On September 12, God willing and Our Lady interceding, our two Oblate Novices, Sister Eulalia and Sister Ulrica, will make their final Oblation. It is called “final” Oblation because by making it, an Oblate Novice is made a full member of the Oblates of the Holy Face and she becomes officially affiliated with her parish. As an external sign of this full membership in our group, she changes her white belt for black, and her veil into a thicker one.
I’ve noticed sometimes a tendency to refer to our Sisters as “the Oblates.” It’s technically a wrong term of address. The correct “style of office,” as the term goes, is “Sister,” just like the style of office of a priest is “Father.” At our St. Hugh of Lincoln parish, there’s a little girl who always used to greet me by saying: “Hi, priest!” And her parents had to try to persuade her to use the proper form of address, “Father.” Of course she was not mistaken in who I was, because I am a priest, but she used the wrong style of office, for which she was corrected. So the same goes with our Sisters. Though it’s not wrong to refer to them as “the Oblates,” the correct style is “Sister” and “the Sisters.”
But, as long as no one refers our good Sisters as “nuns,” I’m not going to correct anyone publicly.
The final Oblation of our Sisters takes place after the 11:25 High Mass of the Most Holy Name of Mary. You are all welcome to attend. We also have the ongoing fundraiser to expand our rectory, so that we can give our other house to the Sisters. This September we begin the first semester of St. Gertrude’s own Seminary, St. Francis de Sales Seminary, so by donating to our Sisters, you support our current and future clergy as well.
The one sad little thing in that happy day of Oblation is that Bishop Dolan is not with us to celebrate it. It was his wish for years and years to have St. Gertrude’s own group for female vocations. He at least came up with the basic idea of an active lay order without vows and approved the name we use. Even if he is not with us here on earth, the Oblates of the Holy Face is in every sense his group. One of our parish slogans is “the light of Faith is still burning,” and as long as there is St. Gertrude the Great Church, the same faith which Bishop Dolan and Father Cekada served will remain on this earth.
Bishop Dolan’s gravestone is now in its place. I visited St. Stephen’s cemetery couple of weeks ago to greet him and Father Cekada, and say Rosary for the Dead for them. And surprisingly, a beautiful cat appeared and joined me! Bishop Dolan always loved cats, so I’m sure this was a sign of something. Not sure of what it was a sign, but it was really kind of the kitty to come visit them.
Our Oblate cat (I guess that’s the correct style) Penny is really eager to attend Mass and Vespers with our clergy. She is often meowing with excitement when a service is going on in the church, and her proper place of service is in the sacristy. She also plays very gently. Whenever I played with or petted Bishop Dolan’s cat Puccini, I had to be very careful that he wouldn’t claw or bite me and draw blood. But if I play with Penny, she’s very cautious, not violent. Maybe male cats just like to play rougher.
This is not to say that she’s perfect. Like any religious, Penny too has her faults. Her place is in the sacristy, but I spotted her twice recently wandering off limits, once in the priest office area, and once inside the church. She is a true Oblate cat, because as soon as she saw me, she knew she’d been a bad girl, and ran away back to the sacristy, away from the forbidden area.
On Saturday, August 19, I baptized a baby girl named Penelope. It was another happy occasion at our growing parish. Her joyful character and smile reminded me a little of a fictional TV character Penelope “Punky” Brewster. On that day we also had the Sodality of Charity monthly meeting, where the girls learned how to make pies, in preparation for the next month’s Fall Festival. At the meeting the girls of Mrs. Simpson’s sewing class also helped Sister Eulalia by fixing some hand towels which the priests use during the Mass. And as usual, the girls did a big favor to our sacristy crew by cleaning the candle followers. St. Gertrude the Great always uses lots of candles, as is appropriate in our fight to keep the light of Faith burning.
The Sodality of Charity, which is a group of Traditional Catholic girls and young ladies associated with our parish, will celebrate its third anniversary on September 5. Like its boys’ counterpart, the Knights of the Sacred Heart, the Sodality is a way to make Traditional Catholic children to feel at home in their parish. And as Bishop Dolan advised me, those children must also have fun.
Father Thomas Ojeka, one of our priests in Nigeria, has an Oblate order of his own, the Guanellian Oblates of the Mother of Divine Providence. He recently sent some happy news. On August 14 two Sisters, Sister Pura Maria of the Sorrowful Heart of Mary, and Sister Nunciata Maria of the Little Flower, were received as Oblate Novices. And Sister Rosemary was enrolled as an Oblate Postulant. Father’s Oblate group works with the same principle as does our own, i.e. it is designed to help the clergy with their work and prayers. The Oblate Novices and Sisters wear a medal with a picture of Our Lady of Divine Providence. Father Luigi Guanella, an Italian priest and the founder of the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity, wrote in November 1895: “The Blessed Virgin of Divine Providence is our dearest Mother, who enjoys being called with this title, to be more ready to help us. What a consolation in the midst of life’s tribulations to have someone to turn to, and to turn to the great Virgin of divine Providence.”
The light of Faith is still burning in Nigeria, and by our Bishop’s apostolate, St. Gertrude the Great is dedicated to keep this flame alive. If you are interested in keeping up with the events in Nigeria, some faithful have started to edit a weekly newsletter for Father John Okerulu, called Under the Mantle. It presents news and events, not only from Nigeria, but also from other Traditional parishes, chapels, and Mass centers around the world.
I hope to see many of you at the final Oblation on September 12. We, the clergy and Sisters of St. Gertrude the Great, are always grateful for your support and prayers.
Yours in the Charity of Christ and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart,
Fr. Vili Lehtoranta