How do you feel about telling the story of your life and vocation?

Untitled-1Sr. Olga Marie Odette Rasoavololona, SNDSMy religious vocation is the mystery of my meeting my God? Each of our stories is unique. I believe that my willingness to tell it is not putting myself forward but instead making an invitation to those around to develop their own relationship – deep and intimate – with the Lord of our lives.

Where were you born and raised?

I am the eldest of seven children in the Rasoavololona family. I have five brothers and one sister. Sabotsy, my village, is eleven kilometers (almost seven miles) from Antsirabe, the tourism and industrial city of Madagascar, with its own Catholic University. It is a fertile region where "everything" grows.

In order for all of us to live, my father worked in a textile factory and my mother, besides caring for us children, raised poultry at home. Twice a week she carried our products to market in Antsirabe.

As a youngster, I studied in a public primary school, next door to us, and from the 6th grade, I studied with the Sisters of Christ in Antsirabe. On the days when I walked to school, it took two and half hours each way. By bicycle, it took only an hour each way.

How did your vocation to the La Salette Sisters happen?

As a young child, I did not know who then sisters were. All I knew was that they dressed all alike and had short hair. During my education with the Sisters of Christ, I lived with my questions. My parents are devout Catholics, committed to the Church. My mother participates in its Adult movements (and is also active in politics. In her heart, Mom wanted – and prayed for – one of her children to become a religious.

Untitled-2The area outside of Antsirabe where Sister Olga grew upOne day a few Sisters of La Salette visited our home with a La Salette Missionary who had served in our area. One of them asked my sister if she might be interested in becoming a religious sister. She answered, "no." But Father suggested that it might perhaps be her sister who might like be one. I was timid and didn’t know what top say.

A few months later, I received an invitation to a meeting of young girls who wanted to explore becoming a religious sister. I attended this training "without knowing why." I discovered, little by little, that religious life is a choice of following God and living in community.

In my journey, Sister Marie Therese helped me a lot to discern my vocation and "God saw that it was good" (Gen 1). Along with the religious training, I took a course of training, before a two year internship as a teacher in Ihazolava, in the Diocese of Antananarive, ministering outside the LA Salette congregation but always in connection with it.

Part of your training was in France…

Yes, at twenty-one years of age, after my two years of training, I began to my postulancy at Ambano. In my class, we were three: Patricia Noeline and I were formed by Sister Marie-Victoire.

Untitled-3l to r: Elderly Sisters living at Gieres;
Sr Marie Victoire
Then I came to France in 1986 to begin my novitiate in December in Grenoble. I never imagined that one day I would live in France with people from other countries. That year was my time to surrender to God’s will. Since that important year until this very day, I am still living in multicultural community.

After my first job, I spent a year in Gières, France, then a year in Saint-Desert helping our older Sisters. Then I spent four years at Foyer Notre-Dame-de-La Salette in Grenoble, ministering to young students who were part of a multicultural student body – with youngsters from the Philippines, Madagascar, Poland, Canada and France.

Was this your preparation for your future responsibilities in Madagascar?

During my mission in France, I tried to learn a lot about life. I took time to read, listen, and watch. I learned about community organization. I obtained training at the Theological Center in Meylan. These experiences allowed me to learn how to make better choices and prepared me to assume the responsibility which would be entrusted to me in Madagascar. It interesting that although these situations were quite different – ministering in France versus Madagascar –the spirit was the same.

In the 1994-95 school year, the Region entrusted me with the training of aspirants and the stewardship of our schools (1,600 students) at Mahazoarivo. At the same time I prepared myself for my perpetual vows. After taking my perpetual vows in August of 1995, I was appointed Mistress of Novices.

By experiencing these various ministries, I remembered the question asked by the Sisters of La Salette: Why do you want to become a religious sister? I did not know then but I responded, "To help others." And this is quite true since my belief is that I am not religious for me, but for the Other and others, and I am here to bear witness to God's presence and love for all God’s people.

Having served as the Superior of the Madagascar Region, what did you discover about the religious life of that mission?

Simply living life teaches me how to live. My commitment to religious life calls me to be closer to the people, to share the joy of living. Having responsibility for that Region is a call to live in faith and trust. Animated by faith, I feel called to accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. The mission can be lived in "a life happily given."

Untitled-4Sr. Olga (fourth from left) with her Malagasy La Salette SistersPersonal training is very important to me, because in order to form others, my training is necessary. I have learned that good intentions are certainly not enough and that common sense is crucial. All this being said, relaxation is also important in maintaining a proper balance in religious life.

"Prayer, sacrifice and apostolic zeal" (cf. Rule of Life) helped me weave my life where I am now. Confident in the appeal of Mary at La Salette, I assume my responsibility in communion with my congregation and those entrusted to me with the desire to build life, each and every day, under the merciful eyes of God.

As one who used to minister on the Holy Mountain, what does La Salette mean to you?

The Holy Mountain of La Salette is my place to live reconciliation until "God may be all in all" (1 Cor 15:28)! Each person has a place in this challenging task.

In my Malagasy culture, the word reconciliation translates into “Fihvanana (the reconciler)” and “Fampihavanana (the actual lived relationship between reconciled people)”. Reconciliation is part of the spirit that gives life to a Malagasy. For those who come from all over the world to La Salette, it is a marvelously beautiful place for the gift of God to be shared with his people.

Untitled-5The conclusion of the nightly flambeau (candle) procession outside the Basilica on the Holy Mountain in France