At the end of this month our Universal Church will celebrate the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life and, as I reflect on our consecrated brothers and sisters and what they mean to our faith, I think of Paul’s words in Romans. The religious priests, sisters and brothers have given themselves to our Church with all of their strength. We are so blessed and enriched by the many ministries they have created and sustained in the Diocese of San Bernardino. I wish to thank the religious congregations of our diocese – who they are and what they do to follow Christ and proclaim the Joy of the Gospel in our midst.
Religious are called in a special way to witness by their lives of prayer and service to “Wake Up The World,” which is the theme for this Year of Consecrated Life. This Year gives us an opportunity to see how men and women religious live and serve the Church, to see the commitment of religious with new eyes and hearts, to walk with them in works of service, to learn about the charisms of their congregations, and support them in whatever way we can.
We are surely indebted to those in religious life who have helped us keep the Catholic faith alive in the Inland Empire through the decades. Our history was forged by so many faithful religious who have since gone to their eternal rest. This year, let us again give thanks to God for their foundational ministries and hold them all in prayer.
Much is made of the increasing role that lay Catholics play in leading our Church of San Bernardino. While this is true and certainly a blessing to our diocese, it is also true that we could not carry out the mission as we do today without the presence of the hundreds of religious priests and sisters who minister here.
The Year of Consecrated Life is also an occasion for those consecrated, themselves, to take stock of their life and ministry. It will be year to look back – to reconnect with heart and mind to that call you heard from the Lord that led you to religious life. Does it still sound familiar? It will be a year to look at where we are today in our ministry and in our relationship with God. Are we able to find a sense of renewal as we continue in ministry? Finally, we look to the future of our ministry in consecrated life. How do our gifts align with what the communities we serve will need in the coming years? As we age, how will we deal with our changing capacity to carry out the ministries we have known?
Most are aware of the declining number of those who choose consecrated life, especially in relationship to the continuing growth of our lay population. For this reason and others I am adding a local “wrinkle” to our celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, and that is an increased focus on Vocations. It is my hope that this year will encourage new vocations to consecrated life and priesthood.
It is critical that we create more opportunities for the young people of our diocese to learn about the vocation to consecrated life and if they feel called to it, a place to discern that calling. God has given us all unique gifts and laid a path for us to follow, but sometimes we need others to help us recognize that path. Please approach this Year of Consecrated Life (and Vocations) with a special intention to help the young people in your midst discern their vocation, be it religious life, marriage or another path of service to the Lord.
Let us all give praise and thanks to God for the gift of those in consecrated life, and the model of sacrifice and service they continue to give us. And let us pray for vocations that strengthen and enrich our Church today and tomorrow.
May God bless you and your families.