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Mary Helga Leija | Catholic Nuns Today

Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament

I was born in the United States, but grew up in Mexico. When I was young, I would hide away in a vineyard and pray. I did not know that Sisters even existed. After college, I became a teacher and was also a dancer, but I was always looking for something more meaningful in my life. I had the idea that all Sisters were cloistered and unreachable. Once I met them, I realized they were ordinary people with a special call. I discovered there were groups of women who prayed and lived out the Gospel. When I told my parents that I wanted to become a Sister, they were very disappointed because their intellectual daughter was going to “throw her life away”. They, like me, had a very different idea about what religious life is really like. Once they met the Sisters, they saw that they were happy women, growing in all ways, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

People are looking for a sign: I found the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament to be so playful and loving, and I knew that this was a life that I could live. I have decided to wear a veil, because I wanted my choice of religious life to be a radical, visible sign of my commitment. I am proud to be a Sister and want to be a visible presence of the Church. The veil is a constant reminder of what I am and what I want to be.

The lady with funny hair: People are hungry for God. Once a little girl saw me and started jumping up and down, because she was excited to see a woman with “funny hair”—meaning my veil. Her mother tried to quiet her, but she came up to me and asked me, “How come your hair is white?” I told her, “I am a Sister.” “What is a Sister?” she asked. “A friend of God,” I answered. “You TALK to God?” she asked in amazement. “Yes.” I responded. “And GOD talks you?” she asked. “Yes!” I said. She had such joy on her face. I wish all people would know that God wants to talk with them. I want to help them feel that joy.