By Joanne Dehmer, SSND
In the book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned every 50th year. It was a time of joy, a time to reflect on the past and celebrate God’s presence. The tradition of celebrating Jubilees grew in Christianity and today we as women religious celebrate Jubilees at significant times such as 25, 50, 65 years of vowed life in community. Jubilees are Anniversaries. This year, Liz Kerwin celebrates her 65th Jubilee and I am celebrating my 50th Jubilee. I was invited to reflect in writing about my 50th Jubilee. As I share with you my story, you might reflect on your own story, and ask yourself:
What is the anniversary I celebrate?
What is my story of call?
I am a native Minnesotan, having grown up in a small rural town, St. Michael. My twin brother and I are the youngest in a family of six children. Living a faithful and loving life was important in our family. As a child I enjoyed the many aspects of my life. In approaching my young adult years I considered more seriously a life of service. As time passed, my desire to commit my life in service in the Church deepened in me. I discerned if this would be in marriage or religious life. Through my years of dating and falling in love, the call remained. Then after much prayer and dialogue my discernment led me to enter the community without ever expecting the personal growth and deepening of my faith and the wide ranging pastoral experiences in parishes and retreat settings that would be mine.
My community saw in me and called forth in me gifts that I had not known. I was given an education and skills needed for each ministry to which I have been called, as teacher, pastoral care director, and spiritual director. Being creative, imaginative and artistic are important to me as a part of all ministry. For over forty years I have been engaged in spiritual direction ministry, and am currently serving at Loyola Spirituality Center where I have been for over twenty years. I remain grateful for the experiences and relationships I have as I journey with individuals and families living with illness and facing end of life questions, struggling to find hope and meaning, discerning major life decisions, grieving the loss of a loved one or broken relationship, desiring to deepen their awareness of the Holy, of God in their life—these profound encounters touch my life and have helped me to grow.
Living a vowed life in a faith community has blessed me and deepened all that I am and all that I do. I have learned in community that God is the center of my life, that there is gift in diversity and the sharing of life and ministry. As our document states, “community is a giving and a receiving of love and respect, a living together in trust, openness, sincerity, and forgiveness.” “Our community, like every Christian community, is missionary. We are called and sent to deepen communion with God and among people wherever we are—in every place, in every time, in every situation.”
With all my heart I am forever grateful for my community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, for calling forth from me more than I could have ever asked or imagined.