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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: June 20, 2019
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a farewell Mass for the Catholic Teachers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus sisters at St. John Church in Russellville on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
May and June are months of graduations. A time of closure and new beginnings. You, Sisters Mayela, Magdalena and Teresa have just graduated with a master of science degree in applied leadership studies from Boston College after five years of study here.
But graduation is not just a day of closure. It is also a time of new beginnings. When you ascended the stage to receive your diploma in Boston on May 20, you were given a document that gives witness to your success in learning. But the reason you sacrificed and studied so hard was not because you wanted that piece of paper, but rather because you wanted to be equipped for an even better job of serving the people the Lord entrusts to your care.
So while diplomas are given that recognize past achievement, graduation is really much more about the future than the past. That's why we call them commencement exercises. This time of preparation is coming to an end and a much more important time of creativity, for which school has prepared them, is about to commence. So while your time in Arkansas is coming to an end, I am convinced that you sisters will leave here well equipped for whatever will be the next stage in your service of the Lord.
Today we gather to bid farewell to Sisters Mayela, Magdalena and Teresa who have served us so faithfully these last five years. They have worked hard to prepare you, their parishioners, for the mission he has for each one of you going forward once they are gone.
And you were formed for this not only in the classroom of Boston College, but indeed in the far more challenging — and life giving — classroom, so to speak, of St. John parish in Russellville, St. Augustine parish in Dardanelle and St. Andrew parish in Danville. Your parishioners were your teachers and I am sure that they have taught you many things. And I know that they are going to miss you very much. This is a time of closure and new beginnings for them as well.
On May 30, 10 days after you sisters received your diplomas, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, which was for the disciples a kind of graduation too. A time of closure and new beginnings. For the last 40 days since his resurrection, Jesus had been tying together all the loose strings of their formation. And then the time came for Jesus to gather his students, give them a final exhortation and then ascend to heaven. But Jesus' ascension was not just a day of closure. It was also a time of commencement, a time of new beginnings.
Ascending to heaven, Jesus received a crown of victory. But the reason Jesus sacrificed himself and endured so much was not because he wanted that crown, but rather because he wanted to accomplish the mission for which God had sent him, namely to give us life, an eternal share in his victory. Just like any other graduation, Jesus' ascension is really much more about the future than the past: for the disciples, this was their commencement too. Their time of preparation has come to an end and a more important time of creativity — for which Jesus has prepared them — is about to commence.
Today we gather to bid farewell to Sisters Mayela, Magdalena and Teresa who have served us so faithfully these last five years. They have worked hard to prepare you, their parishioners, for the mission he has for each one of you going forward once they are gone. Their goal has been to give you a solid spiritual foundation on which you can now continue to build — motivated and empowered to continue learning about the Lord with that spiritual eagerness and openness and curiosity that will lead to a lifetime of further spiritual growth.
That's exactly what Jesus did with his original disciples. On Pentecost — three weeks ago — they were empowered by the Holy Spirit and began to spread the Good News of salvation in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth … and now through these sisters and the rest of you gathered here today, all the way to Russellville, Dardanelle and Danville ... and beyond!