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Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang Professes Initial Vows in Holy Cross

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Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang initial profession
Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang, CSC

by Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang, CSC

With a spirit of gratefulness, I give thanks to God and many others for the support and prayers I received as I prepared for my initial profession of vows with the Sisters of the Holy Cross. All events in life are by God’s design and purpose, and God kept me in good hands. My novitiate experience was one of God’s abiding love accompanying me toward growth and flourishing in life. Father Moreau’s founding of our Congregation was not accidental; God had a plan and a purpose.

I give thanks to my mother, who is praying for me continually and interceding for me from heaven. I am grateful to everyone who has been praying for me and who rejoiced with me on the day of my first commitment.

When I lost my mother, I was allowed to grieve in the way I needed. I am grateful to all the sisters for the cards and expressions of sympathy that I received. I felt loved and at home. Thank you for the times you challenged me to grow, and thank you for the support you gave me.

The vigil service for my profession was on December 5, 2021, in the Joseph Solitude chapel. It was a meaningful ceremony that included songs and sharing. Due to the pandemic, the novice directors and novices were the only persons in attendance. The theme from the Scripture reading was, “You are the light of the world.” The theme echoed the call to go forth, taking the light of Christ wherever we are sent. I am grateful for the time given to me to pray and reflect before I made my commitment.

The initial profession liturgy took place on December 6, 2021, in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. The readings and universal prayers were spoken in different languages. I was touched by the singing in the church. It was beautiful, as if the angels from heaven were singing along. The sisters from Saint Mary’s Convent and different local communities also attended, adhering to COVID-19 protocols. Also, sisters from all over the world could take part in the ceremony via YouTube. The loving accompaniment of my sisters in Holy Cross, friends, the temporary professed and novices is always a great gift. Your prayerful support is deeply appreciated now and in the days ahead.

Reflection After the Word

Sister Mary Ellen Vaughan reading reflection after the word
Sister Mary Ellen Vaughan, CSC

by Sister Mary Ellen Vaughan, CSC

This Reflection After the Word was shared By Sister Mary Ellen Vaughan, CSC, during the initial profession of vows of Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang, CSC, on December 6, 2021, at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, Saint Mary’s. The Scripture readings for the ceremony were Jeremiah 1:4–9; Hebrews 12:1–4; and John 15:1–16

Preface: As I speak this homily, I want to express gratitude to Gennyfer and to Sisters Joan Mader and Mary Margaret Weber. We gathered prior to my writing to break open the words of these familiar Scripture readings, which Genny and her bandmates had chosen last June. Some of what you will hear woven throughout my words are their rich reflections, to which I have the privilege of giving voice

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. … I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child.”

This poignant call of Jeremiah is not a one-time call. This is the call we all know well, that we hear over and over again reverberating throughout our entire lives. It is certainly the call of our youth as, perhaps, we were considering our vocational call. It is the pervasive call through our active years of ministry as we discern how to serve in the concrete circumstances of daily life, as well as in major moments when we sense the movement to something new. It is the call which also permeates our final years.

Like Jeremiah, at different times in our lives when we hear the call, we too protest. We have our hesitations and reservations. We come up with all kinds of excuses: “Not me. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too busy. I’m too timid/nervous … too arrogant/proud. I don’t speak English well enough. I don’t have the energy.”

And God will have none of our excuses. God patiently and lovingly smiles at us with all our “toowhatevers” and replies: “Don’t say: You are too young or too old OR too this or that. You shall go to all to whom I send you. … You shall speak whatever I command you. Don’t be afraid … I am with you. I’ll do it through you. Trust me.”

And in those times when our objections win out and we still cannot trust enough, our patient, unconditionally loving God says: “I’ll wait until you’re ready. I’ll call again. Trust that too.”

A call to relationship

The call of Jeremiah as well as God’s persistent call to us all through our lives is not only a call to do something, although action and doing are very important. Beneath that call to do lies the unending call to deeper relationship, the call to a more profound union with the God who never ceases calling. God is always trying to woo us into deeper intimacy, into an abiding union that grounds us. And this is a process over a lifetime. And God’s response is always the same, “I am with you. I will never leave you.”    

And, Gennyfer, as you shared when we reflected together on this Scripture, you told us that you came here two-and-a-half years ago from India incapable of speaking. It was not that you had trouble with English; your English was very good. You could not speak because you did not know what you wanted to say. And when you did have ideas/thoughts, you did not have the courage to speak them.

As you stand here today to speak your “yes” of initial vowed commitment in the Sisters of the Holy Cross, you recognize that you are a different person from that young, insecure woman. God’s miracle of grace within you and the assistance of so many people who have walked with you have touched your whole being. You have changed and grown. You are a new woman. You have discovered your voice and you are able to articulate your “yes” today with clarity and conviction.            

