By Dave Jolivet

FALMOUTH — In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he proclaims, “There are different kinds of gifts. But it is the same Holy Spirit Who gives them. There are different kinds of work to be done for Him. But the work is for the same Lord. There are different ways of doing His work. But it is the same God who uses all these ways in all people” (1 Cor 4-6).

That is very evident through the works of myriad lay and ordained faithful across the Diocese of Fall River, especially with the recent ordination of 15 Permanent Deacons and one Transitional Deacon, and the June 3 and June 9 ordinations of four new priests for the diocese.

Sister Paulina Furtado, O.P., center, and Bishop da Cunha, prepare to present Susan Muldoon, left, with the garment of a Diocesan Hermit. Muldoon’s daughter, Shena Rossettie, is with her mother. 

Another not-so-common example of different gifts for different people was when, on May 13, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., accepted the Public Profession of Vows of Susan Muldoon, as a Hermit in the Diocese of Fall River, during the Vigil Mass at St. Anthony Church in Falmouth. 

According to Catholic Online, Canon Law describes the vocation of hermit saying, “The Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.

“A hermit is recognized by law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and observes a proper program of living under his direction.”

Sister Paulina Hurtado, O.P., the diocesan Episcopal Representative for Religious, told The Anchor, “Susan Muldoon approached me and expressed her desire to become a Consecrated Canonical Hermit in the Church. 

“Susan was guided in the process throughout two years of discernment. She had contemplated this calling in prior years having been attracted and involved in the Carmelite spirituality as a secular Carmelite. She then presented her request to Bishop da Cunha, who gave his approval. 

“In the more recent Canon Law of the Catholic Church, the tradition to live a hermit life has opened new possibilities of living this life according to the Gospel and various rules and spiritualities, such as the Carmelite spirituality, and to dedicate one’s life to God through prayer and the praise of God, in a life of penance and solitude for the salvation of the world. The hermit professes publicly the three evangelical counsels or vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, relating directly to the diocesan bishop, placing these counsels in his hands, as well as her or  his own plan of life under his direction.”

Msgr. Stephen J. Avila, pastor of St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family Parish, of which St. Anthony’s Church is a part, told The Anchor, “Susan had approached me about beginning the process and I signed off on it. It was such a blessing to be part of the ceremony within the Mass. It was a grace for me and the whole parish family. I asked to her pray for the parish community and me.

“Susan, a widow, is a woman of deep faith and a frequently attends Mass. Many people who attended the Mass came to a greater awareness of so many Church vocations. I let them know that there are many ways God calls us to service.”

Sister Hurtado said during the service Susan was examined by the bishop asking what she wanted of him that day. Muldoon replied, “To make profession of the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, living the eremitic life of prayer and penance, for the glory of God and the service of the Church.” The bishop accepted her vows with a prayer of consecration.

She was then handed a ring by the bishop, a symbol of her belonging to Christ.

Muldoon was then presented the prayer garment to wear. “The garment is a symbol of the eremitic life,” said Sister Hurtado. After prayers and the presentation of the garment, Muldoon signed the Profession along with the bishop, with Sister Hurtado and Msgr. Avila as witnesses.

Muldoon is thought to be the first woman hermit in the diocese. Father Patrick Magee, a Franciscan of Our Lady of the Holy Family, is also a Diocesan Hermit, involved with prayer, intercession, helping parishes and doing pastoral work at Saint Anne’s hospital. He has given retreats for many dioceses.