First Profession of Sr. Shital Mary
Saturday, December 11th 2021
Shital Gonsalves comes from Pali, Mumbai, India. Together with two brothers and three sisters, she grew up at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in a loving family. Below we share with you the text of the homily given by Fr. Peter Burns CSsR, on the occasion of her First Profession.
A Profession ceremony has become relatively rare in this part of the world. But this afternoon we’re having the second Profession is as many months! Helen on October 9th, and Shital today.
One of the blessings of a Profession is that it acts as a reminder to the whole Community of your vocation. Through Shital’s Profession each of you individually and all of you as a Community are invited to hear afresh what God is calling you to.
A religious Profession is distinctive in two important ways:
- Commitment is made to the way of life of a particular Order or Congregation– in this case to the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer;
- And the commitment is made by an individual– in this case by Shital.
I’d like to reflect briefly on each of these.
We’ve just heard Shital respond to AB Farrell’s question by saying that she wants to make profession in the religious family of the Most Holy Redeemer – so that she may become, in accordance with its charism, the ‘living memory’ of Christ, the Redeemer….
The heading on first Chapter of the Constitutions is very striking:
It reads: We are called by the Father to be, in the Church and in the world today, a living Memorial of the Redeemer.
As I understand it, this is a statement of a Redemptoristine’s core identity. It’s beautifully described in Cons.5: It was the will of the Father that the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer should have a specific role in the Church: to be a clear and radiant witness of the love He has for us in Christ..
The Father calls us today to be a living Memorial – a Viva Memoria – a constant reminderof all that the Son accomplished for our salvation during His life on earth. [It is in this way that the Redeemer is able today to accomplish His work of salvation in us and through us…]
So to be a Redemptoristine is to be a Viva Memoria– a living Memorial of the Redeemer.
But how does one become a living Memorial? How does Shital become a living Memorial?
Is it something she can hope to achieve through her own efforts?
Well, Cons.96 is clear that the novice by her profession becomes a member of a Contemplative Order. And according to Cons.97: In the liturgy of Profession…Christ…calls the professed Sister to allow herself to be transformed by Him and in Him, in this Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, which is entirely directed to contemplationso as to be a living memory of the love of the Father manifest in Christ the Redeemer.
The professed Sister allows herself to be transformed by Him and in Him. Cons.14 says that this transformation begins with Baptism, but the transformation continues in a more radical way – so that Redemptoristines can become, both personally and as a community, a Living Memorial of the Paschal Mystery of Christ the Redeemer.
What seems absolutely clear, then, is that the only way of becoming a Viva Memoria is by being transformed in and through contemplative prayer. Or as Cons.35 puts it: by allowing God’s Spirit to invade us with its transforming presence.
Shital wants to become a Redemptoristsine. Which, as we’ve seen, means that she wants to become a living Memorial of the Redeemer. But God intends that Shital will be a living Memorial in a way that is unique to her. In other words, Shital will be a living Memorial in a way which is different from the way Helen or Maura Brid or Margaret or Petra or Bindhu or Gabrielle are living Memorials. She will be …a living and radiant presence of Christ [Cons.47] in a way which is unique to her – simply because she is unique!
Here it’s important to recall that it isn’t just the individual Sister who’s called to become a living Memorial: the Community as a whole is also called to be a living Memorial.
I think the image of a mosaicis helpful here. As we know a mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture – telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.
That’s what your community life is about. Each of you is like a little stone, but together you make the living Memorial even more visible.
So, Shital, this is something of what your Profession means. If you were to ask me to identify what the cornerstone, the fundamental is, I’d have to select the word Contemplation. As we’ve already mentioned, Cons.96 describes the Redemptoristines as a “Contemplative Order”which is “entirely directed to contemplation.” That’s what has to be the absolute priority, the foundation on which all else is built. Nothing can ever be allowed to displace or distract from this. And I’m sure it will be a real challenge at times. There are many demands to be met; many calls on our time. It could be easy for the individual Sister and/or for the Community to lose balance and to forget that you really can’t be a true Redemptoristine without first and foremost being contemplative.
So really our prayer for you has to be that you will, indeed, be what you want to be: a true Redemptoristine. That you grow ever more deeply into contemplative prayer and allow yourself to be invaded, to be transformed into a Viva Memoria – a living Memorial of the Redeemer.