On June 17th, 2016 the Handmaids of the Precious Blood enjoyed the special milestone of our fifth Handmaid to persevere through a half a century, fifty years, of vowed religious life. Sister Rose Anne of Jesus, recently arrived from Illinois to finally settle down in East Tennessee, spent the day in community celebration as all the stops were pulled out to mark the occasion. First and foremost, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for her and her intentions and celebrated by our dear Shepherd, Bishop Stika. Concelebrating was our resident chaplain, freshly arrived from New Mexico for his sabbatical year in the Diocese of Knoxville, Father Ron Stone. We were also blessed with the photography skills of Deacon Scott Maentz, our Communications Director, to capture some highlights of the Mass, and Alvin Manabat of the Frassati Fellowship.
Now that the Sisters from Lake Villa had some time to unpack and catch their breath, it allowed for another treat as two Handmaids from Lake Villa can play the keyboard. As the big day approached, we had full community choir practices and had a delightful time resurrecting community favorites and re-learning (and practicing) harmonies again. Sister Rose Anne had selected some of her favorites, including poems of our Founder, Father Gerald, that had been set to music reflecting on the religious life and jubilees. So we enjoyed singing the Mass and having keyboard music to accompany our voices again. After Mass, there were joyful hugs and greetings all around as we congratulated Sister before we convoyed to Cor Jesu Monastery to enjoy a festive meal together.
Later at supper, we had a special Golden cake for Sister, and followed that meal with re-creation in the Chapter Room singing some of her favorite hymns. By no coincidence, the last hymn sung was “Deo Gratias!” Lastly, Sister received a special blessing from Mother before Compline marked the end of a beautiful day.
It is hard to find appropriate words to convey the experience of a life given totally to the Lord for the sake of Christ in His Priest, but each and every Handmaid, seeing Sister Rose Anne’s long-lived witness, tenacious dedication, and loving spirit, would likely agree that she lives well Father Gerald’s principle of gratitude in all things. She has always been grateful for her vocation and is still smiling. Now, after fifty years, we, her Sisters, can echo that and rejoice in the Lord, grateful that she is our Sister. Her irrepressible joy had the entire Community sharing in her smiles and laughter all through the day. Living and loving testimony that Saint Paul had it quite right about the whole body sharing the joy of one member. (cf 1 Cor 12:26)