Although the Church’s Year of Consecrated Life officially begins on the first Sunday of Advent, Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix enjoyed two special liturgies in honor of those who serve as consecrated a week early.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted presided at a 9 a.m. Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral Nov. 23 where dozens of religious sisters from various communities were in attendance.
At St. Mary Parish in Chandler, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares celebrated Mass in Spanish for a packed church. Sr. Mary Thelma Anabalu, IHM, principal of St. Mary-Basha Catholic School, sat up front with Sr. Maria Ezeh, IHM as well as the Carmelite sisters from St. Anne Parish and Sr. Marie Therese Rishel, SC, from Seton Catholic Preparatory High School.
Bishop Olmsted told the congregation that the Year of Consecrated Life would be a grace-filled time that would seek “fresh ways to promote vocations to consecrated life among our youth.”
Those who live as consecrated persons, Bishop Olmsted said, do battle on three fronts, facing a “pornographic culture that uses persons as things for self gratification and is blind to the true identity of each person as a beloved son or daughter of God.”[quote_box_right]
They also face a culture obsessed with “material things like money, power and prestige” and an “individualistic culture that… thinks that freedom is the right to do whatever I want rather than the ability to love and to put the needs of others ahead of my own.”
The weapons God chooses to battle these three fronts, Bishop Olmsted said, are chastity, poverty and obedience.
“Jesus forges these virtues in converted sinners, in persons like you and me… who have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb,” he said.
“The consecrated are so convinced of the reign of heaven that they dedicate themselves day after day through their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to teach all of us by their example how each of us must love God and our neighbor.”
Bishop Nevares told the congregation at St. Mary’s that those who live as consecrated or religious have “made a promise to God to live the reign of God now and each day of their lives.” They take a vow of poverty, he said, “because their richness is the Lord Jesus and the glory of heaven.”
“The consecrated are so convinced of the reign of heaven that they dedicate themselves day after day through their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to teach all of us by their example how each of us must love God and our neighbor,” Bishop Nevares said.
Sr. Mary Thelma, a native of Nigeria, is serving in the U.S. along with about 35 Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Year of Consecrated Life, she said, “is a good opportunity for the Church to recognize the work of religious men and women who have consecrated their lives in the evangelical virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, director of the Office of Consecrated Life, said the Year of Consecrated Life is a time in which consecrated men and women can grow in appreciation of their own vocation and recall the moment when Jesus called them to their vocation.
“It’s a year of grace in which they can realize how much God really loves them and how chosen they are,” Sr. Anthony Mary said. “They are chosen especially by God to be dedicated to Him completely and what a rewarding life it is, to be completely given to God.”
The yearlong celebration of consecrated life is dedicated to renewing hope in religious life and instilling it more profoundly with a prophetic witness of the Gospel.
Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was scheduled to celebrate the year’s opening Mass Nov. 30 in St. Peter’s Basilica because Pope Francis was scheduled to be on an apostolic visit in Turkey, according to Catholic News Service.