This is a day filled with emotion and meaning for all of us, and not least for the All Saints Sisters of the Poor and for Father Warren Tanghe, up to now their chaplain.
After years of honest and intense prayer, study, reflection and discussion, Father Tanghe and ten sisters of the community will today be received into full communion with our Roman Catholic Church. The Church of Baltimore, for more than 200 years a cradle of consecrated life in the United States is simply delighted to embrace you Sisters as a unique addition to this inspired and inspiring tradition.
Paul’s call in our first reading is a challenging call to you, Sisters and Father. It is a renewed call to each of you as you commence upon a new road in your spiritual journey: “Live in a manner worthy of the call you received.”
The call is, and has been from the beginning, the call of Jesus Christ. You Sisters have answered that divine call by entering religious life and consecrating yourselves to God’s service as All Saints Sisters of the Poor. You have taken upon yourselves the yoke of Jesus and have learned from him, meek and humble of heart. You have been challenged day in and day out continually to conform and reform your lives to the life of Jesus Christ—a Christ who made Himself poor though He was rich, chaste that He might serve all in undivided love, and obedient to the will of His Father, even to the point of His death on the Cross.
For many years now, ten of your sisters have, gradually but unmistakably in conscience, heard the Lord’s call to deepen your union with Him in our Catholic community of Faith. In the Successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, you find fulfilled your desire for full visible and spiritual unity with and in the universal Church, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
Yet, all of you, Sisters and Father, retain a great affection and respect for your Episcopal roots. Your journey to this day brings to mind the insight to the Second Vatican Council, that your Anglican heritage has nourished you with “many elements of sanctification and of truth: the written word of God, the life of grace, faith, hope and charity” and many other interior and visible gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I speak for all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in expressing our thanks to God that you, good Sisters, will ennoble our Catholic community with your sterling and steadfast witness to consecrated life, with a rich heritage of prayer, liturgical and private, and with a 137-year tradition of joining contemplative prayer with care for the poor, for children with special needs, and for the dying. Hopefully, many souls, on their thirsting pilgrimage to experience the living God, will continue to find in these beautiful open spaces and hospitable halls of your Catonsville home, a grace-filled response to the Lord’s Gospel invitation just heard: Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.
Our friend and brother, Bishop Eugene Sutton of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, has noted as so many others have, the depth of your prayer and the pace of your discernment. And the thoughtful, generous presence with us today of the Bishop Visitator of the Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Donald Parsons, as well as other Episcopal clergy and laity, would share Bishop Sutton’s sentiments both of sadness in having to say farewell to you, Sisters and to Father Tanghe, and of joy that with your brothers and sisters in the Episcopalian Church, you remain one in Christ.
Equally noteworthy is the courage you have shown—following the courageous example of our Blessed Mother, Mary—to hear and fully answer God’s call to follow—even though the path you are called to may sometimes seem uncertain and the steps painful to take.
To all twelve of you, All Saints Sisters of the Poor, our prayer is that each of you would persevere on the path that is yours, ever ready for Christ’s call to deeper communion with Him and His Body, the Church. Your continuing communal presence here is a gift to us and a reminder to all who follow Christ to live out fully our call and to pray and work ceaselessly for full unity in his Body, a unity for which He Himself called and prayed.
It is and should remain a great sadness that this morning we cannot all share at the same Eucharistic table, that the Body of Christ remains divided, wounded by division. Let it be our hope, however, that in His good time, Christ will bring us all together to eat his Body and drink his Blood, one flock, one shepherd.
May the determined steps you take today, dear Sisters and Warren Tanghe, hasten that day when all followers of Christ will experience and rejoice in that one, united Body of Christ, come to full stature.