Sister Jenny Sellaro publicly made her perpetual vows as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ (ASC) to “set her face ever more steadily toward the Lord” on June 26. Through her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, she made the promise to give her life completely to Christ, and to the Gospel challenge as lived in the spirit and mission of the Adorer community.
Sister Jenny graduated from the nursing program at Newman in 2020 and served as a front-line health care hero during the pandemic at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita.
Sister Jenny’s fellow ASC sisters, also referred to as Adorers, celebrated her perpetual dedication ceremony with a vigil, Mass and luncheon at the ASC Wichita Center, located just south of the Newman University campus.
“It is a feeling of fulfillment and yet a humbling feeling,” Sister Jenny said. “This is a huge commitment that, as Sister Vicki Bergkamp (ASC) said, can be kept only with my communion with God and with the support of my sisters and brothers in Christ.”
A day of rejoicing
More than 60 people gathered in the pews for the ceremony in the Chapel of the New Covenant. At the beginning of Mass, the readings, psalms and Gospel were read to the attendees. All present ASC sisters were then invited to renew their own vows as a symbol of their commitment to live according to the constitution of the ASC community in the spirit of Saint Maria De Mattias, who founded the ASC.
“We gather ourselves with great humility and great promise to our sister,” Sister Vicki said. “We promise that when she makes these vows, we are going to have her back. We will be there for her in every way we can. And some days we’re really good at it, other days we’re not so good, but we continue to make those bonds stronger and more helpful to each other.”
Sister Vicki reminded her fellow sisters that St. Maria De Mattias didn’t call others to live a cozy life, she called them to a life of challenges and hardships in order to welcome necessary growth.
“We are an apostolic community,” Sister Vicki continued. “It doesn’t take long to look around to see all the deeds we’ve done and all that need some attention. And yet, our little bit is a little bit. But (St. Maria De Mattias) taught us to believe that every little bit counts.”
Following these words, Sister Jenny was invited forward to proclaim her intentions and to profess her perpetual vows. Father Tom Welk led the blessing of the ring, which serves as a remembrance of Christ’s Precious Blood, a lasting sign of Sister Jenny’s promise and a pledge to become a living image of the divine charity of Christ.
Looking to her fellow ASC sisters and then the Mass assembly, Sister Jenny promised: “In response to God’s love and faithfulness, I am asking of my own free will to make perpetual profession of vows as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ, and to continue to follow Jesus in a life of adoration that impels me to apostolic service of my dear neighbor.”
Sister Vicki then stated the final words: “Sister Jenny, in the name of the Congregation of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, I hereby confirm that you are a member forever of our religious family, sharing all things in common with us now and in the future. In communion with Jesus, Mary, and Maria De Mattias, may you faithfully fulfill the ministry the Church has entrusted in you.”
The audience applauded, hugs were exchanged and Sister Jenny was presented with the ring as a sign of her everlasting promise to Christ.
“This was one of the most meaningful days of my life,” Sister Jenny said. “Not only a point of arrival after a long journey, but also a point of surrendering everything to God, and finally the start of the life that God designed for me from all eternity.”
As the luncheon came to a close, Sister Jenny considered the witness she and her fellow Adorers gave as a community.
She said, “I looked around and I said once more, ‘Yes, this is where I fit, this is where I belong, this is where I am going to stay!’”
Sister Jenny’s past
Born Giacoma Lucia Sellaro, Sister Jenny is from southern Italy and has known the ASC sisters for many years. Throughout her childhood, she had a relationship with God, regularly attended Mass with her grandmother and even used to write letters to God.
As she began to grow older, Sister Jenny faded away from her faith, stopped frequenting church and challenged God. She told herself that she would never set foot in the church again until she could feel like she was encountering God himself.
“I did not know what I was asking for,” Sister Jenny said.
She spent three years as a non-religious, but on the day she returned to church, Sister Jenny was tasked with carrying the crucifix at the start of Mass. She looked up at Jesus’s face on the cross and felt as though “Jesus Christ was not asking me where I had been or why I had waited so long. He was just welcoming me back with love.”
“This is the spirituality of the Precious Blood,” Sister Jenny said. “No matter who you are or what you have done, you are special and you are worth all Jesus’ blood.”
Sister Jenny returned to the Catholic Church, joined a youth group, and even dated and became engaged to a young man who was also Catholic. It wasn’t until she went on a mission trip to Albania that she felt what she described as an “interior earthquake.”
After witnessing the needs of the poor, Sister Jenny had a longing to hand her life over to God and dedicate all of her heart to serving others. She left her fiancé and asked to enter the congregation of the ASCs.
Sister Jenny originally entered the ASC in 2009 while residing in Italy. In 2016, she came to the United States for her novitiate years of preparation, and professed her first vows to join the Wichita ASC congregation in 2018. These initial vows included promises of celibacy, poverty and obedience.
Sister Jenny’s future
Having now professed her perpetual vows, Sister Jenny will travel back to Italy in July to spend time with family and to continue the process for permanent residency in the U.S.
“What I look forward to the most about the future as an ASC sister is the emerging future of interculturality, internationality, intercongregationlity,” Sister Jenny said. “Covid-19 has taught us to care for our brothers and sisters through using face masks, the same is true for the other congregations and the other cultures in our own congregation.”
She added, “We are not alone, we can sustain each other, we can be an amazing witness to the people far from the church if we show our compassion, our courage, our commitment forever.”