More than 500 people from throughout the Diocese of Orlando joined Bishop John Noonan in celebrating the lives and ministries of the religious men and women of our diocese during the Mass for World Day of Consecrated Life, Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. The annual event was deemed more special, as the Universal Church celebrates the Year of Consecrated Life – Nov. 30, 2014-Feb. 2, 2016.
Helen Altieri of St. Timothy Catholic Church in The Villages was among the many who came by bus in order to be part of celebration. Sitting on a bench outside of the Basilica, her face lit up and her eyes brimmed with tears as she recounted the memories of the Sisters of Notre Dame, who not only helped her grow in her faith and love of Christ as a young girl in Chicago, but who also became her lifelong friends.
“The sisters have always been inspirational me,” she said, “but the greatest impact they had on my life was through the friendships I had with them. I remained friends with two high school teachers and my principal until they passed away. They were wonderful, faith-filled women and dear friends.”
Doug Blair, of Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne and a member of the Knights of Columbus, said the religious priests and sisters have been a blessing in his life and his family’s life. He participated in the Mass dressed in full regalia and the Knights served as honor guards for the celebration. The Knights from Ascension also donated funds to help charter a bus that provided transportation for Ascension parishioners to participate.
“As a Catholic and as a Knight, we support our priests and our sisters, so I felt called to help,” he said. “In addition, Sister Immaculata [Knox, R.S.M.] has been with our school for more than 50 years, so it was important to me to support her. In doing that, it was important to me to have a busload of people here to support our priests and sisters at this event.”
In his homily, Bishop Noonan thanked the religious men and women who not only laid the foundation of Christianity in the New World and founded the Catholic schools, hospitals and parishes throughout the state of Florida, but who also continue to serve the faithful today and will serve in the years to come.
“You the consecrated religious of our diocese are the messengers of hope, the messengers of joy and the instruments of peace,” he said. “We need your presence in our lives to remind us that you are the witnesses to the living Gospel of Jesus Christ. So today, sisters and brothers in Christ, we thank you and we thank the Lord for the gift of your presence in our lives.”
Surrounded by nearly 50 of men, women, and children from Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, where she has ministered since 1972, Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Ann Kendrick beamed with joy at the reception following Mass.
“One of the gracious charisms of sisters’ work is that we see our ministry as mutually beneficial,” she said. “We have something to offer the people, but they, in turn, have a wonderful experience of faith and spirituality, and a closeness to God that truly inspires us. Today has been a beautiful day.”
To learn more about the religious orders represented in the Diocese of Orlando, click here.