May 16, 2018
During the Novena to Pentecost
First IVE Popular Mission in Texas: Holy Week at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish in Dallas
As the Easter season draws to a close with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we reflect on all Saint Paul teaches us about the universal missionary call: the drive to bring souls to God in order to remain with Him in eternity. Saint Paul urges: “I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
After leaving Washington D.C. in the midst of an unexpected early spring snowstorm and two days of driving halfway across the country, both novitiates of our religious family—twelve IVE novices and seventeen SSVM novices–reached our destination: Dallas, Texas. We novices assisted at the IVE Parish, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, during Holy Week for the parish’s first popular mission.
We arrived at the school before Holy Week and were greeted with exceptional enthusiasm. As we piled out of our vans in front of the school, lots of little faces and hands could be seen pressed against the windows trying to get a first glimpse of the nuns. In one of the younger grades, a little girl’s jaw dropped in surprise as we entered the room. “No way!” she cried, and then, as more sisters entered the room, “There’s more!”
The mission began with a picnic at a lake near the parish. The afternoon was filled with meeting the families along with sports, food, fellowship and a few songs from the IVE brothers’ mariachi band, which was a hit with the families. At all of the Palm Sunday masses (some are in Spanish and some in English), we had the sending forth of the missionaries along with the blessing of their missionary crosses. After the packed masses we were able to greet the parishioners, who were very welcoming and excited to have us there. The last mass on Palm Sunday was celebrated by Bishop Edward Burns, who graciously received us in his diocese for the mission and encouraged us in missionary work.
During the time of mission, we focused on the most essential goal of life: our call to holiness, and each soul’s first mission: to save his soul. During the Palm Sunday masses, the parishioners of St. Bernard’s were reminded first, of their gift of freedom, and second, that their eternal happiness depends on if they give that freedom back in love to God. Father Emanuel Martelli, master of the IVE novices, exhorted the congregation to examine their pursuit of happiness. St. Augustine challenges us: “God who created you without you, will not save you without you.” Am I seeking a “happiness” that fades or am I seeking eternal life, true happiness? From the packed crowd on Palm Sunday to the long lines for confession, the faithful continued to return to the Church on the journey to Easter.
At the parish school, missionaries led games, lessons for all of the grades ending with songs and an entertaining skit by the brothers. The children loved the joyful environment of the visits and games. Other missionaries went on visits to the homes of parishioners. Our evening activities included activities for all ages ranging from little kids to adults culminating with the Holy Mass.
Next, we entered into the Easter Triduum with the parish, helping in the parish sacristy, providing choir hymns, and leading the rosary. On Good Friday afternoon, the parishioners, as they usually do, put on a living Stations of the Cross through the streets of the neighborhood ending in front of the Church with the crucifixion. The actors of all ages made it a powerful experience for many and a great opportunity to meditate on Christ’s sufferings and passion. There were probably a couple thousand people that packed the streets and followed the cross and burial in the church in a nearly three-hour procession. The local city news filmed from a helicopter, and clips of the Stations appeared in the local channel news for Dallas. With retreat and mission activities, Holy Saturday concluded with the bilingual Easter Vigil. At the beautiful mass which brought many into the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we were able to see the beautiful fruits of the work of the IVE priests, in this parish. On Easter Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection continued. After the last mass on Sunday, we had the blessing of the new Mission cross in the parish plaza. Then the party began. In the parking lot, booths with delicious food were set up, music was playing, kids enjoyed an Easter egg hunt, and the people came to joyfully celebrate!
We give thanks to God for the opportunity to take part in this mission.
Sister Mary Queen of the Rosary Shearrer, Novice
St. Kateri Tekakwitha Novitiate
Upper Marlboro, Maryland