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Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Posted on April 25, 2021, by Eileen Custy SL

Good Shepherd Sunday? Foundation Day? Commitment Ceremony? The “Fiat” statue! Where to start? 

One of the Communion services we use begins in this way: “We have been chosen by the Holy One to be in a covenant of love and new life. Today is our favorable time, today is our day of salvation.” We, all of us, have been chosen by the Holy One to love and give life to those around us. This God of ours is not far off but in our very midst, dwelling in and among us, desiring to be a part of our lives if only we allow it, if only we set aside time to let that presence seep into our very bones.

God has walked with us for 209 years. “The Little Society of the Friends of Mary under the Cross of Jesus” has been striving for all of those years to live in this covenant of love. It started with three courageous young women, Mary Rhodes, Ann Rhodes and Christina Stuart, figuring out how best to love and serve their needy neighbors and with Charles Nerinckx to guide them along their path. They were our first shepherds. 

It seems to me that nothing about their life was easy. They had to make do with whatever was available, be it an old uninhabited cabin with a dirt floor, uncovered window openings and plenty of spaces between the logs to let in the cold air or a piece of slate on which to write. Their difficult lives did not stop them from living into that covenant of love. They set the example for us to follow.

There were other shepherds along the way. Mother Magdalen Hayden traveled across the country to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which must have seemed like a foreign country with a different language and customs, knowing all the while that she would probably never see her beloved family or her beautiful Kentucky again. 

Mother Catherine, who challenged the local bishop to stop interfering in the life of the local Community and stood her ground even though it eventually meant being deposed from her office as Mother General. I often think of her as a strong woman who refused to be bullied, but paid a high price for her stance.

Mother Praxedes was another shepherdess, serving as Mother General for 26 years. She rescued Loretto Heights from bankruptcy and built Praxedes’ Folly (Loretto Academy) in El Paso, with its arms stretched out to Mexico. It was she who led the way to making us a pontifical congregation rather than living under the thumb of local bishops.

In our own lifetimes our shepherds included Sister Mary Luke and Sister Helen Sanders leading us through the changes emerging from Vatican Council II. And let us not forget our current shepherdesses, the Executive Council and Forum. We are at an important point in our existence, and their leadership is crucial as we struggle through these difficult times.

There are many other examples that we could give of strong, courageous women who showed us the way. We cannot forget that today we have three strong women in Pakistan working to build a Loretto Community in their country. Their life is not easy, but they are involved in an amazing number of things from teaching to solar panels to counseling. How this fragile plant will grow is still to be seen, but it is a powerful reminder of those early days on the frontier and what was accomplished with the help of the Spirit and three courageous young women.

But what about those of us who go quietly about our everyday lives. Do we not have sheep to look after? Like these women who have gone before us, we also have made a covenant with God to look after one another. We are no longer in a classroom full of young people but we are here, in this place, at this time, with a pandemic raging around us. We can and do create an atmosphere where our covenant of love can thrive.

Today we welcome Joyce as the newest member though in actuality she has been a member for years – she just hasn’t signed the paper. As we witness her willingness to enter into this new phase of her life, we are inspired to renew our own commitment. Think back on that day when you, too, said your yes to God in this very church. How many women have come into this room to pray, weep, rejoice and give thanks? How many of the women who have gone before us in this Loretto Community have experienced God’s presence on this land and in this sacred space? We are part of a covenant people chosen by God to love and be of service. We are not separate from those who have gone before us. Sometimes we travel lightly and joyfully and at other times slowly and painfully, but the important thing is that we travel together with God in our midst. And sometimes I wonder if all those wonderful women aren’t right here all around us joining in our prayer and celebration, but we just can’t see them.

“We have been chosen by the Holy One to be in a covenant of love and new life. Today is our favorable time, today is our day of salvation. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! ”


Eileen Custy SL

Eileen Custy was born and raised on a dairy outside of Denver and attended a one-room schoolhouse for her first eight years. After a year of college at Loretto Heights, she joined the Sisters of Loretto. In spite of the fact that she thought at that time she never wanted to be a teacher, she loved the work and taught for 46 years. Most of those years were spent in El Paso, Texas. Eileen “retired” in 2004 and moved to Kentucky, where she served as an administrative assistant to the Motherhouse Coordinator for nearly 20 years before retiring in November 2023. Eileen continues to serve the Motherhouse Community, particularly pastorally.