Jesus described his Church as a great and flourishing tree planted from the tiniest seeds of his Gospel and spreading to the ends of the earth.
For the beginning, the branches of this great tree have included women who have chosen to consecrate their lives to following Jesus and imitating his manner of life, living as he chose to live — in poverty, chastity, and obedience, totally dedicated to the will of God.
The family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is blessed to have more than 1,150 women religious, representing more than 100 religious institutes. And they are essential co-workers in the Church’s mission of mercy and redemption here.
The first sisters began coming to Southern California in the 1850s, with the Daughters of Charity opening hospitals for the poor and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Dominican Sisters of Mission San José coming to open schools.
We have sisters who belong to religious families founded in the 16th century, like the Sisters of the Company of Mary, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Our sisters include venerable orders that we are all familiar with — like the Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Poor Clares, the Missionaries of Charity. But we also have many newer orders like the Kkottongnae Sisters of Jesus, the Lovers of the Holy Cross, and the Sisters of the Poor Jesus.
We are an immigrant Church and women religious have come from every corner of the world to serve the family of God here — from Africa, India, China, the Philippines, Ireland, and Italy, the countries of Eastern Europe, from Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and many of the nations of Latin America.
And God has placed in our midst several women religious who are on the path to sainthood. These include Blessed María Inés Teresa Arias, founder of the Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and Venerable Maria Luisa Josefa de la Peña, who founded the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.
Women religious form a vital heart of the Church’s mission in Los Angeles, from prayer and contemplation to direct service to the most wounded and vulnerable persons in our society.
You can find our sisters serving in some of the most violent and impoverished parts of our city, working with domestic abuse and human trafficking victims, nursing the sick and elderly, serving the homeless of Skid Row. Our sisters are a voice for the voiceless, and a witness to thoughtfulness and prayer in a world that has too little of either.
In our society, where more and more people seem to have forgotten that God exists, women religious bear witness to the power of Christ to change the direction of our lives.
It is a beautiful thing to see women giving their lives totally to belong to God, in all confidence and with no compromise, taking the gospel and the example of Jesus as the rule for their lives, seeking holiness and union with him, committed to following him wherever he leads.
We are building a culture of vocations here in Los Angeles, and all of us have a responsibility to hold up the beautiful vocation of religious life, for both women and men.
Earlier this year, there was a fascinating article in a secular publication. The author of the piece was genuinely puzzled about a trend that we are seeing in the Church — more and more young women feeling a calling to become religious sisters.
There is no secret to what is going on.
Many young women I meet are seeking wholeness and holiness and a relationship of love with the living God. They know there is much, much more to life than what our technological and consumer society have to offer.
They have a heart for the needs of others and a deep desire to live with a purpose that is greater than themselves. They understand what Jesus means when he says we must lose our lives and by this we will find our lives.
Jesus is still calling his daughters. He never stops. It is up to us to create the “space” — in our homes and parishes, in our schools and religious education programs — where our young women can hear his call.
Pray for me this week, and I will pray for you. And if you know any young woman who might feel called to religious life, please share our website with her: https://calledla.org/.
May our Blessed Mother Mary intercede for us and may she help many more women and men to hear the call of Christ and come and follow him in imitation and love.