On March 14th, Sr. Edith Prendergast was honored at the Religious Education Congress for her leadership and influence as Director of the Office of Religious Education for the last 28 years. Prior to this Edith worked in the office as an Associate and Youth Ministry Director.
An arena full of people celebrated Edith in a concert rich with dance, music, Gaelic readings and blessings, visual images and memories of the Congress over the years.
A musical medley of theme songs from Congress over the years was arranged by John Flaherty and performed by the composers and musicians who created and performed them. The song “Voices of Challenge” was woven throughout the evening emphasizing the call to justice especially for those made poor.
A drama about little Kathleen (Edith) told the story of the foundation of her vocation to serve. It echos the RSC Chapter Call to create a new table including Lazarus. Here is an excerpt from the script: We never know when an ordinary word, sometimes a seemingly insignificant word or deed, can indelibly mark a life. When a visitor came knocking at the door, begging for some meager help, when one person’s need created an opportunity for another’s hospitality, a young girl’s father asked her to give up her usual place at the family dinner table.
“Kathleen, step away from the table and let Mrs. Maughan sit and share our meal.” A good and gentle man had set a simple example for his daughter, and many years later, and many miles apart, thousands are touched, inspired by the tangible result of how God calls and how we answer. The strong faith environment and outreach to the needy experienced in her home inspired her to dedicate herself to religious life. Inspired by the story and example of Mother Mary Aikenhead, the founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Kathleen pursued a vocation with this order of women who are dedicated to addressing the needs of people who suffer from poverty, illness, or lack of education.
Sr. Catherine Ryan RSC read a letter from Sr. Mary Christian, Congregational Leader, to congratulate Edith on her leadership for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Catherine also read, “For young Kathleen [Edith], the call was not to the cloister. She was called to social action and justice in the world, embracing our order’s motto “Caritas Christi Urget Nos, the Love of Christ impels us.”
In a creatively crafted script her story was told: “Edith’s self-discovery and service would lead her from educational theory and child development to the intersection of Divinity and Art; from the halls of the great museums of London to the humble halls of schools in Van Nuys and Long Beach.
Becoming comfortable in any apostolate or setting, however, was not enough. There was the call to move beyond what she knew and to discover new challenges and settings where social justice and faith could impact the lives of others.
There was a world, a Church waiting for her impact and voice of challenge.”
Led by Marty Haugen, Bob Hurd, Gary Daigle & Anna Betancourt, the entire arena at Los Angeles Religious Ed Congress sang “Here I Am, Lord”, dedicated to Sr. Edith Prendergast, for her years of service.
Archbishop José H. Gomez thanked Edith for her leadership and how she “grew” the congress over the last 28 years. Close friend, Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, former director remarked that Edith was the best Director the office had ever had! Bishop Malcom McMahon from Liverpool, spoke of his friendship with Edith and paid her a fine tribute for her many gifts.
The evening closed with a final blessing in the words of John O’Donohue’s poem:
May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is Personal and what is not
May you be hospitable to criticism
May you never put yourself at the center of things.
May you act not from arrogance but of service.
May you work on yourself,
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know you see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or disappoints you,
May the graciousness with which you engage
Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.
May you treasure the gifts of the mind through reading and creative thinking
So that you continue as a servant of the frontier.
Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old,
And you never become a functionary.
May you know the wisdom of deep listening,
The healing wholesome words,
The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,
The decorum of held dignity,
The springtime edge of the bleak question.
May you have a mind that loves frontiers So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.
May you have good friends to mirror your blind spots.
May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth.
You can view the Opening Ritual and Edith’s Talk by clicking HERE.