The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Saturday, June 17, was a splendid day in Tarrytown. The celebration began with a beautiful prayer reflection led by Catherine Vincie, RSHM, with a PowerPoint presentation on the many titles of Mary. The program featured the video “Beyond ‘Women in the Church’: Gender and Ecclesiology Since Vatican II,” presented by Dr. Elyse Raby of Santa Clara University. Dr. Raby reflected upon ways in which, throughout history, theologians and popes have typically described the human body as self-enclosed and defined by its head, to justify a vision of the Church – the ecclesial body – as set apart from the world and governed by the pope.
In our own day, the magisterium’s commitment to gender complementarity reinforces a particularly hierarchical understanding of the Church. Bodies, Dr. Raby proposed, are much more complex than the Church has typically admitted. New reflections on embodiment and gender can open up new ways to envision the Church, its ministry and its relationship to the world. Likewise, Pope Francis’ reforms may bring about a new openness to gender diversity in the Church.
After the video, the sisters broke into small groups for discussion and comments at large. Father Larry Lewis, MM, was our Eucharistic presider, giving us, as always, a vivid homily. In tune with the day’s focus on embodiment, Father Larry told the story of the birth of twins, one of whom was thriving, and the other very weak. An alert and sensitive nurse took the ailing infant and placed her right next to her twin. The vital signs of the fragile little one immediately skyrocketed. This touching image of empowerment through the closeness of a sister was the perfect introduction to the renewal of vows, as each RSHM present expressed her reliance on “…the fidelity of God and the support of my sisters.”
Following a festive luncheon, our celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Mary ended with a heartwarming event. We are connected with Hearts & Homes for Refugees, supporting them in their efforts to provide assistance to families. Sister Susan Gardella, RSHM, had been working for the prior few weeks with Valek K., a refugee from Ukraine. On Saturday, after our luncheon, she met him to hand over the keys for one of our cars. Expressing his gratitude to all of the sisters, he said that his family has been overwhelmed by the kindness shown to them and by the sisters’ concern for their country. For RSHM, it is a joy and a consolation, as some age out of driving, to pass on the keys to immigrants who will enrich our country’s future, as our forebearers have enriched its past.