The “Signature” event hosted annually by the Advisory Board of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, USA Province, is the Journey of Hope. In an effort to acquaint friends and supporters with the exemplary works of the Sisters, each year, the Journey of Hope has focused on celebrating a significant Handmaid milestone.
2010 The Inaugural Journey of Hope, held April 14, 2010, coincided with the foundation of the congregation one hundred and thirty three years earlier on April 14, 1877, in Madrid, Spain. In a moving tribute, Philadelphia broadcasting pioneer and television personality, Liz Matt, narrated the journey of St. Raphaela Mary and her sister, Dolores, as they embarked on the establishment of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sisters in formation also shared the stories of their journeys, and their desire to commit their lives to the Handmaid mission.
2011 In 2011, the Journey of Hope celebrated the 85thAnniversary of the Handmaids’ presence in the United States. Philadelphia Eagles former general manager, Jim Murray, was the master of ceremonies for the event. The evening featured a silent auction and a live auction, conducted by Advisory Board member Ken Boyden with proceeds netting more than $140,000.
2012 The 2012 Journey of Hope was the first event held to honor a Handmaid, and paid tribute to three— Sr. Kathleen Helbig, Sr. Maureen Gillespie, and Sr. Julia Walsh — Handmaids who were lauded for their personal “journeys” in celebrating fifty years of consecrated religious life. Highlights of the evening including “roasting” and toasting the Sisters, in addition to a silent auction that featured authentic items from the 1960’s.
2013 The 4th Journey of Hope was held at Knowlton Mansion (for the 4thconsecutive year.) The evening featured guest speakers, Ancilla Domini Academy alumna Dr. Nance Dicciani, who twice has been being ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the “World’s Most Powerful Women” and Reverend Michael Olivere, a longtime friend of the sisters, chaplain at Ancillae-Assumpta Academy, and the pastor of St. Timothy’s Parish in Philadelphia. Both spoke of the “truly life-changing” experiences that were brought about in their lives through the influence and guidance of the Handmaids.
2014 This year’s event was held in conjunction with Ancillae-Assumpta Academy’s Blue and White Ball. The Legacy Gala, held at the Hyatt at the Bellvue, was attended by over 500 guests and served as a memorial celebration honoring the life and legacy of Sister Elizabeth McCoy, the first principal and first director of Ancillae-Assumpta Academy.
Those who knew this remarkable woman will remember her as a dreamer and a doer…an innovator…a thinker…a teacher…a person with an insatiable appetite for sharing life in every sense of the word. Whether at the table, in the classroom, at home, or across the globe, there was no room for exclusion, and in that way, she exemplified the work of the Handmaid foundress, St. Raphaela Mary.
In commemorating the tenth anniversary of her passing, our hope was to continue her mission and in so doing, unite our efforts in celebrating her life and her legacy as a Handmaid, an educator, and an unforgettable human being.
Elizabeth was first and foremost a Handmaid. When she was called to religious life, her choice to join the Handmaids was not surprising. It makes sense that she joined the order of sisters who taught her in high school at Ancilla Domini. But it was not the familiarity that drew her to the order, but rather, the charism. The Handmaids’ charism of reparation spoke to Sister Elizabeth.
As a peace-filled person, she longed for unity, and their charism focuses on repairing that which is broken and making it whole. As a Congregation, the Handmaids focus on reconciliation, and I think that is what attracted Sister Elizabeth to the order. Her realization that “all life is one” came from her focus on reparation. Through reparation, the focus becomes the spreading of peace. 1 Corinthians 12:26 tells us, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” Sister Elizabeth understood that as members of the Body of Christ, we are all intimately connected and that understanding led Sister Elizabeth to work to bring healing and peace to relationships.
At Ancillae, that translated into her collaborative leadership style, which included her team approach to problem solving. It is what made her such an incredible listener and communicator. It also led to her understanding of education as the means to peace. When Sr. Elizabeth installed the photographs of Earth in the classrooms, it was to help our students understand that which she knew as a Handmaid – the need for repairing and making whole. At a presentation she made in 1986 at the NCEA convention she shared, “Catholic education has within itself a vision and praxis that can significantly contribute to this common thirst for oneness, unity, and reconciliation…this is the new moral vision that the spirit is calling for the promotion of the fullness of life for everyone.” Sister Elizabeth’s vision for education had its rootsin herHandmaid charism. The Handmaid charism continues to make Ancillae-Assumpta Academy and all of the Handmaid ministries peace-filled communities.
2016 In 2016, the Journey of Hope capitalized on holding the event close in proximity to the Handmaids’ first USA ministry. Literally, only a short walk from the Handmaids’ home in West Philadelphia, the Sheraton University City provided the perfect backdrop for a festive and memorable event.
2017 Another change of venue set the stage for the 2017 Journey of Hope as it took place for the first time at St. Raphaela Center in Haverford. Featuring a trip to St. Raphaela Mary’s birthplace – Spain, the evening provided for an extra dose of excitement and enthusiasm!