The Book That Sparked the Divine Mercy Movement The Diary chronicles God's message given through St. Faustina to the world to turn to His mercy. In it, we are reminded to t... Read more
"I never knew what my life's passion would be, but now I know it's spreading the message of God's mercy," says Cece.
Young New Yorker Single-Mindedly Shares Mercy Message
God has always taken care of Colleen Conlin — or Cece, as she likes to be called — but the diary of an obscure Polish nun helped Cece to learn how attentive His care is. At 29 years old and about to enter a new vocation, Cece can look back today and see the graces that have shaped her life into one of blessings, particularly the blessing of her life's passion: the message of God's mercy.
Now an office manager in the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, Cece first came into contact with the Divine Mercy devotion when she was an undergraduate student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Cece studied for a semester in Austria, where she shared a room with a young woman who prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy every day, and after learning about the message, Cece visited the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, Poland. It wasn't until five years later, however, that Cece's personal devotion to the Divine Mercy began to bloom.
"My parents were in Alaska, and I was sleeping in their room because it was cooler in there," she recalls. Cece picked up a copy of Divine Mercy in My Soul from her mother's night stand and was intrigued by St. Faustina's intimate relationship with Christ. "Through their conversations, you hear how much God loves an individual soul ... He's pouring His heart out for her."
At first, Cece only read passages from the Diary, but eventually she read the entire text. That was in the summer of 2003, and she hasn't stopped reading it since. "I stopped counting [how many times I've read it]," she laughs, but she estimates that she's finished the Diary five to seven times. "It always speaks to me differently on a particular day ... I just want to read the conversations over and over ... [The Diary] changed my prayer life. It made God [more] personal."
Not long after her discovery of the Diary, Cece experienced the same deep fatherly concern of this personal God that St. Faustina had. Only two weeks before her wedding day, Cece discerned that the intended marriage was not God's will for her. There was nothing wrong with the man she was to marry, Cece explains, but the life she had planned to enter into with him was not the one God had in mind for her.
"I just knew," she says. "It was pure grace."
For Cece, the grace that prompted her to break her engagement was proof that "God does have specific plans" and that He was as interested in every detail of her life as He had been in St. Faustina's.
Cece's hunger to delve more deeply into the Divine Mercy message and the reopening of her search for a vocation led her to explore the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, the order that had molded Helena Kowalska into Sister Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Cece visited the order's website and spoke with its vocations director in Dorchester, Mass. She learned that the congregation's activities include taking in trouble girls at the convent and giving conferences about Divine Mercy. The sisters' mission is to implore God's mercy for the world and to spread devotion to His mercy.
Cece thought, "That's it! That's what I want to do with my life." She planned to make a vocation discernment weekend, but her attempts to go to Dorchester never seemed to work out. Today, happily engaged to Kevin Shanahan, "a good man" whom she plans to marry on Oct. 5 — St. Faustina's feast day — Cece can reflect on her journey of discernment and see God's hand yet again: "I feel really blessed."
But Cece's path away from religious life doesn't mean she's abandoned her commitment to Divine Mercy.
"There's something so brilliant and so simple in following one passion," she says. "I never knew what my life's passion would be, but now I know it's spreading the message of God's mercy ... I can't make people accept God's mercy. I can perform works of mercy, but spreading the message is really what I can do ... I just want to talk to whoever I can [about Divine Mercy]."
Cece is currently working to add St. Faustina's feast day to the universal calendar and to increase the involvement of pastors in the Divine Mercy devotion by spreading it among parishioners. Cece will also count on God's grace to stay with her as she practices mercy in her married life and raises her children to be merciful.
"One rude action can set off a chain of ... continued rudeness" 'she says, "but one act of mercy can do the same thing. It can instantly change someone's whole day. The world needs mercy. People need mercy."
Only God knows His plans for the rest of Cece's life, but while she keeps her trust in Him, there is no doubt that the Father whose personal love she discovered in the Diary will do great work in her soul, just as He did in the soul of the saint who inspired Cece to share Divine Mercy with the world.
Marian Tascio is a writer and English teacher who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.