Sr. Maria Francesca of Jesus Our Eucharistic King
This past week I once again took to the airport - this time to Alabama (it's been a busy summer, I agree!)
The occasion? The first profession of sacred vows of Sr. Maria Francesca of Jesus Our Eucharistic King, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Hanceville, AL!
Jesse Jensen is a dear friend of mine, we (kind of) grew up together, in the same rural area of Wisconsin, though we did not really know one another until we met Providentially at one of Archbishop Flynn's vocations dinners about four years ago - we saw each other across the room, recognized each other vaguely, then realization hit and we've been friends ever since. :) On top of that, we realized that we both had the same priest for a vocations director in St. Paul, and that he was the one who had invited us both to that dinner without knowing that we knew each other. How cool!
Not too long after that, Jess went off on a "nun run" that unexpectedly changed her life - they weren't even really planning on visiting the Poor Clares in Alabama! The lot of them had driven down the center of the US, stopping at various convents along the way, and when they finished at the Nashville Dominicans they decided to keep driving down to Alabama to visit the Shrine and see the EWTN studios. Well, as Jess said when she got back, as soon as she entered the Shrine she KNEW it was here that she was called. Things happened really rapidly, she met with the prioress there that same day, and I believe she even met Mother Angelica right away too! This order does not just take anyone who walks up, they truly do discern with their potential sisters whether or not they are called to this life of prayer and penance for the salvation of the world. But in this case, God seemed to have deemed it time to set His plan in motion - doors opened up and Jess had her application turned in and approved in record time! Now, after three years, she has made her first profession of vows before the community, to live their rule of life in a spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience. And I've never seen her happier!
The Profession Mass was held on Tuesday, August 14th - and it was glorious. At the Shrine, they celebrate Mass on a "people's altar" separated from the tabernacle, but ad orientem. Almost the whole Mass is in Latin, except for the changing parts (collect/prayers, readings, petitions, homily, preface). Instead of hymns, they seem to typically use the propers for the Mass - beautifully sung by the nuns, it sounds like you are surrounded by the angelic choir!
For the distribution of Communion, yes, they have chosen to use the Communion rail. In one of their brochures there is a beautiful statement about the fittingness of using the Communion rail: "...the altar rail is an extension of the main altar. As the faithful kneel at the altar rail to receive Holy Communion, it is as if they receive from the altar of sacrifice itself." I don't know about you, but I sure never think along those lines when I receive from an Eucharistic Minister, especially when they are trying to slap a Host in my hand or throw it into my mouth out of fear of evil "mouth germs".
At the time for Sr. Maria Francesca's vows, her brother Jamie (who is wheelchair-bound) was able to bring up her new black veil to be blessed by the priest and then gave it to his sister Sr. :) It was the moment when suddenly all the stoic faces suddenly became wet with tears around me. Her voice as she professed was like that of an angel, it was calm and yet full of power and eagerness. It was the first time that I have heard her voice in three years, and it sounded more like her, somehow, than I expected. These words she spoke, she MEANT them, and she was overjoyed to say them!
Sr. Maria Francesca may be a newly professed nun, but as they say, "join the convent, see the world!". This fall, the PCPA religious order is working to re-found the original convent, where the first nuns of the order lived and died. This convent has been empty for many many years, but now PCPA nuns from around the world are coming together to make this old convent alive again. Sr. Maria Francesca is going, therefore, to France, under obedience to her vows! Her vows are only for a year at a time for the next few years, so all she knows for sure is that she will be there for a year - however, I suspect that if she continues to remain with the community and renews her vows, she will be there for some years to come, and Lord knows, maybe for the rest of her life! Prayers for her and all those sisters who will be traveling from India, Europe, and the US to refound this convent would be greatly appreciated.
May this renewed convent of prayer and Adoration of Our Lord for the sake of the world bear much fruit, particularly in the lands of Europe where faith seems to be dying out.
(For a selection of photos that I took down in AL at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and with Sr. Maria Francesca, click the picture below. I do not have any photos of the Mass yet, as they are very strict about photography - understandably so. Plus, I wasn't really there as journalist, but as a pilgrim visiting a friend. :)
|Visiting Sr. Maria Francesca|