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World Conference of Secular Institutes Annual Meeting focuses on Vocation of Lay Women and Men

The Congress of the World Conference of Secular Institutes concluded its annual meeting in Assisi today where a new executive council and president have been elected. The conference also gave participants an opportunity to reflect on the more than 60 years since its inception. 

Secular institutes became part of ecclesiastical legislation in 1947 when Pope Pius XII promulgated an apostolic constitution that gave them a juridical basis. The World Conference highlights the importance of lay people giving witness to the Gospel in the world. 

"We work as a link among institutes and a link among secular congregations," said Giorgio Mazzola, member of the Executive Council of the Institute, in an interview with Vatican Radio. 

"Every four years the the Conference renews its Executive Council and the President. And usually the assembly is preceded by a Congress. This year we chose to reflect on the very source of our vocation: going back to the very beginning ... the subject we chose hearing the word of God within history." 

Through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the participants, encouraging the particular vocation of consecrated lay men and women, which is rooted and centered in Christ, but lived within wider society.  

“For many, many centuries,” says Archbishop Gérald Lacroix of Quebec, “if you wanted to consecrate your life to God, you either became a priest, a nun, or a monk. But in the last centuries we’ve seen more and more people wanting to be lay men and women in the midst of the world in their working profession, but consecrated to God.” 
Archbishop Lacroix has been a member of the Secular Institute of St. Pius X since 1975. He says that, as far back as 1947, Pope Pius XII recognised the special vocation of lay people witnessing to Christ while living in the world.” “More than sixty years ago! It’s new, and yet, not that new.” Now he says, “there are over 200 institutes in the world right now, men and women, most are lay people, some are priests, who live out their vocation through their profession in the midst of daily life.”
Archbishop Lacroix speaks fondly of his own experience as a layman in a secular institute: “I was very happy to be a witness of Christ in the working world, and being a witness to my fellow co-workers . . . but I would say that the experience of being in the working world gives a whole new perspective . . . But it’s quite a challenge to be out there.”

Regarding the vocation of lay men and women, Mazzola said that "since the very beginning, the message has been that not only this particular apostolate happens in the world, it actually grows out of the world."

"We are not looking for great works, for hospitals or schools. We are not looking for visibility. We are like the salt that should be in the world. And we know the grace of the Lord will do something out of our lives if we remain faithful to this original intention which was full consecration, with full secularity: a full commitment in the world."

The town of Assisi, where the Conference was held, had a special significance. St. Francis, according to Mazzola, was "a man who lived in times of change, and in times in which the Church was suffering a lot."

"It is very interesting to remember that when St. Francis chose to create an order, he called them the Friars Minor. Minor which means small but necessary, because St. Francis worked a lot for the renewal of the Church."

The Secular Institute, he concluded, "is on the same path: small but necessary."




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