BLOOMFIELD – A celebration of consecrated life drew 235 men and women religious, who represented almost 50 communities, to the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary on Oct. 29.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was the principal celebrant of and homilist at a Mass at which 14 sisters and brothers renewed their vows while celebrating significant anniversaries of their religious life.
He noted that the Jubilee Year of Mercy that Pope Francis proclaimed was nearing its end.
“On an occasion like this,” the archbishop said in welcome, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Gospel of mercy is entrusted in a very special way to all consecrated men and women. It’s hard to imagine the history of the church and the works of the church without you.”
Tying his homily in with Luke’s account of Jesus’ encounter with tax collector Zacchaeus, an example of Jesus’ personal, earthly mission to bring salvation to the lost, Archbishop Blair said, “It is easy to accept the message of a merciful and forgiving God when I apply that message to myself. It is much harder to accept when the message applies to my enemy, to the one who sinned against me, to the perpetrators of immense evil and suffering.”
At the close of his homily, the archbishop invoked Saint Paul. “This is our wish for you. That God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every good effort of faith that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him.”
Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza concelebrated the Mass. Father Ryan Lerner was master of ceremonies.
Those honored for their milestones in religious life are Sister Lisa Retort, 25 years, Sister Estelle Barelli, 50 years, and Sister Susan Emmerich, 50 years, all Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Sister Mary John Casale, 50 years, Sister Rosemary Connelly, 60 years, and Sister Mary Gloriosa Rosiecki, 65 years, all of of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception; Sister Kieran Foley, 50 years, Sister Suzanne Gross, 50 years, and Mother Shaun Vergauwen, 60 years, all Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist; Sister of St. Joseph Dolores Lahr, 50 years; Holy Cross Brother George Schmitz, 50 years; Sister Janice Buszta of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy, 60 years; Claudette Cyr of the secular institute of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, 60 years; and Felician Sister Mary Seraphine Liskiewicz, 75 years.
Posthumous 75th anniversary recognition was given to Mother Rosemae Pender, foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, who died in June.
Sister Mariette Moan of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, vicar for religious, organized the event.
Archbishop Cronin, offering a blessing before a supper, emphasized prayer for vocations after surveying the roomful of religious, including many young men and women. He described the scene before him as a “poster for vocations.”
As people mingled, Archbishop Blair shared thoughts with the Transcript about the work of the religious within the archdiocese.
“The work of the church,” he said, “is not just people gathering in parishes, as good and essential as that is, but anybody who looks at religious sisters and brothers and priests knows the much wider apostolate, the much wider mission, that the church undertakes precisely because of their communities. That’s something that’s so important.
“And today more than ever,” he continued, people need to encourage religious vocations to consecrated life.
Felician sister Nancy Marie Piecewicz, a dinner companion of honoree Sister Mary Seraphine, said her own calling began in the first grade in Buffalo, N.Y., in the classroom of a Felician sister. “She impressed me so much I wanted to be like her,” Sister Nancy said.
Sister Nancy added, “You know what? They’re coming in; we’re getting vocations. They’re older, they see things differently, they want something deeper, they want prayer and they want community. They’ve had a job; they’ve been out in the world.”
Acknowledging three Felician novices present, Sister Nancy said, “There’s often a spark, and you just have to ask.”
Holy Cross Brother Larry Lussier said, “These people continue to give their lives to the mission of Jesus in schools and hospitals and nursing homes and prisons and ... you name it. It’s a wonderful thing, it gives me hope. God is calling, but anything that we can do to help him, through our words, example, and prayer, will help the harvest.”