Wake up the world – Religious Life back on the map

ANNE REEVES

It’s 50 years since the promulgation of Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II document on the Renewal of the Religious Life, and Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

It’s 50 years since the promulgation of Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II document on the Renewal of the Religious Life, and Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.

Pope Francis has marked the Golden Jubilee of these documents by declaring 2015 to be especially dedicated to Consecrated Life in the Church.

During this year, the Association for the Promotion of Religious Life (APREL) which was begun in 1983 to assist in renewing religious life in Australia, has been playing a significant role in making religious life better understood and loved.

Sister Mary Augustine, President of APREL and Editor of its annual Bulletin summed up the current situation, “From many points of view, the past 50 years has given the Church very little to be jubilant about – and this is especially true of religious life.

“We in the Western world are left with a record of departures from religious life, of minimal recruitments and of widespread and serial disobedience to the Church on the part of some religious.”

“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.”

This new growth within the Church is small but promising and is one of the focusses of APREL’s current educational Conferences on Religious Life.

 The Conventual Sisters of St Dominic have been organising these ‘Wake Up the World’ Conferences for this Year on Consecrated Life down the east coast.

With Brisbane in July, Sydney in August and one for Melbourne in October, these Conferences are interesting, dynamic and offer important teachings for Catholics concerned about the Church and the world.

“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked religious to educate the laity and clergy about the value and purpose of religious in the Church”, Sister Mary Martin, OP said, “This is because a renewal in the Church won’t be deeply rooted and effective without a serious reform and renewal of religious life which is what we all need to pray for and promote.”

The Conferences have been run with a youth session highlighting how religious life can “Wake Up” a godless world. Some of the topics were: ‘God is the All’, ‘I am Not My Own’, ‘Reality or Unreality’ and ‘Values or Anti-values’, and finished with the hope-filled talk, ‘Eternity Beckons’.

“I particular loved the Saturday evening session,” said Vanessa Francis, a single Sydney Catholic girl, “It’s too easy to get sucked into the anti-God, consumerist mentality of our society and forget the things that really matter.”

The general session is aimed at people of all ages and vocations. Its theme is “Waking Up Religious Life” and it covers topics such as “Vatican II on religious life: what we said the Council said; what it really said’, ‘The Church’s attitude to Religious’, ‘Consecration and the vows’, ‘Living authentic community life’, ‘Prayer: our first duty’ and ‘Vocations – the crisis and its causes’.

“We laity need to hear this,” said Damian Reeves, father of two young religious, and one of the speakers at the Conference, “It was educational, inspirational and essential for Catholic parents who want to be active in renewing the Church.”

While not all speakers were Religious, some of the communities represented were the Conventual Sisters of St Dominic, the Friars of St Francis and the Confraternity of Christ the Priest. Information about faithful religious communities was made available, as was the new publication, Religious Life: Thumbnail Sketches, which covers in brief all the little-known but key truths about the religious vocation.

“The feedback from these Conferences has been immensely positive,” said Sister Mary Catherine OP “People say they’re hearing things they’ve never heard or read before. It all goes to show that religious life has had a bad innings and that the whole Church is poorer for that. Renewal of the Church should start at its heart, and according to the Church that’s where we religious are located. The talks at this Conference show how and why this is so!”

For more information about APREL and the upcoming Melbourne Conference; check www.aprel-australia.blogspot.com.au or www.conventualsistersofstdominic.org.

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