Vijayawada: 3,000 Catholics take part in ceremony ending the Year of Consecrated Life
by Benigna Menezes*

The closing ceremony for the local Catholic Church took place on January 24. Several bishops and religious leaders from 12 dioceses attended the event. All stressed the value of consecrated persons "belonging to God and simultaneously belonging to people." During the year, dozens of meetings and services were held in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Now men and women religious are called to serve God in the Year of Mercy.


Vijayawada (AsiaNews) – Thousands of people took part in the celebration marking the end of the Year of Consecrated Life in the twin states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana**. The event was held in an auditorium in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh).

The event should not be termed as the conclusion of the year of the Consecrated life but must become the climax and the beginning of an ongoing celebration to reflect, to rededicate and reinvigorate and live the profound dimension of the love- call given by God the Father himself to the humanity to belong exclusively to God through a special consecration and commitment”, said Msgr. Udumala Bala, bishop of Warangal and chairman of the Committee on the clergy and religious of the Telegu Catholic Bishops' Council (TCBC).

Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Consecrated Life on November 29, 2013. It formally opened on November 29, 2014 with a prayer vigil at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Celebrations will end tomorrow, January 30, 2016, with a vigil of thanksgiving in St. Peter's Basilica. Lastly, on February 2, World Day of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis will lead a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

Here are the comments of Sister Benigna Menezes, Missionary of the Immaculate, about the closing celebrations in Vijayawada.

A galaxy of ecclesiastical luminaries, an estimated number of two thousand religious and a thousand lay Catholics   descended at the Loyola campus to participate in the Regional celebration of the conclusion of the Year of the Consecrated Life on January 24, 2016 at Vijayawada, in Andhra Pradesh. Devaiah Memorial Auditorium of the Andhra Loyola College was filled up with nuns and priests all eager to commemorate the regional event for the twin Telugu states of Andhra and Telangana.

In response to the call given by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Year of the Consecrated Life was inaugurated on 30th November 2014 and was slated to conclude on 2nd February 2016.

The TCBC Commission for clergy and religious and the regional CRI units had already organized the joint inaugural celebration of the year of the consecrated life on March 1, 2015 at Hyderabad, the capital of the Telangana State and had given a call to the organizers to set the concluding ceremony in the Andhra Capital, Vijayawada.

Therefore, the one-day event witnessed by an estimated number of three thousand.

The bishops on the days lighted the Indian Lamp lead by Fr. Amal Raj, SJ, the President of the regional CRI and Fr. Ravi Shekhar, SJ the President of the AP CRI at the opening ceremony in the morning while the Kaladarshini institute of the Art and Culture of the Loyola College performed various dances to depict the significance of the Year of the consecrated life, offering the assembly a grand welcome to this mega event.

“Let us rejoice at the gift of Consecrated Life to the Church and join in making this occasion a memorable event” said Bishop Udumala Bala, chairman, TCBC commission for clergy and religious delivering the key note address at the inaugural function in the morning session of the day.

Bishop Udumala stressed on the special election of God’s people to his particular service. “Only those who are called by Christ can become religious”, he stated. “The event should not be termed as the conclusion of the year of the Consecrated life but must become the climax and the beginning of an ongoing celebration to reflect, to rededicate and reinvigorate and live the profound dimension of the love- call given by God the Father himself to the humanity to belong exclusively to God through a special consecration and commitment”, he stated.

Connecting the special year to the Vatican II the chairman said that “God through the Church is inviting the religious to open not only the windows but also the doors and portals of every community to the world so that the humanity can see how powerful is the love of God, lived in charity for the salvation and service of humanity”.

Comparing the year of the Consecrated Life to a book he mused that the entire year was scripted in history to become a loving memory for reflection, for contemplation, for renewal and thanked God for the outcome of the great holy time that the Lord bestowed on the Church giving more visibility to the religious. “The religious call is applicable in its various dimensions only to the New testament people who answered the call of Jesus ‘come and follow me’ and live the beatitudes to their fullest dimension”, he added.

The bishop enumerated the various modes of living the consecration down the ages:  the desert fathers, the coenobites, the monks and hermits, the preachers and the missionaries, the Jesuits, the Carmelites, the Franciscans, the Augustinians and the hundreds of other religious charisms that flourished in the church giving the perfume of holiness to their contemporaries.

