The 20 January, our feast day, is always special for the sisters of Our Lady of Sion. This year there was a second reason to celebrate, as sister Victoria Nabil pronounced her final vows in the village of Berba in rural Upper Egypt.
It was a lively and joyful celebration with a Coptic feel. Bishop Beshara Joudeh of the Diocese of Abu Qurqas, Mallawi and Der Mous presided over the mass, in which Sion sisters, members of Victoria’s family, neighbours and friends took active roles.
The three-hour mass was infused with much singing and chanting accompanied by violins, flutes, and symbols. The dialogue between Sr Victoria and NDS Superior General Sr Oonah O’Shea was in two languages: Sr Oonah spoke in English with Arabic interpretation, and Sr Victoria answered in Arabic.
There was a feeling that this was an important occasion not only for Victoria, her family and the NDS Congregation, but also for the village of Berba itself. Many members of the local parish turned out to support Sr. Victoria and clapped and cheered after she recited her vows. “The choir sang with all their hearts and everyone just enjoyed it so much!” one sister commented. During the mass, the parishioners were invited to make a commitment themselves to support Victoria’s vows. Their enthusiastic response resounded through the church.
Victoria’s journey to final commitment was a much pondered one. She met the sisters of Sion at the age of four when she starting attending the kindergarten they ran in Berba. One of her former teachers, Sion sister Juliana Baldinger, remembers Victoria as a happy child who loved kindergarten and kept coming back to visit over the years after she left. Once she’d graduated from high school, she returned to help out at the kindergarten. During this period, she sought spiritual direction from Sr Juliana.
Victoria was curious about religious life, but she wasn’t sure it was the path for her. “I felt a call,” she said, “But I didn’t know where it was coming from.” The prospect of living away from her family concerned her and she initially rejected the idea that it was Jesus who was calling her to follow him. But the call persisted, and she continued, tentatively, to search for a way forward.
Victoria made her first vows six years ago. When she finally wrote her letter to ask to take final vows, she no longer felt any doubt. “It’s been a long journey,” she said, “I feel happy and grateful for being granted the time to be sure.”
Sr. Victoria’s commitment includes a promise to undertake ministries in keeping with the charism of Sion, and her future is already underway. She is expecting to complete a master’s in psychology in 2024. In the meantime, she is on a vocation team for Kenya and is planning a trip there later this year.
What Victoria wants to share with young women discerning their vocation echoes her own experience: in a world where the noise of everyday life often drowns out deeper voices, don’t be afraid to hear your call.
At the end of a beautiful day, Victoria posted some photos on her Facebook page, with a simple message: “Thank you Lord”.