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Consecrated life is a fuller expression of the baptismal call shared by all Christians, but there are certain characteristics that mark the life of a consecrated woman religious. Prayer, community, and mission serve as fundamental pillars helping sisters to remain grounded in their consecrated identity.

 

CENTRALITY OF PRAYER
By her human nature, a Sister is called to be a person in relationship, one who falls in love with another. There is a yearning deep within her that is answered only when her emptiness or lack is filled by another. Prayer is such a relationship and an essential component in the life of every woman religious. Prayer puts her in direct contact, in a direct love relationship with God who first loved her.

As in any relationship, prayer demands that a Sister spend time with the One she loves, even though at times it will feel that she is “wasting time.” Sometimes there will be conversation, a dialogue requiring that she both speaks and listens. At other times, she will simply enjoy being in God’s presence and He will delight in being with her. In all of these times, she is coming to know and love God and allowing herself to be loved by Him.

There are certainly many “types” of prayer that may be helpful as a Sister grows in her relationship with Jesus. The Mass will always be the perfect prayer through which she unites the offering of herself with Jesus to the Father. It is in the Mass that she encounters Jesus – body, blood, soul, and divinity – and asks the grace to be transformed into Him.

Celebration of the Sacraments also leads a Sister to a deeper love for her God who longs to be close to her. Regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be especially fruitful in helping her grow in self-knowledge and awareness of God’s forgiving love.

Spending time becoming familiar with Sacred Scripture and the life of Jesus is invaluable as the woman religious grows more deeply in love with Him. The more she knows about Jesus and His life, the more she can become like Him. The many events and characters in Scripture can serve as a road map for her own spiritual journey.

Most communities of women religious also make a commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church. The sisters join their voices in morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer for the needs and intentions of all God’s people.

No one knows the heart of Jesus better than Mary, His mother. The rosary and other Marian devotions can guide the Sister in her reflections on the mysteries of Jesus’ life. Mary is eager to be her companion as she comes to know Jesus.

Both personal and communal prayer are essential components in the life of a woman religious and distinguish her relationship with God and others. How wonderful it is to spend time with the One she loves!

 

GIFT OF COMMUNITY
Just as Jesus gathered the disciples together, women religious come together in a unique way in their response to God’s call. One of the most distinct characteristics of the consecrated lifestyle is community life. “Community” can refer to our day-to-day living together with other Sisters and it can also refer to the congregation or group to which we belong. Consecrated women religious recognize the unique interdependence and support among members of their religious community.

Closely related to the living of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience, community living challenges the woman religious to “cast her lot” with others who embrace similar desires and values. While her primary commitment is to God, she also pledges faithfulness to the community of which she is a member.

Members of her community are more than a pseudo family, simply replacing the relationships she has sacrificed through the vow of chastity. Rather, a woman religious companions her Sisters in adult-to-adult relationships intricately bound up in their faith journeys.

Through her vow of poverty, a woman religious promises to share all things with her Sisters in community. This commitment to give and receive all she needs for her livelihood calls for a deep spirit of trust and abandonment. While knowing the community will care for her needs, she also assumes responsibility in doing her part to care for and contribute to the assets of the community.

Every woman religious can define her mission as an extension of the mission of Jesus. Each community, however, has a specific charism and spirit that allows its members to reflect a certain facet of that mission. This charism can be influenced by the type of ministry a community offers the Church, but it springs even more from a deeper level of identity. Based on her relationship with Jesus Christ and the call she has experienced within, a woman religious comes to resonate with a particular community’s spirit and manner of being in the world.

The community becomes the context in and through which the woman religious witnesses to Jesus in the world as she reaches out in ministry. Likewise, the ministry in which she engages brings a life and vibrancy to her relationships in community and thus keeps her and her Sisters from becoming isolated or insular.

As with the vows professed by a woman religious, the community lifestyle is to serve as a witness to the world of the possibility and value of living with others in harmony. While day-to-day tensions and frictions will exist, the members of a religious community witness the blessing of reconciliation to a world in great need of healing.

The life of a woman religious engages her on several levels of community. She experiences daily community with the sisters with whom she lives. There is also the broader regional or province community of which the Sister is a member. Some communities are international and extend beyond the boundaries of a particular country and some remain in a smaller geographic area.

Community life encompasses aspects of a Sister’s life: prayer, mission and spending time together. Times of prayer together keep a community focused on the One who gives meaning to their lives and simple fun together helps the members of a community from becoming overly serious.

 

IMPORTANCE OF MISSION
Women religious are called to live as disciples of Jesus and to make Him and His message the center of their lives. While all Christians are called to live the mission of Jesus, the woman religious has a special call to live this mission in a radical and complete way.

The mission of the woman religious is bigger than the ministry in which she takes part. Everything she does and everything she is needs to proclaim the love and life of Jesus. She is to make Jesus present by who she is and by who she allows Him to be in her.

Consecrated life is the vocation entrusted to the woman religious. One of the aspects of this lifestyle is the ministry or “job” in which the Sister engages. Sisters in different communities and in different parts of the world serve people in many and varied ways. There are Sisters who are teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, and pastoral ministers. They serve the young, the old, and those who are marginalized and poor, those who have no one else to care for them. While anyone can do what a Sister does in her ministry, not everyone is called to share in the consecrated lifestyle that provides the background of mission in her life.

A Sister’s ministry is always in response to a need in the Church or the world. Her ministry is to see Jesus in each person she encounters and to bring Jesus to each person. She takes to heart the words of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty…” (Mt 25: 35).  By serving Jesus in these people, she strives to live in solidarity and compassion with those most in need.

Sisters in active apostolic communities are called to companion those in need on a day-to-day basis, while Sisters in contemplative communities serve others through a ministry of prayer. They stand in the presence of God and place before Him the needs and longings of all people. These sisters may engage in a work to sustain their livelihood, but their primary ministry is prayer. Some contemplative communities make altar breads, vestments or various food products in order to support themselves. The work is always one that will not distract them from their mission of intercessory prayer.

While a woman religious may reach an age or state of health that necessitates her leaving active ministry, she never retires from mission. Even on her death bed, she shares in the mission of proclaiming to others that God loves and cares for all His people.

 
   
 


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