Jessica Shira and her mom, Carmen, pose for a photograph outside of the Catholic Pastoral Center in Savannah after touring the building with Sister Margaret Downing, RSM, the diocesan delegate for consecrated life. Photograph by Michael J. Johnson/SC.
Jessica Schira and her mom, Carmen, pose for a photograph outside of the Catholic Pastoral Center in Savannah after touring the building with Sister Margaret Downing, RSM, the diocesan delegate for consecrated life. Photograph by Michael J. Johnson/SC.
Features

An aspirant's path to consecrated life

Originally Appeared in : 9723-11/9/17

SAVANNAH--When Capuchin Poor Clare aspirant Jessica Schira was a young girl, her mother said that she once left home to go to church—without telling anyone. 

 

“She was really young to do that by herself,” said Carmen Sosa of her “really active, hyperactive” child, now 34 years old. 

 

At the time, Jessica lived with her maternal grandparents in the Dominican Republic while her mother lived and worked in the United States. 

 

Though glad that Jessica was found safe at church, Carmen said the incident did not provide her with any inkling that her daughter’s future might be with a religious order.

 

“It never crossed to my mind that she maybe was going to religious life because she liked to sing and dance, and modeling and everything,” Carmen said. “She liked those kinds of things, but she was also curious and was always very sensitive spiritually, was always sensitive to that.” 

 

Though growing up in the Church and attending a private Catholic School in Moca down the street from her parish, Iglesia Sagrado Corazón de Jesus, which is a part of the Diocese of San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Jessica said that she hadn’t seriously considered the religious life until a priest suggested the idea to her in confession.

 

Though she does admit she now sees the seeds of her vocation being planted early by a close friend, Salesian priest Father Cipriano Ibanez, who was killed by carjackers in 1999 on his way to Mass in the Dominican Republic.

 

During her stay in the boroughs of New York City while she worked and attended LaGuardia Community College in Queens and, eventually Lehman College—part of the City University of New York—where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism, Jessica said that she felt herself straying from the Church and her faith. 

 

She suggested that at the time, she didn’t think she could be a nun, though she had considered it, because she believed nuns were perfect and had perfect families.

 

Her confessor explained to her, “You need to change your heart; make heaven your ultimate goal,” after learning her goal in life was to be happy. 

 

“I was paying attention too much to money, working, what I was gaining, but I didn’t pay attention to God,” Jessica said. “When I decided to put God first is when everything start[ed] to fall into place.” 

 

During her discernment process a priest told Jessica, “You just have to be in the boat. Go into the boat, and you will know if that’s for you.” 

 

“And that’s what I did,” she said. 

 

Carmen said that she could see a difference in her daughter after she began to attend retreats and kept talking about wanting to be close to Jesus and spend more time in prayer, even going to adoration in New York City at 3 a.m. 

 

“That would be the greatest gift to me, if you give me a daughter as a nun…to devote her life to you in a different way than I have done…” said Carmen of her prayer to God. Carmen ironically noted that Jessica is not the only one in her family to consider a religious vocation.

 

Now living with some of her family in Guyton, Jessica is currently working with the Labouré Society to eliminate the student loan debt she has accumulated before she can enter the cloistered religious order. 

 

When asked what advice Jessica would give to other women discerning a religious vocation, she suggested that one cannot expect to discern a vocation without spending a lot of time in prayer and adoration. 

 

“To have that connection with the Lord, you have to have him at the center,” she said. “To dedicate your life since in the morning to the Lord with a morning prayer, going at night with a night prayer and saying thank you Lord for what you have provided me today.” 

 

She also advised, “Do not wait until you are in the worst moment of your life to go back to the Lord because I’m a good example of things that you cannot do.” 

 

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