Monday, February 11, 2019
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | Consecrated religious, wearing the habits and robes of their various orders, filled the pews of St. Mary Cathedral Feb. 2 as Archbishop Thomas Wenski celebrated a Mass in honor of the World Day of Consecrated Life.
On behalf of South Florida’s Catholics, the archbishop paid special tribute to two religious jubilarians, from different corners of the world, one celebrating 60 years of consecrated life and the other celebrating 25 years.
“The communal aspect has been very positive for me,” said Marist Brother Edmund Sheehan, 77, celebrating his diamond anniversary in the congregation. “The style, charism has made me feel fulfilled as a person. I don’t have any plans to retire.”
Born in Esopus, N.Y., Brother Sheehan attended St. Helena School in the Bronx. He said the example of the Marist brothers inspired him to join the order. He received his habit in 1959. He then earned degrees from Marist College, the University of Miami, New York University and the University of Texas, Austin. He has worked as an English teacher, school administrator and librarian at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami for 35 years.
“I’ve had three go-rounds at Columbus,” he said. “In between, I’ve worked at Archbishop Molloy High School, Queens, New York, St. Joseph Academy in Texas and Servite High School in California. I’ve seen Columbus grow from 300 in the early 1960s to 1,700 students today.”
Brother Sheehan considers the library the best place on campus. “That’s where anyone can come to learn on their own,” he said. “Electronic media has enhanced discovery.”
Sister Mary Gracious Onwukwe, known as Sister Maryg, 49, was born in Nigeria and had her religious formation in her home country. She professed her vows in 1994 in the diocese of Okigwe, Nigeria. Like Brother Sheehan, Sister Maryg said the example of her school teachers in Mbano, Nigeria, inspired her to join a religious community. Like her teachers, she became a Daughter of Mary, Mother of Mercy.
“Their lives really touched me,” said Sister Maryg, who was celebrating her silver anniversary. She works as a nurse at Baptist Hospital in Homestead. She started as a nurse in her hometown, then came to Miami where she served at St. Ann’s Nursing Home until 2009. Sister Maryg went to Maryland in 2009 and worked at a nursing home there until returning to Miami in 2017.
At the beginning of a reception after Mass, Sister Maryg, along with fellow Nigerian sisters from her order, Sister Therese Martin and Sister Mary Agatha, surprised other religious when they sang a meal blessing in their native Igbo language, then handed the microphone over to Archbishop Wenski, who recited the blessing in English.
The archbishop thanked the men and women religious who seek to follow Christ by living lives of self-giving love in imitation of Christ who came not to be served but to serve.
“This radical devotion to pleasing God above all others can result in the utter incomprehension of those around us, even at times, it results in their opposition, sometimes fierce opposition,” the archbishop said in his homily. “Religious life today is certainly a sign of contradiction in our secularized and sexualized world. Often even family members who share the faith find it hard to understand why anyone would choose to live a vowed life marked by poverty, obedience and perfect chastity.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, the archbishop presented the two jubilarians with certificates in honor of their years of dedicated service.
“They are celebrating significant milestones in their lives,” he said. “In good times and in bad, when convenient and when inconvenient, you seek to love with the heart of Christ.”