Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Recently, on July 25, the Feast of St. James the Apostle and St. Christopher, Sr. Regina Ann Tonn, OP made her Final Profession of Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, TN. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass began at 9:30 a.m., and was live streamed for those who could not be there in person. Their immediate families were able to be present, and a relatively small group of sisters. There were eight in her class making Vows at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and Bishop Mark Spalding was the main celebrant. Mother Anna Grace Neenan, O.P., their Prioress General received their Vows. Sister Regina Ann is back in Phoenix beginning her third year teaching at St. John Paul II Catholic High School (English 9-10, and Religion 9). What a gift she is to our Diocese!
All Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests have the privilege of professing Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. These Vows are known as “the evangelical counsels,” the way that Christ chose to live: poor, chaste and obedient. The Religious is called to make this self-gift by living these Vows in imitation of Jesus Christ, her Spouse. In his document on “Consecrated Life”, Vita Consecrata, St. John Paul II describes the evangelical counsels as a gift of the Holy Trinity. In Paragraph 21, he teaches:
Reflection on Trinitarian Life in the Evangelical Counsels
“The deepest meaning of the evangelical counsels is revealed when they are viewed in relation to the Holy Trinity, the source of holiness. They are in fact an expression of the love of the Son for the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. By practicing the evangelical counsels, the consecrated person lives with particular intensity the Trinitarian and Christological dimension which marks the whole of Christian life.
The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34), is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and brethren.
Poverty proclaims that God is man’s only real treasure. When poverty is lived according to the example of Christ who, “though he was rich…became poor” (2 Cor 8:9), it becomes an expression of that total gift of self which the three Divine Persons make to one another. This gift overflows into creation and is fully revealed in the Incarnation of the Word and in his redemptive death.
Obedience, practiced in imitation of Christ, whose food was to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn. 4:34), shows the liberating beauty of a dependence which is not servile but filial, marked by a deep sense of responsibility and animated by mutual trust, which is a reflection in history of the loving harmony between the three Divine Persons.
The consecrated life is thus called constantly to deepen the gift of the evangelical counsels with a love which grows ever more genuine and strong in the Trinitarian dimension: love for Christ, which leads to closeness with him; love for the Holy Spirit, who opens our hearts to his inspiration; love for the Father, the first origin and supreme goal of the consecrated life. The consecrated life thus becomes a confession and a sign of the Trinity, whose mystery is held up to the Church as the model and source of every form of Christian life.
Even fraternal life, whereby consecrated persons strive to live in Christ with “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32), is put forward as an eloquent witness to the Trinity. It proclaims the Father, who desires to make all humanity one family. It proclaims the Incarnate Son, who gathers the redeemed into unity, pointing the way by his example, his prayer, his words and above all his death, which is the source of reconciliation for a divided and scattered humanity. It proclaims the Holy Spirit as the principal of unity in the Church, wherein he ceaselessly raises up spiritual families and fraternal communities.”
A great quote about the Vows from a wonderful book on Religious Life, The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious:
“Far from being a destruction of anything truly human, it is precisely within this context that the consecrated religious finds liberation from the egoism and restless self-seeking that so characterize our times and much more: the joy of a deep and true relationship of spousal love with God.” (CMSWR, 27)
We give thanks to God for the life and vocation of Sr. Regina Ann Tonn, OP!
God bless you and all in your communities.
With gratitude and prayers, I am
Your Sister in Christ,
Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM
Director of the Office of Consecrated Life of Phoenix