"Rejoice With Me"
by Jenna Legg
On Saturday, April 23rd, Sr. Mumbi Kigutha professed final vows a Sister of the Precious Blood! As a lay person, I had never been to a Final Profession Mass. So I thought I would share my experience as well as a few pictures and my reflections on the experience.
After much preparation (years in formation and months in vow preparation), the day of Mass arrived. Much like wedding preparation, the entire week beforehand was filled with excited nerves and last minute details. Sr. Mumbi intentionally chose the music, readings and all of the ministers involved in the liturgy, each holding a special significance for her and her faith journey. On the day of the celebration, Sr. Mumbi joyfully entered the chapel at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. She was joined in the procession by her family in attendance and priest and deacon friends of hers. It was a beautiful testament to the depth of her faith and culture by the number of people gathered and the wide array of cultural colors and patterns present in the chapel that day. Personally, I'd only heard of experiences of liturgy in Africa and was excited to experience a hint of the joy I'd heard about.
Mass proceeded as normal, with first and second readings and a gospel. Sr. Mumbi selected readings that reminded her of God's love and her call - Song of Songs and Mary's fiat. I overheard Sr. Mumbi mention that the first reading was even more poetic, like a true love poem when read in Swahili. She had a prayer card printed for the occasion with a verse of from the Song of Songs, "Rise, My Love and Come." It was evident that Sr. Mumbi's relationship with our God was so overwhelming that she had no choice but to share that love with others. At the conclusion of the Gospel, Sr. Mumbi petitioned the president of the community for final vows publicly.
After a beautifully personal homily, the priest asked Sr. Mumbi a series of questions of examination, including:
"Are you resolved with the help of the Holy Spirit to spend your whole life in the generous service of God's people?"
These questions were meant to be an examination of mind and heart, remind Sr. Mumbi of her purpose at the chapel but also in this community.
After Sr. Mumbi responded "I am" to each of the questions, she laid prostrate in front of the altar as the community sang a Litany of Saints. Sr. Mumbi carefully selected saints whom she'd like to intercede on her behalf. She chose men and women from color, from different parts of the world and saints who likely have impacted her faith journey. Although some outsiders may just see and hear a list of names, the litany was a deeply personal testament to Sr. Mumbi's faith journey.
The community concluded the Litany of Saints with a sung request "Bless this sister of ours, your servant, make her holy and consecrate her to your service." It was a testament and reminder that Sr. Mumbi was making vows within a community; not only was she dedicating herself to God, but to it was through her sisters.
After the litany was prayed, Sr. Mumbi rose. The priest recited a beautiful prayer of Solemn Consecration. The prayer weaved its way through moments of salvation history, outlining God's call from the beginning of time, all of which lead Sr. Mumbi to this place. "Lover of souls, we earnestly pray to you: send the fire of the Holy Spirit into the heart of your daughter, Mumbi, to keep alive within her the holy desire Christ has given her." What a beautiful thought - that with the creation of the world, with the call of Abraham and Sarah, with the suffering of Christ - God had you, us, Mumbi in mind!
After this blessing, Sr. Mumbi stood and publicly professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience according to the rule of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. The president of the community formally accepted her vows, making her a permanent member of the community. She and her witnesses signed their names in the book of the community and the congregation rejoiced! There was clapping, tears, African ululation, hugs and more!
Sr. Mumbi invited friends to share in a liturgical dance of thanksgiving! It was a lively, energetic and wonderful display of gratitude after her profession. The dance was performed via video in Kenya and live in our chapel to a song in Swahili, translated to "We bring you these gifts, please accept them and bless them." Once again, I'd heard that Masses in Africa can include long celebratory dances, so I was excited to witness a piece of culture. It was evident that the movement was a prayer itself and meant to convey the true act of worship - the bringing up of gifts, both literal and figurative. The moment was also special in that we were able to span continents and unite believers from across the globe in a moment of celebration and Thanksgiving. It was a true symbol of Sr. Mumbi's gift to our community.
Mass proceeded through the Eucharistic prayer and reception of Holy Communion. Sr. Mumbi could not hold back her smile either, which was contagious. It was a blessed day for another reason; after a hiatus of being able to receive the Precious Blood, our diocese was permitted to receive from the cup that weekend. What a beautiful day and occasion to receive the Precious Blood that both beckons and sends Mumbi to mission. After reception of community, the entire community participated in a dance of Thanksgiving, not only in gratitude for her vows but for the tremendous gift of the Eucharist! It was true celebration - in song, dance, joy and more. It was a beautiful outward display of the inward joy.
At the conclusion of Mass, the priest bestowed one final blessing on Sr. Mumbi prior to the exit procession, which was done to "This is the feast of the victory for our God" which once again seemed fitting for the celebration. Everyone made their way downstairs to our dining hall for a lively reception! I had a wonderful time celebrating with Sr. Mumbi. I've only known her for a few years, but even those years, her witness has been a blessing for me. She is hope for the future of religious life and proof of a joyful faith!