The Council of Women Religious

Jubilee 2019

The Council of Women Religious for the Diocese of Raleigh

(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… in Colossians

Ø Chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God has picked out for you…

Ø That is compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline

Ø And that regardless of what else we put on, wear love. 

Ø It is our basic, all-purpose garment.  Never be without it. 

Ø And lastly cultivate thankfulness.


In Psalm 65 we hear…

Ø God, I can’t get enough of you. 

Ø You have always stood up for me… and therefore I am free to run and play. 

Ø 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…

Ø I have loved you the way my father has loved me. 

Ø Love one another the way I love you. 

Ø Put your life on the line for others. 

Ø I chose you… and put you in this world to bear fruit. 

Ø 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 she did. 


When we are truly listening for God’s voice, we will hear it many ways.


Ø Damian told me that her life as a Sister of Saint Francis excites her… and that it always has. 

Ø That her companionship with God excites her

Ø And that being able to minister to the needs of others excites her.

Ø That bringing a Franciscan presence into her ministry excites her and that

Ø 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. 

Ø 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 since. 


This love relationship, this personal experiential relationship with God, has informed and spilled over into her everyday ministry.


Ø In 1969, Damian became Associate Director at the Passionist Retreat Center in Maryland. 

Ø 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.


Ø She was the Director of Avila Retreat Center in Durham, NC for 30 years. 

Ø While there, she acquired five years of grants for annual weekend programs on church leadership for the African American and Hispanic populations. 


Ø From 1984-2000, Damian served as Co-Vicar for Religious with Fr. Joe Vetter.


Ø 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. 


Ø And since her retirement, Damian now serves in a ministry of presence to folks in Durham and the surrounding area. 


Ø 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 well…

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 whole cake.


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…


Ø Damian chose a life of love,

Ø She has shown compassion, kindness, humility and quiet strength in her religious commitment.

Ø She has cultivated a grateful heart. 

Ø God’s presence within her has been steadfast. 

Ø 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. 

Ø 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.


Carol Marozzi

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Council of Women Religious
Diocese of Raleigh, NC

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