Dear Sisters, Family, Friends and Benefactors, 2020
Greetings and grace to you all this Advent, Christmas, New Year and Epiphany!
During this season of expectation and joy, where do we find meaning and joy in this year that has gone-by amidst Covid-19, economic downturn, racial disparity, nation-wide protests, devastating damage caused by climate change, unprecedented elections and isolation from those we love?
Our lives have become anamnesis as we live out in our own hearts, minds and bodies the life of Christ. In our charism our Foundress, Blessed Maria Celeste, called this being “A Living Memory” of Jesus. But it is to be more than a memory. Right now, she would say we are “Living like a babe in its Mother-God’s womb,” where “…no sorrow can enter this Placenta of Joy” while awaiting the time of our (new) birth. There we are cared for, protected, safe, loved.
Though life for many of you is completely different, life in the monastery still follows its daily rhythms of a life of prayer. Last year, we began our Novena before Christmas praying for all your intentions and will do the same this year beginning December 16. In the darkened Celeste Hall, sitting around the Advent wreath, we pray:
As usual, we had Christmas ‘Midnight Mass’ at 8:00 pm! On New Year’s Eve we ritually selected our Patron Saints, Titles of our Lady, Practices from our Constitutions and Intentions for the coming Year. Little did we know that in two weeks the novel coronavirus would land on our shores.
On February 24th Sisters Paula and Maria Paz went to help our Sisters in Liguori, Missouri. Our last weekly visit to Sr. Lydia in the Ozanam Nursing Home was on Leap Year Day. The next week we held our last in-person quarterly Associate meeting. Then everything closed down.
Sr. Paula came home from Liguori but went straight into self-isolation – she made a personal retreat out of it. St. Patrick’s Day was our last in-person Mass. Sr. Paz came home on April 6th and she too went into isolation/retreat.
The Easter Triduum was celebrated with all solemnity. Without a priest, the Sisters took a more active role in the liturgies. We miss our friends who would ordinarily join us for these and Sunday Masses and all the feast days throughout the year. And so, we celebrated the fifty days of Easter and Pentecost with quiet joy.
All the Sisters participated in this year’s election either by mail in ballot, early voting (one Sister waited 4 ½ hours on line!) or election day voting. We pray for a smooth and peaceful transition of government.
Carmelite Sr. Ellen Mary died after a brief final illness (not covid) and a small funeral was held for her family. Her sweet presence will be greatly missed. Just before her death, a Carmelite from Rhode Island, Sr. Roseann, came to live her vocation here in Beacon.
With joy we celebrated significant birthdays and anniversaries of profession throughout the year. All your intentions were included in our Novena Prayers to our Mother of Perpetual Help in June. We rejoiced with the Carmelites as they celebrated their 100 years in New York. We thank God for the use of technology which has kept us united with our communities and families. We watched live-stream wakes and funerals of those Sisters who now know the fullness of joy in heaven, as well as professions and even a wedding. We ‘visit’ Sr. Lydia weekly on FaceTime. We have participated in conferences, Novenas, Triduum and Masses on-line on: The Redemptorists-YouTube Even our Associates renewed their commitments via Zoom.
Where did we find meaning and joy? Right here in our monastery as we faithfully prayed for the world and church. The little things of life took on greater meaning and appreciation: a day-old fawn snuggled along the wall outside Chapel, a walk through the spring-green woods, the crunch of fall leaves, the unexpected snow in October, the quiet of the Chapel, the voices of the Sisters, the memory of the Child born in Bethlehem who shines in our darkness bringing us faith, hope, peace and joy.
May your Christmas be blessed with the greatest Love of all ages.
And may the year to come bring healing and new life.