Left, Sister Bela Mis carries the cross during the ceremony welcoming Sisters LaKesha Church and Mumbi Kigutha into the novitiate; Dave Eck photo. Right, C.PP.S. cross. Sister Mary Lou Schmersal photo.
[Ed note: Sister Joyce Lehman shared this reflection at the Rite of Entrance to Novitiate for Sisters LaKesha Church and Mumbi Kigutha on Sept. 14.]
The readings tonight speak to that precious, delicate and elegant dance that plays out in the act of call and response, of God leading the dance in first choosing us and then our response in choosing God. God alone knows the ultimate purpose for which we have been created. It is as though when God created us, God dreamed a dream, a dream of the very best person that we could be. And then God gave us all the gifts we would need to live God’s dream into reality. Part of our life’s journey then is identifying those gifts and using them when and where needed. Thereby we become the dream God wills and we find our home in God. As the prophet Jeremiah says: You will seek me… and find me when you seek me wholeheartedly. I will let you find me….” Thus we dance that particular dance that God calls us to.
There are all kinds of dances: the polka, the waltz, the jig, the danza de venados, the cueca. In dancing the dance that is our lives, we sense at different times that God is leading us in the dance, and at other times we think we are doing the leading as we try to take control. Even then, God is just allowing us to think we are choosing the dance, leading the steps, and we soon learn to our chagrin who is the Dance Master.
In religious life this dance we are doing with God becomes a circle dance, as we dance with each other as well. Each one has her place and we are all together. Although we each have a uniqueness that is cherished, when we commit to this circle dance, we occasionally need to alter our steps or adjust our personal tempo so that our movements connect, coincide, unite. Learning the dance is a process of total involvement. We watch how those who have gone before us dance, and we learn how to incorporate our steps into that communal dance. When we miss a step, our Sisters help us get back in place. When in our exuberance or our confusion we spin outside the circle, our Sister’s arms reach out to us, inviting us back in. If we choose to dance only to our own rhythm or alone, the circle is impoverished by our absence and we recognize once again that it is God who leads and God’s plans are not always ours.
LaKesha and Mumbi, as you begin the novitiate journey you join this particular circle dance, the dance of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. During your canonical year you will have the opportunity to delve deep within yourself where God sits companionably with your true self, among the gifts God has prepared for you. You will come to know yourself in new and important ways, to recognize gifts you may not have known you possess, to be at peace in both silence and activity. Your novitiate is also the opportunity to make the acquaintance of the women whom you are choosing to companion and to have as your life-long dance partners, and who are choosing you. While you are in the Novitiate you will have the time and space and silence to enter that contemplative place where you will hear and learn and understand that particular rhythm of the Mystery of God, the beat that underlies the dance of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, and you will explore if your own God-given rhythm complements it. As you study our history and Our Way of Life, it will also be the place where the melody of our Precious Blood charism will animate you, and the harmony of our mission to proclaim God’s love by being a life-giving and reconciling presence in our world will bring fullness to your lives.
During your apostolic year you will have the opportunity with us to recognize and serve the lost, the forgotten, the excluded, the searching and bring to them the life-giving, reconciling love of Jesus who shed his Precious Blood for us. You will help them realize the joy of dancing to God’s rhythm in their lives.
As you discover, or rediscover, your place in ministry to God’s people, you will recognize and understand that you will be doing work that anyone else can do. It is not the work, the service, even the ministry that will define you as a religious, rather it is the life-form that you have discerned God calling you to and which, as you embrace it, will embrace you. This life-form is built on our commitment to living
- The poverty that enables us to see all as gift and to give all as gift,
- The chastity that frees us for the God search and enriches our relationships with others, and
- The obedience that produces a listening heart in order to recognize together the rhythm of God in those you are committed to, in those you serve and in the wisdom of the Church and the Scriptures.
We commit to the vows in a living community of relationships, a covenant of caring that includes supporting each other, celebrating and grieving with each other, and challenging each other, all so that we might be our best selves and give our best selves to God’s people.
The years in the Novitiate help you let go of the dance that you have danced before and learn the dance that God may be calling you to now. It is a time of continued and deepened discernment. Luke’s gospel invites us to “take up our cross, every day and follow in my steps: If you would save your life, you will lose it, and if you would lose your life for my sake, you will save it.” To be a disciple, to follow in the footsteps of the Lord, is to dance the dance that Jesus danced, with all its joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams, right to the cross and beyond. If you can learn the rhythm, melody and harmony of our dance and it fits you, then we welcome you with open arms and recognize that your dancing with us will forever change us all – making this circle dance more deeply resemble the dance of eternal life. If, as the next two years progress, this does not fit, then you and we will understand that God is calling you elsewhere, to dance the dance that gives you life, wherever that might be.
Tonight you formally enter the circle dance of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Know that our love, our support and our encouragement are with you.
Like a catechumen entering the Church, Lakesha’s and Mumbi’s entrance into the novitiate endows them with certain rights and responsibilities of the Sisters of the Precious Blood among which they may use the title Sister and they may wear the official insignia, the cross, of the Congregation. Using the initials CPPS after their names and wearing the community ring will be granted at the time of first profession of vows.
Blessing of the Cross:
Jesus our brother and companion, we thank you for the gift of yourself to us as signified by the total shedding of your blood. On this feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross, we ask you to bless these crosses, which will be worn by LaKesha and Mumbi that in their wearing of them they will be blessed. May these crosses be a sign of our devotion to your redeeming love and to each other. We seek this blessing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen