by Sister Margaret Bosch, SDS
It was about October 10, 1968 that I, along with Sister Charline (Margaret) Shekleton, our provincial, and Sister Mary Michael (Grace) Cavanaugh arrived at our Motherhouse in Rome, Italy. We had come to England by ship, the S.S. United States, and then flew to Rome from there, stopping in Germany and Belgium on the way.
On October 12 I remember joining the Motherhouse choir for a practice in St. Peter’s Basilica. I had never been to Rome before. As we arrived in the piazza, it was a special joy to see the huge oil painting of (soon to be Blessed) Mary of the Apostles in heavenly glory, hanging from the logia over the main door. (This painting appears below.)
When we entered the basilica and got our places close to the main altar, I noticed the beautiful alabaster stained glass window with a large dove representing the Holy Spirit. It is on the west side behind the main altar, and the sun was shining through brilliantly. A highlight during the next day’s ceremony was to see another painting of Blessed Mary of the Apostles like the one outside, covering this same window. It unfurled as Pope Paul VI declared Mary blessed.
Another thing that struck me during the ceremony was how male-centered it was. That would have affected me differently today, 50 years later.
Why was I in Rome? Earlier in 1968 I was elected in a Provincial Chapter to represent our province at our General Chapter, as was Sister Elaine Czarnezki. She had arrived in Rome some weeks earlier along with Sister Kathleen Bergs, who was asked to come for secretarial duties, and Sister Germaine Vandenberg for culinary duties.
It was a great joy for me to know that some of our elderly Sisters in the U.S. who knew Blessed Mary of the Apostles during their days of formation in Tivoli, Italy were able to attend this great event. After a week of celebrations in various churches in Rome, our General Chapter began.
I can’t actually remember my feelings after the Beatification ceremony. I was too concerned with what was to come at General Chapter. I knew it would be a difficult meeting, just as our Provincial Chapter had been. This chapter was not to be one of elections. It was a special Chapter called by the Church, and was required of every religious congregation worldwide in the new Vatican II document on Religious Life. What became difficult during the chapter was to see how very different each unit of our international Congregation was. This in itself is now a richness that we see and treasure.
Now as I write this reflection I’m thinking how different things are today. God has blessed our Province and our Congregation with good leaders who have brought us this far.
I close with great gratitude to share my thoughts as the only Salvatorian Sister from the North American Province who was present for the beatification of Blessed Mary of the Apostles and is still alive 50 years later.