Year of Consecrated Life

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Pope Francis announced that 2015 will be a year dedicated to the promotion of consecrated life, and is asking the church's religious sisters, brothers and priests to "wake up the world" with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope.

Here we present storied by bishops, priests and religious about their experience of consecrated life.

Kylie Cullen - Reflection

Kylie CullenThis year Pope Francis has dedicated the Year of Consecrated Life. I don't know if any of you have been made aware of this? Remember how last year he dedicated the year to The Joy of the Gospel? It makes a lot of sense to me because joy is the first fruit of a consecrated heart.

Each one of us are called to be consecrated to God, as the call to Holiness is a universal call. Today, more than ever we are reminded of the state of our world, and how there is a great need for our world to become holy. The world will be holy when countries are holy, and countries will be holy when people are holy. So let's be encouraged by the invitation to become holy and joyful men and women.
In his message for the year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis points out that it is through our lives that we point to the reality of God and that we can offer an alternative to the mirage of the various utopias that are presented by the world.

HOLINESS IS NOT SOMETHING WE CAN GET FOR OURSELVES, OR OBTAIN WITH OUR OWN TALENTS AND ABILITIES. Holiness is a gift from Jesus and we receive and rediscover holiness when we are in communion with God. Jesus desires that we come closer to Him so that He can make us holy.

Universal call to Holiness

Pope Francis also makes the point very clearly that consecrated life is not just reserved for a privileged few. To be consecrated is not only for the bishops, nuns, missionaries and priests. IT'S FOR EVERYONE. Being consecrated to God is a process of becoming holy; becoming more Godlike and striving to live out the values of the Gospel.

"Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification".(1Thes 4:3a) However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called "evangelical."(Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; 39.)

Each of us are called to be holy. What Jesus wants the most is that we come close to His heart. To draw close to Him and to learn from Him how we can become holier. Many times we can think that holiness is only for those who have time to pray, those who can devote themselves to prayer all day. But it's not that way at all! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes, bowing your head and putting on a really pious face. Holiness is something much greater and more profound than our external gestures.

Address given by Archbishop Denis Hart at the Joint Meeting of Bishops and Religious

hart-thumbDear Sisters and Brothers,

We are about to begin the Year of Consecrated Life. It is my privilege to thank the Religious of our country for your witness to holiness and truth, as you stand on the parapets pointing to Jesus and to authentic, spiritual life and witness in the cities, towns and fields of our time.

I come from a Religious Order parish. I was taught only by Religious, and your witness in prayer, in truth, in articulating and living the faith and in encountering others, is something that shines strongly in my own life.

My hope is that we will learn from Pope Francis of the value of this Year of Consecrated Life through taking up its essential joy. As the Pope says: "The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and lives of all who encounter Jesus. With Jesus Christ joy is constantly born anew." (EG 1)

In our parishes and communities, how can we welcome and recognise the gift of consecrated life? My hope for religious is that their life-giving contribution to the Church will be made known through their following the Lord in a prophetic way, able to wake the world up, following Jesus' promise: "that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete". (John 15:11) I hope that religious also show us the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing that we are loved, from a confidence that we are saved.

The Pope asks all of us to reread our own personal story and scrutinise it in the light of God's loving gaze, because a vocation is always his initiative and it is up to us freely to accept the path of discipleship.

My hope also is that we will all discover that meeting the Lord gets us moving, urges us to leave aside self-absorption. (EG 265) From prayer the first thing for a disciple is to be with the Master, to listen to him and learn from him, cultivating the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties.

On being a Redemptorist and a Bishop

bird-thumbI have been invited to offer some reflections on being a Redemptorist and a Bishop.

First of all I would like to offer a couple of observations on how becoming a bishop has affected my relationship with my Redemptorist congregation.

A few months after I was ordained bishop, one of my Redemptorist confreres asked me how I was finding the transition from living in a Redemptorist community to living by myself as a bishop. Was I feeling removed from the congregation? My response was that I had visited Redemptorist communities a number of times over those months for the celebration of Redemptorist feast days and that I still felt very much at home with the Redemptorists. However there was a certain sense of detachment in that I was no longer attending chapters and no longer involved in the day to day discussions and decisions of the congregation. I summed it up by saying that I still felt very much a Redemptorist but without any particular responsibilities. My confrere then said: "A Redemptorist but without any particular responsibilities. That sounds like most of the confreres!"

More recently I have been reflecting further on my relationship with my Redemptorist congregation. The image that has come to my mind is the image of a grandfather. I see myself as something like a grandfather in relation to the congregation. I have great affection for the congregation. I love to join in Redemptorist family gatherings, but I don't have direct responsibility for the care of the congregation. My brother Maurie has nine grandchildren. He is a very devoted grandfather. He loves to spend time with all his grandchildren. But he realises that he doesn't have the primary responsibility for these little ones. That belongs to their mums and dads. Maurie can just enjoy being a kindly grandfather. I feel something like that in regard to the Redemptorists. The current leaders in the congregation are the ones with the direct responsibility for the congregation. I can be content with being like a kindly grandfather and offering the confreres encouragement in their community living and in their apostolic ventures.

So, this is how being a bishop has affected my relationship with my congregation.

The Religious made Bishop of a Diocese

okelly-thumbAs the Year of the Consecrated Life was to commence on the First Sunday of Advent 2014, a morning was devoted to a discussion on the role of Religious Life in a diocese at the recent Joint Meeting of the Australian Bishops Conference and Religious. Port Pirie Bishop Greg O'Kelly sj shared his experiences and insights as one who is a member of a Religious Order being made the Bishop of a diocese.

Address to Meeting of Religious Superiors and Bishops, North Sydney, 23rd November 2014

"The Religious made Bishop of a Diocese"

The quotation given to us from Pope Saint John Paul II as a discussion starter states that there is no conflict or opposition between the institutional and the charismatic elements of the Church. That statement might reflect a conviction held by numbers of Religious Superiors that Pope John Paul II did not really understand Religious Life. One thinks of the conflict between Bishop Polding here in Sydney and the early Religious; there is the conflict between early Josephites and Dr Cani in Queensland; and of course there is a whole story of Mary Ward and the Loreto Sisters. There may in the final result might be no conflict, but there are periods in the story of the Church when it has taken time for the institutional and the charismatic to come to terms with each other.

I would like to make my initial remarks from the point of view of a Bishop facing the prospect of his diocese becoming bereft of Religious life, and what will be the impact from that. I looked up the figures for the Diocese of Port Pirie in 1972, the year I was ordained. There were then seven Religious priests, five Religious brothers and ninety-three Religious Sisters! Today we have no Religious priests, no Religious brothers and twelve Sisters, with six of those being seventy years old and over. One must ponder the implications for us.

The first is from the point of view of an ecclesiology. Vatican II describes Religious Life as a manifestation of the holiness of the Church. The existence of Religious Life in the Church is a revelation of its holiness.


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