The Archdiocese of Washington honored 16 religious women and men who are celebrating jubilee anniversaries with a Mass at the St. Ursula Chapel in the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center on Feb. 5. The principal celebrant was Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

At the beginning of his homily, Cardinal Wuerl noted how appropriate it was that the Gospel for the day was about being the salt and the light of the world, as that focuses clearly on the mission of those in consecrated life.

“Every religious at some point in her life or his life heard that call to be the light of the world,” the cardinal said. “…To make visible in yourself and your communities the light of Christ.”

In order to follow that call, the religious had to put aside everything and simply follow Jesus, said Cardinal Wuerl, and “to identify so completely with Christ, the light, that you become a reflection of that light in our world.”

“On our own, we can bring very little light into the world,” but through walking the journey with Jesus, “we can reflect his light into the world,” the cardinal continued.

With 68 communities of religious women and 43 communities of religious men in the archdiocese, Cardinal Wuerl pointed out how many different ways the consecrated religious have shone Christ’s light into the world. They serve in ministries such as education, social services, care for the elderly, service to those with special needs, and many others.

“How richly blessed the Church universal is in the witness that is religious life,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “…Our celebration today of your anniversary is not just nostalgia…we don’t just look back. What we are celebrating today is the giftedness of God’s Church.”

At the conclusion of the homily, each jubilarian was invited to stand up and receive a special blessing. At a reception following the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl gave each of them a copy of the book he wrote, titled The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition, since he said the Mass is “the one thing that is the center of life for all of us.”

Sister Mary Hayes, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who was celebrating 60 years as a religious sister, said the time had gone by quickly, and “I still have fond memories of when I entered and made vows.”

Throughout her 60 years as a sister, she has been a teacher at different levels, from elementary school to college. She served as a full time faculty member at Trinity Washington University from 1967-2014, teaching U.S. history and culture.

“All my life I have been blessed by my community, my family, and by my students,” she said.

Sister Roberta Mary Harding, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who is celebrating her 50-year jubilee, said the celebration “made the reality of the year come alive today.”

Sister Harding, who currently serves at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, does sacramental preparation for people of all ages, helping children get ready for First Communion and Confirmation, as well as preparing adults to enter the Church through RCIA. She said the greatest joy of her work is “finding God in other people.”

“It is inspiriting to see these religious faithfully living their vows,” said Sister Maria Juan Anderson, a Religious Sister of Mercy who made her first vows this past August. “It is really beautiful to see these faithful examples, as a young religious, to see all they’ve done for the Church and for the world.”