Pope Francis has designated 2015 as the Year of Consecrated life. Here, Sr Berneice Loch, the president of Catholic Religious Australia, reflects on the meaning of this embrace of the faith, holiness, and hope of our religious.
In 1964, the year I entered the Sisters of Mercy of Rockhampton, the Beatles toured Australia and New Zealand, our nation was engaged in the Vietnam War, Dawn Fraser was named Australian of the Year, and The Australian newspaper was first published.
The Mercies I joined was a vibrant group of more 260 sisters, engaged mainly in education and health and aged care, but also conducting or involved in numerous other ministries.
At the time I made the decision to dedicate my life in this way, it was a clearly made decision, a choice among real options but not one to take lightly. I felt called to join a group of women whom I saw as making a difference, doing a great deal of good.
It was at the time, however, a fairly simple decision, one confirmed many times since. Few Religious I know would claim to have stayed on for the reasons they first came. At the very least, they have explored the depths of that initial attraction and articulated much more clearly a theology that gives real meaning to their life choice.
The Congregation I entered was flourishing like many similar congregations in Australia at the time. In the Rockhampton Diocese, a rural Diocese of only moderate size, there were also numerous other Religious from several congregations.
Others have explored this sociological and ecclesial phenomenon at length and I will not attempt that here, but I think it is a reason for rejoicing that we have lived into an era in the Church during which lay women in particular, but lay men too, are recognised as having a real part in being Church.
This will eventually help us all clarify the place of Religious Life in the total Church.
The Pope’s invitation to a Year of Consecrated Life is very timely. Great change has occurred since Vatican Council II and it is time to take stock of this particular aspect of Church Life.
Read full article: A year to find new ways to meet the Spirit