“God, you are looking at the wrong person.” These were words that often crossed Isamary (Isa) Garcia’s mind in response to what she describes as a strong call to religious life. “I was very resistant at first,” she explains.
At 27, living in Monterrey, Mexico, Isa says that despite her Catholic upbringing, “when I heard God calling me to serve, it was really a surprise to me. I didn’t think religious life could be life-giving for me.” She asked repeatedly, “Why me? Why now?”
And what a change Isa has experienced, after years of discerning this call, as she stood in St. Vincent Church at Nazareth, uttering the vows to become an SCN in February 2008. Sister Isa admits her journey was sprinkled with doubt but also revealed the strength of her faith and the meaning of her call to become part of a community of women religious. When asked to describe this process, she quotes Joan Chittister, OSB, “Sometimes we grow in silent places that do not burst to daylight and voice for years.”
In an impulse to answer her earlier call, Sister Isa decided to come to the United States as a volunteer for Covenant House in Florida, a caring place for homeless and runaway teens. She says the job allowed her to be in service to the needy. It was in this position at the home, that Sister Isa first encountered the SCNs, in Sisters Eva Kowalski and Nancy Gerth. “There was something that attracted me about them and religious life,” she remembers.
But the deeper realization happened when Sister Isa first set foot on the Nazareth Campus and visited the SCN Motherhouse. “Something started changing in me,” she says, adding the SCNs impressed her with the hospitality, warmth and “joy of life.” After this first visit, she wondered if this community could be the life-giving vocation she had been searching for.
“I thought of this as an invitation from God to journey in a different way, and an invitation to trust,” says Sister Isa. She also believes all people have a personal vocation and a unique call they follow, whether they choose marriage and building a family, missionary work, a certain career or way of life. For her, the answer to this vocation was the life of a religious community. “I feel part of something bigger than me. I could do more than I can do alone, in service to others.”
Now residing and working in Louisville, Ky., Sister Isa serves as Hispanic Pastoral Associate for St. Rita’s parish where she is directly involved with the Spanish-speaking population that need her help and counsel.
One thing that Sister Isa says was very attractive about the SCNs was that they have a philosophy of ministry that calls for responding to the needs of the times. At St. Rita’s, Sister Isa gets to do just that – translating, being present to the sick or simply hearing concerns – and her ministry is ever-changing.
Although she dearly misses her family who still lives in Mexico, Sister Isa understands that everyone’s vocation calls for sacrifice and hers involves living her dream far away from her home country. She advises young women who might feel the urge she tried to suppress years ago to talk about their desire with someone who won’t judge but understand their call and their struggle. “One thing is for sure,” she says. “It doesn’t go away.