By Sandra Navarro
For Sister Xiomara Méndez, religious vocation has been an adventure, a dream that started from childhood with the desire to help others. She met two women in a retreat 17 years ago. The woman who was preaching caught her attention as her words provoke a new sensation inside that touched her heart. She was also attracted to the fact that the nuns were not wearing habits.
In her teens at a Bible course, she met Adrian Dominican sisters, who invited Méndez and her friends to their retreat house once a week for an entire year. Every Sunday, Méndez and her friends went to converse with the nuns about their goals, and it was then that she realized there is another kind of vocation. By that time she had already embarked in a career of fashion design, and when the year ended, she asked the sisters if she could continue to visit them because she enjoyed talking with them. They spoke of truth, justice, preaching, of the values of women. Méndez says, “A flame was ignited inside me that was suffocating.” She finally decided that she was not ready, it was not the moment. She decided to finish her education and although she distanced herself from the sisters, for the next 13 years, the flame was still with her.
Her relationship with God grew deeper. She felt a great yearning to be with God and the void was filled whenever she went on retreat. She remembers jokingly telling her friends that in the convent she would either marry or take her vows. Her friends would say, “You? No way! You are too fashionable to be a nun.”
She partnered with a friend to start up their own business. At that time, the sisters had invited her again to join the community as an associate and she accepted. She was an Adrian Dominican associate for two years. As a professional in the fashion industry she was growing and achieving great success, but she felt empty. And she began to seek a meaning for her life. She would ask herself in prayer: how can I best use my talents so it can provide me and others with dignity? It was then that Sister Monique Peña invited her to the mother house. “At that moment I felt a connection and began discerning. ‘What should I do now?’ I would ask myself. It was time to make a decision,” Méndez says. She began her spiritual direction and her vocation arose once again and she said, “Lord, I give up.”
Not everything has been rosy; she has faced many challenges such as language, culture, leaving all that was known and familiar, to start from scratch. The most rewarding thing? The richness of community life, “they—my sisters—are my new family, we support and complement one another. It has been very rewarding to be able to reach people and help them believe in their dreams. To believe that God the Creator loves them, lives inside them, and is speaking to them about serving and living the reason for their existence.”
What kinds of resistances have you found in yourself to following the call you felt inside? What call of attraction has stayed with you despite your efforts to ignore it?