Wake up the world!” is the rousing theme to the Year of Consecrated Life honoring religious men and women, which starts this month.
The wake-up call is taken from Pope Francis’ remarks when he announced the special year, which begins the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30, and runs through Feb. 2, 2016.
“A radical approach is required of all Christians,” the pope said, “but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way: They are men and women who can awaken the world.”
The awakening is for all Christians to live the good news of salvation as a joyful, life-transforming event, which consecrated persons profoundly model by leaving everything to follow Christ.
“I want to share a message and the message is joy,” Pope Francis said in a letter to religious from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life. “Wherever consecrated persons are, there must always be joy.”
Archbishop Samuel Aquila will open the special year in the Archdiocese of Denver with a 10:30 a.m. Mass Nov. 30 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, during which women religious jubilarians will be recognized. All are invited to the Mass to celebrate the gift of those in consecrated life.
“The Year of Consecrated Life is a time to rejoice in the past with gratitude, to look forward to the future with hope and to live the present with as much fervor as possible,” said Religious Sister of Mercy Sharon Ford, listing the three goals of the year.
As archdiocesan director for consecrated life, Sister Ford is on the planning committee for the local observance along with Msgr. Bernie Schmitz, vicar for clergy; Capuchin Franciscan Father John Lager, national chaplain for FOCUS campus ministry; and seminary professor Sister Esther Mary Nickel, a Religious Sister of Mercy of Alma, Mich.
Archdiocesan events will mirror those happening in the universal Church with the aim of helping people learn about consecrated life and the contributions religious make to society. Upcoming events include men and women in religious formation giving their testimonies at colleges, an increase in the number of discernment activities offered and a series of public lectures next spring. The talks will be given by Sister Nickel, a professor of sacred theology, on Vatican II’s “Perfectae Caritatis,” the Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life.
The Year of Consecrated Life, noted Sister Nickel, also marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and its documents, “Perfectae Caritatis” and “Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
“We’ll go back and look at what the Second Vatican Council gave us,” she said. “For religious, it’s a call to wake up the world for joy. We are to be a witness to the hope and mercy of Christ.”
In “Lumen Gentium,” she added, the council fathers recovered the Church’s universal call to holiness.
“Before the council, many people thought priests and religious were called to holiness, but no one else. That was completely wrong,” Sister Nickel said. “We are all called to holiness.”
“Religious men and women,” she explained, “are those set apart— consecrated—to be holy. It’s a particular call, a particular vocation.”
Those who are consecrated pursue lives of perfect charity through the virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience. Their apostolates include teaching, caring for the sick, the elderly and the homeless, running parishes, and offering retreats and spiritual direction.
There are many forms of consecrated life, including living as a member of a religious order in a convent or monastery as religious sisters, brothers or priests, or living as a consecrated woman either in a community or alone—who may work for the Church or in the world, or living life as a hermit.
Contemplatives, nuns and monks who spend their lives praying for the Church such as the Discalced Carmelites in Littleton, the Poor Clares in Denver, the Benedictines in Virginia Dale and the Trappist monks in Snowmass, were given a special task for the year.
“Pope Francis has asked them to pray for many graces and blessings for religious,” Sister Nickel said.
The special year offers an opportunity for religious and laity to reflect on their individual vocation and shared call to holiness, Sister Nickel said.
“Every vocation in the universal call to holiness has a tremendous effect on the whole body of Christ,” she said. “I don’t have a spouse or a family, but my vocation is to serve those who do. And laity are called to foster vocations to consecrated life and to marriage.”
“St. Paul says we all have a part and a mission in this great body of Christ,” she continued. “It’s important to ponder that, and to work in collaboration with one another for the new evangelization.”
YEAR OF CONSECRATED LIFE
When: 10:30 a.m. Nov. 30
Celebrant: Archbishop Samuel Aquila
Where: Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 1530 Logan St., Denver
Topic: “Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life”
Presented by: Sister Esther Mary Nickel
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 24, March 25, April 30
Where: Bonfils Hall, St. John Paul II Center, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver
Visit www.archden.org to link to resources including prayer cards and a video.