Opening of the 150th Jubilee Year
September 17, 2020

Most Reverend. Peter Rosazza ~ Celebrant and Homilist

In the name of the Church in the Northeast of our country, permit me to thank all of you and those sisters who have gone before you for your dedication, effective ministry and humble service of thousands of girls and young women in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

I thank you for your invitation to celebrate this Eucharist as you come to the end of your retreat where you have been reflecting on your mission and now you are joined by sisters throughout the province, your co-workers, relatives and friends.

I consider myself a friend of your fine community. My aunt, Sister Gertrude (Rosemary Dinneen) - Angers, Batangas and Hartford. My great aunt, Rose Spillane who was provincial and the only person whom Cardinal O'Connell feared!

In 1857, Archbishop Hughes of New York finally was convinced that there was a need that could best be served by sisters with your charism. Young women were arriving in New York from Ireland, at least those who survived the wrenching four week voyage in squalid conditions on what were termed coffin ships because 33% of those forced onto them by impending starvation never made it here alive. Many of those who did were exploited by greedy men who used them as sex slaves. Others were shabbily treated when they served as live-in maids.

Your sisters responded to that need. They didn't ask for a job description or settle on how many hours they had to work each week; they plunged into their ministries because of their charism of the Good Shepherd and their deep respect for human beings who were vunerable and suffering.

Since then your sisters opened and staffed schools and houses of refuge for young women in this area, saving them from powerful forces often driven by economic motives and giving them shelter, refuge, love, support and Catholic values which helped them grow in the awareness of their dignity.

At the same time, thanks to intuition of Saint Marie Euphrasie Pelletier, a contemplative branch was established to pray for those involved in active ministry. Yet even the Marthas knew tat they had to devote time to prayer in order to face the evil and degrading forces so strong at that time and in these times too.

Thus, you have every reason to celebrate who you are, Sisters of the Good Shepherd who reach out in his name to those with whom he identifies so profoundly.

Saint Mary Euphrasia was one of those valiant French Catholics in the early part of the the 19th century who was moved by the missionary charism of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for the Church of France. We owe it so much. Here are a few examples:

  • Father Edouard Sorin and a group of Holy Cross priests and brothers came to the missions in Indiana and in 1842 founded a small college that today is the most famous Catholic University in our land, Notre Dame.
  • Father Simon Gabriel Brute, a Sulpician, came to the Indiana missions as well and became the first bishop of the now defunct Diocese of Vincennes around the year 1835. John Adams called him the most education person in our country. He left a library of 8,000 currently on display in a library in Vincennes, Indiana.
  • Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton drew her inspiration and rule from Saint Louise de Marillac, collaborator of Saint Vincent de Paul and foundress of the Daughters of Charity. Bishop Brute was Mother Seton's spiritual director.
  • At the behest of Bishop John Carroll, brother of Charles Carroll of Carroltan and the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, the French Sulpicians came to Baltimore in 1791 to found the first seminary in our country, St. Mary's that thrives today.
  • Bishop Flaget of Bardstown, Kentucky, was the first bishop to receive your sisters in 1843.
  • Mother Joseph (born Esther Pariseau near Montreal, came to Pacific Northwest in 1856 and established 11 hospitals, 7 academies, 5 Indian schools and 2 orphanages. Her statue is in the Hall of Columns in our nation's capitol, placed there by the State of Washington.
  • And, of course, Saint Marie Euphrasie Pelletier. I have saved the best for last!

At this point I would like to reflect briefly on Christ who lived in her in a powerful way since how she responded to him would redound to you, her spiritual daughters and your mission.

  • Jesus went OUT - from the Holy Trinity to earth to become the Good Shepherd - the most appropriate name for a religious community I can think of.
  • Jesus went OUT from Nazareth and kept breaking one comfort zone after another to reach peoples in other towns and even places outside Israel.
  • Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
  • He came into our world not to condemn it but to save it.
  • He is the Good Shepherd who leaves the comfort of the 99 and goes in search of the one who is lost.
  • He told his followers that we had to be servants like himself who came, not to be served...
  • He showed compassion for human suffering because he himself knew what it is to suffer - working long hours, not having enough to eat, being misunderstood and criticized and finally being tortured and executed by crucifixion.
  • He even identified with the poor and suffering - crying out from their mouths, "I was hungry..."

Saint Euphrasia - saw young women who were suffering and respnded so that they could grow in their humanity and get in touch with Christ in them. She did this as a woman religious.

  • Though the beginnings of her work were humble, she saw the need to send sisters to other countries to meet the needs there. Sain Euphrasia constantly broke through her comfort zones, drawn by the call of Christ to serve him wherever he suffered.
  • She instilled in her sisters her own sense of dignity and mission so that you could face any mission and any individual who might become an obstacle to your work.
  • She showed that one can have a sense of dignity and serve humbly just as Jesus did.
  • She believed that if God shut one door, God would open another somewhere as happened in Hartford with the closing of your mission on Sisson Avenue there. And this after your sisters had served over 8,000 women and girls from 1902 until 1973. 8000!
  • A similar event occured in 1857 when Saint Euphrasia tried unsuccessfully to establish a house in Jerusalem but did so in New York, which she called, "The Babylon of the New World."
  • Her flexibility and openness has led you to collaborate in team ministries with other religious, with priests and laypersons in the parishes, hospitals and alcohol abuse centers. You serve battered women and abused children as well, responding to some of the most afflicted persons in our society.
  • She lived evangelical poverty that gave her the ability to move from place to place and to stand in solidarity with the poor. This included founding schools for girls and young women where they could learn about Jesus as well as the subjects that would prepare them for independence one day.

Saint Euphrasia imitated Jesus in so many ways - or better still, she manifested the power of Christ in her as you do today. Thus, the need to continue to live lives centered on Jesus Christ as Pope John Paul II said to relgious women in our country in 1979: "Dear sisters in Christ, Jesus must be first in your lives. His person must be at the center of your daily activities. No other person and no other activity can take precedence over him. With Saint Paul you must say, 'All I want to know is Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death.'" (pps. 246-7)

Eucharist - thanksgiving (efxaristo) - Benedict XVI at World Youth Day 2005: "Just as the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, so we too are transformed by Christ in the Eucharist." May Jesus increase his presence in each of you and in your community so that you might continue to manifest his love and compassioin through the charism and image of the Good Shepherd. AMEN!


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