Sacred Heart Convent chapel was dedicated on October 6, 1968, a remarkable year in the history of the world for myriad reasons. The year encompassed two assassinations, the Vietnam War, riots in the streets of Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. And—in the midst of all that was the dedication of Sacred Heart Convent Chapel.
What did a solemn liturgical event on that autumn Sunday afternoon mean amid the conflict and strife facing our world that year?
Sister Phyllis Schenk made first profession of vows in the new chapel a few months before the formal dedication in October 1968. That very day thousands of citizens gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC, for the Poor People’s Campaign initiated by the recently slain Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In a homily she preached during the Springfield Dominican’s assembly in June 2018, Sister Phyllis shared the story of a missionary friend who witnessed the difference the Gospel made in a Nicaraguan community once beset with violence. The missionary gave the villagers Bibles and moved on, only to return two years later. The community was transformed.
“It was completely different,” Sister Phyllis recounted. “No one was killing their neighbor. The power of God’s word had built a rock-strong foundation for their lives. Their lives had become that temple God was building.
That’s what it looks like for someone who listens and acts on God’s word. Somehow, we who faithfully sit with that word every day become the temple where God dwells. As surely as it did for the people of that village in Nicaragua, that Word will change us. That indwelling spirit will build of us a house of God.
“What we celebrate is not just the structure that surrounds us but what has happened within us who are faithful to listening and acting on the Word of God,” Sister Phyllis reminded us.
A space for prayer like the temple to which St. Paul refers, or our own beautiful chapel, does its work by drawing us into relationship with the Holy, with one another, and with God’s creation.
Watch Sister Phyllis’ preaching here, or read the text.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Sunday, October 7, 2018, when we host Sacred Time, Sacred Space, an open house in celebration of 50 years of prayerful grounding in the mission of God at Sacred Heart Convent. We hope to see you there!