Written on: June 17, 2016
Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, President, Sister Julia C. Lanigan reflected on the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the transition of the Congregation out of the Motherhouse. Her moving words are below.
Our Eucharistic celebration today marks a very significant moment in the life of our congregation. We are celebrating both our special feast day, the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, and offering a bittersweet farewell to our beloved Motherhouse, the place we called home and that we relied upon as the stable place where we could come together as community in the joyful or sorrowful or just ordinary moments of our community life.
The loss that we feel is very real. Each of us is leaving a part of herself behind and we have to walk through the grieving process—both individually and congregationally. We are being changed through this process of mourning and transition, molded into something new that we cannot yet see clearly.
How right that we’re holding this farewell ritual today, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, because today we also celebrate with the whole Church the compassionate love, mercy and forgiveness of God as personified in Christ Jesus and symbolized by his sacred heart. That symbol surrounds us here in these beautiful stained glass windows that illustrate the litany of the Sacred Heart. In these windows we see that heart depicted as broken, emptied of self and pouring out love upon us and all creation.
In the readings today we heard graphic descriptions of how much God loves us and tends to all our needs like a good shepherd, regardless of whether we’re paying attention and listening to His voice or wandering off until we find that we’re lost, lonely and fearful. This loving shepherd stays with and cares for all his sheep. We hear God’s words in Ezekiel, saying, “I will lead them…and gather them back…and pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest…The lost I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal….” This is the love into which the Heart of Christ invites us. This is the love which fills and heals our hearts. This is the love that we cannot contain but that overflows to be shared selflessly with others whose lives touch our own.
As we bid farewell to our Motherhouse, we leave with an ache in our hearts. Yet we also go forth with awareness of the blessing that this place has been for us. This blessing abides in our heart’s memory and we will carry it with us always.
As we leave, we offer a blessing to all who will enjoy this place after us. May they share the blessings we have known here.
And as we leave, we do not go alone. We walk with each other into whatever new pastures God may lead us and we walk, as always, held securely in the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that embraces all.
Finally, as we go, we have a mission to fulfill: we are called and sent to follow in the footsteps of St. Marguerite and be the face of compassion and mercy for our needy world.