Diamond Jubilee of Sr Teresa de Maria Gomes (1942 – 2017) and Golden Jubilee of Sister Maria Jesus Bahillo: (1967 – 2017)
On 10 September, the community at St Augustine’s Home and sisters from St Teresa’s Home celebrated the Diamond and Golden Jubilee of Sr Teresa and Sr Maria Jesús.
We started the day with music that set up the joyful celebration we were about to begin. During the Morning Prayer we all praised and thanked God for the life and work of our sisters.
We had a thanksgiving Eucharistic Celebration presided by Fr Martin and concelebrated by Fr Adrian from the Josephite community at Weybridge. Sr Isabel Cantón said a few words of welcome that summarised the life and work of our two sisters and Fr Martin delivered a very moving homily.
After, Sisters Teresa and Maria Jesus joined by Sr Bernardina renewed their vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. This was followed by the Biding prayers that were read by one of our friends.
At the offertory we brought to the alter offerings that are very significant to the life of the sisters: candles, a bible, the constitutions, letters of our founder, a General Chapter document, a bouquet of flowers, one of our elder sisters in a wheelchair, and the Bread and Wine.
We wanted to present to the Lord the spiritual life and the Mission of our Congregation. “Accept Lord, our life, our joys, our sorrows. We offer you the suffering and the loneliness of the sick, the poor, the elderly. We offer you the life and the wok of the Sisters of the Congregation, the co-workers, volunteers and all those who in one way or another join us in our mission of hospitality.”
After Mass we all moved to the sitting room were the residents, staff, families, friends, volunteers and sisters had a sherry and nibbles. It was a very friendly and beautiful occasion to get together.
Then, some of us shared a very special and well prepared meal by John Liddle and his staff. To them our most sincere gratitude. This was followed by some singing and dancing and concluded with the cutting of a most delicious celebration cake cut by the two jubilarians.
In the evening, we had another wonderful time together with a glass of sherry, and Sisters Teresa and Maria Jesus, thanked everyone for such a special day.
Sr Teresa de Maria left her hometown in Sao Roque do Faial, Madeira, to Idanha, Belas, at the age of 20 to start her postulancy and noviciate in 1940. She made her first profession in Ciempozuelos (Spain) in 1942 and her final profession in 1946 in the same house.
She has fulfilled her hospitaller mission in different houses of the congregation. Before being sent to England in 1948, she worked in the Houses of San Miguel in Madrid; in San Rafael –Barcelona; and in San Remi and in Paris, in France.
In England she has lived in London, Danbury, Guernsey, and in Shenstone for the last 32 years until 23 August, 2017, when she came here to Addlestone to spend the rest of her days.
Sr Maria Jesus left her home town, Castrillo de Villavega (Palencia, Spain) at the age of 18 to go to Palencia to start her postulancy in 1965.
Then she was sent here to Addlestone to start the noviciate. It is important to say that the noviciate in this house was started with the arrival of sister Maria Jesus and sister Bernardina.
She made her first profession in 1967 and her final profession in Ciempozuelos –Madrid- in 1972. From 1967 sister Maria Jesus has been fulfilling her hospitaller mission in the houses of Addlestone, Danbury, Shenstone, London, Liberia (West Africa) and in Guernsey.
During all these years -125 in total- these two sisters have been serving the Lord in the poor, the needy, the sick, the sad, the elderly… and behind this there is a lot of life and love, a lot of work and dedication, a lot of joy and pain. A full life living as hospitaller sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Today, as we thank the Lord for the ‘Marvellous things’ He has done for these two sisters, we thank all the people who in one way or another have helped them to live their vocation to the full and to grow in fidelity to the Lord in their apostolic work
Congratulations sister Teresa and sister Maria Jesús!
It is wonderful to celebrate the lives of two sisters who have lived out their lives in the service of God with a combined 125 years of dedicated service!
Spain has been blessed with many saints: St John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, St Joseph Calasanz, St Dominic; St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier, and Peter Claver, a Jesuit who ended up in Columbia caring compassionately for the slaves who had been shipped across from Africa.
Then there are the saints from other countries who spent much of their lives working in Spain. Among these saints, two in particular stand out for us this morning: St John of God (Portuguese) and St Benedict Menni (Italian).
Let us not forget, however, that we are all called to be ‘saints in the making’. The celebration offers us a chance to reflect specifically on the ministry or vocation of Consecrated Religious.
Previously, ‘to have a vocation’ meant one was being called to be a priest, brother or nun. Today, we realise that through our baptism, all Christians share in the Priestly, Prophet, and Royal Ministry of Jesus; and that we all have a vocation which, at is most simple, can be described as ‘Doing the will of God’.
As God reminds us through Jeremiah (25:11) “Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
To be a religious is to accept a personal invitation of God to serve him within a community of other people by living out the Good News of the Kingdom within the world. A religious is called to give a particular and radical expression of what it means to live as a Christian by being, to use modern terminology, ‘islands of counter-culture that challenge today’s post-Christian society and its values’.
Some religious are called to serve in the ministry of education, others like yourselves in healthcare. Indeed one can have several ministries at the same time.If I am not mistaken, the ministry of the Sisters Hospitaller at St Augustine’s can be described as:
To bring the Good News of the Kingdom and to show the merciful love of Jesus Christ to our residents and to everyone through our way of living, through our words and through our professional and religious services in a Christian and human attitude, bringing peace, love, joy and hope to our Residents and to satisfy their physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological needs.
We get so caught up in the busyness of our world today that we forget about those who are suffering from illness. Your ministry as Hospitaller Sisters, through the touch of a hand, a hug, the wisely chose words, empathetic communication through quality listening and real eye contact, are great healers to the human spirit.
Living in a religious community is not a soft option full of peace with time to read and take leisurely walks. As some once said: ‘Living cheek-by-jowl with a bunch of people you have not chosen to live with, under obedience to a discipline that compels you to stick with it, is not an easy option. It is very challenging’.
We thank Sr Teresa, Sr Maria and God for the way in which they have carried out their tasks, to the best of their ability throughout their lives. Because of their work, faithfulness and example, this world has indeed been a better place for all of us to live in. Ad multos annos!