Sr. Catherine Anne Soley's first profession of vows at Saint Francis de Sales Church on August 8th marked the end of almost three weeks of being together for our U.S. province: first for a wonderful provincial retreat, then for an interesting provincial chapter, and finally for this joyful occasion.
Father Richard Lamoureux, A.A., the Superior General of our Assumptionist brothers, guided us through a beautiful eight day retreat with St. Augustine and St. Paul. Our retreat led us to contemplate our own lives by the light of selected texts from The Confessions and Paul's letters. We were able to have this little vacation with Augustine, Paul and the Lord at the Mary Immaculate Center in Northampton, PA.
It was the first time most of us had ever been at the Center, which sits on the highest hill in Northampton looking out over the Lehigh Valley. It was lush, peaceful, and delightful to sit and watch the busy skies change from pure blue to threatening clouds to mighty thunderstorms throughout our time there. Meanwhile, inside the enormous building, we enjoyed daily Mass and our conferences in a library decorated by one of Cardinal Krol's oriental carpets while adoration took place in the remarkable chapel, where just about every square inch was covered in beautiful carvings of saints or splendid stained glass windows. Our meals, too, were very nice, served up by a dedicated but mostly volunteer staff because the sad thing about our visit to MIC was that the archdiocese of Philadelphia has decided that it has to close due to fiscal constraints. If anyone has several million dollars lying around, it would be a great buy!!
Still, we were very lucky not only to enjoy our eight days of retreat there, but also to continue our time together there in the Provincial Chapter. This Chapter allowed us to tell stories about all that had happened in our communities since we'd been together in January, to review some work we'd done on the Rule of Life at the behest of an international congregational commission, and also to elect a new Provincial Council. As it happened, the new Council turned out to be the same as the old: Sisters Chabela, Lory and Nuala will continue to assist Sr. Mary Ann in her work of provincial government.
Finally, however, we had to say goodbye to the Lehigh Valley and head back down the Northeast Extension to the Delaware Valley, home to the Lansdale and West Philadelphia communities. They played hostess to the sisters from Chaparral and Worcester so that all of us could remain in town for Sr. Catherine Anne Soley's first profession.
During the regular Saturday morning Eucharist at St. Francis de Sales celebrated by the pastor, Fr. Zachary Navit, Sr. Catherine was presented as ready to make her profession. Then, Sr. Catherine vowed to live in chastity, poverty and obedience according to the Rule of Life of the Religious of the Assumption for the next three years. Representing our Superior General, Sr. Diana Wauters, Sr. Mary Ann received the vows, which were witnessed by the whole province, by her family and friends, and also by many members of the Lay Friends of the Assumption. Fr. Sean Mahoney, the chaplain of the Newman Center at Temple University, preached the homily.
After the vows, we adjourned to the lovely parish garden where the West Philadelphia community and their friends had prepared a wonderful brunch of coffee and breads and pastries for all of us. It was a great way to continue the celebration, deep in West Philly, where Sr. Catherine had discovered and nourished her call to religious life and to the Assumption. We are all deeply grateful for her willingness to commit her life to Jesus with us. As is customary, Sr. Catherine will now begin what is called a juniorate (continued religious formation with both theological studies and apostolic activity) in the community of Worcester toward the end of August.