For many reasons, the Easter Vigil is like no other liturgical celebration during our year. The rich symbols and sacramentality give expression to the core of our Catholic faith and beliefs. I can think of no better way to embrace our catechumens and candidates for full communion in the faith! Many of them arrive at this point after long and winding journeys, hopefully with a sense of coming home. I’m grateful for many of our Sisters and other parish ministers who companion these individuals on their journey in RCIA programs, individual instruction or in our schools.
I remember well the Easter Vigil in 2001 when I had the opportunity to participate in the liturgy at St. Susanna Church in Rome. This is the English speaking parish (for which I was most grateful!) and one of the Churches from the early days of our Christian history. I remember being struck with the awesome realization that in that space we celebrated the early martyrs and the newest members of our faith community. That experience has changed the way I’ve celebrated the Easter Vigil ever since!
I can only imagine the joy in Mary’s heart when she met individuals who came to believe in her Son and follow Him either during His days on earth or in the post-Resurrection Church. I know she continues to welcome our newest members today.
Who do you know that is entering our Catholic Church this Easter? Welcome to all our newest members!
We’ve all heard the saying that “To sing is to pray twice.” I’m especially conscious of this during our Holy Week liturgies and times of prayer. It often strikes me how much I take “good” liturgical music for granted.
Several of our Sisters are involved here at our Provincial Center and in various parishes in planning and providing music that aids us in our prayer throughout the liturgical year. I am so grateful for the selfless giving of all liturgists, instrumentalists and choir members who make it possible for me to enter fully into the spirit of prayer and worship. Weeks like this can stretch them to the limits as they give and give and give.
As a young man, Jesus likely learned to chant the Jewish liturgy in the Synagogue, but I suspect He also learned more familiar melodies from His Mother, Mary. Perhaps she sang Him to sleep at night or He listened to her humming throughout the day. It’s likely that she taught Him this intimate way of connecting with the Father.
Who are some of the musicians in your family or parish who have helped you to pray through music?
Today’s Gospel reading takes us back to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. We’ve visited here on two other occasions; once, when we learned of the tension between Martha’s preoccupation with service and Mary’s contemplative listening and again, when we heard of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Today’s account tells of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly perfume. Is it significant that at the raising of Lazarus we’re told of the stench of the decaying body, and today we hear of the fragrance of Mary’s perfume filling the house? Someone has a keen sense of smell!
I’ve noticed over the years that certain smells remind me of particular places or people. The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies reminds me of my grandmother, the smell of candles reminds me of times as an elementary student when I helped in the parish Church/sacristy, and the smell of floor wax reminds me of my early days here in the convent.
I was once told that the origin of the name “Mary” (I can’t remember which language) is “living fragrance.” This seems to fit well in today’s Gospel reading as well as in relation to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Mary’s whole life was a living fragrance, reminding others of Jesus. Simply by living her daily life, she filled the world with the fragrance of Jesus.
Are there fragrances/smells connected to the memories in your life? What fragrance will you spread by your life today?
Sister Mary Susanne Wenninger died on March 23 after almost 99 years of life and 78 years as a Sister of Notre Dame! That Sister’s family was blessed with many priestly and religious vocations speaks to the vibrant faith alive in their home.
Caregiver seems an apt word to characterize Sister Mary Susanne when we recall that she served as teacher, principal, local coordinator and nurse’s aide. A sister who knew her well remarked that Sister Mary Susanne had a way of knowing your needs before you voiced them, and was quick to generously offer you an assisting hand.
Letter writing and care packages were ways that Sister Mary Susanne reached out to our sisters who lived far away—in the foreign missions or in a distant state. Her letters were always handwritten and filled with news from home. She had a heart for the needy and would gather gifts each Christmas for the Santa Shop at one of our central city schools. There was a special place in her heart for our Papua New Guinea mission where her sister, Sister Mary Virginia, and her niece, Sister Mary de Porres, spent many years in missionary service.
Sister’s giving and generous spirit certainly echoes the loving care that Mary showed to Jesus and all those she encountered. May Mary welcome Sister home with open arms!
As Sisters of Notre Dame, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation today as our Congregational patronal feast. This day was marked as our patronal feast in 1969. In her letter to our Sisters on that day, Mother Mary Anselm wrote of Mary’s response:
1. Mary was READY FOR GOD’S MOMENTS in her life; she was spiritually alert; she caught the Message; she understood it.
2. Mary said “Yes” to God, bringing Christ into the world, a Savior for mankind.
3. Mary LIVED BY FAITH; she had absolute faith in God. She could accept the second message of the Angel: “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GOD!”
4. Mary was NOURISHED BY PRAYER. Prayer was her atmosphere; therefore we see her magnificent RELIGIOUS POISE before the most startling Message ever given and the STRONG CALM of her FIAT.
