In response to the call of Christ, for the glory of the Holy Trinity,
the love of the Virgin Mary and the service of the Church,
in the hands of Sr. Franca Zonta, FMI, Superior General,
I,Nicole Denise Trahan, freely vow to observe during my entire life
chastity, poverty, obedience and stability
according to the Rule of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate
and in union of life with my Sisters.
Marianist Sisters - Vow Formula
Professed on Saturday, August 3, 2013
It hardly seems possible that a person can feel as much joy and peace as I have felt for the past several weeks. This past weekend, in the presence of over 200 friends, family, Marianists (both lay and vowed) I put my right hand on the Book of the Gospels, my left hand around a lit candle and spoke the above words.
The day - indeed, the whole weekend - could not have been more perfect. So much joy! It is difficult to put it all into words and it almost seems too big to really take in. There is much for which I am grateful and so much that I could say. It's hard to know where to start... However, I think a good place to start would be to share with you my comments from the dinner that followed the Mass on Saturday. It won't be exactly what I said - because I ad libbed a little here and there - but the general gist is there.
What does one say on the occasion of her final vows? Where does one start? The first thing on my mind and in my heart is an overwhelming sense of joy and of gratitude. There are so many things and people and events for which I am deeply grateful.
First of all - thank you to all of you. One for being present on this joyous occasion, but more than that thank you for your support, friendship, companionship, challenge, and affirmation over the years. While all of you have played and continue to play an important role in my Marianist life and faith journey, there are certain groups of people present here that I'd like to acknowledge.
The first would be my family. I am so grateful for your presence here and also fro the ways that you have been supportive - challenged me - and helped me to become the person that I am (At this point, I introduced my family that was present). One thing that is somewhat difficult is the physical absence of my mom who passed away in 1999. However, I know very well that she's here. I'll tell you a little story that helps me to know that.
I don't often remember my dreams. Truth be told, I don't remember much of anything usually. But I remember one dream very clearly from my pre-novitiate year. In my dream I walked into the living room of our old convent in San Antonio. And there in the living room was my mother - asleep on the couch. She rolled over and woke up and I said to her, "When did you get here?" And she said to me, "Don't you know? I've been here the whole time..." So, I know that she is present here with us now.
Secondly, I am deeply grateful for and indebted to the Marianist LIFE Program. LIFE, for those of you who may not be familiar, is the program for high school students that has a number of objectives. One, is to immerse students in the Marianist community and charism - to teach them what it means to be a follower of Jesus as a Marianist. Second is to help them examine the relationships in their lives with self, others, and God. The last objective is to give them the tools and help them develop the skills necessary to be Marianist leaven in their home contexts.
I first became acquainted with Marianist LIFE in 2001. And my first reaction was, "Who are these crazy, super liberal people?" But the Spirit of God and of Mary are stronger than my biases and these people became like family. And for the next 11 years I was associated with the LIFE program - serving on the coordinating team for 9 of those years. Every summer I moved to Camp TECABOCA in the hill country outside of San Antonio for 14 days of hard work, sweat, laughter, tears, prayer and living community. It is because of Marianist LIFE that I was drawn to the Marianist family. It was at LIFE that I made a public commitment as a lay Marianist. LIFE changed my life. And it was because of LIFE that I am here today (at this point, I asked all those associated with LIFE to stand and I said...) Thank you for teaching me what it means to be Marianist.
As Sr. Gretchen alluded to, the path from when I entered the Sisters to this day is relatively long. I entered in the summer of 2005 - 8 years ago this month. And in those 8 years so much has happened that perhaps would not have if not for those who had a hand in my formation. Working as pre-novitiate or novice director or serving as a mentor for those who are temporary professed is most likely not an easy thing.... especially if you're working with someone as independent and opinionated as I am. So, I want to say publicly how much I appreciated the support, challenge and companionship of Gretchen and Laura. Thank you for your patience, guidance, and your listening. And in that vane, thank you to all my Sisters. Each Sister of our tiny Province has had an impact in some way on who I am as a Marianist Sister and a woman of faith in our world and in our ecclesial context. Thank you for your love. Thank you also to Sr. Franca who is here with us tonight. It is a blessing to have you here and I appreciate it a great deal.
As you may have noticed when I introduced my family, God did not bless me with any brothers. However, now I am blessed (said with air quotes) with 100s of them all over the world - many of whom are present here and have become dear friends over the years. I once joked that if I ever wrote a book about my relationship with the Society of Mary it would be called, "Truly My Brothers," because that is who you are for me - with your relentless teasing, coupled with your concern for me personally and for our Sisters. I am always touched by your generosity and do not know if I could have made this journey without you.
There is a lot more that I can say - there is so much for which I am grateful - but I think the most important thing is my relationship with God and with Mary, without which none of this makes any sense at all. It is because of Mary's presence in my life that i have the humility and courage to say "yes" to God alone.
In conclusion, I have a few questions for you. For how many of you is this the first time for you to witness and celebrate someone professing vows as a Marianist. (show of hands) Well I hope it's been a good experience and that we haven't scared you away! For how many of you is this the first time to be at an FMI profession (show of hands)? And for how many of you is this your first time to be a part of the final vows of a Marianist Sister? (almost everyone raised their hands, including me).
Yea, me too! But my deepest prayer is that this is not the last one we have the opportunity to celebrate. And I have confidence that there will be others who make a commitment as a Marianist Sister in our Province. But it will take something from each of us gathered here. The most important thing is prayer. Let us pray for all those contemplating the possibility of Marianist Religious Life. For, as Pope Francis has reminded us, vocations are born of prayer. It also takes a willingness to invite people to consider this life and then to walk with them as they discern. So, even though I'm the vocations director, it is not up to me. It is up to God and is dependent on the cooperation of all of us. I look forward to collaborating with you in that.
Okay - one last thing. You may have noticed a large empty space over to my right. If you guessed it's a dance floor, you've guessed correctly! After the conclusion of our program, if you'd like to join me in celebrating with a little dancing I invite you to do so! We have the ballroom until 10:30. And even if you aren't the dancing type, I invite you to stick around and talk with people and hang out for a while.
Thank you again for being here tonight and may each of you be abundantly blessed in the ways you most need.
For those of you who are unaware, at final vows the Marianist Sisters receive a silver ring which we wear on our right hand as a visible symbol (and tangible reminder) of our commitment. We have the tradition of inscribing something inside the ring. The words inside my ring are, "God alone" and are taken from one of the most used phrase in the writings of our foundress, Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon. Since I am no longer a "new sister" I have decided to use these words in the new title of my blog - "God Alone: The Continued Journey of Sisterhood." Thank you to my Giving Voice friends for helping me brainstorm a new title!
Many blessings to all who read this!