The World Day for Consecrated Life will be celebrated in parishes around the globe on Sunday, Feb. 8. It’s an opportunity for the faithful to pray and give thanks for the gifts of consecrated life — especially for those men and women religious who live this life.
St. John Paul II established the observance in 1997. It officially falls on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which was Feb. 2.
The feast of the Presentation of the Lord “is also known as Candlemas Day; the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples,” the website of the U.S. bishops’ conference explains. “The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole church.”
The celebration isn’t limited to Sunday, this year, though. This year the world is doing something more to recognize women and men religious, who undoubtedly “reflect the light of Jesus Christ” in this archdiocese.
The one-day observance has been expanded by Pope Francis into a more than year-long celebration — the Year of Consecrated Life. It began in November and continues until Feb. 2, 2016.
In a letter Pope Francis issued for the special year, he asked the faithful to give thanks for the gifts members of religious orders have given the church and the world, to join them in prayer and find practical ways to support them and their ministries.
“Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them,” he wrote.
In the Archdiocese of Louisville, there are few Catholics who haven’t felt the influence of a religious community. From education to health care, religious helped establish the infrastructure of our society from pioneer times.
Their contributions can be traced to the foundation of the Catholic Church in this part of the country more than 200 years ago.
Men and women religious came to the Kentucky frontier early-on to serve the growing Catholic presence here.
The faith of these early settlers gave life to new religious communities that are serving still today — the Sisters of Loretto, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine (now the Dominican Sisters of Peace). They established schools and hospitals, orphanages and other foundations to serve the needs of settlers.
Now, their work reaches far beyond Kentucky. Their presence has spread to dioceses around the United States, South and Central America, Africa and Asia.
They serve in pastoral ministry, as doctors and nurses, as teachers and professors, they operate schools and hospitals, and serve other needs of communities around the world as they bring the Gospel call to life.
These days, the archdiocese is home to women and men religious from about two dozen religious communities — some are based here and some are headquartered elsewhere — according to a listing provided by the archdiocese’s Vocation Office.
Some of these communities are represented by just one member while others number in the hundreds. Some are hermits, others are cloistered and lead contemplative lives, some still serve as teachers in Catholic schools. Others serve as social workers, work in parishes or with charities serving people who are poor or mistreated. Older members often serve in the apostolate of prayer — living their last years in quiet reflection.
Their ministries are as varied as the men and women themselves. They are gifts to the archdiocese who continue to light our way.
On Sunday, the Archdiocese of Louisville will show its appreciation for women and men religious at the annual Jubilarian Mass, a liturgy that honors anniversaries of those in religious life. The Mass will be celebrated at St. Albert the Great Church.
Three other activities for the Year of Consecrated Life will provide opportunities for the faithful to show their support of women and men religious.
On Feb. 15, thirteen religious communities plan to hold open houses from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited to visit with the religious and, in some cases, to pray with the communities. A listing of the communities and their locations is on page 5.
This summer, men and women religious of the archdiocese are planning a time of “mission and service.” And in September, there will be a prayer service with religious.
As president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz released a statement about the Year of Consecrated Life last fall. He wrote:
“Our brothers and sisters in Christ living consecrated lives make great contributions to our society through a vast number of ministries. They teach in our schools, take care of the poor and the sick and bring compassion and the love of Christ to those shunned by society; others lead lives of prayer in contemplation for the world.”
Let us remember them in our prayers and allow them to guide us by their light.