HARTFORD – The Cathedral of St. Joseph welcomed a nearly capacity congregation on Jan. 31 to a Mass of thanksgiving to mark the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life.
“The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience are powerful antidotes to dehumanization. They proclaim the liberty of the children of God and the joy of living according to the Beatitudes,” Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, principal celebrant and homilist, said in his sermon.
“Strong words, these,” said the archbishop, “but never truer than now, as we witness a dehumanization and a pollution, not just of the environment, but of spirit, of life and of culture,” referring on several occasions to Pope Francis’ oft-repeated verbal and written rebukes of worldliness and challenges to the faithful.
The pope declared the year-long, worldwide Year of Consecrated Life, which began on the First Sunday of Advent in 2015 and closed on Feb. 2, 2016, in order to “wake up the world” to the many ministries and contributions of those in consecrated life.
With gratitude to the religious present from among most of the archdiocese’s 40 religious communities, the archbishop integrated the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life with Pope Francis’ recently inaugurated Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“The great work of evangelization for which Pope Francis challenges us, and the needs of our time, are those to which the Year of Mercy now calls us as we serve the Lord in the way he intends,” said the archbishop.
Highlights of the liturgy were a recommitment of service to the archdiocese by the communities in attendance and the presentation by the archbishop of inscribed mementos to each of the 17 communities that have served the archdiocese for over 100 years.
The Mass coincided with the World Day of Consecrated Life. It was the last in a series of activities sponsored by the Office for Religious of the Archdiocese of Hartford and organized by Sister Mariette J. Moan, vicar for religious and a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sister Mariette said her goals for the liturgy were to provide witness, recommitment and recognition for the myriad ways in which religious sisters, brothers, religious-order priests and other consecrated men and women serve.
According to Sister Mariette, all six “strands” of consecrated life are represented in the Archdiocese of Hartford; namely, religious sisters, religious brothers, religious-order priests, consecrated virgins, consecrated seculars and hermits, including one currently pursuing consecrated life as a hermit.
Recalling that the year’s events were highlighted by the Holy Father’s visit and much archdiocesan participation through prayer and pilgrimage, she said, “What I would like to emphasize is that the Year of Consecrated Life was a great gift and a great affirmation of Pope Francis for all who have responded to the Lord’s call to the vocational pathway of consecrated life.”
Archbishops Emeriti Henry J. Mansell and Daniel A. Cronin concelebrated the Mass, along with 14 priests of the archdiocese.
Archbishop Blair reflected on consecrated life past and future, within and beyond the archdiocese. He acknowledged the active support of these communities by Archbishops Emeriti Mansell and Cronin during their respective tenures and by all of the bishops who led the diocese before them.
“Since the church’s very origin, its earliest days, a diocesan bishop has known that he and his liturgy alone cannot sustain the full life of the Gospel and of pastoral care,” he said.
He credited consecrated men and women for carrying out “so much of the church’s spirituality, its great works of charity.”
He described consecrated life as defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the context of the day-to-day ministry of religious in fulfilling their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
“The Catechism tells us that the consecrated life is the special sign of the mystery of redemption. To follow and imitate Christ more nearly and to manifest more clearly his self-emptying is to be more deeply present to one’s contemporaries in the heart of Christ.”
The archbishop said that every “authentic and faithful profession of chastity, poverty and obedience represents in that world a sign of contradiction.”
And although religious life sometimes is characterized as a “flight from the world,” the Catechism says it “makes a religious more deeply present to his or her contemporaries, not less so, in the heart of Jesus Christ,” he added.