HomeChurch & AsiaFrom photography to the nunnery

From photography to the nunnery

In literature and in real life, the narrative of how to be an “ideal woman” remains mostly dictated by societal expectations and conventions.

It follows what many assume as a “good plot” of how a woman should find a man, get married, and then have children.

Even today, such views hold despite the growing numbers of women resisting it.

Raquel Ann Sinaca, a nun of the Missionary Sisters of Mary, tried to change the narrative of her life.

She first took interest in photography when her mother, a teacher, would ask the then 12-year-old Ann to take pictures of students and document school activities.

Ann took up an engineering degree in college, joined an imaging company in Manila, and eventually went to Dubai to work as a computer technician.

When she flew back to her home town in the southern Philippines, she turned her passion for photography into a business.

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The flow of Ann’s life narrative went well according to what the world expects from a woman. “But God is truly full of surprises,” she said.

“I am positively a successful photographer and businesswoman. I drive my own car, I use an expensive camera, but why the feeling of emptiness?” she shared.

In 2015, when she turned 27, she made a crucial decision in life, one that veered away from the “good plot.”

“I was content and enjoying life, but every time I see the sisters, I am reminded of my desire to be a nun,” she admitted. “I felt that it was the right time to finally decide,” she said.

Her dream to become a nun actually started when she was just a little “daddy’s girl” to her politician father who brought her to a convent for a visit.

From then on, Ann could not get the image of the sisters off her mind, and in her heart “wished to be like them.”

Deep inside, the young lady knew that she will become a nun. It was always her “end game” in a plot she wrote for herself.

“It was part of my discernment to finish my studies first and experience work before entering a convent,” she said.

On that day December day in 2015, when she celebrated her birthday in solitude, she sensed “a heartwarming presence of the Lord.”

She made a promise in front of an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary “to offer my life to the Lord, to follow Him, to serve Him, and be with Him forever.”

In 2016, she experienced an “unforgettable moment” when she said “yes” to God’s call and joined the congregation “Missionary Sisters of Mary.

It was not an easy decision as there was “turmoil within to follow the call” and leave her comfortable life.

Among the many “sacrifices” she did, the hardest was to give up her camera.

She wrote when she sold her camera:

“I, the camera and You — my photographer.

You are holding and controlling me carefully.

You know everything about me,

and what course to take,

reminding me daily.”

She said there were “moments of fear and insecurity.”

“Even when I was already in the convent, I was still having my doubts,” Ann admitted. Only when she was accepted into postulancy that she felt “I made the right choice.”

“This is it,” she said.

Her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary helped her see through her life. She said that when she became a professed sister, her trust in God became stronger and her faith deepened.

“I still have my human life, but it is a life of faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” said the nun.

Her decision did not escape the prevailing narrative of society.

“What a pity. She’s a loss. She’s a beauty and successful,” she would hear, as if her decision to become a nun is a deficient to her being a woman.

She finds it flattering, however, and smiles “with delight” every time she hears such remarks.

“I just wish it is my inner beauty manifesting because I have God that they see whenever they say I’m beautiful,” said Ann.

Her desire to embrace with her whole heart the way of life that she has chosen and be a witness to God in today’s world that makes her beautiful.

Every time she hears such comments, her mother’s words would echo in her mind — “Offer to God the true, the best, and the beautiful.”

The nuns of the Missionary Sisters of Mary pose for a photograph following the acceptance to the congregation of new nuns, including Sister Raquel Ann Sinaca. (Photo supplied)

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