Thursday, September 8, 2016

Celebrating Mary's Birthday, Happy Memories of Pilgrimages and Religious Life by Bridget Mary Meehan SFCC, ARCWP

St. Anne and Mary Statue in Trinity Chapel in Adare, County limerick, Ireland
In  the Holy Year in 1975 my parents, Jack and Bridie and I visited Lourdes and the Marian shrine in Knock, County Mayo. My mother kept small fonts  filled with holy water near the doors in our home. On more than one occasion, she would remind us to bless ourselves!   
I remember one time a skeptical customs' officer in Boston asked Mom about the contents of the clear liquid in the small bottles. Smiling, Mom proudly announced "holy water,' ready to open it up and bless him! Mom also brought back sods of turf from the bog and Irish sausages and rashers. Luckily, these treasures were not examined or confiscated.

I loved visiting shrines. So did Mom. We rented a car which Dad drove. We toured all over Ireland visited family,  and stopped at Knock for prayer and to stock up on our holy water supply.

  As I prayed in these sacred places, I was inspired and deeply touched by the depth of people's faith, especially the ones with disabilities and their compassionate care givers who accompanied them. As we walked around and prayed, we were part of hundreds, sometimes thousands of pilgrims who were also praying. It felt like a tonic for the soul that was healing and renewing.

In his book, When Mary Becomes Cosmic, David Rocho describes Mary's healing power as present in all of us: "to say that Mary is the Health of the Sick is to say that we all contain the energy of the feminine archetype of healing. Sickness is not limited to the narrow literal meaning of physical illness. It means deficiency of any kind-  our disabilities in loving, in talents, in vision are meant to be directions to our destiny of giving. We look at our deficiencies and feel compassion for others like us. We design an apostolate of works of mercy that are aimed at the people who are suffering as we are. if we are sick, we help the sick. f we are ignorant, we help the ignorant. If we are in an oppressed minority, we join our fellows in raising consciousness of equality for all." (When Mary Becomes Cosmic, p.114.)

Today the Roman Catholic Church  commemorate Mary's birthday. This brings back wonderful memories of my convent days as an IHM. The  IHM's, Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, celebrate all the Marian feast days and so do I. 

Many religious orders schedule entrance day for new postulants on September 8th, but our "band"/class entered on Sept 15th because the new Immaculate Heart of Mary Mother House in Immaculata, PA. was not finished. So, 90 of us bid our family goodbye at the College across the street and walked over a wooden plank on Sept. 15th (to avoid the mud from rain and construction work in the front of the building) the feast of the Sorrows of Mary.  

I was 18 years old, when I passed through the convent door and into a whole new world. Feeling both sad, saying goodbye to my family, and excited about what lay ahead in learning the ropes of how to be a good nun, I am so grateful  now for  my 15 years in the IHM Order. I learned a lot about the spiritual life from these wise women. Later this month some of the members of my IHM band will gather to celebrate our 50th anniversary. What a joy it will be to see these women and to catch up on our lives and recall so  many memories! 

In 1995, I made a transition to the Sisters for Christian Community (SFCC)a new paradigm of religious life. Our  vision is "that all may be one" as Jesus prayed in the Gospels. Our aim is to be  leaven of Christian community wherever we are, united  with the people of God in our diverse ministries. SFCC is not under Vatican jurisdiction so I am affirmed as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. Several of my sisters , including my soul sister, Regina Madonna Oliver, attended my ordination and several of our SFCCs are Roman Catholic Women Priests. 

We are blessed companions on the journey in a community of equals to bring about a more loving, compassionate, just and inclusive church.

Bridget Mary Meehan SFCC, ARCWP

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