Year of Consecrated Life Closing Mass
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 1
Where: St. Mary’s Basilica, 231 N. Third Street, Phoenix
Followed by reception. Info.
The Year of Consecrated Life, which began Nov. 29, 2014, officially concludes Feb. 2 with a local closing Mass Feb. 1. Throughout the Diocese of Phoenix — and indeed throughout the world — the year proclaimed by Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, focused attention on the blessings and beauty of consecrated life in an effort to “Wake up the World!”
Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, in the midst of her inaugural year as director of the Office of Consecrated Life for the Phoenix Diocese, spent the year speaking at schools and parishes, telling young people about consecrated life and meeting with religious communities. Those visits were key.
“It gave me the opportunity to reach out to all the religious orders,” Sr. Anthony Mary said. “We shared a lot of our vocation stories together. Just learning about the Sisters and how they were called to the religious life, to dedicate their life to Christ and the joy of their vocations.”
A young nun with piercing blue eyes that shine from beneath a dark veil, she spoke of working alongside Fr. Paul Sullivan, diocesan vocations director, to promote consecrated life.
One such endeavor involved planning a vocations day. The celebration was so successful, she has plans to continue it during this year and beyond in both English and Spanish. There was also a Pizza Night with Religious in which religious made and served pizza to families at the St. Vincent de Paul main dining hall. That too will continue in 2016.
“I’ve had women contact me on the average once every two weeks asking for guidance,” Sr. Anthony Mary said. “Definitely there’s interest in religious life.”
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s series in The Catholic Sun about consecrated men and women who became saints was another means of focusing attention during the holy year, Sr. Anthony Mary said. The bishop wrote of many heroic figures, including St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart); St. Junípero Serra (Franciscan); and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Carmelites), among others.
Office of Religious:
Sr. Anthony Mary also brought her office into the digital age during the Year of Consecrated Life. Her Twitter page and blog draw readers who want to know more about what it means to live the life of a religious.
“I’ve gotten a lot followers on Twitter and the blog who are starting to read more about religious life and wanting to know more about it,” Sr. Anthony Mary said.
“I think it sparks curiosity but more than curiosity, a real search for fulfillment in their life and for wanting to understand, what is God asking me for in my life and how can I grow deeper in my faith? They see women religious who are very satisfied by a total surrender to Christ and so they want to have that same joy and satisfaction and this happiness that they know comes from a life lived for Christ.”
The fact that the Year of Consecrated Life overlaps with the Year of Mercy was not lost on the Sister of Mercy.
“I think that the Holy Father definitely calls religious to lead the faithful in living a Christian life and in this case revealing the mercy of God,” she said. “I’m a Sister of Mercy, so in a particular way we are especially called to be dispensers of mercy.”
The Year of Consecrated Life saw Franciscan Father Michael Weldon, OFM, relocate from Milwaukee to the Southwest where he became rector of St. Mary’s Basilica. He hailed the Franciscan Friars who brought the faith to the rugged territory centuries ago.
“We Friars Minor brought the Church to Phoenix. I am so very proud of that settlement. There were heroes and some very committed religious here between ourselves, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of the Precious Blood,” Fr. Weldon said.
His life as a Franciscan, he said, is a bit different from a diocesan priest.
“As a religious and a priest I have had the privilege to see a form of priestly service not always connected to a parish. Religious priesthood is often exercised on the road. It is more itinerant,” Fr. Weldon said.
Often his work has involved ministering to the poor and marginalized, and like all religious, he goes where his superiors send him.
“Our identity as religious presbyters is not to a place, but we move among the presbyters, sometimes only for just awhile, and then take our experience to another local church,” Fr. Weldon said. “Vocations come when we do that well.”