Solemn Evening Prayer 23 November 2017 to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of six Dominican Sisters sent from Sion Hill, Dublin in 1867 to Port ELizabeth, SA
Homilist Sr. Francis Krige OP Mission Area Prioress SA,
2 Peter 1:19-21
We possess the prophetic word that is unwavering. Pay careful attention to this word, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. You know that we do not interpret a prophetic writing on our own. No prophecy was ever initiated by human effort, but women and men moved by the Holy Spirit have spoken on behalf of God. The purpose for which Peter addressed the Christians of his time was to make every effort to enthuse them to pay attention to, to listen and to hear the gospel message to love and to live it. He assures them of the reliability of the message because he, Peter, along with James and John were present at the transfiguration and they heard the voice of God – this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, listen to him -and although the prophetic message comes through human voices, these prophets are moved by the Spirit. No prophecy is initiated by human effort.
St. Paul captured well this gift of wisdom in his letter to the Corinthians: “What we utter is God’s wisdom: a mysterious, a hidden wisdom. …Yet God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit. (I Cor 2:6ff).
In the fresco of the transfiguration painted by Fra Angelico, a Dominican friar and artist of the 15th century, included with the radiant figure of Christ, are the three disciples, Peter, James and John, Moses and the prophet Elijah through whom God spoke. Fra Angelico also includes in his fresco Mary and Dominic.
In the book of the prophet Amos 3:7 ,God explains that: “The Lord God does nothing, without revealing God’s plan to God’s servants the prophets.
Moses’ life is a response of faith to God’s revelation. Moses was aware of his mission to free his people from slavery and he was guided by his trust in God’s promise to take the chosen people to the Promised Land.
Mary, included in the fresco, below Moses, fulfilled her mission by saying “Yes” to the will of God to give birth to God’s Son whose mission was to free all people from the slavery of sin through His life, death and resurrection and thus opening the way to the true Promised Land, Heaven.
Elijah the Tishbite lived in the kingdom of Israel during the eighth century BC. His name means “my God is the Lord,” and sums up the central role of his mission: to remind people that there is only one true God and that God alone should be worshipped.
Pope Francis replying to the question in the Gospel how many people will be saved? Said “It doesn’t matter how many, but it is important that everyone knows which path leads to salvation. The same concern expressed by Pope Francis now, was the concern of Dominic 800 years ago. His anxiety was around the right for everyone to know the truth and mercy of God – but what was God sending him to do?
Fanjeaux is the area in France in which Dominic began his ministry of itinerant preaching; met his first companions and formed the first community of Holy Preaching. He spent nearly 7 years actively waiting in Fanjeaux – preaching and speaking only to God and about God.
He often prayed at a spot called Seignadou and it was while praying there that God opened Dominic’s heart to God’s will for him.
He founded an Order to preach the Gospel word of truth imitating the life pattern of the first Apostles in evangelical poverty.
Let your words and lives be the good news the world craves.
As members of the Dominican Family we are called to be servants of the word that went out from God and was made flesh’. Jn1:14.
How we live our lives gives witness to our preaching.
The quality of our lives as preachers will depend on the extent to which we are able to pay attention to God’s word – listening to the word and keeping it; listening to the word and putting it into practice; keeping it and pondering on these things as Mary did. Paying attention requires silence and an openness to hear the word and to heed to what we hear and to be transformed by what we hear, changed. This paying attention to the word is essential to our being Dominican. This way of searching for truth will always lead to love.
Jubilee is a time to re-member – to look again at ‘who I am, as a Dominican, and who we are as Dominicans in South Africa and to remember the purpose for which the Order was founded – sent to preach the Gospel of truth and mercy.
Today – the day on which 6 Cabra Dominican Sisters arrived in PE 150 years ago, we give thanks for God’s love and faithfulness over all these years and we also look to the horizon – to what is emerging!
At the request of Bishop Moran, 6 Sisters arrived in Port Elizabeth from Sion Hill, Ireland, on this day 150 years ago-sent to preach the gospel in a very specific way – through educating children in schools.
So over the 150 years schools were opened usually a fee paying school and at the same time a free school in order to carry out the mission for which the sisters were called and sent to PE. During the pilgrimages organised during the week some of you will have visited the places where the schools were established in the two areas – PE initially and then 20 years later in Uitenhage and then the Sunday’s River Valley.
6 seemed to be the magical number of sisters sent- 6 Sisters arrived in Cape Town in 1863 sent from Cabra, Ireland, 6 arrived in PE sent from Sion Hill in 1867 and 6 were sent from PE to Uitenhage 20 years later. The Dominican Sisters who came to SA were sent out 6X6 – sent to form a community for mission.
For Dominic, the paying attention to the word was so important, that he entrusted the ministry of preaching to the community.
It was from communities that sisters were sent out
- to open new schools – 13 in Port Elizabeth; 7 in Uitenhage; 2 in Kirkwood and 1 in Wesbank;
- To be a presence amongst the people of Tsolo, Gelvandale and Kleinskool;
- To minister in the townships of Walmer, Kwa Nobuchle and Langa
It was not individuals who made the decision.
It is the community that supports the sisters in their ministry – in times of joy and difficulty.
The community, through living their life of prayer, sharing of goods, compassion and solidarity with the poor faithfully, gives witness to their preaching.
It is the community that helps each one to be mutually attentive to the cries of humanity.
Initially formal school education was the major thrust to serve the cries of humanity in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and the Sunday’s River Valley but as time went on the sisters engaged in other aspects of education and formation. Justice and peace is always integral to the mission of the Sisters and those associated with them in ministry
If we look at the current situation in SA, education remains an essential call of humanity
The fall of apartheid and the onset of democracy may have given South Africans political freedom but this is just one component of freedom.
Freedom entails the absence of constraints as well as access to the means to live a meaningful life.
150 years later freedom through education is a crying need and thus the effort being given now to the establishment of Catholic School Trusts so that quality value-based education can continue into the future – an education in which we build the values of trust, love, peace, and honesty – working for the common good.
The TRUST we need to live out our lives in society, the sense of safety without which our daily lives cannot be lived in freedom, are being eroded with each new and confusing turn of events.
Truth and mercy – where is it being modelled today if as Pope Francis says
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly selfish and short-sighted. Individuals and organizations are driven toward progress and advancement without consideration of the common good.
In many ways, this is the reason why our environment has been significantly destroyed and the consequences of climate change loom before us. We have lost sight of our social nature and become obsessed with pursuing our individual needs even if it makes others suffer. This kind of mentality goes against the very core of what it means to be a child of God.
What are we being called to be attentive to now as we hear the word of God?
What generous and compassionate action are we called to in our present reality as connected beings in a connected universe?
We are called to act justly
We are called to love tenderly
We are called to serve one another and to walk humbly with our God, remembering that
there is no peace without Justice;
there is no justice without love and
that the search for truth leads to love – love of God and love of the other.
May we be transformed by paying attention to the God’s word so that the truthfulness of what we believe, lies in the way we live our lives.
And then through our words and actions the human love that is the incarnate God will invincibly prevail.
Sr. Francis Krige OP (Mission Area Prioress, SA )