05 Jun How God Spoke to Me
by Doreen Dykers
One of my earliest memories of hearing the Lord’s voice happened when I was about eight.
I was in school standing at the bottom of a staircase. My classmate, Steven, was standing on the steps above me, and I heard him say, “When I get married …”
Immediately I heard in my heart, “You will not get married, Doreen.”
I knew the voice was speaking the truth, and I was at peace with that. I didn’t give it anymore thought though, until many years later when I came to Madonna House.
Let me tell you a little about my father, with whom I was closely bonded. My dad was so good-natured. He played soccer with us kids on the vacant lot. He allowed me to sit on his lap with my hands on the steering wheel of our Volkswagen while he drove.
He planted red currant bushes in our backyard, and I so enjoyed the distinctive tang of that juicy fruit.
He trusted me, he was proud of me, and he believed in me. I loved my dad. In my eyes, he could do no wrong; I thought he was close to perfect. The days of my childhood were carefree and idyllic.
That changed drastically, however, when I was a teenager. My father developed some health problems, and after suffering for two years, he died.
As a child, I had had a relationship with God the Father, and I knew that the joy and security of my childhood were a gift from Him. Now, I felt totally abandoned.
The psalm chosen for my father’s funeral was Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I no longer knew the love and protection of the Shepherd. I felt betrayed.
I was numb, having no idea how to cope with the death of my father. My mother and sister seemed to manage all right, and I decided that I would pretend that I was all right too. I was fifteen and had just started high school.
I began running away from the pain I felt inside. I felt depressed and vulnerable, and I started to make bad choices. In the ingenuity of his love, God the Father was patient, seeking me out, speaking to me in different ways and at different times.
One day when I was walking past a church, I went in and sat at the back. A few old women were praying the rosary together. As I listened, I felt the powerful, compassionate presence of the Mother of God, and I began to sob. The darkness inside me lifted; this was the beginning of my healing.
The next few years were not easy ones. I knew that God was with me, but I felt as though I was living in a void. I tried different jobs, different apartments, but I didn’t feel at home anywhere.
One day, when I was traveling on a Greyhound Bus, a nun in full habit sat in the seat next to me. God really wanted to get my attention, and he was not being subtle about it.
This Sister had a powerful gift of evangelization. She was on fire with faith, and she competently answered every question about the Catholic Faith that the passengers asked.
As I listened to her, the faith of my childhood filled me with an overwhelming sense of God’s beauty and love.
The Lord spoke to me then. “Doreen, you are not happy. I love you. I have a plan for your life.”
I felt intense joy and a certainty that I would find peace. I began to pray, pouring out my heart to God, begging him to show me my personal calling in life.
Soon after that, while I was at Mass, just before the final blessing, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me. A man was announcing a meeting, and I heard the Lord say in my heart, “Go to that meeting.”
I didn’t even know what it was about; I just knew that this was the next step for me. It turned out to be a meeting of the RCIA. This is mainly a program for people planning to enter the Church, but Catholics who want to learn more about the Faith are welcome as well. I signed up.
The director was a woman with passionate faith, and we became friends. At the end of the program, she recommended that I visit Madonna House.
So I went there. I had no expectations. I trusted my friend who described it as a place to get spiritually renewed, something I needed before I could go on to anything else.
When I arrived, the first person I met was Marité Langlois, who was very kind and welcoming and put me at ease. I loved living in the dormitory with the other women guests and my housemother.
It was July, and the first thing I did every morning at 7 a.m. was to swim in the river. It was like swimming in the ocean of God’s mercy.
During spiritual reading after lunch, Fr. Pelton, who was the director general of priests at the time, read from Catherine Doherty’s staff letters. My heart was on fire as I listened to Catherine speaking of God’s love.
Madonna House was the most beautiful way of life I had ever experienced, and I fell in love with God here. I wanted to stay, but what if it didn’t work out? I would be so disappointed and heartbroken.
I wanted a sign from God that this was truly my vocation, but no sign came.
After six more months, I was ready to leave. One of the priests, Fr. Sharkey, heard that I was leaving and said to me, “You know, Doreen, you don’t have to have it all together before you join Madonna House.”
I could have taken that as a sign but I didn’t. I left and kept searching. Something was missing in my life, and I was dissatisfied.
One day, almost two years after leaving Madonna House, I was having a coffee break with a fellow worker, and we were talking about ideal living situations.
As I was describing my ideal, I suddenly realized, “I am describing Madonna House.” A desire welled up in my heart, strong and sure. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with God at MH.
When I asked Jean Fox, the director general of women, if I could be an applicant, she said, “yes.’’ I was overwhelmed with joy.
Then, shortly after I joined Madonna House, I had a dream which gave me the tremendous grace of never doubting my vocation.
Over the years, there have been plenty of rough spots, but I have always known that God was with me and that he loves me.
I have to depend on him for everything, because without him I am nothing.
The Lord is my Shepherd. He is my life, and I need nothing else.