Saturday, December 08, 2007

Remembering the Day - Fifty Years Ago

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Top: Mandorla of he Blessed Mother Monasteryof New Skete Chapel - Cambridge, New York
Bottom: Esopus Community 12/8/2007

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Redemptoristines Celebrate Golden Jubilee
of the Esopus Monastery of
Mother of Perpetual Help

Today, with great joy, this community of contemplative nuns celebrated the end of our fiftieth anniversary year. Our only disappointment, and this ran deep, was the hospitalization two days ago of one of our founders Sr. Peg Banville. We pray for her speedy recovery and return to us.

Here I append the introductory remarks presented by our Prioress, Sr. Paula Schmidt, OSsR. They are beautifully self-explanatory. Further on, there are two slide shows. The first is a selection of images from today's celebration and the second a peak into our history.


Welcome! Thank you for coming to be with us for this special day in our history.

The Mass we are entering into now is being offered in Thanksgiving for God’s graciousness in our lives and in yours. Each of you could tell your own story of that graciousness of God. With Father Tom’s permission I want to share with you something of our blessed story, with its different themes for thankfulness.

First of all the significance of this day and this feast for our community - Fifty years ago December 6th , 1957,six Redemptoristine nuns, five Americans and one Canadian, left their monastery in Barrie, Ontario, Canada en route to Esopus. They travelled in two cars, driven by the parents and sister of one of the nuns, Sr. Mary Michael Wilkinson. I am happy to say that we have one of those drivers, Dorothy Wilkinson Yentz present with us today! After a night stopover in Rochester the two cars finally turned into the winding drive of Mount St. Alphonsus in the late afternoon of December 7th. Someone must have been up in the tower to spot us because immediately all the bells begin to ring of our arrival—we came to call these the “happy bells”. The Mount at that time was a seminary, bursting with vocations and those fine young men formed a gauntlet we had to pass through into the chapel for Solemn Benediction with Fr. Provincial James Connolly. Afterwards we were whisked away to our new home, a rented house in West Park, NY, where supper was awaiting us. The house which had been vacant for two years had been well prepared, scrubbed and painted for us by Fr. Albert Riesner and a team of seminarians. Nothing was missing. Providentially, one of those seminarians is our celebrant today, Fr. Tom Travers! The next morning, December 8th, we began our life of liturgy and love as a new community, celebrating the Divine Office and Mass of the Immaculate Conception. It all seemed so fitting to begin our presence as the first Monastery of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer in the USA on the feast of His Mother as patroness of the United States. This a long explanation of why today is so special: it all started here, on this date.

Since then, 50 years have gone by. And the blessings have only accumulated. There have been sorrows and hard times along the way, as in any life, but as we look back there are so many reasons to be grateful. Even difficulties teach us so much. Sixty-five women have passed through our doors, seeking God in our special way of life. Three are buried in our cemetery, one is buried in that of our monastery in Australia, nine form our community today, and the rest have gone on to serve our God in other life choices, enriched we pray by their time among us, as we have been enriched by them. We are very proud of our alumnae, some of whom are with us today! I need to mention a special courageous lady who would so love to be with us today, one of our foundresses, Sr. Peg, now ill in hospital. She is with us in another way, in our hearts and in her own desire and prayer.

A profound level of gratitude belongs to our Redemptorist family, our brothers, who unfailingly provide the most precious of gifts to us, through the daily Eucharist and the other sacraments. For fifty years they have enriched our lives by their homilies, theological courses, the news of their apostolic works for us to support in prayer, and a whole litany of spiritual and temporal benefactions. We need only to ask and they are there for us. During the seminary years we got to know many of them in a personal way, and now our work of making their habits is a precious way of keeping connected. They are truly our Brothers and we are grateful.

Over these years we have been blessed with the kindness and friendship of people like you gathered with us today and so many other lay-people and religious of the area: our own lay Associates, the Marist Brothers, Benedictine Sisters, Sisters of St. Ursula, Christian Brothers, Cabrini Sisters, Franciscans, Holy Cross monks, and so many others. We are grateful to you and grateful to God for you.

And what can I say of the beauty of the place where God has put us?! Even with our first home in West Park, where we lived for 2 ½ years until our new monastery was finished, it overlooked the Hudson River from three levels of porches, and everyday was a new revelation of the God of Beauty in the changing landscape and seasons. Esopus, and the Hudson Valley, must truly be an anticipation of paradise. Fifty years of exposure to this abundant loveliness of Nature has truly prepared us for the unseen blessings of Grace, always with us. For this too we are grateful.

And so now, with all the power of the Eucharist at our service, we continue our Thanksgiving.

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