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We hear from where we stand – Foundation Day 2009

Happy Foundation Day!

There’s a saying, “We see from where we stand.” As I was reflecting on these readings, I started to think it’s as true to say, “We hear from where we stand.”

In this church, in its warmth and light and community, the Scriptures chosen for this celebration sound comforting, don’t they? Yahweh speaks through the prophet Jeremiah and assures us that God has “plans for our welfare and not for harm.” God intends to give us “a future with hope” and promises that if we seek God we will find God.

The apostle Peter praises God’s mercy for in that mercy “we have been born anew to a living hope” that lets us “rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.”

Finally, in the gospel of Luke, we hear Jesus hold up to us the tender and constant care of God for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. If Providence lavishes such care on other members of creation, won’t that same Providence pour out love and compassion on us?

Absolutely, Jesus tells us. And twice in the gospel proclaimed, he tells us not to worry! Don’t spend all our time chasing after what we are to eat and drink and wear. Strive instead to bring about the reign of God on Earth – to live as citizens of Earth community. In that effort, all the rest will be given us. That’s what he says – and it sounds like a promise.

Yet I can’t help but wonder how these Scriptures sound to some others in our world today.

What if we chose just one name and one intention from the book of intentions at Mother Theodore’s shrine? What if that one name was that of a woman who had lost her child to cancer? How will she hear the words “we have been born anew to a living hope?” How will we light a small flicker of hope in this grieving mother and help her to fan it into a warming and comforting light?

How will the 10% of our US citizens who are unemployed hear “do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying?” How will we, who desire to strive for the reign of God, assist the unemployed to eat, care for their families and to know the generosity of Love Incarnate?

Imagine ourselves among the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or Palestine as they hear Jeremiah’s promise that God “has plans for your welfare and not for harm…for a future with hope?” What do we need to do to quell the hatred and violence among Earth’s people?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. We need to have responses. Our responses constitute our “striving for the reign of God.” And striving for the reign of God identifies us as followers of the living Christ.

Tough? Yes. Tiring? Yes. Overwhelming in complexity? Yes. Seemingly impossible? Yes.

Required of us as disciples of Jesus? Yes.

How fortunate we are to have so many role models to encourage us, to pray with us, to strengthen us in our life of striving.

Each of the six women we honor today, each of the six who arrived here 169 years ago today – wet and tired after a journey of almost three months, each of these six women had responses to the overwhelming needs of God’s people.

In striving for the reign of God, for the wellbeing of the other, they:

  • left behind everyone and everything they knew and loved;
  • took what was offered to eat and drink no matter how strange to them;
  • threw concern for their personal safety – much less comfort – to the winds;
  • rode in or on whatever would convey them to their destination thus enduring extreme discomfort; and, once here,
  • worked like the dickens to welcome postulants, create a living space, clear and plant a garden, and build a school building so that – nine months after their arrival – they would realize their congregation’s goals of opening a novitiate and an academy for girls.

This was how our six foremothers strove for the reign of God, how they honored Divine Providence, how they furthered God’s loving plans in service among God’s people through works of love, mercy and justice. This is how they walked the path marked out for them by Providence.

The needs of our day require the same valiant responses – the same generous giving of our best efforts and best gifts – the same deep trust in Providence. Can we do less, be less and consider ourselves worthy heirs of their legacy? I think not.

In the firm hope they will hear and answer us, let us ask them to intercede on our behalf that we may be –as they were – instruments of the hope and healing of a provident God.

  • Sister St. Vincent Ferrer, pray for us.
  • Sister Basilide, pray for us.
  • Sister Olympiade, pray for us.
  • Sister Mary Xavier, pray for us.
  • Sister Mary Ligouri, pray for us.
  • Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, pray for us.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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