Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!
My name is Candice Punzalan, and I am 26 years old. I am currently living the full-time professional/ independent single lady lifestyle, and I love it. I live in Southern California, where I work remotely for a public accounting firm. I am not anxious to find my permanent Vocation, because this is exactly where Christ is meeting me.
My parents are immigrants from the Philippines, and I have two older siblings. I speak Spanish better than I can speak Tagalog, since I took years of Spanish classes but didn’t make a huge effort to learn Tagalog growing up. As an adult, I am growing more in love with my culture as I watch Filipino movies and learn to cook the Filipino dishes I grew up with. The quarantine has given me plenty of time to do both.
Fun fact: I took a couple years of piano lessons as a kid, and even a year of organ lessons as an adult. Right now, I am saving up to buy a digital piano for my apartment. My first busy season at the accounting firm is approaching, and I’d like to play music to unwind after 11-hour days at work.
“I never could have predicted the path of my life or career, but I see God’s hand in it all.”
Describe your professional work. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?
My job is to assist in the audits of financial statements of businesses across various industries: retail, food and beverage, healthcare, aerospace, you name it. Auditing can be interesting. We learn about businesses and how they run. We uncover the story behind our clients’ numbers.
I completely believe that having a secular career can be conducive to growth in holiness. Before work, I make a Sign of the Cross and ask God to come and make me holy. I am mindful of my disposition toward co-workers and my response to stressful situations. After work, I journal and/or pray with Scriptures.
“I completely believe that having a secular career can be conducive to growth in holiness.”
When I reflected on the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56), I learned a lesson applicable to work. As a new staff at my firm, I sometimes feel hesitant to ask questions because I am embarrassed of my inexperience. I always need to ask for help. While meditating, I was drawn to Mary because she is aware of her inability to do things on her own, yet she rejoices in God who is all-powerful. I learned from Mary to not be embarrassed of my need and dependence. This is one example of God making me holier through my work.
What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?
If this was a job interview, I would say discipline. Thanks be to God, this isn’t a job interview and I can answer freely, so I’d like to tell you a story:
During my senior year of high school, my friend Micah and I went classroom to classroom, carrying a guitar, delivering singing Valentine’s Day grams. We had been sent to serenade unsuspecting strangers. Our chemistry teacher arranged for us to interrupt his 5th period, since his wife was visiting. To her surprise, we had prepared to duet their old wedding song. Micah strummed the guitar, and a calm over the classroom. The class watched as the couple slow dance amidst the lab tables and the glass beakers.
It is the most striking thing to look at someone as they are being sung to. Gazing at someone as they realize how much they are known and loved gave me life. Being commissioned by Jesus to share His message is like this: although I am giving of myself – my voice, my time, etc. – to send His message, I am being filled even more with His life. So maybe my gift is my generosity. Still, Jesus’s generosity is so much greater!
“Being commissioned by Jesus to share His message is like this: although I am giving of myself – my voice, my time, etc. – to send His message, I am being filled even more with His life”
What women inspire you, and why?
Recently I was inspired by a conversation I had with fellow GIVEN alumnae, Carmel Tajonera and Krista Corbello. We have been meeting via Zoom on a regular basis ever since we met at the GIVEN Forum in 2019. On the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Carmel was confiding in us about a difficult situation, and Krista picked up on exactly what Carmel was sharing. I witnessed the way Krista listened to Carmel then responded. Krista related to her and offered a message of hope. I was just sitting there in the Zoom call, marveling at the way Carmel was being vulnerable and the way Krista was able to reach her. It’s like I could see their beauty and gifts coming through in that conversation.
Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?
My best friends Chelsea and Ellie are so important to me. We met during college. Chelsea Jauregui is a color stylist working for a popular streaming platform, and Eliana Castillo (a GIVEN 2016 alumna) is an experienced special education teacher. The three of us are full-time professionals, Catholic, and single. Our married friends may envy how much free time we have, but this lifestyle isn’t always glamorous. Often it’s lonely. Work can be stressful. Dating can be confusing and disappointing (can I get an Amen??). So we call each other on the phone regularly. We confide in one another. We encourage each other to pray. These ladies have been my support through stress and heartbreak, and I am so grateful we have each other to lean on.
