Update: Photos from the opening Mass are posted in the Picture Gallery.
Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Pope Francis has announced the Year for Consecrated Life, which will continue through 2015.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, plans are being made to encourage all Catholics to celebrate God’s calling to be set apart for Christ and His Church.
In the official announcement from the Vatican, Cardinal João Braz De Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said the goal of this observance is to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past… embrace the future with hope,” and “live the present with passion.”
He added that women and men religious find their hope in the Lord, an example that can lead all Catholics into a deeper trust of Christ.
“In Him,” Cardinal Braz de Avis said, “no one can rob us of our hope.”
Sister Rosaria, C.M.R.M., said the Year for Consecrated Life is a great thing for her and her community, which will celebrate the 60th jubilee of the founding of their congregation in November 2015.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for each one of us to renew our charism, which is the evangelical spiritual childhood,” she said.
As major superior, she is having her sisters gather to study the history of the congregation, and discuss their community’s vision for the future.
Father Gary Coulter, co-vicar for religious along with Father Craig Doty, has met with a committee including Sister Cecilia Ann, M.S.; Sister Marie Jacqueline, C.K.; Sister Rosaria; communications director JD Flynn; and Cathy Bender of the Southern Nebraska Register.
Together, the group has created an impressive list of activities for schools and parishes.
It all begins with an opening Mass Sunday, Nov. 23 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln. Celebrated by Bishop James D. Conley, the Mass will begin at 3 p.m.
At a reception afterward, hosted by the Serra Club, each religious community will have a booth where guests can learn more about them, their charisms and their apostolates.
Bishop Conley has asked parishes to preach about the consecrated life at least once during the year. Parishes are also asked to include special petitions for consecrated religious during the General Intercessions at every Sunday Mass.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has created a prayer that families, schools and parish groups can pray throughout the year.
Father Doty, who is also pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Wilber and St. Joseph in Tobias, said this Year for Consecrated Life is an opportunity for all Catholics to grow in their appreciation for our consecrated religious, as well as to deepen our understanding of what awaits us in Heaven.
“We’re all called to holiness and we’re all created for heaven,” he reasoned. “Seeing these individuals who have dedicated themselves totally to Christ on earth, a sign of that total, definitive and complete union with Christ in heaven.”
He continued, “Especially, their embrace of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience reminds us that this total commitment to God brings joy… This total giving of self helps a person to shed the obstacles to a deeper relationship with Christ.”
There will be many meaningful and creative ways for Catholics throughout the diocese to observe the Year for Consecrated Life.
The diocesan committee has developed a whole list of opportunities, from inviting religious to speak to parish groups and schools, to the “Adopt a Community” program, to showing movies that celebrate religious life. These can be found at www.LincolnDiocese.org/YCL.
There are special activities planned that are appropriate for schools and families as well. For example, Bishop Conley has designated various pilgrimage sites for the Year for Consecrated Life. Children can clip the passport (found at the top corner of the Nov. 14 Southern Nebraska Register) and record their visit to each site to mark their journeys.
“It’s very important for young people to have interaction with those who are in consecrated life,” Father Doty stated. The passport program and other activities “are all very important opportunities, especially for children who are not enrolled in Catholic schools.”
All of the religious communities in the diocese, including those of women religious and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, a society of apostolic life, are encompassed in the program, giving parents, teachers and pastors the opportunity to introduce both boys and girls to the concept of consecrated life.
Father Doty hopes that many people will take the time to visit the cloistered sisters in the diocese: the Carmelite Sisters and the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration (Pink Sisters).
“Any one who has ever visited the Carmelites in Agnew or the Pink Sisters in Lincoln can testify that this radical, voluntary separation of oneself from the outside life does in fact lead to joy,” Father Doty said. “They are a very powerful and much-needed sign in the world today of a more radical separation for the world and total gift of self to God.”
Visit www.LincolnDiocese.org/YCL for more information.