By Dave Jolivet
VATICAN — In 2008 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI began work on a document that would ultimately come to fruition seven years later known as the “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church.”
This document inspired the formation of a committee of religious to plan a Religious Brothers Day, a celebration to include prayers services and tributes to jubilarian Brothers, and other activities. From that committee emerged the inaugural Religious Brothers Day to be marked on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
The document, published by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, had as one of its major purposes to educate non-religious faithful of the Church about the fullness and importance religious Brothers bring to the Universal Church through the communities in which they live, pray and minister.
The LaSalle.org website said, when the document was published on Oct. 4, 2015, that Msgr. José Rodrígues Carballo, OFM, secretary to Cardinal Joao Braz de Vaiz, prefect of the authoring group, told reporters, “There were two new elements. One is the identification of the Brother’s vocation as complete in itself and not a half-way stage as some see it.
“The second element consists in the observation that the distinctive feature of this vocation lies in brotherly life in community. He acknowledged that this is not anything new to the Brothers or to those who know them personally, but it is new to many in the clerical Church and it is something that needs to be proclaimed.”
Following the document’s release the Brothers Think Tank was formed. The Brothers Think Tank is a group of women and men religious who meet twice annually to address issues related to Brothers and to brainstorm ways of promoting the lay religious vocation for men. The Think Tank is comprised of members from the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Religious Brothers Conference, National Religious Vocations Conference, and Religious Formation Conference.
The Think Tank worked on initiating a Religious Brothers Day and recently announced the inaugural event.
The National Religious Vocation Conference website stated, “All religious Brothers will be recognized during this national virtual event with special content hosted on www.yearforconsecratedlife.com”
“A prayer card was commissioned specifically for this celebration and focuses on the vocation of Brothers — a gift given by God, received by the Brothers, and shared with others.”
La Salette Brother David Eubank, ministering at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, told The Anchor, “Being a Brother is a special vocation, a vocation that entails a lot of God’s Graces and perseverance. We are representatives of St. Joseph on earth and to have a National Day in honor of the Brothers, especially on the feast St. Joseph the Worker means a lot.
“I sit on the Board of the Religious Brothers Conference and it means a lot to represent our La Salette Brothers on a national level. Being a Brother is an honor and a privilege with God’s love and hope. That is what the Brothers bring. And this is what we do.”
The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, commented recently, “As the Church in the United States prepares to celebrate the first annual ‘Religious Brothers Day,’ His Holiness Pope Francis sends his cordial greetings to America’s communities of Brothers, together with his prayerful good wishes for the Spiritual fruitfulness of their varied apostolates.
“Conscious of the immense contribution made by generations of Brothers to the growth of the Church in the United States through their schools, hospitals and other forms of religious and social outreach, the Holy Father trusts that this day of recognition will confirm them in their distinctive witness of consecrated life and their generous service to God’s Kingdom.
“He likewise expresses his hope that their prophetic testimony to evangelical fraternity and ecclesial communion will act as a leaven for the renewal of the Church in America and the building up of an ever more just society, respectful of the dignity and aspirations of all God’s children. Commending America’s religious Brothers to the paternal intercession of St. Joseph the Worker, His Holiness affectionately imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.”
The full text of the “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church,” can be found at files.ctctcdn.com.