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Celebrating Sister Joni as she professes first vows on June 26

Joni first vows webBuenas dias! Bienvenidos a la Madre, las hermanas y el hermano y otros miembros de la familia y tambien a todos amigos y amias de Joni.

Good morning too, to all Sisters of Providence, Providence Associates and visitors.

The scriptures proclaimed today are those designated for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary time – not scripture that Joni has chosen.

Yet, as I prayed these scriptures, it seems Providence has gifted appropriate ones for this celebration – for Joni’s first profession of vows.

For me, each scripture selection – and all three together – create a vibrant mural of the lives of all followers of Jesus. The three panels of this mural could be labeled: LEAVING, LEARNING, LIBERATING.

Today, we shine a light on one particular follower of Jesus – our Sister Joni Luna – as she professes first vows as a woman religious, as a Sister of Providence.

Joni’s life journey has been all about leaving, learning and liberating.

Like Elisha, finding himself wrapped in Elijah’s mantel, Joni experienced a compelling call to leave the life she had earned through hard work and dedication.

Feeling as if something were missing in her life, Joni asked a friend what it might be. Her friend replied that Joni would get mad if she told her. Joni insisted she wouldn’t get mad. So the friend told her that what Joni was missing in her life was God. Joni got mad and intrigued.

Her friend had managed to “cast a mantle” around Joni that precipitated Joni to leave one path in life for another.

From that moment on, Joni continued to explore, to learn all the ways Providence has to liberate her – all of us – from the comforts and security of the safe lives we create for ourselves.

Joni was willing to learn what liberation comes as one leaves the old behind and embraces following a persistent call.

However, Paul cautions all of us that our freedom can be used just as easily for “opportunities for sin” as for “loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

For a Sister of Providence, our vow of chastity provides an antidote to leading lives of selfishness. By the vow of chastity we promise to live not by excluding others or by creating boundaries. No; we promise our lives will include and respect others as we incarnate the love of Jesus.

I find today’s Gospel a perfect portrait of the vowed life. The gospel portrays Jesus acting with a disconcerting mix of determination, fearlessness, and persistence.

Jesus has “set his face to go to Jerusalem” – the holiest place for the Hebrews and the very place where persons of the law have questioned, doubted and tried to discredit him.

Jesus chooses the place where he has found the least acceptance or friendship or success. He seems to be responding to an inner sense of obedience, to a call, an urging of Providence – no matter what the consequences.

Isn’t this what each Sister of Providence promises when vowing obedience? I don’t know about you, but I would more likely respond to the challenge of obedience the way James and John did.

Just let that fire come down and destroy the opposition. I’ll take the matter into my own hands and do what I want to do. I’ll control the situation and outcome.

Not Jesus though. He had set his face “to go to Jerusalem.” And go to Jerusalem he did. His obedience was not to the law but to the liberation love brings. So our vow of obedience is not to the law but fidelity to the ways of Providence, the ways of love.

The gospel gives an indication of how our vow of poverty looks in real life then relates the stories of three persons who say they want to follow Jesus; but each of the three has a reason why she or he can’t do it right now. Jesus doesn’t say to them, “if you have something to do first, then forget it.”

He reminds them of the cost of following the Way – accepting a lack of security, buying into the priority of proclaiming and living the good news of Jesus the Christ, facing the fact that what we promise today will require strength beyond our own. Then Jesus leaves the decision in their hands.

Following Jesus will ask us to live our vow of poverty as described in our Constitutions: “Not only the individual sister, but the Congregation as a body is obligated to manifest evangelical poverty as an expression of commitment to the Gospel and to concern for the needs of the poor.”

In your discernment, Joni, your fearlessness, determination and persistence have led you to this moment of discovering liberation in the promises you will make.

In the name of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence, I call you, Sister Joni Luna, to your first profession of vows.

Sister Denise Wilkinson

General Superior

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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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