On August 15, 1991, Sister Mary Catherine Rose Giacobbe placed her hands into the hands of Bishop Nicholas Dattilo, professing her vows as the first hermit Sister in the Diocese of Harrisburg and giving herself to a life of prayerful solitude and self-denial for the salvation of the world.
Thirty years later, Sister Mary Catherine Rose again placed her hands into those of the Diocesan Bishop, as she renewed her vows before Bishop Ronald Gainer during a Pontifical High Mass celebrated August 14 at St. Lawrence Chapel in Harrisburg.
“I made my first vows in the chapel at the Diocesan Center 30 years ago in such a simple and profound way, and had the beautiful opportunity of renewing them on my anniversary, placing my hands into the hands of our bishop, in Persona Christi,” Sister Mary Catherine Rose reflected.
“I felt so complete in that moment. It was like Jesus took my hands and said, ‘Come, my child. You are mine,’” she said. “I can honestly say that I was so welled up with the Holy Spirit.”
A native of New Jersey and a former medical professional, Sister Mary Catherine Rose answered the call to the eremitical life while discerning religious life following a return to the Catholic faith. She relocated to Harrisburg, where she professed her vows and now lives at the Flower of Carmel Hermitage. (Click here to read her feature in “The Called” from earlier this summer.)
The Church recognizes the life of hermits, who are called to withdraw from the world and devote their lives to God and the salvation of the world through solitude, self-denial, and prayer.
“When you live as a hermit, you certainly come closer to God and you come to see the person that He made you to be,” Sister Mary Catherine Rose said.
The number of hermits in the Diocese has grown since Sister Mary Catherine Rose made her vows 30 years ago. During the anniversary Mass, Bishop Gainer asked the congregation to pray for the men and women who have answered the call to the eremitical life.
“Oftentimes people think that monasticism or the solitary life is an escape from the world,” he said, “but it’s not an escape. It’s meant to be an encounter, to encounter the Lord as fully as possible, and that’s possible in the silence, in the self-denial, in the solitude. We encounter our own selves as a sinner and profoundly in need of God’s grace. The eremitical life is not an escape, it’s an invitation to encounter Jesus Christ.”
“What a magnificent joy and profound blessing God gives to each one of us and to our entire Diocesan Church as we celebrate together this Mass in Thanksgiving for the 30 years of fidelity of Sister Mary Catherine Rose to her vows that she made before God,” Bishop Gainer said.
“When we celebrate an anniversary, we’re not just celebrating the passing of time…. We’re not just celebrating 30 years; we’re celebrating the fidelity of Sister to those vows, and the promises that were made and kept, vows that were professed and lived faithfully,” he said.
“We live in a world where words have been cheapened. People say things and feel they have no consequence or don’t have to be bound by them…. But today, we have the witness of a life of faithfulness, a life of following that rare but so needed vocation as part of the Church, the oldest form of the religious life in the Church,” the bishop said. “Sister gives a wonderful moment today to be grateful that we have among us women and men who have the courage – by the grace of God – to discern this unique call.”
Sister Mary Catherine Rose expressed her gratitude those who attended the Mass, and to those who have walked with her on her journey. “It is such an opportunity to feel closer to God,” she said.
Visit www.flowerofcarmelhermitage.org to learn more about the eremitical life and to send prayer requests to Sister.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness