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.
Everyone who supports religious life is invited to join in the service, said Franciscan Sister Ann David Strohminger, who directs the Office for Religious.
Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Consecrated Life in a letter last fall, asking all Catholics to thank God for the gifts members of religious orders have given the church and the world, to join them in prayer and find practical ways to support them and their ministries.
“Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them,” the pope wrote, proclaiming the year that began with Advent and will run until Feb. 2, 2016.
“I think it’s a way to re-energize our vocations,” Sister Ann said of the year’s celebration of women and men and religious life. “It’s a way to inform and invite people to know more about consecrated life.”
The first invitation of the year after the Feb. 2 Evening Prayer is an open house the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales are holding at their convent in Childs, Md., on Feb. 8. The convent, on the grounds of Mount Aviat Academy, will be open for tours from 2 to 4 p.m.
Visitors that day are invited to see where the Oblate sisters pray and live in community. Guests will learn about the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales and the history of the congregation.
Many other congregations in the nation and around the world are expected to hold similar open houses on Feb. 8.
Sister Ann called the year’s observance “a time when the pope wants us to have a focus on prayer, service and community. It’s a year for renewal, remembrance and hope” for religious communities.
Religious men and women are “called to make visible and to witness the life that Jesus called us to in mission,” Sister Ann said.
In addition to the opening prayer service and open houses, the U.S. bishops’ observance of the year, has set Sept. 13 as another day of prayer when people will be invited to join religious men and women for vespers, the rosary or holy hours.
Father James Greenfield, the provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales of Wilmington-Philadelphia, is also the current president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.
During an October press conference about the Year of Consecrated Life in Washington, Father Greenfield said he hoped the year would encourage new vocations and also allow people to “see our commitment with fresh eyes and open their hearts to support us with a renewed energy that stirs us all to embrace our pope’s ongoing call for the new evangelization.”
At the same press conference, Sister Marcia Allen, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, and president-elect of Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said another initiative for the year is called “Days with Religious,” during which laypeople will have opportunities to join men and women religious in works of service throughout the summer of 2015.
She said these opportunities will not only give laypeople the chance to “work with us side by side” but will also enable them to become aware of the charisms of different orders.
The pope’s letter for the Year of Consecrated Life explained that while he was writing as pope, he was also writing as a Jesuit, “a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to the Lord.”
— The Dialog and Catholic News Service