By Stephanie A. Patka
MISHAWAKA — On the feast day of St. Clare, two Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration made their final vows at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. Sisters M. Petra Nielsen, OSF, and Sister M. Cecelia Clare Stoffel, OSF, completed their Perpetual Religious Profession of vows on Aug. 11 at the chapel on the grounds of the Sisters of St. Francis Convent in front of religious sisters, diocesan and Franciscan priests, seminarians, friends and family. In attendance was also the Mother Superior of the Third Order of Franciscans from Germany.
The Church celebrates with great solemnity the Rite of Perpetual Profession, by which the religious bind themselves permanently to the service of God and the Church. It is a sign of the unbreakable union between Christ and his bride, the Church. During this Mass, attendees witnessed the sisters consecrate their lives to God by vowing to live the Gospel through the observance of obedience, chastity and poverty according to the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and the Constitution of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.
“The consecrated life is an especially rich manifestation of the Church’s identity as the bride of Christ,” Bishop Rhoades said in his homily. “The life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which Sister Petra and Sister Cecilia Clare embrace today for the rest of their lives, is a life that is to manifest the love of the bride for her bridegroom, the Church’s love for Christ, the love which is first and foremost a response to the one who loved us first and gave his life for us.”
“St. Clare was fascinated with her spouse Jesus,” Bishop Rhoades added. “We see this fascination in her letters to Agnes of Prague. Clare encouraged her to focus on the Lord. She wrote: ‘may you totally love Him who gave Himself totally for your love.’ ‘Cling to Him whose beauty all the blessed hosts of heaven unceasingly admire.’”
After the homily the sisters stood and were asked by Bishop Rhoades to declare their readiness to dedicate themselves to God and to seek perfect charity, according to the rule and the constitutions of the community.
During the Litany of Supplication, all implored the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, while asking God to pour out His mercy upon the sisters so that they might be forever strengthened in their religious vocation.
At the profession of vows, each sister came forward to kneel in front of the mother superior to read the formula of profession by which she vowed to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit of St. Francis and the order’s founder, Blessed Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel. Each sister’s vows were accepted by the mother superior, and Bishop Rhoades said the solemn prayer of consecration over the newly professed sisters. Then each sister was given a ring as a symbol of her lifelong membership in the religious community.
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