Pilgrims prayed with the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd at Maria Droste Convent in St. Louis on August 9, 2016. Sisters welcomed the 55 pilgrims to their chapel in response to the Holy Year of Mercy. The pilgrims traveled more than 80 miles from their parish in Farmington, Missouri, to pray with the Sisters.
The Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015, with the opening of the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. The Jubilee Year will close on November 20, 2016.
The experience of pilgrimage is a tangible sign of the choice of an individual to journey toward Christ through prayer and Gospel Asceticism. In the Jubilee Year of Mercy the faithful are invited to make prayerful pilgrimages to one or more local churches, religious houses or other pilgrim sites throughout the world.
Archbishop Robert Carlson designated nine locations in the St. Louis Archdiocese as pilgrim sites for the Year of Mercy. The Contemplative Community at Maria Droste Convent was one of six Contemplative convents named as a pilgrim site.
Pilgrims process to the Holy Door
The Sisters greeted the pilgrims when the bus arrived and escorted them into the chapel so they would feel welcomed and at home. Before walking through the Holy Doors, the pilgrims wrote their names and prayer intentions in the booklet the Sisters keep in the chapel. Everyone was silent and reverent as they took their seats.
The pastor and parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Farmington accepted the invitation to pray Office of Readings with the Sisters. They sang the opening hymn with a CD, then the Sisters recited three Psalms. All responded with the Glory Be after each Psalm.
The Sisters invited one of the pilgrims to proclaim the Scriptural Reading. Sr. Sharon Rose read Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. A short silence followed. The pilgrimage concluded with the reciting of the Our Father and Pope Francis’ prayer for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Rev. Father Rickey Valleroy, Pastor of St. Joseph Church, walked to the lectern after prayer and expressed the pilgrims’ gratitude for the hospitality and welcoming hearts of the Sisters. He asked the Sisters if he could inquire about their contemplative lifestyle. This led to interaction between the Sisters and pilgrims.
Calling on the Gospel for support
Sr. Rose Mary felt nervous during the dialogue and turned to her imagination. She said, “I reflected on the Bible and thought about the people who would crowd around to listen to Jesus. Calling on the Gospel helped me to relax.”
Sr. Madge said, “The significance for me was knowing that the pilgrims had come to our place knowing we were praying for them. The pilgrims knew our lifestyle. When they asked about our lives, it was important to me that they understand who Good Shepherd Contemplative Sisters are and what our prayer life means to us.”
Sr. Beth feels strongly that the pilgrims’ presence was an affirmation of the Contemplative Sisters’ place in the Church. She said she could actually see the face of God when she entered the chapel filled with pilgrims. “I felt stillness in the presence of God,” she said.
Before leaving the chapel, Sr. Beth expressed her hope to the pilgrims that this would not be the last time they visited. She let them know that the door is always open to them for visit and prayer. She assured the pilgrims that the Sisters would hold them in their constant prayers.
Fr. Valleroy and Fr. Abe Arganiosa, Filipino priest Associate, along with all of the parishioners of St. Joseph Church, invited the Sisters to have a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Missouri, on September 7, 2016. Items of Interest will report on the trip in the October issue.)
The pilgrimage ended with Contemplative Community offering five decade rosaries to the pilgrims, which the Sisters had handcrafted for the occasion. The pilgrims also purchased some of the Sisters’ handmade candles and greeting cards. After more lively conversation and refreshment with water, the pilgrims eventually boarded the bus to continue their pilgrimage to other sites.
Expressing gratitude for the pilgrims
Sister Madge expressed happiness at being selected as a Pilgrim site. She said, “We have a very small chapel, yet many people came and filled it to the brim with love.”
Sr. Rose Mary said she welcomed the pilgrims with all of her heart. “When we read the prayer with the pilgrims I felt like I was the Good Shepherd opening our chapel to the sheep. We prayed together as shepherd and sheep and gave each other the spiritual gifts and graces of God. I felt very satisfied.”
Sister Agnes said, “The pilgrimage was important for all of us. I felt that Mother Foundress was smiling down upon us as pilgrims came to our chapel to pray.”
Sister Lalani believed the pilgrimage was a blessing. She said, “We were hidden to the public and then all of a sudden God made this opportunity for us to be known. We are small, and yet God sent us many. He blessed us with His mercy. As the pilgrims entered our chapel one-by-one, I felt unified with them. I felt Divine mercy and love embrace us all. Singing with one voice inspired and uplifted me. It struck me as powerful.”
Sr. Sharon Rose said, “The words of the refrain on the CD we chose for prayer were, How lovely, How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, Mighty God! As the refrain of Psalm 84 was repeated ALL of the voices in our chapel joined in. It was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. We seemed to be a small image of our larger Church at prayer — a mirror of the Mystical Body.”
Sr. Sharon Rose said she is still cherishing the visit with the pilgrims from St. Joseph. “I look forward to being with them again as we, in turn, become pilgrims to Perryville on September 7. We can then pray as they did. ‘I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ (Psalm 122),” she said.
God grants special favor
Sr. Beth was moved by the wonder of connectedness that she felt with the Farmington pilgrims. She said, “Their presence widened the doors of our hearts. We gazed together upon God’s presence. We felt the overflowing of His love and mercy and received His gifts of joy and peace. It was a unique experience.”
The Sisters, unaccustomed to large numbers of visitors, asked God for special favors before the pilgrims arrived. They asked God to expand their chapel to fit everyone inside and then to return it to its normal size when the pilgrims left. Sr. Beth said He answered their prayers.
“That actually happened. God really did expand our chapel. I don’t know how He did it, but He did. We all fit in with no overflowing, and now our tiny chapel is back to its normal size,“ Sr. Beth said.