Reflections on the Year of Consecrated Life

In the third paragraph of his Apostolic Letter To All Consecrated People on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis explains that he chose November 21, 2014 to proclaim a year of reflection on and celebration of Consecrated Life because the date marks the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, and of the Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life, Perfectae Caritatis, promulgated on October 28, 1965.

 

The titles of these documents and the dates might appear as good candidates for a game of Trivia or Apples to Apples or they could be perfect categories for a good Jeopardy game!

 

For some of us, they are symbolic of the gifts that the Spirit of God poured on the Church during the years of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John XXIII was elected on October 1958. A few months later he expressed the desire to convene an Ecumenical Council in order to "let some fresh air into the church." After more than two years of preparation, the Council opened on October 11, 1962 and closed on December 8, 1965.

 

During those years, I was a young novice living in a small convent perched on a hill on the outskirts of Rionegro, Colombia. It is difficult to convey today the joy and excitement that the reading of the daily interventions of theologians and bishops stirred in my soul. In front of my very eyes and ears a whole shift of attitude and perspective was happening in the Church, my Church! People of God! Body of Christ! A Church rejoicing and suffering with the joys and sufferings of the people! We were receiving Documents of inclusion, not condemnation! A whole new narrative of church and religious life began to unfold.

 

I am a few years younger than Pope Francis. In 1960 Jorge Bergoglio made initial vows as a Jesuit; he was ordained a priest in 1969.  His formative years as a Jesuit, like mine as a sister, were marked by Vatican II. I see and hear the resonance of the Council in his choices, and in his words urging all to serve the poor, to care for the Earth, to be fearless prophets, to love and to bring hope.

 

Perfectae Caritatis invited religious congregations to provide their members with opportunities to further their education in theological studies, spirituality, arts, science, and to adapt to "the currents and attitudes of sentiment and thought prevalent in social life today" (18). As we looked at the original inspiration of our foundresses and founders, religious abandoned obsolete practices and semi-cloistered lifestyles and went to the periphery of society to serve the needy. My congregation, Sisters of Mary Reparatrix, embraced new ways of responding to the call of reparation. While still anchored in prayer and contemplation, we chose to close large buildings situated in the center of big cities and created instead many small communities among the people. We lost the visibility that habits and institutions provided but gained solidarity with the poor and marginated in small towns in the Andes accessible only by foot or mule, in the slums of Kenya and gipsy neighborhoods in Andalucía, among trafficked women in Rome and in rural places in the North American southwest.

 

Yes, it is fitting to celebrate consecrated life which at this moment is undergoing yet another transformation.

 

                                                                                             Sr. Concepción González, smr