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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: October 7, 2018
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass to dedicate the new St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith on Sunday Oct. 7, 2018. It was based on the following readings: Isaiah 2:1-3b,5; Psalm 98; Romans 10:9-13; and John 17:11.17-23.
The Gospel reading that you sisters have chosen for this Mass in which we dedicate your new monastery comes from what is called the Priestly Prayer of Jesus in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John.
As he prepares to sacrifice his life for our salvation, Jesus prays that his disciples will remain united despite all the adversities they are going to have to face and that it is by remaining united that they will share in his joy.
Jesus warns them that his impending departure is not the only thing that is going to be difficult for them. Not only is he leaving, he’s leaving them on a path that is very countercultural in a world that rewards its own. But they no longer belong to this world, even though just like Jesus, their mission is in the world.
May you always be one and may your lives be filled with joy. You are countercultural, just like those first disciples and it is your obvious unity and evident joy that will give most eloquent witness to the presence of the Lord in our midst going forward.
In the world but not of the world, so that “the world may believe” in the Father through Jesus, through them. Moreover, in the specific verses you just heard, Jesus insists that it will be precisely by means of their unity with each other in times of trial that they will give most eloquent witness to the unity of Jesus with his Father. And as a consequence, they will share in the Father’s love just like Jesus does, in their case through their union with Jesus.
This may sound a little complicated, but what a beautiful thought to hold in our hearts as we gather to dedicate this new monastery chapel: your unity as Benedictine sisters. Your loving support of those sisters currently facing adversity: old age, illness, dementia and so on. And how in all of this you live lives of joy, your hearts warmed through your intimate union with Jesus, your spouse.
I am sure that there are many emotions that you feel at this moment in the history of your community. We can look back at the small beginnings at Shoal Creek, and then the decision to move to Fort Smith as your community grew. We can look back at the building of the massive convent that you are now leaving and I am sure that many of you can remember the days when the building was completely full.
And then the sadness of seeing that building age along with the community itself. And seeing the numbers of sisters dwindle to the point that though much loved, and though so full of memories, the building itself became much too large and unwieldy and out of date and hard to maintain.
It simply ceased to be what your community needs at this point in your history. So you have taken the wise step of retaining the cherished memories but letting loose of the building, so as to now live in a new convent that really meets your present needs.
So today we thank God for the new convent that we will be dedicating today. We thank all of the generous donors to the capital campaign that made this move possible and we thank all those who have had a hand in its construction: our architect, our contractor, all the subcontractors and tradesmen and simple laborers. And I would like to thank also Sister Maria de Angeli who has been your prioress throughout this process. Hers is not an easy job. And she does it well.
Today we just heard Jesus pray that his followers may be one just as he and his Father are one. My prayer is that this may apply in a special way to you sisters, especially in this time of transition. May you always be one and may your lives be filled with joy. You are countercultural, just like those first disciples and it is your obvious unity and evident joy that will give most eloquent witness to the presence of the Lord in our midst going forward.