The evening prayer included exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Assisting the bishop were Father Joe Reed of Sacred Heart and cathedral Deacons Jim Lawson and Bill Jacobs.
More than 35 women religious and religious-order priests attended the Vespers. The diocese has 11 religious orders for women and eight religious institutes and societies of men.
Women religious attending the Vespers represented the Missionary Congregation of the Evangelizing Sisters of Mary (ESM), the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich. (RSM), the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – South Central Community (RSM), the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George (FSGM), and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville. Priests at the Vespers represented the Apostles of Jesus and the Paulist Fathers.
In 1997 Pope John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated religious life. This celebration is attached to the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2.
Pope John Paul’s intention was three-fold. First, he wanted to celebrate and give thanks to God for the gift of consecrated life to the Church. Second, he desired to promote the knowledge of and esteem for consecrated life by the entire people of God. Third, he encouraged consecrated people to celebrate together, to rediscover the beauty of their way of life and “to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world,” which was his message for the first World Day for Consecrated Life in 1997.
Consecrated life encompasses all those men and women who practice the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. These counsels configure persons to Christ, who himself was poor, chaste and obedient. This life is a visible participation in the life of the Trinity. God the Father calls men and women to emulate the life of his Son, Jesus Christ, through the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of consecrated life is to direct the eyes of the faithful “towards the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven” (Vita Consecrata, 1).