Sister Maureen Broughan welcomes everyone to Sister Melinda Pellerin's First Vows.
The Sisters of St. Joseph joyously celebrated a new member to their congregation on Sunday, August 9 when Sister Melinda Pellerin professed her first vows at Holy Name Church in Springfield. Sr. Melinda became the first African American woman to join the Congregation, and Holy Name has been her home parish for some time, so the combined communities of over 300 friends, family and Sisters were present to witness this exciting event and celebrate her decision.
A theme throughout the ceremony came from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, the story of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at the well. Father Warren Savage, a spiritual advisor during her candidacy and celebrant at Sunday’s event, asked Sr. Melinda to study the passage during her time as a novice.
For his homily, Father Savage came down to speak directly to Sr. Melinda in a “public spiritual direction”. He spoke of the Samaritan woman approaching the well at noon--“a weird time of the day”--because she was thirsty, much as Sr. Melinda chose her path at a different time of life than many Sisters. Sr. Melinda is 57, and decided to join the Community after a successful career as a teacher.
"The Samaritan Woman's differences made her stand out," Sr. Melinda wrote in her testimony. "The other women went to the well in the morning, she waited until noon. She met Jesus in the afternoon and He asked for water. Jesus challenged her at the well and the Samaritan woman opened her heart to Him."
“Here is God--Jesus--asking something of you," Father Savage reminded Sr. Melinda in his homily. "God wants something of you.”
Father Savage supplemented his commentary on the Gospel of John--a story that reflected “all people who are lost, outcast or rejected”--with a thorough reading of the Constitution of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, which he called “one of the most beautiful spiritual works I have ever read.”
“What I like about the Constitution is, it’s not about the Sisters of St. Joseph,” he said. “It’s about the Gospel. It’s about how they intend to put flesh on the Gospel in the world, how they’re going to be more like Jesus. That’s what it’s about.”
Sr. Melinda receives a cross - a symbol of her profession -
from Sr. Maureen Broughan, Novice Director, while Sr. Maxyne Schneider and
Sr. Theresa Croteau witness her vows.
The Rite of Profession that followed took place in Holy Name Church, where Sr. Melinda serves as a pastoral minister. Sr. Natalie Cain, the Coordinator of Membership for the Congregation, said it added a special poignancy to the proceedings, as many members of her parish were on hand to share in this important event.
“There’s a point in the ceremony where the Sisters stand and hold out their hand to bless the new member,” she said. “We all stood and promised to support and love and encourage Melinda. And then members of the Holy Name Parish community stood, and they too promised to continue to love and encourage her. All these people--hundreds--standing in support of Sr. Melinda. It was very moving.”
“May all of you drink joyously, may you drink abundantly, and may your life reflect all that God is,” Father Savage concluded, returning to the well metaphor one last time. “God is love.”
All photos by James Pelletier.
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