Despite everything, we are still saying yes to God’s call

Amid pestilence, poverty and disease, God still calls. In our midst is a religious congregation who continues to be filled with people who respond yes to God’s call even in the most terrible circumstances.

Feb 24, 2021

By FSIC
Amid pestilence, poverty and disease, God still calls. In our midst is a religious congregation who continues to be filled with people who respond yes to God’s call even in the most terrible circumstances.

While many are either recovering from the pandemic or still find ourselves overcome by fear, four novices of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (FSIC) took their first Vows, after completing the mandatory two-year formation in the Novitiate.

These novices are Jessica James from St Pius Bundu Tuhan, Lea Mannel from Holy Cross Toboh Tambunan, Venessa Julian from St Mary Cathedral Sandakan, and Anna Andrew Sipail from St John Tuaran,

They asked to be asked to be professed, and with the approval of the Mother General and her Council and after the Canonical Examination by Archbishop John Wong of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, they were professed with the Rite of First Profession on 20 February 2021, at Pace Bene Retreat cum Formation Centre here.

The ritual includes the calling of the candidate, the examination of candidate, and the Profession itself, in which they vow to live through the three evangelical counsels for one year before the Mother General and in the presence of the Archbishop.

After pronouncing their Vows, they were given their religious habit.  Donning the religious habit signifies taking on the religious life bearing their religious name: Sr Mary Jessica James, Sr Mary Lea Mannel, Sr Mary Venessa Julian, Sr Mary Anna Andrew, as Temporary Professed Sisters in the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

With social distancing enforced by SOP protocol, only the parents and a few siblings of the newly professed Sisters were able to be present. To comply with the SOP, a larger part of the Congregation was not able to be present to witness the occasion. Those who made it were from the nearby convents as the CMCO is still in force and travel is restricted.

Arrangement was made to live stream the Eucharistic Celebration with the Rite of First Profession to enable the rest of the Congregation, as well as other extended family members of the Sisters to participate. While participating virtually has become commonplace in the pandemic, the commitments themselves are not common. Indeed, they are nothing short of miraculous, especially in these chaotic and uncertain times.

The Mass was celebrated by the Archbishop, and concelebrated by four priests from St Joseph Church Parish Papar. He urged the newly professed Sisters to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, just like Levi in the Gospel, who left everything and followed Jesus.

Drawing from the theme of the celebration “You are salt for the earth…” (Mt 5:13), the prelate shared some wisdom with the Sisters: “To follow the Saviour is to share in his salvation; to follow the light is to enjoy the light. Those who are in the light do not illuminate the light but are themselves illuminated and enlightened by the light. They add nothing to the light, rather they are beneficiaries, for they are enlightened by the light.”

He acknowledged the presence of their parents and thanked them for their generosity in allowing their daughters to be God’s instrument in the service of the Church.

In her turn, Mother General Sr Frances Mani, acknowledged with gratitude the presence of the Archbishop and the clergy for celebrating the Eucharist.  She also thanked the parents of the Sisters for consenting to offer their daughters for God’s work, and assured them of God’s abundant blessings for their generosity. 

Mother General then announced the posting for the newly professed Sisters: Sr Jessica will be assigned to St Rose Convent, Kota Marudu, Sr Lea to St Maria Goretti, Binaong Keningau, Sr Venessa to Stella Maris Home, Tanjung Aru and Sr Anna to the Convent of Immaculate Conception at Toboh Tambunan. She concluded by asking those present to continue to pray for the newly professed Sisters.  ––CS

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