Jean-Thérèse was born forty-six years ago in Helsinki,
Finland. The Catholic Church in Finland numbers seven thousand out
of a total population of five million, the majority of whom are
Protestants. Originally a Protestant of the Lutheran Confession,
she became Catholic at the age of eighteen.
did you become a Catholic?
protestant family did not practice their faith. As a child, however,
my parents had taught me how to pray at home. I was prepared to
make my profession of faith at fifteen years of age and on June
14, 1970, I received the Body of Christ for the first time in the
celebration of the Lord's Supper. This was a great day. I truly
had the impression of having encountered Christ. I reflected on
the mystery of the Eucharist and I came to an acceptance that my
faith mirrored that of the Catholic Church with regards to the "real
presence." In the Lutheran Church, the Eucharist loses its
meaning after the Lord's Supper. At eighteen years of age, I was
received into the Catholic Church after a year of preparation.
did your vocation as a contemplative sister come about?
secondary school, I registered to study French for a year at the
University. I was twenty years old at that time and was asking myself
about my life's vocation. Religious life attracted me.
was a Finnish Dominican Father, fr. Martti Voutilainen, O.P., who
passed away last July 7, who prepared me for entrance into the Catholic
Church. Through his direction, I went to see the Little Sisters
of Charles de Foucault and the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation
in Sweden. It was there that the Novice Mistress asked if I had
ever thought of the contemplative life. A little later, I found
myself in France for a few weeks with the Dominican contemplative
sisters of Orbey, some 20 kilometers from Colmar, to enquire about
their vocation. After a time of reflection and work in Finland,
as was required by the sisters, I entered the cloister as a postulant
on the first Sunday of Lent, 1977. It was February 26 to be exact.
a contemplative sister, you consecrate your life to prayer and manual
labour. Can you share with us a little about prayer?
is something very simple. Prayer is an affair of the heart. And,
I am aware that my heart is like the heart of others. There is a
struggle between good and evil. Without the grace of God I am capable
of doing something horrible. I need to be saved. I am aware of my
goal is to participate in the salvation of the world through prayer.
My prayer transcends the walls of the monastery. What I do, I do
for the world. There is a universal dimension to prayer.
you not suffer from loneliness?
introduces us into a process of spiritual transformation. We encounter
God and neighbour in our hearts. A solitude of the heart seems necessary
to me if we want to give Jesus Christ the pride of place.
person hopes to be the most important person in the life of someone
else. I renounce this, for Christ is the most important friend in
the heart there is a space reserved for Christ that we cannot share
with any one else.
represents a positive value that allows me to be present to Him
who is present in my life.
is the most difficult aspect of your life?
life. There are hurts and a lack of understanding in community.
Our community life is made up of minute realities that may at times
provoke disproportionate reactions. If a sister does not say "good
morning" to me, I may entertain the thought that she has something
against me when perhaps she was just a little distracted. At the
same time, community life is passionate. It is there that one puts
into practice the new commandment of Jesus: "love one another
as I have loved you."
you changed in your manner of prayer?
prayer has been simplified. It has become what it was in the beginning
but it has gained in intensity.
pray for Christian unity. I feel pain that Christians are not united.
you ever think of leaving the monastery after having entered it?
temptation to leave is in some ways always present. We can always
be doing something else. As far as I am concerned, the thought had
crossed my mind two or three times without having taken root in
me. It has not been a big issue for me.
you received graces in prayer?
I have received graces that helped me advance in the knowledge of
God. Graces of strength and joy to live life as it is. Confession,
the sacrament of reconciliation, is also a prayer, an important
moment of grace.
you discovered new features of the life of God?
I think of the Trinity. In the beginning, I was attracted by the
Father, from whom one receives all. There is always a part of the
child in us. The child is infused with an extraordinary confidence
in its parents, and, it results in the child thinking that its parents
are able to protect it and give it the entire world.
this, Christ occupied a central place in my life. He is my friend.
Him I also live a spirituality of spousal communion as mentioned
in the Bible.
Holy Spirit is the One who prays in us "in indescribable groanings,"
as Saint Paul taught us.
mystery of the Trinity lets me live the relations in God. God is
One and, yet, in relation.
is the difference between a Benedictine and a Dominican Nun?
it is the same vocation: to give oneself to God in monastic life.
On the other hand, our democratic government distinguishes us from
the Benedictines. We often change the formators. In the Dominican
spirit, we look for unanimity. The Benedictines remain disciples
of their Mother Abbess.
you think that your life is extraordinary?
life is extraordinary when it is given.
life is a very ordinary life. Nothing extraordinary happens. The
grace of vocation, the fact of having been called
of Sr. Jean-Thérèse: Monastery of the Dominican Sisters.
F - 68370 ORBEY, France
by fr. Manuel Rivero, O.P. (Province of Toulouse).
fr. Phillip McShane, o.p.