What if the Year of Consecrated Life ushers in a new graced time for religious, a kairos time, a time of vitality, hope and vision, a time that addresses the cries of a twenty first century world? This is one of the many possibilities that Australian Sister Sue McGuiness rsj recently hoped for the Josephites, and we at CRA echo these hopes for the benefit of all religious.
In his call for a year dedicated to Consecrated Life Pope Francis said it was his hope that religious sisters, brothers and priests would “wake up the world” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope.
Quite a challenge! As religious, as Sisters of St Joseph, we can choose the nature of our response to the Pope’s challenge both personally and as a Congregation.
What if… during this special year we made a gesture of radical gratitude for the gift of religious life to the Church and to the world in a spirit of humility and openness? Cardinal Joao de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, outlined his own hope, “In this year we want to recognize and confess our weaknesses, but we also want to show the world with strength and joy the holiness and vitality that are present in consecrated life.”
What if… during this year Josephites around the world, more than ever before, ignited hope, deepened our own sometimes fragile faith and gave prophetic witness to others of lives lived in solidarity with those on the margins of our communities?
What if… we modelled a life of simplicity which spoke loudly to a consumerist world that we have a responsibility to pass on to future generations an earth that can sustain its population in peace so that everyone has access to fresh water, sufficient food, adequate shelter and the liberating power of education?
What if… our stance as women religious offered solidarity and support to our trafficked sisters, and all those women and children whose rights and dignity have been negated by oppressive, brutal treatment?
What if... we took seriously the words of Pope Francis: “…religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness I expect of you. Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up, and (show that they are) a special breed who have something to say to the world today.”
What if… our lives in community were tangible signs of unity, of oneness and of connection, with each other, with all created things?
What if… the Sisters of St Joseph were able to indulge ourselves a little and glance over our shoulders at the conclusion of this special year to identify some real ways in which we had answered Pope Francis’s challenge? Pope Francis described his own yardstick by which we can measure the quality of our response: “I’m reminded”, he said, “of those religious who have a heart as sour as vinegar: they are not made for the people. We must not create administrators and managers but fathers, brothers and sisters, travel companions.” Pope Francis exhorted us to develop a “tender heart.” He writes, “I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!”
We are being invited to revitalize ourselves from the ‘inside out’. We are being challenged to demonstrate such a passion for life that we become, as Joan Chittister puts it, “living displays of the vibrancy of the Spirit for which we are all baptized,” and for which we religious are consecrated.
The conclusion of this special year in Advent 2015 coincides with the promulgation of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II document on the renewal of religious life, Perfectae Caritatis.
What if… the Year of Consecrated Life ushers in a new graced time for religious, a kairos time, a time of vitality, hope and vision, a twenty first century time, a time that addresses the cries of a twenty first century world?
And what if that time was lived out by Sisters of St Joseph joyfully, hopefully and effectively?