(Présence-info) Seven hundred religious men and women participated in the celebration of consecrated life, an event organized by the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

Seven hundred religious men and women had indicated in the past few days that they would be participating in the celebration of consecrated life, an event organized by the Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

It's a good thing that the Basilica of Saint Joseph's Oratory was the location chosen for this celebration. At 10:30 on this Thursday morning, no less than 1,500 people, mostly religious men and women, hurried to gather there.

At the beginning of the Mass, the outgoing President of the CCCB and Archbishop of Gatineau, Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, wanted to pay homage to two religious people. First he mentioned Gilberte Bussière, a missionary from Asbestos that had been kidnapped in Cameroun in April 2014, and then liberated two months later. This sister, member of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, was in the choir, right next to the Archbishop. "We are so happy that you are here with us," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

Archbishop Durocher then named Benoît Lacroix, who celebrated his 100th birthday on September 8. The Dominican had intended on participating in the celebration, but "a minor health issue made it impossible for him to attend."

The Bishops from all over Canada are presently gathered in Cornwall, Ontario, for their annual assembly. Seventy-five bishops travelled by bus this morning in order to take part in this celebration in Montreal.

Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Most Reverend Luigi Bonazzi, was also present. The pope's representative thanked the religious men and women of Canada "for injecting into this home that is the Church the bread of love, mercy, and generosity."

Recalling Canada's "glorious tradition" concerning recruitment into religious life, the nuncio said that he hoped that this tradition would continue into the future, for-and then in the words of Thérèse de Lisieux he asked-"where would the world be without the religious?"

There are presently 15,000 religious men and women in Canada. 11,500 of them are from Quebec. The organizers estimate that 85 religious communities and institutes were represented this morning.

Joint Statement

At the end of this Mass, which lasted more than two hours, Rita Larivée, President of the Canadian Religious Conference, said, "Consecrated life is a gift that the Church receives insofar as the Church does not cease to call for attentiveness to the needs of those who are less privileged."

Sister Larivée, who is also the superior general of the Sisters of Saint Anne, compared the religious to alarm clocks. "At times, the ringing of our alarm clocks, which wrenches us out of our slumber, is unwelcome. This is precisely the gift that we bring to the Church: we are here to awaken the world."

The CCCB and the Canadian Religious Conference decided that the celebration was an opportune moment to release a letter that they produced together. The four-page document highlights the importance of consecrated life in the history of the Church in Canada and in today's society.

The document reads, "The witness of consecrated life is highly counter-cultural. Through their public vows, the consecrated challenge a culture of complacency in the Church and in society. They are prophets, credible witnesses, called by Pope Francis to awaken the world and to become signs of the Kingdom by seeing and acting in an entirely different way."

The joint statement recognizes that religious life in Canada is presently going through "a transition period."

"By reading the signs of the times, we know that although some forms of consecrated life cease to exist, others will develop." There is also particular mention of the creation of groups of associates, lay people that share the charism and mission of religious communities.

The joint statement made by the CRC and the CCCB concludes with: "Since the New France era, God has abundantly blessed the Church in Canada with the witness of consecrated men and women. Today more than ever, the Church is in need of the same joyous witness."

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