PROVIDENCE — In the consecrated life, mission and consecration are directly linked, Benedictine Brother Sixtus Roslevich told a virtual audience of religious sisters, brothers and priests.
“Mission can be equated with the overarching theme of holiness,” Brother Sixtus, OSB, the director of oblates at Portsmouth Abbey Monastery, said during his Feb. 7 reflection to commemorate the World Day of Consecrated Life.
Organized locally by the Diocese of Providence’s Office for Religious, the Feb. 7 virtual gathering enabled consecrated men and women in various religious orders throughout Rhode Island to reflect on their vocations and unique callings to serve God’s people.
“It’s a day where we all celebrate the calling of God to serve him and to serve his Church in a specific mission and task,” said Sister Elizabeth Castro, H.M.S.P., the director of the diocesan Office for Religious.
“It’s also an appreciation,” Sister Castro said, “on our behalf of the religious to our dear Lord for this divine call and to incorporate with him in the spreading of his kingdom through our service to Jesus and our service to the whole Church.
Instituted by St. Pope John Paul II in 1997, the Catholic Church celebrates World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life in conjunction with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The feast is also known as Candlemas Day, which commemorates — through the blessing and lighting of candles — that Jesus is the light of the world.
Adding that those in consecrated life are called to reflect Christ’s light to all people, Sister Castro said religious brothers and sisters, nuns, priests, and consecrated virgins offer their lives to Christ and his Church through the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
“They do it through prayer, through living in community and in serving faithfully to the Lord, extending ourselves to the people we serve for Jesus, who is the one who wants us to cooperate with him for the salvation of souls,” Sister Castro said.
In a recent survey commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University found that most men and women who professed perpetual religious vows in 2020 were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life.
The survey found that nine in 10 newly-professed men and women in consecrated life reported that someone — a family friend, a parish priest or a religious brother or a sister — had encouraged them to consider a vocation to religious life. About 75 percent of them were raised in families where both parents were Catholic. Almost half of the responding religious attended a Catholic elementary school and were more likely to have attended a Catholic high school.
Brother Sixtus, from Portsmouth Abbey, recalled growing up in a Pennsylvania town before the Second Vatican Council when “mixed marriages” meant an Irish Catholic marrying an Italian Catholic.
In his virtual talk, Brother Sixtus described often sleeping in the same bed as his three younger brothers and attending a small mission church in a storefront building where the parish priests taught the boys how to throw a football with a tight spiral and religious sisters taught the children catechism.
Brother Sixtus served his first Mass as an altar boy at age 7, and remembered mission priests visiting his church in the mid-1960s. Brother Sixtus asked his virtual audience to ponder how the seeds for the vocations were “planted by the Sower, nurtured by the Holy Spirit, and helped along by family, friends and mentors.”
As to how their individual vocations fit into the larger picture of their respective institutes, convents, monasteries and communities, Brother Sixtus told the brothers, sisters and priests that each was like “a brightly-colored thread” in the greater tapestry that is the life of the Church.
The virtual commemoration of the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life also included vespers, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and a renewal of religious vows.
“The various charisms of the different religious orders are definitely a blessing for the people of God here in the diocese,” Sister Castro said. “In teaching in schools, taking care of the sick, taking care of the poor, evangelizing, and praying for all the people, we are so grateful for their presence and all the gifts and talents they bring.