To end the closing ritual of the final Chapter of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters on October 22, 2021, OLVM President Mary Jo Nelson offered this homily.
This afternoon marks a significant ending and new beginning for us as a Congregation. We have concluded our final Chapter. However, it is not an end – it is not a completion or the fulfillment of our congregation. It is rather, a re-commitment to live into the next phase of our life as Victory Noll Sisters.
Over the last several years there have been changes that might feel like endings and new beginnings or maybe both:
The death of many Sisters who have been our friends and companions
The changing energy and health of many Sisters
The selling and repurposing of our Victory Noll home for restorative services to people struggling with addiction
Letting go of treasured ministries, influence and visibility we experienced for so many years
Experiencing the evolution of religious life in our midst, where one story, one way of religious life is ending and another is emerging
Transferring our health care facility and services to Saint Anne’s Community
Selling most of our land to ACRES Land Trust
The change in our governance structure, by requesting a commissary
Creating a Direction Statement to guide our life together
Developing a legacy plan to share our abundance in a way that carries our charism, mission, and values into the future
Becoming part of the Heritage and Archive Research Center at St. Mary’s, Notre Dame
Tending the heart of our lives to deepen our search for God as lived in community, the vowed life, and the Victory Noll mission
Sharing our journey of transition and transformation with many other congregations
At this time in our life we are called to re-commit ourselves to the mission of the consecrated life – we are called to explore the depths of the vowed life, open ourselves to a new experience of community life, and continue our search for God and the questions of God, and to share who we are with others.
Our two scripture texts for this liturgy speak profoundly of this new call … To live in the Resurrection!
From Corinthians we hear these words: “Do you not know that a little yeast makes the whole mass of dough rise? Throw out, then the old yeast and be a new dough.” These two short sentences call us to give up the old yeast, let go of what is no longer working because there is something new in our future!
From the John’s story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb we hear …
Mary stood outside the tomb crying … Jesus asked her, “why are you crying? Who are you looking for” then he calls her by name … Mary! And Mary Magdalene desperately cries out to her “Master.” Yet Jesus quickly tells her to not hold on to him and then sends her to the brothers – she runs to tell them “I have seen the Lord.”
We feel the grief of Mary Magdalene and her call to proclaim new life “to the brothers!” She is a bundle of both grief and the excitement of something new with her God that is on the horizon. Are we not like Mary Magdalene? Like her we are called to a new and deeper relationship with our God and called to meet God in our grief, our loss, and in all that is beginning. There is grief and there is newness and they both live in us.
Living religious life is living in the life of the resurrection of Jesus. It means that the life-passion, death and resurrection of Jesus has claimed our hearts. It is the pattern of our life. It is where the risen Jesus calls us by name, meets us where we are – whatever is real for us – because it is the only place of transformation. But there is more – we are also sent to live and share resurrection life with others!
As we end our chapter I pray this blessing for each of us:
The Magdalene’s Blessing
by Jan Richardson
You hardly imagined standing here,
Everything you ever loved suddenly returned to you,
Looking you in the eye and calling your name.
And now you do not know how to abide this hole in the center of your chest,
Where a door slams shut and swings open at the same time,
Turning on the hinge of your aching and hopeful heart.
I tell you, this is not banishment from the garden.
This is an invitation a choice, a threshold, a gate.
This is your life calling to you from a place you could never have dreamed,
But now that you glimpsed its edge, you cannot imagine choosing any other way.
So let the tears come as anointing, as consecration, and the let them go.
Let this blessing gather itself around you.
Let it give you what you will need for this journey.