By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Pope Francis dedicated the special Year of Consecrated Life to run through World Day of Consecrated Life, celebrated in the Church on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Feb. 2, 2016. This past year was meant to call attention to religious life, for those interested in responding to God’s call, but also for the Catholic faithful to learn more about what it means to live a consecrated life for the Church and to pray for those following it
In proclaiming this year, Pope Francis called Religious, Sisters, Brothers and Priests “to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and embrace the future with hope.”
I offer my thanks to the Religious and the parish communities for celebrating this year in many special ways—the parish and diocesan Masses and gatherings where Religious were recognized and celebrated, events and presentations, “Come and See” evenings to promote vocations and remembrance in weekly prayer. I am grateful, too, for the opportunity to have met and conversed with many of the Congregational Leaders in November 2015.
As I reflect on how the Religious have given themselves to our Church in San Bernardino, I am filled with gratitude. They have enriched us with the many ministries they have created and sustained - crossing ethnic, cultural and economic boundaries - in education and healthcare, serving immigrants, prisoners, those trafficked and others. I say “Blessed are we because of them and the model of sacrifice and service they continue to give us.” I pray, too, that many young people in our midst will discern their vocation, be it religious life, priesthood, marriage or another path of service and follow the call.
The call of this Jubilee Year of Mercy will undoubtedly move Religious afresh in the words of Pope Francis “to wake up the world,” to the repeated cries of God’s poor and the new cries of our “common home,” our suffering earth. Religious service of tomorrow will differ from that of yesterday. The floes of destitute migrants, the pollution of the earth, the crisis of homelessness will inspire and draw forth for each congregation new and surprising ways of reenacting God’s mercy in our midst, and in collaboration with others, sharing God’s gift with all those who are in need. “Merciful as your Heavenly Father is Merciful.”
As Religious, each intentional, compassionate action, small though it may be, will contribute to a “field of mercy,” a transformative groundswell of mercy in our diocese, and in our world. Your service will be missionary and prophetic and at the core of Consecrated Life.
Thank you and God bless your future with hope.