All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God

by Sister Veronica of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, O. Carm.

“Yes, it is good to have a place to call home, but the region where we live during our earthly life is only a sign, ephemeral and imperfect, of our heavenly home in the New Jerusalem.” – Sister Veronica of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, O. Carm.

I grew up in Maryland. My parents said to me once while visiting in Wahpeton, “When we brought our first baby home from the hospital we never thought that 22 years later we would be dropping her off at a cloister in North Dakota.” Really, my mother should not have been so surprised because she knew my cherished childhood dream of moving out west to become a pioneer on the frontier like Laura Ingalls Wilder. By the time I was a teenager, finding no way to realize such a desire at the turn of the 21st century, I determined instead to go either to Africa or to China as a missionary. Then, when I was 19 going on 20, God himself solved my dilemma though my discovery of Carmel of Mary out on the prairie.

From the moment when my vocation became clear, I fell passionately in love with the land of North Dakota. I love the snow and the vast, open horizon. I love all the people who dwell here, those whom I have met and those whom I have yet to meet. Please do not mistake me for a naïve romantic. I know all too well that every land has its darkness and its heartrending contradictions, its tragedies and its tears; but it is these very shadows that are destined to be transformed into glory through Jesus Christ, on the Last Day, when all will be revealed.

Some of you may know that a few years ago our little Carmelite Community went through a transition as two of our Sisters, one of whom is the most beloved friend I have ever had, received a call to bring the riches of Carmelite spirituality to a different diocese further south. My experience being left behind has been a blessed occasion for me to penetrate in new and ever deeper ways the sacred meaning of my presence here in this place as part of the Father’s magnificent plan for salvation history. I like to think of myself as living in one of the far distant four corners of the earth to which the saving power of the Holy Spirit has been extended.

Every time that Bishop Folda has visited Carmel of Mary, I have wished that I could speak to him of what is in my heart, of my love for the Diocese of Fargo. One of my favorite things about being a cloistered nun is that one is not ordinarily transferred from place to place. My consecrated life belongs in a special way to the local Church, to the priests and people of our diocese.

There is much change, instability, and uncertainty in today’s world. All this has an impact even on the centuries old tradition of religious life. The signs of the times may require us to go, in charity and obedience, beyond our boundaries. This past October, for example, I was asked to travel to Pennsylvania to help with an event in honor of St. Therese of Lisieux. Together with 85-year-old Sister Gertrude and Sister Arlene from the Philippines, I helped to prepare over a thousand roses of many colors to be blessed and distributed to pilgrims. One day while I was there, my family from Maryland stopped by to visit just long enough to give me a chance to kiss my sister’s three month old baby and to give my niece a copy of Roxane Salonen’s charming book, The Twelve Days of Christmas in North Dakota. I was only away for a week, but it was one of the longest weeks of my life, so reluctant was I to be absent from the unique place on earth where I have promised to remain in prayer, day and night, year after year, until death.

Yes, it is good to have a place to call home, but the region where we live during our earthly life is only a sign, ephemeral and imperfect, of our heavenly home in the New Jerusalem. The hermits who lived on Mount Carmel were soon obliged to abandon the place of their origins, but they brought with them, as a living and life-giving memory, the beauty of the holy mountain, jewel of the Promised Land, symbol of the Virgin Mother of God, who has preceded us into paradise. Our Lord has told us that the meek shall inherit the land and that the Kingdom of Heaven is already in the possession of the poor in spirit.

The title of our diocesan magazine is New Earth, reminding us that the new creation for which we long begins here and now. Through the Blood of our immortal King, Jesus Christ, we have been gathered into the Holy City. In hope we taste and see already the joys of our everlasting homeland. Alleluia!

Sister Veronica of the IHM is a Carmelite Nun of the Carmel of Mary Monastery in Wahpeton.