Fiat Spiritus Beginnings

Written by Sister Shirley Bell, PHJC

On Saturday, January 25, 2003 Poor Handmaid Sisters and Associates gathered in joy to witness the Rite of Entry of the Fiat Spiritus candidates. This ritual marked the beginning of the candidates’ time of preparation for their vowed commitment and the foundation of the Fiat Spiritus community in June.

After listening to a reading from Ephesians 1:17-19, each candidate stood from various areas in the assembly and proclaimed, “God has spoken to me through the movement of the Spirit in my life; therefore I am called to the Fiat Spiritus community.” When all concluded, they walked to the front of chapel and stood facing the assembly. Each candidate then witnessed the Fiat Spiritus expression of the charism by praying cinquains that each had written. A cinquain is a five-line stanza of poetry. One candidate wrote the following:

Generous, Joyous
Inviting, Responding, Never-ending
Song of the heart
Strong, Gentle
Prompting, Creating, Renewing
Breath of God's love

The assembly responded to each candidate’s cinquain by singing Spirit of the Living God and concluded with a reading from the Fiat Spiritus rule.

A five-wick candle signified the support and blessing extended to the candidates. After reading Sister Hermana, General Superior’s letter extending approval of the continued development of the Fiat Spiritus community, Sister Jolise lit the first flame representing the members of our international congregation. Sister Annemarie on behalf of the Sisters of the American Province lit the second flame after reading a section from the American Province Pastoral Plan. The Associates’ prayer was used to extend the blessing from the American Province Associates with the candle being lit by Associate Margaret Petron. Catherine Kasper’s words from 1876, were used by candidate Donna Blanchette as she lit the candle to remind us that, “The Holy Spirit’s flaming love brings joy to our hearts and inflames them always.” And finally, candidate Mike Blanchette called upon the Spirit to light their journey as he lit the final wick. This candle will accompany the candidates during their gatherings as they prepare for their profession of vows and the foundation of the Fiat Spiritus community.

Concluding the ceremony, the candidates received the Fiat Spiritus Statutes and Rule. The Rule and the vows as expressed in their Rule will be studied as part of their preparation along with the topics of Mary and Catherine as disciple and community and ministry in the context of Fiat Spiritus. The Rule was wrapped in hardanger cloth to symbolize the contemplative/active nature of the Fiat Spiritus community. “Taking this cloth they will enter into prayer and with this cloth about their waist they will reach out to serve, so that like Catherine, these actions become one manifesting the Spirit’s direction in their lives. During their preparation time, each candidate will stitch meaningful symbols on their cloth and these will again be used during the vow ceremony in June.

While the journey of in-depth reflection is not unfamiliar individually for each candidate, reflecting and exploring as a group on the meaning of the Christian vowed life comes as unknown territory. In the words of our African brothers and sisters, “The path is made by walking.” While the path is uncertain collectively, Catherine’s spirituality and the charism of the Poor Handmaids provide the solid ground upon which the group will trod. Our support and prayers go with them as they embark upon this journey.