‘The consecrated religious leave everything behind in order to give oneself completely to God’
CHARLOTTE — Habits, veils, rosaries and pins denoting religious communities were prevalent among the more than 50 women and men religious from around the Diocese of Charlotte who attended the Mass for the World Day for Consecrated Life with Bishop Peter Jugis Feb. 4 at St. Patrick Cathedral.
The annual Mass is an opportunity for Bishop Jugis to thank the religious jubilarians and members of their communities for their dedication and service to the Church.
During his homily, Bishop Jugis said, “I look forward to this day each year to honor the vocation of consecrated life and also I look forward to this day, personally, to thank God for the witness that you give to the Diocese of Charlotte to the beauty and the holiness of religious life.”
He noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the World Day for Consecrated Life. St. John Paul II celebrated the first World Day for Consecrated Life on Feb. 2, 1997.
“The one question I have always had from the beginning is: why did he choose the feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple as the special day to honor the consecrated life? There must have been some kind of special connection in his mind. There has to be something evident to bring together that feast day and the consecrated life. It has to have something to do with what is at the core of the consecrated life.”
That core, he continued, is the grace that each consecrated religious has received to make a total commitment to God, leaving everything behind to give their lives to God.
“The consecrated religious leave everything behind in order to give oneself completely to God,” he continued. “It’s a radical gift of self, as you already know, that is made by your consecration ‒ radical, or to the root, or to the core.”
“So we might say that all of you are radicals,” he joked, drawing laughter from the congregation.
Bishop Jugis took great care to share his reflection on the details of the official image published by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops for the commemoration of the World Day for Consecrated Life, depicting Jesus’ presentation in the temple and how the image illustrates key components of consecrated life, such as the vows of poverty and obedience.
The image of Jesus leaving the arms of his mother and being handed to Simeon depicts the choice of leaving everything behind, he said. “Total commitment to God seems to be illustrated so well…which signifies a person totally handed over to the work of God, to the work of salvation.”
One of the jubilarians honored at the Mass, Mercy Sister Therese Galligan, knows well what it means to give oneself fully to God. She is celebrating 60 years of religious life. She has worked diligently in the areas of education, health care and providing assistance to the poor in western North Carolina over the past 60 years, particularly in her work in the Charlotte area.
“It’s gone by so quickly!” she said. “I love the opportunity for the different kinds of ministries I have been able to be involved in. I felt called to each one. I feel very blessed. I feel very energized. I am very thankful.”
Sister Therese shared that her baptism was Aug. 16 and her vow date was Aug. 16. She entered the Sisters of Mercy at the age of 21.
“In today’s Mass, it was so apparent that this was God’s plan for me,” she explained. “I was not thinking about this when I was younger. I was not wanting to go the route of religious life. I wanted to be married with children, like my mother.”
“All of a sudden, I just felt this calling,” she said. “God just turned me around and brought me here. I am very thankful. I am very blessed…there are some wonderful women that I have lived with and ministered with. They have been great role models to me, too.”
She suggests that young women considering a vocation to “listen to the call, pray about it.”
Jubilarian Sister Pushpa Jose of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who works with the poor in High Point, is celebrating 25 years of religious life.
“I like to work with the poor and sick,” she said. “That is why I joined this congregation. We need to serve the needy and sick people.”
Sister Pushpa encourages young women who enjoy serving people in that way to consider a community like hers that is hands-on within the community. “if they enjoy that, then they should do it. I enjoy that.”
Missionaries of Charity Sister Mary Martinella, who has been in Charlotte for only a month, happily celebrated her 25th anniversary with the other jubilarians at St. Patrick Cathedral Feb. 4.
“I am really happy to be a sister, to serve the Lord and His work,” she said. “I was telling the sisters (here) I feel like I am just starting – I don’t feel like it’s been 25 years! It is wonderful! God has called us and we said yes to the Lord.”
Sister Mary also explained, “To love Jesus, to give your life to Jesus, there is no best man than Jesus Christ. He is the best man. The more you give, Jesus gives you more. He is the one working through us. We are just instrument in His hands.
“God called me. We sisters are unworthy creatures but God calls us to just serve Him.”
Bishop Jugis acknowledged the significant contributions and sacrifices the jubilarians have made to the Church in his remarks at Mass and also at the luncheon that followed in the Family Life Center.
“It’s a radical way of living the Gospel, the most radical way of all the states of life within the Church,” he said of consecrated life. “The most radical way of living the Gospel here on earth. To be a light of the kingdom which is to come and is already present.”
“You have given yourselves totally to God who is your light and your salvation, so may He give you His grace every day to help you grow even closer to Him,” he said.
— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter