The American Region of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity kicked off their 2016 Assembly with a Mass, celebrated by Father Dan Estes, former director of Our Lady of Corpus Christi.
The theme for this year’s assembly built upon the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy call to be “Merciful Like the Father” and incorporated this call into the charism of SOLT, “Serving of Areas of Deepest Apostolic Need.”
Father Drolshagen, Regional Priest Servant, set the tone for the Assembly in his homily for the first Mass as he recalled SOLT’s founder and the gifts he tirelessly shared with everyone who came into his life, and he connected this Year of Mercy that providentially coincided with Father Flanagan’s departure from earthly life.
“Many people came from near and far to celebrate with us the Year of Mercy and the home-going of Father Jim Flanagan and especially to lift up the legacy that he left to SOLT, a legacy of the call to be recipients and instruments of God’s mercy in this world,” recalled Father Drolshagen.
Father Drolshagen continued to draw his reflection out of the words of the Holy Father: “Pope Francis writes, ‘Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life.’ And so firmly rooted in this foundation of faith, hope and charity, we can move forward through anything with joy, confident that our Heavenly Father loves us, and in His providence and love, he will guide us to our ultimate good.”
Finally, Father Drolshagen called to mind the source of the inspiration that continues to capture the hearts of members and associate of SOLT.
“Most of us were attracted to SOLT…either because we recognized in Father Jim a man, a priest who was firmly rooted in God’s mercy, who was firmly rooted in the foundation of the Church’s life,” said Father Drolshagen, “or if we didn’t know him, we saw this focus of his, this spirit of his, reflected in those who had joined his community and were living the life that he sought to support as the proper way to live for a Christian.”
“Above all else, Father Flanagan was a man and a priest who lived and loved God’s mercy and wanted everyone to experience it,” concluded Father Drolshagen.
Keynote addresses were given by representatives from each of the vocations on Wednesday morning. Sister Ann Marie Walsh, Deacon John Purk, and Father Antonio Anderson entertained and inspired their audience with personal memories about Father Jim Flanagan that produced many instances of laughter mixed with the warm familiarity of shared experiences.
Assembly week continued on Wednesday with the renewal of lay commitment, including the committed members and consecrated widow associates. Thursday evening’s Mass celebrated renewal of vows for the sisters and renewal of promises for the brothers. Other events during the week included a pilgrimage to the Holy Doors of Corpus Christi Cathedral; mission reports from Belize City, Phoenix, Wyoming, New Jersey, and other locations; and vocations meetings. Youth programs and evening activities such as game night and the annual talent show showcased the lighthearted spirit of the SOLT community.
The week’s highlighted event was the much anticipated first promises of novices Gene Grandy and Javier Ebertowski, who both received their gray robes and the title of “Brother” during the ceremony within the Mass. Father Samuel Medley, new director of Our Lady of Corpus Christi, delivered the homily that once again echoed the themes from the week.
“‘Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.’ With these words, Pope Francis ushered in the Year of Mercy,” Father Medley began. “It is no small coincidence that you two are consecrating yourselves today in this Year of Mercy as a living sacrifice of mercy. It is one way of understanding that everything in your life has happened, God has permitted to happen, for an increase of mercy in your life.”
Father Medley continued to expand on the theme of mercy as gift and sacrifice. “Every time that charism is generated in a new person, in other words, every time that person comes to gift themselves in promises, they are, as it were, a new wine skin, a new way of gifting themselves in this charism to God.”
In his concluding remarks, Father Sam offered his advice from the experience of his own vocation: “Do not be surprised by the depth of the Pascal Mystery that you are invited to encounter. Do not be afraid of that. Be rather fearful of not pleasing God, of not asking Our Lady for her help in doing this.”
Saturday marked the final day of the 2016 American Region Assembly as well as the anniversary of the Foundation of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. This anniversary, like most significant dates in SOLT, coincides with a Marian feast, the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Members gathered to celebrate Mass and the renewal of wedding vows for members of the laity. Father Scott Giuliani’s parents renewed their vows in celebration of 50 years of wedded life. It was a grand conclusion to a week of communion and renewal.