HARTFORD – In her new role as vicar for religious for the Archdiocese of Hartford, one of Sister Mariette J. Moan’s duties for the coming year will be to coordinate local initiatives for the Year of Consecrated Life.
The observance began on Nov. 29 with solemn vespers for the First Sunday of Advent at the Mount Sacred Heart provincial motherhouse in Hamden. About 135 consecrated men and women from 18 communities attended.
Pope Francis in November 2013 called for the year-long focus on consecrated life and asked the world’s sisters, brothers and priests to “wake up the world” by witnessing to “a different way of doing things, of acting, of living.”
Sister Mariette, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, said that the Year of Consecrated Life will use the past, present and future as a prism to contemplate consecrated life.
“It’s looking at the last 50 years since the second Vatican Council,... looking back over these 50 years as cause for praise and thanksgiving for the renewal that has taken place in religious life in the church.… The other part of it is to look at the present with hope and the third piece is to go into the future with passion,” she said.
The National Religious Vocation Conference, an organization of vocation ministers for religious congregations, states the three-pronged focus this way:
– renewal for men and women in consecrated life;
– thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of sisters, brothers, priests and nuns; and
– an invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.
Sister Mariette said that some people believe Pope Francis called for this observance of religious life as a sequel to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009-10 Year for Priests. “I don’t see it that way,” she said.
“I think that Francis is really the protagonist in this. Everyone is tuned in to Pope Francis, whether you’re Roman Catholic or not. And he is giving a tremendous example of daring. You know, he talks about joy and he doesn’t just talk about joy, he lives it.”
Also, his talk about values and virtues is not empty sermonizing, she said. “You see him doing it. He doesn’t just talk about humility, you see him [as humble]; he doesn’t just talk about poverty, you see him and he’s wearing the ‘wrong shoes,’” she said, a reference to his preference for simple black shoes instead of the traditional red slippers.
“I think that he has single-handedly been shaking up a lot of things,” Sister Mariette said.
She added that the pope’s wake-up call should start from within – within each person and within the church. “He’s also saying to religious men and women, ‘I want you to be different; I need you to be different; I need you to help me wake up the world.’”
The pope’s Jesuit background plays a role, she said. “He understands what consecrated life is because he himself is a consecrated religious priest,” she said.
And his worldwide popularity should ensure that he will receive the help he asks for to “wake up the world,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to be a part of his team?” she asked rhetorically.
A number of international meetings have been planned in Rome over the course of the year, according to Catholic News Service. A three-day ecumenical conference of religious will take place Jan. 22-25. A seminar for formation directors will take place April 8-11. And a workshop for young consecrated men and women has been organized for Sept. 23-25.
In the United States, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), plans include three “Days with Religious,” in concert with three religious leadership conferences. An “Open House with Religious” is planned for Feb. 8, 2015, when religious houses across the country will be opening their doors for everyone to visit.
A “Day of Service with Religious” will take place in the summer of 2015, when the laity is invited to visit and take part in various works of service in which men and women religious participate.
Finally, a “Day of Prayer with Religious” is planned for Sept. 13, 2015, during which men and women of faith are invited to join men and women religious in prayer.
Plans for the archdiocesan observance of the Year of Consecrated Life will be largely in step with these Vatican- and USCCB-directed initiatives, but Sister Mariette doesn’t want the year to be focused solely on events and activities. There will be gatherings, roundtables, conferences, prayer meetings and other quiet observances, as well as more public activities, she said. The “days with religious” events will be coordinated by individual religious communities, she said. Details will be announced in the coming months.
One of her goals is to involve contemplative societies within the archdiocese, as well as men and women in formation for various vocations.
“I’m working with some formation directors to plan an evening, a casual thing with the archbishop, so the formation people can be together and they can meet other people like themselves who share the same aspirations, the same desires, the same zeal,” she said.
She plans to work with Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza to minister to retirement communities of consecrated men and women. “I asked him, since he is retired himself, and he has great gentleness and understanding and compassion toward the issues that a retired person confronts,” she said.
The official close of the Year of Consecrated Life will be Feb. 2, 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, a Tuesday. In the Archdiocese of Hartford, a Mass of thanksgiving for the year will be celebrated on Jan. 31, 2016, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
“To look at the mandate ‘Wake up the world,’ that makes a huge presumption,” Sister Mariette said. “The crucial question is, Do I want to be awakened? And the enduring question is, How do I remain vigilant? [Pope Francis] makes us believe in the dream, the dream of what our church can be, what our world can be, what our congregations can be, what I can be.”
For unfolding details of events for the Year of Consecrated Life, go to www.archdioceseofhartford.org/ministries/office_religious.htm.