Jubilee – 2010
Reflection for the Jubilee Mass – June 28, 2010
By Sister Marilyn Kesler, SSND
To celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy with classmates and the province community is truly a highlight of our jubilee. What a glorious moment! Images, metaphors, poetry and paintings capture moments like this.
There are so many anecdotes and memories that have occurred in these 80, 75, 70, 60 or 50 years. I certainly could not even try to share them but if you come to lunch, we can share some of those things.
This morning, let us also remember all our classmates who are living their new eternal life. Their lives were so intertwined with ours that we cannot celebrate without including them as we come before this altar.
The powerful stories of these women started early … the German poet, Rainer Rilke describes it this way:
God speaks to each one as he makes us
These are the words we dimly hear;
Go to the limits of your longing
Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move in
Let everything happen to you: beauty and frightening things
Just keep going …. give me your hand.
These women enfleshed these words even before profession.
There are three aspects I would like to touch on in this reflection:
- Gratitude for a God who loves us and calls for a personal relationship
- Gratitude for a woman who dared to revolutionize society
- Gratitude for the God-given gifts that each jubilarian has developed and the uniqueness of each jubilarian’s journey.
The Gospel reading of John was chosen by the jubilarians to express the awe, the encompassing care, and the interaction of our Creator God in our lives. This reading depicts Jesus so desirous for us to know God his Father. Jesus made it possible for us to not just know about God but to create a personal relationship with God … a bonding … a union.
To see Jesus is to see what God is like. Through Jesus we learn of a God who cares intensely and who yearns over women and men, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them. Jesus reveals to us … a God who loves us completely and unconditionally.
This is the God we jubilarians have experienced and want to acclaim today.
This is our powerful God … our love and our life … one who has loved us out of our pitfalls and helped us to a better perspective … a co-worker and a companion.
How refreshing that first reading is ... what a fun-loving and creative God to give different gifts to each person and then have each play a significant part in the picture of the whole! That leaves the individual with the responsibility to develop her potential and to put those gifts into service for others. The gifts need to be identified, developed, polished and directed to a purpose.
Let’s look at a woman who modeled that for us … Theresa Gerhardinger.
She was not afraid to uncover the calls of her heart and translate those convictions into actions. Our Theresa and her patron, Teresa of Avila, worked from the same philosophy, “God does not like limits on his work.”
Theresa spent time … wrapped in silence, often in the hush of the night, at times tucked behind the altar in Regensburg, communing with her God to discern that her energy was not carrying her into some self-deceptive plan. She was an intelligent, perceptive woman who fixed her eyes on Jesus.
Theresa was never comfortable with the status quo but stretched beyond the familiar and dared to create a solution to the ills of society. In time, she established our congregation. Her ability to stand alone in her revolutionary thinking created a governance for our congregation that was not the norm for women’s orders serving the church at that time. She saw a congregation as one that was not limited to a particular area or region but freed its members to go where they were needed to impact society through educating women and serve the less fortunate. She dared to walk the path of her convictions.
She knew her gifts and used them but, I am sure, in no way realized the impact she would be making on society as she allowed God to work through her.
What a leader to follow … a builder, an artist, a pioneer! This is the God-loving woman who furthered God’s Cause and we were attracted.
Now we look at each of the jubilarians … who follow in this woman’s footsteps … To paraphrase John Henry Newman, “God has committed some work to each jubilarian which he has not committed to another. Each has a unique role to carry out the mission … each is a link in a chain, a bond of connection….”
As we look at the composite picture of the jubilarians, we see the expanse of past and present service using different gifts in multiple roles and in different geographical places but for the same mission…being the link God needed to accomplish works of transformation.
Let’s take a sweeping glance of some of their service:
Principals, administrators and teachers serving in education from primary through secondary levels and comprehensive child care programs; professors and administrators in higher education. We have sisters who serve with various titles in the pastoral settings: pastoral ministry, spiritual direction, associate pastors, chaplains, all facets of religious education.
We have jubilarians who serve the specialized needs of the community to further the mission: through facilitating communication by running a printing department, using culinary skills in the convent and in lunch programs in the schools, and responding to the unique needs of the SSND community — health care, administrative services, tutoring, etc. fulfilling that challenge of going where you are needed.
We have sisters who serve by accepting their debilitating illnesses and being the powerhouse of prayer … begging blessings for our mission.
The geographic areas are near and far: Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Minnesota, California, Guam, Ebeye, Yap, Chuuk, Sweden – metropolitan areas, rural areas.
ARE THESE WOMEN NOT THE RADICAL FOLLOWERS OF JESUS?
The gifts of these jubilarians have impacted society as Theresa intended, moved our mission forward and developed our charism.
If we could draw a circle signifying the circle as the mission and place all these works that have been done and are being done by the jubilarians, we would see the most wondrous kaleidoscope that God views all the time.
Theresa created a structure that frees us for the service. We take our gifts and extend God’s work as far as we can. To quote from You Are Sent – “As community we are sent in the power of the Spirit to continue Christ’s mission, to proclaim him, to be transformed and to transform our world …”
We jubilarians do have some things in common:
- we all memorized the Baltimore catechism
- we were trained in the “old” rule of the congregation
- we were professed in the “first?” habit … the one that looked like the shell of a grotto
- we – even our classmates from Chicago – were all members of and professed in the same province (Chicago province came a few years later)
- we all began in the Milwaukee motherhouse and the Golden jubilarians were the last postulants in the Milwaukee Motherhouse.
Have you already noted that all these “common” things have changed?
Even though we have the same goal, the same mission … individuals walk the path in different ways … at the same time … but doing different activities. If we could view our paths that God is orchestrating, we would be amazed at the rich, colorful brocade interwoven with exquisite textures.
There has been walking, skipping, and running, some hiking uphill but we found that going down the hill could be as strenuous as the climb, some stretches look like pretzels, some dead ends, some areas are with loose ends or knotted.
When we reached plateaus and enjoyed the comfort of sitting on the benches we sometimes found it easier to extend our sitting and had to be prodded to move to our next challenge.
At times, we were on those traffic round-a-bouts … and we kept going around the circle, not knowing where or when to get off.
We know that physical conditions of hips, knees, hearing, and other debilitating illnesses alter the route and challenge the individual.
There was laughing, sharing and sometimes tears were shed.
One thing that became evident to each of us is that even if there is a direction to the path, there are obstacles …. Some obstacles you walk around, some you crawl over, some you remove and some you turn around and take a different route. But our consistent experience is … that God is a strong but gentle lover who never tires of the daily-ness of the journey … and tomorrow will be with us again as we face new opportunities and new challenges.
As Theresa in her cooperative journey with God did not know the total impact she made on society … neither do we.
Yes, God speaks to each one as he makes us….
Go to the limits of your longings
And we can say:
We have made some big shadows that God can and has moved in
We will keep on going … holding God’s hand.
We jubilarians have
Hearts welling with rich images that will never be painted …
Starts of poetry that will not be written …
Songs of praise and gratitude that will not be published …
But … Today … we jubilarians proclaim:
- We are grateful for a God who loves each of us personally and lets us love him back
- We are grateful for a woman who dared to impact society and create a structure for us to join the mission
- We are grateful for the God-given gifts of each jubilarian, and the uniqueness of each one’s journey.
AND … we say to you to all of you … thank you for your presence … your support
and for being part of our journey.
How to Reach Jubilarians
Cards and letters may be addressed to:
Sister's name c/o SSND Jubilarians, Provincial Offices, 13105 Watertown Plank Road, Elm Grove, WI 53122-2291.
If you would like to honor sister with a tribute gift, please click HERE.