Sturdy Roots

Communism
Living Under Communism in Europe

Final Vows

By S. Mary Luke Baldwin, SSND October, 2004

For 22 years the Sisters of the Romanian Province had been living their vows as best they could. Although the communist government officially disbanded the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1948, the sisters continued to communicate with their provincial leader and keep in touch with one another.

Sometime in 1971, Mother Domitia, provincial of Romania , met SSND Vicar Sister Enrica at the Frankfort airport and provided her with a list of members – their age, location, general health. She spoke of the sisters who had not been able to take final vows, because the bishops said there was no community to accept them. Mother Georgianne took the information she had received and approached the Sacred Congregation for Religious. The officials there supported their request for final vows.

During the spring of 1971 Mother Georgianne, Sister Henriette and Sister Mary Luke, general councilors, and Sister Mary Roman, general treasurer drove to Temesvar as American tourists. They would make a quick trip, but it would be an opportunity for a general superior to visit these sisters for the first time in 22 years.

On the second or third day in Temesvar a small gathering of sisters and the visitors from Rome crowded into a sacristy “office” of the provincial. Among the Romanian Sisters was a middle-aged woman in a simple pink housedress who was helping to prepare a meal on a hotplate in the stairwell. At one point this sister suddenly knelt down before Mother Georgianne and asked to be permitted to take her final vows. The provincial said, “Mother, she is ready. She has prepared.” Mother did not hesitate. One of the councilors brought a statue of Our Lady from the chapel. Another, the old Rule and vow ceremony. A candle was lit and in a few moments the woman who had waited 22 years for this hour professed her final vows.

The old formula carried powerful meaning in this new context. No veil, no crown, no prostration, but a deep union of this woman with each of us as we shared her profession. I experienced a profound sense of unity and love, of what it meant to be community, to “make one wherever we are sent,” to live our new constitution, without being defined by words or formulas or what we wore or how we ministered or where we lived. My vows and her vows related us to the same God, the same foundress, the same charism, the same spiritual heritage. I was humbled by the fidelity and generosity of the women around me. I am still grateful for the experience of that moment. I stood, a stranger, in a strange land, listening to prayer in a language not my own, renewing my vows in my heart, profoundly aware of who we were in Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

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