Story and photo by Crystal Gabrielle M Sylvester
On Sunday, March 10 the sub-theme for the La Divin Devotions was ‘Mary, Mother of Vocations to Lay Consecrated/Single life’. Anika Johnson and Gregory Radjiman both of the Living Water Community (LWC) highlighted Mary’s influence on their vocations journey.
Johnson is living out her call as a lay consecrated following temporary promises and vows in December 2011; her final promises will be made in December. Baptised a Methodist but actively Pentecostal, Johnson became a Catholic on April 15, 2006, following an encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Realising that no one was in the school chapel she scoffed at the ‘wotlessness’ of Catholics who had left Jesus on His own. She declared loudly “Jesus, if you are here, I want you to reveal yourself to me!” After a few moments, a tremendous peace consumed her, and conversion began in that moment.
She began to explore the Catholic faith via involvement in different youth and prayer groups. She also initiated conversations with teachers about the faith. She said, “God doing His thing brought me to this Church!”
Marian devotion remained an obstacle though, as she was previously taught that statues, songs or prayers to anyone but Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit was idolatry. The attention the Church gave to Mary was confusing.
She once again posed a challenge to Jesus, this time on her birthday. She told Jesus that if He wanted her to start praying the Holy Rosary, someone must give her rosary beads for her birthday.
The day after her birthday, she received a message that one of the teachers, whom she considered her spiritual director, was looking for her. She received a gift bag that contained two gift cards and a brown wooden rosary. One of the prayer cards said “Mary only wants to bring you close to Jesus”. Joining LWC in 2012 helped her to draw closer to Mary.
Johnson still struggles with obedience but the call to lay consecrated life demands that she lives loving selflessly. Johnson finds her strength and courage to obey her call, in Mary, the woman who has walked that road before and aims to be able to sincerely repeat like Mary, “I am the handmade of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me!”
Radjiman, unlike Johnson was born into a Catholic family in his homeland Suriname, but after completing First Communion and Confirmation grew bored with the Church. He stopped attending church and was surprised when the new parish priest visited his home requesting that he attend church on a Thursday. He ignored the invitation but through conversations with friends and neighbours, he found out this priest wanted them to become altar servers.
He gave into curiosity, went to church and eventually became an altar server. While serving he became conscious about being close to God and began to ask questions in keeping with his motto at the time “not because everyone is doing it, so should I”. He asked: “God, what do you want from me?”; “What is the meaning of love?”; “What is the purpose for my life?”.
One day the parish priest approached him and asked if he had ever considered becoming a priest. He responded in the negative and the priest pointed out that he showed many qualities. For three years he secretly attended vocations meetings.
Eventually he had to make a choice and agreed to be part of an experimental pre-seminary religious formation class. This lasted three months before he became disillusioned with the programme structure.
He went on to participate in an evangelisation training opportunity abroad then returned to Suriname still searching. He put the idea of religious life aside.
He began studies to become an English teacher. There were two courses and a thesis left to complete when once again his call to holiness took centre stage.
He was advised by his bishop to enter the pre-seminary programme at Mount St Benedict. He pondered and prayed and moved on to the regional seminary.
He vowed to search for a religious community that suited his vocation call while pursuing formation studies in Trinidad. Prior to studies here, Radjiman had also looked into three religious communities in Barbados.
While on the plane returning to Trinidad for his second year at the seminary, he remembered the then seminary rector Msgr Michael de Verteuil had previously inquired about any student’s interest in the Community. After two weeks over the Christmas vacation with LWC, he said he finally found a community that suited his vocation call.
In the last ten years since his decision to join LWC, Radjiman has been on mission in St Lucia and Barbados. He returned to Trinidad last August and continues his mission with Trinity TV, Marian House Home for Second Chance Boys, Living Waters Community Cancer Hospice, Living Waters Community Coffee Shop, Children’s Prayer Meeting and Nazareth House, San Fernando. He is also currently engaged in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Theology.
The statement “never grow tired of doing what is right” is a central motivator of his vocation as a lay consecrated. His parting words to the gathering were to turn to Mary in challenges big and small, and seek her guidance and protection.
The next La Divin Devotions is this Sunday, April 14.