‘Year of Consecrated Life’ ends with call to ‘be the light of Christ’

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Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)
Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)

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With a Mass that began with a candlelight procession from the courtyard east of St. Mary’s Basilica to inside the church, the Year of Consecrated Life drew to a close in the Diocese of Phoenix Feb. 1.

Religious men and women from throughout the diocese gathered to mark the occasion with a vigil Mass for the Presentation of the Lord, the Feb. 2 feast that also marked the end of the Churchwide Year of Consecrated Life this year.

The festivities began under the canopy of mesquite trees. Standing with their candles, a group of young nuns from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity reflected on what the year meant to them.

Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)
Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)

The Year of Consecrated Life was “a celebration of who God has called us to be,” said Sr. Maria Mater Dei Fritz, SOLT, a third-grade teacher at Most Holy Trinity who has been a religious sister for five years One thing she’ll always remember about the year was the vocations day the SOLT sisters held. “We talked to them about religious life and did a service project for the missions,” Sr. Maria Mater Dei said. They’ve had a number of inquiries, she said, including some of her students.

Sr. Mary Joy Bernklau, SOLT joined in 2008 and professed vows in 2011. “For me, it’s been a time to refocus on the gift that consecrated life is for the wider Church but also to me personally,” she said. Choosing the religious life was the result of “a deep conviction that Christ was calling me to this and that I would find my happiness by following His plan for me.”

Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)
Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)

Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, who was a member of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette for 25 years, preached the homily at the Feb. 1 Mass.

“It has been 40 days since we celebrated Christmas when we all rejoiced together that Christ, the Word made flesh, has come to be the light for our world,” Bishop Nevares said. “We took the blessed candles to remind us that each of us have been enlightened by Jesus Christ at our baptism and to remind us that Jesus needs to be our light each and every day.”

One way the light of Christ is shared in the world today, the bishop said, is through the witness of religious men and women. “They have encountered the Lord in a deep and personal way and have come to know the love with which Jesus Christ died on the cross for the salvation of the world,” Bishop Nevares said. “They have a very special call from almighty God to respond generously, to respond totally.”

Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)
Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life, St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)

More than 20 different religious communities serve in the Phoenix Diocese he said, bringing “the light of Christ to so many who are in such need of God’s tender mercy.”

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who celebrated the Mass, noted that religious men and women were responsible for evangelizing Arizona in its early years and today are “a vital Gospel witness by their very person.”

“We give thanks to God for the gift of consecrated life and for the year that was celebrated and for the way that you help us carry forth the mission of the Church here in the Diocese of Phoenix,” Bishop Olmsted said.

He also thanked members of various lay organizations in attendance who support religious vocations, such as the Serra Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights and Dames of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

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In her own words

Sr. Anthony Mary reflects on the closing liturgy 

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Sister Anthony Mary Diago, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, joins the procession and Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life at St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)
Sister Anthony Mary Diago, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, joins the procession and Mass marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life at St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix, Feb. 1. (Nancy Wiechec/CATHOLIC SUN)

Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, director of the diocesan Office of Consecrated Life, said the Year of Consecrated Life was a time to give thanks for the gift of religious life. As she and dozens of others processed through the courtyard prior to the Mass, she said she thought about the call of religious men and women to “manifest God’s love to the whole world. What a beautiful vocation that is to shine the light of Christ and lead people to God.”

Standing just outside the doors of the historic basilica, Br. Scott Slattum, OFM, who has been a Franciscan for seven years and will profess his final vows this summer, reflected on the year.

The yearlong celebration was a reminder, he said, to “try to live more faithfully, to be more concerned about the poor, the marginalized, people who are suffering … and be reminded that that’s where I’m called to be — to be with the people of God and to live my life in a more authentic way.”

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