I picked a good position, assuming the 'special ritual', on such an occasion, would be akin to a blaze of glory; a procession maybe, with symbolic gifts. But just as Elijah's God was not in the mighty earthquake or the fire, but in a gentle breeze (I Kings 19), so this ritual happened, not in fanfare and spectacle, but in stillness and simplicity; in something as everyday and unostentatious as one woman handing something to another.
Two RSCJ stood in the centre, one holding a silver ciborium; the other, the US-Canada Provincial, with only the sketchiest idea of what she was about to receive. A third, at the lectern, read a letter from the Provincial of Venezuela, explaining the ciborium's history and significance.
In 1858 the ciborium was sent to the new foundation in Cuba, where it spent the next century - though it seems that, over time, many religious became unaware of its Society pedigree. That's probably how Sophie and Philippine would have wanted it - that the ciborium should be treated with awe and reverence not because of them, but because of the divinity it held. From Cuba it moved, in 1961, to another new foundation, this time in Venezuela, remaining with the sisters even as they moved into the poorest and most marginalised barrios.
Three countries, three new foundations: three missions in very different times and places, and at the centre of each, the same ciborium, fulfilling its own purpose and mission of holding the Body of Christ; holding, too, and nourishing, the spirit of fervour and audacity, of sacrifice, courage and generosity, of prayer and fidelity, of all those missionaries. All this and more was in this treasure, which the sisters in Venezuela were now returning to America, with much love and prayer, and in a spirit of generosity and Cor Unum which would surely have gladdened Sophie's and Philippine's hearts.
And then - that simplest of gestures - Margot handed the ciborium to Sheila, and, as emotion and held breaths found their release in loud applause, she went over and placed it on the altar. And so the treasure was back, only a short drive from where it had begun its unique mission almost two hundred years ago. Unlike the other vessels it remained empty throughout Mass, but in reality it contained so very much, which spoke to us all of life and so many lives, given and lived to the full, for the glory of God and the love of his Heart.
You can view the video of this special moment here...