What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?
“Candice, the door is open.” These words were spoken to me at a time when I was faced with a big, life-changing decision, and I was full of anxiety. My spiritual director cheerfully told me that the door was open, meaning I could walk in or out with great freedom. Seeing her smile and knowing I had that freedom (e.g., freedom from other’s expectations) was what gave me the courage to make the right choice for myself.
“Candice, the door is open.”
Prayer is essential for everyone, but especially for women who are active in the life and mission of the Church. Do you have any favorite devotions or prayers?
Every Advent I read a book written by Caryll Houselander titled The Reed of God. Each chapter is a Marian reflection. The chapter that spoke to me in 2020 was about idols. Houselander argued that the root of Christian hypocrisy and mediocrity is idolatry. We can form in our minds a “wrong conception of Christ” – a caricature of Christ, if you will. For example, I might imagine a god whose interests and sympathies are restricted to my own. I might serve the image of a god who cares for my wealth and comfort, completely neglecting that the real Christ also resides in the poor and the marginalized who are crying out for help.
It is important to make time to know God, as He has revealed Himself and as He continues to reveal Himself in the Scriptures, Sacraments, personal prayer, etc. Houselander says the tragedy is that “Christ lives with us, in the same room, and we do not know Him.” The danger for me, personally, is that my seek for Him becomes an afterthought: I make my decisions and I live my life, and prayer just becomes this optional self-care type of activity. Who is my master at that point? Who am I serving?
We’re not asked to merely imitate Christ. Houselander says: “What we are asked to do is to be made one with Christ, to allow Him to abide in us, to make His home in us […] to become Christs, to live in Him as Our Lady did. When we are changed into Him as the bread into the Host, then with His power we can follow His example” (pg 123-124).
“What we are asked to do is to be made one with Christ, to allow Him to abide in us, to make His home in us […] to become Christs, to live in Him as Our Lady did. When we are changed into Him as the bread into the Host, then with His power we can follow His example.”
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
See the above answer. 😊
What were your key takeaways from the 2019 GIVEN Forum?
Prior to the Forum, I asked God to keep me from becoming jealous of all the wonderful women I would meet. This prayer was answered in a moment of grace during Eucharistic Adoration. At the Forum, there was a tender moment in Adoration when each woman had the opportunity to individually kneel before the altar and the priest would carry the monstrance to her, allowing her to closely adore Jesus for that moment.
I watched as each woman knelt before the altar and, one by one, received the Lord’s gaze. Watching from the back, I realized that each woman there had her own relationship with Jesus. I was attentive to each woman as she knelt face to face with her Lord. Some appeared distraught. Others were in awe. Like fire, a desire to fiercely pray for each woman rose in my heart. These women were not my competition. These are my sisters.
“Like fire, a desire to fiercely pray for each woman rose in my heart. These women were not my competition. These are my sisters.”
The GIVEN Forum was an anointed time. We were close to the sacraments. We listened to speakers pour their hearts out and share their secrets. We were given time to silently wander around the Basilica. Throughout the Forum, I felt so healed, inspired, and ready to worship.
What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.
My friends and I started a ministry for high school girls called God Loves us in Our Weakness – for short, GLOW. The mission of GLOW is to help girls see themselves the way God sees them: loved and cherished. My friends and I, who are Catholic working professionals in our mid-20s, formed the core group. We led monthly gatherings at a local retreat center, where we set up group activities like crafts, cooking, and baking. Besides a regular opening and closing prayer, we strove to keep these meetings unstructured and casual. The hope was that over time, the girls would become comfortable bringing up topics they really wanted to talk about – school, dating, college prep. We as leaders would be like big sisters to the high school girls, lending our ear and our counsel.
Following the GIVEN Forum, we held these meetings monthly. We even hosted a weekend spiritual retreat for these girls. Then when the pandemic started, we started meeting even more frequently (via Zoom) to pray lectio divina. We talked freely about our fears and prayed together for each other’s intentions. This ministry of accompaniment brought the comfort of community during a scary year.