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Stand Up Sisters! Holy Week
from Sacred Heart Convent

In the midst of quarantine, the Sisters who reside at Sacred Heart Convent, Springfield, Ill., took responsibility for preaching during Holy Week. Here are the words of the preachers.


Easter Sunday: Sister Judith Hilbing, OP

Preaching on the Gospel of John, chapter 20.

We know this Resurrection Story. We know about “that” Day and the evening of “that” Day. We can’t help but love some of the characters that flow through these Easter chapters. We can sense the canopy of wonder that surged through the heart of Mary Magdalene.

She, the first woman, to preach resurrected life, did it alone—courageously—that first time, and then later together with a variety of companions. We know Mary’s commitment to the language and acts of love, laughter, tears, and reverence for life. Mary was given a voice that rippled through the years in a male-encrusted society. Mary Magdalene—along with young John, impulsive Peter, the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Nicodemus, the ministering women, and even doubting Thomas—are the resurrection believers who point us towards a future filled with mercy.

These are the questioners and preachers—not only capable of amazement, but of new lives lived with integrity and courage. They were graced by a God who believes in the beauty of all things broken. Can we see ourselves as “broken and diminishing” and be questioned by such daring and vitality? Do we yearn for inclusiveness, and healing relationships, even when we don’t recognize the grace?


So will we remember to choose space for the marginalized, the different, the broken, the strangers, the women, the children, the elders, and the dreamers as we offer our testimonio de vida?


So what is our capacity for stretching into the understanding that faith—not sight—is what matters?

“Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed.”

God’s power within us is like a current that when it is turned on illuminates and energizes us.

In this Lent of 2020, our journey has been filled with solidarity and compassion. We celebrated Holy Week in a distinctive way.

Winds blew and structures vibrated. The Coronavirus prevailed. Commitments shifted. Friends died. Life styles changed, but the infrastructures that support the integrity of our lives continued to be Prayer, Study, Community, and Preaching.

So will we remember to choose space for the marginalized, the different, the broken, the strangers, the women, the children, the elders, and the dreamers as we offer our testimonio de vida?

Will we always articulate our desire to continue to nurture mutual relationships with our Dominican associates, co-workers, Dominican Monastery Nuns, the Dominican Alliance, Dominican Volunteers, and so many justice, ecology, immigration and antiracism groups?

The resurrection of Jesus leaves in its wake streams of life and mercy. So step by step, choice by choice, grace by grace, our structures will survive as we come to grips with our efforts to pick up the gifts we have discarded as we listen deeply to each other and to the brokenness of the world.

Energy for the mission pulsates through Mary Magdalene, our Dominican Family and each of us. May our verdant preaching continue to surface in rituals, conversations, smiles, two-by-two shared food, sabbath times, technology, acts of kindness, unrelenting meetings, as well as in social distancing.

We continue to carry hope in small increments to the public forum by our choice of location for new ministries, like Bethany House in Chicago and among the homeless and immigrants in Springfield.

We are the voices and faces of Resurrection—we are the women and the disciples—we are the devastated and the dreamers—we are the mercy givers. We are the doubters and the preachers of new life. We are Jesus’s friend, Mary Magdalene, and all those who love the praxis of resurrected life.

Let us go forth with the news—with the recognition that “Jesus has risen” and let us live that belief. Let us be “Alleluia” people where hope takes up residence in our communal heart.

May the people continue to say and to sing “Alleluia!”


Sister Judith is the prioress of Sacred Heart Convent.


Easter Vigil: Sister Mila Díaz Solano, OP

en español

Mary of Magdala and the other Mary who went to the tomb of Jesus, still facing darkness, experiencing uncertainty about the future, grieving for their beloved, longing for the communion they had with him, struggling to let go the normal days of learning and sharing meals with Jesus, searching for meaning about the recent events. We also come today with similar feelings and experience.

Sister Mila DiazTo these women, walking, perhaps with many questions in their heads and a turmoil in their hearts, and yet, anticipating dawning, ¡Dios le salió al paso! God came to them! God reached them! Such appearance felt perhaps like a burst that swept away all that was going inside of them. It might have felt something like the first explosion of millions and millions of years ago that caused our universe to exist. They found no other way to describe it but with an earthquake. And dawn finally came.

My sisters, also in the midst of our anxieties, worries, and concern for the increasing numbers of people infected and dying of the COVID-19, amid isolation and restrictions which are wearing down our patience, in the middle of what seems to be twilight, we gather here this night. And God is coming to us. God is also reaching us as He/She reached the two women.

God is approaching us this Holy Night with words that remind us Who is the God in which we believe. We heard in the previous readings of the Scripture that God our Creator, out of darkness brought forth light, and our universe exists.


While still facing darkness, struggling with uncertainty, searching for meaning, we are called to be women who anticipate the dawn.


Our Liberator God, amid suffering and captivity, effected liberation, and we recognize ourselves as God’s people.

Our Loving God, in the middle of destruction, exile, and despair inspired prophets, and we— as Israel did—experience a God of forgiveness and love. Our God, Source of Salvation, among the invisible ones, the marginalized and the oppressed, decided to be incarnated, and we became God’s family.

Our God Giver of Life, from death brought forth resurrection, and so eternity is open to us.

Through the millions of the angels of today God is rolling back the stones that distanced us from each other. Through nurses, doctors, and essential workers in hospitals and nursing homes; people delivering groceries to the elderly, ministers reaching the lonely and sad; organizations taking care of the homeless, the immigrants in detention centers, the incarcerated, the invisible ones of the society, God’s presence and action in our history is clear.

Through angels offering words of comfort with prayers, reflections, songs, paintings, photographs in the media, we hear God’s voice “Do not be afraid!” Through the countless comics that brings us laughter in a gloomy and agitated day, God is telling us that death cannot have, and will not have, the last word.

Here in our own home God is saying to us: Do not be afraid! Can you see the buds of the trees and the flowers blooming in your yard as a sign of my promise to you? Can you see the eggs deposited by mother duck one more time as a sign of trust and hope? Can you see the smile in your sister's face or her laughter as a sign of God’s grace? Yes, Resurrection is happening around us!

Moreover, the tons of toxic materials spewed by multinational enterprises in many places of our planet have ceased and our Earth is breathing new life. Resurrection is happening for our Planet!

The experience of these women in the Gospel of Matthew did not end with words of comfort. The two Marys received the words of strength from the angel to be carriers of hope and good tidings to the community of disciples. Likewise, we are gathered here this night to join our universe in celebration, and to be sent. While still facing darkness, struggling with uncertainty, searching for meaning, we are called to be women who anticipate the dawn. We are called to be women who proclaim the God in whom we believe. God is sending us to our Galilee to witness resurrection…Here in presence, beyond our doors, in creative ways.

The Risen One will reach us while we are creatively announcing Resurrection. In hidden and unexpected places, we will hear as did Mary of Magdala and the other Mary “Rejoice! I am going ahead of you!”

And so, stand up sisters! Let us be a community that anticipates the dawn! Let us join our voices to the millions and millions of believers around our planet and sing together:

RESUCITÓ, RESUCITÓ, RESUCITÓ, ALELUYA!

ALELUYA, ALELUYA, ALELUYA, RESUCITÓ…ALELUYA!


Sister Mila is a member of the Springfield Dominican Leadership Team and a a biblical scholar. Her home is in Peru, though she now lives in Springfield, Ill.


Good Friday: Sister Santina DeLuca, OP

Will we ever be able to fathom God’s immense love, such selflessness in showing us how to live? Will we ever be able to fully appreciate God carrying our sins, dysfunctions, and pride to wash them away in Jesus’ own blood?  God knows our hearts!

A story: on Mother’s Day, 1952, at St. Ann’s Parish in Chicago Heights, my classmates and I processed to the communion rail for the first time.

We sang a simple yet profound song: Jesus, for thee I live, Jesus for thee I die, Jesus, I am thine in life and in death. Jesus, I believe in thee, Jesus, I hope in thee, Jesus, I love thee, in life and in death.

Recalling that moment all these years later, I realize that THAT was an early focus of my relationship with God. I became familiar with self-giving. Each of us has special recollections. There were experiences in our youth that were graced opportunities in our individual journeys. Jesus led us to his Father, OUR Father, OUR Creator of this awesome Cosmos! And Jesus assured us that the Spirit was within to guide us and to strengthen us, in every way.

We recall how we grew in knowledge—in faith—in deepened friendship with God. We told God all our joys. We grieved our sorrows. Details of our sufferings and heartaches and worries and fears were and are poured out into the healing heart of God. We learned what Jesus understood. In living and in dying, we give of self. And God—who initiates—returns self in abundance! Always!

From before the cosmos burst forth, oh wondrous Creator, you chose to pour out your love on all that comes into being. And we, brought forth with intelligence and freedom and will, are blessed to know Jesus’ life among us. In Jesus—teaching and healing and reaching out to all people; challenging the self-assured; forgiving the broken—in ALL that, Jesus shows us how to live and how to give of self. Totally!

Self-giving is the gold standard of Love! I believe that at the first moment of life in our mother’s womb, the Creator gave a tiny spark of a connection…the DNA of an eternal relationship with God!

In our early years of development, we saw love in action. We felt Love! We grew to believe in the Eternal Love. Our relationships grew. As young women the inner yearning was so profound that we answered the call. We pronounced vows that would direct that tiny spark of self-givng through each major event in our lives. And that tiny spark grew within that eternal connection until the fire of that Love has linked us to thousands of persons—brothers and sisters, all!


Before the cosmos burst forth, oh wondrous Creator, you chose to pour out your love on all that comes into being.


Oh, the many ways we have brought the Good News to others! And with what joy in our lives! With sincere concern we have brought the needs of all those persons known and unknown, before the loving, healing heart of Jesus. In every way possible we are in solidarity with the rostros concretos of the marginalized. Who are they today? Who is suffering with Jesus on this Good Friday?

  • those desperately ill
  • exhausted medical personnel & emergency responders, putting the patients first
  • conscientious leaders begging for more medical equipment & supplies
  • retired medical professionals stepping-up to relieve overworked staff
  • the homeless and poor, realizing some help as ordinary citizens purchase foods to place in micro pantry boxes, on street corners
  • restaurateurs making free meals for children depending on school lunches, though they are unable to open their restaurants for profit.
  • people of every faith tradition praying for the critically ill
  • scientists racing to develop a vaccine to help put down this pandemic
  • the nameless refugees caught between misery and freedom
  • those enslaved in the torture of trafficking
  • those abused
  • neighbors helping neighbors in need
  • workers laid off and unsure of income
  • people who minister in synagogues, mosques, churches, and temples who are live-streaming services, Masses, rituals to keep their communities connected & spiritually nourished
  • families having no medical coverage
  • pregnant mothers worried for the health of their babies
  • sisters at Sacred Heart Convent praying for each other, family, friends, benefactors, associates, co-workers, & many brothers & sisters who need strength and God's presence
  • those without hope.

Jesus, we see you in them.. We embrace them in your name.

On this memorial of your Good Friday, we present to you all these who are on their journey to Calvary. May they come to know that they are never alone.

You, Creator, Christ, and Spirit, fill them with the fire of your healing love, here and now! One day may they realize the brilliance of your presence. For now, as you are expansive, we hold all these—our beloved brothers and sisters—before you in prayer. We journey in that truth, offering our testimonio de vida. We trust that you will provide for their needs, always. With them, we hope.


Sister Santina is an educator and pastoral minister who now resides at Sacred Heart Convent.


Holy Thursday: Sister Mary Jean Traeger, OP

Sister Mary Jean TraegerThis has been a Lent like none we’ve ever known before. Due to the Coronavirus, we began by agreeing to forego the daily Eucharistic meal in solidarity with those who have no priests, and, therefore, have no choice. Sheltering in place, social distancing at meals, and sharing household duties with our co-workers is evoking simplicity in us. Medical caregivers all around us demonstrate selfless love, even to the point of giving their lives in some places.  We are amazed at the new ways love is manifest among us, not just surface love but deep and holy love that touches us profoundly and sends us back to prayer.

Meanwhile, as we come together in community on this Holy Thursday evening, we are drawn back to the memory of a time before formal Eucharistic celebrations had developed, a time when followers of Jesus gathered in local communities, in clusters, in family homes to share meals and faith.


As we look back from our vantage point of faith in Jesus, we are aware of a new intensity in our midst, a solemnity that calls us to be attentive. We are grateful to be here, for no one need be excluded from this sacred evening.


There’s an art piece I love, which can help us set the scene for tonight’s  Gospel according to John. The community of the Beloved Disciple have come together as worshipping believers. A low dining table has been set with a large number of people—men, women and children—from various households who have come to be with Jesus. There’s no special order, but each wants to be close, each sensing Jesus’ personal love for her or him. The meal is over, but no one is in a hurry to leave. The group is large, so some people are crowded around on the floor, quietly talking and feeling blest to be present. They gather as friends of Jesus—friends and so much  more, for they have come to understand something of the mystery of who he is. We, too, have joined them, to recall the words of Jesus and to find, in John’s gospel, the depths of the Father’s love in Jesus, our brother and Lord. It’s a time when the community is grateful to be with their Lord—in expectation, in simplicity, in union and in love. And, we, too, are here.

As we look back from our vantage point of faith in Jesus, we are aware of a new intensity in our midst, a solemnity that calls us to be attentive. We are grateful to be here, for no one need be excluded from this sacred evening.

Only Jesus is aware of a single departure and we sense, rather than see, a loving sadness in Jesus as Judas leaves the community for the last time.

After a while, Jesus stands and dons a servant’s apron, picks up a basin and fills it with water.  Reverently we rearrange ourselves to make room for Jesus to pass among us. Remembering the Gospel story, we wait with bated breath for what we know is coming next. Eventually Jesus kneels before one of our company and begins to wash her feet. We can tell she is stunned by the tenderness he shares with her. He looks into her eyes and smiles before moving on. We are alert, now, for we know what he is doing.

One by one, he reaches each of us, washing our feet gently: at times he names some kindness he knows we have performed: driving a sister to the doctor, washing up after a meal, pushing a wheelchair back to a sister’s room, visiting a sister who has fallen or is hospitalized, accompanying one on her final journey home. We’ve all given or received these acts of kindness in our day, and we know what they mean. With loving warmth, he reminds us—all of us—that what we have done is done for him.

Each of us receives a loving touch or a word of gratitude. We are all disciples, and he knows what we have done for one another. When he has washed each person’s feet, he stands, and so do we. One by one, he embraces us.  He knows these are troubling times. He knows we are worried for those who are at risk, for those who are fragile and afraid.

Putting away his apron, he seats himself once again in our midst and says, “Do you know what I have done for you? I have given you a model to follow; as I have done for you, you should also do—again and again for each other, every day for all the days you have.”

“There may be hard times ahead, as there have been for me,” he says. “But the Spirit is with you and I am always near.  When this virus is finally past, you will understand how to share my love more deeply because of what you have seen and heard, what you have learned and understood.”

Now, tonight,” he concludes, “let this water remind you of my love unto death. See in the eyes of each sister, each brother, each friend, each neighbor—see the need for the loving kindness I call you to give.”

I will be with you always, in love, in grace and in mercy.

Sister Mary Jean Traeger is a veteran pastoral minister and former prioress general of the congregation. She writes a weekly reflection on the Sunday scripture for her Facebook page.

Palm Sunday: Sister Marilyn Jean Runkel, OP

On Palm Study, Jesus appears riding on a borrowed colt. Shouts of Hosanna fill the air, shouts of praise and honor.

Jesus, of course, knew those shouts of glory were very temporary. The days ahead would find him living out the words of Paul in our second reading: “He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. He emptied himself, he humbled himself, he was obedient, even to death on a cross.” (Philippians: 6-11.)

We gather at this celebration of Palm Sunday, which is different from any other Palm Sunday.

We may be a bit weary from all the adaptations we have made because of the coronavirus. The last two weeks have been far from normal. We may be concerned about the impact of the pandemic encompassing the entire world.

We may be weary for other reasons as well.

  • Troublesome political partisanship
  • Unrest and violence throughout the world
  • Scandals in our Church

And what is flint? It is a variety of quartz that when struck sparks a fire.


Yet, the words of Isaiah in the first reading give us hope. It is as if Jesus is speaking directly to us.

“The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them." (Isaiah 50:4)

Of course, the words spoken in the Passion according to Matthew did rouse us. We are ready to journey with Jesus as we once again recall the grief and glory of the Paschal Mystery.

Isaiah’s first reading has another message of expectation for us: “Each morning I am awakened to hear, to listen like a disciple. I set my face like flint.” (Isaiah 50:5)

And what is flint? It is a variety of quartz that when struck sparks a fire. We set our purpose like flint. Is not love a fire that burns within our hearts? What might serve as our piece of flint sparking a fire within our hearts during this Holy Week?

We have an opportunity to take that “long loving look” and accept a call to contemplation. “Contemplation transforms us to listen deeply to one another.” (Prayer for the Life of the World)

Contemplating Christ’s passion this week, we will come to know who we are; we will discover anew that we belong to the Christ who has given himself for our sake. We will come to an ever-evolving consciousness about those to whom we are sent and how it is that we belong to each other.

We belong to Christ as vowed Dominican women. We belong to each other as vowed Dominican women. We are the Body of Christ and we are Christ to one another and to the world.

As we contemplate and embrace the Jesus who lives within each of us, the Jesus who came in glory on Palm Sunday, the Jesus who died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, we witness his poverty, his chaste love, his total obedience.

Our “long loving look” at the Paschal Mystery deepens our awareness of what Jesus has been doing in us all along, and what Christ continues to do in us through the Spirit.

Namely:

  • deepening our sense of community,
  • gifting us with the vulnerability to reach out to one another in love and forgiveness,
  • guiding us to an expansion of the expression of our vows, (Prayer for the Life of the World)
  • as we continue our Mission: to preach to the weary a Word that will rouse them.

Sister Marilyn Jean teaches organizational development at Benedictine University.

3 thoughts on “Stand Up Sisters! Holy Week<br> from Sacred Heart Convent”

  1. Mary Ellen Larson

    Wonderful and inspiring words Sister!!! Blessings on your Easter!!!
    Love to you and all the Sisters !
    ❤️🙏🏻✝️❤️🤓🐶
    Mary Ellen and Emily

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