Golden Jubilee 2016
July 10, 2016
“And so who is my neighbor?
“The one who treated the stranger with mercy.”
Simple question. Simple answer. Simple roadmap for life.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis last fall declared this to be a year of mercy. He said, "We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and human, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness."
We live in the hope of God, as the pope says, in spite of the fact that we are sinners. As Benedictines, we begin and end the day with the Word of God on our lips. We have many occasions to reflect on the theme of mercy because it permeates the psalms we chant and the refrains we sing at the Eucharist.
"Mercy and Justice shall meet, kindness and goodness shall endure.”
"Give thanks to our God who is good; God's mercy endures forever.”
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
Throughout the ages, poets have described the mercy of God as a divine quality that comes gently, not forcefully; is free not earned: and is coupled with justice and love. Mercy was the theme of the middle of Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy. In the section on purgatory, we are told that:
"We were all sinners till our latest hour
when light from Heaven made us wise to see
Our sins, and we repented and forgave,
Leaving our lives at last in peace with God,
Who now torments our hearts with the desire,
To see His Face."
In the mid-1960s, our three jubilarians — Sisters Maria Heppler, Alberta Hermann and Marilyn Schieber — chose a life of seeking God's love and mercy by choosing to be sisters of Mount St. Scholastica. Each came from a large, devout Catholic family. Situated between two classes full of extroverts and trouble makers, this class was quiet and known for being detail oriented, avoiding trouble and never wanting to be in the spot light; rather they were eager and trained from home to see what needed to be done and to act without hesitation.
Leaving a culture where musical lyrics to “Do Wah Diddy Diddy: and “My boy Lollipop” were being sung and the Watusi was being danced, these three entered a community that chanted the divine office. In the Freedom Summer of 1964, which was much like this summer, our country experienced major civil rights massacres, and people lost their lives because political activists were trying to get people to sign up to vote in the general elections. That year our country had a fierce air strike against the North Vietnamese, and our Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution sending many of our troops into battle in Vietnam. Our relatives and friends were drafted into the military only to be among the least- welcomed home soldiers in our history. That year was wild and crazy.
And yet these three joined us. They came in the spirit of today's first reading because in profession they gave to God their whole heart and their whole soul. Every day they respond to the call to show mercy and forgiveness in community, in service to the people of God. First they were teachers. That’s how most of us began. And then their service changed.
Sister Maria trained to be a counselor and has been practicing as a compassionate listener and wise mentor ever since the early '80s. Sister Alberta became an occupational therapist. Serving first in the Atchison Hospital and now here, she has a gracious way of working with our senior members in pastoral care. Sister Marilyn served by using her teaching and organizational skills, her care for the under-served and disadvantaged, to minister as a member of parish teams in the Kansas City area before returning to the Mount two years ago to be the director of human resources for our lay employees.
There would not have been three different scenarios had any one of these three met the man on the road we heard about in he gospel. Any one of them would have stopped, offered food, and offered to get help. That's just who they are. They live the mercy of God. They inspire the rest of us to heed the words of the Rule of Benedict to never lose hope in God's mercy.
Thank you Maria, Alberta and Marilyn for hoping in us by committing yourselves fifty years ago. Happy anniversary.
Anne Shepard, OSB
Mount St. Scholastica
"Never lose hope in God's mercy.” The Rule of St. Benedict