Set apart to shine the light
In a world that measures success in material possessions, career status, and social influence, taking vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience makes no sense.
But when this radical “yes” to God is examined with long-range vision, everything comes into focus, explained Father Jim Gigliotti, TOR, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Fort Worth.
For those living consecrated lives, accomplishment means “for us to get to heaven, which we all want to do. We want to bring the world with us to heaven. And we do that in our soul life, in the sacrifices that we make,” Fr. Gigliotti summarized.
That’s consecrated life in a nutshell.
Currently 59 sisters and 60 religious order priests who have taken the vows of consecrated life — chastity, poverty, and obedience — are serving the Diocese of Fort Worth.
“Being consecrated means that you give yourself totally to Jesus by your vows,” said Sister Kay Jo Evelo, SHSp, who graduated from high school on Friday and entered the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate convent on Sunday, almost 64 years ago.
Why? “My love for children, my love for God’s people, and my desire to express to the world God’s goodness. I hope I act as a witness for Christ in the world because I really feel the world needs God’s presence,” said the educator, who has taught at St. Rita Catholic School in Fort Worth for 23 years.
Sr. Kay Jo began her consecrated life at 18, but she considered it for years beforehand, dressing up as a nun as a child. Still, Sr. Kay Jo remembered, “I wanted to get married and have 12 children, but God said, ‘No, come follow me and I’ll give you thousands.’” In her 58 years of educating young Catholics, God has kept His promise.
Taking religious vows can be challenging for others to understand.
Fr. Gigliotti said, “The world is not going to entirely understand the inner dynamics of what you’re being called to. Language fails when you’re trying to describe a love relationship that is mystical and yet personal.”
The pastor, in his 51st year of vows, said, “Everything has to do with the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit does with our gifts and talents. We know it isn’t until we get to heaven that we know what the Holy Spirit has accomplished through feeble us. That’s what we do. We make ourselves available to His mystery.”
Sister Diana Rodriguez, HCG, explained, “Jesus, He’s the One who called me, chose me. I hope to persevere to the end in this choice of calling and be with Him at all times through my community and my service to the Church.”
Her vow to follow Jesus exclusively allows her to live in community, participate in daily Mass, and have daily prayer and silent meditation.
“In work and with the people, there’s conversations, communications. This moment of silence is special because it’s just between me and God, and God and me. It’s time to listen to Him and for Him to listen to me, too,” said the sister, who is currently the delegate for women religious and director of the Diocesan Formation Center. She also has served in parishes as the director of religious education.
Sr. Diana has spent 36 years in consecrated life. “Being consecrated to God makes us special in a way because we’re following Him. We want to be with Him. But we’re striving to become holy like everybody else through our Baptism,” she said.
Supporting Consecrated Life
PRAY: Sr. Diana said the primary means for the faithful to support religious sisters, brothers, and priests is “most of all through prayer, that we will persevere in this vocation, and follow through in our calling that we received from Christ through the Church.”
Fr. Gigliotti said he and others in religious vocations have a hidden strength to help in their calling: the prayers of contemplative religious orders.
He said, “It’s always a surprise when I remind people there are contemplative religious orders that are praying for priests and religious vocations. They are praying for the souls of deceased priests and religious, for the perseverance of present ones, and for future [ones].
“There are communities of consecrated religious men and women all over the world, such as the Carmelites, whose specific apostolic work is contemplative prayer for consecrated life faithfulness, because, as the Sacred Heart said to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, ‘Woe to the world when there are no more consecrated souls. They make the world go round.’”
INVITE: It may seem odd, but some people may not realize sisters, brothers, and priests are ordinary people who come from ordinary families, said Sr. Diana, who grew up in North Fort Worth. That’s why adults should invite youth and young adults to consider a religious vocation.
Tell children you think they would make a wonderful priest or sister, encouraged Sr. Kay Jo. Teens and young adults should be open to the Holy Spirit and ask themselves, “Maybe God is calling me to follow Him in a different way,” she continued.
DONATE: Many Catholics assume the Church provides financial support to orders of religious sisters, but “the Church doesn’t support us, we support ourselves” by working, Sr. Kay Jo explained.
Many orders with a high proportion of elderly nuns face “dire necessity,” cautioned the sister. She encourages parishioners to donate to the annual special collection for retired religious (scheduled for December 14-15, 2019).
Some parishes and schools support local orders with donations of nonperishable food and household supplies. Other individuals have stepped up to offer lawn care or other services to reduce the burden and expense of maintaining a residence.