Editorial – ‘Wake up the world’

This past Tuesday, Feb. 2, the church recognized women and men religious with the World Day for Consecrated Life. The day also signaled the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life.

The Archdiocese of Louisville has been abundantly blessed by the service of numerous religious orders of both men and women. It’s important that we take a moment or two to reflect on the enormous impact these professed religious have had on our local church.

If you attended a Catholic school or parish in the archdiocese, you’ve likely come in contact with one of the hundreds of consecrated men and women who serve here.

Since the humble beginnings of the church in Central Kentucky, consecrated persons have operated our schools, cared for the sick, fed the hungry, provided shelter, given religious instruction and simply been a presence in our parishes.

In rural Meade County, Ky., four women religious who originally hail from Malta — the 122-square mile island nation south of Sicily — have lived with and served the people of St. John the Apostle Church in Brandenburg, Ky., for 50 years.

Augustinian Sisters Rosealba Gatt, Lydia Falzon, Lucilla Mangion and Teresa Aquilina are responsible for educating generations of youth at St. John. The sisters — who are now technically retired — still serve the parish in a number of ministries.

When they arrived in the United States a half a century ago in 1965, the young Maltese nuns were unfamiliar with local customs, inexperienced with the education system and very far from home. Even the food was different.

However, they found support and comfort from another group of religious women who have served the archdiocese in countless ways — the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The Charity sisters offered them a home when they first arrived and helped them establish their ministry.

While many would have been disheartened — and perhaps they were — the Maltese sisters forged ahead and established the elementary school at St. John in Meade County.

They held classes in the convent and church until the school building was completed in 1966. The sisters — who served as administrators and teachers — were joined by lay faculty in the 1990s and continued to operate the parish school until it closed in 2005.

Pope Francis has time and time again lauded consecrated persons for their important role of teaching and living the faith. In November 2014, he opened the Year of Consecrated Life in honor of their commitments. (The year formally concluded with the feast of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple on Feb. 2.)

In his apostolic letter opening the Year of Consecrated Life, the Holy Father called on men and women religious to “wake up the world.”

“Monasteries, communities, centers of spirituality, schools, hospitals, family shelters — all these are places which the charity and creativity born of your charisms have brought into being, and with constant creativity must continue to bring into being,” Pope Francis wrote.

In an address to young consecrated men and women Sept. 17, 2015, at the Vatican, Pope Francis praised women religious for their “desire to always go to the front lines.”

“Why? Because you’re mothers, you have the maternal instinct of the church, which makes you be near” people in need, he said, according to a Catholic News Service story.

In his apostolic letter to women and men religious, Pope Francis asked, “Do we have the same passion for our people, are we close to them to the point of sharing in their joys and sorrows thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them?”

If the people of St. John in Brandenburg were to respond to the pope’s question in respect to the Augustinians, the answer would certainly be a resounding “Yes!”

The sisters share a deep and grateful love of Meade County and its people. In a story reported in The Record on Dec. 10, 2015, Sister Falzon said, “I love my Malta. But … here, I am surrounded by those I love.”

In the same story, Kim Devries, a parishioner of St. John, said the sisters were the “heart and soul of the parish.”

“They are so gracious, so authentic in their love of God and everyone they encounter,” Devries said. “They are just beautiful examples and role models of how we should live our lives.”

This example is surely what Pope Francis meant when he asked religious to “wake up the world.”

The Archdiocese of Louisville will celebrate and honor consecrated men and women celebrating jubilee anniversaries this weekend with a special Mass at 2 p.m. at St. Gabriel Church on Feb. 7.

Take some time this week to reflect on the impact of men and women religious in your own life and the life of the local church. May God bless our religious sisters and brothers.

Record Staff Writer

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