YCL events invite community to ‘Come on in’

January 27, 2015

HOUSTON — Opening a door with a smile is an international gesture of welcome. For the Year of Consecrated Life (YCL), religious in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston have opened the doors, the windows and the garage while saying proudly and loudly to the Houston community, "Come on in! We've been waiting for you to visit!" 

A planning committee has been hard at work coordinating events for all ages to not only promote consecrated life, but to foster understanding for what it means to live this sacred vocation. Sister Heloise Cruzat, O.P., Vicar for Religious in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, formed a small committee on consecrated life during the summer of 2014 to discuss practical ways to have a conscious observance of the year and to involve and invite all clergy and faithful to join in. "I see the Year of Consecrated Life, inspired by Pope Francis, as an act of God's loving Providence," she said.

"To listen, to be open, to change and to follow is required of each member of our faith — both the consecrated and the lay faithful. We have an excellent catalyst in these prayers, actions and programs." The events include a celebration of the World Day of Consecrated Life with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo on Feb. 1, a Vocation Expo at St. Mary's Seminary on March 7, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on April 26, Café Catholica with Sister Mary Guido, r.c., on July 20 and a conference hosted by Father Donald Nesti, CSSp, director of the Center for Faith and Culture at University of St. Thomas, on Sept. 11 and 12.

The conference, titled "Wake Up the World - The Joy of Encounter with Christ: a Celebration of Consecrated Life" will include key presenters Archbishop Joseph A. Tobin, CSsR, on implications of "Evangelii Gaudium," and Sister Theresa Maya Sotomayor, CCVI, on the Hispanic cultural context for religious life. 

In addition to the city-wide events, all religious communities have been invited to plan open houses and sponsor local prayer and learning events to give the community opportunities to learn how women and men religious live.

"My hope is that 2015 will provide helpful information about consecrated life, and that it will promote a deeper understanding of the life accompanied by prayer and personal encouragement of vocations to the religious life," Sister Cruzat said. "So many women and men religious tell with gratitude of being invited by someone to consider this life. We want to have again an environment in families, in parishes, in our schools and classes that is invitational and personal."

Sister Roselle Haas, r.c., a member of the Archdiocesan Vocation Committee, said the representation of consecrated life is often "greatly distorted, imagining religious as isolated, naïve, inexperienced, gullible and immature.

"The reality is that religious as a group are quite savvy and have been pioneers in many professional areas," Sister Haas said. "In the United States in particular, religious were the ones to help organize communities in pioneer days, establish educational and health care systems, work with and for the underprivileged and raise awareness of injustices in need of healing." 

She said she is often asked, "What do sisters, (brothers, priests) DO all day?"

"The essence of religious life is not so much about what a person does, but why." Sister Haas said. "The motive and underlying power for consecrated life is the relationship with Jesus and the call we have as the baptized to be the presence of Christ in our particular circumstances and to share the Good News of God's love for each person so they can develop their own relationship with God." 

Sister Cruzat said that it is also important to honor the commitment of religious and the diversity they bring to our Houston community with YCL events. "Here in Galveston-Houston, there are members of approximately 70 different orders or congregations of women and men," she said.

"There is broad ethnic diversity and significant variety in the expression of our charisms and commitment. This is gift and treasure for our local Church." To aid in getting the word out about YCL events, Sister Maria Eleanor Caisido, CVI, who is also on the YCL planning committee, did extensive work on the Archdiocesan Web page for YCL. 

The page includes prayers, local events, PowerPoint slideshows and resources for parishes, schools and universities to further promote YCL. She especially enjoys the featured song: "Wake the World with Dawning Joy."

"I see this year as an opportunity to plant seeds and build bridges with our brothers and sisters (Catholics and non-Catholics) who might be clueless about consecrated life," Sister Caisido said. "Do not hesitate to approach us and ask us questions because we love to share our stories." YCL is a celebration of the commitment and zeal of consecrated life as well. Sister Cruzat said that YCL calls those in this vocation, to a joyful and enthusiastic living of each day, and especially to an invigorated hope for the future.

"I find the invitation of Pope Francis to the purposes of this special year to be very timely," she said. "The pope encourages a spirituality of communion as we examine our public expressions of commitment. Providential, is it not, that this spirituality undergirds the pastoral planning currently in progress in our Archdiocese!"

For information about YCL events, additional opportunities and parish resources, visit www.archgh.org/ycl.