Fiat like Mary: Sister Mary Francisca professes her first vows
ARLINGTON — Roses and sweet incense perfumed the chapel of the Carmel of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington on Aug. 21. A stained-glass window bursting with colors lit the wall near the tabernacle. The Carmelite convent’s usual silence was interrupted that morning by the chatter of family, friends, and admirers of Sister Mary Francisca of the Blessed Sacrament (née Katherine Sartorius).
Her father, Deacon Kevin Sartorius, lined up with Bishop Michael Olson, several other priests, deacons, and altar servers in preparation for the beginning of Mass. Behind the grille, obscured by flowers and a statue of Our Lady holding the infant Jesus, the Carmelites prayed together. A few minutes before ten o’clock, wedding bells rang.
Two years ago on August 24, Sister received her habit and her religious name. This morning, she took the next step in her vocation: her first profession of vows as a Carmelite nun. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Mary Francisca replied “I do” to God’s call in her life.
During the first reading, a sister declared the word of the Lord from the Song of Songs: “Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away….” And the congregation recited Psalm 33: “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.” Deacon Sartorius read the annunciation story from the Gospel of St. Luke.
During his homily, Bishop Olson turned to Sister Mary Francisca. “The seal [of love] is an ever-closer bond with Christ who so loved the world that He gave His life for us. Especially you… He who is your crucified spouse. Sister Mary Francisca, He chooses you as His bride.”
Sister Mary Francisca beamed at those words.
Bishop Olson described the Fiat of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for Carmelite sisters and for every Catholic living out their vocation: “The closer a person is to God, the closer he or she is to the people,” he said. “The fact that [Mary] is totally with God is the reason why she is so close with human beings, her children entrusted to her by Jesus on the cross.”
After the homily, Sister Mary Francisca answered “I do” to God’s calling in her life as she professed her vows and received a copy of the Rule and Constitutions of the Carmelites and a blessed crucifix. Reverend Mother Teresa Agnes carefully arranged a beautiful flower crown over Sister Mary Francisca’s white veil, then led Sister Mary Francisca around the chapel to embrace each sister warmly. During the prayers of the faithful, Mother Anne Teresa prayed for Sister Mary Francisca “that we may help her to grow in love and holiness.”
Before receiving Communion, the sisters recited the words of Jesus in Mark 3:35: “‘Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,’ says the Lord.” After receiving Communion, Sister Mary Francisca turned and almost glided to her place in front of the statue of Our Lady.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Olson thanked the sisters for inviting him to celebrate this festive Mass. “I ask your prayers for my ministry as a bishop, for my own vocation, and for the good of the diocese.”
Many of Sister Mary Francisca’s friends from Tulsa, Oklahoma made the pilgrimage to the convent. Among them, Sister Miriam Stephania, Sister Mary Kenechukwu, and Sister Jacinta Maria of the Immaculate Heart of Mary stood out in their royal blue habits. Friends of Deacon Sartorius via his work at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, the sisters were not surprised by Sister Mary Francisca’s vocation. “She had mentioned it at the dinner table a few times,” said Sister Mary Kenechukwu.
“Do you get to wear your flower crown all day?” asked friend and neighbor Catherine Schmidt in the visitor’s parlor.
Sister Mary Francisca nodded, smiling.
Kristie Bell, a neighbor, said that her daughter, Lily, was the maid of honor.
“I was appointed that this morning,” Lily Bell said.
Laughing, Jennifer Sartorius, mother of the bride, asked, “Can I claim Him as my son-in-law?”
Sister Mary Francisca grinned at her father. She patted her new brass and ebony crucifix. “I’ll think of you every time I put it on,” she said.
“She’ll wear that [crucifix] virtually all the time,” Deacon Sartorius told the North Texas Catholic. He proudly showed photographs of his sons melting down brass to pour into a mold of Jesus’s body and carefully preparing ebony wood to form the cross.
As guests slowly made their way to St. Joseph Parish for a celebratory luncheon, the Carmelites returned to their life of prayer — prayer for the whole world, including the Diocese of Fort Worth. In the rose-scented chapel, light from the stained-glass window illuminated the altar, a reminder that Christ is the source and summit of all vocations.