Vocation Story


I never wanted to be a nun. In fact that was the last thing on my mind. Besides, I was never the “holy, pious” type. Though I was brought up as a Catholic and went to a Catholic school with nuns, I often skived off Catechism classes and went to church only to hang out with friends. I was an “out-standing” Catholic – going late for mass, standing outside the church and leaving early!

When I went to the UK for my tertiary studies, I found the Catholic church and liturgy an utter bore. Attracted by the Christian Youth Movement at my university, I started to search for the “real” church and hopped from one church to another Sunday after Sunday. You name it, I’ve been to it - from the Anglicans and the Methodists, to the Baptists and the Pentecostals, and more. Eventually I thought I could worship best at a church of the Assembly of God. As testimonies were given by fellow students during the service, I was just blown away as I saw Christ so alive and active in them. Whatever it was they had, I wanted it! I desired to have that close and spirited relationship with Jesus too!  However, a few weeks later, I was disillusioned by the comments of one of the members. She condemned all Catholics as hypocrites, and urged me to abandon the Catholic faith. I remember thinking, “Hang on a minute, here I am broad minded enough to attend your church, the least you could do is also respect other churches.” After that incident, I stopped going to church altogether. I had better things to do on a Sunday morning – sleep in, climb mountains (my campus being near the Snowdonia national park), hang out with friends etc.

Around that time (it was the mid-1980s) the Ethiopian famine crisis was at its peak (rousing the original Band Aid for Africa). Watching appalling scenes on TV of skeletal adults and malnourished children with bloated stomachs prompted me to question the existence of God. If God, whom Christians claim to be a loving God, exists, how can he allow so much needless suffering to take place? I began to have doubts and came close to being an atheist.

Meanwhile, I was seeing a guy who was a Muslim and it was not in our agenda to complicate matters by bringing religion to our relationship. Nevertheless as fate, or more likely, providence, would have it, I came across a book called Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. (His only work I was previously familiar with was the Chronicles of Narnia.) I can honestly say that Mere Christianity was the book that brought me back to God. It answered many of my doubting questions and convinced me that Yes, God does exist! But whether it was the Protestant path or the Catholic path for me, I still wasn’t too sure (C.S. Lewis was an Anglican).

Meanwhile, with my Protestant influence, whenever I returned home to Singapore for the holidays, I would tell my mum to throw away all her statues, and to stop her devotion to Mary as we can pray directly to Jesus, horrifying her of course in the process.

Upon graduation in 1989, I went on a 2 month adventurous (and hedonistic) Contiki vacation across Europe. The holiday included visits to some very famous churches (eg. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona) but never once did I kneel down to pray. I was merely a tourist, admiring the great medieval, gothic and renaissance architecture and art!


When I returned to Singapore and started work as a TV producer at the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (today’s Media Corp.), a cousin tried to persuade me to attend a talk on Medjugorje, a small village in what was then Yugoslavia (Croatia today) where Mary, the Blessed Mother was appearing to six children. Of course I “pooh poohed” the whole thing, being very sceptical of these apparitions and also being ignorantly anti-Marian at that time. But someone somewhere must have been praying for cynical sinners like me and one Sunday afternoon in 1990, I found myself in an auditorium listening to a couple speak about the phenomenal things going on in Medjugorje.

Before the talk started, the crowd was singing some Marian hymns and I remember thinking with dread, “Oh, no, what did I get myself into?” However as the talk progressed, which included a video clip, I found myself listening and absorbing the “good news” not only with my mind but also with my heart. I soon felt like the two disciples walking along the road towards Emmaus. My heart was burning within me! A veil was being lifted off my eyes and my ears were being unplugged! For the very first time, I saw, I heard and I understood. A conversion was starting to take place within me and I was beginning to see “the light!”

After the talk, I was hungry to know more about the Catholic faith and picked up some literature at the display. One booklet explained the Eucharist, while another was on the Rosary (I had completely forgotten how to say the rosary!). I also purchased a book by Wayne Weible, a journalist and a Lutheran catechist. Why was a Lutheran promoting Medugorje? I was intrigued. Reading his personal experience deepened my own conviction that the apparitions in Medugorje were authentic. After all, one of its most obvious fruits was bringing me back to the fold.

I ended up being not only enlightened on Mary’s role in the church (as a model of discipleship, an intercessor, and spiritual mother) but also convinced of my Catholic faith and tradition. I was in short, “born again” into the Catholic faith! I made my first confession in 7 years, started to attend daily mass, read the Bible and fast. I saw and experienced the Sacraments in a fresh light in my “new life!” My friends were baffled to see this new spiritual side of me, saying I did a “180 degree turn!” Before long, I started a prayer group at SBC among my Catholic colleagues and in September of that same year in 1990, I made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje

It was my first pilgrimage and it turned out to be an awesome spiritual experience. The peace I felt in Medugorje is beyond description. When I returned to Singapore I felt inspired (by the Holy Spirit no doubt) to join the School of the New Evangelisation Team (NET). NET not only helped deepen my spiritual life but also gave me a taste of the sweetness of serving the Lord. We had outreach programs, especially to the youth, and I realized that while we may feel that we are giving up a lot - in time and effort - to serve the Lord, in reality, we gain so much more in return. I felt a profound inner joy in the giving and sharing of myself.
While I was still with NET, I longed to use my broadcasting skills to evangelise. One option was to join Lumen 2000. Then I discovered to my surprise a modern and unique order, the Daughters of St. Paul - a congregation of Sisters who use the media to spread the Good News. However, still not keen to be a nun, I kept pushing the idea of that option away but God persisted and in the end I gave in.

