Sep24, 2015 - By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Sisters from nine different religious communities, along with Bishop Martin
Amos and several priests, gathered in Davenport to celebrate consecrated life
and to remember their “younger heart’s desire.”
These women religious were among 80
people — members of religious communities, a bishop and several priests —
participating in an event Sept. 13 at the Congregation of the Humility of Mary
Center, Davenport, to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. Pictured clockwise
from left are Sister Miriam Hogan, OCD; Sister Kathleen Mullin, BVM; Sister Mary
Bea Snyder, CHM; and Sister Lynne Elwinger, OCD.
The Congregation of the Humility of Mary hosted the day of prayer and
celebration on Sept. 13 in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis
designated the special year, which began the first Sunday of Advent 2014 and
closes Feb. 2, 2016, on the World Day of Consecrated Life.
“Fundamentally, we are a people of hope,” observed Sister Catherine Bertrand,
SSND, the Davenport event’s presenter. This day of reflection “provides us with
an opportunity to be aware of the space within each of us where God’s spirit
Sr. Bertrand, who has experience in vocations work, shared a humorous story
involving an effort to inspire Catholic elementary school students. A priest, in
his homily during a school Mass, told the boys that he wasn’t getting any
younger and that one of them would replace him some day. He pointed to the
principal, a sister, and said she wasn’t getting any younger, either. One of the
girls would replace her some day. After Mass, a girl in third grade approached
the principal and said, “I’m the one.”
“Can you remember a time,” Sr. Bertrand asked her audience, “when you clearly
had a sense in reflecting on your call, of being ‘the one’…? Is the spark still
there?” Do you remember your “younger heart’s desire?” Her questions laid the
groundwork for reflection and discussion among the participants in small
Sister Kathleen Storms, SSND, one of the event’s organizers, marveled at the
representation among the groups — everyone from congregation leaders, a
university president and a bishop to sisters who work with people on the
margins. To see them sitting in circles discussing ideas from an uplifting
presentation was so rewarding to Sr. Storms, director of Our Lady of the Prairie
Retreat Center in Wheatland.
“We haven’t had this many sisters from the area together for a time of prayer
and celebration for years,” added Sister Joann Kuebrich, CHM, another event
Participants expressed appreciation for Sr. Bertrand’s insights and a booklet
of notes she shared that featured inspiring quotes, Pope Francis’ challenge to
consecrated women and men and reflective questions for discussion. The Holy
Father challenged those who had chosen consecrated life to “be men and women of
communion! Have the courage to be present in the midst of conflict and tension,
as a credible sign of the presence of the Spirit who inspires in human hearts a
passion for all to be one.”
Participants at the Davenport event engaged in animated conversation over the
questions — focused on relationship with God, with others and with one’s self —
and on Sr. Bertrand’s talk. She invited the groups to share what it means to
live out their vocation to consecrated life in today’s world.
“It’s the little things we do for other people; the kindness, the
compassion,” offered Sister Lynne Elwinger of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns (OCD)
As sisters who have devoted their lives to “doing,” for some the practice of
simply “being,” is hard, Sister Greta Fitzgerald, vice president of the Sisters
of Humility, observed.
One of the questions in the booklet, “What stirs the ashes of our long ago
‘yes?’” inspired the group in which Sister Judy Herold, SSND, participated.
“Stirring up the fire; things like this (event) stir up the fire again, so we’re
grateful for your reflections,” Sr. Herold told the presenter.
The most poignant response of the day came from 90-year-old Sister Francis
Burke of the Clinton Franciscans, reflecting on the call to religious life.
Seated next to Sister Cecelia Vandeberg, a Sister of Humility who is 97, Sr.
Burke said, “We both agreed we’d do it over again.”