Becoming wise elders: this years’s Jubilarians / Consecrated lives: a gift for church and society

For the day of the congregational celebration, the Jubilarians choose a Sister to speak for them. This year, Sister Dianne McNamara, who marks 50 years as a Sister of Providence, gave a speech about change. Here is an excerpt:

It is because God first called us that we are here to celebrate the milestones of 50, 60 and 70 years as Sisters of Providence. This call invited us to dedicate our lives to the service of others whether it be as music teacher, caretaker of the elderly, missionary in Peru, teacher, nursery school worker, spiritual director or mental health care provider.

We are abundantly grateful to God for the gift of our religious vocation and to our congregation for its fidelity toward each one of us.

We have evolved into women who have moved our focus from external concerns to a more mature ever deepening understanding of life. We know that it is not how fast or how busy we are, but that it is the quality of what we think and do and say that makes us valuable members of our church and our society. How much we as individuals have grown from that day long ago when we first set foot on the doorsteps of this congregation!

Along with our own Jubilees we also celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. What a timely and inspiring coincidence this is!

In his writings Pope Francis refers to consecrated life as prophetic. He calls us to look on our past with gratitude and to live our present with passion. He says that religious need to embody the virtue of hope — that inner strength needed for the chaos in our world today. Most importantly, Francis calls us to be living witnesses of gospel joy, not only at times of celebration but at all times – witnesses of joy in our personal lives and in our community life.

All of us need community. As our congregational numbers decrease, it becomes even more important that we are “there for one another.” This connectedness and support nourishes us in our moving forward. We are still needed — needed to work in collaboration on issues of violence and family breakdown, to address ecological crises and radical injustice. Pope Francis calls us to continue to speak for respect of all life, for the goals of restorative justice, for sustainable development and for a better future for Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. Whether our involvement is local, national or international in scope, our SP charism and commitment can guide us to respond in more humane, gospel-oriented ways to the challenges that confront us.

Throughout our religious lives, we, Jubilarians, have lived with constant change. As we move into the future continued change is inevitable. But the one thing that has not changed is the love of our Provident God, guiding us and all humankind through our formative years, supporting us in our ministry and enfolding us into our senior years and beyond.

This reality, this Love, is the wellspring from which we live and move and have our being. It is the incomprehensible treasure — the wisdom gleaned from our lived experience as women religious. It is the truth that guides us and will unfold the future for ourselves and for our universe into what “is” and what “shall” be — the living, beating heart of our Provident God — that energy of love, guiding and expanding in ever greater abundance!

Our response to this truth remains the same as it was on the day we pronounced our first vows and our vision remains rooted in “a heart consecrated to charity” — to loving, to compassion, and to living with tenderness towards ourselves and all humankind. Rooted in contemplative prayer, fed by the Word, refreshed by the liturgy and strengthened in community, we have been over these past 50, 60, 70 years and more, witnesses to the Gospel. In the future we will continue to be this gift for the whole Church and for society.

And so, our hearts are bursting with joy today as we celebrate our Jubilee. We give thanks to God, to our families, to our Sister companions, to those who have gone before us, and to each of you here who celebrate with us today, tomorrow and in this our year of jubilee.

Alegrese del Senor!
Jubilate Deo!
Give praise to God!

Sister Dianne McNamara