On July 8, members of religious communities within the Diocese of Syracuse and laity gathered at Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse for an evening of fellowship, fun and friendship. Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, OSF, one of the organizers for the event, explained the purpose of the event was to help “religious get to know one another in celebration of the ‘Year of Consecrated Life.’”

Pope Francis began the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life on Nov. 30, 2014 to recognize the contributions religious make in the lives of others. The celebration will come to an end on Feb. 2, 2016.

The July 8 event began with Mass celebrated by Father John Rose, director of Christ the King Retreat House and Conference Center. “It is a great idea to gather all religious for an event like this,” stated Father Rose in his welcoming comments to over 60 attendees. “I suspect we don’t all know one another but this is an exciting time to meet, to be together, share the Eucharist and share our stories.”

Sister Caryn Crook, OSF, vocation minister for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, gave a reflection during the Mass and stressed the importance of the Year of Consecrated Life.

“Pope Francis calls us to a deeper discipleship with God, one another and all creation, because everything in this world is connected,” stated Sister Caryn. She went on to emphasize the importance of service and working to end the plight of the underserved in the diocese, especially the migrant workers: “They [migrant workers] live in substandard housing and live in fear of deportation because they do work we couldn’t or wouldn’t do. It is easy to be indifferent but we need to address the plight of the immigrant.”

Looking out over the large crowd, Sister Caryn ended her reflection with her appreciation and thanks to Pope Francis and urged those in attendance to share the wonder of God’s creation with others. “May this year kindle our hearts, our congregation and wake up the world so we can embrace our future full of hope,” said Sister Caryn.

Following Mass, religious and laity gathered outside on the retreat grounds to socialize before dinner. Charlotte Ashe, a pre-associate for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and Margie Bowhall, an associate for the past 15 years, were both pleased with the event and the venue. An associate is a man or woman who shares in the mission of the Sisters of St. Francis while still maintaining his/her own individual lifestyle. Candidates wishing to become associates go through a year-long formation process as a pre-associate, attending monthly classes, learning the history and mission of the order, deepening their spirituality and learning to understand and appreciate the values of the order. A new associate commits to the order for three years at a time.

“This event is a great way to get to reach out and get to know others,” stated Bowhall.

Brother Ed Falsey, OFM Conv., smiled as he greeted various members of the religious communities during the event. “I think this is a terrific way to connect with one another,” stated Brother Falsey. “This type of event helps build relationships. For the most part, we [religious] don’t see each other much, so an event like this is a wonderful thing.”

Following the social hour, attendees enjoyed a picnic dinner and, later, the opportunity to play board games or simply renew old friendships or make new ones.

“This is the second get together [this year] we have had as a religious community,” explained Sister Caryn. “It’s important [as a religious community] to share our stories, discuss our work and to rekindle relationships. I hope there will be more opportunities in the future for events like this.”

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