I know. I know. I mysteriously disappeared.
I didn’t give up on the blog. I didn’t do something so mundane as to run away.
But I did go on an adventure.
Last Friday I got up, had Mass, packed up the car, and took off for Connecticut, a state to which I’d never been. Along the way I picked up Fr. Peter (you remember him?)
and we set off toward the rising sun to witness something I’d never seen before.
St. Clare in Lyndhurst (where this blog was conceived) was the home of a lovely young lady named Brigid. It was also the my last parish assignment and the home parish of Fr. Peter. Brigid had determined that religious life was the life for her and after some searching decided to become one of the Sisters of Life in New York. After years of formation, last Saturday she was to take her final vows and we went to witness and celebrate with her.
Fr. Bline and Fr. Kulway both from the Diocese of Cleveland. Fr. Bline's first assignment was St. Clare.
Along the way we picked up two seminarians from Ireland who have been in Cleveland studying over the summer. One’s name is Fergle (and I have no idea how to spell his name.) He was the, how shall I say it? Active one. Loads of fun but terrible at cards. Stephano was the quiet, deep voiced (sane) one. They flew in to CT and took them the rest of the way.
So it was that on Saturday morning we put on our French cuffs, shined our shoes, and piled into the Buick for the journey to St. John’s Basilica. I was unprepared.
The place was jammed! There were people and cars everywhere. It looked like the children’s Mass at Christmas except much more orderly. As we walked along people would ask, “Where are you from?” to which I would proudly replay, “Cleveland” thinking that would get lots of “Ahs” and “Oohs” but instead I was greeted with, “Oh. And with which sister are you associated?”
I had naively assumed that our friend would be the ONLY one taking her final vows. It did not occur to me that there would six! And now that I think about it, that must be the more regular occurrence as 10 years ago there were only 40 some nuns and now there were over 100.
We vested in the basement and then came upstairs only to be recruited to sit in folding chairs on the immaculate lawn of the rectory to hear confessions. As the hour approached, we were herded into processional lines and walked up the mountain of stairs to the doors and entered the basilica to the heavenly voices of the nuns and a few token males in the choir mixing their voices with the pipe organ and congregation.
The Mass was presided over by Bishop John J. O’Hara, Auxiliary Bishop of New York. I was unfamiliar with him and I don’t know why because his homily knocked my socks off. He knew exactly how to get the congregation whipped up and excited about God and the great work that was happening that day. He also admitted that he had never done a profession before and was a bit nervous to get the ceremony correct. But he was aided by expert Masters of Ceremonies whose abilities I greatly admire. I have seen some MCs flap around the sanctuary like agitated ducks, flapping and quacking. But this celebration was done with taste and decorum.
The ceremony itself was remarkably similar to that of the ordination of priesthood. The nuns were called forward one by one, knelt before their Mother Superior, stated their vows and the Mother would accept the vows. I had an ideal seat and could see their faces as they knelt at the altar rail waiting for their turn to come forward. The faces read everything from contemplation of the seriousness of the event to an overjoyed, “Let’s do it!” radiance.
Each of them then came forward and signed their vows which were placed on the altar followed by the entire order greeting each new sister with a formal hug, smile, and word of encouragement that was not unlike, after having been ordained, all the priests filing past the new priests and laying hands on them.
At the end, the Mother Superior thanked everyone who was present. I was excited that the former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano was in attendance. The list of thanks was long but Cleveland got the most shout outs! Thanks to the people from Cleveland who have supported the order. Thanks to those from Cleveland who have supplied so much music over the years. Thanks to the Irish seminarians who are studying this summer in Cleveland. Thanks to (my buddies) the nuns from Christ the Bridegroom Monastery who made the trip in from Cleveland.
From left to right, me, Stephano, Sisters for Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, OH, Fergle, Fr. Kovacina.
But the longest, sustained applause was of course for the new sisters. After we processed down the mountain of steps we saw the newly professed having their picture taken with Mother and the Bishop. The sun was merciless but all of the nuns (even those all in black) seemed to take in stride. I, however, was a total wimp and so we made our way to the car and the car’s air-conditioning to begin to unpack what we had been a part of and to look forward with great anticipation the reception.