“The secret of the religious communal living lies in the love among the three divine persons of the trinity and the religious are called to be shareholders of the agape love of God”, stated the speaker.

Archbishop Thumma Bala, President of Andhra Telangana Bishops’ Conference conveyed to the assembly the greetings of the entire Telugu Church of the twin states and congratulated the religious for the number of functions and celebrations that took place in various places in the 12 dioceses of ATBC during the year to instruct, reflect, to give thanks and energize the religious to serve the people with renewed vigour.

He thanked the ATCRI for organizing the joint event to “thank God for the marvellous ways in which God has lead the Church to sanctify the religious in order to serve the humanity”.  

He Invited the religious to read Stephen R. Covey’s book on Seven Habits of Effective People  where one can learn how Stephen Covey's deliberate integration of life and principles leads to squaring inner thought and outward behavior, resulting in personal as well as public integrity. “Praying religious become praying mothers to the humanity to care, love and soothe the broken hearts of the humanity”, he said.

Bishop M. D. Prakash of Nellore who even brought out a CD of hymns dedicated to the memory of the Year of the Consecrated Life greeted the religious and called them to be witnesses of the inner joy and serenity. “The religious are called to be experts of “communion” to bringing reconciliation in a world divided and hypocritical relationships through their genuine friendship with Christ, and be models of interpersonal relationships lived in harmony”, he stated.

The bishop along with the ATCRI President Fr. Amal Raj honoured Fr. Jojayya, a renowned Jesuit scripture scholar for his contribution to the Telugu spiritual literature and a lifetime dedication to the service of the Preaching. 

Speaking on the theme of Consecration and Mercy Fr. Raju, the superior General of the Congregation of the Compassion Missionaries quoted the Misericordia Vultus, the papal bull of induction of the Year of Mercy’  to stress  on  the need to practice mercy to earn God‘s approval on the judgment day. “Be merciful as the Father, is the wake-up call of the Mercy Year and the religious need  to carry out significant acts of mercy at the individual level and at the level of their own congregations to be signs of the divine mercy to a world which is blinded in selfish pursuits of  power”, father said.

Placing an amazing statistics of the numbers of the religious serving the vulnerable people in the world, the speaker asked the religious to be “specialists in mercy”.

“The whole humanity is waiting for the merciful”, stated Fr. Konda Joseph, MSFS who delivered the second thematic talk to the religious. Talking on the theme Consecrated life and its relevance to the Andhra-Telangana people, the preacher who works as a missionary in the zone detailed the need to be witnesses of joy and live the consecrated dimension of the vows to the full.

“Consecration is belonging to God and simultaneously belonging to people and then only we become effective”, he said with great conviction.

Bishop Goivndu Joji of Nalgonda and the Administrator of Vijayawada diocese conveyed his wishes to the gathering, congratulating the participants for the privileges and graces that God has bestowed on them during the year.

Greetings of the new bishop elect, Fr. Joseph Raja Rao who is in a retreat at Bangalore, was read out by Fr. Amal Raj in which the bishop-elect congratulated the religious and sought their prayerful support for his upcoming Episcopal Ordination slated to take place on February 2, 2016 at Vijayawada.

Archbishop of Vishakhapatnam, Mallavarapu Prakash, presided over the concluding Eucharistic Celebration and prayed for the religious with the other bishops of the region and nearly a hundred priests who had come from all over the twin Telugu states to attend the mega event.

A large size flexi on the background presented the Mercy Jesus along with the figure of the Pope and the theme of the Year of the Consecrated Life bringing home the topical message of the convention. Finally, the local schools presented dances at intervals to entertain the audience.  Food was served the participants at various counters and the event concluded with a note of benediction auguring a hallowed future to the Church in the region of Andhra and Telangana during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of mercy called by Pope Francis.

The President of the local CRI unit, Fr. Ravi Shekhar who hosted the celebration expressed his satisfaction at the end of the day and thanked all for their dynamic participation and service to the Church. 

Missionary of Charity, Congregation of women associated with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME)

** In 2014, the State of Andhra Pradesh was divided with one part becoming the State of Telangana.

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