“When Our Lady calls, she calls”

Sister Roberta Sofia of the Theotókos was born in Rome on July 11, 1986. Her life is incredibly rich and fascinating in terms of the path that took her from the Orthodox Church to consecration, within the Catholic Marian community. Oasis of Peace, to which she belongs

She confessed for the first time at age 21 in Medjugorje, a pilgrimage she did not want to attend, but which she could not resist.  This is her testimony told about her in the first person.

Between Greece and Italy

It is a pleasure to tell my story to the benefactors of the CARF Foundation, whom I also thank on behalf of the Marian Community Oasis of Peace, to which I belong and in whose general house I currently live, north of Rome.

My story could be defined as something particular, although they are all particular in the eyes of God. I was born and raised in the Orthodox Church and my origin is summarized in my name. Roberta, the baptismal name that represents the Latin part of my roots, which comes from my father, an Italian from the province of Rome and Sofia, received at the time of my first religious profession, of Greek origin, since my mother is of Athens.

This is the great richness that has always accompanied me and that also gives color to the specific call that I live in the particular charism raised by the Spirit within my community.

Baptized in the Orthodox Church

I was baptized by my parents’ decision into the Orthodox Church, as was my younger brother, and for this reason, according to the Byzantine rite, I received baptism, communion and confirmation at the same time, at only six months old. This means that I did not have a common path to the baptized of the Catholic Church, where a catechetical itinerary of preparation for the christian life and the sacraments is carried out.

When I was young, faith and religion were something distant and lukewarm to me. However, I liked religion class at school and my mother’s faith encouraged me. She did not reject God, but she did not cultivate a close relationship with Him. We used to go to Mass conventionally at Christmas and Easter. In fact, my family was not a practitioner.

«My mother, Orthodox, rediscovered the faith thanks to Catholic groups»

My mother, who came to study medicine in Italy when she was young and met my father in this country, rediscovered the faith around the age of 40, thanks to some friends with whom she frequented prayer groups and Catholic movements, as well as the community to which I belong today.

However, it caused her pain, discomfort and many doubts, the awareness of division among Christians. I believe the Lord was preparing the way for a greater plan within my ‘ecumenical’ family. This time of warmth was important to raise questions that I carried in my heart and to listen to a speaking void inside me.

«At 21 years old I was not happy, when life should be full of joy»

At that time, before I discovered my calling, I was a young woman who, after graduating from high school, was wondering about her future; how to live her life better, that I felt I should dedicate myself in some way to others. I enrolled in the Faculty of Electronic Engineering. I liked and was fascinated by everything, but not having a clear path yet, I oriented myself towards where I knew I had a great job opportunity, since my father worked in this sector.

However, I did not feel happy at 21 years old, when life is all progress and should be full of strength and joy. I was not in my place, on the right path, and I strongly felt that something profound was missing in my life: I was searching for the meaning of my existence in the world.

«Roberta, when Our Lady calls, she calls»

Precisely in this difficult and lost period, the Lord came to meet me. In a hot summer of 2007, while I was planning vacations and concerts with friends, my mother wanted to give me a gift for my birthday: a trip to Medjugorje for the youth festival that always takes place in the first week of August. Imagine my upset at such a proposal!

I had no idea what it was about, no desire or reason to go. Among other things, I was on a waiting list, because the places were full and the chances of me going were very uncertain. But my mother’s faith was greater, she always wanted to transmit the faith to her children and she entrusted herself to the Virgin, who did not hesitate to call me!

Even though I was on the waiting list, just the day before the departure of this trip, I received a phone call from a priest from the Marian Oasis of Peace Community who was organizing the pilgrimage.

I had no idea who this priest was, but as soon as he announced that there was a place available, I explained all my objections: other summer plans were waiting for me. The priest’s response was lapidary and he pierced my heart: Roberta! When Our Lady calls, she calls! So you can leave everything and come to Medjugorje now.

Amazing clarity

I could have told him that he could also postpone this pilgrimage for a future occasion, because what I wanted was to go to the concert. Instinctively, I responded with a quick, I’ll think about it, and hung up on the patient priest.

The window I left open in that response was the crack through which God’s grace slipped in! I locked myself in my room with my head between my legs and gave myself the opportunity to think about what to do. In that moment I perceived internally with surprising clarity, like never before, that I had to undertake this journey. Such a thing could not have happened to me, since I was not at all predisposed to this experience, much less knowing what place it was, what was happening there and without any experience of prayer or cultivated faith.

