Priests of the diocese gather with Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, before the jubilee Mass.
All: MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Celebrating a contemplative life
with prayer, song, thanksgiving
"You pour out your whole heart for the Church," Bishop Barber said.
In honor of the silver jubilee of Mother Sylvia Gemma, OCD, superior of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, celebrated a Novus Ordo Mass for the anniversary of her religious profession on May 5.
Eight priests concelebrated, with Father Alex Castillo serving as master of ceremonies, in the chapel in the rustic hunting lodge at the end of a twisty, private road the sisters have rented since their arrival in July 2012.
The sisters, who live a cloistered life, will move to their new home, the former Kensington monastery, purchased by an anonymous donor and given to the diocese, after renovations are completed over the next several months.
In the chapel, the sisters are separated from the rest of the congregation by a tall, wooden grille, with dark curtains drawn across. But their voices rose in song and Latin response.
Outside the grille, their guests, including their friends and benefactors from nearby St. Monica Parish in Moraga, and beyond, prayed with them.
The white altar, which came with the sisters from Nebraska, has holders for seven candles. The seventh is lit only when the bishop is celebrating Mass.
"I rejoice on behalf of the whole diocese," Bishop Barber said in his homily. A contemplative vocation isn't chosen, he said. "It picks you."
"The truth is, Mother Sylvia Gemma, Jesus loved you first," he said.
The sisters' life of intercessory prayer, he said, calls special attention to "the church, for the suffering, for the needy."
"You pour out your whole heart for the Church," the bishop said.
Noting that the sisters give their love to the church, he reminded them: "You are the object of His love."
Many people, the bishop said, look for love in the wrong places. But to Mother Sylvia Gemma, he said, "You have found love in the right place, in the heart of the church. Our Lord has found you, too."
After the Mass, the sisters received visitors from behind a wooden grille, as part of the chapel was converted to a speak room.
Blessings, smiles and good wishes were exchanged freely.
Mother Sylvia Gemma, the honoree on her jubilee, wore a wreath of white flowers atop the white veil of her simple Carmelite habit.
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