Retirement Fund for Religious
Please give to those who have given a lifetime
In recent weeks my 15 minute drive to work, brought me past the flaming reds and startling golds of autumn foliage, and before Halloween, by houses with steps adorned with friendly ghosts, skeletons beckoning from lawn chairs, colossal, hairy spiders crawling up windows and pumpkins scattered in profusion. All these sights highlighted my journey from Mount Alvernia High School Convent to Corpus Christi/St. Bernard Parish in West Newton, MA, where I minister as a part-time pastoral associate.
My name is Sister Jeanette Gaudet, mfic and I am a member of the Congregation of Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. We are a small international group missioned in Australia, Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Ireland, Bolivia, Peru, Canada and the United States. Although I was born in Boston, I have spent more than 30 years of my religious life outside the US, but now live only minutes from where I entered the convent some 50 years ago.
The woman who founded my branch of the Franciscan family, Elizabeth Hayes, was an Anglican convert to Catholicism during the Oxford Movement in the 1800s. Being from the English Channel island of Guernsey, she always had a great desire to be a missionary. She was certainly guided by the Spirit but also by that inner longing of any island-bound person to travel to other shores! Thus after much searching she opened our first mission, a log cabin, in Minnesota, on the banks of the Mississippi. As a daughter of St. Francis of Assisi who urged his followers to go throughout the villages wishing “Peace and all Good” to those they met, Elizabeth encouraged her sisters to likewise befriend everyone with a smile and encouraging words as they began teaching neighborhood children.
Now back to 2020 - When I realized three years ago that there was an opening on the staff of our parish, I applied and Fr. Dan O’Connell, (fondly called the television priest), described the position as one of “Presence” to the parishioners. So “being there” is what I do, which can involve just about anything that happens to anyone at any time, any day! Examples: running for batteries when the priest’s microphone falters during Mass, supporting the worship commission, encouraging a young student changing schools, providing a compassionate ear to someone grieving a personal loss.
I could describe life at Corpus Christi/St. Bernard’s in its pre-Covid situation OR now, which is “trying-to-keep-everything-up-and-running-but-in-a-different-form.” Choosing the latter, I’d say my one constant is to attend all celebrations of the Eucharist, where I have a chance to welcome all our “masked” parishioners. Several groups continue to organize liturgies, social justice outreaches, scripture, book or faith sharings, and Guild activities. Although somewhat altered, with the help of Zoom and our website, just about everything has continued. Religious education creatively transferred online. In September I explained the Season of Creation weekly on the website. Children received back-to-school supplies including ear phones for virtual classes. This week dinner is being prepared for guests at Bristol Lodge. Preparations for Thanksgiving meals are in process. Even our three day Poinsettia Festival is launched with a December calendar raffle and Poinsettias ordered with drive-by pick up.
Nonetheless, human interaction is tremendously limited, and neither a computer, IPAD nor cell phone really satisfies the human heart. Living the Consecrated Life today places me in the midst of all who are longing for normalcy, but I sense that now God desires our love and trust more than ever before, as the Spirit of Wisdom leads us into an unknown future and renewed sense of Church. Truly this future holds signs awakening us to cries of our earth and its people. As a church community with a growing reality of our interconnectedness as brothers and sisters of Jesus in God’s one human family, we are called, as Pope Francis encourages in his new encyclical Fratelli Tutti, to gratefully live a trust-filled life knowing the gift and dignity of each person. Just maybe if we all try to bring some “Peace and Good” to each other daily, our loving God will help us care for one another, transforming our lives into a brighter post-2020 future.