By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published January 10, 2008 | En Español
I am a bit embarrassed to admit that this past Sunday was the first occasion that I could host a tradition that is both an honor and an obligation for the Archbishop of Atlanta. I held the first Epiphany reception at my home for the women religious of this local Church. This event closes the Christmas gatherings for me and is an important opportunity for me to extend to these wonderful women a Christmas word of thanks, not only on my behalf, but in the name of the entire Archdiocesan family.
Why has it taken me three years to accomplish this responsibility? Well, that’s a long story. This celebration during my first year coincided with Archbishop Donoghue’s retirement events, and the sisters’ Epiphany gathering was deferred during those interim activities. My first full year’s calendar did not include this event as an oversight since it had not made the previous year’s calendar. Last year, the event was also the occasion of a fire in my house just as the sisters began arriving for the celebration. This year, with no catastrophes or oversights, I did have the privilege of welcoming them to my home for a reception—finally!
While there are several other observances during the year that honor our women religious, Christmas is a time when all of us remember the many wonderful people who have blessed our lives—and for most Catholics somewhere among those people is a sister. Whether she was a teacher, a nurse, a catechist, a pastoral associate or even just a neighbor, most Catholics have memories that include the graced presence of a nun. I know personally that my life has been and continues to be graced by the presence of women religious from my childhood right up to and including today. Therefore Christmas is an opportunity for the Archbishop to invite all the sisters of the Archdiocese of Atlanta to come over to his home to enjoy a reception and to say “thank you, Sister, Merry Christmas!”
Obviously not all of the sisters can attend. Some are cloistered contemplatives and rarely leave the confines of their convent. Some are on pastoral duty on Epiphany Sunday and cannot attend because of the obligations that they embrace for a particular parish or community. Some of them live at such a distance that the trip to and from Atlanta is just too taxing. But all of them are invited because it is an honor to have sisters serving this local Church visit my home and Christmas time is an appropriate moment to gather them.
The sisters also enjoy visiting with one another on a happy social occasion. There are longstanding friendships that bind them to one another, and this reception allows them to rekindle those friendships!
There was music, good food and drink and an occasion for the Church to say thank you—God bless you Sister! Some of them sang, a few danced and all of them seemed to enjoy the occasion to know that they are loved and appreciated—that was a wonderful opportunity for me and a great way to conclude the Christmas moment!
If you would like to know more about the many communities of women religious in our Archdiocese, I suggest you visit our Web site and go to the page under vocations on religious orders.
Epiphany is the feast that reminds the Church of the gifts that the three kings offered the Infant Christ. These women religious certainly are gifts to this local Church.