Nine years ago, 19-year-old Ester Paau arrived at the Convent at Nazareth near Punta Gorda, Belize to complete her high school education. Growing up in a remote indigenous village, she had no opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a preschool teacher. Then the Pallottine Sisters visited to evangelize her village. They offered her an opportunity to follow her dreams by living with them and attending school.
With support from Cross Catholic Outreach, the Pallottine Sisters take indigenous girls like Ester into their home, helping them pursue an education and grow spiritually. Without this help, most girls would marry as teenagers, continuing in the cycle of poverty that had plagued their families for generations.
Ready for an adventure and the chance to conquer her dreams, Ester jumped at the chance to live with the sisters. It was a decision that would forever change her life.
“I just wanted to come and get an experience,” she told me on my recent trip to Belize. “But I ended up staying here!”
In the end, God had bigger plans for Ester than she had for herself. The Lord wanted Ester to serve him and bless others. Through participating in daily Mass, and daily prayer and Scripture reading with the sisters, Ester grew strong in the Catholic faith and her relationship with God.
When she graduated from high school, she felt called to join the order. Today, she is a nun, volunteering at a local preschool, and ministering to youth in local villages.
“God has a plan for me, I cannot deny that,” she says. “A lot of people are in need — if we are not there to help those people, who will? God has called me to this community to help. For me, it is a blessing!”
Beyond preparing girls for successful futures with spiritual and academic education, the Pallottine Sisters are also helping young women discern their vocation. Sr. Ester isn’t the first person to join the order through their education program, and I’m sure she won’t be the last.
“Pray that I will be a fit witness for God,” Sr. Ester says. “Pray that I will persevere in ministry, in my community and with all the people that I meet.”
As the Catholic Church begins the “Year of Consecrated Life,” let us pray for the men and women around the world serving the Lord through religious vocation. Let us also support orders like the Pallottine Sisters, who are helping young women like Ester dedicate their lives to religious service. At Cross Catholic, we wouldn’t be able to serve the poor without these dedicated servants of the Lord!