We have started the season of Advent. This is also a penitential season, though less severe than Lent is. Our Lord’s birth in this world was an act of love and an act of sacrifice. In the Advent novena we say that He “was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.” His was the greatest sacrifice and greatest love.
The life of an Oblate Sister is of course to imitate Our Lord in doing the will of her Heavenly Father, but also to do it joyfully, in gratitude for His love. The story is told of a poor young girl in a city of Italy. She was bedridden and afflicted by many sicknesses. Still, those who visited her, found her always cheerful. Even the report of a threatened famine caused her no alarm. Being asked how she kept up her cheerfulness in the midst of so many miseries, she replied that all her thoughts rested upon God. She was like a little bird under the wings of Divine Providence, and therefore she was neither afraid nor anxious about anything.
The big Oblate project of 2023 is to get a home for our Sisters to live in. And big projects deand big sacrifices. That’s why we at the parish of St. Gertrude the Great will start to raise the second monthly collection for our Sisters, as well as a fundraise to achieve this end of getting them their own place. Right now accepting postulants is difficult, because the Sisters need to live in their homes and commute daily to work in the parish. This is, of course, a sacrifice which needs to be done at the moment. But the Sisters could do much more in their work of helping the pastor and the priests, if they had they their own home. And the only candidates to postulancy we could receive at the moment are young ladies who live very near of our parish. Obviously, we need to come to a solution if we desire Oblates of the Holy Face to expand their apostolate. We have planned couple of options, but expanding the work takes funds.
That’s why we have started this fundraise. We cannot do any of our plans real without necessary funds. We don’t like to be like “a foolish man that built his house upon the sand.” Alf Landon, who was the Governor of Kansas in 1933-1937, and unsuccessful presidential candidate against Franklin Roosevelt, said in a 1975 interview in Assignment America that credit cards are an incentive to people to spend more money than they should. We certainly don’t want to spend money we don’t have, so that’s why we rely on the faithful to make their offerings to contribute to the growth of the Oblate Sisters apostolate.
I already have a little kickstart to our fundraise with my Advent closeout sale of my books. I will start my own book publishing project next year to support the Oblate fundraise, so to make room for new ones, our parish website offers books I’ve written or edited on a special price. You’ll find the list of titles, prices, and links on my website. Note especially the story book I published last year titled The Gift of the Wise Men. It has forty Christmas season stories, some classic, some well-known, and even some scary Christmas stories!
On Friday, November 11, the Sisters took part in St. Gertrude’s first ever St. Martin’s day procession. In the procession the attendants carried lanterns, and they were led by Bishop McGuire. St. Martin himself rode on a horse in front of the procession, dressed in full Roman soldier’s attire, and cut his cape in half, thus relieving the suffering Christ from cold. Because it was a very cold night, the new cloaks of the Sisters came in good use. The day and night ended with a good parish dinner at Helfta Hall, and the attendants hoped that we could make this an annual tradition. Because if it’s about traditions and devotions, St. Gertrude’s is the right place to be! It wasn’t until about 8 PM until all the Friday activities were done with, which meant a full 12-hour day for our Sisters – another reason why we hope to solve their housing situation soon.
Sister Eulalia has been helping me with another recent tradition of our parish, the annual St. Lucia procession, arranged by the parish girls’ group Sodality of Charity. Though the feast day of St. Lucy is December 13, we always have it on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, so that the parishioners can see this magnificent procession of light. (Second Sunday of Advent is always the day when St. Nicholas gives gifts to the parish children). Sister Eulalia helps in getting extra white dresses for the attendants, because some of the girls have outgrown the dresses we have used for past two years. Lucia procession is led by the Lucia maiden carrying the crown of candles on her head, preceded by a girl who carries the pair of eyes on a platter, symbolizing the miraculous healing of St. Lucy’s eyes. They are followed by a group of girls all wearing white dresses and red cinctures. This procession is a beautiful emphasis of the fact that light always defeats darkness and that goodness triumphs over evil.
Both Sister Ulrica and Sister Eulalia take part in our Sodality’s monthly meetings, being still members of this group, too. In the November monthly meeting the Sodalists celebrated Sister Eulalia’s birthday with a cake. She has her patronal feast coincidentally on the Sodality’s December meeting, December 10, which is the feast day of St. Eulalia of Mérida. Sister Ulrica has her patronal feast on May 8, which is the feast day of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and also the date of death of Ulrika Nisch. The Sisters acted as judges in our parish All Saints party on October 30 (another precious tradition of ours) and it was a delightful sight that both Eulalia of Mérida and Ulrika Nisch made an appearance among the little saints.
Saturday mornings are usually the busiest times in the sacristy, when everything needs to be prepared for the Sunday, which is the busiest the day of the week. The Sisters, just like the priests of the parish, do not have a day off. Fortunately some of the Sodalists and their brothers offer a helping hand on Saturdays when the Sodality has its monthly meetings. Both the Oblates and different parish groups are a great example of Catholic Action, the laypeople helping their Bishops and priests with their work in whatever way the clergy needs help in serving and saving souls. Though every Catholic is called to help his priests in this work, the Oblate Sisters are laywomen who have offered themselves to this work fulltime.
Keep in your prayers Bishop Germán Fliess, whom Bishop Sanborn consecrated on November 30 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Fraser, MI. November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, was also the day when Bishop Dolan was consecrated by Bishop Pivarunas in 1993. It is also the ordination anniversary of Fr. Oscar Saavedra, the pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, himself ordained by Bishop Dolan. When we speak about our Oblate Sisters’ apostolate in helping the priests of the parish, we can’t forget, that as much as we need their visible work in the sacristy and in the classroom, the most important part of their vocation is their prayer and their acts of reparation and love to the Holy Face of Our Savior. And these are most of the time completely hidden from the eyes of men. “But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.” (Matt. 6:6) Our Sisters offer their daily Rosary for all the Bishops and priests, including those who are troubled, burdened, persecuted, and even who have fallen away. That is the part of their work which gets the least amount of thanks from men, but also a sacrifice which no money in the world can buy, and which is repaid fully only in Heaven.
I wish you a blessed season of holy Advent and joyful celebration of Christmas.
Yours in the Charity of Christ and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart,
Fr. Vili Lehtoranta