On April 28th our community, the School Sisters of St. Francis, celebrates Foundresses Day. Our three foundresses sailed from Schwarzach, Germany to the United States and eventually settled in New Cassel, Wisconsin which is now Campbellsport on April 28, 1873. They were young women when they came to the United States. They established schools and places for the care of the sick and for healing. They weathered church politics, disappointments, fire, and financial questions. Even in the midst of difficulties they kept their faith, values and convictions. They relied on God’s faithfulness and wisdom. Nothing was impossible for them. Mother Alexia, Mother Alfons and Sister Clara were women with strong convictions grounded in love of God, love for one another and love of others.
Religious community life like other walks of life is a journey. There are joys and good times peppered with disappointments, sorrow, misunderstandings, etc. Yet the basis of relationship in any walk of life that endures the test of time is love.
There are many definitions of love. I suggest two: “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” and “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” Literature, music, movies, etc. depict love in various ways. Yet, the most vivid picture of love is someone “running towards” another to help not running away. The first responders running toward those who are hurt not running away. Or “being with” another who is ill or grieving, rather than leaving. It is this kind of love that Jesus talks about in the Christian scriptures (John 13:31-33a, 34-35).
Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another.” In many ways Jesus is saying, support one another, believe in one another, rejoice in the gifts of one another. Put aside jealousy, envy and control. Love one another, build up the world, don’t tear it down. Support one another rather than ignoring one another. And from Corinthians (13:4-8) from the Christian scriptures: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things…love never ends.” Why is this passage from Corinthians often chosen for weddings? We know what we believe and hope. Often it is the day-to-day that often gets in the way.
Shortly before she died, Mother Alexia asked to say good-bye to the Sisters living in the house, she told them, “I will think of you in heaven and you will feel it.” Perhaps in many ways she was saying something like Jesus said, love one another, move towards one another not away from one away. Don’t let the day-to-day get in the way of loving.
Our invitation is to embrace love.
Blessings and peace.