As we begin to feel the heat of the approaching summer season, many of our “snowbirds” have returned to their northern homes to enjoy warm weather. We will miss them until they return in late autumn and winter. Additionally, we’re going to miss two important women as we give them a fond farewell from our parish: Sister Romana and Sister Maria. It surely is a bittersweet moment for them and us, for they will be leaving us after quite a few years of dedicated service to our parish church and school community. We will miss them! They have been a blessing to us, working among us as women who are fully dedicated to serve the People of God in so many ways. Besides using their talents and gifts to reach out to our school family, they have also gone beyond the scope of academia, and ministered to the sick and many persons in our parish community who are homebound, as well as ministering to those who are spending time in prison. They have served as teachers of our PREP program and took time to properly prepare our children to receive their sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. We know that they have earned a well-deserved period of rest, and they now prepare to return to their community’s American headquarters in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Let’s assure them of our fervent prayers and best wishes for them in their future assignment. As we recall with fondness their time spent here, we wish them the Polish farewell, “do miłego zobaczenia!” – “to a pleasant future meeting!” Good-bye, Good luck and may God bless you, Sisters Romana and Maria!
Fortunately, we will not be without women religious. The new replacements are both named Sister Elizabeth! Sister Elizabeth Halaj (pronounced HA-LIE) and Sister Elizabeth Kulesa (pronounced KOO-LESS-AH) are experienced teachers with college degrees, and one has a master’s degree in Elementary Education. They are of the same community as their predecessors: The Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. We’ll welcome them when they arrive later in the summer.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven. While the dioceses of the northeastern part of the United States (and Nebraska) have celebrated this feast last Thursday, the rest of the American bishops a few years back chose the option to observe this day on a Sunday, when more people come to church than on a weekday, observing it as another Holy Day of Obligation. For us, this means that next week we will observe the birthday of the Church on Pentecost Sunday. If you choose to do so, you may wear the color red on some part of your clothing, e.g., a tie, scarf, shirt or jacket, etc. The priest and deacon will be vested in red, which is the designated color of a feast of the Holy Spirit. All in all, as we celebrate the closing of the Easter Season, we return to the liturgical season known as “Ordinary Time,” though there’s hardly anything “ordinary” about it. For when Jesus ascended to his Father, “two men, dressed in white,” gave the challenge to the dumbfounded Apostles to go forth and do the work that the Lord has commanded.
The renowned British composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose musical career spanned the first half of the 20th century, wrote a majestic musical masterpiece entitled, “The Lark Ascending,” inspired by a poem written by the English poet, George Meredith. Vaughn Williams wrote the violin solo so masterfully that the listener hearing those notes can virtually see the lark soaring through the sky. The music is truly uplifting to the listener.
One can only imagine what the Apostles must have felt when they saw Our Lord ascending majestically to heaven. The scripture reading from the Acts of the Apostles says that they “were looking intently at the sky as he was going,” but then “suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them” to break them from their mesmerized gaze. St. Mark’s Gospel tells that the disciples indeed “went forth and preached everywhere,” fulfilling our Lord’s farewell command to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
That Great Commission Jesus gave to the disciples — and their prompt response to carry out His wishes — provides the prototype for our own lives of discipleship. So, when we come to church, we’re not to be mere spectators watching a religious pageant unfold. We are sharers in the Body of Christ, and at the end of Mass we are sent forth to glorify the Lord by our lives. May that become a reality in our life, for as we’re all called “to go forth” by Baptism and preach the Good News – it’s by the way we live out that life.