| On Wednesday 2nd February, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Church throughout the world observes the “Day of Consecrated Life”. Throughout the history of the Church, there have always been women and men who responded to the call of the gospel in radical ways and it is to these examples of extraordinary gospel commitment that we turn our attention today.
In the gospel, we read about Jesus’s encounter with a young man: “The young man said to [Jesus], “All of these [the commandments of Moses] I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:20-21).
Throughout history, we see groups of women and men banding together to lead lives of prayer, community, and ministry to others, and particularly to those others who are most in need, those who are on the peripheries of society. These women and men founded schools and hospitals and social service agencies and reached out to those who suffer from physical, spiritual, emotional, and social poverty of all kinds. Often, they started with very little themselves, and they were able to accomplish what they did because they gave up so much and put the mission above the satisfaction of any personal need or desire. They gave up the quest for personal fulfilment through having families of their own or accumulating material wealth in order to be in solidarity with those on the margin and to find creative ways of affirming the dignity of those on the margin and building up their possibilities for happiness in this life and in the life to come.
The stories are legion and there are far more of them than we can recount here. Just think of the great monastic orders such as the Benedictines, of the mendicant orders such as the Dominicans and the Franciscans, and of the many other congregations and institutes that have been founded in more recent times: The De La Salle Christian Brothers, the Missionaries of Africa, the Loreto Sisters, or the Religious of Notre Dame of the Mission, etc. etc. etc.
Solidarity with South Sudan is a direct result of the charisms of these amazing movements of religious men and women throughout history. In Rome, we find two important organizations representing the leaders of religious orders and congregations of consecrated women and men throughout the world: the Union of International Superiors General (UISG-Women) and the Union of Superiors General (USG-Men). It was back in the early 2000’s that Sisters working in the Union of International Superiors General (UISG) first went to South Sudan to explore the possibility of establishing some projects in order to accompany the people of South Sudan in seeking a better future for themselves. Subsequently, the two unions of superiors general, women and men, joined together to launch what we know today as Solidarity with South Sudan, which sponsors projects in five different locations in South Sudan: The Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio, the Catholic Health Care Institute in Wau, The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Riimenze, the Good Shepherd Pastoral Centre in Kit, and the pastoral ministry taking place at the POC (Protection of Civilians) Camp, under the sponsorship of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in Malakal.
All of this amazing work, undertaken in collaboration with many dedicated lay colleagues, is the result of the fact that a handful of women and men chose to respond to a call that they heard deep in their hearts, a call to come and follow Jesus.
So, today, let us give thanks for the consecrated men and women in our own lives who have given us so much. Let us remember in prayer the consecrated women and men who are labouring today among the people of South Sudan and throughout the world. And let us pray that God will inspire many more men and women to respond to the call of the gospel and the needs of humankind throughout the world. As Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
2 Feb 2022
Fr. David, Mission promoter
Latest news, South Sudan, Solidarity