Religious sisters, brothers and priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and their friends and families filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to celebrate the jubilee anniversaries of consecrated religious and their communities during a two-hour Sunday Mass Jan. 31.
Hundreds of religious, including the jubilarians, renewed their vows and celebrated milestones that ranged from 15 to 85 years of service.
Sister Mary Constance Fitzgerald, CSJ, received a standing ovation for serving 85 years for the archdiocese, making her the longest serving religious at the age of 102. Sister Josefina Mendoza of the Trinitarians of Mary was given special mention for celebrating 15 years of service, making her the youngest jubilarian.
“I ask the Lord to continue to bless you with every gift and grace to continue, as Sister Mary Constance is continuing and as Sister Josefina is continuing, and everyone in between, this wonderful journey,” said Auxiliary Bishop Joseph V. Brennan, principal celebrant of the Mass.
To Sister Josefina, Bishop Brennan said, “Only 70 more years to go.”
Sister Josefina told The Tidings, “When our bishop compared the two jubilees — 85 years and 15 years — at that moment I asked Our Lord, ‘Lord are you going to give me the opportunity and the perseverance to reach that year?’ He said yes.”
Born in Mexico, Sister Josefina said that a religious vocation was in her blood. She is the niece of St. Rafael Guízar y Valencia (1878—1938), the bishop of Mexico. At the age of seven, she would wear a veil and pretend to be a nun, hoping that one day she would join a religious order.
“I had an aunt who was a nun, and I would look at her and think, ‘I want to be like her. I want to be a nun.’”
At 17, Sister Josefina joined the Trinitarians of Mary, a contemplative order that prays for priests, the Church and the world. Despite her young age at the time, she never doubted her vocation.
“I was very sure of God’s call,” she said. “Only the service to God will make you happy. If you want to be happy, seek God.”
Regarding her 15 years of service, she added, “I feel fulfilled.”
As a contemplative nun, Sister Josefina spends hours in prayer.
“Without prayer, we cannot have that union with Our Lord,” she said. “If we do not pray, we won’t be able to discover God’s love for us and God’s mercy for us.”
Sister Josefina said she felt great joy at seeing so many different charisms and communities consecrated to Our Lord at the Sunday Mass. “And we all have the same focus, the same end, which is to love and serve God above all things.”
The event also celebrated the closing of the Year of Consecrated Life, which began Nov. 2014 and ended Feb. 2. Pope Francis said in an apostolic letter on the occasion, “I would especially like to say a word to those of you who are young. You are the present, since you are already taking active part in the lives of your institutes, offering all the freshness and generosity of your ‘yes.’”
He added that the young need to learn from the older generation. “In fraternal communion you will be enriched by their experiences and wisdom, while at the same time inspiring them, by your own energy and enthusiasm, to recapture their original idealism.”
Bishop Brennan thanked all the consecrated religious for their commitment to their vocations, noting that they were the love of Christ personified. “Your presence here today speaks volumes without words,” he said.
Referencing the Dionne Warwick song “What the World Needs Now is Love,” Bishop Brennan said that every person needs love, properly understood by the Church.
“Love that is concrete and real. It is a love that is sacrificial. It is a love that knows how to give to the other without counting the cost,” he said. “As St. Paul reminded us, it’s a love without limits.”
Concluding his homily, Bishop Brennan said to the consecrated religious, “What the world needs now is you.”
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