GREEN BAY — St. Francis Xavier Cathedral was filled with a joyous melody based on the words of Pope Francis to the consecrated religious of the world called, “Wake the World with Dawning Joy,” at the closing of solemn vespers Sunday, Dec. 7. The event was led by Bishop David Ricken and launched the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life.
Bishop Ricken gave thanks to the religious for their dedication, to the vows of their vocation and to their service in the diocese.
“We thank God for your Gospel witness,” said Bishop Ricken. “I would hope that during this year you are able to really absorb the prayers of thanksgiving that are going to go out to you throughout this diocese and also from the universal church in gratitude for the witness that only you can give.”
He said that consecrated life is “an incredible gift to the church.”
“You do something and live the Gospel in a way that is a radical sense of following Christ very faithfully and diligently every day and you serve Christ very differently than priests, deacons and the lay faithful,” said Bishop Ricken. “You have a unique charism and enrich the church in an incredible way.”
Several years ago, the church established a universal year for priests. This year, Pope Francis, who is a religious himself, has begun the year with the intention of prayer for and around the consecrated life.
Bishop Ricken shared Pope Francis’ homily on the Year of the Consecrated Life. Some of the highlights were:
- “Seek Christ constantly, dear consecrated, seek his face, may he occupy the center of your life in order to be transformed in living memory of Jesus’ way of living and acting, as Incarnate word before the Father and before your brothers and sisters” (Vita Consecrata, 22).
- “Put Christ at the center of your existence.”
- “May this be an intense time to celebrate with the whole church…”
Bishop Ricken recognized the many religious from various orders present at Sunday’s vespers, some of which included Franciscan priests, brothers and sisters, the Norbertines, along with the Missionaries of the Word based in Baileys Harbor.
Franciscan Fr. Patrick Gawrylewski, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Green Bay, shared his initial thoughts about the announcement of the Year of the Consecrated Life.
“At first I was surprised and grateful for all consecrated religious. I see it is an opportunity to be more serious about who we are called to be based on our founder and allowing that to affect our ministry to the people and the way we as religious live together and are a sign to the world.”
Fr. Gawrylewski spoke to the chosen theme for the Year of the Consecrated: Wake up the World! “It’s a message not only for the world but for each one of us to wake up. As you wake up, you wake up the world to some of the madness to another way of living and to our faith in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Of course it’s all based on Christ and that’s how faith, hope love and true joy come about.”
This pure joy of consecrated life is also found in those more recently called to religious life. Sr. Maria Lucia, a novice in the order of the Missionaries of the Word, responded to the gratitude shown to religious during the Year of Consecrated Life.
“All I can say is praise God. There’s no explanation as to why I’m called or anyone is called,” she said. “I join with the church in thanking God for this religious vocation. In vespers tonight, I was saying thank you to God for the mystery of religious life in the church and my vocation. I don’t fully understand it but am so grateful for the witness of it.”
While many of the religious serving in the Green Bay Diocese have celebrated multiple decades of religious life, the young religious were also well represented at Sunday night vespers.
Sr. Maria Lucia noted, “It’s a particular joy for me because I’m a novice right now. So it’s a time of formation as we’re on the way to active ministry and a time to grow in prayer. It’s a time of engagement before full vows.”
The charism that the sisters of the Missionaries of the Word focus on is all phases of faith formation of youth.
In January, Bishop Ricken will declare several chapels and churches within the diocese as destinations for prayer, as requested by Pope Francis, in order to receive indulgences or special graces.