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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!