Sister Mary Preenika Dabrera, C.S.J., a 2014 SJC Brooklyn graduate with a B.S. in Organizational Management, professed her final vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Oct. 15 at the Sacred Heart Chapel in the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, N.Y.
The ceremony is a public religious acknowledgement of vows, expressing the fullness of one’s commitment to God and to the members of the Sisters of St. Joseph. On the same day, the congregation also celebrated the anniversary of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s formal foundation in 1650.
S. Preenika, 35, moved with her sister to New York from Sri Lanka when she was 18. Back in her homeland, she recalled, she was raised with the guiding principle: “Taking care of others is important — no matter if they are family or not.” Everyone in her church, school and home strived to live their lives by this model, she said.
Adjusting to life in the United States was difficult for S. Preenika. Although she was living near her mother and sister, they were not always able to come to her aid when she needed. Nonetheless, the people she encountered through work and school became a stable and reliable support system for her.
I was happy to see what I had been trying to live as a Christian in Sri Lanka was being lived out in others, in New York.” — S. Mary Preenika Cabrera, C.S.J.
Becoming a U.S. citizen provided S. Preenika with the opportunity to learn about new cultures and people.
“I think it is amazing to live in a city where there is so much diversity. My interaction with others who are from different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, countries and generations shows me the vastness of our God,” she shared.
When S. Preenika was about 23, she developed a desire to learn about God and follow him closely, she said.
I didn’t pay that much attention to it at that time. I thought if I don’t pay attention, it will go away.”
By 27, this inner calling grew louder and louder, and she knew she couldn’t ignore it any longer. She started her path to become a nun in 2009 and joined the Novitiate in May 2011.
S. Mary Walsh, S. Preenika’s formation director, along with her home community and all the Sisters of St. Joseph, who work both in and outside St. Joseph’s College, assisted in developing S. Preenika into who she is today.
“They all helped me to listen to the Holy Spirit and discern God’s call in my life,” said S. Preenika, who is working as a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) student in New York Methodist Hospital. She has several aspirations moving into the next chapter of her life, which include widening her understanding of God, ministering to others in a more meaningful way as a chaplain and to continue growing as a person.