Whenseventeen young men entered the Novitiate of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1968, the first hymn we learned was Psalm 133 – in Latin!

Ecce quam bonum... How good it is!

As I begin these reflections on the Consecrated Life, the good memories and deep emotions of those first days well up within me – How good it is! I expect that most of us who have lived even for a brief time in a religious community, a society of apostolic life or a secular institute would echo that same emotion – notwithstanding the challenges and struggles that are a natural part of living with others!

How good it is!

I was 19 at the time, and I had an unsure awareness that I was being called to follow the Lord. I really did not know where it would lead – I just knew I had to give it a try. Pope Francis has dedicated this year to the Consecrated Life. It began on the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014, and continues through to the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 2016. This letter, then, is a salute to those who live the Consecrated Life in the Diocese of Hamilton.

Thisletter, then,
is a salute to those who live
the Consecrated Life
in the Diocese of Hamilton.

At the time of writing, there are 26 institutes of Consecrated Life in our Diocese, and one consecrated virgin. Where would the Church be in Hamilton, indeed throughout the world, without the witness and dedicated ministry of women and men in religious communities, apostolic societies and secular institutes who have given themselves totally to serve the Lord? Our Catholic education system, the St. Joseph's Health System, and St. Jerome's University are part of the legacy of their good work, the fruit of their service, for which we must express gratitude each day. These institutions serve thousands of citizens every day – and are highly regarded throughout the Diocese.

How good it is!

In addition to these great institutions in our Diocese, we must acknowledge our many parishes that have been established and the churches built by religious communities, a true testimony to their dedication to the proclamation of the Gospel and to the worship of God!

Why do women and men make the commitment to follow Jesus Christ in the Consecrated Life? Promising poverty, chastity and obedience is a simple, powerful and clear statement of a life given totally to Him – no distractions! When someone dedicates their life entirely to follow in His way, great things become possible. And great things indeed have been accomplished.

Promisingpoverty, chastity and obedience
is a simple, powerful and clear statement
of a life given totally to Him
– no distractions!

How good it is!

In anticipation of this year, and because of the number of men and women in Consecrated Life in the Diocese, I appointed Father Wayne Lobsinger, Pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Waterdown, Ontario, as Episcopal Vicar for Consecrated Life. His well-known and longstanding care for and attention to the spiritual well-being of women religious in the Diocese makes him an obvious choice for this good work. In this capacity, he will serve on the Episcopal Board, bringing to our attention matters of interest and concern relative to women and men religious, and their communities.

Also, in anticipation of this year, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, last November, Gérald Cyprien Cardinal Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, conferred Papal Honours on certain parishioners from the Diocese of Hamilton. Included were five people in Consecrated Life:

Sister Sharon Kroetsch, SSND;
Brother Richard MacPhee, BGS;
Sister Ann Marshall, CSJ;
Sister Teresita McInally, CSJ and
Sister Eileen Schuller, OSU.

These eminently worthy recipients received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, the highest honour accorded by the Holy Father to women and men religious. In honouring these few, we honour all. It is my hope that such tribute would shine the spotlight on the many and varied ways women and men in the Consecrated Life have served the Church here in the Diocese of Hamilton and throughout the world! This year gives us the occasion to celebrate their commitment and their contribution!

Itis my hope that such tribute would shine the spotlight on the many and varied ways women and men in the Consecrated Life have served the Church here in the Diocese of Hamilton and throughout the world!

How good it is!

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Novo Millennio Ineunte (The New Millennium), Pope Saint John Paul II encouraged us to "remember the past with gratitude ... live the present with enthusiasm ... and go into the future with confidence!" This year is surely a time to remember the past and express gratitude. But we best honour the accomplishments of those who have served in the Consecrated Life by the lives we live today – by the commitments we make now to assure that such good work continues with the same creative and exciting spirit that marked their efforts in the beginning.

As a member of a religious community, I am always impressed and moved when I see young men and women take up the challenge of religious life – choosing to live in community, discovering the charism of the Founder, giving it new expression, and setting out on the life journey to seek the "one thing that is necessary."

Asa member of a religious community,
I am always impressed and moved
when I see young men and women
take up the challenge of religious life
– choosing to live in community, discovering the charism of the Founder,
giving it new expression,
and setting out on the life journey
to seek the "one thing that is necessary."

The Bishops, Priests and people of the Diocese of Hamilton have been well served by those in the Consecrated Life from our beginning, 160 years ago. Many sons and daughters of the Diocese have "left all and followed Him", occasionally rising to positions of leadership, which benefitted their respective institute or society and the whole Church.

Manysons and daughters of the Diocese have "left all and followed Him", occasionally rising to positions of leadership, which benefitted their respective institute or society and the whole Church.

The life of the Diocese and our own personal lives are changed for the better because of these dedicated men and women who have committed themselves to the Lord.

How good it is!

During this special year dedicated by Pope Francis to the Consecrated Life, we express our gratitude, deepen our devotion, and renew our intention to show greater appreciation for the Consecrated Life as a vital part of the Church.

Throughout the year, we offer this prayer especially for those who have made the commitment to the religious life and to all forms of the Consecrated Life.

O God,
you never cease to call men and women
to live the grace of their Baptism
by dedicating themselves to perfect charity,
with vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

We thank you for the faithful witness
of many Priests, Brothers and Sisters
who have inspired us to follow more closely
in the footsteps of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Inflame with your Spirit
the hearts of those you are calling
to consecrated life in the Church today.
May they become prophetic witnesses
to the joy of the Gospel
and signs of hope in our world today.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

May Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, whose total openness to the work of God in her – "Let it be done to me according to your word" – is to be the model of every Christian response, help us to mark this year with gratitude, joy, and generosity.

How good it is!

The Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton
February 2, 2015