After visits to the convent to observe and experience the Sisters’ lifestyle (in Malaysia as well as the Philippines since the Sisters were not yet in Singapore), I made a retreat to discern my call. During the retreat, I prayed for confirmation for God’s will, and spent many hours in front of the Eucharist. I remember asking Jesus, if it was really His will that I be a Daughter of St. Paul, then “please, let me have the desire to want to be a Sister too.” I felt that by just obliging to do His will and not wanting it myself will not be enough. Gradually, as the retreat progressed, that desire came – the desire to be a Sister. I thus submitted to His will, in total freedom and with the knowledge that ultimately, His will was best for me.

I recall sitting in my bedroom with tears rolling down my cheeks after I had decided to give this new life a try, saying goodbye to all I held dear – my loved ones and friends, my career, my car and other possessions etc. I felt sad yet there was a deep sense of peace within me and I knew that it was the right thing to do. Now looking back, I realize that God never really asked me to give anyone or anything up. In fact he has returned everything back to me and more! Truly, I have had many grace-filled experiences of the “overflowing cup” and “hundredfold reward” promised to those who follow Him. For example, being an only daughter – I have an elder brother – I always wanted a sister and now I have more than 2000 sisters around the world!



Although my parents were not enthusiastic about my vocation to the religious life, they nevertheless gave me their blessing. My father said, “Well you’re big enough to know what you want to do with your life.” As for my mother, she would cry every time I talked about becoming a nun but she eventually accompanied me to the convent in the Philippines where I officially entered. Today, I am glad that both my parents see my vocation as a grace and they even support and encourage me on my journey.

Knowing my limitations, weaknesses and sinfulness, I am still amazed that God called me to this life. Alongside the beautiful and ever modern Pauline mission of the Daughters of St. Paul is the invitation to conform our lives to Jesus Christ, the Divine Master, Way, Truth and Life. It has been an exciting and challenging journey for me since July 1993 when I entered the convent - 13 years thus far. Through the years, God’s love and faithfulness has sustained me. I believe he will continue to do so for the rest of my life, a life which I hope will grow in holiness and love.

(June 2006)



I never dreamt

I never dreamt
A Sister someday I’d be.
A DJ, film-maker, a novelist,
Those were some of my dreams.
Even a photographer for National Geographic
Was a secret dream.
But becoming a nun?
Never was that on my list.

A husband to love
With adoring kids was what I hoped
My home would someday be.
But a convent filled with sisters?
Never was that on my mind!

As the years went by
And God was almost forgotten,
I worshipped pleasure, money and things
In truth, I worshipped me.

Then suddenly the bubble burst
Thanks to the Lady in blue.
I was led back into the fold
And rediscovered LOVE –
The love of the Divine…
I was born again and
My new life began.

Filled with the Spirit
I entered a school of evangelisation.
My prayer life deepened
My love for God grew
Before I knew it
My dream took on a different hue
My eyes saw a different world
My heart danced to a different beat.

Then I thought I heard the call.
It was rather faint so
I pretended I didn’t hear.
But persisted it did
And resist it I no longer could.
I was drawn to the Daughters of St. Paul.
Their mission with the media
Was my personal desire too.

Today I’m clad in blue
Living a life of consecration
To the Master – Way, Life and Truth.

Will I live my YES to Him forever?
I’ve persevered thus far
Why shouldn’t I do so for life?
There’ll always be ups and downs
Joy amidst pain
Struggle amidst peace
And most of all
Grace amidst sin.

As life goes on day by day
With bigger challenges along the way
I realise my call, my life
Is in His hands
And no one
Not even I
Can shatter His dream
For me!



by Sr. Wendy Ooi, fsp
(Written on the occasion of her first profession, June 30, 1997)

3 comments:

  1. Hi, Sr Wendy.

    I just learned about your blog from your Christmas greeting today ... after all this time!

    I pray that the Lord will keep you safe in your apostolate work in such a faraway land, and look forward to your return to Singapore some day.

    Do feel free to visit my blog for the occasional picture of my son and article.

    Merry Christmas! Ad Jesum per Mariam!


    P.S. Loved your testimony!

    Kelvin

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Sister Wendy,

    a beautiful testimony indeed. i was reading your book, notes from Kenya, given to me by Sister grace, and i just want to get to know you more after that...Praise the Lord for answering to His call!

    ReplyDelete