By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
The Lenten message and the Gospel of St. Mark 1:40-45 illuminate aspects of the exceptional commitment of those living the Consecrated Life, which is among the greatest gifts of God, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell said in his homily during the Mass Celebration of Consecrated Life in the Church at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Feb. 14.
The Mass, which drew about 90 members of 22 Consecrated communities, marked the Diocese of Dallas’ first diocesan-wide observance of the Year of Consecrated Life, which Pope Francis designated to run from last November until Feb. 2, 2016.
Bishop Farrell opened by welcoming and thanking “those who give their lives to God in a very special way.”
Consecrated life encompasses religious priests, sisters, brothers and spiritual families who take vows to practice the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, forms of consecrated life include “…Monastic Life, the Orders of Virgins, Hermits, and Institutes completely devoted to contemplation, Apostolic Religious Life, Secular Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life, and new or renewed forms of the consecrated life (cf. Vita Consecrata, 6-12).”
Bishop Farrell’s homily called the faithful to recognize that Lent offers a special time to evaluate how they respond to the Word of God and live the Gospel. He cited the banishment and isolation of the leprosy sufferer in St. Mark’s Gospel, and noted that all suffer from some disease or infirmity that leads to the hope and plea, “Lord, you can cure me.”
The bishop urged all present to read Pope Francis’ Nov. 21, 2014 “Apostolic Letter To All Consecrated People on the Occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life” in the light of rediscovery and renewal.
Bishop Farrell said that looking back at what “attracted us to God” should not merely focus on the specific charism of an order’s founder or foundress, but the desire and enthusiasm that sparked the commitment to live the Word of God.
“But we must also be a people of hope,” he said. “We have too many problems of gloom and doom in our world and in our church…
“God is the same God who called us many years ago as he is today.”
The bishop saluted the religious women for their role in the church’s regional history.
“Religious women evangelized Texas,” Bishop Farrell said. “We need that new evangelization to be reborn again.”
Tammy Grady, who lives the Consecrated Life as one of the 14 members of the Regnum Christi community of lay consecrated women, said that the Mass gave her great joy.
“It showed the universality of the church,” said Grady, who counsels young women as an assistant in the diocese’s Office of Vocations. “I loved when Bishop Farrell said, ‘Who is Jesus for you? Go back to that and to what attracted you.’
“All of the women here are called to be the Bride of Christ. We each have a different mission. I have a great love for the Mystical Body of the church. People are familiar with religious sisters, but some of the forms of consecrated life are newer to the church.”
She said that she took to heart Pope Francis’ letter, in which the Holy Father called for those in Consecrated Life to “wake up the world” and to “be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth.”
The special year will raise awareness of Consecrated Life, Grady said.
Grady said that the Diocese of Dallas has two communities of lay consecrated women and several consecrated virgins.
Regnum Christi embodies the movement’s five great loves: Christ; the church; the pope; the Blessed Virgin Mary, and souls.
The Focolare Movement—Work of Mary also is a branch of Consecrated Life in the Diocese of Dallas. Founder Chiara Lubich (1920-2008) defined it as “a people born from the Gospel.” The movement focuses on cooperation in building a more united world.
The various ways of living a Consecrated Life include focusing on education, health care or the contemplative life.
Taniele Tucker, a Regnum Christi member, said that the Mass and dinner that followed it underscored the facet of communality.
“We are the first ones who can support each other through prayer and our sacrifice,” she said. “This evening is a perfect representation, with the bishop calling all of us together and gathering his flock.
“The Year of Consecrated Life is a beautiful celebration and invitation from the Holy Father to bring us together.”
The Vatican has prepared an international agenda of events to salute the special year’s three-pronged focus on renewal for men and women in consecrated life, thanksgiving among the faithful for the service of those in consecrated life and the invitation to young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.
Dominican Fathers Bert Ebben, OP, and Jude Siciliano, OP, said that eight young men are considering joining their community in Irving.
“They look at the particular charism,” Father Siciliano said. “They see if the Holy Spirit has a match for them.”
Brother Joaquín Sainz, LC, said that the consecrated life has joy at its heart.
“If I live my vocation with joy, it will be showing that joy to others and that will bring others to Christ,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to show the world how joyful we are in Christ.”