On April 30, the Worcester community celebrated the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Assumption with a revamped booklet for the Liturgy of the feast, a Eucharist celebrated and a beautiful homily preached by Fr. Alex Castro, AA, an "old boy" from Assumpta Technical High School, an Assumption school in the Philippines, a joyful Vespers in which Akeneta received the habit and entered the novitiate, and a wonderful party in which the sisters, brothers and friends toasted the Assumption in baked ziti, meatballs, and apple cake!
This might seem a far cry from the first Foundation Day celebrated in that poor little apartment on the rue Frou, where, said Mother Marie Eugenie, a few poor girls without a place on earth began their religious life on the evening of April 30, 1839. Still, that Assumption spirit of simple kindness that Mother Marie Eugenie always insisted on, and the joy that she called a particular mark of the congregation were very much in evidence here in Worcester on April 30th, 2014.
Sr. Helene Bories' biography of Marie Eugenie makes clear that the first sisters also loved the Prayer of the Church: There were only four sisters [in1839], but they recited the office in choir, arranging the chairs like stalls and at each Gloria Patri solemnly rising for the bow. (Sr. Helene also reports that Marie Eugnie and the others carried their chairs with them from the dining room to the chapel and back again, because there were only four in the whole house.) Although we didn't have to imitate that part of early Assumption life yesterday, we did pray the Office with gusto! In fact, we enjoyed praying our way through the whole day actually starting the night before, with the Office of Vigils and then taking it up the next morning at Lauds celebrated in Assumption Colleges chapel with our Assumptionist brothers, Midday on Old English Road, and finally Mass and Vespers prayed once more with our brothers and friends at Assumption. All of these Offices, plus the ceremonial for the entrance to the novitiate, were laid out in a nice new booklet engineered by Sr. Mary Ann. It felt great to have everything in one place! (By the way, wed also had some fun the night before, when we presented a NOVICE SURVIVAL KIT to Sr. Akeneta and a NOVICE MISTRESS SURVIVAL KIT to Sr. Mary Ann. Laughter has also been a big part of Assumption life from Day One, and we wanted to keep the tradition going.)
Thinking once again about the first foundation, its fair to say that cooking was not natural to the young women who joined Marie Eugenie in 1839. And since they came from families where someone had always done those things for them, their initial experiments had predictable results. Heres Sr. Helene again, quoting a sister who lived to tell the tale: Sr. Augustine, especially, used to put into one pot everything she was given to prepare the days meal. After a few such attempts, she was put in charge of sweeping.
Happily for us and our friends, cooking traditions at the Assumption have evolved. In fact, one hundred seventy-five years later, Sr. Catherine was able to call on her professional know-how to create three different types of cake for the celebration. Sr. Therese provided technical support peeling a mountain of apples and pears and washing many a bowl and pan along the way, while Sr. Akeneta was washing every window and vacuuming every room. (By the way, unlike her sweeping predecessor Sr. Augustine, this sister Akeneta can cook, and cook well!) Sisters Catherine, Therese and Akeneta also found ways to decorate the college chapel so that it reflected something of our spirit; Mother Marie Eugenie's photo presided over our Offices there, enthroned on a beautiful, rich purple cloth and surrounded with fresh spring blossoms.
And so it went. The actual entrance to the novitiate took place at Vespers in the form of a dialogue between Sr. Akeneta and Sr. Nuala, the provincial. This ceremony is called the Clothing, or in French, "Prise d'habit" meaning, "the taking of the habit." Although Sr. Akeneta was already dressed in her new purple skirt and white blouse, Sr. Nuala gave her three items to symbolize her new status: a crucifix (in this case, the one that belonged to Sr. Clem), a rosary, and the novices cross that shell wear around her neck. (Click here to read the dialogue between Sr. Nuala and Sr. Akeneta.) After the Clothing, we all sang the Magnificat with fervor: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name! Then we gathered ourselves together and came home through a driving rain to celebrate Gods goodness to us.
And now it's The Day After. Even though everyone's a little tired, we're all very eager to see what the next 175 years will bring to the Assumption. Already we see that a new chapter has begun in the life of the Worcester community; we're the novitiate community now. As time goes on, all of us, whether novice, novice mistress, or sister in the community, will discover what that means. Of course there's a regular formation program, and Sr. Mary Ann and Sr. Akeneta will be deeply involved in putting it into action. But when all is said and done, we know that formation is ulitmately the work of the God of surprises whom Marie Eugenie loved so much. We're eager to begin the journey with Ake and to support her with prayer, with food, with laughter, with listening, with Zumba(!), with our love and with anything else that God gives us .
To send a word of encouragement or congratulations to Sr. Akeneta, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org