The Year for Consecrated Life will receive a major boost in Sydney in the next few days with a visit from the head of the Vatican body responsible for religious and consecrated communities.
Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, is known for not pulling any punches – warning religious earlier this year not to abandon the reforms of Vatican II.
The cardinal will give an address to young adults and to consecrated men and women at Australian Catholic University (ACU) in North Sydney on 27 November; an event which will feature a question and answer session.
He will also visit Notre Dame University Australia during his four-day visit, as well various religious-affiliated schools and service agencies and the monasteries of the Carmelites and Poor Clares.
Sr Maria Casey RSJ, one of the organisers of local celebrations for the Year of Consecrated Life, said the visit would give Cardinal Braz de Aviz a vivid experience of the dedication and service of Australia’s around 1200 consecrated men and women religious.
“The variety of ministry they do in everyday life is amazing,” Sr Maria told The Catholic Weekly.
“Generally, they are no longer in big hospitals and educational works – that work is very well done by the lay people – but they are still very much at the cutting edge of the needs of the day.”
Australian religious were prominent in work with refugees, prisoners and people trafficked into labour and sexual servitude, among many other areas of ministry.
“It’s about looking after the people at the margins. That is the call of the pope – to go out to the existential peripheries. That is what the religious do to continue the mission of the Church.”
People attending Cardinal Braz de Aviz’s address hoping for a substantive and topical address are unlikely to be disappointed if his past comments are any guide.
Speaking to formation directors in Rome, earlier this year, he said that members of religious orders must live vocations “inserted” into the world, even in contexts of uncertainty and rapid change.
“The contexts have changed. We are disoriented. In our identity, we are a bit insecure. We need a new deepening, a new pausing, a new listening,” the cardinal said.
“Do not distance yourself from the great lines of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, those that are distancing themselves from the council to make another path are killing themselves; sooner or later, they will die,” Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.
“They will not have sense. They will be outside the Church. We need to build, using the Gospel and the Council as a departure point.”
Pope Francis announced the Year of Consecrated Life (30 November, 2014–2 February, 2016) last year, calling on the Church to “gratefully remember the past” of religious life; to “live the present with passion; and to “embrace the future with hope”.
Cardinal Braz de Aviz, who will be accompanied by Fr Elias Ayuban, will speak in the Ryan Auditorium at ACU, North Sydney, at 3.30pm on 27 November.