By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
INDEPENDENCE — Not one Frank Sinatra among them, Vicar General Father Charles Rowe said.
The 13 women religious jubilarians whose combined 750 years of service was celebrated Oct. 25 with a special Mass and reception didn’t do it “their way.” They did it God’s way.
“I express the profound gratitude of our local church to the brilliant example you religious have shown us,” Father Rowe said in his homily at the Mass hosted by the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist.
“You have been the hands and heart of Christ, especially to the neediest among us,” he said.
The sisters honored are:
Sister Ancilla Grovijohn, Sisters of St. Francis (Savannah).
Sister Marie Pauline Medina, Little Sisters of the Poor.
Sister Marilyn Peot, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Sister Mary Annette Schorman, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Sister Ann Schorfheide, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Sister Ruth Stuckel, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Sister Joan Tolle, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Sister Wilmarie Ehrhardt, Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (Clyde).
Sister Esther Fangman, Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica (Atchison).
Sister Susan Holmes, Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica (Atchison).
Sister Mary Pat Johnson, Sisters of Charity (Leavenworth).
Sister Brigid Riordan, Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (Clyde).
Sister Linda Roth, Sisters of Charity (Leavenworth).
The work that women religious have done in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is the very work of Jesus himself, Father Rowe said.
“In hospitals and schools and other venues, you have brought the compassionate touch of the Holy Spirit to the poor, suffering and excluded,” he said.
“You have placed your charisms, indeed, your very lives entirely at the service of the people of God and the whole human race,” he said. “You have demonstrated what it means to drink of the Lord’s chalice and share in his baptism.”
Their work also runs directly against the very human thirst for temporal glory, as illustrated in that day’s Gospel reading from Mark.
“James and John are presented as young men in a hurry to climb the corporate ladder and sit beside the Lord in glory,” Father Rowe said. “The other 10 don’t come off much better as it is recounted that they resent the ambition of their clerical colleagues.”
But Jesus had another way.
“The Lord challenges the whole gang to adopt a different mindset: Whoever wishes to be great will be the servant of all. This is, in fact, the example he shall set before them by serving and giving his life as a ransom for many,” Father Rowe said.
“Deeply ingrained in our fallen human nature, one finds a sinful attraction to power and privilege. There is a deep seated longing to be over and above others, to be spared the sorrows that afflict the unfortunate,” he said.
Jesus’ way was to serve by suffering along with those suffering, especially as he called his followers to waters of Baptism and the body and blood of the Eucharist.
“Every time we bless ourselves with holy water, every time we receive Holy Communion, we are reminded of the suffering servant whose death redeemed us all, and we are inspired to follow in his footsteps by humbly placing ourselves at the service of others,” Father Rowe said.
“In the perspective of Christian faith, we realize there is redemptive potential to be found in every cross that must be carried,” he said. “There is opportunity in sorrows for a stronger union with the crucified Savior, an intimate communion with the Lord that bears fruit to the salvation of the world.”
That is the gift that women religious have always brought not only to the diocese, but to the world, as not our way, but Jesus’ way.
“Like Sinatra, we want to do it our way,” Father Rowe said.
“Each jealously guards his rights, prerogatives and privileges to such an extent that our social fabric is tearing at the seams,” he said.
“Yet I see in this crisis a tremendous opportunity for our church to shine a light amid the gloom. If only our faith community were to recapture the servant spirit of her founder Jesus Christ, we could be a wondrous example of social concord for the nation and the world,” Father Rowe said.
“I think it providential that Pope Francis has emphasized that ministry, especially papal and pastoral ministries, is primarily about service, not power or privilege,” he said.
“If the whole church, starting with us in leadership, would take this lesson to heart, it would bear immense fruit for the sanctification of God’s people and the salvation of the world,” Father Rowe said.