“A FAREWELL TO THE NUNNERY”
By Erlinda Mirafuentes-Dela Cruz
A Former Catholic Nun
I WAS BORN and baptized into the Catholic Church. My grandmother taught me how to pray the Angelus and the rosary daily. My early childhood was replete with different sizes of statues of all saints elaborately dressed like medieval beings and arranged on the altar where we knelt before them as we recited long and repetitious prayers in their honor. My mother, Dominga Calderon, taught me to have a personal devotion to all souls in Purgatory. I became a prayer leader of the novena for the dead especially during All Souls’ Day in the cemetery. I devoutly observed different practices such as fasting and abstinence during holy week and the nine-day novena in preparation for the feast days of the honored patron.
Many years had passed and my spiritual knowledge was deeply rooted in the catechism. I observed diligently the reception of the sacraments, particularly Holy Communion, confession, and other para-liturgical services. Through the help of my spiritual confessor I became a catechist when I was a senior in high school. My heart was filled with so much love and burning zeal to spread the glad tidings by teaching the catechism in public schools. As a result of this missionary commitment, I decided to enter the convent in order to serve God in a very special way as a nun.
First, I joined the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) congregation in the year 1979. I stayed with this congregation until 1987. Then from 1988 to 1994, I joined the Sisters for Christian Community (SFCC), an international congregation. I became a perpetually professed Sister but everything was in vain.
I sought God’s kingdom for 14 years as a nun but I felt there was a vacuum deep in my soul. I started to doubt my religious vocation as a nun. I got tired of reciting and chanting long prayers. I felt a complete dryness in all spiritual exercises. I kept on hoping that someday I may be able to overcome this inner torment. Then one day, as I was about to leave the country to go on another missionary journey, I met Aldy Perez Dela Cruz, an active member of the Church Of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo). In one of our sharings, he graciously invited me to observe the way the Iglesia Ni Cristo worships God. Full of biases and inhibitions, I hesitated for about three times. I refused his invitation because I thought then that the Iglesia Ni Cristo was “Iglesia Ni Manalo.” Furthermore, the thought was imprinted in my memory that changing a religion is committing a mortal sin and my soul will be damned in hell. I was scared.
Suddenly, I remembered the thrust of Ecumenism as promulgated by the Vatican Council II. Inspired by this, I curiously observed the Iglesia Ni Cristo worship service at Putatan Chapel, Muntinlupa City. To my great surprise, I was deeply touched by the hymn sung by the choir. I couldn’t help but join the brethren in crying throughout the hymn-singing. More so, I was overwhelmed by the impact of the preaching of the minister about the relationship of parents and children.
After few weeks I felt a craving, hungering and thirsting for another worship service. I attended the worship services several times, and then I realized that the true light was gradually shining in me. I finally decided to listen to the doctrines of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. The lessons that dealt with the sign of the cross were the focal points of my conversion. I was so terrified when I learned the true meaning of the sign of the cross on the forehead. I thank God for the gift of Brother Felix Y. Manalo, the messenger of God in these last days. I felt extraordinary gifts from God right after studying the first ten doctrinal lessons.
At last, I felt deep within my heart that I found His kingdom in the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Truly inspired by His light and love, I immediately wrote a letter to the SFCC Sisters in the USA, requesting them to dispense me from my vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I was officially dispensed from my vows on April 10, 1994.
I joyfully continued studying the remaining lessons until April 30, 1994. For more than six months I was tested on how faithful I was in attending the worship services. Most of the time I attended the worship service in Dagupan City.
I observed that the more I attended the worship services, the clearer my faith and conviction became that the Iglesia Ni Cristo is the answer to my spiritual dryness when I was inside the convent. The solemnity and orderliness of the (Iglesia Ni Cristo) worship services, and the teaching that is purely taken from the verses of the Bible, were totally absent from the Masses I heard in the convent. I would experience the power of God and His mighty blessings whenever the (Iglesia Ni Cristo) ministers and deacons lead the prayer. I had never felt these extraordinary graces when I attended Masses or any liturgical services when I was a nun.
Finally, on October 1, 1994, I was baptized into the only true Church, the Iglesia Ni Cristo. This is the most unforgettable date in my life.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”(Mt. 6:33, NIV).
This passage in the Scriptures is truly fulfilled in my life now that I am a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. I found His kingdom in this Church. I pray to God that He enlighten the minds and touch the hearts of all religious nuns and priests, that as they see the kingdom of God in their respective convents, they may be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to listen to the teachings of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. May they become more receptive to its doctrines that will lead them to true happiness, freedom and peace. May they become authentic followers of Christ through the teachings of the Scriptures, the only source of faith that will lead them to salvation and to become true heirs of the new heaven and the new earth.
For all my brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends, I pray to God that, through the ministers and members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo here in the Philippines and abroad, they be graciously called into the true Church Of Christ and be saved on the Last Day.
Source: God’s Message, November-December 1996, pp.8-9.