More than 160 years ago, December 8, 1849, to be exact, the Sisters of Charity of New York held their second general election and for some strange reason, Mother Elizabeth Boyle’s name was left off the list of eligible Sisters and, as a result, this much beloved Mother was not re-elected. After Mother Mary Jerome Ely was elected, Mother Elizabeth asked Bishop Hughes if she should return to the orphans and he replied: “You will now take the last place in the community, Mother, and study the lives of the saints.”
Not to worry, Sister Jane, your sisters and our associates have a very different set of expectations for you and your council.
In the reading we just heard (1 Thessalonians 5: 11-25), St. Paul articulates his own expectation for the church in Thessalonica. Dare I say that he issued “calls” exhorting its members to be true disciples and to live fully in community? As I reflected on this reading, I could not help but think of our own assembly calls developed and promulgated almost three months ago.
St. Paul urges the Thessalonians to build each other up, to seek what is good for all people, and not to stifle the spirit nor despise the prophetic gift. Isn’t that what our call to mission is all about? Our call to community and membership is remarkably similar to St. Paul’s. He exhorts this small community to encourage one another, to be patient with one another and to live in peace; nice attributes for local communities as well as the broader global community. And some good advice from St. Paul regarding our call to leadership and governance: “test everything and accept only what is good.”
St. Paul’s language is both simple and inspirational, encouraging both leadership and membership to live with “Hearts on Fire.”
We rejoice and give thanks to you, Sr. Jane, and to your Council for accepting the call to leadership at this challenging and grace-filled time. And we repeat the words of St. Paul in our prayer for you: “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May you be preserved whole and complete-spirit, soul and body- irreproachable at the coming of our savior Jesus Christ. For the one who called you and us is trustworthy: God will make sure it comes to pass. Do I hear an “Amen” from the congregation?