By Sister Marcella Clancy
September 1st is a significant date on my calendar. It is the date that I entered the Sisters of St. Joseph at our founding congregation of Nazareth. As I think back over these 60 years, though there are poignant events that stay with me, most of the days and hours have been forgotten. A friend of mine used to say that amnesia was a prevalent human condition. We simply forget. The present moment with all of its demands grabs our attention and commitment. It takes hold of us and we tend to let go of our past. Yet memory is an important gift.
In Scripture, memory is understood differently than the way we tend to use the word. Biblically “to remember” is not simply recall with the mind but rather to make the event present again. God commanded the Israelites to remember in ritual each year the Passover, so each year they would again experience God’s love for them in this great saving act. The words following consecration at Eucharist, “Do this is memory of Me”, also call us to realize Christ’s act of redemptive love is made present again in our midst.
We circle all kinds of dates on our calendar both personally, in our families and as a collective community: birthdays, the 4th of July, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Veterans’ Day, Labor Day, etc. etc. etc. Each carries its own traditions and rituals. Sometimes I find myself expecting more than the one day of remembering can deliver. What strikes me now is that it is not about the one day. It is about the cumulative effect. About all I lived in between these days of remembering. When we celebrate someone’s birthday, it is not about the day they were born or even the number of years they achieved. It is about their life, all they have accomplished, loved, given, endured. It is about their courage, hope, goodness, and sense of humor.
As I contemplate my 60 years, I come to realize that the celebration of this anniversary is not just about me but it is much more about the people in my life who brought me to this point: My parents who had a tenacious faith in God; Sister Etta, who when I asked her if she thought I had a vocation, told me she had been praying for me for 3 years; Sister Marjorie, our novice director, whose passion for God was contagious; Father Ed, my spiritual director for 40 years because he had “something” I wanted in a relationship with God and I thought if I stuck with him long enough I’d get it too; Father Kelly, who in one retreat changed my prayer, and that made all the difference in my life; The environment of support, challenge, and thirst for God and ardor for serving the “dear neighbor” which surrounded me, an air in which I breathed, as a Sister of St. Joseph; the people who I had the privilege of ministering to and with who I came to understand gave me so much more than I could ever possibly give them.
My life, like every life, is really a fabric that has been weaved with the threads of others’ lives. For me it is important “to remember” and thus make present the accumulative gift my life is, made out of the gift of others’ lives. When you celebrate your next anniversary or birthday may you remember and make present the gift of those accumulative lives that have blessed you and brought you to this point in your own life. My one word is grateful.
About the Author
Sister Marcella Clancy, CSJ, has degrees in nursing and theology. In the past she ministered in hospitals, taught nursing and theology at the college level and served in parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Currently, Sister Marcella ministers as a spiritual director, facilitates retreats and offers presentations through Transformation Spirituality Center at our Nazareth Center in Kalamazoo.