Ritual for Leaving

Written on: June 17, 2016

After the Mass on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart paused a moment to reflect on the many steps that have been taken during the life of the Congregation. The Ritual for Leaving, below, was a way to say goodbye to our beloved Chapel, to honor the past, acknowledge the pain of the present and embrace the call of the future.


A Chinese proverb tells us that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  One could also say that all journeys, especially those of the heart, begin with a dream. That’s what it was for us Grey Nuns.

The first step or dream was the flame of passion for ministry enlivened by an imagination to embrace the new. That was in 1921 when 155 Grey Nuns of the Cross left Ottawa and carried that flame to Buffalo to become Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. That was a step of 337 miles.  (Sister Dawn Gear carried a lit candle to a table at the center of the chapel)

The second step came only one year later, in 1922, when these “dreamers” responded to the invitation of Cardinal Dougherty to bring their passion for mission to Philadelphia. That was a step of 373 miles. (Sister Marie Cecile Egan carried a lit candle to a table at the center of the chapel)

The third step came when it appeared that our dream for the mission was out growing our Melrose Mother House. So in 1965 we moved to Yardley, a step of 25 miles. (Sister Maria Christi Drysdale carried a lit candle to a table at the center of the chapel)

Today we leave our third home after a journey of 735 miles, (not counting all the journeys that missioned us from Georgia to Alaska, to Peru and Haiti and multiple places in NY, PA, MA, MD, NC, NH and NJ always carrying the flame of passionate love for mission, the mission to incarnate and encounter the compassionate love of the Sacred Heart and St. Marguerite. Our journey of 1000 miles isn’t finished yet; the flame of love still burns passionately for the mission wherever and however it may manifest itself. (Sister Katie McGady carried a lit candle to a table at the center of the chapel)

In joy (probably mixed with fear and anxiety) we went forth from Ottawa, from Buffalo, from Melrose and now from Yardley. But in each of those “goings forth” we experienced the awesome providence of God calling us into the future.  And so now “In joy we shall go forth one more time knowing that in peace we are being led.” (Sister Pat Watkins carried a lit candle to a table at the center of the chapel)

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

St. Marguerite d’Youville, pray for us.


One thought on “Ritual for Leaving

  1. rose ann brennan says:

    I have many fond memories from Melrose..First as a friend to Sr.Mary Judith..And too many others.The door was always open to me..Such wonderful Sisters…Then later in my life..I found myself teaching with the sisters at the Academy.1981..Sister Francis was principle…And my son attended the day care..Lots of joy in my heart…And then I joined the Phila.Police Dept..I will always have joy in my heart when I think of the GNSH..Bless all of you.

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