Local Religious life

Monasteries celebrate anniversaries despite uncooperative weather

The rain pouring outside was no match for the Little Sisters of the Community of the Lamb as they sang during the Mass of thanksgiving for 15 years in the archdiocese. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Rain poured down on the altar set up for an outdoor Mass of thanksgiving at the grotto of Mary, Mother of God Monastery here the morning of Sept. 23. 

The Mass, celebrating 15 years of the Community of the Lamb in the archdiocese, was to begin at 11 a.m.

But by 10:30 a.m., the storm was intensifying and the forecast was grim.

Little Brothers and Sisters of the community ran through the downpour to relocate the Mass from its outdoor venue to the chapel of the Little Sisters’ monastery, Lumen Christi, a block away.

Without hesitation or regard for the rain and lightning, friends and neighbors pitched in to help.

God works in mysterious ways. What could have been a soggy disaster turned into a heartwarming display of people helping one another save the day.

Cozily crowded in the beautiful Lumen Christi chapel and overflowing into the basement, patrons from different cultures and walks of life joined the Little Brothers and Sisters in thanksgiving.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the celebrant at the Mass in Lumen Christi chapel to celebrate the Community of the Lamb’s 15th anniversary in the archdiocese — 10 years of the Little Sisters’ monastery and five years of the Little Brothers’ monastery. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

The lightning and thunder were no match for the melodic harmony of the community as they sang the Mass.

“Today the Lord wanted to see how creative the community could be,” said celebrant Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. “They were up to the task.”

Concelebrant Father Anthony Ouellette knows well how God can take a simple event and transform it into something wonderful.

“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “You plan on things often in your life; you don’t know what God’s going to do.”

Father Ouellette came to know the Community of the Lamb when he was a seminarian in Rome.

“My relationship with the Little Sisters when I was in Rome was so beneficial to me,” he recalled. “It gave me a place where I could go on my day off and work in their backyard and just have a little bit of peace and quiet, pray with them.

“It was very much of an oasis for me.”

Father Anthony Ouellette, standing beside Archbishop Naumann, has known the Community of the Lamb since his seminary days in Rome. He gathered to celebrate the community’s 15 years in the archdiocese on Sept. 23. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Father Ouellette’s first Mass serving as a deacon was at the Little Sisters’ Roman chapel. That’s when Archbishop Naumann first encountered the order.

“I was entranced by the beauty with which the Little Sisters pray and celebrate the liturgy, by their simplicity and by their joy,” he said. “I did not come to Rome in search of a religious community for the archdiocese; this was not in my mind.”

Despite that, the archbishop said the Holy Spirit moved him to tell the community’s foundress, Little Sister Marie, that he would welcome them if they ever considered establishing a foundation in the United States.

Members of the Community of the Lamb came to Father Ouellette’s ordination to the priesthood in 2006 and visited the archbishop, hitchhiking through Kansas to give him a gift of a loaf of bread, their community tradition.

“It was a year later that Father Anthony encouraged me to write to Little Sister Marie and formally invite the community to come to the archdiocese in Kansas City,” said the archbishop.

Catholics from around the Kansas City area gathered to celebrate the Community of the Lamb’s 15 years in the archdiocese. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

In the spring of 2008, the original Kansas Little Sisters of the Lamb, as well as additional Sisters and Brothers, came to Kansas to establish their first and so far only order in the United States.

“It was not just to have a house of God,” said Little Sister Judith. “But we needed also to be temples of God — living monasteries.”

At the end of the Mass, as the sun began to shine for the remaining festivities, Little Sister Judith expressed gratitude to the community patrons.

“Thank you to all those who made these monasteries possible,” she said, “by your offering, your prayer, your support, your friendship.”

Father Ouellette had many plans for his life other than meeting a community of Little Sisters.

“So, it just seems interesting to me,” he said, “how God took something so normal, ordinary — just a place where I would go on my day off — and turned it into this.

“It’s beautiful all these people that have been touched in ways by the community — so many different people, different backgrounds, languages, cultures.

“It’s a beautiful expression of the greater church.”

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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