God has known you well, Gennyfer, from way back since you were in your own dear mother’s womb. And now God and your mother, who is fully in God’s eternal embrace, are with you. As you said so well, today is not an ending. It is a beginning as God’s plan for you in holy mystery unfolds over your lifetime. 

Celebrating Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang’s initial profession of vows are, from left, Sisters Linda Suurbeta Bonye and Tripty Teresa Gomes, Sister Brenda Cousins, CSC, then novitiate director, Sister Gennyfer, Sister Catherine Before, CSC, then assistant director of the novitiate, and Sisters Rita Boakyewaa Konadu and Supty Mrong.
Celebrating the December 2021 initial profession of Holy Cross Sister Gennyfer Thyrniang are, from left, Sisters Linda Suurbeta Bonye and Tripty Teresa Gomes, Sister Brenda Cousins, CSC, novitiate director, Sister Gennyfer, Sister Catherine Before, CSC, assistant director of the novitiate, and Sisters Rita Boakyewaa Konadu and Supty Mrong.

Branching from the vine

John’s rich and mystical image of the vine and the branches spoke to Father Moreau as a vision for our fledgling Holy Cross community in its early beginnings. The author of John’s Gospel, writing at the end of the first century, worried about his own struggling community with its divisions and defections. John puts these powerful words on Jesus’ lips during Jesus’ last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion. They were the friends he loved so much. Not servants—friends. His heart was full. He longed for deeper intimacy and union with them. The image of the vine and branches was one he knew so well as he watched nature around him grow and change. He knew his dear friends were capable of this as well.

When I allow this image of vine and branches to speak to me, I think of relationship and interconnection and the fruit that bears. I remember back to the early days of COVID-19 when Sister Judith Anne and I could not leave our Forest Ave. home. Our neighbors developed even stronger bonds of relationship and interconnection with us, which bore fruit in bags of groceries left on our front porch and deep gratitude in our hearts. I remember when the lock down lifted after so many months of isolation—and we were starved for relationship—the driveway happy hours many of us shared at St. Bridget’s, thanks to the hospitality of Sisters Lorraine and Joy. And the fruit those times bore was the strength of community that kept us going in the midst of so much suffering and death, climate threat, economic disparity, and the unmasking of so many social issues here at home as well as across our world.

Perhaps that vine and branches image was also brought into reality in cyberspace as Sisters Brenda and Kate were so creative in developing relationships and interconnection with our novices across the world. We have yet to see the fruit of that bold endeavor.

Stepping out in trust

I am sure each one of you can retrieve vine and branch experiences that yielded abundant fruit in your own lives. It always means trusting the love-life flow coursing through all of reality as the Spirit prompts and moves and births unimaginable life in the worst of circumstances.

Perhaps it’s that image of pruning that gives us pause. Ouch! Let’s skip that part of the growing process! More of our Jeremiah “toos” may emerge as we protest: “I’m too tender. I’m too fragile. I’m too scared of suffering! I’ve had too much already!” Might this very process of pruning be going on in our world today with the immense suffering that we encounter as we watch the evening news? Could this be the pruning process of our time in history so that new and more vital fruit will emerge in this evolutionary process bringing God’s dream for all creation to fulfillment? We can only wonder. And right in the heart of it all, God speaks that constant refrain, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.”                             

And, Gennyfer, this is the very promise you have been given as you walk into your unknown future. It is the promise we have all been given of God’s abiding presence and love in the midst of whatever reality we face. “Do not be afraid. I am with you.”    

For Sister Gennyfer’s initial profession, first-year novices Sisters Supty Mrong, left, and Tripty Teresa Gomes led the entrance procession, offering a ceremonial arati blessing.
For Sister Gennyfer’s initial profession, novices Sisters Supty Mrong, left, and Tripty Teresa Gomes led the entrance procession, offering a ceremonial arati blessing.

Accompanied on the road

The letter to the Hebrews uses the image of life as a race we are running. It’s not a short sprint for most of us. It is rather a long-distance marathon. And as every skilled runner knows well, runners need perseverance/steadfastness to keep going and not “grow weary or lose heart.” We are reminded that we only get this stamina if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, if we keep growing in our relationship of intimacy and union. Sometimes our eyes glimpse Jesus as he is teaching the disciples or healing the sick. Sometimes it is the crucified Jesus who holds our gaze. At other moments we see an empty tomb, and we cannot see but we try to believe in the risen Jesus, the Christ.

I know you have done this, Gennyfer, during your time of novitiate. Your eyes have been on Jesus as you have met him during your times of prayer. Your eyes have been on Jesus as you saw him through each sister in your local community and in the many you have met during your times of ministry. You have overcome a lot of odds and have persevered as you have been running this race. And you know well that the race will continue. Today, we Sisters of the Holy Cross stand with you as your own “cloud of witnesses” as you speak your “Yes.” We thank you that you have chosen to put your life with ours in Holy Cross.