“The consecrated life is a life of radical faith and unconditional love”, according to chief celebrant Archbishop Robert Rivas of Castries, St Lucia, at the jubilee celebration of the life of service of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny at St Joseph’s Convent Chapel, Port of Spain.
The August 5 celebration honoured the 60th anniversary of religious profession of Sr Bernard Ng Fan, and 50th anniversaries of Srs Paula Andrew, Jean Garriman, Phyllis Wharfe, Ann Keens Douglas and Philip Geofroy. The packed congregation also witnessed the final profession of Sr Hazel Alphonse.
Bishop Emeritus Malcolm Galt, Vicar General Msgr Christian Pereira, and Msgr Julien Kabore, Head of Mission at the Nunciature were among the concelebrating clergy.
Before the homily, Sr Alphonse stood before Archbishop Rivas and the seated congregation to begin the initial part of the Ceremony of Religious Profession. Archbishop Rivas saw the ceremony as a “moment of self-emptying and daring” and a “moment of grace for the Church in the Caribbean region”. He stated that Sr Hazel “embraced Christ as her spouse forever” and by doing God’s will, she was imitating Christ, “even unto death”.
In his homily, Archbishop Rivas observed the jubilee celebrations as “milestones on the journey of life” and as signs of faithfulness. The sisters went on a “blind date with God…They fell in love and could not resist the Beloved,” he said. Because of their choice, they were blessed with lives filled with “wonder, truth, holiness, gratitude and grace”.
In their life of service, Archbishop Rivas observed, they discovered that “God was everything”. Referring to the year of Consecrated Life as proclaimed by Pope Francis (2014–2016), as bearing witness to a God who is able to fill “our hearts to the brim with happiness”, Archbishop Rivas highlighted that consecrated life leads one to find that “God is everything” and “we want nothing more”.
He acknowledged that in choosing a life of consecration, one may be hesitant due to accompanying thoughts of having a family or independence. However, in choosing to live the consecrated life, the Sisters lived a life of total self-giving to the Church that in turn brought them “lifelong personal fulfillment and joy in the vocation”.
Archbishop Rivas referred to the sisters as being “seven beautiful, gifted and consecrated women of grace” called to a life of service. “Love comes before service,” he said, with service being “the fruit of love”. He acknowledged the contributions the jubilarians made to the Church in the region, citing Sr Paula Andrew who as Directress of the Catechist Training Institute for the Province of Castries, Archdiocesan Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (St Lucia), and consultant to the Catechetical Commission of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, left an indelible mark on the Church in St Lucia. The Archbishop then sang the chorus of one of Sr Paula’s calypso compositions, ‘Life is a Journey’, with members of the congregation joining happily with the sing-a-long.
He told the sisters that this was the time to “slow down, be still, [and] be attentive…Life is so much more than schedules, demands and being on the go”. He encouraged them to continue to enrich the Church with their spiritual insights and to help make consecrated life more attractive to the region, choosing “communion, simplicity and generosity”. After the homily, the jubilarians renewed their vows using the official formula of the Congregation of the Order.
The Ceremony of Religious Profession resumed with the Examination of Sr Hazel, followed by the Litany of the Saints. Afterwards, Sr Juliana Alexander, Provincial Superior received the vows of Sr Hazel. Sr Hazel then signed the document of her Profession.
Archbishop Rivas then presented Sr Hazel with a ring, received as a sign that she is “betrothed to the Eternal King”. Sr Juliana then welcomed her as a member of the Congregation, and Sr Hazel was greeted by the other sisters.