We often describe a special event in our lives as a "day made in heaven" and February, 2, 2012, Feast of the Presentation, was especially so as Sr. Mary Amata deepened her spousal union with Christ and her perpetual holocaust through solemn profession as a Nun of the Order of Preachers.
Bishop Manuel Cruz, D.D., our regional bishop, was the principal celebrant. We looked through the profession book after Mass and found that it has been 62 years since a bishop presided at a profession here at the monastery! Belonging to one of the most densely populated archdioceses in the country means that it can take months of advance planning to be able to fit into our archbishop's busy schedule.We are grateful to Bishop Cruz, a long-time friend of our monastery, for joining us.
Also in the sanctuary were Fr. Peter Stravinskas, who served as Master of Ceremonies. Fr. Gregory Salomone, OP, Fr. Roger Landry, and Fr. Kieran Fergus, OP concelebrated. Deacon Robert Devine served as deacon.
We were thrilled to have Richard Sofie, Charles Martin, Glen Evers, Julio Barrios and Brancker John serve Holy Mass and the Rite of Profession. The last three mentioned servers are seminarians at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, NJ and will be ordained as deacons in May!
Because this was also Candlemas day we began the Mass with our traditional procession. For the very first time all the nuns came to the back of the chapel to lead the procession. After, they went back inside the enclosure except for Sr. Mary Amata, Sr. Denise Marie and Sr. Mary Catharine. We all enjoyed processing down the chapel aisle and experiencing the wonderful acoustics of our chapel as the chantress sang the verses of the "Adorn your bridal chamber, Zion" while we sang the responses to each line. The verses are in English and the responses are in Latin. After the Second Reading we sang the Laetabundus Sequence as is proper to the Order of Preachers.
The Rite of Profession began after the Gospel with the moving "What do you seek?" as Sr. Mary Amata lay prostrate on the sanctuary floor. As at each stage of formation she once again affirmed her desire for "God's mercy and yours." Bishop Cruz then delivered a powerful homily speaking about the nature of this request and the contemplative life.
After the homily Sr. Denise Marie once again questioned Sr. Mary Amata: " Do you wish to make profession according to the constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers?" "Do you wish to advance in the love of God and neighbor, expending yourself entirely in winning souls; do you wish to be totally consecrated to God to announce prophetically the blessings of Christ with your hidden fecundity; do you wish to persevere in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus." To each question Sr. Mary Amata responded: "I do wish and desire it, with the help of God and yours!"
Then came the dramatic moment of the Litany of the Saints as Sister lay cruciform on the sanctuary floor. Then the moment arrived. Placing her hands into those of Sr. Denise Marie her prioress, Sr. Mary Amata made profession of obedience until death.
Then followed the blessing and imposition of the veil. We had told Bishop Cruz earlier that only the prioress veils the newly professed but he wanted to help and it was a rather humorous moment which he commented on later, apologizing for "being disobedient". We have an idea that Bishop Cruz had no idea how many straight pins it takes to keep a nun together! During the veiling the beautifully haunting Amo Christum was sung. (You can hear it on the video.)
Sr. Mary Amata then received the blessed ring "the ring of divine faith, given in the name of the most Holy Trinity." She was exhorted to "be faithful to Jesus, your Spouse, so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy!"
Bishop Cruz then spontaneously led Sr. Mary Amata inside the Nuns' choir so that the exchange of peace could be given. The Mass continued.
Following the Mass there was a joyous celebration downstairs in St. Dominic's Hall. In a sign of sisterly communion we ordered the lunch from the Augustinian Recollects, a contemplative community of nuns in Irvington, NJ that does catering to support themselves. Everything was delicious!
We thank God for this beautiful day and for the presence of so many wonderful friends. We are also so grateful to those who made this day possible. Particularly we want to thank Corey Huber for taking the photos and for Robert Core and everyone at Suburban Wholesale for the beautiful flowers that adorned the altar and side altars and graced the tables.