In 2013, Pope Francis declared that a Year of Consecrated Life would be celebrated throughout the world, beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014. In doing so, he chose the theme: “Wake up the world!” This is a fitting time to honor and celebrate the gifts of so many women religious who in the past touched our lives and who served the Church – some still serving – so well. I thank God for how they have “waked up the world” to the love of Jesus Christ.
St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, Vita Consecrata, from March 25, 1996, addresses the witness of poverty, chastity, and obedience as qualities that point the way to something more in life. In this witness of women and men religious, we see our earthly journey as an important prelude to our life in heaven, and we are attracted to choose a path and virtues that will be lasting. Beautifully he writes in number 40, “From the standpoint of the Christian life as a whole, the vocation to the consecrated life is, despite its renunciations and trials, and indeed because of them, a path ‘of light’ over which the Redeemer keeps constant watch: ‘Rise, and have no fear.’”
This is a good time to remember the role of women religious in our lives. As I reflect on my own life journey, I remember September of 1955, which seems so long ago. During this year, as I entered fourth grade, I went to St. Canicus School in the small coal town of Mahanoy City and met the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart for the first time. My little parish school of St. Mary had closed its doors because of dwindling enrollment, and I and my nine classmates had to find a new school home.