The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word opened their jubilee year celebrating 150 years with a bilingual liturgy March 2 in the Chapel of the Incarnate Word with Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, presiding.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering in the persons of a multitude of the sick and infirm of every kind, seeks relief at your hands,” Bishop Claude Marie Dubuis wrote a century and a half ago, and responding to this call, young women left France for Texas, and three eventually journeyed to San Antonio.
Here, they encountered cholera victims, orphans, and widespread poverty. With courage, compassion, and faith, they worked to respond to the needs of a frontier town. Women from Ireland, Mexico, Germany, and the United States, each responding to ever-new challenges, joined these first Sisters.
Today, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word continue to answer the call through the same healthcare, education, and pastoral and social ministries, especially for the women and children living in poverty, for the elderly seeking dignity at the end of their lives, and on behalf of justice, peace, and the care of creation.
At the jubilee Mass, the University of the Incarnate Word Mission and Ministry comprised as the choir, and Sisters served as lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, users, and gift bearers. Sister Teresa Maya, CCVI, congregational leader, welcomed attendees to the Mass, thanking those there for the celebration and expressing her gratitude for the many lay women and men who have collaborated with the Sisters for the past 150 years.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenged his listeners to bring forth a harvest of good fruit. Jesus says, “A good tree does not produce decayed fruit any more than a decayed tree produces good fruit. Each tree is known by its yield.”
“When you look at a fruit tree and see lush green leaves and branches heavy with apples, you are assured that the tree is healthy and that your fertilizing and pruning have paid off,” explained Archbishop Gustavo in his homily. “But, when you look at a tree and see its leaves drooping in a time of drought, you worry that the tree is sick and needs an urgent remedy.”
The archbishop emphasized that the Lord’s words remind us that the world observes us in much the same way. “When our neighbors see us visiting an elderly person and helping her with chores, they conclude that our faith has taken root in us,” he said. “When they observe us collecting food for the poor or providing shelter for the homeless, visiting the sick, or defending a neighbor against gossip, they infer that our faith is healthy and the church is alive here.”
However, the prelate continued, if they observe us fighting with one another, slandering a co-worker, expressing selfish or greedy attitudes, or exhibiting racial prejudice, they may well ask themselves, “Is she not supposed to be a Christian? Does she not belong to the Catholic Church? Is she not a consecrated woman?”
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit acknowledged that, as members of the community of faith, many have been angered, frustrated, and sickened by the instances of sexual abuse of minors, especially by priests and some bishops. “We also exhibit alienating differences and polarization within the church that diminish the good fruit we are expected to bear,” he lamented. Jesus says: Good persons produce goodness from the good of their hearts. Evil persons produce evil out of their store of evil. Everyone speaks out of the abundance of love in his or her heart.
On the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Archbishop Gustavo prayed that we will look honestly and discover the reservoir of goodness that God has given to each of us. “May the Holy Spirit give us the wisdom, strength, and courage to allow that goodness to influence all we say or do,” he concluded. “Our Lady of Guadalupe will show us the way to bring diverse people into unity.”