- “Religious life has always been a counter-cultural lifestyle and this is more in evidence today than in previous generations. I believe that religious life will continue to challenge us and our way of looking at reality” – Archbishop Neary
I welcome you all as we celebrate the closing of the Year for Consecrated Life. Welcome to you the Religious, Sisters and Brothers, to your families and friends, to the baptised faithful and to my brother priests. I extend a special welcome to our speaker, Sister Catherine Holum of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal and the Sisters who accompany her.
Welcome to all who join us on parish radio and on the internet. Welcome to our Cathedral choir who have already sung at the 10.30 Mass. We gather today to thank God for Consecrated Life, for all who live that life, for the graces that they have been to our Cathedral parish, to our Archdiocese of Tuam and to the Church. We ask God to bless them and inspire young people to follow in their footsteps.
The history of religious life in Ireland has had its ups and downs over the years. Significantly however the charism has survived because it depended on the promptings of the Holy Spirit rather than on human means. The charism of religious life enables women and men to dedicate themselves totally to God in a sacred promise. Religious life has always been a counter-cultural lifestyle and this is more in evidence today than in previous generations. I believe that religious life will continue to challenge us and our way of looking at reality. It is a way of life rooted in love totally dedicated to God and lived in solidarity with the oppressed and with those who in many ways are disenfranchised. There is a great temptation towards discouragement today, particularly if we focus blindly on statistics and on the way in which these are interpreted. We must continue to remind ourselves however that discouragement never comes from the Lord.
In the First Reading from the Prophet Jeremiah today the idea that God has designated a person for a particular function or vocation strikes a discordant note in many modern ears. We all feel the need to exercise much more initiative in our responses to God’s call. There is a tendency in our culture today to view life-long commitments with suspicion, whether in marriage, religious life or priesthood. Yet this is precisely the nature of the commitment to which God calls us. God’s call however persists. God’s call embraces certain hopes for each person, and, if we are willing to listen, God will share with us what those hopes are.
What is at issue for all of us is the beauty of God shown in the life of Jesus Christ. As Christians we believe this is visible today in the life of religious. That beauty needs no apologia; it needs only to be manifest, to be credible and immediately attractive. Holiness of life which is the essential business of religious ought to be the leaven in the Church as well as in society. Undoubtedly, there are both men and women who are waiting to hear the invitation “come and see” (John 1:39). We can never forget that the essential missionary character of the Church is to make Christ present in the world and this surely is a primary task of the religious. The only possible obstacle to this is a lack of faith on the part of religious.
In his Pontificate Pope Francis delights in surprise initiatives. Consistently he has called on Consecrated people to welcome the God of surprises, to live the spirit of watchfulness and be ready to interpret the signs of God’s presence. He urges religious to keep the longing for God alive in our world and reawaken it in the hearts of people. He encourages people who live the Consecrated Life to cultivate the contemplative gaze of faith which sees God in the market place of our world and enables people to find encouragement, direction and meaning in their lives. In this Year of Mercy, religious are ideally situated to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, so rekindle hope and enable people to experience the joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis encourages us to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope, a hope that is not based on statistics but rather on the one in whom we have put our trust, the one for whom “nothing is impossible”.
By way of conclusion I would like to join with my brother priests and with the baptised faithful in expressing our appreciation to all the religious of our Archdiocese for your prayerful presence with us, your supportive ministry and the countless ways in which you make Christ present in our Archdiocese. Without you the Church of Tuam would be the poorer. We pray God’s blessing on you in your respective vocations and look forward to working and praying with you and learning from you for many years to come.
Introduction to talk by Sister Catherine Holum
It is my privilege to introduce to you Sister Catherine Holum of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. A native of Minnesota, now ministering in Leeds. She comes highly recommended by people who heard her speak at the function in Manchester about two years ago. Sister Catherine has a unique distinction of having participated in the Olympics in 1989, representing the United States as a Speed Skater. We all approach God in different ways. Some of us have gone beyond speed skating but we realise that in this Year of Mercy God will make allowances for all of us and he will come to meet us as long as our approach to the Lord is genuine and sincere. I hand you over now to Sister Catherine.
- Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam. This homily was celebrated in the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tuam, on Sunday 31 January 2016.
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