Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Work of the Holy Spirit

The Christian life can take many forms. Opportunities to serve the Lord are rich and varied, and so are the different vocations his children receive.

The Religious Life is a particularly intense way of living out the Baptismal promises. But vocations to the Religious Life, too, take different forms in different cultures and periods of history. In our Patmos House Community we are reminded of this by the presence in our midst of Brother Bernadine and Sister Clare-Francis, our Franciscan Tertiaries.

But last year we became connected to a new work of the Holy Spirit - the ecumenical SERVANTS OF THE SACRED CROSS, an order for women, whose foundress and Superior is Mother Wendy James, a member of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. Her home parish is Saint Aidan’s in Halifax. In February of last year Joy Vickerstaff of our parish (though temporarily working in Canberra) came home to be received as a Postulant of the Servants of the Sacred Cross. Then, in November, when Mother Wendy came to Australia, Joy was clothed as a Novice of the Order.

I first met Mother Wendy at an Anglican Use Conference in the USA back in 2005, the day after Bishop David Moyer and I were consecrated as bishops. The Conference was at St Mary's Arlington, Texas (Father Alan Hawkins' parish - visit it HERE) and the guest speaker was Father Aidan Nichols from the U.K. It was a great couple of days, as we explored the ecumenical dimensions of our journey of faith; and I thought then that Mother Wendy would be an ideal Conference speaker for Forward in Faith Australia.

That came to pass when Mother Wendy spent a month ministering in Australia last November, initially here at Patmos House during which Sister Joy was clothed as a Novice, then in NSW, the Forward in Faith Conference in Melbourne, and finally in Perth. Mother Wendy has Sisters in New South Wales and Western Australia.

All who heard Mother Wendy speak were enormously enriched with new insights from the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit never ceases to call into existence forms of Religious Life that respond to the needs of the times. So it has been for centuries, as when the founders of the great Orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and others established “Lay” or “Third” Orders within their foundations for those, both married and single, men and women, who had a vocation to the Religious Life but were unable to leave the world to live in a convent or monastery. Therefore, the Servants of the Sacred Cross, while not part of a larger Order, follows in the tradition and concept of the historic Lay Orders.

The Sisters - from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Continuing Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches - are called to take up their cross and follow Jesus in a life of prayer and service. They are both married and single, living and working in their own homes and communities under Vows of Simplicity, Purity, and Obedience.

Some Sisters have active ministries in their parishes and local communities. Others are called to a more contemplative expression of service in a life of solitude and prayerful intercession. A Convent was established in August 2007 that now has Sisters in residence. Single or widowed women called to live traditional Religious Life "in community", in a house with a contemplative ethos, profess Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. The Convent is located near Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada.

We give God thanks that he has stirred Sister Joy with a challenge to serve him and his people as a Sister in the Servants of the Sacred Cross. This has been for her a new phase in her response to God's love. She is very much stepping out in faith, and as a parish community we honour that even as we have promised to support her with our love and prayers.

In fact, seeing new expressions of the Religious Life in our church should challenge each of us to examine our hearts to see how WE are going in responding to God’s love in the particular callings he has given us.

Visit the Order’s Web Site HERE

A photograph of those who attended the Patmos House Mass at which Sister Joy Vickerstaff was clothed as a Novice of the Servants of the Sacred Cross.


Post a Comment