Consecrated men and women across the Sydney archdiocese are called to remain faithful to their charisms at a time of “great challenges” for the Church, the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, said at the first major event to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life.
In his homily for the Mass for Consecrated Life at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on 11 April, Archbishop Fisher drew on accounts of a Jesuit priest who served at Gallipoli.
His service was “a healthy reminder of our own calling as men and women consecrated to God” to serve those in need, “especially those at the ‘battlefront’ of secularising Sydney, and those wounded, one way or another, by modernity or by more perennial ills”, he said.
“Now, like many other moments in history, is a historical moment of great challenges for the Church and so for her consecrated members,” he said.
In a 2014 letter, a year after announcing that 2015 would be the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis called on consecrated men and women to examine their role in the Church and to respond to the “new demands constantly being made on us, to hear the cry of the poor”.
The archdiocesan Vicar for Consecrated Life, Sr Maria Casey rsj, said the large congregation at the Mass illustrated the spectrum of consecrated life in Sydney, and the many social issues confronted by its members: religious, secular institutes, societies of Apostolic Life and parishioners, young people and friends.
“The disenfranchised, the refugees, trafficked men and women, people who are suffering bereavement … the members of consecrated life are just amazing how they respond,” she said, “not necessarily in official capacities, but just in being who they are.”
In her own congregation, the ministering life of the Sisters of St Joseph has been transformed as the needs of the community have evolved, she said.
“In Mary MacKillop’s time, the crying need was for education, so she founded a congregation whose primary concern was for education.”
With that need now being met, largely by lay people, “that frees up members to do the other works on the margins, or as Pope Francis calls it, ‘the existential periphery’,” Sr Maria said.
“Instead of having a whole group responding to one need, we have individuals who respond to numerous needs.
“The same would apply to many, many other congregations.”
A committee to oversee local celebrations was appointed in February.
It is expected to promote the Year for Consecrated Life through YouTube clips, prayers, parish events and an event at the Sydney Town Hall on 23 August.