On Pentecost Sunday, June 4, religious sisters, brothers, and priests filled the historic St. Joseph’s Chapel at the headquarters of the School Sisters of St. Francis for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s annual Celebration of Consecrated Life. Together with Archbishop Jerome Listecki, along with archdiocesan priests and lay faithful, the religious women and men came together offering thanks for the ways the Holy Spirit is at work in their individual communities and throughout the Church.
For Capuchin Fr. Michael Bertram, a member of the celebration’s planning committee, the gifts of religious women and men are worth celebrating.
“So many dioceses are so dependent on religious communities for ministries, for parishes, and there’s a life that religious communities bring to a diocese or archdiocese,” Fr. Mike said. “Beyond that, are the special charisms or ministries that people bring to the Church. It’s more than parish ministry or what parochial ministry involves. It’s a question of our each community’s charism.”
Recalling the words of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Fr. Mike said that the individual charism of each community is a unique gift to the Church.
“We talk about the different gifts that make up the Body of Christ,” Fr. Mike said. “Religious communities really add a lot to that, when it comes to any diocese or archdiocese.” Fr. Mike has been a professed member of the Capuchin Franciscans for 36 years and currently serves as pastor of the parishes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Benedict the Moor in Milwaukee.
Nearly 15 communities were represented at the Pentecost prayer service, which included readings in Spanish and English from Scripture, Pope Francis’ encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel,” and the writings of Jean Vanier. Music was provided by a choir of more than 40 area priests and religious, performing a variety of musical selections, including pieces from the monastic community in Taizé, France, as well as pieces from Germany, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. This reflects the diversity that exists within religious communities and the universal Church.
In his homily for the celebration, Archbishop Listecki reflected on the power of the Holy Spirit.
“The fire of Pentecost is unquenchable. It doesn’t burn out. It burns forever in the lives of those who are committed to the person of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Listecki said.
“That same Spirit that descended upon the Apostles some two thousand years ago still burns in us today. The testimony to that is the variety religious communities that are here represented in the Church. The vision of the foundresses and founders of those communities that saw an ability to serve the Church and display that talent, and to give over those abilities, in order for the Body of Christ to be made known to the world. And it wasn’t a question of ‘We’re in competition.’ It was a question of ‘We’re here in representation and proclamation.’”
“As we, as an archdiocese, approach the 175th anniversary, I am privileged to look back at those who literally built the Church in this community,” the archbishop said. “Definitely, if there is one that is needed today, not only in our community but throughout the world, it is acknowledgment of Christ, of who Christ is, of what he stands for, of what he offers all of humanity.”
In the end, the archbishop remarked, religious women and men are helping to keep this work alive in the Church today. “The charisms of your communities, of your religious orders, or your associations help all of us to understand and to hold clearly the ultimate gift that is given through the love of God.”