The Saturday morning Louisiana sun beamed brightly as the 10:00 AM hour approached. The parking lot of Saint Maria Goretti Catholic Church, at 7300 Crowder Boulevard in New Orleans, began to fill to capacity. The church auditorium buzzed with exhilarated voices of salutations, introductions, and renewals of old acquaintances. Ahmad Jabaar (Bobby Wilder), Babe Ruth Jones, Johnnie B. (Wilder) Thompson and Elaine (Ward) Wyman, Holy Spirit Marshall Alumni, joyfully greeted one another, and like reunited siblings, sat closely together in the church’s eastward pews. From that vantage point they witnessed together a vision and experiential reality that cannot easily be conveyed by mortal tongue or expression.
The sanctuary filled with the glorious sound of a gospel choir, offering soulful renditions to the accompaniment of an organist, a pianist, a drummer, and a very apt and skillful flutist. The inspired audience began reeling, toe tapping, and hand clapping to the tempo that set the tone and pace of the celebration. As the celebratory mass commenced, the choir rendered a rich array of hymns, gospels, and liturgical chants throughout.
Preceded by the Cross of Christ, candles and incense, the grand entry of the Jubilarians was poetry in motion. Picture the exquisite tableau created as the twelve matronly nuns, clad in the black-and-white habit of the order, marched solemnly yet joyfully down the aisle, each escorted by a cherubic little girl dressed in all-white, each little girl carrying a single long-stemmed red rose. Sighting familiar faces among the twelve sisters in that symbol-filled scene brought smiles, tears, and memories of decades past to the four of us.
Saint Maria Goretti’s platform and altar were bedecked by the bishop, other clergy, and deacons—all robed in clerical garbs. Various thematic Scripture readings were heard from among these ministering brethren, as well as from different Sisters of the Holy Family. The congregation received a great admonition and exhortation, delivered in reflective homily, in regards to living lives of exclusive dedication, and encouraging our children to do so.
Intercessory prayer was offered for various vocations, celebrants, and the Jubilarians. Next was the entertaining and articulate tribute to the Sisters of the Holy Family by Louisiana State Senator, Cynthia Willard-Lewis. She presented an official grand certificate bearing the state seal to each of the honorees. The Jubilarians then renewed their vows and commitment to their religious vocation, and the mass culminated in the Eucharistic celebration.
Then the recession to the church’s dining hall where a reception in honor of the Jubilarians ensued. There the four members from the Holy Spirit Marshall Alumni presented a plaque of honor, congratulations, and appreciation to Sister Edna Mae Jones (formerly Sister Maria Gratia) and Sister Mary Concetta Augustine in gratitude for their years of devoted service to our school and community. Special recognition was also given to Sister Marie Antonia who was present. These women of God were among those who gave selfless service at Holy Spirit School at Marshall, Texas, over the course of its educational functionality. They were given hugs, kisses, and a hymn of dedication was sung by Babe Ruth Jones: “I Gave My Life For Thee.”
The alumni members, already bursting with elation, concluded their activities with an exuberant visit to Lafon Nursing Facility of the Sisters of the Holy Family at 6900 Chef Menteur Highway. There they visited and took pictures with Sister Ephegenia (now, Sister Mary Ferguson) and Sister Mary Anthony Allen, who both also taught curriculum and electives at Holy Spirit Marshall. The gleam in the eyes of these sisters and the warm beams from their faces paled the vehemence of the Louisiana sun. Our gratitude for these women’s resolute allegiance to Christ and His people reaches even beyond the farthest star!