From the Cardinal: A letter of gratitute to all in religious and consecrated life

December 9, 2014

Pope Francis has proclaimed a Year of Consecrated Life for the whole Church beginning on Sunday Nov. 30, 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, and lasting until Feb. 2, 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, a day traditionally marking observances for those in Religious and Consecrated Life. 

Though the Holy Father wants us all to remember and recount a “glorious past” for the women and men religious who serve the Church, he is particularly interested in the great history still to be accomplished by the many religious communities in the Church. He wants them “to wake up the world!”

I want to add my voice to that of Pope Francis and to thank all the members of religious communities of women and men for their prophetic ministry in this Archdiocese from the beginning of its existence. The earliest women’s community to serve our territory were the Ursuline Sisters, and near the beginning of our history the men’s community of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate started their missionary service in Texas. Today there are more than 45 communities of women religious and 35 communities of religious order priests and brothers who minister here. Their presence has been a great blessing for this local Church. They are engaged in education, health care, social service ministry, parish ministry, retreats and spiritual direction and a host of other initiatives. They have also worked with and on behalf of the rich array of ethnic groups who call Galveston-Houston home. 

In our earliest days this was true for the Hispanics and is even more true now, and also for the African American Catholic community which has been present since the first days of Catholics in Galveston. In recent decades many Catholic communities have come to our Archdiocese from Asia and Africa as well as from Mexico, Central and South America. The religious communities of women and men have accompanied their co-nationals and reflect the face of Christ as it shines in the faithful here, a true United Nations. We finally must remember the cloistered Carmelite Sisters in New Caney who pray unceasingly for the Church.

We look to the past with gratitude for so many gifts that religious communities have brought to this local Church. 

These men and women “read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith,” as Pope Francis has phrased it; they responded to promptings of the Holy Spirit to a special service and they used their creativity, ingenuity and faithfulness to serve God’s people. 

This involved much sacrifice; many of the pioneer missionaries — women and men — gave their lives while serving here; disease and natural disasters claimed many of them at a young age. The perseverance of their communities remains impressive to this day. 

We hope that all the religious orders will reflect on their origins this year and share their past in this Archdiocese with us. We need to re-hear the great stories of the religious communities in Texas.

We look to the present of the religious communities and assure them of our prayers. We also ask them to continue their discernment of how they are living the particular gift or charism of their community in light of the Gospel, what the Pope calls their “manual for their daily living and decisions they are called to make,” the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. 

We encourage them to live their vows, their consecrated lives, as witnesses to the Spirit working in them to generously touch the Church and the world in new and enriched ways, particularly ways that acknowledge concrete models of community and communion and that acknowledge and deepen respect for the beauty and singularity of the human person.

We look to the future and not only promise our prayers but also ask that the religious communities of women and men continue to give the Church hope — a hope not based on numbers or even their own considerable talents, but a hope based on the One in whom we have all put our trust. 

We ask them to please share that hope with us. In consecrated lives we look to examples of fresh energy and a loving commitment to God’s people wherever they are scattered. Let the Lord help our Religious to gather all the scattered children into a communion of love.

Brothers and sisters in consecrated life, you have been a source of joy and love throughout the history of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Continue to radiate the joy of Christ and the care of his Mother. We promise our support.