Family and friends joined Sister Uchenna Oluoha as she proclaimed her vows to the Society of the Sacred Heart.
'Let us be glad and rejoice'
Sister Uchenna Oluoha is a Nigerian woman who discovered her call to the Society of the Sacred Heart while serving as a cardiac nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland.
Sister Mary McGann, RSCJ, adjunct professor at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, and Rev. Ray Ogbemure of Richmond were especially helpful to her as she discerned her call to religious life.
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 3, at St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a spirit of joyful anticipation was in the air as the almost cavernous nave began to fill with Sister Uche's family in their Nigerian attire, Religious of the Sacred Heart and Associates from various parts of the United States/Canada Province, friends in abundance and children from Grades 2, 3, and 4 from our Academy of the Sacred Heart in Halifax.
Archbishop Anthony Mancini presided. Our provincial, Sister Barbara Dawson, RSCJ, extended a warm welcome to all and gave the Call to Worship. After the homily by Archbishop Mancini, Sister Uche proclaimed her vows before the archbishop, our provincial and all present after which the Religious of the Sacred Heart and then our Associates renewed their vows.
The Presentation of Gifts was a ceremony unto itself and a unique liturgical expression, surely, ever experienced in the basilica. Sister Uche, her sister and cousins danced the gifts forward to the deep, sonorous beat of Nigerian drums. The whole class of second-graders following behind Sister Uche mimicked the dance steps as best they could. To say the least, it was charming! All were in wreaths of smiles including the nine Nigerian priests in the sanctuary and the archbishop, as the procession moved slowly (2 steps forward; 1 step back) down the aisle.
At the close of the ceremony before the final blessing, Sister Uche addressed the congregation from the Sanctuary saying that she had proclaimed her vows before us all but now she wanted to sing of her love and gratitude directly to her Beloved and her God. With a bouquet of yellow roses in hand she sang "Like a Sunflower" with a firm, warm and steady voice.
Afterwards, she put the bouquet aside, knelt and expressed her love and commitment in a profound bow. In the congregation tears were falling and sniffles could be heard.
Celebrations, Nigerian style with dancing, singing and drumming began in the church hall and continued in our community, founded by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, well on into the evening. Sister Uche simply could not stop dancing and laughing. She drew us all into her circle of joy. It was truly a "day that the Lord had made" and we were all very glad and rejoiced in it. Alleluia!
(Sister Mary Pat White, RCSJ, is vocation director for the United States/Canada Province of the Society of the Sacred Heart.)
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