Reflecting on the profession of vows of Sister Anna Fan
May 1, 2023 – St. Joseph the Worker Church Hsinchu County, Taiwan
Bishop John Baptist Keh-Mean Lee, our brother priests, our Missionary Sisters of Providence, the Fan family and friends, especially Mamma Fan, our own Sisters of Providence, and, of course, our dear Anna …
… thank you all for your presence here today at St. Joseph the Worker Church. We offer our wholehearted thanks to the community here at St. Joseph’s for their gracious hospitality. We would say that their offering this place for us is providential because St. Joseph is a special patron of the Sisters of Providence.
Surrender to Providence
Despite everyone’s gracious presence, today is NOT how Anna expected to profess her perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence. She had great plans to come to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in June during our Annual Meeting. She was to profess vows there in the presence of the larger Providence Community.
However, I do believe we could not find a greater witness to what is demanded by the vows than this gathering today.
In a very short time, Anna’s whole life has been turned upside down because of a very challenging medical diagnosis. Truly God is asking her total yes, her total surrender at this moment in her life to trust in that Providence which has never failed us.
Back in 2017, when Anna requested to take first vows as a Sister of Providence, she wrote to me:
“I surrender and trust God planted me in the garden of the Sisters of Providence and will make a miracle in my life. All (God) needs is my Amen.”
Today, Anna, you have said a Great AMEN with your words of profession:
I, Sister Anna Fan, take forever, the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
And it seems to me that because of your wholehearted yes, God will make a miracle in your life. In so many ways, Anna, God has already worked miracles in your life. In that same letter of request, Anna related:
“I always thank God when I reflect on my life. God favored me and guided me. God not only awakened my soul; God also strengthened my confidence after 38 years of paralysis. God helped me to walk through dark valleys and brought me to rest beside his source of Grace.”
And I am going to pray specially that you continue to receive the grace of a brave heart. In a recent email to Anna, I called her a brave heart. And that is what I believe she is and needs to be. Perhaps this is what all of us need to be right now in order to be the presence of love, mercy and justice in our world, no matter our circumstance.
And what might living the vows look like if they were lived with a brave heart?
I recently read an article in which the author defined the vow of obedience as open-heartedness.
I think this means to be brave enough to open our hearts to the promptings of the spirit. To recognize and to choose what leads to greater love. To ask ourselves, how might we manifest greater love for God and one another. This is the way we honor Divine Providence – by being a living sign of God’s loving care in our world today.
If the vow of obedience is open-heartedness then what if we thought of chastity as tender-heartedness?
Can we be brave enough to truly love whoever shows up in our lives with a tenderness that makes them feel welcome and accepted – those who are hard to love, those whom others have rejected because of their ethnicity or orientation or beliefs. This is the way we honor Divine Providence – by being a living sign of God’s loving care in our world today.
And if you indulge me one more “hearted” word, what if we thought of poverty as big-heartedness?
Will we be brave enough to put our own needs aside and tend to those who are most in need of God’s loving care, including this beautiful planet of ours. We will be big enough to give of ourselves, our time and energy and not count the cost. This is the way we honor Divine Providence – by being a living sign of God’s loving care in our world today.
When it comes to brave hearts, I don’t think anyone can compare to Mother Theodore or Mother Maria Gratia in terms of what they faced. Storms at sea, internment in a war camp, limited resources and always, the constant threat of illness and disease.
They, too, surrendered, put all their trust in Providence. We stand here in Taiwan today because of their brave hearts and their willingness to follow the path marked out for them by a Provident God.
And we stand with you, Sister Anna, as you continue to follow the path of Providence. As you continue to surrender and trust that God will make a miracle in your life.
Let me close with some powerful advice from Mother Marie Gratia Luking:
“When my mind becomes occupied about the future … (I) can only get strength by casting it all into the arms of God’s Providence, living one day at a time, expecting everything from him.”
Our as our Saint Mother Theodore says:
“Have confidence in that Providence that so far has never failed us.”
Have confidence, Brave Heart. God will make a miracle in your life.