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Heeding God's call

Matilda Simmons
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MAKING the decision to become a nun is not an easy thing. It requires prayer, research and discernment if God is calling you for the extraordinary work.

For Sister Grace Ellul of the Marist Sisters congregation, it has been a good life of serving God by helping communities and people in society. She has been in the field for over 50 years and has worked in various parts of the world.

"I joined the Marist Sisters in Australia," she said. "I grew up in Melbourne but my time with the sisters was spent in Sydney.

"I went to school with the Marist Sisters both in primary and secondary.

"It was when I turned 18 that I felt called by God to become a sister. People tend to be a bit older in their 20s before they joined but I felt the calling at that time.

"After I became a sister, I worked in secondary schools, and when I turned 30 I moved to Brazil. I served there for 26 years. Then I worked in Australia for a while before I was asked to go to Philippines.

Then two years ago in 2015, I was elected to the superior general position which is based in Rome."

Sister Grace was in Fiji recently to be part of the bicentennial celebrations marking the first arrival of the Marist Sisters to Levuka 125 years ago as well as that of Marist Convent School which most of the sisters taught at . It is a history that is close to the hearts of the Marist congregation. The occassion was a good time for Sr Grace to meet the former students of Marist Convent as well as catch up with the small of number Marist Sisters in Levuka.

"I am always happy to see the Marist Sisters wherever they are in the world," said Sister Grace.

"We are in 14 countries; we're not quite a big group but we aim to make a difference in the communities we serve in. In Fiji we have 22 sisters, some places our numbers are even smaller.

"Some of our sisters carry out visits to prisons. We have a sister who works four days a week in the men's prison; we also have sisters involved heavily in anti-trafficking. We try to see the needs of the people and try to respond to it."

Sister Grace admits their congregation has faced challenges in attracting younger women to join their organisation

"If a young woman feels that she would like to dedicate her life to God by serving others she just has to contact one of the sisters and we reflect, get to know her and then she's accepted to join a community and begin a process of formation," she says.

"But in some countries, it's a huge challenge. In rich, developed countries there are no younger members, the sisters are all ageing. If there were no other members then we will die out in those countries.

"I hope Fiji is going to have young women get interested in being a sister. I have spent nearly 50 years as one and I am very happy, it is a life of service," she said with a smile.

Sister Grace returned to Rome last week.

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