Sr. Charlene Herinckx reads Scripture during the Mass.
Sr. Charlene Herinckx reads Scripture during the Mass.
Dozens of members of religious communities convened Feb. 2 at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland to celebrate World Day of Consecrated Life.

The day also was the feast of the Presentation, which marks when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple at 40 days old. Msgr. Patrick Brennan, pastor at the cathedral, noted that the feast also is known as Candlemas, when candles are blessed. He called it a celebration of light, noting that the young Jesus was recognized as a new light for the world. Msgr. Brennan made a connection — those in consecrated life also bring light by vowing poverty, chastity and obedience.

Msgr. Brennan thanked religious for “living the values of the kingdom that are so needed today.” He cited a survey of U.S. high school students, who defined success by money, sex and power, the very opposite of the vows.

“Those who live in consecrated vows tell us there is another way to live in this world,” said Msgr. Brennan. “And it’s a way full of joy and light.”

Though a diocesan priest, not a member of a religious community, he recalled his own promises of simple living, celibacy and obedience. He made those promises 43 years ago and thought obedience would be the easiest; it turns out it’s the most difficult over time. But obedience, the monsignor added, also is a deep and rich endeavor that involves true listening and the setting aside of pride.

“We are afraid to hear sometimes,” Msgr. Brennan said. “But obedience sets you free.”

Similarly, he came to see celibacy or chastity as much more than being deprived of marriage. “It challenged me to love much more,” he said, explaining that he came to see the wider community as his family.

Poverty, Msgr. Patrick Brennan explained, means being a good steward of resources and refusing to seek privilege. It also leads to freedom. “We give over ownership so we in turn will not be owned,” he said. “To be poor in the world is to be rich in the kingdom.”

During the Mass, Sister Charlene Herinckx of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon and Mother Mary of the Angels Bunty of the Sisters of Reparation gave the readings. Many other religious filled the pews.

“We want to celebrate our consecrated life because it is a great gift we received from the Lord himself,” said Sister Teresa Harrell, a member of the Society of Mary and campus minister at Portland State University.

Sister Teresa said that she likes to participate in Archdiocese of Portland events and that it is an uncommon pleasure when religious from many different groups convene.

“It is encouraging to see all the other religious and it reminds me how much we need to pray to make sure this gift is sustained in the church,” she concluded.