By Anne Marie Amacher
LONG GROVE — “It was indeed a blessed day,” said Sister JonFe Marie de Torres following a Mass during which she professed solemn vows as a Discalced Carmelite Nun (OCD). The ceremony took place June 26 at St. Ann Church in Long Grove.
It has been 14 years since a Sister professed final vows with the Carmelites, said Sister Lynne Elwinger, prioress of the Eldridge monastery. But, she noted, other Sisters have transferred into the religious order since that time.
Sister Mary Jo Loebig, OCD, greeted those in attendance as the sun shone through the windows and skylight of the church into the sanctuary.
Bishop Martin Amos celebrated the Mass, which was concelebrated by six other priests. Father Marty Goetz, director of vocations for the Davenport Diocese, served as master of ceremonies.
During his homily, Bishop Amos spoke about Sr. de Torres’ choosing to join religious life in a cloistered community. “There are some, no doubt, who would wonder how anyone could waste their lives, especially living in a cloistered community.”
He referred to Scripture passages in the Book of Samuel and John’s Gospel that spoke of listening to God’s call. In welcoming Sr. de Torres’ response to God’s call, the bishop said, “May my joy be with you, and your joy be complete.”
The bishop said this special day was not the end of Sr. de Torres’ journey, “but the continuation of a journey begun in baptism and now lived in solemn vows.”
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul affirms that Christ possesses the sum total of redemptive power and that spiritual renewal occurs through contact in baptism with the person of Christ, the bishop said. “True Christian asceticism consists in conquering personal sins and the practice of love of neighbor in accordance with the standard set by Christ in today’s second reading. ‘Put on as God’s chosen one: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving one another and over all these put on love.’”
It is about this love that the bishop spoke. He said people “love” pizza, their dog, their spouse, their Sisters in their community and God. “Obviously there is a great deal of difference between those pictures,” he said to a laughing congregation. But there are different kinds of love, and the Greek language identifies three: eros, philos and agape.
Agape is the “love that God has for us,” the bishop said. “Agape love is reflected in true married love. I take you for better or worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health …. It is reflected in your solemn vows to be a part of this community of Sisters: for better or worse, in good times and bad, in sickness and health, all the days of life.
“It is a love that is not based on what the other can do, but on your choice to love them. This kind of love cannot fail,” the bishop said. “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”
Following the homily, Bishop Amos asked Sr. de Torres several questions about her readiness to profess final vows to which she answered, “I am.”
She then lay prostrate before the altar during the Litany of Saints and afterwards rose to make her profession before Sr. Elwinger. The prioress and Sr. Loebig placed a mantle over Sr. de Torres’ shoulders. She lit a candle from the flame of the Easter candle and signed her vow formula. Bishop Amos blessed her veil, which was then placed on her head. The bishop gave a solemn blessing and consecration of the professed, during which Sr. de Torres knelt.
After Mass, Sr. de Torres said, “I have always wished that all those who would come and witness the ceremony would feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during the ceremony. I feel that my wish was granted.” Professing final vows “gave me the grace of freedom to give myself totally to the call without reserve,” Sr. de Torres said. Throughout the Mass, “I felt a certain kind of serenity that I have never felt before.”
Sr. de Torres’ brother, Joel, came in from New Jersey for the Mass and read the second reading of the liturgy. He said he was excited and happy for his sister and wished he could have spent more time with her during his visit. A reception followed Mass in the great hall at St. Ann Parish.