On Tuesday, May 25, a beautiful celebration took place with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares who had the joy of visiting Sr. Augustine Dempsey, IBVM and her Sisters at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Convent to celebrate her 80th Anniversary as a Religious Sister in the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, affectionately known as “The Loreto Sisters” originally from Loreto, Ireland. It is incredible that 80 years have passed since Sr. Augustine entered Religious Life at the age of 18, and now she is 98 years of age with her blue Irish eyes smiling!

Bishop Nevares prays over Sr. Maria Sheerin, IBVM, during the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

The gathering was one filled with love and joy as Bishop Nevares celebrated the Holy Mass in their Convent Chapel at 11 a.m. followed by time to visit and have lunch in the Sisters’ dining room. Before sitting down for lunch, time was enjoyed visiting with the Sisters in their community hospitality room. Bishop Nevares, as a spiritual father looking after the spiritual welfare of the Sisters, was quickly led to visit and anoint their beloved, elderly Sr. Maria Sheerin, IBVM.

The Celebration of the Holy Mass was celebrated in honor of Sr. Augustine and the noble testimony of her life given to God for 80 years. For Bishop Nevares and myself, it was the first time we had ever known of a Religious who had celebrated so many years of Religious Life. How important it is to cherish a life totally given to God in the Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience lived in the common life! The joy in our hearts could be felt by all and seen in Bishop Nevares’ face. Sr. Augustine’s recollection and wisdom are what all Christians strive to achieve and faithfully pray to God for the grace to acquire.

Bishop Nevares wore a beautiful red vestment with the announcement, “I am wearing a red vestment for this celebration of Divine Love, because Religious Life is Divine Love.” Most of the Loreto Sisters were present, led by Sr. Raphael Quinn, IBVM, local superior and the principal of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral School in her 50th year! All was prepared with such care and joyful anticipation of grace.

The Loreto Sisters pose for a photo with Bishop Eduardo Nevares, Deacon Larry Frey, and Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, during their celebration of Sr. Augustine Dempsey’s 80th anniversary.

All were gathered in communion for lunch, one of great festivity and sharing of stories. It was a gift to hear Sr. Augustine and Sr. Dympna share the stories of their first years in Phoenix back in 1955 when they were very young in Religious Life! They have seen so many changes and developments of their dear community at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Parish and School. These Sisters have been serving as the leadership and teachers of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral School for over 60 years, and they have been assisting at the Parish during all these years as well. Sr. Dympna Doran will be retiring from her service at the Cathedral Parish Office this month.

At the end of the lovely meal, after enjoying delicious vanilla cake, Bishop Nevares gave Sr. Augustine the gift of a first-class relic of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, her Patron Saint, who died August 28, 430! A first-class relic is a small piece of bone or hair of the Saint for veneration. Sr. Augustine venerated the relic contained in a small reliquary and then handed it to each of us. As I venerated it, I prayed to this Saint for my own conversion and holiness. I will never forget the kindness and gentleness I experienced among these Sisters of Loreto. I too had a gift to give to Sr. Augustine and each of her 3 other Sisters who are celebrating a Jubilee Anniversary. As I presented an icon of “The Holy Family” by Ruth Stricklin to each of them, Bishop Nevares blessed each icon and those who would pray before this sacred image.

Grateful to God for each of their vocations, we thank Him for all the graces He has bestowed to these women to live the Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience which requires daily self-denial and dependency on God, His Mercy and Providence. This supernatural life which requires virtue, humility and renunciation of oneself for the greater Glory of God and the life of His Church. The Church needs Religious Life!

— Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, Director of the Office of Consecrated Life