‘There is a real joy in being called to live a selfless life’

Year of Consecrated Life opens, longtime sisters honored

Sisters honored for service: Sister Cecilia Linenbrink, O.S.F., 70 years; Sister Mary Sean Crimmins, R.S.M., 65 years; Sister Bernadette Teasdale, S.C.L., 60 years; Sister Marie Virginia Lovato, S.C., 60 years; Sister Rosa Suazo, O.S.F., 61 years; Sister Mary Jo Anzik, S.C.L., 50 years; Sister Patricia Hayden, S.C., 50 years; Sister Maureen Kehoe, S.C.L., 50 years; Sister Rita Moriarty, C.S.J., 50 years; Sister Renee Washut, S.C.L., 50 years; Sister Sharon Ford, R.S.M., 50 years; Sister Mary Francesca Igweilo, O.P., 25 years; and Sister Jennifer Otuonye, D.M.M.M., 25 years

A simple gold band on her left ring finger reminds Religious Sister of Mercy Mary Sean Crimmins that her first and only love has been Jesus Christ for 65 years.

“A little old lady asked me about my ring, and I told her I have been married to God,” Sister Crimmins said. “I was able to explain to her that while some people view being a nun as an escape from life that it really is about a strong, life time commitment to Jesus Christ.”

Sister Crimmins was among 13 sisters recognized by Archbishop Samuel Aquila during a Mass opening the Year of Consecrated Life Nov. 30 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis designated the yearlong focus on consecrated life and challenged the Church’s religious sisters, brothers and priests to “wake up the world” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope.

The 13 nuns—who have dedicated their lives to the Church from 25 to 70 years—have served in many areas during their time with the Archdiocese of Denver, including teaching, health care and migrant outreach.

“There is a real joy in being called to live a selfless life,” said Sister of Charity of Leavenworth Bernadette Teasdale, who has been a sister for 60 years. “The Lord works through us and allows us to experience the joys of seeing other people grow.”

Archbishop Aquila recalled his childhood growing up in a Catholic school that had more than 1,000 students taught by only 24 nuns.

“It was an incredible group of young women who filled our lives with joy and taught us and helped us fall in love with Christ,” Aquila told the congregation, reminding them to keep the consecrated in their prayers.

The Mass was the first Sunday of Advent, which celebrates the first coming of Christ and preparation for the second coming of Christ, Aquila said.

“The Lord is expecting us to be ready and be watchful; to be those who proclaim Christ because we truly do not know when that day will come,” he said. “And that is true also to our own personal death because that too is a second coming of sorts for Christ. We should always be ready for death because we do not know when that will come.”

The archbishop reminded the sisters, brothers and priests—and the Catholic community at large—to be proud of Jesus Christ and introduce him to others like a husband would introduce his wife or parents their children.

“If Jesus Christ is our first love we will want to share him with everybody, with every person we meet,” Archbishop Aquila said.

Franciscan Sister Rosa Suazo has shared Christ during her 61 years as a nun and her work ministering to migrant workers in Colorado.

“I helped get clothes and shoes and drove them to doctors’ appointments,” Sister Suazo recalled. “I helped interpret for them. Many went on to be successful and their children went to college.”

Dominican novices and Capuchin Friars celebrated as altar servers at the Mass. Several communities of religious orders attended including Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, Poor Clares and Missionaries of Charity.

“I’m excited about the Year of Consecrated Life because it calls attention to this physical life where we are called to serve the Kingdom of God,” said Capuchin Brother Jason Moore, 35, who is studying to be a priest.

Brother Moore was planning to be a doctor when he heard a “cry from God” to join religious life.

For Franciscan Sister Cecilia Linenbrink, her calling came 70 years ago when she was a young woman.

“God is so good,” she said. “I have so much gratitude for life.”

The Year of Consecrated Life runs through Feb. 2, 2016.

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”