WASHINGTON (October 14, 1997) -- Dioceses nationwide are urged to highlight persons who espouse the Church's consecrated life, February 1, with celebrations focusing on persons in formation in men's and women's religious orders and secular institutes.
The call for celebrations in the United States was issued by Bishop Joseph Galante of Beaumont, Texas, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Consecrated Life, in an October 3 letter sent nationwide.
In his letter, Bishop Galante noted that the events are a response to Pope John Paul II, who has urged appropriate celebrations of the World Day for Consecrated Life, which is celebrated universally in the Church on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation.
Bishop Galante called for observation of the feast on Sunday, February 1, to facilitate as much participation as possible.
In his letter, Bishop Galante said that the theme for this year's celebration will be Promises for the Millennium, and specifically asked that every diocese mark the World Day for Consecrated Life with special remembrances at Masses, February 1. He also asked each diocesan bishop to invite local men and women religious and members of secular institutes to a designated Mass at the cathedral or other appropriate church to mark the occasion in a special way.
"We urge diocesan vicars for religious to begin to work now with persons of consecrated life locally to plan celebrations for the individual dioceses," he added.
Other plans to mark the event include release of a study from the Life Cycle Institute of persons currently in formation programs. The study will be distributed to Bishops and the media with appropriate support materials.
Nationally, the Day for Consecrated Life is being coordinated by representatives of the NCCB, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the Religious Formation Conference, and the U.S. Conferences of Secular Institutes.
In the United States there are more than 100,000 members of religious orders and secular institutes. Religious orders include men and women who belong to a religious community, such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Sisters of Mercy or Sisters of Charity, and strive to live out the charism of their founder. The communities often have a particular type of ministry, such as education or health care. Members of religious orders usually live in community and all profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. According to the Official Catholic Directory, there are more than 87,000 Sisters, 6,300 Brothers and 16,000 religious order priests in the United States.
Secular institutes of consecrated life are associations in which members live in a secular environment, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavor to work for the sanctification of the world from within. Examples of secular institutes include the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ, Caritas Christi and the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. Members of secular institutes live their daily lives within the different strata of society. Exteriorly, they appear no different from others. Consecration (chastity, poverty, and obedience) and secularity (living in the world) are the main characteristics of secular institutes. There are an estimated 650 members of secular institutes in the United States.