APEX – The Diocese of Raleigh celebrated a liturgy of thanksgiving Feb. 2 in honor of the gift of consecrated life. It was the first Mass of its kind in that it collectively honored 14 religious sisters, three religious brothers and 62 religious priests serving in the diocese.
It was held in conjunction with the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.
In Catholicism, the term religious means that the person is a professed member of a religious order or institute, such as the Franciscans or Jesuits. While religious men and women assist and serve in dioceses throughout the world, they belong first and foremost to their order.
The Mass especially honored those celebrating jubilees, or anniversaries of their vocations.
Sister Mary Ann Czaja, C.S.A., who serves in Tarboro, reached a 60-year milestone. Father John McGee, O.S.F.S., pastor of Immaculate Conception in Wilmington, and Father Martin Tran Van Ban, C.R.M., pastor of Our Lady of La Vang in Raleigh, were honored for 50 years. Honored for 25 years were Father Vincent Rubino, O.F.M., pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Burlington and Sister Martha Alvarado-Moreno, D.S.M.G, who serves in Greenville.
In the Diocese of Raleigh, sisters currently represent eight orders, or congregations. The women celebrated in the diocese represented the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, Daughters of St. Mary of Guadalupe, Hermanas Misioneras del Rosario de Fatima, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Servants of Charity, Sisters of St. Joseph and Sisters of St. Ursula of the Blessed Virgin.
The three brothers represented Glenmary Home Missioners and Conventual Franciscan Friars. A brother is “a man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The priests represented the two orders mentioned above, as well as the Congregacion del Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer, Congregation of the Passion, Heralds of Good News, Legionaries of Christ, Missionaries of Our Lady or La Salette, Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, Missionhurst Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Order of Clerics Regular Minor, Order of Friars Minor, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Order of Preachers, Order of St. Benedict and Society of Jesus.
To begin Mass Feb. 2, Father John Durbin welcomed those gathered to St. Andrew the Apostle Church, noting that it was built by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement. Readings were shared by Sister Mary Ann, Brother Edgar Varela, O.F.M. Conv. and Father Vincent.
Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama presided, and Father McGee shared a homily. He likened the vocation of a religious person to a sanctuary candle. The candle makes Christ’s presence known, he said, and burns until its end.
“We started out young,” he smiled, noting how a candle looks before it begins to shine. “Let us be mindful of what we’re called to do every single day … to pray … to give witness to Christ.”
As part of the celebration, jubilarians were presented and the religious sisters, brothers and priests verbally renewed their commitment to their vocation by answering the bishop’s questions with “I will.”
Prayers of the faithful were offered by Sister Carol Marozzi, S.S.J. and Father Martin. The gifts were presented by Father McGee and Sister Colleen Braun, C.S.A.
“It’s the beautiful journey of life … a vocation,” said Bishop Luis in his closing remarks. “Thank you, to all of you, for the ways you are proclaiming the Gospel with your life … you have my love and my respect.”