August 15, 2004

Profession of Final Vows in the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Catherine McAuley would have rejoiced to join in the dancing with over 50 of her Sisters in Chulucanas, Peru July 31. Representing Institutes of Mercy around the world, they gathered for the Profession of Final Vows by Maria Elena Anto Pasache in the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Mari (Mary) is a native of Chulucanas and the first Sister of Mercy from the town to profess final vows. The profession liturgy was held in her home parish, San Ramon. His Excellency Daniel Turley, OSA, Bishop of the Diocese of Chulucanas presided, and Sister Christine McCann, President of the Regional Community of Merion, received Mari's vows.

Mercy hospitality was abundant as the streams of guests arrived for several days before the ceremony. The Diocese of Chulucanas assisted by provided rooms in its diocesan center and in the Bishop's residence to accommodate the travelers arriving by air, bus, and truck. Meals were served at the diocesan center, interrupted by shouts of delight as each new contingent arrived and was greeted. Sisters serving throughout Peru joined those who came from other countries. Argentines, English; Irish, Canadians, Australians, and those from the United States - all joined our Peruvian Sisters in enthusiastic welcome and celebration, transcending language barriers.

Lunch before the ceremony was prepared and hosted by the staff of CEO Betania, an economic development project for women sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. There was a flurry of pre-lunch purchasing of the many wonderful crafts created and sold by the women and many exclamations over the intricately decorated cakes and the tamales being prepared for that evening's gala celebration.

All Sisters of Mercy gathered at the Church of San Ramon at 4:30 PM to enter in procession. The church was filled with parish members, proud to celebrate this special event for their parish and for the Anto family. The youth of the parish sang in jubilation as the ceremony began. All prayed and rejoiced with Mari as she lay prostrate before the altar and then as she pronounced her vows.

The entire congregation was invited to continue the celebration at the diocesan center, a short distance away. There, the walls were covered with brightly lettered sayings of Catherine McAuley and places were set for over 300 guests. The previously admired cakes were in a place of honor.

After a toast to Mari, the entertainment began with performances of Peruvian dances by both young and old. Reyna Silva, a member of the Peruvian community, performed the Marinera, the national dance of Peru. Mari danced with her father and other members of her family, and then all were invited to join the dance. A festive meal of goat and tamales was served to each guest.

One period of surprise entertainment was provided when music from the United States suddenly began. Mari, during her visits to the United States, had learned several popular dances and had asked an American friend to bring the music with her. The Peruvians watched with great amusement as the Americans danced the "Twist", the "Electric Slide", and other popular numbers.

The occasion of Mari's profession was truly an opportunity to rejoice in the growth of Mercy in Peru. It is an inspiration to see the depth of the dedication of our Peruvian Sisters to their people and to their God. They are vibrant, energetic, joyful, and committed. The seeds planted by many Mercy women, from Ireland, Canada, England, and the United States, are now flowering brightly. Catherine would dance for joy.

Margaret Taylor rsm

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