by Patricia Anne Clossey, CSC, for the Perpetual Profession of Vows of Sisters Areli Cruz Hernández and Esperanza Jacobo Acevedo
Good evening, everyone! Well, the day has finally come! Throughout our lives there are many pathways to take and many decisions that we must make along our journey. How did we arrive at this moment? Perhaps the families of Sister Areli and Sister Esperanza are asking that question! “How did my daughter, sister or aunt come to make this decision?”
When Jesus of Nazareth returned home to visit his family (after he raised from the dead a 12-year-old girl), the people of his hometown were questioning among themselves: “Isn’t this the son of the carpenter?” “Isn’t Mary his mother?” (Matthew 13:15) “Where does this all come from?” Imagine, he has just resurrected a dead girl and they were talking like that…instead of giving thanks.
But today I can imagine the following scene: “Look, there is Esperanza over there. Isn’t she the daughter of Juan and Maria Luisa and aren’t they from Colonia La Rosita? And there’s Areli, isn’t she the daughter of Gilberta (and the late Mario) and isn’t her mother’s house in the Colonia Simuplade? They are normal women just like us, how can they be religious sisters or nuns?”
With questions like these, Areli and Esperanza, you are in good company with Jesus. He also had to deal with these questions. And these were opportunities for him to talk about God, God’s love for us and the mission entrusted to Him.
The reality is that women religious, or nuns, priests and religious brothers are normal people and they come from regular families. They come from our own families!
The journey for each person is distinct. For Esperanza and for Areli, the journey was a long process as they reflected about their lives and continued to work and help their families.
In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, the prophet talks about his struggle with God. God had given Jeremiah a very difficult mission: to stir up the people, asking them to turn from their ways in order to live a better life. The people were making fun of Jeremiah, but God spoke to him “like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it.” (Jeremiah 20:8-9)
God continues to speak to us today; God continues to call us. As our Gospel reading says, “You did not choose me, no, I chose you and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
So then, the interior struggle of each person begins. Perhaps it sounds something like this: “I am searching for meaning in my life, I want to love and be loved, I want to serve others. I feel something inside like a fire within me or a voice speaking within me. Perhaps God is calling me to do something special with my life. But, I don’t want to think about this. I want to run in the other direction. I just want to be normal, get married and have a family. The possibility of a call to religious life shocks me. It fills me with fear and at the same time delights me! But what will my family think of this? What will my friends say?
“As time goes on, these thoughts stay. The feelings don’t go away, so I talk to others like a sister, priest or wise friend. I pray a lot and reflect on what I am going to do with my life until I can say as Sister Glenda does in her song: ‘You have fascinated me, Jesus, and I have let myself fall in love. I have struggled with everything that I feel, but you have conquered me with your love.’”
Yes, Jesus calls us today, but for what does he call us? He calls us to love, to give our life in service to others, to dedicate ourselves to God in prayer and to form a religious community. In our Constitution and Statutes we say, “We share in the mission of Jesus to reveal his Father’s love for all people, to proclaim the good news to the poor, freedom to the oppressed and healing to the afflicted.” (Constitution 1) And how do we respond to this call? By responding to the signs of the times and to the needs of our Church and our world. In meeting these needs we have seen the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters. While we are women of prayer, we are not in the chapel all day. We are an apostolic community. We work among the people.
Esperanza has had the experience of attending to individuals with very serious conditions as she worked as a paramedic with Cruz Verde (Green Cross) and in the department of social work in the hospital where she assisted families in crisis. In her time with Department of the Integrated Family, Areli has worked with abused adolescents and children as well as their families. As a psychologist, she has used her skills to help heal and reintegrate families back into society.
Yes, we respond to God’s call to serve, but we are also called to share life in community. We know that human relationships are not easy, whether in marriage, in the workplace or in service with others. It is the same with religious life in community. There are challenges every day. The second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians reminds us of some of the qualities that are important if we are going to live our vocation with love and in peace. “Love is patient and kind, looks towards other’s interest and pardons all.” (2 Corinthians 1:13)
Today Areli and Esperanza, you are professing your perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. By doing this, you might say that you both have reached a goal in your lives. While that is true, in another way, this journey is just beginning! Every day you will have the opportunity to put in practice what you have professed today. Here are some suggestions as you continue. Be faithful to prayer in your life, kindling your relationship with Jesus so that the sacred fire within never burns out. Be women of passion and compassion, have a spirit of gratitude to God. Be patient with yourself and with those you live with. Be receptive to the ideas of others and to the ideas of leadership—they may be able to help you discover new gifts or new ways of serving. Continue to grow spiritually and professionally in your life. And finally, maintain a spirit of humility and a sense of humor which is so necessary in our common life.
This way of life is a great adventure! With confidence in the divine providence of God we go forward one day at a time with the promise that God will always give us the grace necessary to fulfill the mission.
As young Anne Frank, whose birthday was remembered this past Monday (June 12) said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world!” With the apostolic zeal of Father Moreau, now is the time to love, to serve and to console. And as the song that you like by the group Jesed says, “It is love that impels me to labor in the name of Jesus!”
Thank you Areli and Esperanza for responding to this call. Know that God, your community, your families and your friends are with you to support you with love now and always as your continue your sacred journey.
(English translation of the original reflection in Spanish)