Adrian Dominican Sisters General Chapter 2022, Day 6 Preaching by Sister Carol Johannes, OP Saturday, July 2, 2022 As I begin today, I can’t decide whether I feel more like a relic, a guest on "Survivor," or an object on "Antiques Road Show." But when Xiomara called and asked me to preach today, she said, "Just tell us what’s in your heart." And my heart is so full of gratitude and pride in us at this moment that finding just the right words is a challenge. But I’ll do my best. Years ago, we were described as "A group of ordinary women with extraordinary courage." The "extraordinary courage" is not in doubt, as the past six years and the past week have both demonstrated. We’ve been led through one of the most difficult periods in our history by a General Council with consummate intelligence, skill and vision, and with warmth and tenderness that made us all feel loved and cherished, and which preserved our hope despite an uncertain future. And this week, as we prayed and discerned with the Spirit's guidance, we elected another group of women of promise, and, with faith and generous hearts, we charted a course for the next six years of our life together. As I think about our history of courage and how we've tended to transcend obstacles and challenges, I recall a little anecdote from my time in the West, years and years ago. Our Sisters staffed St. Raphael’s School in Los Angeles. And late one night, there was quite a severe earthquake in the area. The statues in chapel were teetering on their pedestals, dishes in the dining room were flying off the shelves. Outside on the corner, the traffic lights were blowing wildly and sending out sparks. And as all of this was taking place, one of the sisters ran into the superior's room and asked, with terror in her voice, "Sister! Sister! What's happening? What's happening?" And the superior, Sister Marie Donald, answered, "O go back to bed. It's only an earthquake." Now, while it may not seem so wise to normalize an earthquake, this tale suggests that we aren't easily daunted by challenges. But I would gently contest that we are "ordinary women." It's true that most of us did not come from great wealth. We never spent our winters in Hawaii or our summers on Martha's Vineyard or in the Hamptons. We don't hold degrees from Harvard or Yale. But to one another, we are anything but ordinary, bonded as we are by deep, deep affection and mutual care, as we share faith and life together. If COVID taught us anything, it is the great sense of deprivation we feel when we cannot be together to share, to pray, to confide, to support, to hug, to laugh, to mourn. And assuredly, we are not "ordinary" to God, who, according to Isaiah, called us by name, called us together, and will do anything for us, because we are precious in God's eyes, and beloved (Isaiah 43:3-4). This, of course, is true of the whole human family. But there is a line in the short history of the Congregation of our old Rule and Constitutions that we used to read in the refectory on Fridays that applies just to us. It says: The history of the foundation and growth of the Sisters of St. Dominic of the Congregation of the most HOLY ROSARY at Adrian, is the story of a work singularly blessed by Divine Providence. Then it goes on to describe the phenomenal growth of the Congregation, serving in something like forty archdioceses with a membership of well over two thousand sisters, all the while being held in the palm of God's hand. And now, older, and with our numbers greatly diminished, still trusting that we are held in the palm of God's hand, we await what God has in store for us, confident that our future will be graced as was our past. And it's to the cocreation of that graced future that we've brought our prayers, our discernment of the signs of the times, our imaginations, our energy, our hopes this past week. The number and depth of the issues that need addressing today are very, very great indeed. Our age and energy have altered our reality, but we've concentrated on our strengths, not our limitations, as we've asked God to reveal our call at this precise moment. Mentored by Donna and Mark, we began to discern this during our pre-Chapter days as we called for a much stronger statement on diversity, sensitive to the human misery that racism generates among God's people. So the Committee took it back and reworked it and presented it again for reworking until the delegation felt it said what our communal passion for justice expressed. And the same was true of our other Enactments, on sustainability, on women, on our dreams for the future of Dominican life and most especially on spirituality, which tested our capacity to find a way to come together from different perspectives. Again and again, over and over, patiently and sometimes a bit impatiently, we revisited and reworked our expression of the Enactments we set for the future, accepting them in faith as God's call, confident that the Holy Spirit has been our guide throughout this sacred time. And finally, we elected five generous and gifted women, whom we trust to lead us to the fulfillment of our call, and whom we resolve to support in their loving ministry to all of us. Perhaps best of all, our work was accompanied each day by common prayer and ritual that was at once solemn and festive, which lifted our spirits and touched our hearts. Soon we will leave here, resolute about carrying out faithfully all the goals we have set for ourselves. And over the next six years we will sincerely strive to carry them out. Because we're human, however, we may be really, really faithful to some things, but perhaps found wanting in others. However, as our Sister Catherine reminds us, "God does not ask a perfect work, but a supreme desire." God is not a fair-weather friend who gives up on us if we fail. God stays with us and tries again, just as Jesus did with the disciples. They didn't win any prizes for fidelity or even intelligence, for that matter. Jesus had to instruct, and repeat, and remind them again and again of the cost of following him. But he was faithful to them, and in the end, they were faithful to him. Might we dare to say, "They were eventually, awakened to love?" Sometimes God brings about this awakening dramatically and immediately, as was the case with Paul. But often it's a slow and gradual process. We pray fervently that the Holy Spirit has worked her magic this week, and that our awakening to love has been deep and will be enduring. But even if we simply find ourselves in the process, that will be a wonderful transforming gift, and we will never be the same again. So, either way, let us leave here in peace, trusting that the God eternally awakened to love for us, has accepted the supreme desire we manifested throughout this week, to be transformed and awakened to love for God, for all creation, and especially for one another, as together we co-create God's reign. As we depart, awakened to love, we might like to make the words of the singer of the Song of Songs our own: Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for love is strong as death. ... Its flashes are flashes of fire a very flame of (God). Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one would give all the wealth of one’s house (to buy love), one would be utterly scorned. - Song of Songs: 8: 6-7 Love is not for sale. God gives it freely. Let us freely receive it, and generously share it, ever and always.