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Initial profession celebration

On Saturday, June 15, Sisters Irene Musuya Musyoka, Catherine Magoba, Nieves Lidia Ortiz Galván, Bernice Asare-Badu, Bertha Akua Owusuaa, Dappy Hadima, Remina Bornadet Rongdy, Repa Anna Costa, Urmita Cicilia Rozario, Anna Manar, Gasua Chambugong, Metiful Mary Kharbani and Jecenta Mynsong made their initial profession of vows at a celebration in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. Father Tom Bertone, CSC, presided at the liturgy. Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, received their vows.

We thank God for each of these women and promise them our continued prayerful support.

Below is a Reflection after the Word by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC, who was inspired by the poem “O Crux, Ave!” by Sister M. Philip (Frantzen), CSC. The readings for June 15 were Isaiah 43: 1-5a; I John 4:7-16; John 15: 9-17.

Today all three readings constitute a long love letter from the heart of God, the
Holy One, Our Creator and Redeemer, the Breath of Life itself. Let us open our
hearts anew, as if we were novices full of hope and deep desire.

God speaks first to Isaiah. And Isaiah in turn as prophet, stands up and gives voice to words of consolation at a time when ancient Israel feels abandoned, living in exile. Yet returning home has its perils, especially if one’s experiences have led to a fundamental reorientation in one’s faith and identity. The prophet acts out, physically expressing in sign and bodily gesture, God’s Word. God did not first speak through ink on a blank page or scroll, but in flesh, through human hands. The prophet mimics the God of Genesis as potter, working with the clay of humanity. God speaks through the prophet who suffers the same exile as the people, “Remember, I created you and formed you, Israel.”

The community of the beloved disciple in the second reading, lives at a time after Jesus walked the earth. This community has not seen God, but they know of the Son through the Spirit. They are trying to live as the ideal community, loving and serving one another selflessly. But it isn’t working. This pastoral letter is a reminder that head knowledge [Greek: gnosis], book learning, classes, workshops about holiness and spirituality, are not enough.  Missing is the focus on God’s initiative, not the community’s accomplishments or that of individuals. One learns with the heart as well as the head. The beloved disciple is saying, “God loved us first. God’s Son saved us. We are not the saviors of the world. We in turn will be saved as a community if we can see God’s real presence in one another.”

The gospel according to John in the third reading presents Jesus as a prophetic Wisdom figure at table. Today’s gospel is only one part of a very long discourse set somewhat artificially in the context of what Christian tradition calls the Last Supper. Do not lose sight of all the meals Jesus shared, many of which were prophetic actions reaching beyond his small circle of novice male disciples. Otherwise, this last meal together seems too introverted, “just us.”  In the context of the larger table ministry of Jesus, his words here match his actions.

Jesus does not preach a sermon on transubstantiation. He gives thanks for those who accompanied him on his journey of transformation, the cross yet ahead. He blesses their friendship with him and with one another. Through that strong bond of mutuality and shared mission, they had passed over into a different consciousness, bringing others close to the heart of Christ. If anything, this is a missionary meal focused outward. Be ready to lay down your life for one another, here in this circle—and beyond this table. Whatever you vow or promise, Jesus says, “I command you: love one another.”

And now let us hear that love letter in the context of this day of initial profession.

She is young, my Community!
Thus, says the Lord. Do not fear. I have called you by name, Irene, Catherine,
Nieves and Bernice. You are mine, Bertha, Dappy and Remina. I will be with you, Repa, Urmita and Anna. You are precious in my eyes, Gasua, Metiful and Jecenta. There is nothing that your God would not do for you. Yes, this is a long journey, yet you have already passed through treacherous waters and were not swept away. You got burned, but the flames did not consume you.

She is old, my Community!
Look around you, beloved. You are surrounded by women from the east, who long before your time came here from far away. Others came from the west. They, too, left their people and came to this place, to people they knew not. And those who lived here already, midway between east and west, welcomed them. Together, we were called by Jesus Christ to form a community of friends. Here we were nourished in spirituality and learned to share a common life. But no one was meant to live here forever. Daily we remember the names of those sisters who went before us, most of whom we never knew except by reputation and stories which inspire us. They and we were called and chosen to spread the Gospel, to bear fruit and be God’s transforming love in the world. Christ is risen, and we are his friends. The Holy Spirit sends us forth from this place, hurrying to take up this work of resurrection.

Those of you who are young and full of zeal will bicycle, hop buses, or drive vehicles of every kind, not to mention walk, walk, walk the royal road of Holy Cross. You go to join your families and sisters back home but will not be confined by the borders of your home countries. Those of us who are older will drive cautiously if still able and walk with determination, watching for the signs of the times. Some of us have wheels of another kind. Don’t think that the four small wheels of walkers, the three wheels of motorized chairs, or the two large wheels of wheelchairs make us slow to love or less zealous to live a life of consecration and integrity. Our yes is still yes.

We promise you our continued prayer and encouragement as you follow Jesus down other roads and hallways. Remember your friends, your sisters, your companions on the way. And when we meet at this table to break bread, time zones won’t matter. We will hold you in our hearts and remember you by name.

She is beautiful, my Community!
She is mine!
She is ours!

We are no longer novices, but ever young in the ways and wisdom of love.

Sister Metiful Mary Kharbani, CSC, shares a sign of Christ’s peace with members of the Congregation.
Sister Metiful Mary Kharbani, CSC, shares a sign of Christ’s peace with members of the Congregation.