Good works and a lot of praying goes on inside the walls of monasteries.  Literally, these men and women religious are saving the world one soul at a time, but they’re NOT on the spotlight.  So, is the world blind to the good it cannot see?

Dan Burke and Jeanette DeMelo talk about the World Day of Consecrated Life with Michael Wick of the Institute of Religious Life, Franciscan Sister Clare Matthiass of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, and Father Roger Landry.

Michael Wick, Institute on Religious Life

Michael Wick is happily married with four children, but he is also the executive director of the Institute on Religious Life, which brings together priests, religious and lay people to showcase consecrated life as a witness to the world.

The Institute on Religious Life was founded in 1974 by Servant of God Fr. John Hardon becuase of his desire to implement the vision of the Second Vatican Council, in particular to help save religious life in America. He gathered bishops, religious, and laity and formed the Institute as “a resource for individual religious and communities to live their vocation, to be that gift to the Church and the evangelical witness to the world that really manifests the gospel,” Wick said.

Some of the resources the Institute provides to help religious men and women live their calling include programs, publications, and resources. Since 2000, “we’ve really focused a lot of time and attention to reach out to young people to introduce them to this great vocation to the consecrated life and to really prayerfully consider if God is calling me to this vocation,” Wick said.

The Institute has a very strong online presence, including the following sites: ReligiousLife.com, CloisteredLife.com, ReligiousBrotherhood.com, and DailyVocationBlog.com. These sites, Wick said, “serve as resources for those who are looking for authentic religious communities that will truly wake up the world as Pope Francis says.”

The national meeting is April 10-12 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, in Mundelein, Illinois. Among the speakers are Dan Burke and Cardinal Burke. They will be highlighting the work Sr. Mary Agnes Donovan with the Sisters of Life. On Saturday, April 11, “we invite young people to come free of charge,” so anyone age 15-25 can get in free and have a chance to interact with religious.

“Consecrated religious by their calling and their witness really make tangible the call to the Gospel that each of us are called to,” Wick said. “In a concentrated way, religious do that by their very lives, by their witness of their lives by their apostolic work. In many ways, they’re reminders to us of the Gospel and that call.”

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Sister Clare Matthiass of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Sister Clare Matthiass of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal serves on the board for the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. The CMSWR exists to provide mutual support to others in living authentic religious life. There are 125 communities across the United States.

“We are committed to faithfully supporting our Holy Father and the Magisterium and faithfully living out the call the Lord has given to be right at the heart of the Church,” Sr. Clare said.

“This year is very exciting,” she said, and noted that this year is “a gift, a year of grace..to focus on the gift God has given us and to make others aware of that as well.”

On February 8, convents and monasteries across the United States will be celebrating an open house. “The idea is for people to be able to walk through the doors of religious houses that are normally not open to the public,” Sr. Clare shared. “So often, our vocation is a very hidden one, and our good Catholics are not very aware of the call to consecrated life, and many, many do not personally know religious or have stepped foot into a religious house, so this is an opportunity for them to see and meet us and pray in our chapels and hear a little bit about our own stories in our own homes.”

You can find out more information about these open houses at the parish and diocesan level. You can also check in at CMSWR.org for more.

Though there are many challenges for young people today, Sr. Clare said that “young people in this age, just like in every age, are looking for something radical: for a radical way of life, for authenticity, for happiness and for joy. I think that the challenge might be just simply that the opportunity has not yet been presented to them. They need to see this life. They need to see this possibility. They need to be able to encounter Christ and encounter this possibility of radical discipleship in order to meet the challenge and to follow Christ. They have to see us. They have to know us. The challenge is ours.”

Sr. Clare continued by pointing out that being truly present to the people of this age, especially the young people, is a call and challenge for religious today.

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Father Roger Landry

Father Landry writes frequently on the Register and also writes a weekly column for The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Fr. Landry shared how the World Day of Consecration is celebrated worldwide on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2. John Paul II wrote an apostolic exhortation in 1996, “Vita Consecrata (The Consecrated Life),” that inspired this.

The Feast of the Presentation was chosen for two reasons, Fr. Landry said, for two reasons. First, it was the day Jesus was brought to the Temple to be consecrated back to the Lord. Secondly, when Simeon held Jesus, he said “this child is a light of revelation for the nations and the glory of his people.”

According to Fr. Landry, St. John Paul II said, “Our consecrated brothers and sisters are those who, in a particular way, radiate that light of the life that Christ gives us to the entire world in a contagious and beautiful way and that they are also, in a sense, like those wise virgins in Jesus’ parable in Matthew’s gospel who constantly have their lamps lit with oil, awaiting lovingly the return of Jesus the bridegroom.”

This is the first time a pope has declared a Year for Consecrated Life. “We’ve been waiting two thousand years for this,” Fr. Landry said. He also noted that these ecclesiastical holy years are relatively new; they really became pretty regular under John Paul II.

It started on the first Sunday of Advent and will continue through the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 2016.

The USCCB changed the observation of the World Day of Consecration this year to coincide with the open houses that are happening in many monasteries and convents on February 8.

The theme of waking up the world is integrated into this Year of Consecrated Life. “The consecrated sound an alarm clock for all of us to the things that matter most, the things that are eternal, and the more we model our own lives on some of the orientations that we find in their lives, that’s the path to happiness for us and those who will observe us living out the Christian life in a radical way,” said Fr. Landry.

Fr. Landry shared how his godmother was a religious and how his mother knew he would become a priest from the time of his baptism. He shared how preaching retreats for women religious especially has really helped him keep the fire for the faith in his own priesthood. “They constantly keep that tabernacle lamp of their heart burning in love for the presence of God in the middle of the world here,” he said.

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