Honoring legacy of retired religious

| December 6, 2018 | 0 Comments
Archbishop Bernard Hebda talks with Benedictine Sisters Andriette, left, Rosella and Andrine Schommer June 22 after celebrating Mass to mark the 70th anniversary of St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda talks with Benedictine Sisters Andriette, left, Rosella and Andrine Schommer June 22 after celebrating Mass to mark the 70th anniversary of St. Paul’s Monastery in Maplewood. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

On the evening of Nov. 17, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for the 45th Huether Lasallian Conference, a gathering of Christian Brothers and other educators involved in the global mission of Lasallian education. As a former “brothers’ boy,” I felt right at home. It was wonderful to get updates on Christian Brothers who had taught me (yes, they are indeed really up in years) at South Hills Catholic High School in my hometown of Pittsburgh, and to recall the role that they had played in my education and formation.

I was subsequently blessed to study at some of the most fabled institutions of higher learning in the world, but I remain convinced that it was the education that I received from the Christian Brothers — and from the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill who ran my elementary school — that has made all the difference in my life. While I would not attribute any of my faults or shortcomings to the religious who taught me in grade school, high school and seminary, I know that they deserve credit for whatever good I have succeeded in accomplishing.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Not surprisingly, I was sure to remember the sisters, brothers and religious-order priests who taught me as I counted my blessings this Thanksgiving. Not only were they impressive scholars and educators, they were great role models for me in striving to respond to the Lord’s call, and in imparting to me an authentically Catholic worldview. For that I will be forever grateful.

I realize that my experience was by no means unique. So many of the schools, hospitals and institutions of social outreach in this archdiocese are the product of the apostolic zeal of our brothers and sisters in consecrated life. These women and men poured themselves completely into their service of the Church and her mission.

Who wouldn’t be inspired by the story of the martyr Brother James Miller — better known as “Brother Fix-it” when he taught at Cretin High School — who has just recently been slated for beatification by Pope Francis?

I’ve mentioned before that I love visiting Calvary and Resurrection cemeteries, wandering among the headstones of the hundreds of sisters, brothers and priests who gave their lives in the service of this local Church, and imagining what their lives and ministries must have been. We are surely enriched by the presence of so many religious who continue to live and work in this archdiocese, giving us such vivid testimony of the joy that can be experienced by imitating Christ in his poverty, obedience and celibacy.

The Little Sisters of the Poor recently offered an afternoon of recollection for those in consecrated life, ably preached by Bishop Andrew Cozzens, and I was amazed to see the diversity among the individuals and groups who participated. What a blessing to have such spiritual and apostolic superstars in our midst.

Sadly, there’s a great weight on the shoulders of many of those religious. After having generously served the Church, when it was common to work for little to no pay and when there were no 401(k) plans or pensions, many of the senior members of our religious communities, like their sisters and brothers throughout the United States, are anxious as a result of the rising costs associated with health care. While their communities are committed to providing those senior members with the care and quality of life they need and deserve, most are finding it impossible to do so on their own. Within a decade, religious over the age of 70 are projected to outnumber religious under age 70 by more than three to one.

To help address this situation, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops instituted an annual collection for retired religious. The response has been phenomenal, particularly here in the archdiocese. Since 1989, almost $709 million has been distributed to support the day-to-day care of elderly sisters, brothers and religious-order priests. An additional $94 million has been allocated toward self-help projects initiated by religious communities, including collaborative health care facilities.

Greater assistance, however, is both merited and needed. A gift this year to the Retirement Fund for Religious would provide vital funding for medications, nursing care and more. It also would help religious congregations implement long-range retirement strategies, even as they continue to serve the people of God.

I recognize this is but one of numerous worthy causes in need of assistance; I ask simply that you give what you can. In thanksgiving for their faithful service, please join me in supporting the Retirement Fund for Religious and in praying for God’s continued blessing on our nation’s elderly religious.

Honrando el legado de religiosos retirados

Tags: ,

Category: Only Jesus