Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the Aug. 23, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
The Sisters of Providence celebrated jubilees on Aug. 11, at Sacred Heart Church in Spokane. This was one of several jubilee events celebrated by communities of women Religious during summertime. In this particular instance, 11 jubilarians were honored for 70, 60, 50, and 25 years of membership, totaling 615 years of service. That is an impressive representation of ministry and presence by members of consecrated life in our Church, and most worthy of celebration.
Providence Sister Kathryn Rutan was present at the celebration. Formerly the leader of the Providence Sistersí St. Ignatius Province, she was recently elected to a second term as Superior General of the Providence Sisters, headquartered in Montreal. We are honored to have her serve her Congregation and the Church in that capacity. We assure her of our prayers.
Following the jubilee celebration, the Providence Sisters met for their provincial chapter. The Sisters are scattered up and down the West Coast, so coming together annually is an important opportunity for them to reflect and discern about their mission and charism.
Midweek after the jubilee, I will preside at the first profession of one of the novices for their community. Even though the numbers of women entering Religious life have decreased from past decades, there continue to be women who choose to follow a call to serve the Church as vowed Religious. (Editorís note: See "Three Religious communities welcome new members" in this issue.)
One has only to take a glance at our Diocesan Directory to note the many communities of women Religious who serve our diocese Ė 12, to be exact! Health care, education, ministry to the poor and vulnerable, contemplative prayer, advocacy, ministry to families, and missionary work are just some of the areas of service they provide to Godís people. The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church, are discerning their future while temporarily living at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.
Religious have always been about something greater than themselves. Over the years, Religious communities of women and men have founded institutions in response to unmet needs. They gave of their energies and resources to the specific issues and social questions of their time. They continue to be incredibly resourceful in the concrete ways in which they are responding to pressing needs in a host of new ways. At the same time, lay leaders are assuming key roles in a variety of sponsored works begun by the sisters in years past.
Some congregations have entered into new structural relationships for the sake of their life and mission. The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Sisters of Providence, the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have consolidated provinces within their congregations. The Dominican Sisters of Spokane merged with the Sinsinawa Dominicans.
Although the number of vowed Religious Sisters has decreased, new forms of Religious life may spring up in fidelity to the prompting of the Spirit. God will always give sufficient vocations and gifts to serve Godís people, in whatever form that service might be needed. Given the complex world in which we live, discernment is necessary as we live out the demands of the Gospel in the present and future.
There are great needs in our communities and world. Our Religious attempt to respond to those needs according to their charism and mission. Thanks be to God for the wonderful visionaries who came to this region over a century ago and left a tremendous legacy of service. We are the beneficiaries of that legacy and it is something we must never take for granted.
As an expression of gratitude, I will gather the leaders of the Religious communities of women for a barbeque at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center (IHRC) at the end of this month. The Church universal honors vowed Religious one Sunday every February. I host an annual gathering for them at IHRC. It is an opportunity for prayer, sharing and dinner and is a small symbolic way of expressing our gratitude and appreciation.
Finally, a word about supporting vocations to communities of women Religious: As a community of faith, it is imperative that we support those whom God calls to this special way of life. I (and so do you) know of women Religious who made a tremendous difference in the lives of people. They couldnít have done this without the support of their communities and their own generous offering of themselves in service to Godís people. God continues to move generous hearts to center their lives on fidelity to the Gospel. Our time is no exception. I hope all of us will offer our loving and prayerful support for those who respond with a courageous spirit.
Blessings and peace to all of you.
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