Greetings to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And special greetings to each of you in the diocese who are consecrated as religious brother and sisters in Christ!
February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, has also been observed as the World Day for Consecrated life since it was established by Pope John Paul II in 1997. He found this Feast an especially appropriate occasion to celebrate the lives and virtues of consecrated religious in the Church. Just as Jesus was “consecrated to the Lord” (Luke 2:23, from the Gospel of the day) and Mary offered her son—an expression of her very life—so men and women throughout the life of the Church have consecrated and offered themselves to God.
The Diocese of La Crosse has been blessed since its founding more than 150 years ago by the presence of holy and hard-working religious men and women. Indeed, even before our Diocese was established, Dominican, Franciscan, and Jesuit missionaries planted the seeds of faith on our soil—consecrating its present and future inhabitants as an offering to God.
I myself am blessed to be a religious. Long before I became a bishop, I lived the life of a Conventual Franciscan. My membership among the Franciscans instilled in me the virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience (what are called the “evangelical counsels”); an appreciation for community life; and gratitude for the good things of creation and their importance in leading us to God.
Ultimately, though, I thank God on this day that so many local religious—from Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman and Blessed Solanus Casey, from Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli and Father Jaques Marquette, and thousands of others—have been a light to so many.
When Simeon takes the infant Jesus in his arms, he declares that his “eyes have seen [God’s] salvation…prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:30-32, from the Gospel of the day). As we continue to journey toward that Kingdom where Christ himself will be our light, I ask you to pray for the consecrated men and women who have served our local Church in the past, who continue to do so today, and who will reflect Christ-light in the future.
And may each of us—like Jesus, Mary, and religious brothers and sisters everywhere—continue to consecrate ourselves to God and offer to him lives of fitting service.