Sister Mary Aquinas had a dream job and life in the world, but she kept searching for something more, something that would fill the void left in her heart. God called her to His Heart, and she was set to join the Dominicans when she got into a car accident that truly required her to give everything to God and let His will be done. She endured extensive physical trauma from the accident, which prevented her from joining the convent immediately. Two years later, she was finally able to come home and take her vows. Her journey inspires us to trust in God’s Providence and Will, no matter what.
Sr. Mary Aquinas: I’m originally from Galveston, Texas. My parents immigrated from the Philippines. My father is pure Chinese, but he was born and raised in the Philippines. I graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in business, and after that, I worked as a consultant for one of the big five accounting firms. I did that for several years. When I wanted to stop traveling, I worked for a hospital in Houston.
I was a cradle Catholic although I must confess, we weren’t particularly well catechized. I went to Catholic school for ten years, but I actually didn’t know about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist until I was an adult.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: At what point in your life did you begin thinking perhaps a religious vocation? I know your parents very well, and I know your mom’s desire for many grandchildren, which is a healthy desire for any grandparents or grandparents to be. How did all that end up going?
Sr. Mary Aquinas: I owe my vocation to my sister. She is the oldest in the family and started nagging me about dating. “You need to put yourself out there. You need to join a singles group. If you know you’re called to marriage, why you aren’t doing something about it?”
I said, “I don’t know that I’m called to marriage. I haven’t ruled out Religious Life.”
She says, “You haven’t ruled out religious life? We’ll fix that.” She signed me up for a retreat. At first, I was going to cross it off the list and say, “No, thank you. I’ve looked into that, and I’ll keep going with whatever I was doing,” but I got here and everything resonated as if my heart were vibrating on a certain frequency that I didn’t even know.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: You came to discern, not that distant from a beautiful relationship with a man that, in another life, you might have married.
Sr. Mary Aquinas: When you’re discerning your vocation, you pray a lot. At first, for the first several months, my prayer was, “Thy will be done, but please don’t ask me to [be a Religious].” Then one day, I was in Eucharistic Adoration, and I looked at Him, and it occurred to me, “I am so in love with You. It would be an honor to be Your bride if you’ll have me.” That’s when things changed.
At that point, I was open enough for my friend to suggest our community. After that, I asked for papers from you and Mother and came on pre-postulancy week and was finally accepted. Nine days before entrance day, I was driving in a car alone, and I got into a single-car accident. That set me back about two years.
I remember when I started losing control of the car, I started praying, “I’m supposed to enter the convent next week. You’re going to take this car wherever You want it to go.”
After the initial impact, I looked down and saw there was a lot of trauma. I looked at my leg and said, “That’s going to take at least eight months of physical therapy.” I never would have asked for an experience like that, but I knew I was near the cross. That was all that mattered. It was a beautiful time, and people were so good to me and my family. We received so many prayers. I can’t begin to count all the graces.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: I have to honestly say I saw you grow so much and believed in you more than I ever had before. I knew you had a strong worldly experience and vision of things, and I thought, “Is she really ready?” The growth was beautiful as well as your mother’s acceptance of your Religious vocation because, for a while, I think she feared for your life.
Sr. Mary Aquinas: I shouldn’t have survived that accident. When the car started flipping, I thought, “People don’t always survive this, Lord.”
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: I find it interesting, as we are speaking today, that the new Master General of the Dominican Order after 800 years is the first Asian, and he is from the Philippines. I’m going to watch him like a hawk to see if he has that kind of generosity and big-heartedness and the depth of faith that I have seen in you. What were your thoughts when you first heard that the new Master General is Filipino?
Sr. Mary Aquinas: I was so excited. He was assigned for a long time at the only Pontifical university in Asia.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: Your obedience in going to Rome is because you will be the librarian at the Pontifical North American College (N.A.C.). Isn’t that beautiful? The library feeds into the way God prepared you and your own gifts and talents, which are abundant. Sister Mary Aquinas, thank you for coming and being with us today. Let’s pray for Sister and all the sisters that you are meeting and coming to know on this beautiful series! God bless.