A couple of young adults in the Diocese of Phoenix, having tried a more secular approach, are now discerning the call to religious life.

Nicole has discerned a calling to religious life. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Nicole Boujikian has discerned a calling to religious life. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Nicole Boujikian, 20, will join the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist as a postulant Aug. 28. God willing, Cesar Ramirez, 29, will soon begin discerning with the Institute of the Incarnate Word. Ramirez said his experience in a secular career made him more aware of the “hidden tears” around him. He rediscovered Christ in those suffering from discrimination and extreme poverty.

“I realized early on that by welcoming the poor and needy, we were welcoming Jesus into our midst,” Ramirez wrote in his vocation story. “As a child, I had no idea how much this experience was going to impact my life years later.”

Ramirez believes he isn’t simply called to help underprivileged children, but to wholly serve God in community and in poverty. He would bring Christ’s love and mercy.

“I wanted to place myself completely in God’s hand, going anywhere in the world He saw fit to send me,” Ramirez said.

He has been accepted for formation with the Institute of the Incarnate Word, a nearly 30-year-old and 900-member organization of priests, brothers and seminarians serving places such as Immaculate Heart of Mary, Ramirez’s home parish.

Provided Ramirez puts a dent in his college debt with the help of the Labouré Society, he should be debt-free at the time of ordination. He is one of 10 aspirants in Labouré Society’s winter 2014 class.

Donors raised $270,000 for the summer 2013 class. The organization allowed Sr. Alison Marie of Abba Father, Society of Our Lady of the Trinity, to make her final vows at Most Holy Trinity Parish last fall.

Nicole Boujikian is counting down the days until she joins the Dominican sisters, another order with ties to the diocese. A diocesan day of discernment, a talk with a Poor Clare sister, local vocations directors and visits to two motherhouses helped the St. Anne parishioner find her niche.

Once her mother said she had been praying all day for her to Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, the two looked up the Dominican sisters devoted to that title.

“I completely fell in love with them. There’s a lot of love, a lot of peace, especially a lot of happiness — something I never experienced before,” Boujikian told The Catholic Sun.

Cesar Ramirez is discerning a call to become a priest of the Incarnate Word.
Cesar Ramirez is discerning a call to become a priest of the Incarnate Word.

The former nursing student still desires motherhood, but is excited to become a spiritual mother and teacher. Her mom, Mary, said her daughter has a great rapport with children and the ability to recognize people’s needs.

Boujikian saw her own need for change early on in college. She went from partying to eucharistic adoration to discernment. “I’m so unworthy. How can I do this? I’ve done so many things in the past. There’s no way I can be a nun,” Boujikian thought during a parish vocations retreat.

As she recounted the story, Boujikian picked up her rosary from her lap. She envisions herself holding Mary’s hand each time her fingers grace the beads.

Boujikian also felt “very loved by God” each time she left the confessional. Her parents instilled the habit of first Friday Mass and confession in all six children. That also opened the door for spiritual direction. By an evening talk at that vocations retreat, Boujikian knew God was calling her.

“Only God knows if He wants you there for two years or three years or your whole life. I’m just so excited to give Him my life. It’s going to be a beautiful adventure, a beautiful new chapter. It’s something I desire,” Boujikian said.

Coincidentally, her two older siblings are starting new chapters too. Her brother will serve two years through Fellowship of Catholic University Students while her sister will serve a year with National Evangelization Teams in Ireland.

Boujikian encouraged others discerning religious life to remain close to the sacramental and prayer life. She said do not be afraid.

“God won’t lead you to some place where you’re not going to be happy. I never imagined this happy place for me.”

Discerning a vocation?

Contact the diocese’s Office of Religious or the Office of Vocations (602) 354-2005

Labouré Society

To help those discerning priesthood and religious life resolve student debt so they can begin formation, call (651) 452-1160  or visit: