I am living the Mary and Elizabeth story of the relationship between holy women of different generations, exploring the mysteries of life, filled with gratitude and new awarenesses. It is a story of mutual love and deep respect. It is a story of “visitations.”
Advent is about waiting, anticipation, and preparation! Advent is a time of growth in hope, peace, joy, and love! And on this Second Sunday of Advent, we also do a second collection for the Retired Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests. This year, I am grateful to the Sisters in my life in new and profound ways.
Last month, several family members went to visit my Benedictine aunts in Lisle, Illinois. Of the five, three are alive and well at the ages of 92, 94, and 96. We visited, told stories, laughed and cried. I know that I cried all the way to the airport thinking that this may be the last face-to-face visit with at least one of them. I felt my mother’s presence with us (from heaven).
People are always curious about why I didn’t join the Benedictines; after all, I love their charism of hospitality and welcome, of respect for all, and their prayer lives. It’s just that I only came to know them as an adult. They all entered the convent before my mother was married. My mother thought she had a vocation too, but when the Texas family was reduced from 12 to 7 to 3, my mother stayed home to help on the farm.
Almost all of my high school teachers, Sisters of Divine Providence, are in the communion of saints in heaven, except for Sister Rose Marie, my senior English teacher, who will be 90 soon. I recently wrote a reflection on our 55 years of shared life. She taught me to love literature and to write. She told me when we last visited that as a 17-year-old, my high school compositions made her think! Imagine my surprise! I was thinking of myself like people thought of Jesus—what good can come from Nazareth or from Hostyn! I was young and had no idea that I could influence an elder, my teacher.
Mary, the very young mother-to-be, needed Elizabeth, the much older, also unexpected mother-to-be. We all know the story of their visitation—the need to companion, to accompany, to share mystery and to share joy. I can only imagine the story-telling, the tears of joy and the tears of wondering about all the unknowns. Theirs was a story of birth. Theirs was also a story of the “birthing” of much that was new, and profoundly counter-cultural. Both John the Baptist and Jesus would change structures, laws, and ways of thinking about the relationships of people. Their lives and their deaths led to profound change—voices crying out for an end to injustice, new commandments of love that are inclusive of all, mercy and compassion for those considered unworthy of attention or rights.
I continue to be profoundly grateful for the wise women, the elders in our Sisterhood, who have shown me the way to follow Jesus. This is why I joyfully speak on behalf of all who have given their lives in service, in visitation to all the places they have ministered, and in loving us into “births” we never expected.
The costs of healthcare, the realities of an aging membership, the maintenance of buildings that we have outgrown, and our great desire to choose mission over maintenance motivate us to ask for assistance through this appeal.
Thank you for contributing generously. Call or visit a Sister you know. Pray for vocations. Lord, hear our prayers and move us to action.