The work of religious reveals a ‘concert of charisms’


On the first Saturday of Advent, the male and female religious who serve in the Diocese of Camden met at two separate gatherings. Bishop Dennis Sullivan wants the various religious orders to have fellowship with one another throughout the year, so they can get to know each other, pray with one another and share fellowship, to support and strengthen their vocations and their various ministries.

The men’s communities met at Saint Augustine Prep, Richland, and began in the school’s beautiful chapel for morning prayer, Exposition of the Eucharist and Benediction. Brother Tom Osorio, O.H. exhorted the crowd of 15 to be men generous in hospitality, the gift of welcoming one another into relationship following the model Christ gave. He spoke of this virtue as the antidote to walls and barriers present in our church and world. His theme of hospitality paralleled nicely with Pope Francis’ constant mantra of Encounter, to welcome the other as persons with inherent God-given dignity. Hospitality allows us to be the best person we can be, to reveal the Christ present in self and others. This embrace of the other allows us to be other Christs in the world. 

After Brother Tom’s talk, we took turns formally introducing ourselves, stating where and how we serve in the diocese, and explaining our religious order’s charism, which is the special gift that we offer to the church and God’s people as vowed religious. It was an inspiring. enriching exercise. 

Meanwhile, about 60 women religious convened at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in Sicklerville where Father Terry Odien offered two presentations on the theme “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Father Odien asked the sisters what needs to be ransomed in their lives and what holds them captive. The day included prayer, Adoration, Benediction and reconciliation.  

Working in the diocese are about 45 male religious brothers and priests representing 12 religious orders and 214 religious sisters from 24 different communities, each with its own charism shared in various ministries, including but not limited to education, parish ministry, health care, serving children with special needs, prison ministry, social outreach, formation of other religious, hospital and convent chaplaincy, working in diocesan offices, Hispanic ministry, spiritual direction and retreat work. What is evident in these ministries of the religious is a “concert of charisms” — the apt term is from a 1997 book by Paul Nennessy — that exists in the diocese serving the people of God. They give thanks to God who conducts this concert and the people of God in the diocese who welcome them.

The women and men religious of the diocese will come together on Saturday, Feb. 1, to celebrate World Day of Consecrated Life at Holy Family Parish in Sewell. The plan is to provide a regular column titled “The Religious Corner” which will feature a different religious brother, sister or priest working in the diocese.

Father John J. Fisher, OSFS, is rector of the Parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Camden.