By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
During a meditative vespers service — evening prayer — at the Cathedral of the Assumption Sept. 13, about 150 members of religious communities prayed for one another and for those discerning vocations to religious life.
The service was the last of three events held in the Archdiocese of Louisville to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. A day earlier, on Sept. 12, religious communities dedicated a Habitat for Humanity House which they built this summer. The house, called “Wake Up the World” — the motto of the Year of Consecrated Life — is now home to a Somali mother and her eight children.
Pope Francis called for the Year of Consecrated Life and, in doing so, asked women and men religious to “Wake Up the World” by their example as followers of Christ.
“Religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way,” he wrote in a letter to consecrated men and women in November of 2014 to launch the observance. “This is the priority that is needed right now: “to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth.”
The Archdiocese of Louisville is home to hundreds of members of about 26 different religious communities. Some communities have just one or two members here. Others have headquarters here with hundreds of members
serving within the archdiocese and outside — caring for impoverished people around the world.
While most communities are focused on their work, they rarely take the time to share their work with one another, noted Passionist Father John Schork, who helped plan and organize the local observance of the Year of Consecrated Life.
The events for the Year of Consecrated Life were “a great way to celebrate being religious and who we are as religious,” he said during a reception following vespers. “I think it’s worthwhile, indeed, that we come together.”
He and several others on the planning committee said they hope to continue to gather in the future for worship, to share their faith and to share the “richness” of their charisms with one another.
Benedictine Sister Teresa Gunter, also a member of the planning committee, said the events of this year have helped her learn a great deal about the other communities serving in the archdiocese. And that will help her in her service as a vocation director for the Benedictine Sisters of Ferdinand, Ind., she said.
“When young women are called to religious life, they might not be called to my community,” she noted. “I’ll know where to direct them (to other local communities). We’re all working for the same goal. We’re like a big network.”
Sister Gunter said she’s grateful for the Year of Consecrated Life because it’s brought attention to religious communities.
“It has brought attention to how vibrant these communities are and what a gift these communities have been to our larger community,” she said. “You see religious are still in our schools, still working for poor and for justice. The pope recognizing that helps us to be vibrant.
“I love what the pope is doing because it empowers me,” she added. “We’ve been working for the poor, for marginalized people. It feels like the pope is patting me on the back.”
This summer, religious serving in the archdiocese saw what their combined efforts could accomplish as they worked together to build the Wake Up the World Habitat House. It was a rare opportunity to serve side by side.
It was moving experience, said Sister of Charity of Nazareth Nancy Gerth, also a member of the planning committee.
“I was so grateful to be a part of that. In a way, it was kind of sad it was over.
“I got to meet so many religious, the family (who now own the home), people from Habitat, the volunteers, young people,” she noted.
“Everyone pitched in. It was a really good model of collaboration among communities. I hope we can do more of this in the future.”
The vast and committed service of men and women religious attracts people to the church, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, noted during his homily at vespers. He also pointed out the commitments religious make, such as self sacrifice and detachment from earthly possessions.
These, he said, also attract people to religious life and to the church.
“This is the witness, the martyrdom of religious life, to give your life — because of Christ’s call — for others,” he said, adding that God has called each of them to religious life.
He concluded his homily by quoting the Dominican St. Catherine of Sienna: “If you are who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire.”