SASKATOON — Some 100 consecrated women and men from several religious orders were the guests of honour at a banquet Sept. 8 hosted by the Knights of Columbus Denis Mahoney Council at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
Held to mark the Year of Consecrated Life (which continues until the Feast of the Presentation, Feb. 2, 2016), the evening was MCed by Myron Rogal, co-ordinator of the diocesan Justice and Peace Office. Proceeds of the dinner went to support diocesan vocation efforts.
Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Gil Wist, members Andy Wilson, Reg Bilodeau, and a team of volunteers, as well as many guests from across the diocese, were on hand to thank consecrated religious women and men for their service and witness.
On display in the hall was a large cloth map of Saskatchewan showing all the places where religious women have served in the province since the first three Grey Nuns arrived at Île-à-la-Crosse in 1860. The map was created by Sister Sylvia Obrigewitsch, NDS, for a 2005 homecoming organized by the Saskatoon Diocesan Sisters Association for women religious who served in Saskatchewan, explained Sister Teresita Kambeitz, OSU.
“As part of that celebration, we tried to get in touch with all the orders that had ever served in Saskatchewan, and got in touch with their archivists to send us the names of all the sisters,” she described. “I was really startled to discover there were 61 orders, with over 5,500 sisters that served in Saskatchewan.”
Consecrated religious orders in Saskatchewan have owned and operated 23 hospitals and worked in another 20, and have owned and operated 45 boarding schools and taught in almost 300 schools, said Kambeitz, describing how these women built the foundations of health care, education and social welfare.
During this Year of Consecrated Life, the provincial Catholic Connections Committee has commissioned a monument recognizing the contributions of women religious to Saskatchewan, she added. The monument will be unveiled and blessed in Wascana Park, near the legislative building in Regina, at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 1, followed by mass at Holy Rosary Cathedral.
Bishop Donald Bolen noted that the Congregation for Religious Life has called for the Year of Consecrated Life to be celebrated by looking to the past with gratitude, living the present with passion and looking to the future with hope.
As part of looking to the past with gratitude, Bolen listed the initials of all the religious orders who have enriched his own life over the years. “Going through this sort of exercise brings to light what an extraordinary contribution consecrated women and men make to the life of the church. This has been our Catholic experience and it has been a joy and an unfathomable gift,” he said.
“Dear sisters, fathers and brothers, you have been for us close friends and mentors, spiritual supports and fonts of wisdom, sources of honesty and daily inspiration in your faithful witness. You have shown us God’s tender mercies. With boundless gratitude for all that has been, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”
As for living the present with passion, “religious life is a passionate matter because we follow a passionate Saviour, a passionate God, who wanted to come and dwell with us, who wanted to give us everything, so that we might have life,” Bolen said.
“Religious life is not for the unadventurous. Your ministry has enriched all of our lives.”
In looking to the future, “we cannot give up on God and what God is doing in our midst,” said Bolen. During his presentation he quoted a number of writers and poets, including Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, who wrote: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. . . . give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”
The bishop concluded with a reflection on a line from E.E. Cummings: “always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question,” observing that the beautiful question from the Lord is, “Will you follow me?”
“And your beautiful answer? It is your life, it is your faithfulness, it’s your joy — it is you. Thank you very, very much,” said Bolen.