On Saturday, February 1st, our diocese observed World Day for Consecrated Life at which we recognized the silver, golden and diamond jubilees of 20 women and men Religious. That celebration provided me a public forum to thank the 18 Sisters, 1 Brother and 1 Priest for their vowed witness to Christ as a Consecrated Religious and to thank them for the gifts of their religious communities to the church in Camden.
The diocese and its institutions, but most of all its people, have benefitted from the ministry of these Religious. While that benefit can be measured by the service they have provided in education, health care, catechetics, social work, and parish ministry, even more significant are the unmeasurable benefits for those who have been served by these Religious. Who can measure the comfort, the example, the joy, the care, the prayers, the encouragement, the challenge, (just to name a few) that we have received from a Religious?
The Gospel for the Diocesan Mass was Saint John, chapter 15, verses 1-8, the Vine and the Branches in which is found Jesus self identification, “I am the Vine.” This is coupled with the identification of His disciples, “You are the Branches.” That charming metaphor captures the gift of Religious Consecration. The Vine and the Branches describe the life journey and identity of a Religious who is attached to Christ through Baptism, Confirmation and Sacred Vows. The Religious receives life from Christ. In his or her ministry the Religious gives witness to Christ to whomever they serve.
Our diocese has been blessed by their presence, their charisms, their labors on behalf of the Gospel, the Kingdom and the Church. Recently, the Vatican announced that the Year 2015 will be observed as the Year of Consecrated Life. During that year the Church will examine the gift of Religious Consecration and celebrate this gift. May I suggest that the next time you are in the company of a Religious Sister, Brother or Priest, that you express your gratitude to her or him.
After the Diocesan Mass we enjoyed a meal and one another’s company. I expected to raise a glass of wine to toast the Jubilarians but there was no wine. So, permit me to toast them in print…with the gratitude of the church in Camden for your generous, self giving service and love; for being a faithful son or daughter of the church; for having stood by your vowed words; for reminding us by your life of the life that is beyond this world; for the manner in which you live for others; for making this world a better place; our prayers and good wishes; our thanks and appreciation.
Congratulations Sisters, Brother and Father.
Bishop Sullivan’s message was published in the Feb. 7, 2014 issue of the Catholic Star Herald (photos by Jim McBride)