(I am using the Message Bible
Translation, which is a different translation than what we heard
today, but the same message…)
In the readings this morning we hear…
Chosen by God for this
new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God has picked out for you…
That is compassion,
kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline
And that regardless of
what else we put on, wear love.
It is our basic,
all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
And lastly cultivate
In Psalm 65 we hear…
God, I can’t get enough
You have always stood
up for me… and therefore I am free to run and play.
I hold on to you for
dear life… and you hold on to me, steady as a post.
In the Gospel of John we hear…
I have loved you the
way my father has loved me.
Love one another the
way I love you.
Put your life on the
line for others.
I chose you… and put
you in this world to bear fruit.
Remain in my love.
If any of you are working on a list
of New Year’s resolutions, you may well want to consult these
passages from today’s readings.
Today we celebrate the World Day for
Consecrated Life…. along with a commitment of 65 years to religious
life by Sister Damian Marie Jackson. I had an opportunity to talk
with Damian this past week …and after listening to her …and
listening to today’s readings, I believe that Damian is living what
the gospel is asking of ALL of us today.
Sister Damian is definitely a
“faithful woman of God”. The roots of her call to becoming a Sister
of Saint Francis of Philadelphia began to take root in her heart
…sometime after graduation from high school. She listened
attentively for God’s voice… both in her times of prayer, in nature
and through the words of others. In the end, God spoke to Damian
through a co-worker who said, “Helen, when are you going to stop
putting this off? It’s time for you to contact the Sisters” …and so
When we are truly listening for God’s
voice, we will hear it many ways.
Damian told me that her
life as a Sister of Saint Francis excites her… and that it always
That her companionship
with God excites her
And that being able to
minister to the needs of others excites her.
That bringing a
Franciscan presence into her ministry excites her and that
During this Jubilee
Year, as she reflects on her experiences and memories, she marvels
at God’s gift of transforming grace… and this excites her.
I believe that living a
commitment of 65 years in religious live and still experiencing
excitement… is a sign of a true love relationship.
Damian told me the there have been
many memorable experiences that she has had in her religious life,
…but that the most cherished one …was in the late 70’s when she was
permitted to spend 40 days and nights at a Jesuit center in Monroe,
NY. This was a time spent in silence, fasting and prayer in a
hermitage setting. She took with her only a notebook and her bible.
During this time, she was given the gift of spiritual insights and
personal experiences of God, …which have remained with her ever
This love relationship, this personal
experiential relationship with God, has informed and spilled over
into her everyday ministry.
In 1969, Damian became
Associate Director at the Passionist Retreat Center in Maryland.
She was the first woman
…and the first non-Passionist to be named to the Retreat and
Apostolic Center Commission of the Passionist Community of Men
She was also the first woman … after
Vatican II … to be named by Bishop McShea of Allentown, PA. to the
Diocesan Commission on Ecumenism.
It seems that very early on in her
ministry, others recognized her natural talents and her religious
commitment and entrusted her with the faith development in others.
In (what is the date?)…. Damian
blessed the Diocese of Raleigh with her presence.
She was the Director of
Avila Retreat Center in Durham, NC for 30 years.
While there, she
acquired five years of grants for annual weekend programs on church
leadership for the African American and Hispanic populations.
From 1984-2000, Damian
served as Co-Vicar for Religious with Fr. Joe Vetter.
The city of Durham
recognized her as a servant leader and role model to the women of
the Durham Community, … nominating her for two consecutive years for
the Silver Medallion Award for Women of Achievement.
And since her
retirement, Damian now serves in a ministry of presence to folks in
Durham and the surrounding area.
This includes serving
on the bereavement committee in her local parish, visiting the home
bound, doing spiritual companioning both at her home … and sometimes
over breakfast at McDonald’s.
It seems that this WELL of love and
relationship with God … that has taken over in her … is still over
flowing … and as the Gospel says “she just can’t get enough of it.”
I would say that Damian has been true
blessing for our Diocese. Thank you Damian.
When I asked Damian ”Why do you love
religious life” she told me this story, … which I believe says it
My mother taught me a life lesson
when I was seven years old. My family didn’t have much …. as far as
material things go. There was a bakery near by that sold big bags of
broken up cake for 5 cents. One day Mom said,” Helen, Go to the
bakery and get a bag of cake.” My sisters and brother sat around the
kitchen table waiting for the treat. Mom tore open the bag … and
they all dove in for a variety of pieces.
But, I DIDN’T. I asked, “Mom, Are we
ever going to have a whole cake like everybody else?” Mom looked at
me and said, “ Some day we’ll have a whole cake … but it won’t be as
much fun. Look in our bag… we have so many kinds and colors of
cake.” Damian said that after that day she never really wanted a
Today she realizes more that ever …
that she has I had a big bag of colorful, beautiful pieces of cake
throughout her religious life. She told me … that this best
describes the source of her joy.
So let’s get back to the readings we
heard just a short while ago…
Damian chose a life of
She has shown
compassion, kindness, humility and quiet strength in her religious
She has cultivated a
God’s presence within
her has been steadfast.
She has loved God … as
God has loved her …and has shared this love for the last 65 years
with whoever comes into her path.
And her greatest desire
… is to remain in that love.
Congratulations Sr. Damian. Today
we celebrate with you and with all consecrated women and men around
the world. You have certainly demonstrated
what it means to live a life of service to God … and to your
neighbor. We are so happy to be celebrating with you today.