"Before God, in the Church, and in the presence of [her] community," Sr. Catherine Anne of the Cross professed her final vows as a Religious of the Assumption on the 5th of October at St. Peter's Church in Worcester, MA. We give thanks and rejoice!
Before the Eucharistic celebration began, Sr. Clare Teresa (who had been Sr. Catherine's novice mistress) gave an introduction that traced Sr. Catherine's journey from the time she first met the Assumption Sisters until this day of her definitive commitment to God in the Assumption. We share it with you here so that you too can share in our joy!
Introduction, Mass of Final Profession
Sr. Catherine Anne of the Cross, R.A.
This is a little long; it is the story of a journey.
It was in Philadelphia that Sister Catherine began her journey into the religious life. Her journey already had been rich and varied: marriage and motherhood (her two devoted daughters are here today). She held jobs as diverse as doing carpentry and running a bakery as a pastry chef. She earned a degree at the Tyler School of Art and then another in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Through it all, she was seeking deeper meaning and fuller life. When she encountered the Assumption Sisters, she was finding her way in prayer. It happened like this: one day at the University of Pennsylvania Newman Center, where she often stopped in to pray, the campus minister who had just finished a phone call with our Sister Francis Joseph, remarked to Catherine: "Now you might want to meet them: a very interesting group of women - and they wear purple." And so it was that Sandy Soley came to the sisters' house, saw the purple, found a house of prayer and came to live with us as a postulant.
As a postulant, she taught little ones in North Philadelphia and experienced the joy and beauty of prayer and work in community. We had fun too!
Decided that this was her vocation, she continued as a novice, one who undertakes the serious task of studying religious life and learning to be a nun. Setting out on this new way of life, Sandy Soley became Sister Catherine Anne.
The first or canonical year was an intense time without the concerns of teaching and earning a living. It was a time of leaving all in the adventure of following Christ, discovering the amazing dimensions of the spiritual life, learning from the community and delving into the spiritual treasury of the Church where she found apostles, martyrs, teachers and saints, the spiritual teachings and life of myriad extraordinary and ordinary folk in their relationship with God. It was a time of discovering her own life as part of a sacred history: the history of the human and the divine, of the on-going and creative relationship of God with us. Sandy Soley -- Sister Catherine Anne -- knew that, without ceasing to belong to her family and loved ones, this was where she now belonged. She felt called to the Assumption way of life and joyfully responded.
The first year of the novitiate was one long year of retreat. The second year brought a total uprooting, immersion in another culture, the experience of recognizing and appreciating the same Assumption life in a totally different context, as she joined other Assumption novices in the Philippines. The novitiate or period of initiation was completed back in West Philadelphia and Sister Catherine Anne asked to make vows, to give her entire self and life to God, with and in Jesus Christ, with and in the Church, with the sisters of the Assumption. She became Sister Catherine Anne of the Cross. The Cross needs no explanation!
The Church in her wisdom does not let a person embark on this different kind of life lightly. Although the woman who takes her vows means forever, the Church recommends and requires a certain extended period of living the vowed life to make sure that it is truly a path to becoming ever more deeply and fully oneself. To make sure that the religious life is truly her vocation. The vows by which we renounce ways of satisfying the most deeply rooted impulses of the human being are meant to be, for those who are called, a way to ever greater freedom and life in plenitude. The vocation needs to be tested; the proof is in the pudding. You are witnesses of her joy.
Thus Catherine has continued her formation as a young sister here in Worcester for the past four years. Here, she has lived the ordinary life of an Assumption Community: prayer, study and work for the Kingdom of God, along with the simple happiness of being sisters. We used to say "We have more fun than people."
She has been engaged at the Assumption Center across from St. Andrew's in ESL, in mentoring and in building a community garden!
Today, the Sisters of the Assumption, the Church, Sister Catherine Anne herself and all of you, I believe, recognize that Sister Catherine is called to the vowed life. By the religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience she makes a solemn Covenant with Christ and the Church, to love and to serve with all her heart until death. A ring is sign and material seal of this union. In it is engraved a line from Psalm 46: "Be still and know that I am God." It expresses Catherine's way of understanding this unique relationship.
Another psalm says: "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad." Indeed we rejoice and are glad.
Would you like to send a note of congratulations or encouragement to Sr. Catherine? Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!