HOLINESS AND MISSION OF RELIGIOUS WOMEN
1. Holy Mother Church fervently recognizes and exalts the religious in their life and holiness as a very important ecclesial component. The state of life, then, which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness. The religious is a unique sign for all to respond to the Lord’s call to holiness. More than ever, they are an exceptional gift for their special charism in building the Kingdom of God in contemporary time, most especially in their commitment to witness to the three evangelical vows. The religious life augments and reinforces a renewed evangelization and its different aspects in the world of the third millennium.
2. In solidarity with the Catholic Church, the Diocese of Lucena acknowledges the role of the religious as a “gift of God.” They are fellow sojourners in discerning and fulfilling the plan of God, as well as in responding to the call to holiness in the different fields of apostolate in the parishes. As co-workers for human development, they are also a living guide for the faithful through the special charisms of their congregations.
3. In response to Pope John Paul II’s exhortation at the beginning of the third millennium to cast out into the deep: “Duc in altum!” (Lk. 5:4) with a powerful new hope and reawakened desire for a more intense evangelical life, the consecrated persons are called by the Spirit to give new vigor to the prophetic dimension of their vocation, to deepen their response to and broaden their understanding of the new challenges, so that they, with a profound relationship with God (contemplation), can offer themselves in ecclesial communion with the laity, the clergy, and the bishops, as a prophetic and silent witness and at the same time an eloquent protest against an inhuman world.
4. This document, entitled Holiness and Mission of Religious Women, deals with the following aspects that are of inestimable value to religious life: (1) Holiness, and (2) Missionary Life.
5. The religious life is a distinctive response to the call to holiness within the Church. It is a way of following the Lord by consecrating one’s life to the sacred vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. The consecrated persons are considered God’s gifts to his people. Hence, they are expected to be living witnesses of the Gospel in the midst of the world’s disorder.
6. God, who has first loved us (1 Jn. 4:10), freely calls the religious as they seek nothing else but his will. In all circumstances they should take care to foster a life hidden with Christ in God (Cf. Col. 3:3), which is the source and stimulus of love of the neighbor, for the salvation of the world and the building-up of the Church.” Their response to the call to live for God alone consists not merely in being dead to sin (Cf. Rom. 6:11) but also in renouncing the world.
7. The thirst for the divine Absolute is found in consecrated persons at the deepest level of their being. They bear witness to holiness to which every Christian aspires.
8. While nurturing their life of prayer, the religious bear witness to the holiness of Christ, who lived as poor, humble and loving, merciful and compassionate, patient and kind, happily contented in giving himself and always ready to meet the needs of others. By following the Lord, the religious inspire the people living in the world.
9. Spiritual life is of utmost importance in the program of consecrated life. This is evident in the holiness of the spirituality of communion, which Pope John Paul II teaches as indicating above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling within us and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the faces of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body and therefore as “those who are part of me…” It also implies the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God, and to know how to make room for others, sharing each other’s burdens.
10. Like Jesus, the religious, who committed their lives to God, serve the poor with unconditional love. Today the mission of the religious is to search and recognize the Lord in the people they encounter.
11. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines teaches that the religious institutions need to have an accurate understanding of the people, the signs of the times, and the needs of the Church. With their faith and passion for service, the religious become more effective agents in their decision to help others.
12. As God’s followers, the religious must proclaim with their lives the value of voluntary service to others, with chastity of heart and simplicity of lifestyle.
13. The primary contribution of the religious to the work of evangelization is to be truthful witnesses to a life totally consecrated to God and humanity, following the example of Christ who became a servant of all out of love for them.
14. Confronted with the new challenges of our time, the religious must reexamine their traditional works in order to better respond to emerging pastoral needs, particularly in the areas of social justice, building Basic Ecclesial Communities animated by communion and participation and the transformation of society. In contemplation, the religious are given the opportunity to encounter Christ, who lives and suffers in the poor. Serving the poor is one way of proclaiming the Word of God. In like manner, adopting a simple and austere way of life, both as individuals and as community, is both a witness to and a sign of a true Christian community to the laity.
15. The community life of the religious, especially the contemplative ones, must be both an example to the laypeople who build the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and a lucid summons for them to a life of prayer and silence.
