Sister Joyce Lehman • President, Sisters of the Precious Blood
With this issue of Sharing and Caring, you will find stories about our Sisters not only in mission and ministry, but also those who are celebrating their jubilees. On the last day of our annual Spirit Days gathering, usually held on or close to the feast of the Precious Blood on July 1, we honor those Sisters who have reached the benchmarks of diamond (75 & 60), golden (50), and silver (25) anniversaries. Prayer together, a lovely and lively celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy and a banquet all offer opportunities to exchange stories, hugs, gifts and affirmation.
This year, our Jubilee celebration took on a different meaning for me as I was among those Sisters celebrating their golden jubilees. Although every year I acknowledge the anniversary of my entrance into the Sisters of the Precious Blood, that 50th anniversary gave me cause to pause. As we gathered to celebrate, I looked more closely at my classmates as they are now. I saw women with a remarkable resemblance to the young adults who came fresh faced and idealistic to the postulate in 1964, though now those faces are touched with laugh lines, and their bodies, like mine, exhibit hitches and twitches when getting up after a long meal or car ride, or walking up the steps to chapel. That idealism, so much a part of our becoming Sisters of the Precious Blood, is now tempered and grounded with life experiences of all kinds. Most of us started out in one ministry only to find God’s call bringing us to many and varied life tasks, some anticipated with joy, others tolerated, all supported by prayer and community. Although we have changed both inside and outside, our commitment has only grown stronger and more enduring.
As I continued my reflection on 50 years as a Sister of the Precious Blood and all that we Sisters have done it is evident, as our constitutions say, “that the work is not ours, but God’s” (Our Way of Life, par. 24). As you see from the biographies, most of us in the Class of ‘64 started out as teachers and remarkably one has persevered in this important ministry over all these years. The rest of us have been taking a variety of paths following God’s call. We have an author and internationally known lecturer who has a doctorate in sacred theology, a missionary from the United States who has spent years in Chile and a Sister native to Chile who has served in formation and given retreats internationally, two of us have served in congregational leadership, several have either ministered in parishes and/or dioceses, given workshops and/or done spiritual direction, been campus ministers and/or companioned the elderly. To add variety, our deceased classmate had a doctorate in high energy physics and taught at the University of Michigan in Flint. If I added all the ministries of members of the other classes, I would run out of room. Yet all of us know deep in our hearts that in the end it is God who has accomplished all these works and served all those people.
As I look into the faces of my classmates, I am drawn to eyes that have seen so much suffering, so much joy, so many changes and so much support. And looking deeper still, I see a reflection of the One who is the source of their great peace. We acknowledge that while our bodies suffer the decline of aging, our spirits soar more easily, rest more tranquilly, abide more fully in the God who called us into being, who sustains us in our living and loving and who companions us faithfully on our way to perfect union for all eternity. May our next 50 years be as fulfilling.