In a ceremony rarely viewed by the outside world, five sisters belonging to the Franciscan Daughters of Mary assumed traditional habits before some 250 guests at Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Wallington.
The ceremony—known as an investiture—is typically reserved for Religious and clergy.
Known as a private association of faithful religious women, the Franciscan Daughters of Mary began their mission to “uphold life from conception until natural death” nearly nine years ago. Their work includes ministering to pregnant women, both married and single, the poor, elderly and handicapped.
As of Sept. 15, the sisters will take up permanent residence in Covington, KY.
Mother Teresa Marie, a founding member of the order, obtained special permission from their new ordinary, Bishop Roger J. Foys of Covington, to invite guests to the ceremony.
“We wanted to share our joy with our family, friends and supporters,” said Mother Teresa Marie. Among them were Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, 16 priests, two acolytes, ten Religious and a deacon.
Mother Teresa Marie was quick to point out that Mormons, Baptists, Jews and people of other faiths numbered among the invited guests. “People came up to me afterwards and expressed how moved they were… they said they’d never seen anything like it,” she noted.
That’s because the ceremony has become increasingly rare. “I haven’t heard of anyone who is in a modern [or ‘modified’] habit of having one,” Mother Teresa Marie commented.
The full habit consists of a coif worn over the head, a veil, a scapular worn over the shoulders, a cord worn around the waist and a set of Rosary Beads, which dangle from the cord on the left side.
Sister Teresa Marie explained why they chose to assume the full habit, “For us, as Franciscans, it’s very much to do with being a light in a world of darkness… the habit is the external witness of conversion.”
The ceremony dates back to 1212, when St. Clare of Assisi abandoned her wealthy family for the Religious life. St. Francis cut her hair, gave her a rough tunic and a heavy veil, signs of shedding all vanity.
During the ceremony, each sister was called out by her birth name, then given a Religious name, as Bishop Serratelli cut [or ‘tonsured’] locks from each sister’s hair. Father Felix R. Marciniak, pastor of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, sang out the Hymn of the Martyrs.
Piece by piece, the sisters were presented with the parts of their new habit, which had been blessed by Bishop Serratelli. When they finished, there was applause as the sisters hugged and kissed each other.
“It was a very emotional moment,” Mother Teresa Marie recalled.
“As witnesses to Christ, it was important to share our total commitment with our brothers and sisters in the Church,” she concluded.