The 21st of November is a special day for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, as it is the day on which we commemorate the death of our Foundress, Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd. This year’s Feast Day was particularly memorable for the Sisters of Holy Spirit Province, as we gathered to celebrate the Golden Jubilees of Sisters Helen Tereba and Anita Litwin.
Fifty years of faithfulness and commitment to any vocation is such a beautiful achievement to witness and celebrate. I have been fortunate to witness the Golden Jubilees of marriage of my maternal and paternal grandparents, but had never participated in Jubilee celebrations of a religious vocation. And as someone who is just beginning their journey in religious life, this was quite a meaningful experience for me. It was, and continues to be, a sign for me of the depth of God’s love and the reality of His presence. God calls each one of us to our own particular way of life which will ultimately bring us closest to Him. He invites us without any force or demands. We are free to choose. The choice of Sisters Helen and Anita, and the way in which they live that choice, is for me a testament to the presence of God at work among and within us, calling us to live openly, joyfully, and with complete trust. It acted as a reaffirmation of the true beauty I have come to discover lies in a religious vocation, and a sign of the beauty I am excited to find as I continue on my life’s journey with God.
We began our Jubilee celebrations at 11 AM, with Mass celebrated at Our Lady of Częstochowa Polish War Memorial Chapel. We were fortunate to have as our principal celebrant the Most Reverend Joseph Oudemann, DD, Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane, who was joined by the Vicar General of Newcastle/Maitland, Father Brian Mascord, and by Father Henryk Zasiura, the rector of the Chapel. Our prayerful liturgy was all the more enhanced by the beautiful music of the choir of Mary, Queen of the Family Parish in Blacktown. Our Mass was attended by Sisters from around the Province and by the family members and friends of the Jubilarians, who all gathered together to give thanks for and celebrate this incredible milestone. The presence of so many people was a clear and beautiful gesture of the love Sister Helen’s and Sister Anita’s families have for them.
During the liturgy, Sisters Helen and Anita renewed their vows before our Provincial Superior, Sr Grace Rocławska. This was a particularly moving experience for me to witness, as once more it brought to mind the gentle guidance of God, whose presence I deeply felt in the church that day. It also reminded me of the power of our choices, as before us all Sisters Helen and Anita knelt and willingly entrusted themselves and their lives once more into the hands of God as consecrated women.
After this time of prayer and thanksgiving the festivities continued around the table of plenty. Throughout the splendid meal was woven toasts and wishes. Sr Grace spoke on behalf of the Sisters in the Province, and Eugene, the brother of Sr Helen, spoke on behalf of the families about his memories of what is it like to have a nun as his sister. Finally, Sr Helen expressed words of gratitude for the celebration on behalf of both Jubilarians.
The chats, photos and memories were shared long after the last visitor left the place. And the journey continues…
By Sister Grażyna Rocławska, Provincial Superior, and Sophie Boffa, Aspirant