Our final weeks at the CDN coincide with the end of the Easter season and the church’s return to Ordinary Time. That seems fitting. Our canonical novitiate year has been anything but the usual. Upon arriving at the CDN last August, we novices stepped out of our ordinary routines and entered an extra-ordinary time, for extra prayer, reflection, and integration. This year, we journeyed into the wilderness of our own hearts to internalize the vows and the charism to which we are committing our lives. We experienced the paschal mystery, both on a macro scale as the entire human family experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, and on a micro scale, as we sought to take on the mind and heart of Christ and become a new creation.
Taizé Prayer Around the Cross in our House Chapel
Now this extraordinary novitiate year is drawing to a close. Like the disciples in Sunday’s Gospel (Matt. 28: 16-20), we’ve been up on the mountaintop with Jesus, and we’re about to be sent down and out on mission. So, it’s also fitting that on our final Sunday together, the church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Trinity. As Fr Dan Horan reminded us earlier this year, our Trinitarian God has a heart for relationship. The mystery of the Trinity reveals that God is a loving communion between persons. Because we are created in God’s likeness, we too are made for communion. Particularly as vowed religious, Pope Francis tells us, we are called to become experts in communion – an image of the Trinity.
As we return to Ordinary Time and prepare to depart from the CDN, we hear Jesus telling us, “Go and make disciples of all the nations,” teaching and preaching and inviting those we encounter into a life of communion with God and each other. Such a Great Commission can seem daunting. To reassure us, Jesus first says, “All power on heaven and earth has been given to me.” As women in the church, we are keenly aware of how easily power can be abused and misused to dominate people. But the power of which Jesus speaks is meant to empower the church to continue God’s mission. God the Creator has given all power to Jesus, who then shares that power with us through the gift of the Spirit. I think there are three aspects of that power that we have witnessed this year, and which we are called to carry forth as we come down from the mountain.
First, Jesus receives from God the power to give life, and he shares that power with us. I think of the story we heard from Sister Mary Lou, a Maryknoll Missioner who ministered in Hong Kong to refugees from mainland China. Years later, traveling through Adrian, MI, she stopped at a Chinese restaurant. When the chef heard she was a Maryknoll Sister, he came out to say that his family had been among those refugees who survived on the care and noodles provided by Sisters like MaryLou. Thanking her, he said the Maryknoll Sisters saved his life and his family. Through Jesus, we have the power to give life to one another.
From left to right: Maryknoll Sr Gloria, SVD seminarian David, Faithmary,
Maryknoll Sr MaryLou & Annie
Second, Jesus shares the power of unconditional love, a love that is stronger than death. I think of my mom, Sally Killian, who used to say that she found something to love in every one of her patients. As a physician, she believed that love is stronger than any disease and the suffering it brings. Even now, six years since she passed, my family continues to know the power of her unconditional love for us. We all are called to love one another with that same powerful love that comes from God.
Annie's Dad, TJ, comes to visit
Finally, Jesus shares with us the power to forgive. I think of the homicide prayer vigils we attended on the last Saturday of every month, where we gathered with Catholic Sisters and friends to remember the victims as well as the perpetrators of violence here in Chicago, to pray for healing, and to commit ourselves to the work of peace-building. Jesus entrusts to us his empowering ministry of reconciliation.
The power to give life, to love without condition, to forgive and reconcile – this is the power with which Jesus sends us forth. Looking back on this year at the CDN, I thank God to have experienced a life-giving, loving and forgiving community among the directors and novices. Now we go our separate ways, knowing that we remain united in the love of Christ, who promises to be with us always – even in Ordinary Time.
Outing to Indiana Dunes State Park