Patricia D’souza

Patricia D'souza with the young people she helps

I belong to a simple, devout Catholic Goan family, living in Dadar, Mumbai, the youngest of five siblings (we are four daughters and one son). By temperament, I was a naughty, carefree and restless child, the least likely candidate for religious life.  But God’s ways are not ours.

When I was three years old, I unexpectedly lost my father, which was a big blow to my family in many ways. My mother was a housewife and my eldest sister was barely eighteen.

At this juncture, my mother made two significant choices:

–  My godparents, who lived on the first floor of our building, were childless at that time, and loved me dearly. They offered to adopt me. My mother’s response was simple but profound. ‘Even if there is less to eat, I would rather survive by sharing the little we have than part with my child’.

–  My only brother who was all of 16 had already left home to join the Christian Brothers. When the Brothers asked my mother if, given the circumstances, she would prefer that her only son returns home, she responded ‘If religious life is what God is calling him to, I don’t want him to leave for our sake’.

Both were tough choices that were certainly faith-driven.

These decisions marked my life.

My maternal grandmother and spinster aunt, with their limited resources, stood by us during our struggles. My mother took to embroidery to support the family and, slowly, each of my sisters started working to supplement the family income. It was a big challenge but my mother’s faith was an eternal wellspring for the family.

Growing up, I was the typical, mischievous child, more interested in playing than in studies. My siblings had a herculean task in getting me to study.

However, what I distinctly remember from those years was a yellow and black sticker on the cupboard with the picture of Jesus pointing to the observer, with the words “I need you, come follow me”.

Like most Catholic families, we had framed pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mother Mary on the altar. I experienced a deep connection with the picture of the Sacred Heart; I was deeply drawn to the eyes of Jesus: I felt Jesus was speaking to me and was often moved to tears with the depth of this connection.

My mother instilled in us a strong faith: going for Mass on holidays and during vacations, and full participation in church activities was an important part of family life. One day when I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old, there was a screening of a film on Mother Teresa in our parish.

After the film, as I was walking in the corridor, I felt a voice telling me ‘I want you to be a nun’. I did not really comprehend what this meant – though I had studied in a convent school, I did not really know what being a nun implied!  

I did not share this with anyone, but the idea lingered in the depths of my heart.

Anyway, time went by and, when I was in standard X, an “Aptitude Testing” was arranged by the school. While responding to the question, What would you like to be?, on impulse I had written ‘a nun’ and forgotten all about it.  

When the time came for receiving feedback I happened to be away, so a written report was sent instead, which everyone in the family naturally read.

The cat was out of the bag; the whole family now knew!  There were mixed reactions; my mother shared that she had always hoped and prayed that at least one of her daughters would join religious life and was happy to support my decision.  My religious brother recommended I meet one of the Christian Brothers in our parish for guidance, which was a really helpful process. He also tried to suggest other congregations to me, but I wasn’t interested.

At that time, in my head the idea of religious life and Mother Teresa were connected, so I felt I needed to join her congregation, but God’s ways are not our ways.

After the SSC (Secondary School Certificate), I providentially joined Sophia College, where I discovered the love of learning and was fascinated by psychology. I started doing very well in my studies, much to the relief of my family. 

After my HSC (Higher Secondary School Certificate) exams, my older siblings insisted that I learn “shorthand & typing” during vacations, in case the idea of religious life did not work out. This suggestion really distressed me as I felt this would be the end of my dream to be a religious.

One day while I was praying in the chapel after Mass, I felt a voice clearly saying ‘Join the sisters in the college where you are studying,’ and after that, there was no question in my mind about what I should do.

I shared this with Mum, who suggested that I talk to the sisters. I was 16, full of deep fervor and wanted to join the convent immediately. However, the sisters suggested that I wait to graduate, by which time I would be over 18.

I joined soon after my final BA exams, and the rest is history.

Today, I am Head of the Psychology Department, with many years of experience working with young people. Working with them is my life’s delight. I have never regretted responding to the voice of Jesus: I have called you by your name and you are mine.

The ongoing call to ‘Remain in His love’ has been the eternal wellspring of my life and my soul’s deepest joy.

Section |Profiles

Province |India