A “Thanksgiving Mass for Religious and Consecrated Persons” was celebrated at Christ the King church in Owairaka on May 26, the feast day of St Philip Neri. A similar Mass for religious was celebrated at the same venue last year, but this year consecrated lay people were officially included. The Mass this year was celebrated by Bishop Patrick Dunn with Bishop Stuart O’Connell, SM, and religious priests concelebrating.

A Vatican survey found that in 2015 there were some 4000 consecrated virgins/widows in the world, with slightly less than 1 per cent of these in Oceania.

According to The Code of Canon Law, (#604.1) consecrated virgins are “committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church”.

At the Mass at Owairaka, there was a simple renewal of vows after the Gospel. During the Offertory, items brought forward included crosses of profession or commitment, the Franciscan girdle, rings, candles, chapter acts and bread and wine.

Three religious who hailed from Southland (from left) Sr Margaret Fitzgibbon, SMSM, Br Peter Thompson, FMS, and Sr M. Emerentiana, SMSM.

In his homily, Bishop Patrick Dunn thanked religious and consecrated lay people in Auckland diocese “for the beautiful contribution you make to the life of the Church here”.

“All mission has its origin in God, as you renewed your vows you called on the name — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are all God’s instruments,” he said.

The bishop also noted the recent document from Pope Francis Gaudete et Exsultate, concerning the call to holiness in today’s world.

Francis wrote about “the saints next door” and stated he likes “to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile”.

The last item in that list elicited many smiles from the many elderly religious at the Mass.

Bishop Dunn also mentioned the synod of bishops on young people, faith and vocational discernment later this year, and the preparations that have been taking place with young people in Auckland.

Following a youth synod in April, Bishop Dunn said, it has become evident that local young people are calling for more catechesis, more retreats and increased intergenerational accompaniment, especially from spiritual directors, mentors, counsellors and companions.

The bishop continued: “Having a gathering of the religious and consecrated persons in the diocese, you might have heard one of those things and thought, oh, I can help there. I’d love to help with spiritual direction or accompaniment or catechesis or apologetics, because this is what the young people are asking for.”

“If you find that, yes, I would like to do something like that, then make sure you let me know or our youth and young adult ministry people know because
they really will be looking for people to help.”

Bishop Dunn cited the example of St Philip Neri.

“In the last years of his life, St Philip concentrated on the ministry of the confessional and spiritual conferences. He died in Rome in 1595 with a reputation for cheerful goodness and optimism, which is exactly what Pope Francis is saying holiness is all about.

“The spiritual conferences were nearly always with the young. He recognised there a thirst for knowledge, and for the opportunities of retreats and days of recollection give them to encounter Jesus.”

After the Mass, all present enjoyed a cup of tea and a light lunch.

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