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Bishop W. Shawn McKnight joined Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in raising a glass.
The congregation, whose members have been providing continual service in what is now the Jefferson City diocese since 1890, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
“A toast to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, celebrating the sesquicentennial of their congregation!” said Bishop McKnight. “May God continue to bless you through the next 150 years. Cheers to you all! Ad multos anos. Amen!”
It was Feb. 2, the World Day for Consecrated Life.
Twenty-three religious sisters, one religious priest and one religious brother joined the bishop for Mass, a “happy half-hour” of fellowship, a catered meal and an abundance of stories and laughter.
“Heavenly Father, we ask You to bless us as we contemplate the gift of a vocation and the gift of consecrated life,” the bishop prayed. “Bless these men and women who have given their lives to Christ in service of the Church.”
At Mass, Bishop McKnight invited all who were present to contemplate their calling as children of God, Who is Love Itself, to be faithful to His truth.
“Even before our parents came together, God knew us. We were always in His plan,” the bishop insisted. “And everyone has a unique mission to fulfill, and nobody else can take your place. It’s just you!”
He likened them to the Prophet Isaiah — who proclaimed that “the spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” (Isaiah 61:1-2) — and to Jesus, Who made that same proclamation in His hometown, adding, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
“God continues to fulfill His promises in and through us,” Bishop McKnight noted. “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in YOUR hearing.”
He likened the theological virtues of faith, hope and love to the vows and promises consecrated sisters, brothers and priests profess — poverty, chastity and obedience.
“Love is the best and the most difficult,” he said. “None of us are perfect, but Jesus prayed at the Last Supper that the Father would consecrate us in His truth.
“That’s a lifelong process,” he added. “We spend our whole lives learning simply to love.”
Together, they prayed:
They also contemplated their own call to religious life and how each could further advance the founding mission of their congregation at this time in history.
“Heavenly Father, continue to pour out on us your Holy Spirit to consecrate us in your truth, in Your love,” the bishop prayed.
Response to an epidemic
After Mass, Sister Kathleen Wegman of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, chancellor of the diocese and liaison for religious, acknowledged the upcoming 150th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI).
The CCVIs are an apostolic and missionary congregation founded by Bishop Claude-Marie Dubuis of Texas in San Antonio in 1869, to help the victims of a devastating cholera epidemic.
A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit, presented to individuals or groups in the Church for the benefit of the whole.
The CCVI charism is “to make the love of Jesus Christ in His Incarnation visible to people in the here and now.”
Today, they have members serving in Texas, California, Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona and Louisiana and in Bolivia, El Salvador, Ireland, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Zambia.
The first CCVIs to serve in what is now the Jefferson City diocese arrived in 1890.
Since then, members of the congregation have served in 10 parishes in the diocese, mostly as educators and school administrators.
Two hundred twenty-seven CCVI’s have spent more than 730 years in combined service to Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City since the first five arrived in 1914.
In the past 20 years, CCVIs founded and continue to staff El Puente, a wide-ranging ministry to Hispanic immigrants and their families in the Jefferson City and California areas.
“Fidelity to their founding vision led them to establish this important ministry in our diocese, and we’re very grateful for that,” said Sr. Kathleen.