My mother did not want to tell me anything so as not to influence me, I was like a blank page facing the unknown on which God was already writing his plan of love and salvation. Then I called that priest and told him: “Okay, I’ll go with you,” without knowing the value that such an innocent statement would have later.  And I embarked on the most important journey of my life. In that place I experienced all the amazement of so many young people who prayed with faith and joy, I discovered all the Love of God that awaited me through the Virgin and her infinite maternal heart.

My first confession

Little by little my soul opened to the mystery of daily life of communion shared in those simple places, where thousands of people return converted and transfigured by an authentic encounter. Mary was so alive and present in Medjugorje that I could not describe her, but I perceived her welcoming me like a child who begins to crawl to be faced with a new life tinged with meaning, peace, joy, gratitude. I felt so free and loved by a Father God that I couldn’t wait for his daughter to return to her heart.

In this miraculous town in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and at the age of 21, I made the first confession of my life. It was a moment of great grace, I didn’t even know what to do, but it was an opportunity that I felt I should take advantage of by approaching it with a little fear.

The priest looked at me intently and, finding out that I had never confessed, he asked me if I knew Jesus and if I wanted to do so.  I said yes with all my heart and simply cried throughout the confession as I felt the heavens open above me and the Spirit descend like a waterfall of cool water.

The beginning of a very strong conversion

I came back completely transfigured from that trip. It was the beginning of a very strong conversion.  My life after this profound encounter with Jesus changed radically, in my choices and in my heart. I found new drive and vigor also for my future by deciding to enroll in the Faculty of Architecture at the Sapienza University of Rome, where I later obtained a master’s degree.

Meanwhile, my love for God and Mary grew, I thirsted to know them and I began to frequent the community, learning to pray, to worship the Lord, to enjoy his friendship. Everything bloomed again as my family watched this change in amazement. I continued to live my youth between study, friends, and prayer. Every day I thanked the Lord for the gift of faith and the living encounter with Him.

However, something else moved my heart, attracted more and more by this Love. I felt deeply courted by the Lord but in my rationality I tried to keep my feet on the ground thinking that they were effects of this great conversion.

Between East and West

It was at that time that I began to frequent the Orthodox Church again to learn and deepen my confessional origins, while, at the same time, the Catholic Church had adopted me and I grew in faith. A seed of vocation was being prepared, I felt in my heart that it belonged entirely to God, but at the same time this scared me. It was a request that I perceived as too big and demanding. I was Orthodox, the Lord couldn’t ask so much of me, I thought. I fought, hoping that with time everything would pass, but the years passed and this torment grew in my heart.

I decided then to trust and open my heart to be accompanied in the discernment that required a double listening for me. This long path that I undertook led me first to embrace the Catholic faith, and later to question myself about my specific vocation.

At first it was not easy, especially for my family, but God’s grace was more abundant and supported me through many storms. I was under the mantle of Mary who helped me to let my heart be pacified by Christ, to let my wounds heal, to prepare me to mature my yes. My place was with Her to collaborate in Her mission of peace in many hearts, to build bridges of unity and dialogue.

The Marian Community Oasis of Peace

The community of which I am part today is an international reality, mixed and contemplative, but open to welcoming celibate internal brothers and sisters and consecrated priests and aggregated and secular families who share the specific charism, living it in their own state of life where they find it. We make a fourth vow, that of being peace, which defines our charism, that is, conforming to Christ our Peace and radiating the gift of Peace in the Church and in humanity through a life of intercession. With a welcome and humble offering, according to a properly Eucharistic and Marian spirituality, since Mary is the Mother of our community. From her we learn the depth of prayer in the Spirit to live its attitudes. This is the place that God prepared to live my espousal with Him and the gift of myself.

Be peace

The path of pacification and unification that I continue to live even today, with the help of grace, is the one that we want to share with many hearts that experience the lack of peace due to distance from God, that thirst for Him, that need to rediscover Him by just like in a cardiology clinic where the first challenge of peace is that of inner renewal.

For me, peace is this interior path of grace to share with many souls to be led back to Christ, through Mary, but it also has the flavor of unity, communion, dialogue to tear down every wall of division according to the desire of the heart of Christ, may they all be one so that the world may believe! I bring this legacy of life to the community that is inserted in our charism with the desire to develop this ecumenical sensitivity.

At the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

By the will of God, at the request of my Superior General, I began my studies in the first year of Philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, before continuing with the studies of Theology, with great gratitude to the benefactors of the CARF Foundation, for this opportunity for growth and formation, which is a great gift for me and for those the Lord will place in my path. Allowing myself to open the horizons of my heart and my mind, I continue to let myself be guided by Mary on the path of Peace and I remember everyone before Jesus and the Virgin.