Mass of Religious Profession of Sister Caroline Ong, R.S.M.
Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Martin of Tours Church, Rosanna,
on Saturday, 14th December, 2002, at 2.00pm
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Together with her parents, Mary and Felix, and her brothers, Adrian and Francis, we are one with the Melbourne Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and the whole Church of Melbourne, in rejoicing at the religious profession of Sister Caroline here in this church.
Through her role as a doctor, Caroline has come to know that all healing must necessarily be of the whole person, as she desires to emphasise the dignity and destiny of each person whom she serves. Catherine McAuley describes a Sister of Mercy as one whom Christ has graciously permitted to assist him in the person of his suffering poor.
Her encouragement to another young religious, “Put your whole trust in God – he will never let you want”, is our inspiration, as we seek to place our lives in God’s hands, calling to mind our sins.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today in this second week of Advent we look forward to the coming of the Lord with joyful hope. Indeed, it is the role of consecrated religious to share in the mission of the Saviour. This is why the invitation given to the whole Church for the new millennium, to start afresh with Christ through contemplation and holiness, to be one with him and then to launch out into the deep is nowhere more true than in a person consecrated in chastity, poverty and obedience. These vows witness to the fact that earthly emptying of self is the opening to a whole new possibility of being ministers of healing.
Yet, as the Holy Father has often told us, all religious are called to enter into the mystery of the Saviour. It is a mystery of sacrifice or self-emptying in which glory and cross are indissolubly joined according to the paschal character of Christian life. It is an offering of self, which begins in community life and in the memory that we too are victims given for others.
When we have contemplated the face of Christ we set out anew from him to bear witness to his love and mercy. Religious consecration gives a new force to the medical maxim that healing happens in totality, and in coming to profession Sister Caroline has sought to know that God is forgiving and loving and to be the instrument of that forgiveness to others. Her life as a Mercy Sister will begin in the Eucharist and will continue in the seeking of holiness through walking with Christ.
Like him and to the extent that they are conformed to him, consecrated people also become “a sign of contradiction”, that is, they encourage other people to take a position regarding Jesus, who is not just an historical figure, or an abstract ideal, but a living person to follow without compromise. These remarkable gifts of religious to the Church will enable Sister Caroline to accept totally the people for whom she cares, to be an instrument of forgiveness and emphasising the dignity of each person in God’s eyes.
I say with esteem that the invitation to religious life is a mysterious call from God. In the case of the Sister of Mercy, following the charism of Catherine McAuley, it is a practical, down to earth, caring love of God, an ability to see God in the poor. Caroline herself is moved by Catherine McAuley’s example and courage as the basis of her relationship with God. Truly it can be said that the consecrated religious is, “a life for relation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel.” (Luke 2:32) The consecrated life is called to reflect Christ’s light in the practical circumstances of care in an exceptional way. Caroline acknowledges through her openness to God and to his creation to people, that he is the master of her destiny and enables great things to happen through her agency and beyond her control because of that openness to God.
She too realises the challenge in starting afresh with Christ, the impetus to a practical holiness in the Mercy Congregation. Catherine McAuley had a particular talent for imparting cheerfulness, especially when difficulties arose and her own words are that the very best apostolate we can engage in is the witness of holiness of life.
Today, as with thankfulness I am present as Caroline professes her lifelong vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in the presence of the leaders of the Congregation, I am privileged also to add the blessing of the Church to her total commitment to Jesus Christ inspired by the prayer and witness of Mary, the Mother of the Church, and Lady of Mercy, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me.”
May Sister Caroline be a gifted and generous instrument of the love of Christ through her religious consecration and professional skill to reach out as an instrument of mercy to those with whom she works and for whom she cares. Today, it is fitting that she be supported by our prayers, our joy and thanksgiving, as she comes forward to make her profession.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.