On Saturday, June 19, 2021, seven novices—Sisters Dorothy Achieng (Uganda), Margret Kabasiza (Uganda), Lydia Issah (Ghana), Dalia D’Costa (Bangladesh), Lupa Hajong (Bangladesh), Risha Mery Nonglang (India), and Betbhalin Langrin (India)—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), CSC, president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, received their vows. The Scripture readings were Jeremiah 1:4–9, Hebrews 12:1–4 and John 15:1–16.
Sister Maureen Grady, CSC, gave the following reflection during the ceremony, addressing the former novices as they began their holy journeys to participate in the prophetic mission of Jesus to witness God’s love for all creation. We thank God for each of these women and promise them our continued prayerful support.
“Before I shaped you…”
The first Scripture reading of today tells the story of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and, “This is what God said. Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew [all about] you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.”
Dear novices, as you profess your vows, you must surely feel something of Jeremiah’s experience. Like him you are reminded of the God who brought you to life; the God who has known everything about you; the God who has always been with you in the holy design of your lives; the God who has called you to the Sisters of the Holy Cross and brought you to this, your profession day.
“Up on your feet”
Now, Jeremiah, it seems, was a reluctant and unenthusiastic prophet-elect. It is no wonder, then, that he finds an excuse and replies to his call from God by saying: “Hold it, … God! Look at me. I don’t know anything. I am only a boy.”
God’s clear response to Jeremiah leaves no option for argument, as God informs him: “Don’t say ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.”
A bit later in the text, God’s expectations of Jeremiah are very exact as God addresses him with these most powerful words: “You—up on your feet and get dressed for work. Stand up and say your piece.”
We know of no reply that Jeremiah offers to the demand of God. How could he answer to such a compelling summons that leaves no possibility for further discussion?
To surrender, to remember
And yet, Jeremiah does offer a response to his call. He does accept the mission to the covenant people, calling them to turn away from sin and come back to God. In so doing, Jeremiah reveals his resolve and shows his valor as prophet. He does so in two ways—he surrenders and he remembers.
Jeremiah’s mind and heart are captured by the call of God. He surrenders not in the sense of giving up in defeat but rather giving over everything that he is and all that he has. He hands himself over in absolute trust, without reservation and without condition. He says “Yes” to the One who will shape the ministry of his life.
Each of you is surrendering today. In the spirit of Jeremiah, you are handing over all that you are, just as you are. You are saying “Yes” to the God who calls you to “participate in the prophetic mission of Jesus [and] to witness God’s love for all creation.” You do so as you choose simplicity of life, love undivided, and fidelity to the Spirit.
Jeremiah also remembers that, in response to the call, God asks for radical courage. That God seeks profound transformation of heart. That every motive be put aside except trust in the unfailing, unchanging, everlasting love of God.
Hopes rest on holy journeys
Each one of you—Beth, Dalia, Dorothy, Lupa, Lydia, Margret, Risha—you who are professing your vows in the Congregation today, I ask you to remember what it takes to live this life: dedication to the vows and living in community with your Holy Cross sisters.
Remember also these women, our own prophets, who are present at this ceremony and who have come here to honor you. Remember those sisters who cannot be present due to illness or infirmity but who are next door watching and listening and blessing you. Remember those sisters who no longer live among us but whose legacies lie with them in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery and who await you in the communion of saints.
All of these women of Holy Cross have taken the vows, have made the promises that you are about to make. I speak in their name: these wisdom women on whose shoulders you stand and whose shoes you will fill, whose hearts are swelling with pride in you, and whose hopes rest on your own holy journeys.
These sisters are remembering you. From their lives and experience as vowed women in Holy Cross, they hold you in hope and prayer.
They hope that you live a deeply spiritual life in personal relationship with Jesus; that you nurture close connections with friends who lift you up and mentors who settle you down; that you live out a commitment to justice and peace by attending to those who suffer violence, prejudice and indifference; that you experience a closeness with all of creation; that you be yourself, be grateful, be happy.
Live that mystery
They pray for you, that you may come to know and understand that only the mystery of God’s love can sustain you, and only your desire to live that mystery will allow you to fulfill your ministry as prophets, to bear your own failings and abide the fragility of others.
We, your sisters, are with you; Holy Cross in Bangladesh, in Uganda, in India, in Ghana are waiting for you. Holy Cross throughout this country and around the world stand in solidarity with you.
And now, like Jeremiah, for God’s sake, and on behalf of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, stand up, show us your best dress, speak your piece, and get to work!