Patricia Beairsto is a Sister of Mercy from Rochester, New York. Her educational background is in history and political science, then theology, pastoral ministry and liturgy. She served as a high school campus minister and as a high school theology teacher. Currently, she is teaching theology, doing retreat work and liturgical planning, and working in mission effectiveness and the systemic dimensions of the work of justice.
Does your congregation or your culture have any special customs around Holy Week and Easter?
Many years ago, the mother of a ninth-grade student called me, and the minute I heard her voice, I knew Mom was upset. She was distressed that her daughter did not want to enter her parish confirmation preparation program. After a few conversations including Mom, daughter and the faith formation coordinator, they mutually decided to embrace a "readiness model." Translated: They would wait until ready.
Fast-forward to senior year. The formerly reluctant young lady came to my office and said, "I am ready now." Honestly, I had no idea what she meant, but soon, I realized she was ready for confirmation. "They want me to be part of the RCIA process, and I want you to be my sponsor."
Many years later, I recall the grace of her readiness, the grace her mother demonstrated, and the grace I experienced as her sponsor. What remains especially vivid is the Easter Vigil where she became a fully initiated member of the church.
Holy Week and Easter invite accompaniment and sometimes adaptation. There is a rhythm from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the shared meal and foot-washing, to the agony of the cross and the joy of light bursting forth from the tomb. The temptation for all of us is to gloss over the hard parts of the week. But just like the young woman mentioned, we — young or old — are called to accompany Jesus through the entirety of the week.
There is the joy of the rich Easter Vigil in the parish setting, where many of our sisters experience these sacred rituals. Within our motherhouse community, there is necessarily a spirit of adaptation, given physical limitations. Foot-washing has given way to hand-washing, and water is brought to the women without the mobility to come forward. Long processions are now brief-yet-holy movements around the chapel to the tabernacle. A cross to kiss is offered to sisters in their pews. The joy of the Resurrection still rings out during the Gloria, with small handbells shared by all gathered in the congregation.
What matters most is the rhythm of the liturgical year. What a gift to start with the Advent journey and to enter into ordinary time. Ashes mark the start of the Lenten days, followed by the palms and the passion. The light of the paschal candle bursts through the darkness, and we sing our Exsultet of praise. The Easter Vigil is a holy night, a night of joy, and a night of future promise. It is a renewed call to serve the risen Christ as we accompany God's people even in the "hard parts" of the suffering wrought by violence, prejudice, greed and the absence of welcome.
Are we ready? How are we called to adapt?
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists responded to this prompt: Think back to your early days in religious life and share a memory based on the question: what was the most surprising thing to you about religious life? CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.
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