As for many people, this summer will be different for the Sisters than it normally is. One of the biggest changes we are experiencing is that most of our mission Sisters around the country will not be able to come home to the Motherhouse over the summer. Not being able to see your beloved family — and not knowing for sure when you will be able to see them again — is, as many others are experiencing as well, quite a cross.
Another cross wrought by the pandemic is that our profession of vows Masses must be private this year. This means not only that they are closed to the public but also that even the families of the Sisters professing vows will not be able to attend. What a sacrifice for those Sisters not to have their family members — or even the rest of their religious community — able to attend their wedding day! Similarly, many priestly ordinations are happening at this time, with very few guests and without being open to the general public of the diocese as they typically are. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, the ordinandi were even ordained in separate ceremonies, having to sacrifice the camaraderie of their brother seminarians with whom they have been formed for several years.
But, just as many young couples are continuing with wedding plans with fewer guests and little or no reception, so our Sisters, in the midst of the sacrifice, are eagerly awaiting the day when they will be united with their heavenly Spouse. And pictures of the newly ordained priests display joy and fulfillment in this embrace of their vocations.
Our profession Masses, ordination Masses, and many wedding Masses go on, despite being stripped of what we have come to see as essential parts of these days of celebration. Our world thinks that what is important about a wedding is the pictures and the party. But we Catholics stand today in direct opposition to this – proclaiming by the joyous celebration of these Masses that what is most important to these vocations is the vows and promises made before Our Lord — and our living them out moment by moment — not the glamour of the day itself.
Ultimately, it is Christ present in the Eucharist who is central in these major life moments and who can unite us with those from whom we are separated. While we Sisters might not all be able to be together in person this summer, while family members and friends might not be able to attend professions or ordinations or weddings, we can all, as members of the Body of Christ, be united through His presence among us more closely than if we were physically together. And this union as His Body, by the power of Christ present in our midst, is possible even for those who have not been able to resume attending Mass.
Indeed, perhaps it is through the cross itself — our crosses of separation and loss offered in union with Christ’s Cross — that we are most able to be united. May we embrace these opportunities to be one with each other by being one with Him! May we allow Him to show us through these crosses that He must be central in our lives; indeed, He alone is enough!
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.