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 The Diocese of San Bernardino will join the Universal Church Nov. 29 in beginning a celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life to honor, highlight and renew the connection to religious life.  This includes all sisters, religious brothers and priests who belong to a religious order. It does not include diocesan priests. 

 “Religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way,” reads a letter from Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Societies, written to all religious on the announcement of the Year of Consecrated Life. “Religious should be men and women able to wake up the world.”

 Indeed, “Wake Up The World” is the official theme of the Year of Consecrated Life, reflecting Pope Francis’ admonition that religious men and women should turn their attention to the poor, the sick and others on the margins of society. It will conclude on Feb. 2, 2016, World Day for Consecrated Life.

 Bishop Gerald Barnes has chosen to also focus locally on Vocations to religious life during the Year for Consecrated Life.  That has already been benefited by a $100,000 donation from several Serra Clubs toward diocesan programs that promote vocations to religious life (see related story on page three).

 In addition to the promotion of vocations, Sister Mary Frances Coleman, R.S.M, director of the diocesan Office of Consecrated Life, said the Year will serve two other important purposes.

 “This will be a year when the religious of our diocese can look back to the charism of their founders and draw renewed life and joy from that ,” said Sr. Coleman, who belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy. “In doing this they may face the future with hope.”

 There are 43 congregations of women religious and 29 congregations of men religious in the diocese. More than half of the parishes in the diocese are led by a religious priest. In the past religious were more associated with institutions like schools and hospitals. 

 “The needs are seen as different today, and religious are ready and desirous to respond to these needs in whatever way they can,” Sr. Coleman says.

 With that in mind, the third objective of the Year of Consecrated Life is to help remind the lay faithful of the important role that those in religious life have played and continue to play in the life of the Church.  The diocese will hold special events to mark the year, including the annual Consecrated Life Mass on Feb. 1, and parishes are encouraged to seek creative ways to honor and promote religious life at the local level. This heightened awareness could spark interest in religious life.

 “There is a hope,” Sr. Coleman says, “that young people would look to themselves to see if they have a calling to religious life and priesthood to serve the Church in this way. That they would have the desire to give of themselves, to spread the Good News, to be the Joy of the Gospel.”