Dear Parishioners: A Letter From our Pastor
In last week’s bulletin I promised to share with you news of a “special Advent gift” that our Collaborative has received. This week I can introduce you to four sisters from Nigeria who are presently staying at the Ste. Marguerite rectory upstairs from our parish offices! They will be staying with us for the next several months as they prepare to move into a more permanent home. This home, which is close by, is being prepared for them and their ministry. I know that some of you have already been able to meet them and I hope that soon all of you will have the blessing of knowing them.
Like everything in our lives of faith this “sudden” arrival of the sisters is the fruit of several years of prayer and hidden work. The sisters have come to Lowell to serve in one of the most critical works of this time in the Church and in the world. They will be reaching out to women in desperate circumstances and seeking to provide shelter and a place of healing and spiritual assistance for them. They are members of the Passionist Sisters of St Paul of the Cross and have been officially welcomed into our archdiocese by Cardinal Sean.
The mission of serving these women in need fits well within the sisters’ charism and will be a transforming gift for the Lowell area and for all of us. Some very important people, who have been working hard to bring the arrival of the sisters to Lowell, are Deb O’Hara Rusckowski and Fr. Terry O’Connell. Sadly, Fr. Terry recently passed away, but as the director of St. Joseph Shrine he had a compassionate heart for these women he encountered in his ministry. Fr. Terry and the Oblates are a very important part of this mission. Deb is the former director of pro-life education in the archdiocese and now is the Malta representative to the United Nations. It is in this capacity that Deb has partnered with us in Lowell, with the Knights of Malta, and with the sisters, to begin this important ministry in our archdiocese. I have known and worked with Deb for many years.
The sisters are truly a gift to us and they need our help. These courageous and generous women have given their lives to the Church, left home and family, come to our country for months of training and have now arrived at our door. They arrive with hearts full of love and hands eager to serve. At present they have little or nothing in the way of material resources. They are trusting in God’s Providence. In your name I have attempted to welcome them as best as I and our generous staff are able.
One of my lasting images of the Christmas story is of Joseph and Mary seeking a place for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem. I imagine them knocking on the doors and being told there is no room for them at the inn. My heart is saddened when I reflect on their experience of being rejected. However, there is another lens through which we can view the story. Imagine the blessing that was missed by those who locked the doors of their hearts to the Holy Family! They were called to move beyond their comfort, their self-sufficiency, and their routines and invited to stretch themselves to receive an unexpected and unprecedented blessing. In their hardness of hearts they missed it.
If we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that extending hospitality is often inconvenient as it upsets our established spaces and routines. Yet I have found that welcoming others, especially those who come in the Name of the Lord, is a blessing beyond our imaginings. When we were scrambling to prepare the sisters’ rooms, I asked our staff to prepare those rooms as if Jesus Himself was going to stay there. For in truth He tells us that He is staying there: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
In these days and weeks to come I ask you to hear the knock on the door of your heart. We will be asking for help in general and specific ways as we seek to welcome and care for the sisters in their early days in our community. Will you stay safe and warm behind the locked door or will you open your hearts and your arms to welcome and assist them in Jesus’ Name? Thank you in advance for your response to this invitation and gift!
Rev. Richard F. Clancy
Pastor, River of Divine Mercy Catholic Collaborative