by Ryan Blessing
Those who have devoted their lives to God’s calling gathered to celebrate and renew that commitment at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Consecrated Life on February 3rd at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich.
Among them were five Diocese of Norwich Jubilarians with a combined 275 years of consecrated life. “Two of us have 60 years, and two have 65 years,” Sister M. Marian St. Marie said.
Sisters Pauline Lucie Champagne and Irene G. Charpentier have lived 65 years in consecrated life, while Sister St. Marie and Sister Mary Bernadette Matukas have reached the 60-year milestone. Sister M. Stella Maria Callaway has lived a consecrated life of 25 years.
The Jubilarians were joined by other clergy called to a consecrated life, such as various orders of nuns, secular and apostolic institutes and monastic communities.
Pope John Paul II established the yearly celebration in 1997 to honor vocations in the Catholic Church and as a way to give thanks to women and men in consecrated life.
The Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D. led the renewal of the vows by the gathering of sisters, brothers and religious priests.
“Called by the church to awaken the world to the love of God and the joy of the Gospel,” Bishop Cote said. “Women and men in consecrated life show forth the light of Christ given to them at baptism.”
The bishop also quoted Pope John Paul II: “The consecrated life is based upon the example of Christ - poor, chaste and obedient - serving as a visible sign in this world of the Kingdom of God. Your consecrated life is a help and a support – a precious and essential gift to the people of God.” In his homily, Father Erik Lenhart, the former Episcopal Vicar for Consecrated Life for the Diocese of Norwich and now a chaplain for the Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries in Garrison, New York, had a request.
“Raise your hand if you were inspired by a sister,” he said. Most people in the cathedral raised their hands.
“Everyone at some point in their life was inspired and guided by a sister,” Father Lenhart said, recalling nuns who inspired him as a child at St. Mary’s School in Hagerstown, Maryland.
“There’s no priest you’ll meet who did not have a sister encouraging him at some point in his young life,” he said. “They formed my mind.”