WAKE UP THE WORLD: CELEBRATING MEN AND WOMEN OF CONSECRATED LIFE
by Sally Cariño and Vivien Talisayon
This was the theme of the First Diocesan Congress on Consecrated Life organized by the Faith and Formation Commission and the Association of the Religious of Novaliches Diocese (ACLIND). To celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, the Congress was held on September 12, 2015 at 7:30 am – 5:00 pm in the Visitation of Our Lady Parish Church.
The Congress aimed to:
- enable men and women of consecrated life to come to a deeper awareness and appreciation of their special vocation and place in the local Church and the world.
- develop lay awareness and appreciation of religious life and promote vocations among the laity.
- encourage the religious’ participation in the pastoral programs of the Diocese and foster interactions among the clergy, religious, and the laity.
About seventy percent of the participants who evaluated the Congress indicated that its objectives had been attained.
The Congress began with the morning praise of Celebrating God’s Gift of Consecrated Life led by the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Bishop Antonio Tobias welcomed the participants and enjoined the different religious groups present to come out of their congregations and feel the pulse of the many ecclesial communities who need their support. Every congregation has the beauty of its charism. All the charisms are needed in the diocese. He called on the religious “to get out of their shell and be not afraid to be seen” in the parish and diocese. He noted the few religious congregations in the Caloocan part of the diocese. He said that the 280 chapels in the diocese are also places where religious groups can have their presence felt. There is much work to be done in the vineyard. He told them that they are especially called by God to bring His Love to the communities where they are situated.
Msgr. Jesus Romulo Rañada, priest director of Faith and Formation Commission, encouraged the men and women of consecrated life to wake up the world and wake up the laity and the clergy in the parish and diocese to the reality and joy of religious life. Otherwise, that life will be forever a mystery. He invited the religious to join parish activities for the lay and clergy to understand more the religious life, and for the religious to share their joy of living the Gospel and help build up our life of fellowship and communion. He concludes, “Let us feel that you are there for us, and we will let you feel that we are there for you”.
Fifty nine (about 60%) religious congregations (56 congregations of women and 3 congregations of men) serving the diocese participated in the Congress. Most of them are into education, working in the depressed areas of the diocese, giving their time and talents, and guiding lay volunteers to discover their true mission in life. The eleven vicariates of the diocese were represented in the Congress. Lay representatives from 46 parishes (about 70%) attended, constituting about 40% of the more than 500 participants.
Rev. Fr. Victor Sadaya, CMF, President of St. Anthony Mary Claret College of Philosophy,started his talk on “The Vocation of Consecrated Life in Relation to the Clergy, Laity, and the World” by showing the video of How Beautiful from the movie,The Passion of the Christ.Three lines from the song are: How beautiful is the body of Christ… How beautiful when humble hearts give…The fruit of pure lives so that others may live.
Fr.Vic equated the vocation of consecrated life to God’s Love. The core of spirituality is love. Love resides in the heart, that to love is a choice, a commitment, a responsibility,and an act of surrender. Love is what can make us whole or complete. Scott Peck defines love as extending oneself to nurture another’s spiritual growth. God extended Himself as an expression of love in His Son’s Incarnation (Jn 3:16). Jesus came to give life, an abundant life (Jn 10:10); he is fullness of life (Mt 8: 3-4).
God gave the sacraments as a sign of His Love.Consecrated life is a sacrament, a sign of God’s love and presence. It is gift of service to the Church by first being an inspiration (Evangelii Nuntiandi No. 69). The religious are called to be witnesses of love. Consecrated life is important precisely because of its unbounded generosity and love (Vita Consecrata No.105). Being consecrated is being offered to the Father in all of ourcreated dimensions: body, soul, and spirit. The consecrated life is situated in a Church, an integral part of it, and its inner life. Fr. Vic clarified that consecrated life refers not only to religious congregations but also to secular institutes (like the Mother of Life Institute in our diocese).
Religious congregations are unique because of their communal life. Their charisms are also unique and distinct. Different charisms contribute to the vitality of the Church. Religious communities and the clergy need to collaborate and not compete because of their common purpose of helping build the local Church.
The evangelical counsels of the religious – poverty, chastity, and obedience – refer to attitude and action on material things, relationship, and faith, respectively. The main purpose of evangelical counsels is perfect charity which is love.
