Tonight I recall the names of four elders of the community who have each played a role in bringing me to this place I find myself. Sr. Mary Pat, Sr. Frances, Sr. Rosemary, and Sr. Theodore. Each of these women have in some way inspired me from my earliest interactions with the sisters to my recent years of ministry. Each said yes to a life I am discerning. Each, I believe, has loved the life she chose with no regrets.
February 2004, twenty of us were on our Spring Retreat at the Spiritual Center and Sr. Mary Pat was hosting us. Standing in a circle, in the Canticle room on the fifth floor, holding hands we were being urged by Sr. Mary Pat to dance to the Circle of Life. None of us could say no to her, even the anti-dancers in the group found themselves moving right along to the chanting beat. She had become an extension of our Newman Center community after giving a presentation for the opening prayer of our 30 day retreat with St. Francis of Assisi. Her exuberance for the simple things and energy for life brought happiness to each of our lives. That Spring Retreat she had us each gaze into a mirror to discover the face of Christ. To me she will always be an image of our Lord.
September 2007, after viewing the "new" vocational DVD and having spent the past few months on the phone getting to know Sr. Diane (whose words I fell in love with on the video) I was finally going to meet her. During my weekend stay with her in Rhode Island I was invited to tag along for the farewell celebration of Sr. Frances, and Sr. Rosemary. They were leaving their long-time ministry in Walpole, Massachusetts for Assisi House. Their dedication to their ministry and to each other was beautiful to me. I remember sitting around a sitting room with many of the sisters from New England as they shared stories and laughs with each other. Sr. Frances and Sr. Rosemary have a genuineness about them that is often hard to find in people. They are who they are and they live it well! Every time I visit with them I feel valued, I feel as though I matter, and that even when the whole world seems against me I have their support. A few weeks ago the three of us sat in Rosemary's room, I indian style on the bed, Rosemary and Frances in their chairs. They shared with me their joy over my taking the next step on this wild and crazy adventure, and I knew once again I was loved.
January 2009, Sr. Theodore emerged from the sacristy as I began to put things in place for my first OLA Liturgy at Neumann. The first thing she asked me was if I knew what her name meant. After sharing that it was "gift of God" I quickly shared with her that Sara means "PRINCESS!" From that moment on she was my gift of God and I her Princess. That first Sunday she "taught me" what a chalice and paten were, what you do with a corporal, where you place the sacramentary. I didn't bother to tell her I was pretty well versed in how to set up for Mass, she seemed too excited to "teach me," and so I let her. Some time later she read an article about me in the school paper that listed my masters degree in Pastoral Ministry and my background in campus ministry. The next time I saw Sr. Theodore she giggled, put her head in her hands and mumbled, "I'm so embarrassed." Confused I asked why, she responded, "Here I was teaching you all these things and you have a MASTERS DEGREE!!!" We had a good laugh about this later. . . Sr. Theodore brings a smile to my face just by walking in the room.
Monday night, 2010, I was invited to give a presentation at Assisi House on my summer travels to India and Nepal. I was delighted to spend the time with the sisters as well as for the opportunity to share my stories. Sr. Mary Pat, Sr. Frances, Sr. Rosemary, and Sr. Theodore were all present, along with about 30 other sisters. As I stood there sharing my journeys I couldn't help but feel joy in my heart looking out at these women who had so deeply touched my life. As nearly every encounter with the sisters at Assisi House ends they sang the blessing with hands extended over me. Afterwards they all expressed their overwhelming joy over my decision to enter into this time of candidacy.
On my drive home that night I was reflecting upon their joy. They are all taken care of for the rest of their lives. They will never want for anything. Why would they be so concerned over the future of their congregation? The only thing I can figure is that they TRULY and FULLY believe in the life they have lived--so much so that they would encourage someone like myself to follow the call, even when there is no self interest on their part. I found myself saying, "that's real!" The joy, the peace, the love, the commitment, it's all real! It's all good! It has all been worth while for this room full of beautiful women who earlier that night had extended their hands over me to sing, and in some cases barely squeek out the blessing, and who had told me I could be assured of their continued prayers.
The elders have spoken and I have grown in the understanding of my own vocation and call in life because they courageously said yes, and continue to say yes! Sisters at Assisi House, with a grateful heart I thank you!