Sister Mary Clare Eichman professes her perpetual vows
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
INDEPENDENCE - There is no time more appropriate for a woman to profess perpetual vows to a religious order than the vigil of Pentecost, Bishop Raymond J. Boland told an overflow crowd at the chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Sister Mary Clare Eichman stands with her superior, Sister Servant Connie Boulch, after professing her perpetual vows.
More than 200 people came to witness Sister Mary Clare Eichman, a native of St. Marys, Kan., profess the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, and promise to spend her life in service of God's people according to the rule of the Sisters of St. Francis.
Noting the May 30 Feast of the Pentecost - "the very essence of our history of salvation," Bishop Boland said that Sister Mary Clare's vows echoed the experience of the apostles as they received the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Jerusalem.
"Cowed by the barbarity of the crucifixion and perplexed by the unexpected resurrection, they waited, as instructed, huddled together in the upper room," Bishop Boland said in his homily.
"And then it happened," he said. "Tongues of flame and the sound of a mighty wind filled the house. Luke tells us very simply, 'and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.'"
From that moment on, Bishop Boland said, "the miracles began to happen in glorious profusion as the church, the community of God's people, came to be."
"Note what happened to the Lord's disciples," he said. "Courage replaced fear, zeal overcame timidity, hesitancy gave way to confidence. Their lives were changed, utterly changed. The Spirit fulfilled all the promises of Christ, and then some."
Like the apostles huddled in fear, the journey to religious life is filled with doubts, hesitancy and fear, Bishop Boland said.
"All who would be disciples of Christ, and Sister Mary Clare is no exception, have to struggle with the challenging dialogue of vocation," he said.
"The Spirit calls. We are too busy. The Spirit calls. We hope he goes away. The Spirit calls. Well, maybe, but like good Missourians, we say in a return challenge, 'Show me.' Sometimes he does. We call that discernment," he said.
"Sister Mary Clare, thank you for saying 'yes' to God," Bishop Boland said. "You follow in the footsteps of Mary, Christ's mother, and Clare and Francis and a host of others whose names enflesh the Litany of the Saints.
"The ceremonies which derive their creative essence and symbolism from this Mass - the pronouncement of vows, the Prayer of Consecration, the bestowal of the ring and the crucifix and the burning taper - are signs that henceforth you pray and live and work through the Spirit so that he, in turn, may sanctify others through your ministry."
Kneeling before the community's sister servant Sister Connie Boulch, Sister Mary Clare professed her vows with Sister Mary Isabel Peters and Sister Mary Madonna Gieselman at her side as witnesses.
As the Mass drew to a close, Sister Connie had one more surprise for the newly professed Franciscan sister.
Noting that the community's beloved Sister Mary Hildegard Heiss had died in February, just short of her 101st birthday, Sister Connie said that the elderly nun served as mentor not only to Sister Mary Clare, but to the entire community.
Turning to Sister Mary Clare, Sister Connie told her that the ring she had just been presented to symbolize her marriage to Christ was Sister Mary Hildegard's ring.
"She didn't know that until just this minute," Sister Connie said.