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2015 Senior Jubilee Reflection

General Superior Sister Denise Wilkinson offered this reflection for the 2015 Senior Jubilee during the Tuesday, Dec. 8, Mass.

Where were you – or were you only in the mind of God – in 1935, 1940, 1945, 1955?

Eighty years ago, Sister Mary Terence Haag was entering the Congregation.

2015 80-year Jubilarian Sister Mary Terence Haag (center) with Sister Denise Wilkinson (left) and Sister Jenny Howard.

2015 80-year Jubilarian Sister Mary Terence Haag (center) with Sister Denise Wilkinson (left) and Sister Jenny Howard.

In 1940, Sisters Richard Bussing, Mary Roger Madden and Annette Schipp began their journey toward full membership in the Sisters of Providence.

Quite a sizable group is celebrating 70 years as Sisters of Providence: Sisters Mary Jo Stewart, Marian Ruth Johnson, Eugene Francis Keaveney, Rita Black, Marie Paul Haas, Laurine Haley, Martha Steidl and Winifred Mary Sullivan.

In 1955, the God of Providence called these women to follow the path marked out: Sisters Ann Matilda Holloran, Jean Fuqua, Nancy Nolan, Alice Ann Rhinesmith, Josephine Bryan, Suzanne Dailey, Ann Margaret O’Hara, Mary Ann Phelan and Margaret Quinlan.

These are the women we celebrate, honor and thank today.

These sisters have demonstrated enthusiasm and dedication to the mission of Providence and to ministries flowing from that mission.

2015 75-year Jubilarians include (from left) Sisters Annette Schipp, Mary Roger Madden and Richard Bussing.

2015 75-year Jubilarians include (from left) Sisters Annette Schipp, Mary Roger Madden and Richard Bussing.

Each of them has brought and still brings her unique personality, her unique gifts, a well-stocked shelf of opinions on any and all topics, a willingness to minister with and to others well past our official retirement age and, most importantly, to live the vision and values of the Congregation, to bring to life the ideals expressed in our Constitutions.

How did they arrive at this moment in their lives? Some of the ways probably include fidelity to prayer, fidelity to our vows and our common life and common mission.

No matter if one of these Jubilarians entered in 1935, 1940, 1945 or 1955, each has confronted more than one new world view, a new culture reality, differing views in civic and Church arenas.

Our Jubilarians have navigated, negotiated 80, 75, 70 or 60 years of religious life as the times changed – and “the times they are a-changin’.”

I’d be willing to bet, Jubilarians, that mentors have had a strong impact on your lives – namely Saint Mother Theodore and Mary, Mother of God – among many others.

2015 60-year Jubilarians include (from left) Sisters Margaret Quinlan, Suzanne Dailey, Ann Margaret O'Hara, Ann Matilda Holloran, Alice Ann Rhinesmith, Jean Fuqua, Mary Ann Phelan and Nancy Nolan. Not pictured: Sister Josephine Bryan.

2015 60-year Jubilarians include (from left) Sisters Margaret Quinlan, Suzanne Dailey, Ann Margaret O’Hara, Ann Matilda Holloran, Alice Ann Rhinesmith, Jean Fuqua, Mary Ann Phelan and Nancy Nolan. Not pictured: Sister Josephine Bryan.

About Mother Theodore … what need I say?

About Mary, Mother of God … what do I say?

In the Gospel of Luke proclaimed today, part of me – about one quarter – hears and sees the scene as calm and holy; the angel has wings, Mary’s hair is blonde. The angels’ message is disturbing but in a matter of minutes, Mary accepts her pregnancy, that her son will “be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

In this setting, soft angelic music can be heard as Mary responds: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Possibly this is the way it played out; but three quarters of me thinks not.

Mary lived in a society and tradition of strict adherence to the law and very clear distinctions of expectations between the roles of women and men.

Mary and Joseph are betrothed – that is married but not living together.

Yet Mary – with what struggle and anguish we do not know – accepts that she will conceive a son; raise a child destined to be the embodiment of all that Israel hopes for in terms of right relationship.

2015 70-year Jubilarians include (front, from left) Sisters Marian Ruth Johnson, Eugene Francis Keaveney, Martha Steidl, Rita Black, (back) Mary Jo Stewart, Winifred Mary Sullivan and Laurine Haley. Not pictured: Sister Marie Paul Haas.

2015 70-year Jubilarians include (front, from left) Sisters Marian Ruth Johnson, Eugene Francis Keaveney, Martha Steidl, Rita Black, (back) Mary Jo Stewart, Winifred Mary Sullivan and Laurine Haley. Not pictured: Sister Marie Paul Haas.

Imagine Mary sharing this fact of her conception with Joseph. Joseph must have struggled to accept the reality and then made the choice to honor the vow he had made to Mary. Yes, Joseph was just man – and though not recorded in the Scripture – a loving man as well. In his own way, Joseph too said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

These loving parents allowed and encouraged Jesus to become who He was called to be.

Jubilarians, your call to religious life was also a mysterious call from God’s Spirit.

Like Mary of Nazareth, you had no idea how it could be that, out of the choices available to you, you felt drawn to saying yes to your call.

The fruit of your wombs are the lives you have touched, changed, healed and with whom you have shared your active love of God and support of other persons.

But don’t think you can rest on your laurels, Jubilarians. For now you model Elizabeth, “who in her old age conceived a son.”

You still are called to bring life and hope into our troubled world. As our Elizabeth, you too, no matter how or where or when, will conceive life and light to ease the burdens of others … “for nothing is impossible with God.”

Happy Jubilee you “favored ones,” whom we celebrate and honor and thank today.

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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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3 Comments

  1. Margo Edwards-O'Toole on December 10, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Love seeing “the girls” very much the same as I remember them in their youth! Thank you for your years of service and the gifts you gave to many. Much love to all the SP’s during this Blessd Christmas Season.

    Margo

  2. Carol Nolan on December 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    So many giants in these groups! How lucky can we get?

  3. Linda Anne Masesso '65 on February 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    This piece by sister Denise is one of the set I have read in a long time. My favorite (andi am sure I will walk away with “Let it be done to me according to Yoiur Word”). Thank you so much for this moving piece. And as you remember, I did not compliment someone because I wanted to be thought highly of.

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