My Journey with God and His Church

September 10, 2019

By Chinero Theresa Iwundo, SHCJ

On Sunday, September 15, 2019, Chinero Theresa Iwundo, SHCJ, professes her final vows in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus – American Province. Below, Sister Chinero reflects on her journey to making a commitment to serve God and God’s people through consecrated life.

My journey with God started the very day I was born and baptized into the Christian family of Theophilus and Patricia Iwundu. I am the first child and the only daughter, with four brothers. My parent’s faith, hard work, and dedication helped to form my life.

My father was not educated by present-day standards, but he used his knowledge to teach Catholic catechism. The life I lead today is rooted in the good, loving, generous faith and God-loving spirit I inherited from my parents. I joined many Church societies, such as the Legion of Mary, Children of Mary, Block Rosary, St. Anthony’s Guild, and the choir. These religious societies helped to form my vocation and desire to serve God and humanity in religious life. Although I had the desire to enter religious life, I did not know any religious congregations at the time and had not gone to high school. When I made my intention to serve known to my parents and my parish priest, they encouraged me to go to high school first.

My primary education took place during the Nigerian Civil War. Most schools were closed during the war, but we managed to study under a tree, where the bullets would not get us. As soon as the war ended and after completing high school, I continued my education in an Anglican school. My experiences in this school prepared me to build my future. The Catholic Church was far from the school, yet I managed to find my way to the Church. I did not allow the new generational churches on campus to sway my hopes and aspirations to become a Catholic nun.

As soon as I completed high school, I once again made my intentions known to my parents and spiritual director, who gave me their blessings. My spiritual director supplied a list of congregations in Nigeria to me. Holy Child was the first one that I picked. Soon after, I applied to the Society of the Holy Child Jesus African Province. The vocation director instructed me to work first and to keep in contact with the Society, before being admitted to the candidacy program. At this juncture, from 1979-1983, I was employed by the West African Examination Council. I left the organization to join the Society and made my first vow on May 17, 1986. After seven years of shared life, I left the Province in 1990.

I see my religious life as a call by God’s grace. The quest to serve God and humanity brought me to the United States of America in 2001. Here, in the States, I could not be happier. Ironically, when coming back from work one day, I unexpectedly saw the then Society’s African Provincial, Clarita Hanson, SHCJ, who received my first vows in 1986 in Nigeria. It was a memory that I will cherish always. This unexpected encounter with Sister Clarita, and later with other SHCJ friends, led me to consider reentering the Society. I made my first vows in the American Province in 2015.

This is my life, my vocation journey, with my parents as my first motivators. Their service to others and dedication to God have been my major inspirations. The Society’s simplicity of life and spirituality, as well as my attraction to Mother Connelly, are the principle factors for why I chose to be a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

While in the African Province, I earned a diploma in mass communication from the University of Jos – Nigeria. I completed my bachelor’s degree in nursing at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. I was also awarded a master’s degree in nursing, with an emphasis in family nursing practice.

As a religious in the African Province, I worked in various ministries, including as a teacher and chaplain of both students and women organizations. When I left the African Province, I started and ran the flourishing business, “Theopat Ventures.” Here in the States, I worked in a nursing home serving mentally challenged elderly people. I also worked as a registered nurse in various hospitals before moving to my present job as a forensic nurse.

I appreciate living in community with the Holy Child Sisters in Washington, D.C. The Sisters and I are called to a common life in Christ. The Society’s Constitutions calls me to give myself to God and the community without reservation. I am richly blessed with my community. We truly connect and support each other through prayer, recreation, and all that makes a community. And as a people person, I love visiting and helping others. I also enjoy listening to the news, swimming, and cooking, even though I’m not too good at it. I also serve as a Eucharistic Minister.

Remain in my love (John 15: 9) continues to be the focal point of my life in Christ Jesus through the Society and the world. No one can achieve this without God’s guidance and direction, as I live and work in a world full of uncertainties. It is my firm belief that God is faithful and calls me to be faithful. I could be faithful in other forms of vocation. However, I chose to be faithful to God through vowed life so that I can be faithful to him without reserve and without recall (SHCJ Constitutions, pages 12-16).

One Response to “My Journey with God and His Church”

  1. Anne Healy-Ayella

    Your vocation story is so beautiful and touched my
    heart. So thankful to hear of your faithfulness in
    hearing God’s call both in Nigeria and here in the States.
    May God continue to bless you and give you all the graces
    you need as you “remain in His love” !
    Anne H. Ayella, SHCJ Associate