As you probably know, this year I am celebrating my 50th anniversary of pronouncing my vows as a Sister of Notre Dame. I use the present tense (I am celebrating) rather than the past tense (I have celebrated) because I plan to celebrate this event for the full 365 days. Today I’d like to share with you six thoughts about this special anniversary in my life.
1) I made my vows on January 3, 1965. There were seven of us who pronounced our vows as we knelt around the altar in our chapel. Present at that Mass were other Sisters of Notre Dame. No one else. Family members and friends were not allowed to be present back in those days. I remember getting very emotional when I said my vows: “Eternal Triune God, I vow to thee…chastity, poverty, and obedience…” My voiced cracked a few times. At that moment, I glimpsed what I was really doing with my life. And I felt incredibly blessed.
2) Celebrating a Golden Jubilee is not celebrating an accomplishment. It is not saying, “Look what I have done! I’ve lasted 50 years!” No, celebrating a Golden Jubilee is (for me) an act of gratitude for the gift that has been given to me: 50 years living as a Sister of Notre Dame. It is saying, “Thank you, my dear and loving God, for this life I have been given.”
3) The theme of our celebration was a single word: Rejoice. One of the jubilarians, Sister Laura Wingert, designed our invitations: three daisies with the word Rejoice. Simply beautiful.
4) For the public celebration, I invited my family, including 91-year-old Uncle Hank, my Dad’s youngest brother. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you might recall that I wrote about Uncle Hank’s World War II military service on Nov.4, 2013. (You can find that post by typing in “Uncle Hank” in the box under “Search” to the right of this reflection.) I also invited all my cousins even though some of them live far away—in Georgia, Florida, and Idaho. But many were able to come. More than one commented how wonderful it was to see each other again NOT in a funeral home, but for a happy occasion.
5) I received all kinds of gifts for my jubilee: many prayers, beautiful cards, monetary gifts, gift cards, flowers, lunches out with friends, etc. I’m grateful for each one! But two gifts touched me in a special way. Tony (who was married to my cousin Dan who passed away a number of years ago at the age of 46) gave me a quart of fresh plump blueberries. She had picked them that morning in her own yard and put them in a quart box that she had decorated herself. Her gift was unique and sweet! Another cousin, Sr. Margaret Mach, gave me the gift of honey bees! Through Heifer International, she donated a hive of bees in my name to a needy family. The card says that a beehive can be a boost not only to a family, but to a whole village.
6) At the time of an anniversary, we often look back and count some of the blessings we have received. I’m still counting mine. But a few of those blessings are these:
+ people: the sisters, family, friends, students, colleagues, novices, retreatants, and readers who have encouraged, supported, and inspired me throughout these 50 years
+ the ministries I’ve been privileged to serve in: teaching, formation, leadership, retreat work, writing
+ the dynamic growth I’ve seen and experienced within the last 50 years especially in these areas: liturgy, scripture, education, psychology, civil rights, the women’s movement, science, medicine, technology, and ecology.
I’d like to close with these words from one of the cards I received. It is by Pat Willems, CSJ, and produced by www.MinistryOfTheArts.org: The colors of a sunrise.. the love that you find in another’s eyes… the hand that helps you up when you’ve fallen down… The changing of the seasons… laughter and smiles and birds that sing… tears that flow… The hope we cling to when the darkness comes… broken dreams, broken hearts… hearts that unite, a friendship born… Hands unafraid to reach… souls that touch… all is gift, my friend, all is gift from a loving God.
The song I’ve chosen is “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. Here are two versions of the same song. The first one is with the lyrics (and cords). The second is with beautiful nature pictures. Choose the one you prefer:
with lyrics and cords:
with nature pictures:
Does anything in this blog touch your heart today?
What has been your experience with celebrating anniversaries?
Did you like the song? Why or why not?