By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published February 19, 2015
CONYERS—Men and women called to consecrated life in the Archdiocese of Atlanta marked the feast of the Presentation of the Lord Feb. 2 with prayer and joyful fellowship.
Priests, monks, nuns and others gathered to celebrate the gift of consecrated life at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, which is an annual tradition that had special meaning in 2015 because Pope Francis has designated this as the Year of Consecrated Life.
Following vespers, they enjoyed camaraderie at a reception and sit-down dinner.
The archdiocesan Office of the Vicar for Consecrated Life sponsors the annual event, now in its 10th year. February 2 is World Day for Consecrated Life, instituted by St. Pope John Paul II in 1997. The day encourages Catholics to pray for those committed to a consecrated life.
“Wake up the World” was the theme of the evening, echoing the words of Pope Francis at the opening Mass for the Year of Consecrated Life in November 2014.
“I think people are responding to the pope,” said Sister Helen Mick. “He’s living the Gospel. He’s very approachable.”
Sister Helen’s congregation, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, provide care to the elderly in Atlanta.
Sisters Susan Arcaro and Barbara Young, of the Congregation of Our Lady in the Cenacle, joined other women religious at the reception, having traveled from their residence in Hoschton.
They have noticed increased conversation and curiosity about religious life.
“I think Pope Francis has a lot to do with that,” agreed Sister Barbara.
The Cenacle Sisters have been ministering since 1992 in both urban and rural counties of north Georgia. They serve as spiritual directors and facilitate faith formation programs at parishes and in their home and direct retreats at Ignatius House Retreat Center and in parishes.
Children curious about vow of obedience
The Year of Consecrated Life highlights the example of those serving in the religious life, but it calls upon all people, whatever their vocations, to follow Christ more closely.
“There are an awful lot of distractions,” said Sister Susan about worldly things vying for one’s time and attention.
She recently spoke to a group of 11-year-old students about the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience taken by those in consecrated life.
“I used the word promise,” she said.
The children learned that all money received is put into a collective pot. “I have no money of my own,” she told them. “You have to budget.”
What money is used for is also important. “Sometimes we buy things that are distractions,” noted Sister Susan.
The Cenacle Sisters receive donations for leading spiritual retreats.
“We live on alms,” said Sister Barbara. “God has taken care of us.”
The children were curious about obedience and if that meant the sisters always had to do what their superior told them. Sister Susan explained it is more of a dialogue about how to handle situations.
Although the work of consecrated men and women ranges from that of being a parish priest to serving, for example, as a nurse, many times it is made visible simply by showing love to others through conversation.
“There are a lot of lonely people in the world,” said Sister Susan.
Congregations have affiliates, associates
Sister Helen said when she’s doing her own laundry at a home for the elderly invariably someone will wander in for company. The elderly patients are often concerned about their health or insurance, and she simply steers them in the right direction.
“It’s amazing,” said Sister Helen. “People really do want people to listen to them.”
The sisters said that many congregations have associates, affiliates, or even volunteers, who are interested in joining in the work of the order but are not making the vows of a fully professed religious.
“They’re picking up the charisms,” said Sister Barbara.
Abbot Francis Michael Stiteler of the Cistercian monastery was the homilist at vespers and led the group in prayer before the meal, thanking God for “all the gifts and graces of this day.”
In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 19 religious institutes of women and 13 religious institutes of men are represented. The consecrated women of Regnum Christi also serve in the archdiocese.
Father Timothy Moran, LC, is the Southeast vocations director for the Legionaries of Christ. Based in Sandy Springs, Father Moran has been working in Atlanta for four years.
“They trickle in,” he said of vocations to the priesthood.
Raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a large family, Father Moran has a brother who is a Carmelite priest.
In his own family, the priesthood as a vocation for the children was not overtly discussed.
“My mother never talked about it. She always prayed about it,” said Father Moran. “She didn’t tell us.”
Praying grace before meals and spending time at the dinner table are good faith examples in families hoping to encourage religious vocations, said the priest.
“Pray as a family, especially the rosary,” said Father Moran.
For information on religious orders working in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, visit the Office of the Vicar for Consecrated Life at www.archatl.com/vocations/religious.html.