January 31, 2014

A message from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin for the World Day for Consecrated Life on Feb. 2

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.In 1997, Pope John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. The celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2. This feast is also known as Candlemas Day—the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ, who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples.

This year, Feb. 2 falls on a Sunday and the parishes of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis are asked to remember in a special way the gift of consecrated life during the weekend Masses of Feb. 1-2. Who will we be praying for?

Back in 1996, Pope John Paul II compared the different forms of consecrated life to “a plant with many branches which sinks its roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season of the Church’s life.” These diverse forms include: monastic life, the order of virgins, hermits, institutes completely devoted to contemplation, apostolic religious life, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life and new forms of the consecrated life (cf. apostolic exhortation “Vita Consecrata,” #6-12). The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is blessed to have representatives of all these different forms of living the Christian vocation.

The phrase “consecrated life” can be a little misleading since all the baptized have been consecrated. By our baptism, we were conformed to the image of Christ and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Our baptismal consecration placed us in a new relationship with the most holy Trinity, who dwells within us through sanctifying grace. The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church, and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and concrete charity.

On Feb. 2, the Church gives thanks for a particular gift of God to the Church in which God calls men and women to a new consecration that is deeply rooted in the life and example of Jesus.

Although the lifestyle of monks, brothers, religious sisters, consecrated virgins and religious priests can be very different, all profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, so that “the characteristic features of Jesus—the chaste, poor and obedient one—are made constantly ‘visible’in the midst of the world and the eyes of the faithful are directed towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (“Vita Consecrata,” #1).

Even the most superficial understanding of the history of the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana cannot ignore the strong influence of consecrated men and women. The two patrons of the archdiocese, St. Francis Xavier and St. Mother Theodore Guérin, were members of institutes of consecrated life—the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. How different the history of the archdiocese would have been without the pioneering work of the Benedictine Sisters and monks as well as the Sisters of Providence and the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg! Without the inspiration of the Holy Cross Brothers, there would be no Cathedral High School today in Indianapolis.

Consecrated men and women continue to play a crucial role in the mission of the archdiocese. The life of the Church is sustained by the prayer of contemplative communities of Carmelite nuns in Terre Haute and Oldenburg. The two great systems of Catholic health care, St. Vincent Health Care and Franciscan St. Francis Health, were born in the labor of the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, respectively.

The Little Sisters of the Poor offer selfless service to the sick and elderly. Dominican Friars evangelize on the campus of Indiana University through St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington.

Sisters of Providence, Oldenburg Franciscans, Dominican Sisters, Holy Cross Sisters and other women religious make outstanding contributions to parish life across the archdiocese. Consecrated men representing three branches of the Franciscan family enrich the archdiocese—Friars Minor, Conventual Franciscans and Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

Our local Church benefits from the witness of relatively new forms of consecrated life, such as the Missionaries of Charity. While religious from Indiana contribute to religious life across the world—the general superior of the Franciscan Friars Minor, Father Michael Perry, is originally from Indianapolis—the archdiocese welcomes Sisters from other countries, including India (Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart), Uganda (Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix) and Nigeria (Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy and the New Evangelization Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Help).

The tremendous work of consecrated men and women is not their greatest contribution to the Church. Consecrated life is not so much “being” something or “doing” something. Rather, it is the living witness of belonging to Someone. The uncompromising commitment of consecrated men and women to following Jesus Christ should remind all of us that our baptismal consecration is neither a hobby nor part-time pastime.

I ask you to pray for all those who have made commitments in the consecrated life, and to be sure to thank them on their special day. May they continue to be inspired by Jesus Christ and respond generously to God’s gift of their vocation.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Indianapolis

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