World Day for Consecrated Life: Bishop in South Sudan Calls for “pilgrims of hope, peace”

Women and men Religious serving in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan, at Holy Family Cathedral after Holy Mass for the World Day for Consecrated on 2 February 2024. Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

Bishop Christian Carlassare of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek has underscored the need for “pilgrims of hope and peace” in the East-Central African nation, which is reeling from years of violent conflicts.

In his February 2 homily at Holy Mass for women and men Religious serving in his Episcopal See, Bishop Carlassare reflected on the theme of the World Day for Consecrated Life 2024, saying he finds it relevant for the situation in South Sudan.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

Pope Saint John Paul II instituted the World Day for Consecrated Life in 1997 as an annual observance to be marked on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. For 2024, the event that brings together members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (ICLSAL) was organized under the theme, "Pilgrims of Hope on the Path of Peace".

In his homily, Bishop Carlassare said that in the theme brought him memories of the weeklong peace pilgrimage, which youths in Rumbek Diocese realized last month under theme, “Be Seeds of Hope”. Undertaken to sensitize communities along the 125km road from Rumbek to Tonj on the need for peace in the country, the pilgrimage that concluded on January 14 was guided by the message, which Pope Francis delivered during his peace pilgrimage to South Sudan in February 2023.


Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

During the weeklong pilgrimage, the Catholic Bishop recalled, “we were pilgrims of hope, pilgrims of peace. This is the great desire of this nation; and it is also what we are called to be as Religious men and women; pilgrims of hope.”

Reflecting on the Gospel Reading of the day, the Italian-born member of Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), who has been at the helm of Rumbek Diocese since his Episcopal Consecration on 25 March 2022 said he found inspiration in what Simeon said he was able to see, that is, salvation.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

“What do our eyes see?” he posed during the Eucharistic celebration at Holy Family Cathedral of Rumbek Diocese.

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Bishop Carlassare continued, “I get scared when we are only able to see problems, difficulties, darkness … when we are stuck to see all these, or too much of that, it’s because we tend to look back … to what cannot be in the future… we forget to look ahead with hope.”

“Simeon sees salvation; it is what we have to educate ourselves to see in our days, in our lives, salvation,” he further said, and cautioning against pessimism, added, “A Christian is an optimist. Always. Because we know that even thought there are some any problems and difficulties and so many stumbling blocks, at the end of the day we are going towards salvation.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

Making reference to the homily of Pope Francis during the World Day for Consecrated Life 2022, Bishop Carlassare underscored the need for “a sapiential gaze”.

In his homily during the Eucharistic celebration with ICLSAL members at St. Peter’s Basilica in 2022, Pope Francis cautioned against naivety, saying, “A naïve gaze flees reality and refuses to see problems. A sapiential gaze, however, can ‘look within’ and ‘see beyond.’”


Bishop Carlassare implored women and men Religious in Rumbek Diocese to foster “sapiential gaze”, saying, “Let us ask this day to the Holy Spirit, that he may open our eyes to see salvation, that he may transform our gazes, our Sunglasses that make us see darkness to be replaced with good Eyeglasses that can see with compassion the reality we have in front of us.”

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

He added, “Pope Francis speaks about a sapiential gaze that is able to look within ourselves, and is able to see beyond appearances, that are able to see our weaknesses, our failures, also the presence of God.”

The Catholic Church leader, who started his Priestly ministry in South Sudan in the Catholic Diocese of Malakal in 2005 advocated for “creative fidelity”, which he said goes beyond “faithfulness to the founder” of a particular Religious Order.

“Faithfulness to the founder” has the risk of fostering “rigidity” among women and men Religious “because we look back without looking ahead,” he warned.

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Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

Instead, “creative fidelity, which is coming from the Vatican Council, means, yes, we are rooted in our Charism and the Charism of the funders,” the MCCJ member said, adding that such fidelity promotes courage in embracing the mission, allowing men and women Religious to be inserted in local churches.

“I think it is this that the local church wants to see from the religious, not people that come from outside, bringing their own experiences and ideas, and repeating what they are used to do because the founders said this and that,” he emphasized.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

Bishop Carlassare went on to caution women and men Religious against the negative effects of routine practices that characterize life in Religious communities, with set periods for prayer, meals, and apostolates.

“We have really to come out of this habit of acting out of repetition. Simeon, yes, he was expecting for the coming of the Lord. But in a way he was called by the Holy Spirit, prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something that maybe he never used to do – to go to the temple at the same very hour. And so, it is also for us; let us ask that the prompting of the Holy Spirit make us also to do new things, to open new ways, to risk in our vocation,” he said.

Credit: Fr. Luka Dor/Diocese of Rumbek

The Catholic Church leader also expressed his disapproval of the view that Consecrated Life is “something of an elite, a small group.”

Consecrated Life, he said, is “a model for the life of all Christians, the secular Priests, and also our families and our communities.”

He welcomed women and men Religious commissioned to his Episcopal See in the last one year. “Welcome to each one of you,” he said after mentioned them by name and Religious Order.

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