Pope Francis has declared 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life for Catholics worldwide. It begins next weekend and runs through Feb. 2, 2016. During this time, Catholic religious orders will open their doors in hopes of helping lay Catholics and others understand both what it means to live a consecrated life and how these orders live their faith through service to others.
This week, members of Catholic orders talk about the inspiration of their orders and how that inspiration is realized in their efforts on Long Island.
Sister Ann Marino, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, directress, Cormaria Maria Retreat House, Sag Harbor:
The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary is an international order founded in Beziers, France, in 1849 by Father Jean Gailhac (1802-90) and Apollonie Pelissier (1809-1869). Sisters of the order serve on four continents.
Our mission is multifaceted, as we desire to be courageous, creative women, filled with hope and joy, and to be on fire with the love of the risen Christ. The spirit impels us to listen and learn from voices that are being silenced, and to open our hearts ever wider to our marginalized brothers and sisters, especially women and children.
Our focus on Long Island is twofold: with the Latino community at Centro Corazon de Maria in Hampton Bays and at Cormaria Retreat House in Sag Harbor. Educational programs and presence to the people are at the center of this ministry at Centro Corazon de Maria.
Cormaria Retreat House offers a place where people can come to be still and discover that God is in the quiet and beauty of Sag Harbor.
Past ministries include Campus Ministry at Stony Brook University, elementary education at Stella Maris School in Sag Harbor and St. Anne's School in Garden City. We also are involved with other religious communities in the effort to stop the trafficking of young women.
Brother Gary Cregan, Order of St. Francis/Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, principal, St. Anthony's High School, South Huntington:
St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was probably the greatest medieval religious personality in the West. He had a very simple message to offer, and it still resonates for the 21st century.
During an age where the divinity of Jesus was being stressed, he stressed the humanity of Jesus, which is why he is attributed with creating Nativity scenes, depicting the infancy of Jesus when he was most vulnerable and most humble.
He understood the importance of placing people over possessions. His love of poverty allowed him to do this. He knew ultimately if we accumulate great wealth -- it will possess us, and we can't be as free to love others and God.
He was a strong advocate that joy must be at the core of one's religion. He took intense pleasure in a sunset, the beauty of nature, in animals and in just being alive.
It is that tradition of joy that we attempt to emulate here at St. Anthony's High School. Joy has to be the setting for good education. We espouse one simple philosophy: "Capture the heart and the mind will follow." That is directly from St. Bonaventure (died 1274), one of the early followers of St. Francis who joined the order at age 22. We try to do that in a school setting. St. Francis was known as a teacher in how he lived, and said: "Preach at all times, and only, if necessary, use words."
Sister Ann Gray, provincial leader, Daughters of Wisdom, Provincial Office, Islip:
The inspiration for the order, which has 84 sisters in the United States, is its founders, St. Louis-Marie de Montfort (1673-1716) and Blessed Marie Louise Trichet (1684-1759), and goes back to France in the 1700s.
St. Louis is noted for his treatise "The True Devotion to Mary."
The order, which came to the United States in 1904, is oriented toward helping the poor and marginalized. When the sisters came to Long Island, they opened the Hospital of St. Charles in Port Jefferson, which was a hospital specializing in treating children stricken with polio in advance of the vaccine. They also founded schools and clinics in Brooklyn and Queens and . . . centers for children with special needs.
The order is still known today for its work with the poor and for its social outreach through various parishes. They offer those marginalized assistance with their physical needs, food and even help with job searches, anything that helps them make a better life. Members of the order work from Maine to Florida, including offering medical assistance to migrant workers in Florida.
We're also very interested in forming an intercultural initiative. We have invited sisters from South American to join us in community to be present to the Hispanic population that is growing on Long Island. This is a new endeavor for us.
They already are hosting sisters from Peru and Colombia.