21 October 2015

Congratulations to Sister Chela Gonzalez, OP

Insignia of Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Chela's Perpetual Profession: Profession Ring and Dominican Cross. The profession itself was really lovely and I just want to mark it here.

One of the things that has happened in contemporary religious life is the establishment of and growing unity among women religious of all congregations. Once we were marked by our differences: charism, dress, apostolates, etc, but not so much anymore and what is coming to be is a powerful reality I think. The internet has assisted with this and so have groups like the LCWR, the need to combine or merge congregations, and so forth. At Chela's Profession there were folks from all over the country attending, some of us by video streaming. A number were Dominicans from other congregations but not all! What was striking to me was that many of us already knew each other and our thumbnail videos (each was labeled with the person's full name) allowed folks to see and wave to one another while chat allowed us to type greetings.

There was real participation in the liturgy even from our remote locations. Some sang the Litany of the Saints along with the choir at Marywood as Chela stood with her head slightly bowed and her open hands gently outstretched in a gesture of receptiveness and humility. It was very powerful. The presence of many of us from around the country added to the sense that the entire Church in heaven and on earth was joined together at this moment to make this Sister's dedication to God and God's consecration of her real in space and time. Once Sister Chela made her Final Profession those in the Marywood Chapel burst into applause but so did those watching via video! It was a spontaneous and wonderful addition to the experience.

I am very grateful to Chela and her Grand Rapids Sisters for investing both time and money in the technology that allows greater unity and shared celebrations at such distances. I have seen a similar use of technology with the San Rafael Dominicans who regularly stream professions, funerals, speakers' presentations, and other events to their Sisters in the infirmary. And of course there are the Sisters and associates at Nun's Life Ministries who make speakers, Q and A blogs, podcasts and all kinds of things possible with their own investment in technology!

As a diocesan hermit with limited contact with most of these people and things, technology has been a real gift to me. Again, my congratulations and very best wishes to Sister Chela on the occasion of her Final Profession and my thanks to her and to her congregation for extending invitations to the Profession and for streaming the event for those of us who could not attend physically. Religious life is a tremendous adventure and we are participating in a new and vital chapter in its history under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Thank God for those who have responded as they have!