16. It is an obligation of the religious to collaborate and be united with the bishop. The spirituality of ecclesial communion entails an affective and effective relationship primarily with the Holy Father and the bishops. This communal bond is faithful to the original intent of the founders and foundresses of consecrated life, who have always been feeling with the Church. The religious persons’ passionate love for Christ is precisely the very loving feeling for and with the Church (sentire cum Ecclesia) and her leaders. This communion is also true in their relationship with the diocesan priests, who are their partners in the life of service.
MARY, THE UNIQUE MODEL OF CONSECRATED LIFE
17. In her commitment to the Father and her exemplary discipleship, the Virgin Mary, who is the first consecrated person, has always been the unique model of consecrated life. The charism of evangelical life is exceptionally mirrored in her life. May she always guide the religious women as they live by their daily commitments, most especially in their service to the poor and the Basic Ecclesial Communities.
CALL TO ACTION
Due to the incontestable importance of consecrated life within the Church, the religious in the Diocese of Lucena propose the following concrete measures that will help them mature in holiness and face the challenges of the present times.
CTA-1. In order to be a truthful witness of the Gospel, every religious person must remain faithful to the professed vows, live a simple life, and accomplish nothing less than the will of God.
CTA-2. The consecrated life demands that the religious of the Diocese of Lucena cultivate the awareness of God’s constant presence in them through a profound and habitual reflection on God’s Word. In so doing, the image of Christ will be reflected in them: endowed with humility, spontaneously forgiving, kindhearted, patient, accommodating and sympathetically understanding of others, self-sacrificing and loving.
CTA-3. The religious must remain devoted to their prayer life. It is imperative that they spend time for monthly recollection, annual retreat, and updates that can help deepen their life of holiness.
CTA-4. It is important that the religious who are members of AWORLD (Association of Women Religious in Lucena Diocese) continue their annual recollection, seminar, or other activities related to the growth of their vocation.
Mission: Fruit of the Religious Persons’ Relationship with God
CTA-5. The true and most meaningful fruit of contemplation is its consequent action. In their apostolate, the religious manifest God’s benevolence to people. They offer their energies, talents, and potentials for the cause of serving those in need by doing acts of charity such as visiting the sick and the prisoners. The religious are in a position to persuade the people that they too are endowed with so much blessing that they can realize their potentials as human beings.
CTA-6. The testimony of the religious to their love for God and concern for the Church will be more effective if they participate and collaborate with the particular Church in the implementation of the pastoral programs of the diocese and parishes. Hence, an efficient coordination between the sisters and the priests is needed especially since they lead and animate the parish activities like meetings of the Parish Pastoral Council and Basic Ecclesial Communities.
Fostering and Spreading the Basic Ecclesial Communities
CTA-7. The religious communities need to reassess their respective charisms to see how these relate to their apostolate in light of the particular Church’s concern for Basic Ecclesial Communities, catechesis, social action, and others.
CTA-8. One of the thrusts of the Basic Ecclesial Communities is the empowerment of the laity through formation and recognition of their potentials with a view to enabling them play a more active role in the Church. The laypeople are inspired to be faithful to their vocation and mission as baptized persons when both the religious and the priests bear witness to a life of fidelity to God and involvement in his Kingdom.
CTA-9. As followers of Christ, the religious women, together with the clergy, must have preferential option for the poor of society. The religious and the priests need to be aware of the various problems that poverty often entails such as drug addiction, marginalization, and hopelessness. They must also study, learn, and use all the effective means available to respond to the people’s needs in order that the latter may have ready access to all that is necessary for living a genuinely human life.
CTA-10. Integral spirituality aims at having a holistic view and healthy attitude towards life. Besides fostering and caring for the different aspects of human life, the religious must protect and develop the natural resources, which are God’s gift to humanity. In light of the continuing damage to the environment that is taking place locally and globally, the religious are challenged to be united in spearheading the cause of environmental protection.
CTA-11. The religious must continue their task of supporting and guiding the catechists so that the latter can develop a deeper relationship with God. The religious must devise programs for teaching the various prayer methods and forms, including the rosary, as well as the ways of conducting communal prayer meetings.