Golden jubilees celebrated throughout SP history
For days before the big celebration, young sisters were washing habits and pressing them and making sure everything was ready for the special day, recalls Sister Suzanne Brezette, who entered the Congregation in 1938.
The golden jubilee celebrations of old were observed every year on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16.
“We always looked forward to that occasion in the summer. That was always a very festive Mass, just as it is now,” remembers Sister Ann Xavier Hau.
“The thing I remember most is that the sisters who celebrated their golden jubilee always seemed so old and feeble. I remember many years as a young sister pushing wheelchairs in of the people who were celebrating,” Sister Suzanne said.
Many of the women entered at 15 and 16 in the earlier days of the Congregation and so were only in their mid-60s for their golden jubilee. Yet most were living in the health-care facility at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the sisters recalled.
“I’m probably older than they were then. But because they didn’t have the nourishment and the health care and all the kinds of things that we have today, they didn’t live as long,” Sister Mary Lee Mettler said.
“I came to community in 1951, and we joked about how many of us would still be living for our golden jubilee and how decrepit we would be going down the aisle of the auditorium,” Sister Mary Lee said.
From 1932 — the first year such records were retained in the SP archives — to 1966, the golden jubilee celebration included a special evening program honoring the celebrants.
Sister Beatrice Hoberg recalls that the evening programs held in the Conservatory’s Cecilian Auditorium included singing, skits and speeches as well as performances by the SP orchestra in the orchestra pit.
The jubilarians were the guests of honor, but all Congregation members home for the summer attended, making up a crowd that sometimes counted more than 1,000.
A jubilee program preserved from the 1950s documents that some sisters put on a play while others performed on harp and cello, and the junior choir sang. Former SP pupils of the jubilarians showed off musical and theatrical talents.
The evenings often included parodies created around memories and events from the celebrants’ pasts.
“They tried to make it as light and fun as possible. There was very little that was serious about it, recalling events from their novitiate days and all,” Sister Suzanne said.
1967 was the first year that the evening performance was foregone for a reception-type celebration. As families and friends began to be invited, the reception became more practical.
The evening performance went out with the times, Sister Mary Lee said. “The skits kind of died a natural death. But they were fun and funny.”
Continuity and change
Some aspects of today’s celebrations still mirror the past.
Since the 1940s, the day has included a morning greeting by the general superior, the giving of flower corsages, and a festive Eucharistic Liturgy and reception/meal.
Sisters’ lives have changed, and so have aspects of the celebrations.
Many sisters celebrating their golden jubilee today are still on mission and come home for the event. Many other sisters, no longer home for the summer, travel for the celebration.