Pope Francis challenges the consecrated men and women to wake up the world and make concrete their charisms in the communities where the Spirit of God bringsthem. They must initiate communion with the rest of the body of Christ…the least,the lost, and the last. They are challenged to achieve perfect charity through the practice of the evangelical counsels. They are called to be messengers of God’s Love. Consecrated life is all about the joy of serving God in humility and unbounded generosity.
The clergy and laity can also consecrate themselves to God and practice the evangelical counsels in their respective situations. Poverty, for example, means a simple life, solidarity with the poor, and respect for integrity of creation. Chastity for a married person means fidelity to the spouse. Fr. Vic exhorted everyone to move from a consecration mode to missionary mode, that is, to move out of our comfort zone and reach out to the peripheries. All Christians are called to be missionaries with zeal for Christ – to make him known more widely, loved more deeply, and followed more closely. Fr. Vic ended his talk by quoting Pope Francis that we, the religious, clergy, and laity, are all called to become messengers of love and joy.
For intermission, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth PWD Ministry performed an interpretative dance using sign language.
- Flora Castillo, RVM, shared her witness on the evangelical counsels. She was assigned in many places like Porac in Pampanga, Tico in Capiz, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, and Payatas in Quezon City to live out her vows of poverty, obedience,and chastity with her religious community. Through prayers and the help of God, she was able to overcome many difficult moments with prisoners and the rural and urban poor, and walking long distances to mission areas. She advised keen observation of people’s ways to enter their world, knowing the local language, and talking with the parish priest. Her guiding passages from the Scriptures are: “Be not afraid, I will be with you, always. Come follow Me and I will give you rest.” She hopes that her first “yes” to Jesus will be her last.
In the Open Forum, Fr. Victor and S. Flora helped clarify the issues raised like providing a nurturing family environment for religious vocations and dialogue with parish priest for greater visibility and participation in the parish.
Other intermission numbers were given by the Kalipaya Group in prayer song-dances.
Rev. Fr. Tony Labiao, Jr., Rector and Parish Priest of the Parish and Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, shared his past and present experiences with the men and women of consecrated life. He emphasized the need to strengthen coordination of the three pillars of the Church: religious, clergy, and laity. For example, in the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, three congregations serve the youth, women, and children: Merciful Sisters, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Angels, and Salvatoran Sisters. Pastoral work becomes more effective and sustainable with the support of the religious sisters.
Ms. Ma. Divina Lopez, a pastoral worker of the Missionaries of Mary, shared her life story and how she was ableto rise from the gutter with the help of the sisters whose apostolate is to bring to the fold wayward street children. Many young people could empathize with Divina. She now helps the sisters in their apostolate and advocates the use of technology in evangelization, especially of the youth.
In the Workshop that followed the sharing, the participants were grouped by vicariate. The religious brothers and sisters discussed with the lay participants on how to live simply, not to be focused on materialist outlook, and to be sensitiveto the needs of the people or communities in which they live and work, especially those in the materially and socially challenged areas of the Diocese.
To strengthen the collaboration of the religious, clergy and laity to respond to the socio-pastoral-spiritual needs of the people of the diocese, especially the poor, the Workshop recommendations include: sitting together to discuss parish needs, the parish priest involving the religious in parish planning, the religious’ representative attending parish pastoral council meetings, open communication and unity among clergy, religious and laity in pastoral formation and evangelization, family visitation, community catechism, and more Congresses on relation of consecrated life to clergy and laity in the local Church.
In his closing remarks, Fr. Melchor Balinggao, Vicar for the Religious, thanked everyone for the lively participation of the religious brothers and sisters, the presence of a number of diocesan priests, and the support of the lay volunteers of the eleven vicariates of the Diocese of Novaliches. He thanked the organizers, the Visitation of Our Lady Parish pastoral council and staff, and the Servants of the Holy Eucharist (SHE). Sr. Zenaida Cabrera, SHE, president of ACLIND, presented slides ofactivities of the association in the diocese.
The Congress was capped by the solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist concelebrated by Msgr. Romy and Fr. Melchor. It was a grace-filled day to learn more about our brothers and sisters in the consecrated life and interact with them to help build our diocese.