Celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life:
By Mother Marie Julie Saegaert, SCMC
This year’s National Assembly held at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois, was a time of extraordinary grace. In one of our first liturgies, the homilist looked out at the participants and said, “The Spirit of Jesus is here, and He is passing through His Body.” How true those words proved to be for the duration of the Assembly. Each homily, every presentation, and conversations at meals and during the committee meetings brought a Fire that burned in our hearts. The participants experienced an excitement for consecrated life that colored our prayer, our planning, and our reflections.
The announcement of the Year of Consecrated Life brings with it an opportunity not only for the People of God to become more aware of the beauty of our life, but also for each consecrated soul to turn inward and, as Saint John Paul II invited us, launch out into the deep. The homilists and presenters at the Assembly, including Most Reverend Carlo Maria Vigano, Apostolic Nuncio, and Most Reverend Salvator Rino Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, were inspired by the Spirit of Jesus to encourage us to reverence our call to holiness and to love our vocation and our ministries with renewed fervor. With Christ as the Center of our lives, the members of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious have taken the challenge “Wake Up America” as an invitation to speak His Name with new impetus, that we may carry His Love to a world that waits for Him and for His Mercy.
“Education is central to our charism,” said Mother Marie Julie Saegaert, the order’s superior general and the secretary of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.
She detailed the story of the vision of the order’s priest-founder, Msgr. John Zwijsen, in Holland in 1832, saying that he recognized the important role of mothers. Mothers are the ones who teach children to pray and instill values in them, and show them what love is.
“It’s very important she’s forming the consciences of her children, who will then grow up, and it’s extremely important they think and write critically,” said Mother Marie Julie. “So he wanted to open a school to educate girls.”
Soon, these schools spread throughout Holland and Belgium. Then, in 1873, a Dutch missionary priest in Baltic, Conn., asked the Sisters of Charity to come to America to educate the girls of his parish.
“There were 300 volunteers willing to come here,” said Mother Marie Julie. Six from that group were chosen to “teach young women and children here, so they could grow up to be powerful forces in the family and witnesses in society.”
Arriving in Baltic, in 1884, they quickly established the Academy of the Holy Family as a girl’s high school for day and residential students; they also opened St. Joseph School, a grammar school.
“By the grace of God, we’re still operating,” said Mother Marie Julie, speaking from the order’s motherhouse in Baltic.
Other schools the sisters opened, like Sacred Heart School in Taftsville, Conn., in 1888, remain thriving.
In addition, some sisters teach in St. Paul, Minn., at St. Agnes, an award-winning K-12 school.
While the teaching mission and apostolate remained constant, over the years, the congregation added the apostolates of caring for the sick, the aged (including homes in Wisconsin) and the poor.
In 1970, the American province separated from the European motherhouse, and, with Blessed Pope Paul VI’s permission, Mother Marie Alma Lafond founded the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady, Mother of the Church as a new autonomous congregation in the United States.
Mother Marie Julie pointed out how a recent saint influences their work.
“We really stress the ‘feminine genius’ with our academy girls,” Mother Marie Julie explained. “John Paul II stressed that and spoke about how important the woman is in Church and society. Women bring gifts that men don’t — gifts that God has given women because of the role they play in the family and society. [They are] teaching in higher education, running businesses. John Paul II believed we need to reach deep within ourselves to find and use the gifts God has given us to make a difference in the Church and the world.”
“We believe that it’s so important to inculcate Catholic values in the children because the world is searching for truth,” added Mother Marie Julie. “We hope to make citizens of our young people, who can go out and do everything, from raising healthy, holy families to holding political office. If they’re formed with good Catholic values, they’re going to make a difference in the world.”
Indeed, while the religion of non-Catholics who attend the schools is respected, many non-Catholic youngsters, with their families, come into the Church. “Many have joined the Church in our schools, and some return to the Church,” the superior general said.
The non-Catholics initially come looking for the values that are taught in the schools, explained Mother Marie Julie. “Anybody can teach. But we need to have at the core a set of values, the Gospel values: self-discipline, self-respect, respect for others, stewardship and personal holiness. All that goes toward making saints. And we’re working hard at it.”
O God, throughout the ages you have called
women and men to pursue lives of perfect
charity through the evangelical counsels of
poverty, chastity, and obedience. During this
Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks
for these courageous witnesses of Faith and
models of inspiration. Their pursuit of holy
lives teaches us to make a more perfect offering
of ourselves to you. Continue to enrich
your Church by calling forth sons and daughters
who, having found the pearl of great
price, treasure the Kingdom of Heaven above
all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.
During this season of advent, we eagerly await the coming of our Lord Jesus on Christmas Day. We follow the example of Mary who awaited the birth of her Son – her God. As the days of advent draw to a close, let us ask for the intercession of the Virgin Mary to allow God’s Will to be done in our lives at every moment.
We are thankful to God for the gift of two new postulants, Sister Maria Mercy and Sister M. Alexandria. Sister Alexandria entered on June 27th, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sister is named after Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Sister Maria Mercy entered on July 16th, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. May they both continue to grow in the knowledge and love of God!
The Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2, commemorating when Jospeh and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple forty days after his birth to perform the ritual of purification. It is commonly referred as Candlemas, since the blessing and procession of candles is included in today’s liturgy.
“In obedience to the Old Law, the Lord Jesus, the first-born, was presented in the Temple by his Blessed Mother and his foster father. This is another ‘epiphany’ celebration insofar as the Christ Child is revealed as the Messiah through the canticle and words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing and procession of candles on this day. In the Middle Ages this feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or ‘Candlemas,’ was of great importance.” — From Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year
Below are pictures from the Candlemas at Saint Elizabeth Home in Janesville, WI.
The day after Thanksgiving the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church celebrate Mother Marie Alma Day. We remember the great legacy our foundress left the congregation.
The morning began with Sister M. Mark sharing the great experiences she and Mother Marie Julie had in Rome last summer. It was wonderful seeing all of the pictures from their pilgrimage.
Later in the afternoon Mother David and Mother Marie Julie rekindled the Sisters’ spirits through their heartfelt words and asked for the Holy Spirit’s Fire to burn within our hearts. “Our Motherhouse is on fire with the love of God! Call 911!,” Mother Marie Julie said. This spiritual renewal concluded with a rededication ceremony in the chapel.
The Sisters at the Motherhouse are very happy to welcome Father Benedict from the Friars of the Immaculate to come offer Holy Mass for us. Today his homily was on the degrees of patience. The first degree is when you accept some suffering and you say, “Fiat” or I accept this. The second degree is the flowering of the virtue, the fourth is the fruit when you have joy in suffering and the fourth degree is when you prefer suffering to pleasure. This is what St. Francis called perfect joy, when everything goes wrong and you are united to Jesus on the Cross. What better place to be than that? And we can only be there if we have the privilege to suffer something. Don’t forget to offer it because there is much wasted suffering when people fail to offer it in union with Jesus’ saving death.