If someone had told me when I was growing up that I would serve the Church as a religious sister, I would have told them they were mad, writes Sr Melissa Dwyer FDCC in Aurora Magazine.
When I was a child I remember my mother often having to drag me to the car to go to Mass. There was a program on television that I enjoyed watching and Mass often clashed with my sport training. My priorities were on the field so sitting in a pew was a waste of time.
From the age of five, I dreamed of representing Australia at the Olympic Games. I played netball, hockey, cricket, tennis − but I excelled in athletics. The first time I picked up a javelin, I broke the club record so javelin was my sport.
Sport was my first and only love. I continued to represent Queensland and went to university to become a physical education teacher. I had my sport, and many friends, yet I felt empty and lost. I seemed to have everything but I doubted myself. After some searching, it became apparent that a personal relationship with Jesus was the only thing that could satisfy my longing. I joined a youth group and began going to church.
Two years later, I was invited by the Canossian Daughters of Charity to volunteer in Africa for a month, yet the trip clashed with the Olympic trials for Sydney 2000. When I won the NSW Open Championships in the year 2000, I had to decide: Africa or Olympic trials?
I went to Africa, knowing I would still have years to fulfil my sporting dreams. My life changed forever.
I travelled to Tanzania where I worked at a shelter for homeless young people. I remember meeting an 11-year-old girl called Neema. She had suffered greatly. Almost every day she was raped by the homeless boys at the shelter.
I remember being so angry that God could allow people to suffer like this. I yelled at God, asking why I could do nothing to help this little girl. God told me very clearly that there was something I could do. I could give my life completely in service of God and God’s people. I decided to leave the sporting arena and become a Canossian Daughter of Charity.
Travelling to the beat of a different drum (Aurora Magazine)