By Elsa Baughman
FOREST – A group of Guadalupan Missionararies of the Holy Spirit from Mississippi, California and Alabama gathered at St. Michael Parish on Saturday, Aug. 15, to celebrate Sister Maria Elena Méndez’ 25th anniversary of consecration and the anniversaries of other sisters in her congregation who were present that day.
They were also celebrating the 10th anniversary of their ministry in the Diocese of Jackson. Concelebrating the special Mass were Fathers Joe Dyer, pastor of St. Michael Parish, Michael McAndrew, a Redemptorist priest serving in Greenwood, and Father Odel Medina, pastor of Carthage St. Anne and Kosciusko St. Teresa and associate pastor of Camden Sacred Heart.
Ten years ago, Father Richard Smith, then pastor of St. Michael, invited their congregation to come serve in Forest and Morton. Sisters Ana Gabriela Castro, Yesenia Fernández and Gabriela Ramírez were the first sisters who came to minister in the diocese. Since then, other Guadalupan Sisters have served in Natchez and in Jackson.
In observance of the Year of Consecrated Life, Father Medina’s homily delved in the Gospel of the day, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Luke 1:39-56, focusing on the calling for religious life. The following is a excerpt of his homily.
Today we celebrate with joy this vocation so special that is the religious life. We see that the church is not full, but each one of us represents many of the people who are around us that has been touched by the gift of religious life. There are other sisters here present who are also celebrating anniversaries and the celebration extends to them because if we add up it would be more than 100 years of service to the church and the people of God. What a blessing!
Our God, who wants the salvation for all of us, who calls us to a different kind of life, our God, who invites us to live fully, needs us. Amazing, no? He needs us. He can’t do it without us. In the history of salvation he calls men and women to assist him in his mission.
A person, a woman who is key to this mission, is Mary Most Holy, which gives the Savior to the world. Wow! The woman says yes! Yes, Lord! Let it be done to me according to thy word. And the word becomes flesh.
Mary Most Holy, one that has been wrapped up, so to speak, with the spirit of God and embodying the Son of God, immediately leaves in haste to visit Elizabeth, her cousin who is pregnant. She is carrying the blessing of the incarnate Word in her womb. The child her cousin has in her womb, John the Baptist, leaped of joy when Mary arrives to her house. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? . . .
There is a cascade of blessings when these two women meet. The same who helped in the plan of salvation.
How amazing that God call us, men and religious women, lay people, children, adults, because he needs us to continue to proclaim the Good News. He calls us to proclaim with our lives that he is present in the world. It is the Lord that was present in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
. . . We are here today giving thanks to God for your life, for religious life, and he will continue to call men and women, married couples, young people, children, consecrated priests to keep saying that the walks among us. There are people who do not believe, but we are called to speak with our lives that God is still present among us.
What is the call to religious life? Do we enjoy the presence of God in our hearts? That when others find us they also enjoy the fact that there are men and women that have Christ in their hearts. Religious life is to live it fully also. It is not to be complaining or making life impossible. It is to demonstrate that God pours out his blessings on us so that we can be religious men and women enshrined. That people can see the wonder that God makes with each one of us. So that when they see it they can say, I also want to follow this God. I also want to see God do wonders in my life, from your own vocation.
By Elsa Baughman