By Sister Mary Jo Curtsinger
As soon as I saw it, I loved the title that Sister Lyn Osiek, RSCJ gave to her recent article exploring the Feast of the Assumption in Give Us This Day “There She Goes for All of Us”. It packed a double whammy, of the good kind.
In the first place I smiled that Sister Lyn’s theological shorthand matched my own. When I teach about the import of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, I tend to begin with what happens for Mary, happens for all of us. Sister Lyn artfully concludes that “the feast of the Assumption of Mary means the incorporation of our full humanity” in Christ’s conquering of death, and “plays out Paul’s conviction that ‘male and female, we are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28) and that we are all holy.”
Almost simultaneously in the second place, “There She Goes for All of Us” tapped into my excitement for another She, namely, Sister Sarah Simmons, CSJ. Her family and friends have been anticipating her initial profession of vows as a Sister of the Congregation of St. Joseph this August 15—and now we have witnessed this event, with great joy.
Sister Sarah Simmons, whose first vows were live-streamed this month.
Sister Sarah’s profession of her personal commitment to the Gospel mission has surely become a touchstone moment for her, but also for all of us. As a public act, it certainly holds us accountable. But more than that it enlivens all of us in our life commitments as sisters and brothers, all women and men who are and will be living consecrated life, as well as those living out their marriage commitments.
At the liturgy Sister Sarah spoke of how the radical self-gift of American Maryknoll Sister Maura Clarke has inspired her own. When Sister Maura chose to stay with her oppressed community in El Salvador, she did so out of the conviction that every body mattered. Sister Maura modeled Jesus’s words and actions in the Gospel text Sarah chose: there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).
Sister Maura Clarke, MM, ministering in Central America among the local people. She and three other churchwomen (Ita Ford, MM; Dorothy Kazel, OSU; and Jean Donovan) were brutally slain by a death squad in El Salvador, December 2, 1980
Sarah spoke of how Sister Maura’s life witness called her to journey in deeper trust in God, a trust that opened her to creating space for others.
Actually, we in the Congregation of St. Joseph were doubly blessed this summer, celebrating Sister Jennifer Berridge’s initial profession of vows on July 25 in Wheeling, WV.
Sister Jennifer after having made her first vows this July.
Maybe you’d like to know the actual content of our profession of vows. Here’s what Sister Sarah and Sister Jennifer professed:
God of Great Love, in the name of Jesus, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I come before you to offer myself in response to your call. Moving always toward profound love of you and the dear neighbor and entirely dependent on your grace in living out my profession, I vow poverty, celibate chastity and obedience…In the spirit of the self-emptying love of Jesus, and with your blessing and grace, I will live and work to bring all into union with you and with one another. I thank you God for all the love I have known, and ask your grace to live these vows in a spirit of gentleness, peace and joy.
This profession holds Sister Sarah’s response to the the call that she experiences, the call to continually deepen trust in God who is Communion of Love, and who is always inviting us to create space for the dear neighbor. With Sisters Sarah and Jennifer, we sisters vow to listen deeply in community, to love widely, and to live simply so to honor and protect all creation.
Writer Alice Camille (Give Us This Day, “The Value of a Person”) helps us appreciate the heart of the mystery of the Assumption of Mary by situating its proclamation in historical context. Post-war 1950 marked an era when life was cheap: war crimes, disease and famine had created nightmarish ruin across the planet. It was in this moment, in protest really, that Pius XII chose to affirm that every part of Mary was precious to God, that every part of her was sacred vessel who had carried Christ. There she goes for all of us.
And so, in the words of poet Mary Oliver, “What will you do with your one, wild and precious life?”
About the Author
Sister Mary Jo Curtsinger CSJ, DMin is Co-minister of Vocations for the Congregation of St. Joseph, pictured here having “attended” the initial profession of vows of Sarah Simmons, CSJ, August 15, 2020.
*Cover image by Sister Mary Southard, Touch the Earth