Sister Elvia Mata Ortega, IHMJanuary 21, 2017
L-R Sisters Chris Koellhoffer, Jean Louise Bachetti, Elvia Mata Ortega,
Ellen Maroney, and Susan Hadzima
Address given by IHM President, Sister Ellen Maroney
Buenas tardes y bienvenidos queridos amigos y hermanas, todos de ustedes reunidos aquí en este bonito espacio. Bienvenidos también a ustedes que reúnen con nosotros en esta celebración por medio de la tecnología, especialmente aquellos que han compartido la vida con Elvia.
Quiero agradecer en una forma especial, los padres de Elvia: José Trinidad y Elisa. Ellos han sembrado y nutrido la semilla de fe en la vida de Elvia desde el principio.
Quiero agradecer los otros nueve hermanos y hermanas de Elvia: Javier, Trinidad, Guadalupe, Lidia, Juan, Adriana, Adrián, Nancy, Karla y Marisol y todos sus familias. Ahora son miembros de la familia de IHM.
Demos gracias por las hermanas, Misioneras de Nuestra Señora de Perpetua Socorro con quien Elvia comenzó la vida consagrada, las mujeres y hombres en la misión en Monterrey y aquellos de la parroquia de San Juan Neumann en el sur de Scranton, las Hermanas de este Centro, especialmente de la comunidad de Holy Trinity y las hermanas de la comunidad de Capouse, y todas las hermanas con quien Elvia ha compartido la vida y la misión… por su amor y apoyo por Elvia y por su testimonio de fe y confianza en nuestro Dios quien nunca nos abandona.
Good afternoon and welcome, my dear friends and sisters, all of you gathered here in this beautiful space and all of you who join in this wonderful celebration via live-stream, especially those who have shared life with Elvia on her journey.
I want to thank in a very special way Elvia’s parents, José Trinidad and Elisa, who have nurtured the seed of faith throughout her life, and her other nine brothers and sisters: Javier, Trinidad, Guadalupe, Lidia, Juan, Adriana, Adrian, Nancy, Karla, and Maisol and their families, who are now part of our IHM family. We give thanks to the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, with whom Elvia began her vowed life as a religious sister. Our deep gratitude is given to the teachers and children at the school in Monterey, the women and men at Elvia’s parish in Monterey and from St. John Neuman parish in Southside, the sisters at the IHM Center, especially in Holy Trinity Community, and at “the house on Capouse,” and all the IHMs with whom Elvia has shared life and ministry, for their love and support for Elvia and their witness of faith and trust in our God who never abandons us.
We welcome very specially Elvia’s sister, Lydia and her husband, Ismael, and their son, Ismael, from California and her good friend, Israel, from Monterey, Mexico. We also are happy to have Padre Lupe with us. Padre is the Director of the Home and School for Children in Monterey where Elvia ministers as Deputy Director. A very warm welcome and thank you to Father Bruce Lewandowski, our celebrant, and Fathers Jim Brennan, Michael Bryant, and John Ruth, all who have been a part of Elvia’s journey to this moment and gather with us this day.
We gather this day to celebrate what has been in Elvia’s heart for a long time — her incorporation into the IHM Congregation of Scranton! We gather as God’s people with hearts full of joy to celebrate the journey of faith and love of God that Elvia has travelled and the mystery of God’s plan that is ever amazing, challenging, confusing, and almost always beyond our understanding. Accepting our life’s calling means letting ourselves fall into this unfathomable mystery at the heart of our existence in an act of loving self-surrender and trust. Such an act does not make everything clear; God, as we can all attest, has a marvelous sense of humor and does not spare us bewilderment. But we know that God is present where life is lived courageously, eagerly, humbly, and unselfishly.
Elvia life has been a testament to God’s love and persistence in calling us beyond our own plans and decisions, our own tendency to be satisfied and accept what is even when our heart is restless and unsettled. Joan Chittister tells us that the “restlessness within us is the spirit of Life [of God] trying to grow beyond what we see to the depths of what we already know.” Elvia’s journey of faith, first nurtured by her family in Santa Maria del Oro and deepened during her time with the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Life, was slowly, imperceptively at first, but steadily, leading her even deeper into the uncertainty and mystery of God’s love. As her own faith and trust grew, Elvia came to know what the poet, Rumi, meant when he wrote: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Today we celebrate Elvia’s journey of courage and humility in following her heart’s yearning for something beyond herself. Rumi’s “strange pull of love” led her to the Scranton IHMs, and the connection was immediate, and the rest, as we say, is her-story. Each of us, like Elvia, seeks the grace necessary to bring about God’s dream for our world. It is a journey outwardly and inwardly that brings us to a sense of oneness with our God and God’s creation that transcends our differences and our frailties, and calls us to look beyond or own needs and wants to those of others around us. Elvia’s journey of faith has taken her beyond herself to the poor in Monterey and to the IHMs in Scranton. As we gather at the table of the Lord today, we do so in gratitude for your gift of self, Elvia, and for your witness to us of what we are all called to be for and with one another. Thank you for reminding us of God's love for us and for challenging us to witness that love to all in our world. May you be blessed and strengthened always by God.
I close with an excerpt from a poem by Edwin Hayes:
A journey once taken alone, we now choose to take together, moving forward as one body into a future filled with possibility.
We walk without maps, but we walk confidently, and we walk with hope, because we have chosen to be lights for each other while on the way. . .
Leaving known paths behind us, we choose to journey in faith and service. As the journey brought us here, so now we begin it anew, in company [with you, Elvia].
Congratulations and welcome home, Elvia!
Sister Elvia's Intention
God has looked upon the humility of his servant! (Luke 1:48)
With tenderness and mercy he has shown me his greatness. God has placed me here in front of you, my IHM sisters.
God, in Infinite mercy has raised me up from the desert and continues speaking of love.
When I first came to you, my religious life was like this passage from the prophet Ezekiel: “A valley of dry bones.” (Ez 36:35). Through you, God has revived this dead life. With you, I returned to love the consecrated life. You showed me how to encounter my first love once again.
From the time that God brought me into this world, somehow I was already an IHM, but I was searching for you. How can I not recognize that it was God who brought me here? What other way could it have been so?
I trust that God has guided my life in spite of my weaknesses, my errors, my sin. God has shown me the path. God has brought me here from the most insignificant town of Mexico. The words have been fulfilled from scripture: “Can anything good come from Mexico? Much less, from Durango?” Or better said, “from Santa Maria del Oro, my small town?”
Recognizing such love and not having any other way to respond, I want to do so with my humble life, and ask of you, Sister Ellen Maroney, president of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that you permit me to profess my vows to you, my sisters. I wish to live according to the Gospel, and the mission, charism and constitutions of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in a spirit of prayer at the service of the people of God.