Opening of Jubilee Year of 100th Anniversary of Victory Noll Sisters
“Bendito sea Dios, Padre de Cristo Jesus nuestro Señor, que nos bendijo desde el cielo, en Cristo, con toda clase de bendiciones del cielo!” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” These words of St. Paul to the Ephesians resound in our hearts today as we give praise to God for the innumerable blessings He has bestowed upon the Church these past 100 years through the life and ministry of the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. I am so happy to be here today to celebrate with you this Opening Mass of your Centennial Jubilee Year. We praise and thank God today and throughout this Jubilee Year for the beautiful witness of so many Victory Noll Sisters who have gone before us and we pray for them. And I praise and thank God for all of you who continue to bear witness to your love for the Lord through your lives of prayer or active ministry in the Church.
As you know, after early morning Mass on Aug. 3, 1922, Julia Doyle and Marie Benes bid farewell to Father John Sigstein and friends, including the Notre Dame Sisters, in Chicago to go to their first mission field in New Mexico. But before that early morning Mass and departure, they each went to confession and, in the confessional, pronounced their simple private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They each said “I, Julia, or I, Marie, promise to Our Lord Jesus Christ, through Mary His Most Blessed Mother, Obedience, Chastity and Poverty in the Society of Missionary Catechists of Our Blessed Lady of Victory for a period of one year.” Three years later, they would make these vows publicly. Since that time, hundreds of young women who joined Sister Julia and Sister Marie, after their novitiate, would make that same profession of vows. After 1938, when the community obtained pontifical status, the sisters were able to take perpetual vows. In this Jubilee Year, we remember and give thanks to God for you and all the consecrated women of Victory Noll who have faithfully lived the consecrated life. You have been, and continue to be, a gift to the Church. Your consecrated life, lived after the example of our Blessed Mother, the first and most perfect disciple of the Lord, is a beautiful witness to Jesus, the chaste, poor and obedient One and to His Gospel of salvation. The charism of your community was a gift of the Holy Spirit not just for you and those who have preceded you as Victory Noll Sisters, but for so many people, thousands of people these past 100 years who were catechized, served and helped with love, care and devotion, so many who were very poor, so many who were immigrants, all experiencing through the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters the love and mercy of Jesus.
Following the deep devotion of your founder, Father Sigstein, your community has always had a deep devotion to Mary and bears her name, the title Our Lady of Victory. For 100 years, she has been your model of consecration and discipleship. Your following of Christ has been in imitation of His greatest disciple, His holy mother. Victory Noll Sisters have strived to imitate her faith, hope and charity. You and so many Victory Noll Sisters in the past 100 years have experienced her special motherly care. Today, I ask our Blessed Mother to continue to watch over you with her love and to make this Jubilee Year a special time of grace and joy for your community.
The joyful mystery of the Visitation seems like the perfect Gospel for today’s celebration. It occurred right after the Annunciation, when Mary said “yes” to God’s call to become the mother of His Son. Mary didn’t sit still. She set out in haste to visit Elizabeth. She followed the lead of the Holy Spirit and traveled 150 kilometers to help her elderly cousin, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Like Mary, Julia Doyle and Marie Benes set out 100 years ago for New Mexico. The hundreds of Victory Noll Sisters who succeeded them, including you, set out like Mary to the American Southwest and West and other places to bring Christ and His love to those in need.
Consecrated life is meant to be a life of self-giving love that involves practical and generous service, loving with the heart of Christ. Mary, who had conceived Jesus in her blessed womb, was moved by the mystery of love to set out in haste to Judah to offer Elizabeth help. This simple act reveals the sublime greatness of our Blessed Mother. After conceiving Jesus, she did not worry about herself, but instead thought about her elderly cousin. She hurried to help her neighbor. She was guided by her faith, the faith that, as St. Paul teaches, works through charity. Filled with divine grace, Mary was moved to active charity. Every gesture of genuine love, even if it appears small, is a spark of the infinite mystery of God who is love.
The 100-year history of your congregation, which we will celebrate in this jubilee year, is, in many ways, a Marian history. You and the Victory Noll Sisters before you have been women of deep faith inspired and led by Mary, our Pillar of Faith. Elizabeth praised her for her faith in these words at the Visitation: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” At the Annunciation, Mary gave her Fiat. She said “yes” to becoming the mother of the Son of God. Not only at the Annunciation, but always, she let herself be led by God. Her whole life was rooted in faith. You and so many Victory Noll Sisters through the years have followed Jesus on the itinerary of Mary’s pilgrimage of faith, going out in faith to serve amid hardships and challenges of many sorts. Like Mary, you bravely followed God’s plan for your life, including the sorrow of completing your mission as a community. Mary’s faith was perhaps most evident at the foot of the cross. In love and fidelity, we are called to stand with her at the foot of the cross. The cross is our ladder to heaven, as St. Rose of Lima once said.
Meditating on the mystery of the Visitation, we also come to realize that Mary’s charity was not just in giving material assistance to Elizabeth. Mary brought with her the Son of God Himself in her womb. Elizabeth recognized this when she exclaimed that Mary was blessed among women and when she said to her: “blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Of course, this is the greatest gift Mary brings. It is the summit of her charity. This is also the greatest gift Victory Noll Sisters have brought to others since your founding as missionary catechists — the gift of Jesus. That was and continues to be the greatest gift you bring to others, in active service and in your prayers.
Finally, we heard in the reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, … so shall my word that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” The Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters have carried God’s word to thousands of people these past 100 years. Only the Lord knows the many, many fruits of your labors in His vineyard. Today and throughout this Jubilee Year, we remember and give thanks for the holy mission of your congregation. May God bless you, and may Our Lady of Victory continue to intercede for you!