Location: Colton, CA

Job Title: Administrative Assistant for Assisted Living at Santa Teresita

State of Life:  Candidate, First Year of Formation

Organization: Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

Education: Franciscan University of Steubenville

Degree: English and Theology

Noemy Banuelos, GIVEN ’16

“I needed strong Catholic women in my life and a community of believers. The GIVEN forum…changed my life.” 

Noemy Banuelos tells us about herself and how the 2016 GIVEN Forum helped her vocational discernment of Carmelite religious life. 

Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!

I am from Colton, California, am one of nine children, and grew up in a strong Catholic family. In high school I was involved in a plethora of activities such as welding, wood carving, pottery, fashion merchandise, band, soccer, and softball. I enjoyed all of them, as well as people, places and events.

Describe your professional work. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?

There is something beautiful about discovering your own heart. I am one of 9 children. My family’s motto? “Flexibility.” We learned to be flexible and surrender our wants for the good of our communal needs. This simple habitual act, which at first was not freely given, became a stepping stone toward my vocational discernment to religious life. In college I wanted to major in Criminal Justice but quickly changed my mind to Sociology; it fascinated me. People. Places. History. Norms. All of it! But what ultimately drew me the most was the human heart. I desired to understand and connect with EVERYONE! That is probably why I ended up majoring in English at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. I figured this would give me an excuse to devote the rest of my life writing biographies for the unknown.

But what I did not know was that Jesus was preparing me for something much, much greater. For a deep desire to know the Heart of Christ. His was the biography I wanted to write into the deepest recesses of my heart. I desired to seek him, and know him and understand HIS heart. This theme followed me as I entered the convent in August of 2011. I was in Carmelite formation for 4 years (2011-2015). And during those years my desire to know and embrace the heart of Christ grew.

Through divine providence I discerned out of Carmel in 2015 and that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It became a time of spiritual “flexibility,” of letting go of my desires.

Christ was forming my heart, and I was slowly discovering myself as a woman and as a gift. Providentially, it was during this time that my spiritual director suggested I look into applying for a forum called GIVEN. I needed strong Catholic women in my life and a community of believers and this forum seemed to promise both, so I applied. It changed my life. I regained my confidence to step into the world with zeal and confidence.

I received a treasure of formation from both the GIVEN Institute and Franciscan University and was confident in the gift I had become for the glory of God. I reapplied to enter Carmel once more with a renewed zeal for a holiness of heart that drew me ever so gently into the Heart of Christ. Thus, I write to you from the solitude of my cell as a Carmelite Candidate in first year formation.

What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?

God has given me an animated zeal for collaboration. It makes me feel alive to be able to share goals, dreams, and aspirations with others and think BIG to bring them to life. Because I went from high school to convent to college to convent, I did not have much of an opportunity to build up experience, but praise God, the zeal he carved out in me allowed for retreat coordinating at the university, blog building, scripture ministry, and a unique experience to give talks in Slovakia to Slovak senior high school groups. The one dream that I have held onto for over 5 years and will one day bring to life, God willing, is an angelic orchestra that will, through music, become a melody of praise for a world thirsting for the composer of life to chime into their hearts.

What women inspire you, and why?

Saint Teresa of Avila has been a source of encouragement for me as I strive to enter into the mystery of union with God while being wholly present to the needs of those with whom I serve and live. She was an ecstatic contemplative who found fulfillment in solitude with her beloved. Yet, she was one of the MOST active Carmelites that ever lived. She founded nearly 17 convents during her lifetime. She was a woman of great intelligence, confidence, leadership, vision, and mission, but her union with God was at the root of her success.

Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?

Father Adam Gregory Gonzalez, OCD, is the reason I am where I am right now. Every step I took was blessed by him, and His love for our Lady redirected my focus on reflecting her image in my own growth as a woman. But like Saint Teresa, Father Adam became a spiritual director, provincial superior, nationwide president for men religious, confessor, and national retreat master. But still, his fidelity to his relationship with Christ and to the people God put under his care was pure, holy, and effective.

What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?

You can move forward, you can move backward, but you cannot stay in place. The Holy Spirit is ALWAYS moving in our lives and his purpose is purely Love. He is present in all of our encounters, decisions, hardships, and relationships, and He speaks through the ordinary “stuff” of life. Our mission is to recognize him and respond daily.

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?

The Memorare is a favorite.  Mary can never fail us if we approach her with confidence.  There is a beautiful phrase in the prayer that says, “inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother. . .” which gives us permission to step forward in whatever ministry we are involved with, knowing that she stepped in that direction first and paved the way. One other personal devotion is the Carmelite prayer to the Blessed Trinity. It serves as a daily reminder that we each have a personal charism given to us by God which animates all of our efforts to glorify the Lord by our lives. This particular prayer implores the grace of responding with that personal charism in our life of service. “I implore your grace to enable me to perform all my duties in the Spirit of Carmel. . .”

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?

“The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.” St. Teresa Benedicta

“Draw me after you, let us make haste.” Song of Songs 1:4

What were your key takeaways from the 2016 GIVEN Forum?

ALL of GIVEN was a treasure that will forever be unfolding because of its richness. But one thing that resounded specifically with my personal call and mission as a woman was Sister Mary Gabriel’s talk “Casting the Vision” and, specifically, her emphasis on recognizing the gift of womanhood as a gift for the Universal Church. She said, “The Lord notices every detail about women. . .and women have been given the gift of awareness,” because humanity desires to be known and “at the root of wanting to be noticed is the longing to be acknowledged..and that is inscribed in our being. Ultimately, we desire to be noticed by God.” This changed my appreciation for the gift to know and love all humanity that I was given as a woman.

 What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.

My action plan was a Purity of Heart ministry, a seed that had been steadily growing in me and was nurtured by the soil of Carmelite spirituality. I aimed to start a ministry founded on Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God” and succeeded to commence an initial brainstorm session with the Director for Young Adults in the Diocese of San Bernardino.

But God took my plans, blessed them, and dismissed them, redirecting me to Franciscan University where I completed my studies in English Composition and Theology. My Purity of Heart ministry evolved into a blog (pureheart.com) which allowed me to focus on my studies and further vocational discernment.