Sr. Cecilia's Concerto Far From Finished

Saturday, October 15, 2011

This article, reprinted from the Fall issue of NewStan (The Newsletter of St. Stanislaus Parish, Lansdale, PA), was written by Dianne Spotts.

We thank you for your years of service to St. Stan's parish, Sr. Cecilia, and wish you all the best in your retirement!

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On September 1, 2011, after thirteen years of faithful service to our St. Stanislaus Parish family, Sr. Cecilia Hervas, R.A. retired. Her effective and rich ministry here included: directing the RCIA program, facilitating scripture sharing groups, and assisting individuals with spiritual discernment. She plays piano for our daily Masses, and has given two concerts in conjunction with our choir.

Born in Iloilo City, Philippines, Cecilia exhibited a talent for the piano at the early age of two. Her family was convinced she was on her way to becoming a great pianist. For the most part, she enjoyed a happy childhood; however, World War II greatly affected the family of eight. They escaped from the Axis allies by cover of night, seeking air raid shelters when artillery exploded. She learned to pray during these harrowing experiences, but her earliest experience of God was when she was eight, and received her first Bible from her uncle-priest, bringing her an indescribable sense of awe.

After the war, she was introduced to the order of Assumption Sisters and felt she entered a new world when she walked through the gates of their school for the first time. She notes, "It was like learning a new language: about God, about becoming simple and straightforward, about the value of sacrifice, silence, and prayer, friendship, concern for the poor. I felt too, that the Sisters knew me and I mattered to them."

Sister finished her undergraduate degree in music in Manila, and went on to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, for graduate studies. Before receiving her Masters degree and the Performer's Certificate from Eastman, a former teacher asked her if she had ever considered religious life.

"My early religious longings were awakened. It was a moment of grace, and I felt it was then or never. I chose to stay and join the Assumption Sisters in Ravenhill (former school of the Assumption Sisters in Philadelphia)."

This decision devastated her family in the Philippines. Her mother, now a widow, was deeply hurt and to her, Cecilia was as good as dead. After her novitiate, Sister went back to the Philippines and began to teach. However, the unsettled relationship with her mother continued to bring pain to her, until, in Sr. Cecilia's words, "Grace triumphed, forgiveness healed the rift and something within was released."

Almost thirty years passed after Cecilia entered the convent before she began to give concerts. She has performed in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Beverly Hills, Virginia, and at the Assumption convents in Paris, Manila, and Denmark. "Today when I play before people," she says, "I am aware I am touching the human thirst for beauty. Music has power to move the heart where words sometimes fail."

Now, with more time available, Sister Cecilia is exploring possibilities like additional spiritual direction, giving occasional talks, and working for the good of her Province.

As one who has benefited directly from her ministry, I thank Sister for using the gifts God has given her to serve His people. Nine years ago, I asked her to direct a Scripture sharing group for ladies In my neighborhood. We continue to meet in each other's homes, and have grown in our understanding of the Word of God under her leadership. She easily shares the language of God, and is straightforward -- living the value of sacrifice, silence, prayer, and friendship in front of us. Our group of ten enjoys a bond that developed around the Scriptures with her nurturing.

"My story is far from finished. Living one's vocation is a decision that needs to be renewed each day in community with my Sisters, with its joys and agony. Following Jesus and with Mary we learn compassion, sharing, with respect, the joys and sufferings of those around us. We witness in this practical way to God's love for all." (quoted from the Rule of Life, Religious of the Assumption)

We wish Sister happiness in her retirement, and thank her for making herself available to God's plan for our parish family.