Sister Bernadette Ja Hkawn was a government school teacher for ten years in Myanmar. During one year of discernment before she joined the convent, she prayed and asked for signs from God to make sure of His call. But she got nothing external, except something internal.
“Amidst uncertainties, I resigned from my job and started my new journey. The only reason is that I love the Lord and want to give all my life to Him, for He first loves me and I find inner peace in Him alone,” she told RVA News.
She is a member of the Saint Joseph of the Apparition (SJA) congregation founded by Saint Emilie de Vialar in 1832.
Sister Bernadette testified her personal experience with God. “On the Pentecost Sunday of 2017, I felt a great inner peace by the touch of the Holy Spirit. It made me so calm and confident in God’s love. From then on, I started to connect my daily life with the Word of God and became more enthusiastic in my prayer life.”
As a former teacher, she had a bit of difficulty in relationships with other companions during the formation.
“But I never gave up. Trusting in the Lord, I got up every time from my fall. In His grace, I have improved in self-knowledge and acceptance that makes me increase love and humility in giving my service to others,” she said.
Sister Bernadette was so devoted to saying the Rosary. Through Mary, she was close to Jesus.
Sister May Rose SJA, the novice mistress, commended Sister Bernadette’s piety, saying, “She is very pious and faithful in her prayer life. She loves to spend time with the Lord for hours. Her prayer life makes her progress in her vocation journey.”
The 37-year-old Sister Bernadette is the third child among five children of U Lagang Naw and Daw Roi Ja. She was born in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar. She had two elder brothers who passed away. Now she has one younger sister and brother.
“When my elder brother died of an accident, I started noticing that life is so precious that I should spend it in a better way,” Sister Bernadette said. “In 2016, I had a health problem, but I was healed after 40 days of my suffering. From it, I learned self-surrender to God.”
One Sunday morning in May 2017, she asked one of the SJA Sisters about the duration to become a nun. Without answering, the nun asked her why she asked her that question.
Sister Bernadette continued, “After the nun left and while I was looking at the Crucifix on the altar, I heard: Can’t you do for me? Don’t you want to serve me? A very soft voice! Until now, I am not sure, whether it was real from the Lord or my imagination.”
From that time on, the Lord has been leading her to a religious life continually and gradually, by letting her experience different kinds of life’s realities.
Sister Bernadette recently professed her first religious vow in the congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition on June 17, 2022.
“To be a nun is not my childhood dream, but it is a token of my gratitude to my Lord for His Love and call,” the nun said. “Holding on to the Lord, His love and providence, now I will go and serve my brethren in His mission.”
Sister Bernadette expressed her conviction for the mission that she wanted to share—the love of God to all people through the witness of being a nun and living a consecrated life which is being rooted in Christ.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.