Religious orders transform neighborhoods — and lives

Life will be victorious

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

This past Saturday evening, I had the privilege of offering Mass in the Bishop Miege High School chapel for Miege Foundation members and benefactors.

In the dinner following the Mass, the Ursuline Sisters were honored for their 60 years of service to the Bishop Miege community.

Last June, Sister Martina Rockers died. She served Bishop Miege High School during its entire 60-year history.

Sister Martina has been described as the heart and soul of Bishop Miege. The school’s courtyard is named in her honor. Through most of her teaching career, Sister Martina taught science. There is a Kansas City metro area science award named after her.

Ten years ago in 2008, Sister Martina was honored by the National Catholic Educational Association for her distinguished career in Catholic education.

Sister Martina exemplified the remarkable service so many Ursuline Sisters provided to Bishop Miege High School.

The Miege community prides itself in continuing the Ursuline charism by forming young people in the Catholic faith, challenging them to develop fully their God-given gifts and talents, and mentoring them to become men and women of service to others.

Earlier on Saturday morning, I had the privilege to dedicate and bless the newly erected Light of Mary, Mother of God Monastery for the Little Brothers of the Lamb.

The new monastery is on the site of the former St. Benedict School in Kansas City, Kansas. It complements the Little Sisters’ Lumen Christi Monastery on the property that was the location for St. Benedict Church and rectory.

These twin monasteries have been instrumental in renewing and strengthening the neighborhood. A neighbor recently confided that when the Little Sisters arrived 10 years ago, she was the only home- owner on her block.

Today, the neighborhood has changed, in part because of the presence of the Little Sisters and Little Brothers of the Lamb. More people own their own homes, and residents appear to take better care of their houses and property.

In addition to the monastery, the Little Brothers erected a grotto with an icon of Mary, Mother of God, and the Nativity of Jesus.

The grotto is illuminated at night and has already become a place of prayer and devotion for the people of the neighborhood. Over 500 people attended the dedication of the monastery on Saturday and more than 300 came on Sunday afternoon to enjoy a creative musical dramatization of the Nativity narrative.

On Monday night each week, a group of about 30 young adults come for Mass, dinner and discussion with the Little Sisters and Brothers.

Many of the youth became connected to the Community of the Lamb by participating in its annual walking pilgrimage to the outdoor shrine dedicated to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne near Mound City, where the future saint lived with the Potawatomi Indians. Many of these young adults participated in the play.

Every Saturday, the Little Brothers host what they term an “open table,” where anyone can come to enjoy a meal, prayer and conversation. This weekly gathering has helped to create a little community among their neighbors — some of whom were previously living fairly isolated lives.

The Bishop Miege High School event and the dedication of the Light of Mary, Mother of God Little Monastery reminded me of the gift religious life is to the entire church.

When religious women and men live their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with fidelity and joy, they become leaven within the church, inspiring the rest of us to live our faith more sincerely and passionately.

Throughout the history of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, we have been blessed with some extraordinary religious Sisters and Brothers.

The Ursuline Sisters have a long and storied history in northeast Kansas. The Little Sisters and Brothers of the Lamb have only been in our archdiocese for 10 years.

However, both communities — with their unique charisms — are examples of the power of religious life to change and impact positively the lives of so many.

For the dedication of the Little Brothers monastery, individuals came from Alaska, Connecticut, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

If you have never visited the Little Sisters of the Lamb monastery, I encourage you to make a mini-pilgrimage to visit both the Little Sisters and Brothers. Come for Mass or some other liturgical celebration to experience the beauty of their communal prayer.

Come experience the Village of the Lamb that is helping to transform a neighborhood from the inside out.

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