We pray today, not only for all of our Sisters and Associates, but for all those with whom and to whom we minister. May you be blessed with the same generous spirit that enabled Mary to say “YES” to all that God dreamed for her.
I must say I’m very much enjoying this unseasonably warm weather. There’s something about sunshine, budding trees and green everywhere that seems to bring out the best in people. Perhaps the timing of having this sort of weather so early in March has made it even more of a gift.
I find it interesting how much I appreciate God’s “surprise timing” when it involves things like sunshine and spring days, but how I tend to struggle when my plans are “interrupted” in other ways. It’s so much easier to trust God’s timing when the results are comfortable and pleasant. Will I trust in His care just as much if we have snow on Easter?
Mary was certainly familiar with God’s interruptions in her life. If anyone knew what it was like to have her plans turned inside out and upside down, it was Mary! She, like our foundress Hilligonde Wolbring, came to trust God’s love and care more than her own plans no matter where they took her.
Will I trust God’s timing today, knowing that He cares for me infinitely more than I can even begin to imagine?
We celebrate today the feast of St. Joseph – patron of the Universal Church, patron of a happy death, patron of making sense out of life. At least for me, Joseph is the one I look to when I have my plans made and God decides to intervene. The anguish Joseph must have experienced upon hearing of Mary’s pregnancy must have stretched his faith to the limit. Just when things were falling into place in his life, God turned things upside down.
Perhaps Mary would have understood his situation best, considering her recent encounter with God’s “surprises.” What amazing conversations Mary and Joseph must have had as their lives unfolded! And while we may not experience the same visions or dreams of angels, I think we’ve all known the trauma of having our plans turned inside out.
An article from our Constitutions comes to mind: “The meaning of the obedience [or life’s happenings] asked of us can occasionally remain hidden. Such obedience, like Mary’s fiat, is a surrender of love made in faith, leading through darkness to light.”
Let’s go to Mary and Joseph for help in “making sense” of what lies before us. After all, they seem to be the experts!
As a proud alum of Notre Dame Academy, I am very excited that our basketball team is going to the state playoffs this weekend for the first time in our history ! The girls and their coaches have certainly worked hard to get to this point, and we as Sisters are so proud of them.
As the excitement continues to unfold, I’m aware of a parallel with the spiritual life. I heard a homily the other day in which we were reminded not to be just “good” but to strive to be “great” – to be a saint! I think I’m basically a good person; I don’t commit major crimes or serious sins. I wonder though how hard I work at becoming “great”? Do I truly desire to be a saint? I can learn much from the discipline and practice of the basketball team and their singular focus to be their best. I’m hoping the disciplines of this Lenten season will keep me focused as well.
Mary understood the importance of recognizing all she had received as gifts from God and then striving to use those gifts in the best way possible. Whether our girls win the state title or not (and I certainly hope they do!), I know for certain they’ve given it their best. I hope I can say the same.
As we continue to celebrate International Women’s Month and I reflect on the various ways our Sisters minister to women, one of those is our Sisters who work with G.E.D. programs around the country. Sister Mary Audrey Kreuz, Sister Mary Anna Therese Hartlieb and Sister Mary Frances Herkender are volunteers serving at Women Blessing Women here in Toledo. This program supports women in obtaining their G.E.D. as well as gaining job skills and securing employment. Sister Mary Bonita Sniegowski is part of a similar program at St. Vincent de Paul Adult Learning Center for Empowerment in New Orleans.
In many ways, these programs highlight the personal gifts and abilities of these women so they are able to move forward with their lives. The fact that Jesus did this often in His own life leads me to believe He must have learned it from Mary as He was growing up. I pray that Mary will help me to see and focus on the good qualities in each person and then do what I can to empower them to grow into the people God created them to be.
Who are the people in your life who have empowered you to become a better person?
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, I am reminded of a newsletter we received last month from our Sister Mary Jo Toll who ministers at the United Nations. Sister participates in a Working Group on Girls and their current effort with the Commission on the Status of Women is to raise awareness of the need for education for girls throughout the world. Education is certainly a key factor in moving out of the cycle of poverty, yet many girls lack this opportunity.
Our Sisters in many other countries also work to uphold and promote the dignity of women. Sister Mary Rashmi in Tanzania writes, “I began my mission by organizing rural, marginalized women into Self Help Groups with an aim of empowering them towards self-reliance and leadership. The women have shown steady growth by taking new initiatives and steps to bring about transformation in the society. As I look back I have much to be grateful for. Motivating the rural women to be ‘agents of transformation’ in the society, we have been able to move ahead.”
I am so proud of my Sisters who follow in the footsteps of Mary and seek to find ways to celebrate the special gifts which women bring to our world. It also causes me to stop and reflect on the women who have influenced me. I thank God for their presence in my life.
Who is a woman who has made a difference in your life? How has she influenced you to be a better person?