The Mass started with beautiful hymns among which was the invocation of the Holy Spirit as the sisters processed into the Church. The joy was palpable as shown on the peoples’ faces radiating with joy as they joined the choir singing Gloria while the children from Compassion Centre for Physically Challenged swayed to the rhythm of the melody.
The readings taken from Hosea 2: 16, 21-22, Philippians 3: 8-14 and Luke 9: 57-62 were articulately brought home by the homilist His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Patrick Eluke, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Port-Harcourt. In his homily, Bishop Patrick explained the disparity among the three characters in the Gospel narrative by emphasizing the cost of discipleship. He stated that it is a privilege for anyone to be called by God to Consecrated Life and thus, such a person must be present, ready, and willing. Reminding the newly Perpetually Professed Sisters of their words, “Lord, you have called me”, he advised them to always be reasonable and responsible in living Vows of Perpetual Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, as well as to do, not their own will, but the will of God without conditions and in humility”. In addition, Bishop Patrick thanked the families of the sisters for their generosity in accepting and supporting their daughters’ call to Consecrated Life.
For Sr. Rosemary Agada, the Perpetual Profession of Vows was a “profound and transformative experience”. In her words, the Perpetual Profession of Vows “ignited a burning passion within me to live out these Vows with unwavering fidelity, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
After the prayer of consecration, the three Sisters who made their Final Vows were welcomed with great cheer by members of the congregation. Another glorious moment was during the chanting of the Magnificat, a founding practice of the Religious Sisters of Charity, as five sisters joined the celebrants to sway prayerfully to the melody.
Describing her experience, Sr. Sarah Youmene reflects, “then when I reflected on Christ’s prayer in the garden, “Let thy will be done”, I felt a sense of peace and I became convinced in my heart that the one who calls will give the grace and my prayer became those of Christ, Lord let thy will be done and give me the grace to do only your will as a true daughter of Mary Aikenhead and help me to become that which you want me to be, Amen”.
Indeed, Consecrated Life invites the Consecrated Person to a deeper desire to give herself in love to God in a way so total and profound that the pursuit of union with God becomes an integral part of the person’s life. This is clear in Sr. Agatha Maurice’s reflection, “Accepting the call of God is the best thing that happened to me, and nine years spent after my first profession was a gift and process of learning, and now moved with gratitude, I have finally committed myself to God. The feelings I had during the preparation of the final vows till now were that of thanksgiving and gratitude to God, my late parent, the congregation, and all those who contributed to my growth in life. I pray for the grace of final perseverance.”
Clearly, the call to Consecrated Life evokes the longing for total submission to God’s will as well as gratitude to God as expressed by Sr. Agatha, Sr. Sarah, and Sr. Rosemary. It was a wonderful celebration for the Religious Sisters of Charity who travelled from far and near to attend the event. Many priests, religious and lay faithful attended the occasion from different parts of the country and beyond. Present at the ceremony was Sr. Helena Muzeta who came from Zambia to grace the occasion. Other dignitaries including Friends of Mary Aikenhead honoured the invitation. The ceremony was Live Streamed, and people joined from different parts of the world.
The Mass ended with everyone in high spirit and the reception followed at the Compassion Centre for Physically Challenged Children. The reception was very colourful with cultural dance and presentation of gifts to the celebrants. Surprisingly, we had showers of rain immediately after the final prayer, but this did not quench the joy. To God be the glory great things he has done. A.M.D.G.