Sr. (Maria) Peaches Dela Paz, OSF (Micronesia, 2010-12) gains a closer understanding of God’s love
JVC was the major stepping-stone my vocational journey to sisterhood. Through JVC, I learned what it was like to live in an intentional community and share my faith with my peers. I was blessed to have a community that wanted to share our faith and had a clear desire to work for justice.
It was not always this way for me. At the age of six, I moved with my family from the Philippines to central New Jersey. Before eventually attending Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, I had never even been exposed to Jesuit education. I had no clue who the Jesuits were or any of the buzzwords of Ignatian Spirituality. It was, however, through Ignatian Spirituality that I fell in love with God.
I was matched to serve at Xavier High School on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for two years. Its operations have been led by the Jesuits of Micronesia since 1952, and it sits atop the hill of Mabuchi on Weno, Chuuk. Its outstanding academics attracts students who travel from all across the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to attend.
My experiences there in community were impactful, faith driven and transformative. Xavier High School is a unique JV placement because not only did we live with other JVs but we also lived with everyone on staff. There were teachers from the Philippines, Japan, Australia, as well as the U.S. Sharing our cultures and diversity while having a common mission was beautiful. Navigating relationships as co-workers as well as community mates was an added challenge and grace. At the end of the day, we each were good people, wanting the best for our students and doing it in the best way we saw fit.
I am lucky that both of my JV communities in my 2 years at Xavier prioritized our faith and spirituality. We met twice a week for our JV community nights and faith sharing. It was eye opening to be introduced to different forms of prayers and to share our struggles and our joys deeply. It was easy to find God in nature on the island with the calming waves and incredible stars at night and through our students. We also attended school masses together with the boys who lived on campus. It was a mutual sharing of faith between teachers and students. On our part, we witnessed the incredible faith of the Micronesians through their beautiful singing and trust in God, which impacted our faith. It was this sharing of faith in a faith community that is one of the reasons why I desire to be in religious life.
Every year, the Peace Corps members and the JVs that served from 2008-2013 fly across the country to gather for our annual reunion. We have dubbed ourselves “Team Chuuk” and reminisce, talk about re- acculturation, our frustrations and our hopes. We have been a support for each other throughout the years. These are the people who loved and accepted me at my best and at my worst during our time in Chuuk, bringing me to a closer understanding of God’s love.
After a series of retreats and a year of spiritual direction, I began to discern religious life. I went nun shopping, visiting different congregations and meeting incredible women in each community. Now I am a first-year novice with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia (novitiate is 2 years for us), living in the motherhouse with 60 other sisters. The average age of my fellow sisters is 78 and they accompany me in my discernment journey as I learn more about myself, the history of the congregation, as well as what it means to be a Franciscan.
Obviously, JVC changes people. People who do the program are changed in some form. For me, I came back on fire with the desire to work for social justice in some capacity. I’m continuing my journey of deepening an understanding of who I am: woman of faith with a devout love of God in quite an unexpected way and I have JVC to thank for that.