By Devin Watkins
“What would the Church be without religious sisters and consecrated laywomen? The Church cannot be understood without them.”
Pope Francis made that affirmation in his February prayer intention, released on Tuesday by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
The Pope encouraged all consecrated women to discern how best they can respond to the challenges facing humanity.
“I exhort them to keep working and to have an impact with the poor, with the marginalized, with all those who are enslaved by traffickers,” he said. “I especially ask them to make an impact on this.”
Pope Francis also prayed for the many women religious who “show the beauty of God’s love and compassion” through their ministry as catechists, theologians, and spiritual guides, even when they encounter obstacles.
“I invite them to fight when, in some cases, they are treated unfairly, even within the Church,” he urged, “when they serve so much that they are reduced to servitude —at times, by men of the Church.”
When faced with these difficulties, women religious should “not be discouraged,” said the Pope. “May you keep making God’s goodness known through the apostolic works you do. But above all through your witness of consecration.”
The Pope then urged all Catholics to pray for the women who have consecrated their lives to God, and to express their appreciation for their courage and mission.
“Thank you,” Pope Francis told the Church’s consecrated women,” for what you are, for what you do, and for how you do it.”
The Pope Video for this month was produced with the collaboration of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), according to a press release accompanying the prayer intention.
The organization brings together over 1,900 religious congregations, representing over 630,000 women religious throughout the world.
Sr. Jolanta Kafka, President of the UISG, said the Pope’s prayer intention for February encourages women religious to continue in their vocation of service to the Church.
“We share with [young people] the dynamism of the vocation to which we are called, to participate in the joy of the Gospel and in hope, in a world where we are all brothers and sisters,” she said.
Opportunity to know religious women better
Fr. Frederic Fornos, SJ, international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, praised the work of the Church’s consecrated women, adding that he received his religious formation alongside many women religious.
At the Pope’s request, he said, February “is a good occasion for all of us to get to know them better in their diversity and to discover their contribution to the mission of the Church and the challenges of our time.”