World Day for
Consecrated Life Mass
All Christians Are Called to
Recognize Our Heirs to the Saints

By Shelley Wolf, FCC Contributor

Norwich - Every day Sister Rita Johnson, S.S.N.D., is a witness to the Gospel, making her rounds at Backus Hospital in Norwich. As hospital chaplain, she visits the sick and prays with people of all religious denominations, calms patients in the Emergency Room, ministers to the dying, and provides spiritual comfort and support to the hospital staff.

Inspired by the religious sisters she knew as a child in Boston, she decided to become a sister herself. “I thought I was going to do great things for God, but I found he did great things for me,” she says today with a laugh, reflecting on 34 years of service as a hospital chaplain.

“I meet the Lord every day with every person I meet. I receive much more than I give,” she says.

Sister Rita is just one of hundreds of religious sisters, brothers, seminarians, priests, and consecrated laity who were invited to celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick on Sunday, February 8, 2015.

Every year the Church celebrates a day of consecrated life for the many religious men and women who are members of Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life. All told, the Diocese of Norwich is home to 29 such institutes, plus a Public Association of the Faithful and a Secular Institute.

This year Pope Francis dedicated the entire year to consecrated life with the theme “Wake up the World” to thank religious men and women for their witness to Jesus Christ and their response to God’s call. The Church also hopes to promote vocations to this unique form of discipleship.

Sunday’s celebration Mass opened with a welcome to all by Monsignor Anthony S. Rosaforte and Monsignor Robert L. Brown, celebrant.

“We rejoice with all in consecrated life, especially with our jubilarians,” Monsignor Brown said, referring to those in attendance who were celebrating 50 to 70 years of service to the Church.

“The Church grows in witness through your generosity, self-sacrifice, and care for others,” Monsignor Brown told all assembled, reiterating the words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter to All Consecrated People on the Occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life. 

This year’s homily was delivered by invited guest, Father Raymond Borkowski, O.F.M., former pastor of Saint John Parish in Cromwell and current Parochial Vicar of Saint Paul Church in Kensington.

“I am delighted to be here,” he said. Commenting on the recently restored cathedral, he noted “I’m awed and overwhelmed by what I see here.”

In an eloquent speech and uplifting meditation on the Scriptures, Father Borkowski likened the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple to our own Baptism.

“Each of us is consecrated to God by our Baptism,” he said. “We belong to God in many ways. In living out that Baptism there are many vocations. One special vocation is dedicating your life entirely to the Lord in prayer and service to the Church.”

Father Borkowski compared those in consecrated life to the apostles.

He noted that Pope Francis dedicated not just one day this year but the entire year to consecrated life. “He’s saying to us, ‘Wake up the world.’ And he wants us to meditate on this for the whole year.”

“We want to thank God for this gift of religious life he’s given to the Church, especially to the religious life here in the Diocese of Norwich,” Father Borkowski said, referring to the 31 institutes in the diocese.

According to Father Borkowski, Pope Francis would like all Christians to be aware of and appreciate those in consecrated life because they are heirs to the great saints who have written the history of Christianity. 

“As the Holy Father said, ‘What would the Church be without Saint Benedict and Saint Basil, without Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard, without Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Angelica Merici and Saint Vincent de Paul. The list could go on and on, up to Saint John Bosco and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta,’” Father Borkowski said.

“Here in the United States we can proudly add five more people to the list,” Father Borkowski said, listing Saints Katherine Drexel, Mother Theodore Guerin, Damian of Molokai, Marianne Cope, and Kateri Tekawitha. In addition, Miriam Teresa was just Beatified last October, and Blessed Junipero Serra is scheduled to be canonized this year.

All of these saints met heroic challenges, Father Borkowski said. “They were not endowed at their Baptism with anything more than the Holy Spirit, but they opened their hearts and their lives to God.”

“I tell young people considering religious vocations, ‘Don’t wait until you’re a saint. It doesn’t work that way.’ As Pope Francis said, ‘I’m a sinner.’ We all need a savior,” Father Borkowski said.

Behind all the works in education, social service, and health care is a life of dedication and service. “The religious life is more than just a job or a career. It’s a way of life that involves the whole person. It’s a God-focused life, and that’s the source of its dedication,” Father Borkowski stressed.

He noted that there are many orders that newcomers may join, all of which add to the mosaic of the Catholic Church. “Each order brings a new presence, a new encounter, a new meaning to the Gospel life.”

As for promoting vocations, Father Borkowski quoted Cardinal Sean O’Malley who said, “Vocations are born in prayer, and only in prayer can they come to fruition.” Father asked grandparents and parents to continue to pray for young people who might be considering religious vocations.

Turning his attention back to those currently consecrated to God, Father Borkowski said, “Ask the Virgin Mary for the grace to preserve the memory of the first call you received to the religious life. Remember the moment God changed your life.”