The ancient Latin ceremony bore all the hallmarks of a wedding. There were rings, flowers, vows, even a reception with a wedding cake. Only this wedding had twelve brides and each of them were draped in a funeral pall symbolizing their mystical death to the world and to themselves.
On May 15 at Old St. Patrick’s in Kansas City, eleven sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles made their perpetual profession of vows and were espoused to Jesus Christ.
While the pall signified their death to the world, the rest of the ceremony proclaimed their joy in their spouse. Before Bishop Robert Finn placed a ring on each sister’s hand, espousing her to Christ, he called them saying “Come, beloved, to be espoused; the winter is past, the turtle dove calls, the blooming vineyards give forth their fragrance.”
After Bishop Finn declared, “I espouse you to Jesus Christ,” the sisters knelt and chanted, “I am espoused to Him Whom the angels serve, Whose beauty the sun and the moon admire.”
Then raising their hands to show their rings to all those present, the sisters sang, “My Lord Jesus Christ hath betrothed me with His ring, and hath adorned me as a bride with a crown.”
The eleven are the first in the relatively new, young and fast growing community to make perpetual vows. Their number included their prioress, Mother Therese of the Most Holy Trinity. The others were Sisters M. Wilhelmina of the Most Holy Rosary, Emmanuel of the Most Precious Blood, Scholastica of the Holy Face, Benedicta of Our Lord’s Passion, Cecilia of the Merciful Heart of Jesus, Tarcisia of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Agnes of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Bernadette of the Precious Blood, Gemma of Jesus and Misericordia of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Friends, family, witnesses and well-wishers filled Old St. Patrick’s to capacity during the four hour service.
In his homily before the profession of vows, Bishop Finn said the sisters “intend and desire to offer the total gift of their lives, for the full extent of their lives, that they may have life.”
The ceremony, he said, “will inspire us, and impress upon us all the dignity and finality of the action of the professed and the grace that comes efficaciously through the Church’s blessing . . . And they shall be joined to Christ their spouse; joined to Christ their spouse; joined forever to Christ their spouse.”
Bishop Finn recounted how the sisters have persevered through a novitiate year and three years in temporary vows living according to the Rule of St. Benedict and giving “themselves in prayer and sacrifice for the sanctification of the priests.”
To the sisters, Bishop Finn extended “the Peace of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, His joy, His gift of hope.” Urging them to trust in Jesus, Bishop Finn said, “He chooses you today and forever. Knowing all our weaknesses and limitations, He will grant you sufficient grace and extraordinary love to keep the promises you are about to make. He wants you to wear the crown, not for a day, but unto eternal life.”
Bishop Finn said that the Holy Ghost will seal their profession and that Jesus would never be far from them to call upon. “Don’t think that you will wear Him out – but never stop calling Him who is spouse of our Lady, and Lord and Giver of Life.”
A reception followed at St. Therese Education and Parish Center in Parkville.
Apology to the sisters and our readers: This post originally said 12 had made perpetual vows. In fact, it is 11. The post has been changed to reflect the fact, but unfortunately, the print edition is a done deal. Thanks to Kansas Catholic for spotting the error.