World Day for Consecrated Life celebrated at Dominican Motherhouse
Local men and women religious honored at Great Bend gathering
Consecrated women and men serving in the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City were honored Feb. 4 with a special Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, and the Most Rev. Ronald M. Gilmore.
Mass took place at the Dominican Motherhouse in Great Bend, and was followed by a luncheon reception served by the parish Confirmation class. During one of the more moving moments in the Mass, Bishop Brungardt walked up the stairs to the balcony during his homily, where he addressed the oldest members of the Dominican Sisters of Peace housed there.
Following is the bishop’s homily in its entirety.
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Welcome to all as we celebrate World Day for Consecrated Life, as we praise God for the gift of our religious Sisters and Priests ministering in the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City, as we thank the dedicated religious Sisters and Priests who have given their lives in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have truly served as St. Paul described in our first reading: “humbly regarding others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others” (Phil 2). I thank you for all your sacrificial gifts given in teaching, caring for the sick, assisting parishes, spiritual direction, and many other apostolates and ministries. Thank you, consecrated religious!
You may ask: “What is a diocesan priest and bishop doing preaching about the consecrated life? He is not a religious!” A good question! Blessed John Paul the Great provides the answer, in his Letter to Bishops introducing the Essential Elements of the Religious Life, which was written by the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes. He writes:
“ … I now turn to you, the Bishops of the United States, asking you … to render special pastoral service to the religious of your dioceses and your country. I ask you to assist them in every way possible to open wide the doors of their heart to the Redeemer. I ask that, through the exercise of your pastoral office, as individual Bishops and united as an Episcopal Conference, you encourage the religious, their Institutes and associations to live fully the mystery of the Redemption, in union with the whole Church and according to the specific charism of their religious life. This pastoral service can be given in different ways, but it certainly includes the personal proclamation of the Gospel message to them and the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice with them. (3)”
I have tried to do this in my first year as your bishop: this is my fourth Holy Mass here at the Dominican Sisters of Peace motherhouse; I celebrated a Mass with the Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate (Misioneras de la Caridad de Maria Inmaculada) and the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence (Misioneras Catequistas de la Divina Providencia) in St. Alphonsus Church, and with the Passionist (Pasionistas) Sisters in their convent. I have joined other religious Sisters in the Eucharistic Sacrifice in regular parish Masses: the Congregation of St. Joseph, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, and celebrated Holy Mass with the priests who are religious: Order of St. Benedict, Carmelite, Missionaries of St. Francis of Sales, and Missionaries of St. Paul. Whew! We are blessed with these many (10) congregations serving in our diocese – I hope I did not forget someone! You truly “love one another” (John 15).
As I arrived to the diocese one year ago, I first began an intense focus of my time, writing, preaching, and prayer in the area of vocations to the diocesan ordained priesthood. I have quoted the reality often: we have only 18 active diocesan priests serving 48 parishes in 28 counties. Only three of those priests are under the age of 50 years old. We thank these diocesan priests for your ministry. We have only three diocesan seminarians. It is a time of critical need in our diocese.
To assist this need, we are blessed with 14 missionary priests from seven countries, five of those from religious congregations. These priests travel from their homes, sometimes around the world, to bring the Eucharist, the sacrament of confession, the sacrament of anointing of the sick, and their other ordained priestly ministries to the faithful in southwest Kansas. We thank these missionary priests for your ministry. This year, I am scheduling trips to the Philippines (dioceses of Boac and Sorsogon), Mexico (dioceses of Durango and Torreón), Nigeria (Missionaries of St. Paul), and Ghana (diocese of Goaso) to meet with their bishops and religious superiors, to continue to develop good relationships with our brothers around the world (other visits in the future).
At the same time, we also have far fewer religious Sisters in active ministry in the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City than in days gone by. The diocesan directory lists 36 women religious ministering in the diocese, six of those from Mexico. We thank these consecrated religious Sisters for your ministry. I am scheduling a trip to Mexico this summer to meet with the Mother Superiors of our six Sisters from Mexico, to thank them for the gift of their religious serving in our diocese (other visits in the future). I ask all you religious Sisters: “How can I, your bishop, be of service to you, in particular in the area of vocation promotion?”
We might lose hope in this vocation situation. But Blessed John Paul writes: “The present vocation shortage in some parts of the world is a challenge to be met with determination and courage, in the certainty that Jesus Christ, who during his earthly life called many to consecrated life, is still doing so in today’s world, and often receives a generous, positive response, as daily experience proves. Knowing the Church’s needs, he continues to extend the invitation, ‘Follow me,’ particularly to young people, whom his grace makes responsive to the ideal of a life of total dedication” (General Audience, 18 Oct 1994). Let us not be afraid. Let us take “encouragement in Christ” (Phil 2).
What is the foundation of this courageous effort in vocational work? -- of course: Prayer. “The days of praise within your house” are key, “as the deer longs for flowing streams” (Psalm 42), as we long to be aware of God’s presence in our hearts. We have a wonderful effort in promoting lectio divina in our diocese, or as we call it, Word Working. In this prayer, we share with each other how the Holy Word of God nourishes us, changes us, convicts us, moves us. Recently, we have prepared for and prayed our revised words at Holy Mass. Our Eucharistic celebration, the source and summit of our lives, connects us most deeply to our Gentle Jesus, our Life and our Love, who calls us “friends” (John 15). As I discern further steps in promoting prayer in our diocese, I am hearing a call to focus on encouraging reverence of and prayer to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament -- in private prayer outside Holy Mass and in community adoration. Adoration flows from the Eucharistic celebration, and adoration impels us back to Holy Mass. I welcome your thoughts on encouraging prayer in our diocese.
Blessed John Paul teaches:
“Jesus insists on the cooperation and responsibility of his followers. He also teaches us today that with prayer we can and must influence the number of vocations. The Father welcomes this prayer because he wants it and expects it, and he himself makes it effective. Whenever and wherever the vocations crisis is more serious, this prayer is all the more necessary. But it must rise to heaven in every time and place. In this area the whole Church and every Christian always have a responsibility” (ibid.).
Dear Lord, we trust in you. You chose us. Remain in us. Assist the boys and single men, the girls and single women in this diocese to hear your call to the consecrated religious life. You love us as friends, more than we can ask or imagine!