Sister Rose McDermott
Sister Rose McDermott

On Feb. 2, 2021, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church.

In his Jan. 18, 2021, letter to consecrated persons marking this occasion, Cardinal João Braz de’Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, called on all consecrated women and men of religious and secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, consecrated virgins and hermits “to be today’s Samaritans – to move beyond ourselves, embracing the pain, suffering, and poverty of so many men and women throughout the world.”

Cardinal de’Aviz further requested consecrated persons to place the recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, at the center of our lives in order to respond through our witness and service with a “new vision of fraternity and social friendship, in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others” (FT 6). These entreaties from Cardinal de’Aviz and Pope Francis call to mind the impassionate opening of Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these, too, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (GS 1).

This is no easy task, as our nation, along with others, faces months of the pandemic, the spread of infection, and the loss of lives – to say nothing of human failings and economic difficulties – while our own institutes lack vocations and suffer the deaths of beloved members.

As I reflected on these exhortations, I came to the realization that this is a clarion call not only to those of us in the various forms of “consecrated life,” but to all of our brothers and sisters, the Christian faithful, consecrated through Baptism and made sharers in Christ’s three-fold ministry. While the term “consecrated life” applies in a more specific way to those following Christ through the evangelical counsels, all Christians are consecrated and sent forth through Baptism to build up the Church and bear witness to the world. 

Yes, we are all called to be present-day Samaritans responding to others with “a new vision of fraternity and social friendship” (FT 6). Let us make this entreaty our witness and mission.    

As I reflected on those that prompted my vocation, I begin with my parents. Never, never can I recall my parents disrespectful of any person. Somehow (not through courses in theology), they recognized all persons as created in God’s image.

I also recall the outstanding women religious who taught in our grade and high schools.  I received a first-rate basic education and was grounded for life in my faith and Christian principles through their witness and service. Not only did they teach long hours in our schools, but they found time after school and on Sundays to embrace the public school children, proffering the same witness and service. 

Today, on behalf of Bishop O’Connell, I am privileged to serve those in “consecrated life” in the Diocese of Trenton.  As we anticipate this celebration on Feb. 2, I join with Cardinal de’Aviz and our Holy Father in asking not only those I serve, but all baptized, consecrated persons in our Diocese, to make this entreaty their own commitment: to be Samaritans, embracing the pain, suffering, and poverty of so many throughout the world.  If we cannot reach these good people personally or share resources with them, we can certainly pray for them. In this way, we Christians, consecrated persons, will make Christ’s prayer our very own, “…that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you… ”

Sister Rose McDermott serves the Diocese in the Office of Clergy and Consecrated Life as the Delegate for Religious.