In a clear and confident voice, in early February 2002, Sister Catherine pronounced her perpetual vows and became a member of the Congregation of the Oblates of the Assumption. The following is the story of a “Call from God”.
Out of love for Jesus Christ and of my Brothers, I say “Yes” – the voice resounded in the Church as Catherine Lesage responded in the affirmative to the demands of the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions of the Oblates of the Assumption. The tone of her voice reflected the strength of her encounter with God.
This encounter which Catherine had desired for as long as she could remember according to her, took some time to become a felt reality. And she hastens to add, with a sense of humour which comes through non stop when speaking about herself, “With me, everything starts very early and I think that its normal – the Lord knows each of us and, with me, He knew He would need both time and patience!”
Thanks to certain encounters, her choice became clear
From the age of 8 years, Catherine knew with certainty that one day she would “give her life to God”. Her faith was nourished within the family: “My father instilled in me strong values of confident trust, love and generosity. But it was my mother who very early on, taught both myself and my brothers and sister to pray.”
It was in Primary School that Catherine really discovered the path in life she wished to take:
“I loved my teacher, Sister Marie Anna, and I wished to become a Sister like her. When we did the washing-up, she suggested that we go to the chapel afterwards to pray. So I always offered to do the washing up because I wanted to go to the chapel with her afterwards.”
One Christmas her mother gave her a black doll as a gift. Catherine began to dream of becoming a missionary, then a singer, then a missionary, then a teacher ….”it was always going on in my head” she says laughingly.
Thanks to certain encounters which followed, her choice became clearer “The priests and sisters I met as a young person, never failed to respond to my questions which helped my discernment.”
While studying Chemistry at University she finally decided to follow this call “I wished to give my life to God – it seemed to me the best way to thank Him for all he had given to me.”
An encounter with the Oblates clarified her path. “I used to think that being a Sister was about doing more for God. Now, I understood it was He who did everything, he merely asks us to co-operate with love.”
To put great love in her life is something Catherine lives daily. She always felt, however, that “the essence was missing”. “I felt that my faith lacked something”, books I read spoke about personal encounters with Christ. I desired it with all my heart and my prayer was one long cry: “Lord teach me to love you.”
Catherine experienced difficult moments of uncertainty and doubt – “it was difficult to pray.” On top of this Catherine’s father died following a long illness and the following year her brother was brutally taken away from her. But Catherine held on …..
Then, during a retreat, Catherine experienced “a moment of grace”…… the desired personal encounter she had long awaited. “On reflecting on the Gospel of Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman, I discovered I was imprisoned by the image others had of me – so I began to understand why prayer was difficult – after all who can stand in the presence of the One who knows all and be at ease? When I really understood that He only looks at me with perfect Love, I was liberated from the “judgement of others”.
Catherine continued, her face radiant with joy: “He placed His long look of love on me, and I did not run away! At last I really knew God’s love for me, a love I could no longer doubt and which would henceforth shape my life.”
She continued with confidence “From now on my vocation was to give life through love … the love that had given me life.” Catherine likes nothing more than sharing her joy through her friendships, her encounters with strangers, her work colleagues at Bayard Publishing House or with the young people she meets in the Chaplaincy.
Without doubt, in order to facilitate encounters lived in depth and truth, she tells her story without disguise. Her sincerity is like a gift, calling others to live in truth and with real joy. And when one sees her radiant smile, it is easy to understand that this joy fills her life and influences all those she meets.
(interview by Isabelle Vial)