Reflection for Foundation Day, August 24

Written on: August 24, 2015

Mother Mary Augustine

Mother Mary Augustine

On August 24, 1921 Mother Mary Augustine was elected first superior of the newly founded Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. An off-shoot of the Ottawa foundation of Grey Nuns, these Sisters had been called to minister in the Buffalo area. Communication, not being what it is today, caused long delays in the Buffalo Sisters being able to communicate the needs and concerns of the people they were serving. Eventually, the difficult, but ultimately rewarding decision was made to create a new, United States foundation of English speaking Grey Nuns, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. On August 24 we celebrate the courage and wisdom of our Foremothers.

Reflection delivered by Sister Barbara Harrington, GNSH during the August 24 liturgy at the Yardley Motherhouse.

Many of us made our final profession on this day. While we called it “final”, it was only a beginning of a journey full of surprises, one that we still find ourselves on today…in another surprising way!

Our Gospel (Jn 1:45-51) presents two apostles at the beginning of their journey to apostleship.

Philip, the extrovert, sharing his new-found teacher with a friend. Nathaniel, the introvert, admitting openly to the interior thoughts or yearnings he had as he sat under that fig tree.

Just as we might re-visit our first steps in religious life, I bet both of these men often recalled these happenings as grace-filled beginnings of their discipleship.

The first reading from Revelation (21: 9b-14) presents a vision of the church as splendid and very precious. Its many gates offer access to all the tribes. The apostles’ names are prominent on the foundation. So many gates – so typical of the abundance of God – so many ways to enter to reach the Lamb and feel at home!

Both readings are meaningful for our Foundation day since they introduce concepts of beginning and foundation.

Beginnings and Foundation

Today we are 94 years old, and I guess we could say that we all feel it!

Yet, happily, for us, there is a difference between age, energy and vitality.

Often enough, foundations entail or even require separation. At this moment in our history, I thought it appropriate to explore the separation entailed in the beginning of our congregation.

…first, there was separation from a large, stable congregation…

…separation from the solid base of the Ottawa charism, which was an enriched charism, infused and inspired by the holiness of Mother Bruyere. It was a separation made under the sign of the Cross:

  • Sisters were prohibited from responding to a need (to teach young boys)
  • There was frustration with delays on decisions.
  • Decisions were not realized, not communicated;
  • There was no adequate response to requests.

As well, there was the basic problem: Ottawa lacked understanding of the importance of enculturation. Their insistence on French resisted the enculturation required for solid formation of English-speaking candidates.

Yet these crosses and our separation created something new! It’s good to remember this way the cross has of creating something new:

  • A new congregation to respond to new needs – nearly 150 sisters to continue and spread the charism
  • An English-speaking novitiate
  • (And we added this one) – a new emphasis on God’s compassion, the Sacred Heart.

So as we Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart celebrate today, we can marvel, as did Marguerite, at how Providence worked in the creation of our congregation. As we ponder the cross that we now carry, one akin to separation, we can remember its power to create-the creative power of the cross.

And finally, we can meet our new, and yet familiar, challenge:

The challenge to enculturate – that is, to speak and act out of a ‘language’ of love and concern toward those we will live among. Yes! it’s a new and yet familiar challenge for us: to enculturate – to speak and act out of a ‘language’ of love and concern toward all those with whom we will live.

So, Sisters, Associates, remembering that there is a difference between energy and vitality, let us go forward and tell the good news!

BJH cropSister Barbara Harrington is currently working with the Vocation Director for the Congregation and assisting at the Motherhouse wherever help is needed. She will be moving to Buffalo in September 2015 to minister among the Hispanic Catholics there- full of her own vitality! Sister Barbara, a native of Buffalo, has been involved in various ministries of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in places as diverse as Philadelphia,Atlanta and Alaska.



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