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By Elena Macias

“1875,” said someone from the Society of the Divine Word.

“1961,” said another from the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy.

“1607,” said Sister Leticia Salazar from the Sisters of the Company of Mary.

Men and women religious from the Diocese were sharing the founding year of their communities during the annual Gathering for All in Consecrated Life on Feb 2 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center (DPC).
“This beautiful group, who have been journeying together for many years, recognize that God is always working making them fruitful. Let us be grateful for the first brothers and sisters who began our order,” said Sr. Leticia, Chancellor of the Diocese.

The annual Gathering for All in Consecrated Life began with a presentation given by Sr. Leticia about religious men and women on the Synodal Journey. The presentation recognized how religious men and women have been guided by the Holy Spirit and the importance of consecrated life continuing to journey together in a spirit of Synodality. Sr. Leticia used her experience of participating in the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Oct. 2023 to guide her presentation.

“In an apostolic letter from the Synod of Bishops to the People of God there is a section that is really powerful to me, ‘the church needs to be questioned by the prophetic voice of consecrated life, the watchful sentinel of the Spirit’s call,’ “how can we, as religious communities, question the whole church? I say it is possible,” Sr. Leticia said. “We were 118 consecrated brothers and sisters [in the Synod]. Many of us were there. From 364 [participants], 118 were consecrated men and women, 28 women religious, two brothers and 88 cardinals, including Pope Francis. The consecrated institute provides a model and prophetic voice of journeying together, even in difficult times.”

After listening to Sr. Leticia’s presentation, the religious men and women then gathered into the DPC chapel to celebrate a Mass with Bishop Alberto Rojas. The theme of this year’s Diocesan Consecrated Life Mass, “Let your Light Shine!” was expressed and illustrated throughout the liturgy.

“Today is a very special day with all of you consecrated people,” Bishop Rojas said. “It’s great to celebrate that because as we all know vocations to consecrated life are not always coming that easy.”
The Gospel reading from Luke 2:22-32 in honor of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which was also celebrated throughout the church on Feb 2. During his homily, Bishop Rojas recalled the story of Jesus being presented to the temple as an infant by his mother. In addition, Bishop Rojas took time to express his gratitude for the consecrated men and women in the Diocese.

“I am very grateful for you sisters and brothers for your generosity, for your willingness to give your lives in service to Christ and his Church. So beautiful to see people like yourselves cooperating in this mission that Jesus calls the work of salvation of souls,” he said. “Congratulations to all of you for your consecrated life, you are a beautiful blessing to the church and to all of us.”

After the Homily, all the consecrated men and women received a white candle, which was then lit to signify letting their light continue to shine in their lives and ministries. After lighting the candles, each religious community shared a brief description of their community’s origin and charism.

Then, with their lit candles held up, Bishop Rojas invited the religious to renew their vows. Together they vowed, “I commit myself anew to serve the church in our Diocese of San Bernardino. Grant me the grace to live these vows faithfully through the intercession of Our Lady, and the support of my community and the people I serve.”

Before Mass ended, the community recognized Sister Theresa Ann Trang Nguyễn, a member of the Lovers of the Holy Cross (L.H.C.) religious community, for her 25th Jubilee anniversary. Sr. Nguyễn was born in Vietnam to a family with a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Over her 25 years in consecrated life, Sr. Nguyễn has been the director of Parish Faith Formation at Christ Cathedral Parish and two other parishes in the Diocese of Orange and is currently the director of Parish Faith Formation at St. George Church in Ontario.

“I am thanking God for everything and continuing to ask God to choose me, bless me, and send me to God’s Vineyard,” Sr. Nguyễn said. “As I look back, I again realize that God has filled my life with many miracles and blessings. I cannot count them all. If I would have another chance at life, I would choose religious life again. ‘In God I trust; I shall not fear’” (Psalm 56:5).

Bishop Rojas presented Sr. Nguyễn with a special certificate of recognition and a white decorated candle to further symbolize letting her light shine in her life and service as a consecrated woman. After Mass, the consecrated men and women gathered for a group photo with Bishop Rojas and then enjoyed lunch together.

Elena Macias is the Managing Editor of the Inland Catholic BYTE.