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  • Writer's pictureFr. Vili Lehtoranta

Final Oblation Photos

Dear faithful,

On the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, September 12, 2023, our two Oblate Novices made their final Oblation and became full members of the Oblates of the Holy Face. The Oblation was done on this feast because it coincides with the start of school and the fall season at St. Gertrude the Great, and our Sisters are meant to serve the parish and the school. It is renewed once a year, but it can be done on other feasts, too, if we get more vocations.

Though Oblation is not a vow, it is still a vocation which greatly changes one’s life. Before the Oblation the Oblate Novices promise to renounce the vanities and pomps of the world, and also to undertake the reformation of their lives according to the spirit of the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and to observe the Statutes of the Oblates. St. Louise de Marillac, who was an invaluable help to St. Vincent de Paul in starting and running the Daughters of Charity, the main model for our Oblates of the Holy Face, wrote: “We do not need any do-nothings, chatterboxes, or girls who think they can come to Paris under the pretext of being a Daughter of Charity when they have no intention whatsoever of serving God or of perfecting themselves.”

In the actual Oblation formula each one says:

I offer myself to Jesus Christ, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to Saint Joseph, for St. Gertrude the Great Roman Catholic Church, and I do promise before God and all the Saints, the reformation of my life, according to the spirit of the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and according to the Statutes of the Oblates of the Holy Face.

To reform one’s life according to the spirit of poverty is not as simple as it might seem. The modern society is so obsessed with property, commercialism and owning stuff, that to break away from it is not an easy task. It’s charity which is meant to be diffusive in the Oblate Sister’s life, not property, and as an Oblate, she is also made dependable on the alms of the faithful. It is the tradition of the Church that the servants of the Church live from charity offerings. We at St. Gertrude’s have our own poor-boxes in the vestibule. In Finland and Sweden one sees in many old churches a medieval tradition of peculiar types of poor-boxes. They were originally so-called offertory logs, which were eventually carved into the shape of beggar look-a-likes. A Biblical sentence is often written above the statue, most commonly a verse from the Book of Proverbs: “He that hath mercy on the poor, lendeth to the Lord: and He will repay him.” (19:17)

Both the priests and the Oblate Sisters are definitely dependant on the offerings given by the faithful. Our fundraiser money will be used to expand the rectory, now inhabited by Bishop McGuire and Father McKenna. The plan is still to give our second house to the Sisters, but this has been delayed because, as usual, all building plans must be approved by the county officials, and because the expansion plan is a more costly project than expected. But we need this project, not only for the Sisters and the current priests, but also, God willing, for our future priests. Our SGG Seminarian has started his second year in our new Seminary location in Washington state, under the guidance of Father Carlos Ercoli. We rely on offerings because we need to trust in Divine Providence, instead of in a bank loan. Taking a loan would also be a selfish act to the future generations of Catholics. As President Herbert Hoover once said: “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.” (New Deal Agricultural Policies and Some Reforms, Lincoln, Nebraska, January 16, 1936)

At the final Oblation ceremony, after the Sisters made their Oblation, each presented her candle to the priest, and then went to sign her Oblation certificate. Usually the candles of the newly professed Oblate Sisters are consumed in the service of the church where they have made their Oblation, for example during an all-night adoration. The blessed candle is a sign that the Oblate Sister offers not only herself but also something of her worldly possessions to God. It symbolizes that she now belongs to God and His Church, and uses all her property and skills in serving the parish, whether it be in the sacristy, in the classroom, or wherever the priests need her to serve.

The Oblate Sisters also changed their white novice belt for a black one. Though they do wear a veil and a long dress in the style of a religious, their clothing is meant to be simple attire which symbolizes their poverty from worldly possessions. On my trip to Finland I found an old photo of my grandmother, where she is wearing a simple black casual dress with a large medal. Her outfit looks very similar to the Oblate dress. That was the idea of St. Vincent de Paul and his Daughters of Charity, to call girls and ladies who live in the world to use their talents in whatever way was good for the Church. And if God sends us more vocations to the Oblate group, they will also dedicate or offer themselves for the service of St. Gertrude the Great and her missions.

You can see the new official portraits of our Oblate Sisters in our latest newsletter. Sister Ulrica has returned to her classroom to teach, and the parish has resumed its usual schedule, with several High Masses sung in a week by our school choir, assisted by Sister Eulalia. According to the tradition of St. Gertrude the Great, we had a big party for Baby Mary on Her birthday, September 8. On September 13 we had our Fatima Rosary procession with 75 attendants, praying that Her Immaculate Heart would triumph and grant us true peace.

On September 11 we had the Requiem Mass for Father Anthony Cekada on the third anniversary of his death. It was Father Cekada who baptized both our new Oblate Sisters, and without whose encouragement I would never have become a priest. Though everyone in the Traditional Catholic world appreciates Father Cekada for his great wisdom, wit, and charm, all of us who knew him remember him mainly for his great and sweet heart. I like very much Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and my favorite one is The Adventure of the Three Garridebs. In that story Dr. Watson gets shot, and Holmes breaks his usual keeping up the dignified gentleman’s appearance and rushes to check that his friend is all right. As Watson writes: “For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.” Father Cekada’s words and wisdom still live in his writings and videos, but it is his great and sweet heart what I miss the most.

First things last. Our trusty Oblate cat Penny got little too curious about the contents of one of the sacristy cabinets and had to spend a night in a dark and narrow corner. Fortunately curiosity did not kill her, but she was set free the next morning by Father Brueggemann. I learned recently, when doing the new register of the members of the Oblates of the Holy Face, that Sister Eulalia’s childhood home was on Penelope Lane in Blue Ash. So it’s all connected and all comes together!

Yours in the Charity of Christ and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart,

Fr. Vili Lehtoranta


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