She believed in God but drifted away from the Church as a teenager. She was determined to break free from the rules which she believed were restricting her.
After finishing school, she completed a catering course and worked in the hospitality industry for many years. She loved going to pubs, clubs, and parties. She had a penchant for rock music and motorbikes.
She said: “Zooming off on the back of a motorbike was very exciting and attending music festivals was always a high point of the summer.”
When she was 20 years old, Sister Faustina moved to London and lived there for four years before moving to Amsterdam.
While in Amsterdam, she began to think deeply about her life and its meaning.
She said: “I was living in a country where anything goes. I was free to do whatever I wished yet there was something missing in my life.”
While she was in Amsterdam, her father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She said: “I always felt that if my father needed me to care for him, I would return home to look after him. The time came when my mother couldn’t look after him herself, so I came home.”
Coming home was a difficult choice for Sr Faustina. She left her boyfriend in Amsterdam. She said: “I was leaving one way of life behind and I knew I wouldn’t return. But I wanted to come home to care for my father because I loved him and my mother. I wanted to help them out when my father was sick.”
While caring for her father who was seriously ill, Sister Faustina returned to Mass and prayer.
Her father was a devout Catholic. He couldn’t read or speak when he was ill so Sister Faustina sat by his bedside reciting prayers and reading from the Bible to him. As she read and prayed, she grew closer to God.
Around the time her father was ill, she attended The Divine Mercy Conference in Dublin with her sister. She returned to confession for the first time in years at the conference. She said: “It was then I experienced peace in my heart and realised that God loved me.”
She said: “Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away from Mass. I even began to go during the week.”
Her sun holidays were replaced by pilgrimages to Lough Derg and Medugorje. She said, “When I was in Medugorje, I read a message which said that God has a special plan for each person.”
Sister Faustina always thought previously that she would get married and have a family. During reflective prayer, she realised that she was being called towards the religious life.
She was still unsure what form her religious life would take. She researched a number of Religious Orders, including the Poor Clares. She described the nuns she met as “ordinary women who were doing the best for the Lord”. They invited her to live with them for two weeks. During her stay, she felt she belonged there. She decided she would embark on her journey to become a nun.
The Poor Clares of College Road are part of the Franciscan Family and followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. They are guided by St Clare, who founded the Order in Italy in 1212. The monastery in Cork was founded in 1914. The Sisters are enclosed and dedicate their lives to contemplation and prayer. Sister Faustina explained the Sisters’ typical day.
“Our day is divided between prayer, work and recreation. The majority of the day would be devoted to prayer. We come together seven times a day to pray as a community in our private chapel. Once in the night-time, at midnight, we have Matins where some sisters would get up and pray together for one hour. That’s a beautiful time for prayer because people need prayers said for them in the night; people who are sick, the people looking after the sick, the students that are living around us.”
Many people write to the Poor Clare nuns. The Sisters answer each letter personally and pray for the people who have reached out to them.
Because of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the sisters have not been able to see anyone. Ordinarily, the Monastery would be open for people to visit if they need to request prayers. Their families would come and visit, and people would visit the chapel on the grounds to pray and go to Mass and Adoration.
She said: “It’s been difficult not seeing our families. We miss hearing the people praying with us in the chapel. But we listen to news bulletins each day so we are in touch with what is happening to the people so we can pray for them.”
There are many lessons we can learn and advice we can take from the Poor Clare sisters which can help us navigate the current Covid-19 restrictions.
Sister Faustina said: “Our lives are very structured. Since the pandemic has come, our lives have become quieter. The quietness suits our lives because it means we can go deeper into prayer. It is very important to have a structure to your day. So many people are restricted now at the moment because they can’t go out and do the things they did before.
“It’s very important to have a routine and also to get out each day in the fresh air. It’s good for your body and your soul.”
Sister Faustina urges people to be grateful for the things we have and to think of others and how we might help the people around us during these uncertain times.
She said: “Think about the people you live with and how you might help them. You might be good at knitting, or gardening or using a computer, for instance. Share the gifts you have with the people around you. It’s good for the person giving and the person receiving.”
Sister Faustina explained that everyone in life has a vocation. She describes this vocation as “a gift from God”. The Poor Clares believe that each person has talents and gifts that can be used for the wellbeing of society. Some people may marry and have families. Some people’s vocations may be followed through their passions such as sport, teaching, art, nursing, etc.
Sister Faustina said: “It’s also important to have a strong sense of your purpose in life.
She offered some final comforting words to the people of Cork and beyond. She said: “Even though you are restricted now, it’s still serving a purpose. You’re doing this to help the vulnerable, the sick, the poor. This restriction won’t last forever for you. It is going to pass. And remember that the Poor Clares are praying for you.”