This article appeared in the Diocese of Covington, KY paper The Messenger
I doubt there is a father who when handed his daughter to hold for the first time in the hospital, doesn’t project years forward to the day he will give her away after escorting her down the aisle. August 15th the Feast of the Assumption approached like the 51 times before in my life, except this time the Feast day would include my daughter Lauren’s walk down the aisle.
Instead of the traditional procession of bridesmaids and groomsmen, in processed a Cardinal, four Bishops, and an additional 60 clergy from multiple dioceses to concelebrate this special Mass. After the procession of clergy I turned to the back of church to find my daughter, Lauren, ready to lead eighteen women forward in a celebration of commitment. Lauren finally stood before her bishop Rev. Thomas John Paprocki (Springfield, IL), her Provincial Mother Regina Pacis, her community of sisters and the congregation, not to commit her life and fidelity to one man, but to commit her life to Jesus Christ in service to her community, and be received into the Sisters of St. Francis the Martyr St. George.
I often dreamt of the day I would lift Lauren’s white veil, kiss her gently and give her away. This day however instead of a lace veil covering her face she would leave the sanctuary and return in her habit crowned in a white veil that she will wear for the next 2 years, taking the name not of her husband, but one divinely chosen – Sr. M. Gemma. This is Sr. Gemma’s first formal step in answering God’s call to consecrated life. How often in the New Testament are we confronted with the request, “Come Follow Me”? My daughter, Sr. Gemma, was beckoned to follow Christ, a call she could not ignore, she accepted and changed her life and the lives of all those who love her…. forever.
To be an intimate witness to a life answering and surrendering to God’s call is awe inspiring; you can’t help but be deeply touched by the process. Through Sr. Gemma’s (Lauren’s) journey, I was confronted with the desire to examine my own life of faith. To see one so young freely and happily void her life of “STUFF” and fill that vacancy with prayer, the sacraments, her sister community and the will of God, reset my priorities.
My dream for my daughter, although considerably different than the one I had built over the years has been realized. Sr. Gemma is happier, more joyful, and more fulfilled than I could have ever imagined. She is surrounded by, loved, and cared for by a strong and vibrant community of women religious that is experiencing incredible growth. On her day of Reception she was one of two Postulants received into the Novitiate, three professed First Vows, and thirteen made Final Vows.
Sr. M. Gemma FSGM formerly Lauren Kissel
A Blessed Catholic Father,