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Initial professions point to grace in uncertain times

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Sisters of the Holy Cross Initial Profession 2020
Nine sisters professed their initial vows with the Sisters of the Holy Cross on May 30, 2020, in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana.

“Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”

Psalm 40:7-8

by Sisters Sengme Rangsa Marak, CSC, and Ahati Christina Tripura, CSC

We sisters—Shikha Tripura, Ahati Christina Tripura, Agnes Atugonza, Christina Esi Aidoo, Rumi Pathang, Anna Maria Roy, Piasy Rita Costa, Chidary Sku and Sengme Rangsa Marak—are at the end of our two years in the International Novitiate. We made our first profession of vows with the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross on May 30, 2020. The theme of the ceremony was “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will,” taken from Psalm 40.

Vigil Night

The ceremony began with a vigil night on Friday, May 29, in Joseph’s Solitude chapel. The prayer began with a candle procession, symbolizing the Easter light of the resurrected Christ. During the vigil, the nine sisters shared about their life experiences in the novitiate and what has brought them to say “yes” to God by professing their vows. As they shared, different cultural songs were sung as a way to express and celebrate their diverse cultural backgrounds. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only Holy Cross Sisters Brenda Cousins, novice director, and Catherine Before, assistant director, were able to attend the vigil ceremony.

Profession Mass

The initial profession Mass took place in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame Indiana. The Mass began with a procession song and dance, followed by the arrival of the professed-elect, who wore masks and stood six feet apart. As we had to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, the event was very different from any other profession ceremony in the history of our Congregation.

Attendees included the novitiate community, members of the General Administration, and Sister Joy O’Grady, CSC, who gave the Reflection after the Word. All the sisters at Saint Mary’s joined us by watching on closed-circuit television. Father Thomas Bertone, CSC, presided over the Mass, and Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC, Congregation president, received our vows.

The liturgical celebration of the profession ceremony was wonderful. We enjoyed beautiful music and the presence of each person playing a percussion instrument, three powerful Scripture readings, and a meaningful reflection. One of the newly professed sisters expressed her joy during the service saying: “I felt the church was full of people as we spaced and spread ourselves around, though we were only a few. I felt the heavenly joy and life within us as we sang the ‘Gloria’ with drums and each person playing a percussion instrument.”

A joyful yes

It was a joyful, exciting, as well as a challenging event for us, as we dedicated ourselves to God through consecrated life as women religious in Holy Cross. Indeed, it was a grace-filled moment for each of us as we said “YES” to God. We are grateful to God and to all the sisters around the world for their prayerful support, encouragement, and best wishes for us, especially in this time of uncertainty. We believe and trust that the celebration of our profession of vows is hope and grace for all of us in our community and for our world.

With Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, we proclaim that it is Divine Providence in our lives.

Reflection after the Word

Initial Profession, Reflection after the word, Sister Joy, Sisters of the Holy Cross
Sister Joy O’Grady, CSC, shared the Reflection after the Word during the initial profession Mass.

by Sister Joy O’Grady, CSC

This reflection was shared during the initial profession of vows of Sisters Shikha Tripura, Ahati Christina Tripura, Agnes Atugonza, Christina Esi Aidoo, Rumi Pathang, Anna Maria Roy, Piasy Rita Costa, Chidary Sku and Sengme Rangsa Marak, on May 30, 2020, in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. The Scripture readings for May 30 were Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 1:26-38 and Romans 12:1-8.

You have chosen three powerful and challenging readings for your profession liturgy today. As I was reflecting on these readings, I thought to myself, you are the ones that should be sharing your reflections with us. You, dear novices, represent four different countries, six different tribes, six different languages and a variety of ages and ministries. Amid your wide diversity, you came together as one and selected these readings about being called, about God’s unconventional ways, courage and deep listening. I can’t help but draw conclusions about what this says about each of you and about the profoundness of the commitment you are pronouncing today.

I can’t help but think about how significant it is that you have been called at this time of global disruption. I can’t help but think about the questions you must be holding in your hearts; just as Mary and Jeremiah had questions about the uncertainties and seeming impediments, they knew of what God was calling them to. “How can this be?” “I am too young.”

Illusion of control

I think many of us live with the illusion that we are, at least somewhat, in charge of our lives. I know I had a plan for what I was going to do after my time in leadership. You probably had well-laid-out plans for “what next.” How, where and when your next movements and commitments would unfold. Probably many of you listening today would say the same thing. Mary, a young maiden betrothed to Joseph, with all the plans that would entail, I am quite sure did not include giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Jeremiah, a very young and inexperienced priest, probably had plans to follow in the footsteps of elder members of his priestly family. Surely, he had no plan to become a prophet of death, destruction and repentance for the land of Judah.

Scripture tells us that Mary was greatly troubled by what the angel said but pondered what sort of greeting this might be. We also know that Jeremiah, though fearful and timid, listened to God’s words and followed God’s call to him.

Uncertain futures

You, sisters, have been called out of your home countries to a foreign land, to prepare for this moment of “yes” to God’s call. Now here, you are faced with uncertainty about when and how you might return.

You have been called by God to a life of celibate community and now, you are told to distance from one another, cover your faces and limit your physical engagement with one another.

You have been called to minister to the poor, lonely, disadvantaged, and now you find yourselves “locked down,” sheltered and separated from those you are called to serve.

You have been called to speak the truth in a political culture of lies, contradictions and inconsistencies.

How do we reconcile this with God’s promise to you and to all of us: “I am with you and my words will never fail you, for nothing is impossible for God.” In his book Can Religious Life Be Prophetic? Michael H. Crosby, OFM Cap, says, “In our world of action, we need to take time to listen deeply.”

How are you listening?

The question I have for all of us is: how are you, how am I, how are we listening? What are we listening for? What are we hearing through all the noise of this global, social, economic and spiritual upheaval?

There is a story of two young women about your ages walking through the streets of New York City. Buses are racing by, taxis are honking, and crowds of people are rushing everywhere. (This was before the pandemic.) The one woman says to the other, “Listen, do you hear that cricket?” Her friend says, “You have got to be kidding. It is your imagination. How could you hear a cricket in all of this noise?” The woman says back to her friend, “Look,” and she bends down and moves a leaf in the crack of the sidewalk and, sure enough, there is a cricket. Her friend says, “You are really something to be able to hear that in all of this noise.” Her friend responds, “No, not really. It’s all about what you are listening for.” She then takes a handful of change out of her pocket and drops the coins on the cement sidewalk. As the coins clang on the sidewalk, a crowd of people hurriedly gather around in the hope of picking up the money.

The world is walking through noisy streets and our God is calling out to us in unconventional ways. What are you listening for? What are you hearing?

Joan Chittister says, “God is always right where we are, and yet somehow, we are always looking elsewhere.” She says, “God doesn’t need a wise, old person to do his will, he just needs a willing heart and an empty vessel.”

By your presence here and your public proclamation of vows today, you, dear sisters, show your willing hearts and your trust and faith in the God who has found favor with you. By your “yes” you are showing us, your sisters, the Church and the world, what you are listening for—the God who called and continues to call you to be his compassionate presence in a world in pain.

I end with a brief prayer by Sister Maxine Shonk, OP, on listening.

“May the listening God embrace you. May your voice become true and clear in the presence of the God who listens. May you come close to the ear of God and entrust your deepest secrets, the unspeakable and the unresolved, the tender truth of your devotion and the fragile residue of the fear in your heart. May the Spirit pray in you as you open yourself up in God’s hearing. May God the listener bless you.”