Holy Union Jubilarians for 2023
This year we’re delighted to celebrate our eight Jubilarians. If you received our January issue of Response, you may remember we asked them each to tell us about their fondest memory as a woman religious as well as their greatest hope for tomorrow.
Here is what they shared with us.
Sr. Marilyn Gignac – Religious name: Sr. Agnes Celine
” My fondest memory was at a humble church in the small village of Bare, Cameroon, where three young women, Marie Martine Djoumessi, Bridget Nkuo and Genevieve Yano, pronounced their First Vows as Holy Union Sisters. This was a very happy culmination of my role as an instrument in the hands of God during the formation of these first three African women to enter our Congregation. By God’s grace, they have persevered for forty years and they, along with more than 70 others, are carrying on works begun by our missionary sisters from the U.S. and other countries and have added many more.
My greatest hope is that their number will continue to grow and that Holy Union will flourish, “revealing God’s love” in that part of the world and wherever they may find themselves in the future.”
Sr. Barbara Kirkman – Religious name: Sr. Isabel Mary
“My fondest memory is of my parents and my sister, Isabelle, on the day I entered the convent. I know it was a great sacrifice for them to allow me to pursue religious life at a time when the custom was that we would never be allowed to go home. The look on their faces was a beautiful combination of surrender and peace.
My greatest hope is for a renewal of religious faith across all churches, that people of all faiths will have a change of heart such that they can remember the power and beauty and strength of religious belief.”
Sr. Helen McPeak – Religious name: Sr. Peter Maria
“I’ll have to combine two fond memories. I was fortunate to counsel and tutor at a wonderful high school in an affluent area in Florida. We had the best of everything and as such we could provide every material thing any student needed. That experience was followed immediately by a very different one, working with children who had come from very difficult family situations at an organization which worked on a shoestring budget. And there we were able to provide what those children needed most, love. I’ve served there for over 30 years now and it has been the most rewarding experience of my life. What a great blessing to have had the opportunity to serve in such different ministries where the greatest need was the same: love.
As for my greatest hope for tomorrow, I’d simply hope that God grants me the ability to continue to do the work I am meant to do, no matter what that is.”
Sr. Maryellen Ryan – Religious name: Sr. John Marie
“As I pondered this question a powerful memory came to me over and over again. In the year before my final vows, I began to have many doubts about whether I could live the life of a woman religious. At the age of 26, I was experiencing new desires of having a family and being loved as both wife and mother. These questions encouraged me to share my doubts with a wise woman, Mother Anna Gertrude, who was my local superior. I can still see her beautiful face as she gently guided me on how these desires could be used to bring warmth and tenderness in both my community living and my daily work. Her wisdom opened up a new understanding of what a woman religious can bring to both the church and the world. This fondest memory has become a lived reality taking on new dimensions as the years have come and gone in our beautiful but fragile world.
My hope for the future flows from what I have shared above. During the many years of living religious life there were always others who shared their spiritual life with me. These times of encounter enriched and inspired my life. With God’s grace this legacy of accompaniment will continue into the future.”
Sr. Alice Arsenault – Religious name: Sr. Richard Maria
“On a Friday afternoon, I wrote my honest attempt to describe what had struck me in my life as a woman religious. However, a visit from a young teen that Saturday morning changed the entire scenario! I had met Joshua when he was just a little boy which seemed but a short time ago! However, he was now taller than I. As a young boy, he would visit the parish when his grandmother was the receptionist. If I was around I would be asked to come to say “Hi”. Evidently those few times really meant something to him. For after a recent breakfast with Grandma, he asked to go to see Sister Alice. As it happened, I was working at St. Vincent de Paul giving out food. A scene such as this has happened a few times and it always takes me by surprise, because at the time it seems so little. But sometimes a little attention goes a long way!
My hope for the future is with our young people! So many of them are really close to God and that has a way of shining out, although we do not always have the eyes to see their goodness! My prayer is that God may stretch us to see the goodness in the people (and our teens) whom we sometimes have seemingly ‘dismissed’.”
Sr. Pat Griffith – Religious name: Sr. Donald Elizabeth
“Over the years I have noted and often been amazed at how a simple word, greeting or act of kindness can bring peace and joy to someone. I believe it is simply God’s Spirit working through His creatures, and leaves countless fond memories behind.
My hope for the future is that we continue to Reveal God’s “love in our world”. The Holy Spirit is continually with us, leading the way to an unknown future, and remembering Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will be with us until the end of time!”
Sr. Margaret McCabe – Religious name: Sr. Joseph James
“I very fondly remember the changes which came about from the Second Vatican Council which impacted religious congregations. The changes brought about the beginning of renewal, including things like using your given name rather than your religious one, making the habit optional, and the ability to pursue the ministry you felt called to instead of being assigned one. All of these changes allowed us to enlarge the ways in which we could engage with those in need at the heart if the world by helping to reveal Gods love.
My greatest hope for tomorrow is that God gives me the grace to continue in my current ministry with kindness, wisdom, and joy.”
Sr. Fran Cavey – Religious name: Sr. Ann Robert
“What I am most grateful for is the love and support that I received when I needed to transition to care for my Mother. First I moved from Massachusetts to Maryland and later to Kentucky, where I rented a house so that my mother could come to live with me. That last move of almost 10 years was a blessing not only to me and my Mom but also a powerful witness for all the people to whom I ministered.
And my greatest hope for tomorrow is that we would recognize and celebrate the oneness of all peoples, all creation in the one HOLY UNION that is God’s desire for us all.”