World Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for Consecrated Life


Consecrated women and men have had a profound impact on my personal growth and spiritual development: from my teachers in grammar school–the Sisters of Divine Providence (CDP) of San Antonio, Texas, USA—to my pastor, Father Francis Monaghan, CSB (Congregation of Saint Basil) at my parish, Saint Anne’s, in Houston, Texas, to the Maryknoll Sisters (MM) serving in our parish, to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI), at whose hospital—Saint Joseph’s—I worked as a teenager, and finally to the De LaSalle Christian Brothers (FSC) with whom I had the privilege of teaching and ministering at Saint Mary’s College of California for almost thirty years.  So many beautiful souls, leaving everything behind to respond fully and to the call they felt deep in their hearts, freely choosing to embrace chastity, poverty, and obedience; freely choosing to embrace lives of prayer, community, and ministry, and thus witnessing to the reign of God with their very lives.  Mere words simply are not adequate to express the difference they made in my life.  And my story can be replicated by hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been touched by the lives, the friendship, and the ministry of these extraordinary women and men.

The dream for Solidarity with South Sudan would never have taken flesh had it not been for the imagination and courage of these men and women.  The Bishops of what was then the southern part of Sudan came to Rome, seeking help for their people.  They met with many people, and especially with the leaders of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG—women) and the Union of Superiors General (USG—men) and asked what religious congregations might be able to do.  A fact-finding team traveled to Sudan and undertook a feasibility study.  They returned to Rome and met with the UISG and USG leaders, and those leaders, together, agreed to embark on an ambitious project of accompanying the people of southern Sudan (later the independent country of South Sudan) to build capacity for the future of the country in education, health care, sustainable agriculture, and pastoral care.  And thus—slowly, with many setbacks and moments of heartbreak—the dream became a reality.  Over the last fifteen years, almost one hundred Sisters, Brothers, and priests have gone to South Sudan to serve in one of our projects, and they have made a huge difference that could only be told by sharing the stories of all of the people whose lives they touched and transformed by their presence and their ministry.

They went to South Sudan, of course, to serve, as all apostolic religious do.  However, an often untold and unappreciated part of the story is that they also went to explore a new way of religious life, a model of collaboration rather than competition, whereby women and men from different congregations and different parts of the world, with different talents and abilities, would live and work together and thus model a new form of consecrated life.

The stories of Catholic religious are legion and scholars spend their entire lives and careers researching and writing about these amazing people and their adventures in faith and witness.  What unites all of them, however, is a simple method once identified for me by Sisters Judith Anne Beattie, CSC and Mary Ellen Vaughn, CSC of the former Holy Cross Health System in South Bend, Indiana.  They described the method of the pioneer Sisters as one of 1) recognizing needs, 2) building trust, and 3) taking risks.  That method is abundantly evident in the work of Solidarity with South Sudan.

The World Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving for Consecrated Life takes place on 2 February each year, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.  This beautiful feast, also called Candlemas Day, commemorates the Jesus’ dedication to God by his parents Mary and Joseph.  It is the traditional end of the Christmas and Epiphany season, and candles are blessed a final reminder of the light of Christ which has come into the world with the birth of Jesus.  I will close with a beautiful poem by the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton:


The Candlemas Procession

Ad revelationem gentium.

Look kindly, Jesus, where we come,
New Simeons, to kindle,
Each at Your infant sacrifice his own life’s candle.

And when Your flame turns into many tongues,
See how the One is multiplied, among us, hundreds!
And goes among the humble, and consoles our sinful kindred.

It is for this we come,
And, kneeling, each receive one flame:
Ad revelationem gentium.

Our lives, like candles, spell this simple symbol:
Weep like our bodily life, sweet work of bees,
Sweeten the world, with your slow sacrifice.

And this shall be our praise:
That by our glad expense, our Father’s will
Burned and consumed us for a parable.

Nor burn we now with brown and smoky flames, but bright
Until our sacrifice is done,
(By which not we, but You are known)
And then, returning to our Father, one by one,
Give back our lives like wise and waxen lights.

“Sweeten the world, with your slow sacrifice”.  Is there a better description of what consecrated women and men are doing for us every day?



Date Published:

2 Feb 2024


Fr. David, Mission promoter


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Latest news, South Sudan, Solidarity, World Day of Consecrated life, Mission, Hope

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