RELIGIOUS PEOPLE CELEBRATE ‘WORLD DAY OF CONSECRATED LIFE’ IN WAR-TORN SOUTH SUDAN
01 February 2017 – The Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan (RSASS) will hold a special celebration to mark the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Day of Consecrated Life this Thursday, 2 February.
Brother Daniel Loding Onek, the General Superior of the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Martin de Porres and the Vice-Chairperson of RSASS, has extended an invitation to all “Religious people in the Archdiocese of Juba to gather at Good Shepherd Peace Centre, in Kit, on 2 February 2017, at 11:00 am, to celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Day of Consecrated Life”.
Pilgrimage of Religious Life, February 2016 – Photo: JPIC Juba
This day of prayer for women and men in Consecrated Life was instituted by Saint John Paul II in 1997 and observed for the first time on 2 February that year. In the words of St. John Paul II it “is intended to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels and, at the same time, is intended to be a suitable occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervour which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord”.
“The Eucharistic celebration will be presided over by Fr Gabriel Asida Andrew, who has just taken oath of office as the Episcopal Vicar to the newly created Pastoral Region of Terekeka”, informed Br. Loding.
Consecrated Life or Religious Life, as defined by the Catholic Church, is a form of Christian living by those faithful who feel called to follow Jesus Christ in a more radical way. It is a Christian vocation characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Consecrated men and women live in communities and are engaged in various pastoral works in the Church.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is celebrated in the Catholic Church every year on 2 February, forty days after the birth of Jesus. It is also known as Candlemas day, the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. The people in Consecrated Life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples.
In South Sudan there are forty-seven Institutes of Consecrated Life, also known as Religious Congregations or Missionary Institutes. Over four hundreds consecrated men and women belong to these Religious Congregations and have been serving in all seven Catholic dioceses of South Sudan.
Religious people work in full communion and collaboration with the local church. Each of these institutes of Consecrated Life is autonomous and independent and works according to the inspirational charisma of their founders or foundress.
Consecrated Life in South Sudan is organised as the Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan (RSASS). These consecrated men and women are engaged in church apostolic and human promotion works such as the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, catechesis, prayers, sacraments, justice and peace, trauma healing, mass media, church schools, vocational training centres, teachers and nurses training, dispensaries and hospitals.
Also, a team of consecrated persons runs the Good Shepherd Peace Centre in Kit.
They have been a prophetic presence of solidarity and hope among the suffering people of this young nation, and a living witness to the Gospel of life, despite many challenges and danger, and often exposed to rash environments.
The on-going three-year old conflict in South Sudan has also affected the work and the life of many Consecrated people in South Sudan. Conflicts have made some of them to become internally displaced persons, just like hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese. Some others have been people on the move as they work with refugees in the camps, both in the country and abroad.
On 16 May 2016, Sr. Veronika Rackova, a medical doctor at St Bakhita Health Centre in Yei, died of her wounds after being shot at by night patrol soldiers near a roadblock at around 1.00 am. She was driving the St Bakhita ambulance on her way back from Harvester’s Health Centre, after delivering a pregnant woman. Sr. Veronika died on 20 May at the Nairobi Hospital in Kenya. She was a Slovakian missionary and religious sister of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (SSpS). Three SPLA soldiers were arrested for the shooting.
In the year before, on 28 December 2015, five armed men climbed the fence around the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio and confronted the community of Sisters in their residence. They demanded guns, money, phones and computers. The Sisters were assaulted by these young men in uniform, believed to be men recruited by the rebels.
Many other Religious people in South Sudan have been the victims of theft, looting, road ambush and robbery, harassment and intimidation by soldiers and other armed individuals since the beginning of conflicts in 2013.
Sr. Veronika Rackova at St Bakhita Health Centre, Yei
Pope Francis, who is a Religious himself, on Wednesday during his General Audience, has asked people “to pray for all those in Religious and Consecrated Life, who have been called to profess the evangelical counsels”. He spoke in anticipation of tomorrow’s celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life.
“I ask you to pray for the priests, sisters, and brothers belonging to contemplative and apostolic Religious Institutes,” Pope Francis said. “Their life dedicated to the Lord, and their charismatic service, will bear abundant fruit for the good of the faithful, and for the evangelizing mission of the Church”, reported the Vatican Radio.
The Holy Father is scheduled to celebrate Mass for the World Day of Consecrated Life this Thursday afternoon in St. Peter Basilica.
Besides Juba, Consecrated People across South Sudan will join their parishes to celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day of Consecrated Life.