August 13, 2020
Christian Cahill received her SNJM pin and Constitutions on Saturday, August 8, 2020. 

Christian Cahill stepped forward wearing a black facemask and bowed her head as the congregational emblem of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary on a slender chain was slipped around her neck. Holding her new copy of the congregation’s Constitutions, she looked into a video camera that transmitted her broad smile to her family, friends and Sisters in three countries.

It was the Sisters’ first novice reception via Zoom, and behold, it was good.

In a powerful affirmation of God’s ongoing call to religious life, the welcome ceremony for Sister Christian on Aug. 8 combined the traditional sounds and sights of a religious ritual with the videoconferencing technology that has become an everyday part of shelter-in-place life during the coronavirus pandemic. Far from an experience of isolation, though, it was filled with music, encouraging words and joyful support for the next step in Sister Christian’s deepening exploration of the spirituality, ministries, history and evolving future of the Sisters of the Holy Names.

“When the date was originally set, we were expecting to have a full chapel and others on Zoom,” explained Sister Maureen Delaney, U.S.-Ontario Provincial. “But as, we know, things have greatly changed. As we also know, it is our custom to take what is given to us and make it work the best we can. You know the saying – ‘When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade!’”

With Sister Christian in the Holy Spirit Chapel in Campbell, CA were Sister Maureen and several other members of the community, including novice director Sister Elizabeth Liebert and Sister Marcia Frideger, who delivered a reflection that highlighted Sister Christian’s passion for social justice and willingness to follow God’s call. “At a time when fewer are seeking religious life as an option, Christian has traced the SNJM journey and already contributed her many gifts in ministry with the wider Church, society and SNJM community,” Sister Marcia said.

Sister Christian’s sister Michelle, via Zoom, participated by reading the beloved passage from the Gospel of Luke that recalls the Virgin Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who hails her as the Mother of God. Mary’s gratitude for God’s favor shines through the “Magnificat” text: “Surely, for now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

In thanking the Sisters for their warm welcome, Sister Christian described how their deep spirituality interwoven with music and art initially drew her to the congregation. “Then I got to know the community more and really connected with the social justice focus and advocating particularly for women and marginalized communities,” she said. “I continue to be impressed with the individual women, from the very beginning until now, who have courageously and boldly stepped out and tried new things.”