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Consecrated couples – a model for 21st century discipleship

Posted By March 27, 2015 | 6:16 pm | Featured Article #1
The local Voluntas team includes, seated from rear: Ernie and Pam Chaplin, Father William Konicki, Father Peter Francis, Father Robert Langone; standing, left to right, Ed and Olga Pirela and Patricia and Mike Ruane.
The local Voluntas team includes, seated from rear: Ernie and Pam Chaplin, Father William Konicki, Father Peter Francis, Father Robert Langone; standing, left to right, Ed and Olga Pirela and Patricia and Mike Ruane.

By Patricia and Michael Ruane

With Pope Francis’ declaration of 2015 as “The Year of Consecrated Life,” many Catholics might assume this targets priestly vocations, and dismiss it as irrelevant. In fact, he is also addressing thousands of laypeople living consecrated lives through Third Orders or Secular Institutes. Consider his words:
“The question … is whether the Gospel is truly the ‘manual’ for our daily living…. The Gospel … demands to be lived radically and sincerely.” (Pope Francis)
If you are a married couple, intrigued by this challenge, a secular institute may be for you. This article highlights a secular institute active in the Worcester Diocese. “Voluntas Dei” (Will of God) welcomes couples, priests, aspiring priests, and singles – after some discernment and formation. As members of Massachusetts’ Bay State Voluntas Team, we want to inform other couples about this pathway to transform your  faith journey from good to great.
First, some background. Secular institutes were established by Pope Pius XII in 1947. A new form of official consecration, such institutes profess a rule of life that witnesses Christ’s presence in the world. “Voluntas Dei,” founded in 1958 by Canadian Oblate Louis-Marie Parent, gained pontifical rites in 1987. There are approximately 1,000 members worldwide, and about 200 members in the United States. Voluntas offers a way to guide and support members’ aspiration to emulate the bold “Yes” of the Virgin of the Annunciation – to be instruments of Christ living the Father’s will within the reality of the present moment, in the midst of the world.     Voluntas members follow a spirituality defined by “The Three Fives” – five exercises developing a deeper intimacy with Christ; five year-of-cons-life-final-web-1attitudes cultivating quality relationships with God and others; and five daily acts of charity, causing members to interact with others in a life-affirming manner, according to Christ’s example.
What’s the draw for couples? Like many of you, the sacrament of marriage sealed our commitment to include God in our family. But life’s distractions made that challenging. We balanced faith and parish life with professional, family, and social demands. Often, we managed these commitments quite separately. Now, following the rule of Voluntas, we recognize God’s presence as the centerpiece of all activities. An extended Christian family of priests and other couples nourishes us, walks the Gospel with us, and models Christ-like behavior. In a world of shallow interactions, Voluntas offers rich, deep encounters – both with Jesus and similarly consecrated Christians. It has moved us past the status quo of our obligatory, comfortable routines, into a joyful experience of Christian community. We are “men and women of communion.”
“Have the courage to be present in the midst of conflict and tension, as a credible sign of the presence of the Spirit…. Live the mysticism of encounter, which entails the ability to hear, to listen… to seek together…. find ways to create ‘alternate spaces’ where the Gospel approach of self-giving, fraternity, embracing differences, and love of one another can thrive.” (Pope Francis)
Institute life revolves around local teams, which meet monthly in members’ homes. Following a potluck meal, members share faith challenges and progress, then reflect on theme-based readings and questions developed by Voluntas members from across the country. The feel of such meetings is one of joyful fellowship and spiritual growth, reminiscent of early church gatherings.
Our Voluntas team (currently three couples and three priests) meets in Hopedale. Inspired by Francis, we invite other couples to consider this pathway.

–To learn more, check out this link: http://voluntasdeiusa.org/info-on-secular-institutes. Better yet, join members of our team for an information session on Sunday, April 12, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church, 187 Hopedale St. in Hopedale. Please RSVP to Pam Chaplin at 508-473-1900, or email at pchaplin@shchopedale.org