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Consecrated life to be celebrated locally Feb. 4

The annual World Day for Consecrated Life is Feb. 4, and Sisterof the Holy Family Sylvia Thibodeaux, director of the Office of Religious in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, has a special event planned for men and women religious in the archdiocese.

 Area religious are invited to gather Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. at the convent of the Sisters Servants of Mary, 5001 Perlita St., New Orleans, for prayer and a sharing event themed “Human Traffic Awareness.” Refreshments and fellowship will follow.

     Sister Sylvia encourages parishes and schools to promote vocations to the consecrated life by inviting members of consecrated life from their parish to serve as ministers of the Sunday liturgy or to speak with students and adults in religious education programs or religion classes at schools.
    She makes other suggestions for ongoing vocations promotions: starting a vocation section in the parish bulletin or newsletter highlighting those in consecrated life, or having religious share their vocation stories.
    Blessed Pope John Paul II established the World Day for Consecrated Life in 1997 on Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation. The U.S. bishops voted to observe the occasion to highlight men and women religious in consecrated life as part of the weekend Mass celebrations, to express appreciation for those who have chosen consecrated life and to pray for an increase of vocations.
Many faces of vocations
    Having a religious vocation is multi-faceted today. Not only are brothers and sisters teachers; they also can be nurses, clinic workers or community program directors in the apostolic style of consecrated life. They can be  immersed in daily prayer in the contemplative or monastic style of consecrated life. 
    Poor Clare Abbess Sister Charlene Toups, a contemplative nun for 45 years, said her mission in the church is one of “prayer and praise and also embracing the joys, hope, sorrow and needs of all the people in the church. Our day is centered on the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.  .... We are there for God’s people in whatever way God needs us to be.”
    Her order, established 800 years ago, is immersed in prayer throughout the day and night as well as in the work of making crafts and distributing altar breads to parishes as a means of sustaining the order’s monastery in Uptown New Orleans.
    Over the years, Sister Charlene said her community has been in solidarity with the city while praying after such tragic events as the 1972 sniper incident at the Howard Johnson’s Motel that killed 19 people and Hurricane Katrina. They pray for the constant needs of the poor and those hurt by violence and religious persecution.
    “As a contemplative, you are there to be a person in prayer for all the church,” Sister Charlene said. “We are always called for others; for the good of the church to be there to lift up all the needs. ... We might not be running the streets protesting (injustices), but it doesn’t mean it’s not in our minds and hearts. ... Contemplative life stands in witness that there will always be needs. There is a need for someone to be at the heart (of Christ) and praying in support for all those carrying out other ministries to have courage and strength to keep going.”
    She said the annual gathering of religious offers an opportunity for the people of various ministries to become acquainted with and support one another.
    “You get to know the other people who are ministering and pray with them,” Sister Charlene said. “It proves to be a support to let people know you are there for one another. It’s a witness of solidarity that we are all in service to the church together. The service of the church is multi-faceted. It’s good to have a visible presence by being together.”
    For details on local events surrounding the 2012 World Day for Consecrated Life, call Sister Sylvia at 861-6280.

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