LEWISTON — Members of over 10 religious communities gathered at the LePage Conference Center at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center on Aug. 22 as Bishop Robert P. Deeley celebrated a Mass to honor their contributions to the good of the Church in the Diocese of Portland.

“ ‘You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.’ Jesus encourages his disciples to be what he calls them to be. We celebrate today in consecrated life, the fact that so many, including you, have chosen to strive with the commitment of their lives to follow him in living out those words,” said Bishop Deeley. “Jesus’ invitation to be salt and light is a call to be visible, to live out in a community the message that Jesus proclaims. It is the mission of the Church, but it is even more the mission of consecrated life within the Church.”

In the Diocese of Portland, forms of consecrated life include religious sisters and brothers, associations of the faithful, hermitesses and hermits, consecrated virgins and secular institutes.

“It’s meant a lot to me,” said Sister Rachel St. Cyr, RSR. “I was called by God when I was young, and I’ve never regretted it. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.”

“Consecrated life is a really special vocation that embraces our soul to live more fully the call to holiness,” said Janet LeBlanc, a consecrated virgin.

Pope Francis declared 2015 to be the Year of Consecrated Life, beginning the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, 2014, and concluding Feb. 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life. The Holy Father has three purposes for the year: to gratefully remember the past, to embrace the future with hope, and to encourage those living the consecrated life to live in the present with passion.

“We devote our lives to bringing about the Gospel, the Good News,” said Brother Irénée Richard, OP. “I’ve been at it for 51 years, and I don’t regret one minute of it. I really don’t.”

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center was a fitting venue for Saturday’s Mass as the hospital would likely not exist today if not for women religious. It was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Hyacinthe, also known as the Grey Nuns, in 1888.

“You, truly, in a time where heroes seem to be sports players or others, you are the heroes, and you were my heroes. You made such a difference in my life,” said Lee Myles, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health System. “Over the past 20 years, when I’ve been at St. Mary’s, what I really learned is that religious, first of all, do not want any recognition for all that you do. You are very humble, but you are a force stronger than any force around us.”

Following the Mass, a luncheon was held for the members of consecrated life in attendance. Saturday’s Mass was one of three special Masses that Bishop Deeley will celebrate during the Year of Consecrated Life. He honored women and men religious for their contributions in Waterville on July 22, and another Mass to recognize members of consecrated life is scheduled for St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Parishes around the diocese will also offer special events throughout the year. Each issue of Harvest, the official magazine of the diocese, will include one or more articles highlighting members of consecrated life, and a prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life will be recited daily on all affiliates of the Presence Radio Network, Maine’s only Catholic radio network.