ORLANDO | On Sunday, June 4, Pentecost Sunday, Sister Varada Grace Ford made her Profession of First Vows with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Sister Grace was a working single mom of three children. She taught honors classes in the local inner city high school. She was involved in ministry to the sick through home and hospital visitations at St. Joseph Parish in Winter Haven. She also ministered to incarcerated youth. Even as a very busy woman, she still felt a strong call to search for more in her life. She connected with Sister of St. Joseph Kathleen Power, diocesan associate director of vocations, for a period of discernment.
“I had discerned and spent time with a number of other Congregations. [Learning about the Sisters of St. Joseph] was a recognition, a coming home. I had an immediate sense of assurance that this was the path of life I wanted to pursue,” remembered Sister Grace.
In August 2014, with the blessings of her three adult children, John, Jacob, and Amanda, Grace Ford entered postulancy with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. As a postulant, Sister Grace was introduced to the interdependency of community living and through prayer, the discipline of silence, and the dynamics of spiritual direction. “This has been a rich gift in having the time to learn and study Scripture and deepen the faith,” she reflected.
Through her postulancy and novitiate, Sister Grace continued her in-depth preparation for the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. She grew in faithfulness to her personal and communal prayer life, a deep love of the Eucharist, and a life lived in community. Her preparation culminated in her profession of first vows in the chapel of the Motherhouse in St. Augustine. The vows were received by Sister Jane Stoecker, the General Superior of the order.
Bishop Felipe Estévez, bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine, celebrated the Liturgy, blessed and presented Sister with the profession crucifix which symbolizes her special participation in the Paschal Mystery. During his homily, Bishop reflected, “I am excited that Sister Grace was so taken by the beauty of the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine. This community has had such an impact in all of Florida in the last 150 years.”
“I am profoundly grateful for God’s merciful love and generosity in my life,” said Sister Grace. “I can only hope to express my gratitude for His infinite love by being of some small service to His people. If someone experiences his warmth, acceptance and desire to heal them in any way, I will have been blessed to play some small role. It is difficult to articulate the desire of my heart but the cover of the program for my vows said it all, “I have found the One whom my soul loves.” Song of Songs expresses the love story I believe God wants us to experience and share with one another. I think that verse captures it all!”
Sister Grace will begin intensive studies in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Florida Hospital this summer.