Before discovering their vocations, Fr. Javier Olivera and Sister Marie de la Sagesse were engaged and planning their wedding. God had other plans.
Speaking to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, Fr. Olivera said that they both grew up in Catholic families and that “our parents knew each other when they were young.” They saw each other frequently when they were children.
“I had really left the practice of religion. When I was 19, I came back from a back-packing trip to Peru and I met her. I asked her if she believed in virginity until marriage, because for me this was kind of an invention by the Church. She laid out the principles so well about purity, from faith and reason, that it impacted me. I met a woman who knew how to defend what she believed and who was at the same time very intelligent,” Olivera commented.
Soon after that conversation, they began dating. At that time both of them were studying law. He was at the National University at Buenos Aires and she was at the National University at La Plata.
Fr. Olivera said that “it was like any other courtship but we tried to take advantage of cultural life through music, literature and philosophy. We read books together, we’d go out for coffee. We had a group of friends with whom we attended conferences of Argentine Catholic authors.”
“I started to practice the faith, to pray, to go to Mass on Sundays. All in large part thanks to her, to God mainly, but to her as an instrument,” said the priest. He added that they also prayed the rosary together.
For her part, Sister Marie de la Sagesse, whose baptismal name is Trinidad Maria Guiomar, told ACI Prensa that what she most appreciated about her then-boyfriend was “his sincere search for the truth without fearing the consequences.”
The couple got engaged when they were 21 and decided to get married after college, two and a half years away.
The discovery of a vocation
One day Trinidad Maria’s older brother broke the news that he would be entering the seminary, and she remembered, “we were reeling from it because we weren’t expecting that.”
“I had a car and with my fiancée we decided to take him to the seminary, which was in San Rafael, Mendoza Province,” she said. They both decided to stay in the area a few days so Javier could visit some friends who were in the seminary, and Trinidad Maria could visit some friends in the convent.
“When we got back, we talked about how crazy all that was, that her brother had left everything, the possibility of having a family, an important career. We began to ask ourselves, ‘What would happen if God called us to the religious life?’ The first thing we said was ‘no’ and that that was crazy because we were having a really beautiful engagement and we were already buying things to get married,” Fr. Olivera recounted.
Weeks went by “there was this constant thought in my soul about what would happen if God called me, if I had to leave everything, why not be a priest? How to know if the best way to get to heaven for me is the priestly life or the married life? Where can I do the most good?”
After so many doubts he decided to tell his fiancée about his vocational concerns, who confessed to him that she “was thinking the same thing” after her brother entered the seminary.
However, neither one of them made a decision. “Since we still had two years before finishing law school, that was a great excuse to not yet enter the seminary or the convent,” Fr. Olivera said.
They had “a very prudent monk” as a spiritual adviser, who told them: “Look, that is an issue between each one of you and God. No one can interfere with souls.”
For her part, Sister Marie de la Sagesse told ACI Prensa that “it was a long period of discernment, at least two years, until God clearly showed me the consecrated life, and I could not doubt that he was asking of me this total surrender.”
After finishing their studies, both embraced their vocations. In 2008, when they were 31, he was ordained a priest in the Diocese of San Rafael, and she made her final vows in the congregation of the Sisters of the Merciful Jesus.
Fr. Olivera is currently a university professor and has a blog called “Que no te la cuenten” (Find out for yourself). He has written a book on vocational doubts entitled “¿Alguna vez pensaste? El llamado de Cristo” (Have you ever thought about it? The Call of Christ).
Sister Marie de la Sagesse lives in southern France and has an apostolate in Saint Laurent Parish in the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon.
Regarding their story, she said that “I consider it a special grace that both of us were called almost at the same time. So kind and thoughtful of Divine Providence, who doesn’t miss a detail . And what I really appreciate is that we’re still friends and not just us, but our families too.”
This story was originally published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.