Sometimes when God wants to speak to us, He reveals himself through signs. I learned throughout the years to be more attentive to these signs. In my case, the calling to the Little Company goes way back in my life. Looking back, the signs were evident. The prophet Jeremiah said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.” (Jer. 1:5)
I believe that the stories of our vocations do not begin in a particular year. Rather, the stories of our vocations have been present in God’s heart for eternity. God always takes the initiative, and there is a moment or a year where we just surrender to His plan for our lives. I never thought of it, but God did. And He put, in my hands, ways to discover it.
I was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut to a poor, “simple,” dysfunctional Puerto Rican family. When a family is dysfunctional, things are never “simple.” The first sign occurred at my birth. I was born in St. Vincent’s Hospital, where the Daughters of Charity had worked since 1903. I was born out of wedlock and my parents had a 25 years’ difference of age, with my mom being older. “…for nothing will be impossible with God.” (Lk. 1:37-38)
I’d always known I was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital. But, while I was in seminary (novitiate), I asked my mom which St. Vincent it was and if there were any Daughters of Charity at the time of my birth. My mom responded: “Meggie, it was St. Vincent de Paul, and it was a Daughter of Charity who presented you to your father in the nursery.”
Two months after my birth, I was baptized at Our Lady of the Divine Providence Church in Bridgeport. When I was baptized, my godmother gave me a medal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I wore this medal until I left home to become a postulant. The medal was, for me, a symbol of God’s Providence in my life.
Growing up in Bridgeport, I got a full scholarship to Blessed Sacrament School, where I studied fourth, fifth, and part of sixth grade. The school was next to the convent of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell and, in front of the school, was the church and the rectory. There, I had my first relationship with the Bible, made my first Communion and first Confession, and received Confirmation. At times, I would escape to the Sisters’ chapel and just gaze and enjoy the silence. I have the happiest memories of my childhood in this school.
When I was nine, my mom bought me a statue of the Virgin Mary that I kept in my room--it cost her a quarter at the Salvation Army. I would pray to the Blessed Mother or simply talk with her at night.
As I grew older, my stepfather and my mom bought a house in Puerto Rico and were planning to move there. My stepfather went ahead of us to get a job and my mom was packing our belongings. But something unexpected happened. My stepdad died and my mom and I went to Puerto Rico alone.
I lived 39 years of my life and 31 years as a Daughter of Charity in Puerto Rico. This is where I met the Daughters, where I discerned my vocation, became a Postulant, and where I entered the Company.
At the end of high school, I started to get more involved in church. I joined the youth group and the choir. As I was about to graduate, questions came into my mind: What am I going to study in college? What do I want to do with my life? I started spiritual direction with the pastor of my parish. I was invited to a vocational retreat with the Daughters--and that’s where my vocation really took root in my life.
Throughout my discernment process, I started to know different religious communities. I used to sell spiritual books for the Daughters of St. Paul at my church. But there were also Daughters of Charity where I was living at the time. I took a Catechism course with one Daughter of Charity and another started to accompany me and took me to meet the Visitatrix (Provincial). I had my first dialogue with her about joining the Little Company. She told me to continue my studies in college and to come back in about two years. I kept in close communication with the Daughters and participated in several more vocational retreats.
As I was discerning, my prayers to Mary, while viewing my statue, became more frequent. One day I expressed to Mary my desire to see my biological dad and share with him about my vocation. At that point, I had not seen him for eight years.
During the next two years, the flame of my desire to enter became more intense. I felt like Jeremiah: “I say I will not mention him, I will no longer speak in his name. But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones” (Jer. 20: 9-10). I went back after two years and was to be admitted August 15, on the Feast of Our Lady of the Assumption.
The hardest part was telling my mom and leaving her by herself. Luckily, I didn’t have to tell her alone. Rather, a Daughter of Charity and a group of discerners came to my house to give my mom the great news. They sang a Spanish church song, “Vienen con Alegria,” which means, “Coming with Joy.” Even the chickens came inside to listen, and it was truly a great moment of joy. I’ll never forget my mom’s words: “I have always wanted my daughter to find a good husband, there is no better husband than Jesus Christ.”
Two days before I entered, my dad appeared. I told him about my vocation and what it meant to me. He was happy for me and I invited him to take me to the Provincial House on August 15. He came back and took me, along with my mom, my uncle, my aunt, and my cousin. To me, it was truly a miracle for me to have Mom and Dad together. After I changed into the postulant habit, the formation Sister invited us to take our family to the chapel. We entered and kneeled to pray, mom at my right side and dad on my left. I looked up to the altar and, to my surprise, I noticed that the statue I had carried since I was nine years old was the same as the one on the altar. It was Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, our Lady of Grace. The same one whom appeared in 1830 to a Daughter of Charity in France in our Motherhouse. Our Blessed Mother said to St. Catherine:
“Come to the foot of this altar. Here, graces will be spread over all who ask for them with confidence and fervor.” (July 18, 1830)
“These rays are the symbol of the graces that the Blessed Virgin obtains for those who ask them of her…” (November 27, 1830)
A year later, on July 16, 1983, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I officially entered the Company of The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
So, after 37 years, here I am with the fire still burning inside of me. Still in love. The story has not ended yet and, to my understanding, will last for eternity. Meanwhile, I want to enjoy this moment and become closer to him, more whole and holier every day. There is only one word that comes to my mind and sums it up: GRATITUDE. Thank you, Lord, thank you Mary, and thank you everyone else that helped me along the way.
- Sister Migdalia “Meggie” Flores, D.C.