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Religious are called to show closeness of God to people, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — An encounter with Jesus changes people’s lives, and that should be especially noticeable in those who are consecrated completely to serving God, the church and others, Pope Francis said.

“One who has this encounter becomes a witness and makes the encounter possible for others, too,” he said Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Religious arrive in procession for a Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2. The Mass concluded the Year of Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Religious arrive in procession for a Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2. The Mass concluded the Year of Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Overlapping by two months, the Catholic Church’s special Year of Consecrated Life has led to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, emphasizing God’s love and mercy for each individual and the mission to share that experience with the world, the pope told thousands of consecrated men and women who joined him in St. Peter’s Basilica and hundreds of others who watched on screens outside once the basilica was full.

The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica began with the traditional blessing of candles and a prayer that God would guide his people toward his son, “the light that has no end.”

The feast day commemorates the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when, in accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord. The feast’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts how the aged Simeon and Anna were praying in the temple at the time and recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

The event, the pope said, is a “feast of encounter,” not just the meeting of Jesus with Simeon and Anna, but the encounter of people’s hopes and expectations for a savior with the fulfillment of those hopes in Jesus.

Christ’s birth is the ultimate encounter, he said; God’s decision to have his son born into the world, to live and suffer and die for the salvation of humanity, shows that he did not want to “remain outside of our drama, but wanted to share our lives.”

In the same way, whether living in a cloistered convent or traveling the world as a missionary, Pope Francis said, “consecrated men and women are called to be a concrete and prophetic sign of this closeness of God and of sharing with the fragile, sinful and wounded condition of people today.”

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, spoke as one of the consecrated people, telling the congregation that as Christians and as religious “we are guardians of awe.”

The experience of an encounter with Jesus constantly must be renewed, he said. One’s spiritual life must never be simply routine, the mission and charisms of an order must never be “crystallized into abstract doctrine” and the spiritual insights of the order’s founder “are not to be sealed in a bottle. They aren’t museum pieces.”

“Our founders were moved by the Spirit and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty” as they ministered in Jesus’ name to real people living real lives, the pope said. “They didn’t stop in the face of obstacles or when others misunderstood them because they preserved in their hearts the awe of having encountered Christ.”

“They did not domesticate the grace of the Gospel,” he said, but lived with an “all-consuming desire to share it with others.”

“We, too, are called today to make prophetic and courageous choices,” the pope said. In that way, “others will be attracted to the light and can encounter the father’s mercy.”

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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From the Bishop: Support retired religious through RFR collection

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

On the weekend of December 5-6, our parishes will be conducting the annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR). I urge you to offer this appeal your prayerful and vocal support.

Your efforts are vital to its success. Read more »

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Mercy Sisters: Christ the Teacher School’s students benefit from the sisters’ charisms of mercy, service and welcoming

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Dialog reporter

GLASGOW – They are small in number in Delaware, but the Religious Sisters of Mercy have made a big impact on their students at Christ the Teacher School in Glasgow.

Sisters LaVerne King, Rosalie Pronsati and Dolores Huhman minister at the 600-student school, and although their order does not sponsor the school, the charism of the order has permeated its halls. This has been very carefully and thoroughly infused by the sisters. Read more »

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Franciscan sister makes big imprint on Tiny Steps

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Dialog reporter

(One in a series during the Year of Consecrated Life)

Sister Elise Betz loves the Franciscan atmosphere that permeates family medicine wing at hospital

WILMINGTON — Early in her ministry as an elementary school teacher, Sister Elise Betz – then called Sister Madonna – would respond to her mother superior’s question about what she wanted to do. The response was always the same: “I want to be a nurse.” Read more »

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Sisters from India represent newest religious order in the diocese

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Dialog Editor   This is the first in a series of stories on members of religious orders in the Diocese of Wilmington. The series is part of the paper’s coverage of the Year of Consecrated Life declared by Pope Francis.   The Christu Jyothi Sisters or Sisters of Christ the Light are the newest order of religious women in the Diocese of Wilmington. The order, founded in 1992 in India, now has two sisters working for the Capuchin’s Ministry of Caring. Sister Lissy Sebastian Karottumalayil, CJS, works at the ministry’s Emmanuel Dining Room on Jackson Street in Wilmington. Read more »

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Obedience to God’s will brings wisdom, joy, hope, pope tells religious

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Total obedience to God’s will brings wisdom, joy and hope, Pope Francis told religious men and women.

“Yes, the happiness of a religious is a consequence of this path of lowering oneself with Jesus and, when we are sad, when we complain, it will do us well to ask ourselves how we are living this dimension of ‘kenosis’” or self-emptying, he said.

Religious carry candles in procession at the start of a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis to mark the feast of the Presentation of the Lord Feb. 2. The Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican also marked the World Day for Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Religious carry candles in procession at the start of a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis to mark the feast of the Presentation of the Lord Feb. 2. The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican also marked the World Day for Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope’s words came during his homily at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 2 celebrating the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the church marks as the World Day for Consecrated Life. The Mass also came during the Year of Consecrated Life, which, called by Pope Francis, opened Nov. 30 and will close Feb. 2, 2016.

The liturgy for the feast, once widely known as “Candlemas,” began with dozens of sisters, brothers and religious priests carrying lighted candles into the basilica ahead of the pope.

In his homily, the pope said Jesus came not to follow his own will, but to obey the Father’s will.

“Whoever follows Jesus takes the path of obedience,” which means lowering, emptying and humbling oneself like Jesus, he said.

Living a consecrated life means “lowering oneself in service, that is, taking the same path as Jesus” and becoming a servant in order to serve, the pope said.

But religious men and women also have to be obedient and docile to their religious community, their superiors, their order’s rule and to the church; “it is a docility and obedience that is concrete,” not something theoretical, he said.

The new and living path the Lord opened for the world “is for us consecrated men and women the only path that, concretely and without alternatives, we have to take with joy and hope,” he said.

On the one hand, he said, obedience empties and humbles a person, but on the other hand, it lights and safeguards the flame of hope, rendering people creative because they are full of the Holy Spirit.

“The Lord transforms obedience into wisdom with the action of his Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

A life lived in perseverant obedience to God matures into “personal and communitarian wisdom and, that way, it becomes possible also to adapt the rules to the times; in fact, the true ‘aggiornamento,’ (updating) is the work of wisdom, forged in docility and obedience,” he said.

“Reinvigorating and renewing consecrated life come by way of a great love for the rule and also through the ability to contemplate and listen to the elderly in the congregation,” he said.

“That way the ‘deposit,’ the charism of every religious family, is cared for by obedience and wisdom together,” protecting members from a disembodied and superficial or “light” consecrated life, he said.

Religious life lacking this long, continuous path of obedience and wisdom becomes “a caricature,” he said.

He asked that religious men and women continue to guide people to God, but to also “let ourselves be guided. This is what we have to be: guides who are guided.”

 

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Celebrating religious sisters, priests and brothers

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Now is the time to be especially nice to religious sisters, priests and brothers in your life; 2015 is their year.

The Diocese of Wilmington will begin its celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life on Feb. 2 with Solemn Evening Prayer at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church in Greenville.

Bishop Malooly will preside at the service that’s sponsored by the diocese’s Office for Religious. Read more »

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