Another first-time experience for me here in the diocese was to be present for the community elections of our own diocesan community of religious women, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross (Bay Settlement), dating back to 1881. Sr. Ann Rehrauer and her leadership team are finishing their second term in office. Sr. Donna Koch was elected with her team to guide and direct the Bay Settlement Community into the next years. Having been well prepared for the elections, the Sisters voted in their chapel, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and the diocesan bishop. There seemed to be general agreement about the election of their new officers.
Perhaps we do not often enough reflect on the very important and essential role of the consecrated religious to the life of a diocese, especially a community that has given so many years of selfless service to the faithful and to the citizens of this portion of the people of God that is this diocese. Sr. Ann and so many others are to be thanked for the generous service they have extended in teaching, health care, pastoral services, and other types of volunteerism, ministry and leadership.
I encouraged the Sisters with the fact that the presence of consecrated religious and especially a community created for and by a diocese makes a large impact on a local community and is so beneficial to the well being of the church. I also encouraged the Sisters not to be discouraged about the low numbers of vocations now. The entire church must seek the grace to be generative in passing on the torch of church vocations to the next generation. This is foundationally done through prayer, sacrifices offered for that purpose and a general longing to pass on this marvelous gift we have received. “What you have been given as a gift, now give as a gift.” Also, there is no substitute for asking a young woman to consider the life of a vowed religious Sister.
I know I express your gratitude to the Bay Settlement Community for their years of service and look forward to their presence and ministry for many years to come.