2023 Founder's Day Mass Preaching by Sister Elise García, OP Tuesday, June 27, 2023 Ruth 1:8, 14-18 Ephesians 2:19-22 Matthew 7:24-27 Happy Founder’s Day! What a joyous occasion it is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our foundation as an independent Congregation – the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. And how appropriate that it should come on the heels of our annual Jubilee celebration! Many Sisters, over the years, entered on June 27, marking this as their entrance day – without having any idea of its significance! Years ago, Rosemary Ferguson, OP, shared with me her regret that we didn’t have a Founder’s Day to honor Mother Camilla Madden, OP. So, Rosemary, I ask you on the other side of the veil to please take Camilla’s hand and join us now in celebrating the gift of her extraordinary leadership and that of all the pioneer women who risked this venture amid the alien corn. Some, like Camilla, came by boat from as far away as Ireland, landing in New York and then joining other pioneer Sisters sent by train halfway across the country to this in-land peninsula – with a number going way beyond to a western peninsula. In time, drawn by her visionary leadership and generous spirit, many more women began to come to Adrian from other parts of Michigan and neighboring states. Like Ruth following Naomi, they lodged where she lodged; her people became their people; her God, their God. Over these 100 years, women have come from all over the United States, Canada, Latin American and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia. And now, many of those women are buried with Camilla in the same sacred ground where she is buried – as most of us will be one day. As I was reflecting on this joyful celebration, I was struck by the fact that we are now about the same size as we were in 1923 when we became independent. There were more than 400 of us Sisters in the St. Joseph Province when we separated from Newburgh. We are now 412 Sisters in our Congregation. I invite us to think about this mirror image. It offers a profound way for us to reflect on this Founder’s Day. This kind of mirroring is a powerful literary form in storytelling that scholars find in Bible stories, biblical passages and psalms. It’s called a "chiasm" – c-h-i-a-s-m. A chiasm is a literary form that "consists of paired events arranged symmetrically around a center core," 1 as modern-day mystic Cynthia Bourgeault writes. A chiastic structure usually reveals a larger story at work – one that operates beyond linear time and space. It is a structure that reveals a deep pattern with echoes of its core resonating at mirror ends. We can see the mirror ends – the 400 Sisters at one end of the story with us 400 Sisters at the other end. What might be the center core that resonates throughout the pattern? Our readings today illuminate that center core beautifully. In the story of Ruth and Naomi, we hear the powerful call of a loving and devoted sisterhood – "Where you go, I will go" – in service to God and God’s people. In the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, we hear the call to be one with Christ Jesus in whom we are "built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God." In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear the call to be "like the wise ones who built their house on a rock," by listening to and acting on the words of Jesus. The resonance of that center core – as the readings reveal – is felt in the lives of the first 400 pioneer women, the 412 of us alive today, and the more than 2,000 other Sisters who in the other mirroring times between then and now fully gave their lives to this radical purpose and are now watching over us (joyfully, no doubt). Today we are celebrating a larger story whose pattern is less about going backward or forward in linear time than it is about reflecting, as Cynthia Bourgeault would say, the "balanced parts of a unified whole" 2 whose purposiveness is beyond time and "whose fullness of meaning can be found only by reading the entire pattern." 3 This pattern will continue to resonate in the next mirroring movements of our beautiful Dominican religious life. We will see it reflected in coming years in the women who will continue to cast their lots with one another, risking an uncertain future that is already supported by beautiful chiastic patterns that show a crisscrossing of congregations, a crisscrossing of languages, a crisscrossing of ethnic, racial and national boundaries – all building together spiritually a dwelling place for God in our beautiful Earth home. ------ 1 Cynthia Bourgeault, Eye of the Heart (Boulder: Shambhala, 2020), 69. 2 Ibid., 90. 3 Ibid., 75-76.