25th Anniversary Mass of MCP, CMST Sisters' Service

Published: September 11, 2021

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. It is based on the Gospel of Luke 6:43-49.

Bishop Taylor

We are gathered here today to thank the Lord — and you sisters — for your 25 years of faithful and selfless ministry here in Arkansas. Your two missionary communities, the Missionary Catechists of the Poor and the Missionary Carmelites of St. Teresa, began service in this mission territory in 1996. I have here articles from the Arkansas Catholic that speak of the beginning of their missionary ministry here.

In today's Gospel Jesus gives us two parables that speak directly to our reality. He says that as with building a house, you have to dig deep to lay the foundation on rock, and that each tree is known for its fruit. Well, starting in 1996, you began by laying the foundation for everything that would follow in Hispanic ministry here, and it is obvious that you dug deeply — and today we rejoice in the good fruit that your efforts have produced.

When the first sisters arrived here, Arkansas Hispanic ministry had already started, but was still in its infancy. And for the next 25 years — I counted — at least 20 Carmelite missionaries and 27 Missionary Catechists of the Poor served here, serving in Hamburg, Springdale, Hot Springs, Conway, Little Rock, Glenwood, Dumas, Lake Village, Benton, Fordyce, other places and at the offices of Hispanic ministry and youth ministry.

You have dedicated 25 years — the best years of your life — to building the Kingdom of God here in Arkansas. And during this time you have grown not only in gray hair, but also in wisdom and holiness.

You formed catechists and fostered leadership in those communities. You animated the liturgy and trained readers and ministers of Communion. You supported the diocesan Encuentros of the first years and more recently the V National Encuentro. You and your fellow sisters accompanied the different movements in the parishes and at the diocesan level: Cursillo, Search, EPJ, Charismatic Renewal, Fureza Transformadora, St. Andrew School of Evangelization, Marriage Encounter, Pre-Cana, Vincentian Missionaries, and the number of Hispanics in Arkansas and your participation has grown a lot!

Now we are more than triple what we were then. In 1996 there were Masses in Spanish in only 15 parishes, now we have them in 43 parishes. In 1996 we had only 10 priests who could offer Masses in Spanish, none of them Hispanic and not all easy to understand. Now we have 14 Hispanic priests and 60 priests who can offer Mass in Spanish, although not all fluently, but at least they make the attempt, and in those parishes the presence of you sisters has been essential!

I remember that in my time serving with the Carmelite missionary sisters in Oklahoma. There were times when they had to explain to people what I really meant to say, clarifying the situation. For example, once when I started a funeral by saying, "We are gathered in the presence of the husband, children and lovers of the deceased," Sister Brígida explained that I meant "the loved ones of the deceased."

And I'm sure many of you sisters have helped your Anglo priests with similar mistakes. Well then, much of our progress as a diocese is the result of your initiative. And when it was the result of the efforts of others, as in the case of many of the movements I listed, you have supported them and, therefore, this is also the fruit of your ministry. We are all in this together!

Now we are not only looking back, we are also looking to the future. You have dedicated 25 years — the best years of your life — to building the Kingdom of God here in Arkansas. And during this time you have grown not only in gray hair, but also in wisdom and holiness.

We do not know what awaits us in the future, but two things are certain: the foundation that you have dug is solid, firmly founded on the rock of our Catholic faith, and the tree that you have planted is good and already gives us good fruit. The building of the Kingdom of God continues on the foundation of local leaders that you have formed, and for that we give praise to the Lord!