who helps me out with this work.