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Diocese celebrates consecrated life and recognizes jubilarians

For the first time in two years, the Diocese of Birmingham marked the World Day for Consecrated Life with a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Bishop Emeritus Robert Baker celebrated the Mass in Bishop Raica’s stead. The day, which officially was celebrated at the Vatican this year on Feb. 2, was instituted by Pope St. John Paul II in 1997. The celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, symbolizing that those in consecrated life are called to reflect Jesus, Who is the Light of the World.

In his homily, Bishop Emeritus Baker referred to consecrated men and women as “people wholly dedicated to God in poverty, chastity, and obedience.” As such, their witness of “living out their faith in an exemplary way” helps the faithful better live out their own faith whether it be to the married life, single life, or consecrated life of a religious. “The Church,” the bishop insisted, “would not be fully Church without that witness.”

Noting that consecrated life is conformed in a special way to the life of Jesus, the bishop explained the evangelical counsels lived by Christ, quoting spiritual writer Susan Muto. In short, obedience is an openness to God’s will, chastity is a freedom to serve the many that Christ puts in one’s care, and poverty is a means to an awareness of the dangers of greed and pride.

Bishop Emeritus Baker shared a story of a recent meeting he had with a group preparing for the sacrament of confirmation. “I read to them the passage from Chapter 19 in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 10 in Mark’s Gospel), about the young man seeking to find out what he must do to attain everlasting life, how do I get to Heaven. In other words, what must I do to be saved?”

He continued: “Jesus tells the young man to keep the Commandments; and he lists those Commandments from the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) and from the Book of Leviticus, to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The young man said he had done all that. Then Jesus says to him: ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell all you have and give to the poor; then come, follow Me.’ And some of the most tragic words of the gospel follow: the young man went away sad…for he had many possessions.” 

The bishop expressed his belief that the scenario in the Gospel happened “all too often in our day and time.” Our possessions get in the way, he said, of the “joy, happiness, and blessing of the consecrated religious life.”

Thankfully, the bishop pointed out, our diocese has a great number of people who have not missed out on that joy and happiness. He concluded by acknowledging the consecrated religious who have marked their jubilee since the last celebration and those who will mark their jubilee this year. He listed the following:

75 Years 

Sister Mary Robert Oliver, O.S.B. (2023) 

60 Years 

Sister Helen Gaffney, M.S.B.T. (2021) 

Sister Bernadette Sachs, O.S.B. (2021) 

Sister Mary McGehee, O.S.B. (2022) 

Sister Marian Davis, O.S.B. (2023) 

Sister Marie Leonard, O.S.B. (2023) 

Sister Veronica Ryan, O.S.B. (2023) 

50 Years 

Sister Madeline Contorno, O.S.B. (2022) 

Sister Maria Eugenia Moreno, M.G.Sp.S. (2023) 

25 Years 

Sister Therese Haydel, O.S.B. (2023)