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placeholder November 6, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA

Rev. Aidan McAleenan, pastor at Oakland's St. Columba Parish (right) welcomed and led the parish in a joy-filled celebration of women religious in the Oakland diocese during an Oct. 8 liturgy. Women religious from about 20 congregations attended the Mass.

Parish celebrates women religious
and the gift of charisms

During a vibrant celebration of women religious who are serving in the Diocese of Oakland, members of Oakland's St. Columba Parish also received a valuable reminder of the gifts they themselves bring to the life of the Church.

"We all have a vocation, a call to follow Jesus to live the gospel values, and we all have the gifts to make it happen," Sister Mary Finlayson, RSCJ, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, said to the parish community during the Oct. 8 liturgy.

In order to best respond to this call, women and men need to discern "how the spirit is speaking to us, calling us, encouraging us, helping us," Sister Finlayson said. Living one's vocation can happen every day and in many ways. The Sacred Heart Sister noted, for example, that "we are all here today, we are praying and singing and dancing our love and gratitude to and praising God."

"We are called to engage and work in the vineyard, each one in his or her unique way," Sister Finlayson said. "Some are called to be committed couples, whose love makes the world a better place. Some are called to be parents, who welcome and nurture new life for the Christian family. Some are called to be single and available to welcome and share love and friendship with all. Some are called to share God's love in religious community or priesthood."

The gathering, which drew representatives of nearly 20 communities of women religious to St. Columba, was part of the parish's yearlong celebration of its 120th anniversary. Among the communities represented were Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, Quinhon Missionary Sisters of the Holy Cross, Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sisters of the Presentation.

"We come together to celebrate these great women in the Church and in the Church of the life of Oakland," said Rev. Aidan McAleenan, St. Columba pastor. "We give thanks to God for their gifts of ministry, their gifts of the gospel of love, their gifts for all of the challenges that God has given them and celebrating the gifts of who and whose they are."

Following Sister Finlayson's talk, Father McAleenan brought a microphone to the women religious seated near the front of the church and asked one Sister from each congregation to identify her religious community and then provide a "charism one-liner" to describe their charism in one sentence.

A Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia said: "peace, reconciliation and right relationship;" A Sister of Charity of Nazareth said: "humility, simplicity and charity;" a Franciscan Sister of Peace said "peacemaking;" while an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland said "to transform society through justice and contemplation."

"I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all of them, as the presence and ministry of the Religious Orders have been an essential part of the history of the Diocese of Oakland even centuries before it was erected," said Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, in a letter he sent to Father McAleenan. The bishop explained that he was not able to attend the Mass due to previously scheduled commitments.

"The contributions of those generous men and women have brought to us an essential part of who we are as a Church," the bishop wrote. "The poor have been fed, children have received Catholic education, the sick have been comforted, and much, much more has been done for the sake of the kingdom of God thanks to the presence of the Religious Orders."

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