Franciscan Community Director’s Comments on Sister Elena’s Perpetual Profession
Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Louise Hembrecht shares her congratulatory comments to Sister Elena Gonzales on the occasion of her Perpetual Profession of Vows on August 2, 2012.
Good Morning, Sisters. As we celebrate this feast of the Portiuncula, we also celebrate the perpetual profession of Sister Elena Gonzales. As Sister Elena professes her perpetual vows this afternoon, she proclaims that she fully embraces the Franciscan charism and life that had its beginnings in the Portiuncula.
The Portiuncula is a little Church, a little portion of the kingdom of God, the home of the Franciscan Order. It is the place Clare made her desire and her choice to follow Christ in the way of Francis a reality. Today, in the home of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, our home, Sister Elena will proclaim that she wishes to be a member of this community, a Community that follows Christ in the way of Francis, a part of this little portion of God’s kingdom for the whole of her life.
Commitment of any kind is rather rare in our world today. Sister Elena will be making a perpetual commitment, a commitment to live the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, no longer for just one year, but for all the years of her life. Formation is a time of discernment, a time of asking whether or not God’s call is truly to live this life. As Sister Elena makes her perpetual profession, the question changes. It is no longer a question of how she will live her life, whether she will chose religious vows or marriage vows or a single life, but how each decision she makes, each choice of every day is aimed at one thing – to live religious vows faithfully and joyfully.
Of course, it is a faithfulness that is not primarily hers. If that were so, we would probably see her in tears today. We, ourselves would be worn down, overburdened by the weight of the responsibility to be faithful. Such is not the case. Joy and gratitude fill the hearts of each of us today for we know that it is God’s faithfulness that sustains us. It is faith and trust in God’s faithfulness that gives Sister Elena, that gives each of us, the courage to live out the desire to be poor, chaste and obedient for the sake of the Kingdom.
The symbols that Sister Elena will receive today serve as a reminder of the vows and of her joy and enthusiasm for living our life. After she receives these symbols, I will say to her that we confirm that she is now with us as a perpetual member of this Religious Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, sharing all things in common with us now and in the future. The rose serves as a reminder that in the beauty of our life, in the joys of life in common, community life, in the living out of obedience, there will be difficult times, thorns that protect and that keep her focused on the choice she has made.
Each time she looks at a crucifix she will be reminded that Christ emptied Himself totally for her, that He gave everything – He who was totally rich became poor for each of us, for her. And so, keeping the crucifix before her eyes will call her to give the little riches that she has been given in service of the Community, of the Church, and most importantly in service of the One she loves, Christ the Lord.
Most importantly is the ring that she will wear. Just as it touches her skin, she will know that her entire life is encircled by the chaste love, the tremendous love of her God. It is this love that will enable her to love all those who enter her life with a chaste love. Each day from this day forward, she will both see and feel her ring and know that it is God who protects her, who is faithful to her, who loves her.
We celebrate today and thank God, not just for today, but for all the days that have come before, days that have prepared Sister Elena for to proclaim her choice before us, before the Church, and before the world that she trusts the faithfulness of God. We celebrate and thank God, not just for today, but for all the days to come as she lives out her response to God’s tremendous goodness and love in this Community. We rejoice that Sister Elena joins us in our response to God’s love. We go forward in mutual support of Sister Elena and of one another.
Congratulations Sister Elena. God’s blessings.