By Emilie Ng
YOUNG consecrated men and women have promised to take up Pope Francis’ challenge to “wake up the world” by educating the public on “authentic” religious life.
Members of the Association for the Promotion of Religious Life, which include many young men and women religious from congregations across Australia, celebrated the Year of Consecrated Life with conferences in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
APREL president Dominican Sister Mary Augustine said the conferences promoted what “is being asked of religious in the pages of … non-negotiable documents”.
The conferences follow Pope Francis’ call for a Year of Consecrated Life, calling on a time to reflect on Vatican documents written 50 years ago on the teachings of consecrated religious life.
“The Holy Father’s challenge to religious to ‘wake up the world’ is a dramatic one, but by no means a novelty in the Church who, in her teachings of Vatican II and subsequent exhortations, has placed religious life both in the vanguard and at the centre of her vitality and holiness,” Sr Mary Augustine said.
Religious from the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres; the Conventual Sisters of St Dominic; the Order of St Paul the First Hermit, including Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green; and reformed NSW-based Friars of St Francis shared with about 50 young people at the Brisbane young adult session on July 18.
Bishop Macbeth-Green, APREL’s episcopal patron, said young religious were eager to share “the fruits of their vocation” with the general public.
He said despite the decreasing numbers of religious, he thought the state of religious life was “positive”.
“The ones that I see are extremely committed and there are young people answering the call,” he said.
“I see even in my own diocese, the older religious that are still working and witnessing, doing amazing things, when most people would be retired.”
Friars of St Francis Father Benedict Mackenzie said he wanted to creatively make Christ “as beloved a figure to others as he is to me”.
“This is a heritage that isn’t just meant for me to treasure on my own or treasure with other like-minded people but challenging me to take it out to those who haven’t heard it,” Fr Mackenzie said.
“To actually create a future for this heritage which is down the track.
“I find the future, the world, in the young and in those who haven’t heard it yet.”
Increasing numbers of young people had found vocations in orders committed to poverty, chastity and obedience, Sr Mary Augustine said, and she believed more would take up the call.
“One thing to be thankful for is that, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this manifest failure-rate has set in motion a new interest among young Catholics in the traditions of their faith – and this includes an interest in the religious life as the Church has always conceived it,” she said.