More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Celebrating Our Partnership in Mission

Sr. Maryalice Jacquinot, IHM
IHM Center, Scranton, PA
November 10, 2004

Celebrating Our Partnership in Mission

The mustard seed parable is used by Jesus to teach us about hope and what might come from small beginnings. From a small seed, a bush large enough to provide shelter has emerged. We also know from scripture that the grain of wheat must die or else it remains just that - a grain of wheat and produces nothing. It is easy to draw comparisons with the mustard seed and the growth of the IHM Congregation. The seed, we might see as the dream or vision of our foundress, Theresa Maxis Duchemin, who made painful choices to let the seed go, to turn it over to others- to risk its being planted- in order for it to grow.

For the Kingdom of God, is not just the "mustard seed" or "the full bush". The Kingdom of God is the transforming process of faith and effort.

If you want to preserve the seed, the dream, you wouldn't risk planting it. Anything can happen. Its being planted is the risk of the sower. Not planted for the seed's protection but for an increase, hope for tomorrow. It's not unlike the beginnings of the IHM Congregation – 159 years ago. Here we are – celebrating our partnership in mission which began with three young women, a foreign priest and trust in God's providence.

We are the evidence that the small seed, the dream of Theresa Maxis, flourished. Not only ourselves, but all those we might represent – those with whom we serve and those we serve– students, colleagues, those who are at a time ill- physically, mentally, spiritually, those who society might otherwise ignore, the vulnerable, those who have little and, also, those who shape society, the powerful, those who have much, - We represent our world, the Church, God's people. All of us gathered here and so many more tell the story of these 159 years.

What happened that enabled that seed to become all that it is today is demonstrated in both examples used in the parable. Seed and yeast demonstrate the dynamic interchange of faith and effort. It is by our faith or what we trust will happen and our effort or what we make happen.

What we trust will happen, happens because we know that the mission we embrace is not our own. As Anthony Gittens said so well when he spoke during the IHM Study Days this summer, "it is not my mission, it is not the IHM mission, it is not even the Church's mission. It is God's mission. God gives the mission to Jesus who in turn invites us in."

We are called and sent by God to do God's mission. We are promised the support of Jesus- God's blessing. Therefore we don't have a mission so much as the mission has us. We are engaged, we are partners in mission. Not just with one another but with Jesus.

And so we go with God's blessing. How fortunate we are through faith to trust our seed, the dream and work, to God.

We who are engaged in IHM ministry also have a resource that most corporations would love to have. Even if those of us engaged in the missions never prayed for our work, and I know we do, we can count on so many who are praying on our behalf. It is not possible to measure the strength of the prayers for our ministries which emanate from the Marian Convent and the IHM Center. Awareness of these prayers is a tremendous reassurance to us. I even like how it sounds when we shorten the reference to those of you who live here at the IHM Center- "The Sisters at the Center" You are indeed at the center of all that we seek to do in God's name - how blest we are to have one another as partners in mission.

The history of religious life is filled with countless examples of not only profound faith but of tremendous effort. It is an awe-inspiring history and what a privilege it is for me ,personally, to step into this legacy.

In his book entitled "Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America," John Fialka credits women religious with the building of the nation's largest private school and hospital systems. He traces the participation of Sisters in every developmental period of American life from the turn of the 19th century through today. The Scranton IHM story is one branch of this complex story of women religious influencing the social structure of the United States of America.

Founders' Day provides us with an opportunity to ask how we have tended the seed of Theresa's dream. It is good to reminisce and tell the stories. They are stories filled with invitation and response. Or as I recently heard it called – "the Sister, would you" stories. Whether it was joining the concerned women who began the ministry now known as St. Joseph's Center, or responding to the articulated need for higher education for young women now known as Marywood University, or answering the request of the medical and civic leaders to staff the City Hospital of Carbondale now known as Maxis Health System, or providing Montessori Education for children known as Our Lady of Grace, or addressing the social and economic needs of our Scranton neighbors in the formation of Friends of the Poor, or innovating an educational program for those who might not exceed in a traditional school known as Mother Seton Academy, the seed has been well tended. This, of course, is just a sample of what we call our sponsored works. Equally impressive are the stories of invitation and response for schools, parishes, missions and agencies throughout this Diocese and beyond.

Fortunately tracing the entire history of the IHM Congregation does not have to be accomplished tonight. Rather I encourage you to visit the web site and spend some time reviewing the Congregation history- Don't think of it merely as a list of accomplishments, rather think of it as partnership in mission, faith and effort tending the seed, to bring about the Kingdom of God.

So tonight we do celebrate 159 years, some might ask will there be that many more years? I think so. However, some might answer with concern about the diminishment of religious life. You may wonder, if as a younger member, I am concerned about the future of the Congregation, its mission and ministries, Theresa' dream.

I am concerned but I am not fearful because I believe the mustard seed parable still holds meaning. Faith and effort will continue to bring about the Kingdom of God. The partnership we celebrate this evening is not just the story of the Sisters of IHM. Rather it is the partnership, the mutual commitment with all of who have joined us in mission as colleagues, benefactors, Board members and friends. You have been with us throughout the history of the Congregation and therefore, assist in creating hope for the future. In recent years, IHM Sisters have articulated what gives meaning to mission and ministries. We have named as core values - Rootedness in God, Community, Justice, Respect for Diversity and Wholeness. We have reclaimed the spirituality of St. Alphonsus and defined the charism which is our gift to the Church. We must name the concrete expression of these in our ministries. We must share more about the IHM story –its hopes, successes and failures, dreams and concerns, heroes and heroines, and mentors. We must continue to invite others to join us as members and as partners in mission in order to bring about the Kingdom of God.

The past brings us to this moment just as the present will lead us to the future.

In 1891, Revered Louis Florent Gillet, co-founder of the IHM Congregation, wrote: "I had planted the almost imperceptible seed: They were destined to water it, to cultivate it, in order that, with Divine Help it might become a great tree."

November is the perfect time to begin a Congregation. It is the month that begins with "Remembering" and concludes with "Giving Thanks." It has been an honor to do both this evening. May Theresa continue to inspire our faith and guide our effort as we seek to being about the Kingdom of God. May God Bless Us All !