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Reflections for the Easter Triduum

Radical inclusivity … exquisite worship … transformative kinship

For many Sundays during this past COVID-19 riddled year, I made my way to the livestream version of Eucharistic Liturgy at Old Saint Pat’s Church in Chicago. It wasn’t the same as being together with my Providence Community in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, but it did feel like home.  

Although I am a Chicago native, I’m not sure I have worshipped at Old Saint Pat’s more than once or twice. So, what was the attraction, you say, and what does this have to do with Easter? A few Sundays ago, I stumbled onto their mission statement on my way to the livestream and found these words: radical inclusivity … exquisite worship … transformative kinship.  Is this why I kept tuning into Sunday liturgy there?

Recently, the Sisters of Providence sent out an Easter card to our friends and benefactors. In it, I wrote, “Easter is so much more than celebrating that Jesus was raised from the dead. It is also God’s invitation to accept our own mission as followers of Christ.”  Might radical inclusivity, exquisite worship and transformative kinship shape our own mission today as followers of the Risen One?

Radical inclusivity

Just imagine if we accepted the invitation of radical inclusivity. Radical — as in very new and different from the usual or ordinary. What would life be like if we welcomed all people in the manner of Jesus?

There is Jesus on Good Friday — forgiving not only the “good thief” hanging next to him on the cross but also those who crucified him. Eventually he would make the man who denied him the rock on which he built his church. Throughout his life, Jesus neither condemned the outcast or the sinner. He healed whether or not it was allowed on the Sabbath.

Is it time for me to atone for my own failures to include someone who doesn’t think the way I do? It is time for me to use my own personal power and authority to speak up when the little or the least is in harm’s way. To say to my Asian sister, “I am sorry you are afraid to go to the store right now because of the hateful stares you receive, so I will go with you.” To say to my lesbian co-worker, “You are safe here.”

If all lives mattered, we wouldn’t have to say, “Black lives matter or Asian lives matter or the children at the border matter or those on death row matter.”

Radical inclusivity … do this in memory of me.

Exquisite worship

Scripture tells us that before the feast of the Passover, while they were at supper, Jesus rose, and washed the feet of his disciples, reminding them that “as I have done for you, you should also do.”  This Holy Thursday remembrance has become part of the exquisite worship handed down to us by the servant leader Jesus of Nazareth. Our worship is empty if it does not send us forth to serve, to be the body of Christ for our world.

I am sometimes amazed that all these years later, we have retained those same basic words captured in Scripture, “This is my body, which will be given for you; this is the cup of my blood, which will be poured out for you and for many.” And we still call it — receiving communion. Communion — a word that also means the act of sharing, or holding in common; participation; often a kind of intimate fellowship or rapport.

What if that concept of communion followed us home from our times of worship? In speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic last March, Pope Francis said, “We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”

Maybe this is the memory we need to nurture post pandemic. When we are truly out of isolation and unmuted, will we remember that we are in communion with all God’s people and all of creation? How will I/we continue to reverence and worship our oneness in the body of Christ? Perhaps the better question is for whom or what shall we show reverence — our battered earth?

Exquisite worship … do this in memory of me.

Transformative Kinship

We know that the Easter event caused a marked change in the followers of Jesus. The fear that had them huddling in the upper room was transformed by their steadfast belief that they had seen the Lord. They opened themselves to his continued presence in the power of the Holy Spirit. They became kin, a community whose love for one another got noticed. His presence kept them present to one another. They valued the relationships within the community more than anything else and responded appropriately, lovingly, generously. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that they held all things in common. They were of one heart and soul.

Providence Associate Maria Price congratulates Co-Director Sister Sue Paweski with a hug prior to the Coronavirus pandemic.

What if Jesus’s presence in our lives kept us present, really present, to the other in our lives?  How can I show up for others, exhibit ongoing responsiveness and involvement in the lives of all those I want to know and embrace as kin? Can I offer my time, talent and treasure even when it costs me?

A recent action by the Jesuits (Society of Jesus) is a dramatic example of such transformative kinship. They have created a foundation and plan to raise a reported $100 million for the descendants of the slaves they once owned and sold and to promote racial reconciliation across the country.

It is thought to be one of the largest efforts by an institution to atone for slavery.  Representatives of the new foundation, “Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation,” reported that descendants of the Jesuits’ slaves had rejected individual cash settlements in favor of a substantial investment that could improve lives for generations to come.

Bravo to both the Jesuits and the Descendants for focusing on the future in their efforts to repair the past. In the end, is this not the message for which Jesus offered his life? Certainly, not everyone can respond to this call to work for the good of others in the manner of the Jesuits. But each of us and all of us can do something. In fact, we must do something if we expect to have a place in the kindom of God.

Transformative kinship … do this in memory of me.

Gratefully, I will be able to celebrate liturgy with my “masked” Sisters of Providence in the Church of the Immaculate Conception throughout the Triduum. I will bring to those services memories of my time with the community at Old St. Pat’s in Chicago. That community has helped nourish and sustain me. I believe their desire for radical inclusivity … exquisite worship … transformative kinship is God’s desire for us as well.  May the efforts of all of us joined in the body of Christ and celebrated so dramatically during the Triduum help make it so.

Easter blessings to you in Providence.

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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4 Comments

  1. Bill Hughes on April 1, 2021 at 9:08 am

    Thank you, Dawn for your thought-provoking and moving message. A blessed Triduum and Easter to you!

  2. Connie SP on April 1, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks Dawn for your reflections and questions that I will ponder over these next few days.

  3. Mary Carroll Blocher on April 1, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Very inspiring thoughts and words. Much to ponder on. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Donna Watzke on April 2, 2021 at 10:14 am

    Really appreciate this profound reflection, Dawn. I am sharing it with family and friends. Happy Easter.

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