Rita Berecz

I was born in Hungary in 1967, and was raised as a Roman Catholic.  My life, as well as the lives of my ancestors, have been determined by the negative effects of the Second World War, the 1956 Revolution, and the subsequent Communist system. Through all these, however, nothing could shake our faith in God. My parents, and my siblings and I experienced the collapse of Communism (1989) and the ensuing democracy that brought with it an external realization of freedom. 
These events contributed to the formation of my critical mind.  These also taught me to make decisions only after careful consideration, not to give in to superficial glamor, and to base my faith solely on God.
I lost my Father when I was in Rome preparing for final vows in September 2000; and my Mother passed away on the last day of March 2012. From my three sisters’ and my brother’s families, I have three nieces and eleven nephews, aged 3 to 21.  Until the age of 21, I imagined having my own family, too, with lots of children.  But as I grew in age, the idea of an alternative way of life also emerged. 
Although I had never seen a nun before, The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton awakened the desire in me for a way of life completely dedicated to God. The main motive of my life and the feeling of liberty were marked by my previous life-path and Merton’s search for the appropriate way of life. This is a dynamic process that has influenced my life with different intensities at different stages, while at the same time providing a solid basis for my life-decisions.
The intensive phase of my search coincided with the period of the transformation of the political system (1989). This was also the time when the Catholic Church in Hungary, including the religious life, was awakening from her “Cinderella’s dream.” In whichever convent I went knocking, I was warmly welcomed and the Sisters were eager to dress me in the habit. However, since I was convinced that the decision was an ongoing process between God and me, their vehement efforts to persuade me to stay resulted in pushing me away. 
As I went on with my search, new questions emerged, and these helped me to focus on what I really desired.  I was accompanied in this journey by a priest, with whom I could share my experiences.  At one moment, I participated in an Easter retreat, which had “vocation” as its theme.  One of the speakers was a small sister dressed in casual clothes, and she attracted my attention.  That Sister was Ágota Baternay, a Sister from the Society of the Sacred Heart (who later died in Budapest in 2013). Upon meeting her I found everything I had been looking for: she respected my search; left me free in my decisions; and, she and her religious congregation represented the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.  Entering more fully into this journey, I started to feel that God’s dream for me is to dedicate my life to the freedom I resonated with in the Sacred Heart, even though all this was completely unknown to me at that time. I was overwhelmed with joy after this revelation!
While I was walking this journey, I was familiar with neither spirituality nor the religious life.  Since the Sacred Heart Sisters have been out of the country for 40 years, it was hard to get to know them according to the motto: “Master, where do you live?” They had neither community nor institution. I was able, however, to get to know a handful of Hungarian Sacred Heart Sisters who had just returned from Austria. What I learned and experienced were solid enough for me to embark on the great ADVENTURE! When I handed in my application to the Society, I shared my decision with my family, who accepted it.  In fact, my parents were absolutely in favor of it. 
During my formation, I was introduced to Ignatian and our Society’s spirituality, as well as the basics of being a Religious of the Sacred Heart. I spent a wonderful two-year-period along with four of my fellow Sisters in the first novitiate after 40 years in Budapest, under the guidance of Ilona Prohászka!
It was an important part of my training both as a novice and as an RSCJ with temporary vows to spend some time in Austria and in communities of other European provinces.  This contributed to a great extent to the formation of my international identity and to my becoming deeply rooted in the Society.  Before final vows, I spent a period of international experience in the United States, following the footsteps of Philippine Duchesne. I got acquainted with the historical period when our Society began to expand from the European continent into the whole world. It was an indescribable experience to get to know the Sacred Heart school in Grand Coteau and to gain insight into our educative mission as this was then an unfamiliar field for me. I also had the chance to work with the poor of the 4th world in St. Louis, and I cherish the experience of meeting excellent Sacred Heart Sisters who were seeking and giving up-to-date answers to current challenges.
In Hungary, starting or re-starting the Society’s presence has constituted the decisive element of my life. Since there were no visible signs of the Society’s existence at that time, I got involved in the foundation of new communities and in the launching of new activities. I regard this opportunity as an honor, and I value the trust that is given to me by the Society’s leadership.
I have taken on various roles and responsibilities since I made my first vows.  After the novitiate, I studied Theology and carried out administrative tasks.  Later after making my final vows, I was sent to study Pastoral Psychology for two years at the Loyola University in Chicago.  When I came back to Hungary, I worked for seven years in a non-governmental organization, which offers different programmes and camps for children and youngsters of different ages.  Currently, I am the member of the Provincial Council representing the Hungarian province.
I sincerely hope that in the future more and more young women will feel the desire to follow God’s call to our Society.  Our charism of the incarnated Love is such a treasure, and its timelessness has not faded! I continue to desire to contribute to the Society’s mission through my humble service, wherever I am or wherever God may call and send me.

Section |Profiles|Year of Consecrated Life

Province |Central Europe