Dorota Stokłosa

“Everything is grace.”
This is the sentence which best describes my life and my vocation.
I try to live this truth every day, with gratitude
for the people I meet and the events that I experience.

I am very grateful to God for my family. I was born in 1968 in a beautiful part of Poland as the fifth child of Maria and Mieczysław. My parents loved me so much. They gave me a name that means “gift from God.”  My mother never tires of telling me that I was truly a gift for her. Before my coming into this world, she was very sick and unable to recover. Somebody advised her that having another child could help her to come back to full health. So my parents took the risk of having another child. Even at the beginning of her pregnancy she already felt much better, but her neighbours kept warning her that the child could be sickly or disabled. But here I am and I brought my mother health! My father died of a heart attack soon after my first vows, while my mother, who is now 90 years old and in good condition for her age, continues to live on our family farm with my sister and her family. 

I have two brothers and two sisters, who are much older than I am. They have their own families and are grandparents now. I have sixteen nephews and nieces and sixteen grand-nephews and grand-nieces and the family is still growing. I was eight years old when my first nephew was born. Since my sister and her husband moved into my parents’ home to live with us, I felt I was part of my sister’s family. Usually, after school, I took care of my nephews and we grew up together. Now the eldest is a diocesan priest, ordained 17 years ago. 

From my childhood, I have had a sense of God’s presence. I grew up in the countryside; so my prayer is inspired by the beauty and harmony of nature. Prayer has also been a regular part of my life. Each day, when we started work in the fields, we began with the sign of the cross to offer all our work to God; and then we always ended with a prayer of thanksgiving. 

My experience of God's love has always found expression in the image of the Heart of Jesus, which for me is the source and symbol of love.  When I was seriously considering what I was to do with my life, my only response was to give my whole life to this loving God. After making this decision, I then looked for a congregation that is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

Now it is very easy to speak about this. But at that time, it was not easy for me to leave my family and to sacrifice the possibility of having my own family and children. Now, however, I can say that I received a hundred times more: sisters, children, homes.... and happiness. 

My passion is accompanying other people on the journey of faith. Paragraph 13 of our Constitutions expresses my vocation: 

Wherever we are sent,
whatever our work may be,
our lives will be inspired by the love of the Heart of Jesus
and the desire of making Him known, expressed in:
- a concern for the growth of the whole person
- a thirst for working towards justice and peace in the world in response to the cry of the poor
- a passion to proclaim the Gospel.

I realize that the seeds of this vocation began to grow when I was a student in a state boarding-school. At that time when religious practices were forbidden, some of us formed a faith-sharing group to support one another. We became very close friends, but we did not exclude others. I am still in touch with them and their families, and we meet once a year. That experience helped me discover that it is my heart’s desire to be open to others and to listen to everyone. I did not think at that time about religious life, but my relationship with Jesus was strong.   

I entered the Society of the Sacred Heart when I was 21 years old.  Since I was by then a qualified kindergarten teacher, the first ministry given to me was to teach very small children. Then I was sent to a primary school, where I not only taught children religion, but I also learned to build relationships with their parents. I also worked with youth groups in parishes and gave retreats to university students. It was through all these ministry experiences that I discovered the call to journey with others in the faith. Training in spirituality deepened this commitment and allowed me to develop skills and attitudes in accompanying persons and groups. In recent years, I have been entrusted with the work of formation in the novitiate; and this continues now as I serve as a member of the international formation team.  Through these different apostolic engagements in the Society, I have learned the value of simplicity; and, through my encounters with those I journey with, I am constantly amazed by the love of God for every human being.

I, myself, have experienced the power of this love. After my final profession as a Religious of the Sacred Heart, I walked through a dark valley and even felt that I had lost my way. It was only my probation devise (motto) that kept me going: “Remain in my love” (John 15:9). When I came into the light and recovered, I discovered the paradox that the dreadful cancer that confronted me with the reality of death was also what brought me back to life.

Jesus, in His unconditional love for me, called me again by name, telling me that He needs me for service in His Church. It was like the conversation He had with Peter by the lake of Galilee after his Resurrection (John 21). Without mentioning my weakness, he asked me about my love for Him. That was a breakthrough for me, allowing me to be grateful for what had been a difficult experience but which helped me learn a lot about myself and His love. Now I know that “nothing can separate me from God’s love, which is in Jesus Christ my Lord” (Romans 8:31ff).

With Mary, I can proclaim: "The Lord has done great things for me!" My whole life is truly in God’s hands. Each day is for me the miracle of His love. I am aware of my pilgrim’s journey and I know that my home is in His Heart.
 
 
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