Church, local and universal, honors consecrated men and women

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

February 6, 2017

The Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province, who teach at Catholic schools in the diocese, pray during Solemn Vespers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Feb. 3. (NTC Photo/Adrean Indolos)

FORT WORTH — Bishop Michael Olson led about 75 men and women religious of the diocese in Solemn Vespers on Feb. 3 to commemorate the World Day for Consecrated Life. This annual event was established in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II to celebrate and pray for those who have consecrated their lives to God by taking vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

Sister Yolanda Cruz, SSMN, looks forward to this celebration each year as an affirmation of consecrated lives and the ministry and service they provide the diocese. According to Sr. Yolanda, the purpose of the evening is fellowship, gratitude, and prayer.

“It’s important to have the worldwide Church pray for us,” said Sister Yolanda, who is the delegate for women religious in the diocese. “We need the prayer and support of the Church, their support of our ‘yes’ to God. We need prayers that we will continue being good witnesses and continue our day-to-day conversion.”

Bishop Olson explained, “This wonderful event, which happens around the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, reminds us in particular about the blessing of religious life and its call to holiness. It gives us the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to sisters and priests who are in consecrated life serving in our diocese.”

Pope St. John Paul II chose to honor consecrated lives on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple. Pope Francis, in his homily at this year’s celebration at the Vatican, likened consecrated men and women to Mary, who “put Jesus in the midst of his people. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy.”

However, Pope Francis cautioned, “Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”

Bishop Olson gives a reflection of the readings during World Day for Consecrated Life, and thanks all religious for the sacrifices they make. (NTC Photo/Adrean Indolos)

Bishop Olson’s comments, based on a reading from 1 Peter, also focused on suffering. According to the bishop, religious life means taking up the suffering of Jesus, who prayed for unity and wept over division and separation among believers.

He explained, “The poor and those living with injustice and oppression are Christ’s sufferings, and they become your suffering. Religious life is a witness to the presence of Christ. Not just Christ risen, but also Christ suffering and crucified. Do not abandon those for whom Christ suffers.”

The bishop concluded the prayer service by thanking the men and women for their continued witness and their generous apostolic ministry. He also spoke about the recent executive order from the White House banning refugees from seven countries. “Our responsibility is to care for those in need and to speak in right reason and faith.”

Father Tom Fox, OFM, was pleased that the bishop spoke of refugees. “It’s good that he takes a proactive position. This is an extremely important topic, especially in our multicultural diocese. What the bishop says is in line with what Pope Francis is saying, in line with what the Church is teaching.”

Held at St. Patrick Cathedral, the evening was a representation of the diocese’s diversity. Songs, prayers, and readings alternated between English and Spanish. Religious men and women hailed from five continents and more than ten countries.

Afterwards, the priests and sisters spent time in fellowship over dinner.

Sister Francesca Walterscheid, SSMN, with 70 years in consecrated life, is retired from teaching but still cares for the infirm. “We don’t want to retire, we want to keep working,” she said.

Fr. Fox, who said he is “happy to be a Franciscan priest for more than 60 years,” appreciated the attitude of the bishop toward religious priests and sisters.

“He is supportive. Much of the work of the Church is done by religious men and women, and he supports us as much as he can.”

FORT WORTH — Bishop Michael Olson led about 75 men and women religious of the diocese in Solemn Vespers on Feb. 3 to commemorate the World Day for Consecrated Life. 

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