Bishops Celebrate 50 years of the Canadian Religious Conference

Sunday, May 30 2004

(CCCB – Ottawa)… The Executive Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has published a pastoral letter on the consecrated life on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC). Founded in 1954, the CRC is an association of the leaders of men and women religious in Canada.

Dated Pentecost 2004, the document was made public just before the CRC general assembly meets 3 to 7 June 2004, in Cornwall, Ontario, bringing together some 350 major superiors representing over 25,000 members.

Pointing out that the history of the religious institutes and societies of apostolic life goes back to the beginnings of the country, the four bishops on the CCCB Executive begin their message by honouring all men and women in consecrated life. “Together with all the Bishops of Canada, we thank the heavenly Father for the innumerable graces and blessings with which God has enriched the Church and society through the generous witness and service of those in apostolic and religious life,” they state.

In their pastoral letter, the bishops recall the invaluable heritage that has been passed on by men and women in consecrated life, as well as their vital contributions to society today. Stressing that the most important gift that those in consecrated life give to the Church is their evangelical witness of Jesus Christ, the Executive Committee also indicates other contributions by religious institutes and apostolic societies that are generally well known, including their work in schools and hospitals, their involvement in the Third World, their help in making all Canadians more aware of the importance of international solidarity, and their continuous efforts to improve the lives of the poor, including their work in soup kitchens and slums.

The CCCB Executive as well notes other aspects of the witness by those in consecrated life which are perhaps less well known, including their work as confessors and spiritual directors, providing facilities for prayer and meditation, animating spirituality centres, assisting families and community organizations, and contributing to the pastoral life of dioceses and parishes.

New Challenges

Aware of the drastic and difficult changes that Canadian religious and apostolic institutions are facing – by 2015, it is estimated that only 10 percent of the members of those institutions that belong to the CRC will be younger than 65 years – the bishops state that these difficulties “demand the same soul-piercing courage, determination and hope that have always been necessary to live the Christian life.”

The bishops invite institutions of religious and apostolic life to turn resolutely toward the future, strengthened by their 400 years of testimony to the Church in Canada. Taking into account their respective charisms and particular ministries, those in consecrated life are urged to consider new pressing challenges.

Some of these new challenges facing the Church, states the CCCB Executive, include the promotion of vocations, pastoral and spiritual formation, encouraging families in passing on the faith, assisting individuals involved in education and health care, furthering awareness of the environment and ecology, and testifying to the hope and joy that faith can bring to aging.

“We pray that the Lord Jesus continue to call men and women to be his evangelical witnesses. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, may your charisms encourage all the sons and daughters of the Church to prophesy, so that our youth may see the vision of eternal life, and our elderly dream the dreams of the Reign of God,” the pastoral letter concludes. The members of the CCCB Executive are Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien, Archbishop André Gaumond, Archbishop V. James Weisgerber and Bishop Pierre Morissette.

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