Consecrated means set apart for God. Every human life is consecrated in the sense that life is a gift from God.
I began my religious life in the Sacred Hearts family (Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar: SS.CC.) in 2001 by professing my vows with the theme “Here I am Lord, You have called me by name.”
When I said, ‘Yes” after long years of discernment and formation, I agreed and understood what it meant to say, “Here I am Lord!” But I am learning more and God is unraveling the meaning, as I understood it then, as I live out my consecration every day.
After living my religious life for five years in two different international communities, consisting of members of six different nationalities, I realized that living in an international religious order (community) in itself is a witness to Christ to the world, which is often times divided on the basis of nationality, race, language and ethnicity. This experience had inspired me to choose “He (Christ) must increase and I must decrease” as my Presbyterial (priestly) Ordination theme.
In both themes, there is a surrendering attitude and a letting God take the lead. I try to live those attitudes in my day to day life and in my ministry.
My past eight years of ministerial (priestly) life as religious was an attempt to be prophetic, as Pope Francis urges us. He says, “Consecrated life is a prophetic way of life which responds to the cry of the poor”.
Being a member of the Sacred Hearts family, the expression of my prophetic call comes from the reparative charism of my congregation, which was part of the Sacred Hearts Congregation from its very beginning.
The birth of the congregation took place amid the French revolution and it was a humble beginning, with aim and purpose of repairing the suffering and persecution of the Church. Thus we are repairers of all the wounds caused by division, war, conflicts, corruption, violation of human rights, and evils of a consumerist society.
A reparative charism urges us to work with those who are broken, oppressed, or in any way sidelined by society. My experience of working with lepers at the DSDI (Damien Social Development Institute, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, eastern India) helped me understand what it meant to be repairers of human society.
Hansen’s Disease is seen as a curse, and patients with Hansen’s Disease are looked down on, and marginalized. In this context, following in the foot-steps of St. Damien of Molokai (1840-1889), caring for the Hansen Disease patients is being true to our call and vocation of reparation.
My experience of working among these oppressed and marginalized people was a help to them in regaining their human dignity in society. These experiences make me to agree with Pope Francis when he writes, “Consecrated life is prophetic life which responds to the cry of the poor.”
As every religious congregation, our religious family too has a glorious history. The lives of our founders Fr. Pierre Coudrin, ss.cc. and Mother Heneriette Aymer, ss.cc., along with those of St. Damien, Blessed Eustaquio, the Martyrs of the French commune, the Martyrs of Spain, and other holy children of the Sacred Hearts inspire us to keep our zeal for God’s mission to accomplish for Him, and to look into the future, where the Spirit is sending us, in order to do even greater things (Vita Consecrata, No 10).Fr. Antony Ajith Kumar,
After some years of ministry in India, God in His own mysterious way brought me to the islands of St. Damien of Molokai, Hawaii, USA, to continue the mission with zeal of the Sacred Hearts to the people here. As Vita Consecrata says, “Where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things.” Trusting in these words, now I am at St. Ann’s Parish Church, in Hawaii to bring Christ’s compassion and love in my own simple way.
In all my ministries I have diligently followed the advice of one of my formators, (advice given to me when I started in ministry) “whatever ministry you are given, love the people given under your care.” After these many years of ministry, I can say with a sense of fulfillment that I was able to love my flock—it was not always easy, but not impossible. This same idea was expressed by Pope Francis when he said that “shepherds should smell like their flock.”
We have to be careful of experiences that discourage us, and diminish our passion for Christ and the passion for humanity. At this stage of life I could say that I am a happy religious with fervor to live my commitment to its core.
The perennial challenge that stands before me is, “How could I follow Christ radically in this consumerist and individualistic society, to witness Christ through my religious life to the next (younger) generation?”
(Fr. Antony Ajith Kumar, ss.cc., an Indian, is Associate Pastor, at St. Ann’s Parish Church, at Hawaii, USA)