She was all set to go abroad to finish her Masters in Art Therapy and at the same time discover more about who she was.
“I wanted to find out, away from Church, from my friends, who was I really?” said Fiona Yeo, who was 28 at that time.
However the trip never materialised because she realised what she was seeking was a little closer to home.
Now a Good Shepherd Sister in her fourth year of formation, Sister Fiona no longer wonders what could have been but what God’s plan for her has been all along.
Entering the convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters in 2016, the former social worker said she never had any encounter with the Lord until her late 20s when her discernment journey began. “It was just a lot of head knowledge when I was younger.”
Although she did not mind the idea of becoming a Religious, she said she needed to “want it” and God needed to tell her.
One day as she was on her way to her grandmother’s house, “a thought just came into my mind: ‘Maybe I’m ready now.’” Thinking it was “creepy”, Sr Fiona, 34, played it off.
That night, she was on the phone with her best friend. “I said to her, ‘You will be the coolest [bride] because your maid of honour will be a nun!’”
Admitting her shock at saying those words, Sr Fiona said she had to repeat it three times to her friend because the line kept getting cut each time she said it.
It took God only three days to tell me He wanted me answer His call, said Sr Fiona.
Sr Fiona Yeo who was formerly a social worker, entered the Good Shepherd Convent at 31 years old.
Her first encounter with the Good Shepherd Sisters was a mission trip in Thailand where she joined them to work with women who were victims of human trafficking.
The former Marymount Convent student – a school founded by the Good Shepherd Sisters – went on a similar outreach to marginalised women in Singapore where she was initially paired up with a Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sister.
“We just got separated along the walk and I ended up with a Good Shepherd Sister.”
“Our beliefs are quite similar, helping marginalised women and children … and naturally I think I just couldn’t get away from them,” said Sr Fiona before breaking into a smile.
While it seemed like everything was in place for her to join the Good Shepherd convent, her parents had other ideas.
Labelling her decision as a “crazy idea”, Sr Fiona’s parents refused to accept that she would not have a regular career.
Feeling desperate, Sr Fiona turned to Mother Mary although she never had a close relationship with her.
“I prayed, I went Novena and I started talking to Mary: ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but can we please work this out?’”
And then one day, “my mother with tears in her eyes just said, ‘you can go’, and that was on Mother Mary’s birthday,” said Sr Fiona.
My mother with tears in her eyes just said, “you can go”
Entering the Good Shepherd convent at 31, Sr Fiona said her novitiate proved challenging. “There was a lot of focus on interior formation and working on parts of yourself that you cannot accept.”
This meant coming to terms with the “hurts buried deep within from past experiences” which sometimes surfaced when there were misunderstandings with other Sisters.
For Sr Fiona, overcoming this was important because a part of her ministry involved supporting women who were victims of domestic abuse, sexual harassment and trafficking.
“If I don’t receive healing, I will probably project my hurts onto others,” she said.
Sr Fiona’s ministry to vulnerable women demands a lot of time and energy, and sometimes she still has misunderstandings with others in her community. Nevertheless, the support and love she receives from them constantly reminds her that this is where she belongs.
On one occasion, “I had a very hard day at work. As per my usual coping, I ventilated non-stop to one of the Sisters. She listened. And without any words of comfort, brought me to the prayer room. No lights, no words. She lit a candle and sat with me in the dark. Both of us prayed in silence.”
In that moment, she felt a sense of solidarity, “a sense of knowing this is where I want to be – with God and with the Sisters.”