Gilbert woman enters novitiate with Carmelite Missionaries

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Sr. Isabel de la Santisima Trinidad Hernandez Guardado, left, processes out of her novitiate Mass at St. Daniel the Prophet in Scottsdale Nov. 21. She will spend the following year in prayerful discernment at the nearby convent. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

SCOTTSDALE — One young woman who is the oldest of four children is now among the youngest novices within a religious community serving the Diocese of Phoenix.

Sr. Isabel of the Holy Trinity Hernandez Guardado received a white habit from her formator and mother superior of the Carmelite Missionaries of St. Therese of the Child Jesus during a special Mass at St. Daniel the Prophet Nov. 21. She will spend the coming year inside the neighboring convent for further discernment.

“I see myself more being with them than at home doing other things,” Sr. Isabel told The Catholic Sun just one day shy of donning her habit for the first time.

Sr. Isabel, 20, grew up at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert where the Carmelite sisters have served since 1999. She doesn’t recall noticing the Carmelites, however, until preparing for first communion.

She began interacting with them after high school when someone asked her to help run audio/video for the early Sunday Mass. That gave her an opportunity to know the sisters more intimately as they moved about the parish. Sr. Isabel also began helping with catechism where two sisters serve.

The Carmelite Missionaries, rooted in Puebla, Mexico, came to St. Daniel five years ago and established a novitiate there in 2015. Sr. Isabel isn’t the first novice at the convent, but is the first one from the Diocese of Phoenix. She spent her first 10 months as a postulant serving with the sisters in Mexico and came to St. Daniel in August.

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“This is a celebration of joy for her family, the community of faith and the Church,” Fr. Sergio Muñoz Fita, pastor of St. Anne said in Spanish during the homily. “We are celebrating a choice that she made and that Jesus Himself made. Jesus chose you as His spouse and you chose to place yourself in His hands.”

Fr. Fita described her vocation as a love story with Sr. Isabel sitting directly in front of the altar as “the bride of Christ who looks more beautiful than ever.”

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Cristina Guardado, Sr. Isabel’s mother, is thrilled with her daughter’s vocation and hopes other young women are inspired to more carefully consider religious life as a result. She also treasured seeing the joy in Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s face on her daughter’s special day as well as Fr. Fita’s enthusiasm, calling His love contagious.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted alongside fellow priests and deacons, with Carmelite sisters in the choir, congratulate Sr. Isabel of the Holy Spirit at the end of her novitiate Mass at St. Daniel the Prophet Nov. 21. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Fr. Fita advised Sr. Isabel to embrace the mystery of the cross. That’s where His strength shines through, he said. That’s something Sr. Isabel is excited about for her novitiate.

“I get to know more who Jesus is and the meaning behind the cross and what it’s meant for and how I can experience that and share it with others,” Sr. Isabel said.

The charism of the Carmelite missionaries entails following Jesus, evangelizing the poor — something reserved for the second year of her novitiate — and following the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux. Sr. Marina Coatl, the local superior, said she sees a sense of simplicity in Sr. Isabel and the ability to see the needs of others and help them.

“I’m just really excited. I know it’s a new stage for me. I’m ready to receive what God has in place,” Sr. Isabel said.

She explained that the first year of novitiate involves getting to know herself and becoming a better listener to God’s voice.