First Daughters of Mary of Nazareth make perpetual vows

QUINCY -- The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth celebrated an important milestone on Dec. 8 as Sister Guadalupe Karol Quinn and Sister Faustina Kolbe Burda became the first members of the community to take perpetual vows.

Based in Quincy, the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth is an apostolic and contemplative community of religious women, founded in 2011 by Mother Olga Yaqob. Their apostolate involves both corporal and spiritual works of mercy, providing pastoral care in hospitals, prisons, and respect life ministries, as well as evangelization and catechesis through schools, retreats, and conferences.

"You don't dream and plan to start a religious order," Mother Olga, the foundress of the Daughters, said in a Dec. 6 interview with The Pilot. In her opinion, she said, it must be an inspiration from God and receive the guidance and blessings of the Church.

"Every community exists based on the needs of the local Church," Mother Olga said.

Born in Iraq, Mother Olga came to the United States in 2001 to pursue her master's degree in pastoral ministry at Boston College. She spent the following decade working in campus ministry at Boston University. In the years following the clergy abuse scandal, many Catholics were struggling with their faith.

"I just thought if people were angry or leaving the Church, how we can be the face of the Church for them everywhere, how we can bring Nazareth into Boston," Mother Olga told The Pilot.

She had learned about Blessed Charles de Foucauld from the Little Sisters of Jesus. She loved his spirituality, which was based on imitation of the Holy Family's life in Nazareth.

Mother Olga explained that Nazareth was the place of the Annunciation and Incarnation, and where Jesus lived for almost 30 years -- where "people got to know the human face of God."

"I just try to bring the presence of Nazareth within me everywhere I go," she said.

On visits to BU, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley saw how many students were actively practicing their faith through her campus ministry. Mother Olga remembered one occasion when he commented that people need to see "the motherly face of the Church."

Sister Guadalupe and Sister Faustina saw that motherly face through her.

Sister Guadalupe was born in Wichita, Kansas, grew up in a Catholic family and attended Catholic schools. She told The Pilot that the seeds of her vocation were planted by the witness of the religious sisters who taught at her high school.

She became involved in campus ministry while studying aerospace engineering at the University of Central Florida. At that time, she said, her faith became more her own, her relationship with Jesus grew, and she began to think about his plan for her life and the possibility of a vocation to religious life.

"Once I began to grow in that personal relationship with the Lord and with Jesus, it just opened up this whole place in my heart of realizing that he knows me better than I know myself and he wants not only my greatest happiness but he wants to show me the path that I can be an instrument for the greatest good for others," Sister Guadalupe said.

After earning her degree, she worked as an engineer for four years and then served as a missionary for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. She first met Mother Olga during a retreat and was touched by "her motherly presence, her love for the Lord, her love for people."

In her second year as a FOCUS missionary, Sister Guadalupe was sent to Boston University as Mother Olga was leaving the campus ministry to begin a new religious order. After moving to Boston, Sister Guadalupe met with Mother Olga and went on a discernment retreat.

"The Lord's invitation (was) very clear but I also felt that it was truly an invitation and that I was free to say yes to this invitation," Sister Guadalupe said.

Sister Faustina was also on that discernment retreat. A native of Tyngsboro, she had met Mother Olga as a student at BU, where she earned her bachelor's degree in religion and master's degree in public health. During a retreat for graduates and young professionals, she felt an "invitation" to follow God as a religious sister.

She met with Mother Olga for spiritual direction and told her about the experience. They had never spoken about religious life before, but by then, with Cardinal O'Malley's encouragement, Mother Olga had begun discerning the creation of a new community of women religious.

Mother Olga spent four years discerning the creation of this new community. At one point, following one of their regular meetings, Cardinal O'Malley offered Mother Olga a selection of books about Blessed Charles de Foucauld, thinking his spirituality would be a good influence on the new community. He had not known that Mother Olga was already familiar with his spirituality of Nazareth.

"That was, for me, a huge confirmation," Mother Olga said.

Because she wanted the Blessed Mother's guidance and blessings in this endeavor, Mother Olga went on a retreat to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. Toward the end of her retreat, two things happened that confirmed her decision to found the community. First, she visited the chapel of St. Juan Diego at the shrine of Guadalupe, and found a group of American pilgrims celebrating Mass there. Then, when she was about to return to the United States, the sisters who hosted her surprised her with a gift: since the airline had not found her luggage containing her other habit, they had made a new blue habit for her.

"I felt in my heart Our Lady was saying, 'Go and serve my people in the United States. I want you to give this habit to another sister and start,'" Mother Olga said.

When she returned to Boston, she learned her luggage had never left Logan Airport.

Sister Faustina and Sister Guadalupe began their aspirancy in 2011, spending weekends at the convent and learning about the charism of Nazareth. This stage of "part-time" formation gradually exposed them to convent life and allowed Sister Guadalupe to finish her FOCUS commitment. In 2012, they moved into the convent full-time.

Mother Olga acknowledged that perpetual vows are "important in any order, but particularly for a new community."

"For every new community, to have perpetual professed sisters is a very, very important step because it gives stability for the future of the community," Mother Olga said.

Approximately 500 people attended the Ritual Mass for the Profession of Perpetual Vows of the Evangelical Counsels, which took place at St. John the Baptist Parish. Cardinal O'Malley was the principal celebrant, and 35 priests concelebrated. Seminarians from St. John's Seminary, Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Redemptoris Mater Seminary, and the Oblates of the Virgin Mary also served in the Mass. More than two dozen religious sisters and brothers led the assembly in praying the rosary prior to the Mass.

The flower girls, ring bearers, readers, and gift bearers were people that the Daughters have served through their ministry in the local community.

"I wanted them to know that they are part of our family and our 'yes' is to God for them," Mother Olga told The Pilot.

She said she believes that "every vocation is born within the Church and for the Church."

"I'm happy for the Church because this day belongs to the Church," Mother Olga said.

Sister Faustina and Sister Guadalupe processed in wearing baptismal gowns over their habits. Later, they presented their gowns to their parents, signifying that their perpetual vows fulfilled the baptismal promises their parents made for them when they were infants.

During the ceremony, several items were exchanged, mirroring the exchanges made in a marriage and in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

The sisters each received a ring engraved with words from the Song of Songs, "I am My Beloved's and My Beloved is Mine." They also received crucifixes and traded their crowns of flowers for crowns of thorns.

At the end of the Mass, there was a ceremony to dedicate the families present to the Holy Family. While the assembly sang "Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland," children of ages four to 12 years were invited to participate in a procession and place a gold-colored rose before a statue of the Holy Family.

In her remarks after the Mass, Mother Olga explained that at Knock, the Blessed Mother appeared with St. Joseph, and the Irish gave her the name "golden rose."

When asked what advice they would give to someone discerning a vocation to religious life, Sister Faustina and Sister Guadalupe both emphasized the importance of developing a "personal relationship" with God.

Sister Faustina said she would suggest spending time "getting to know Jesus" through the scriptures and praying with the gospels, paying attention to "how he interacts with people, how he talks to them, how he talks to your own heart."

Sister Guadalupe said she would encourage "focusing on that personal relationship with the Lord, in order to have openness and trust to be able to follow joyfully wherever he leads."

She added that this is an ongoing journey, and that "we can always go deeper in our trust."