The Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Boerne, Texas recently completed their new House of Prayer near the existing Omega Retreat Center on their grounds in Boerne. This spiritual haven is already being used for private and directed retreats.
For more information about retreats at the House of Prayer, please contact Sister Frances Briseño, O.S.B., Omega Outreach Director, at 830-816-8470. Sister Kathleen Higgins, O.S.B. is the community’s director of vocations, 830-816-8504.
When the “Blizzard of ’11” hit the Chicago area in early February, Father Chris Gustafson, pastor of Our Lady of Ransom in suburban Niles, was ready. He changed the message on the church's outdoor sign to read: “Whoever is praying for snow, please stop.”
Earlier this month, reports Katie Drews in the Chicago Sun-Times, the message was: “Under same management for 2,000 years.” He next plans to run: “Stop, drop, and roll doesn’t work in hell.”
|ANOTHER SIGN—this one more permanent—
at Our Lady of Ransom
“My experience in life is that little things like that can be enough,” Gustafson said. “If somebody’s having a hard time . . . it’s a little tool that can hopefully reach them.”
And apparently it does. According to Donald Seitz, who has authored three books on church signs in the U.S., “Usually in 10 words or less, they are communicating a very powerful message to someone who, at the most, has 10 seconds to read it and drive by,” he said. “But those messages seem to have an impact for a long duration. They encourage us to live better lives and to pray more often.”
Sister Lorraine Malo, a Sister of St. Joseph of Toronto, is in Haiti working with children injured by the earthquake and also helping in other ways. She was interviewed on a recent edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio program Tapestry.
They brought in a polka band to celebrate the 103rd birthday of Sr. Cecilia Adorni, and she stepped up to the challenge. The party, by the way, took place at the Hamden, Connecticut care facility where she works. Here's the CNN story.
The Sisters of St. Benedict of Beech Grove, Indiana have found what they call a simple way to financially help their Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center: GoodSearch.com.
For more on sisters’ use of GoodSearch, see the community’s homepage.
Why this story made msnbc.com’s “Weird news” is beyond me. Maybe they think anything religious is weird. At any rate, Svyturys-Utenos alus, Lithuania’s largest brewery, had recently run a billboard advertising campaign showing a Franciscan friar holding a glass of beer. Their idea was, friars and monks had been producing beer and other alcoholic beverages since the Middle Ages, so what was the problem?
The problem was Lithuania's conference of monks and nuns, who said in a statement the advertisement made them feel "insulted and trampled upon." They wrote a protest letter to Svyturys, who apologized and withdrew the ad.
Source: Thomson Reuters via msnbc.com
A new study suggests that women entering religious life today are highly educated and experienced in church work—and also that many receive little or no encouragement from their families in their vocation.
The Profession Class of 2010: Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, released by the U.S. bishops on February 2, the World Day for Consecrated Life, and conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, found that more than half of the women who professed final vows to join a religious order in 2010 said a parent or family member had discouraged their religious calling. Only 26 percent of the surveyed sisters said their mother encouraged them to consider religious life, and only 16 percent said their fathers supported their choice.
In a presentation to the U.S. bishops in 2009, Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, pointed to the discouragement from family and friends as a troublesome trend for the church. "Although people want a full-time pastor in their parish or religious sister teaching their children in the Catholic school, ironically, they are reluctant to have their own son or daughter choose that vocation," Bednarczyk said.
Nevertheless, religious life continues to attract highly educated and skilled candidates. Of those surveyed, six in ten entered their religious community with at least a bachelor’s degree and a quarter already possessed a graduate degree. Eighty-five percent had ministry experience before entering, most commonly in liturgical ministry, faith formation, or social service ministry.
It’s not unusual for individuals to raise money to support the work of religious communities, but last month Diane Molitor-Palmer of Wichita, Kansas found a unique way to solicit donations for five Catholic women’s religious orders who run missions in Africa: She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 19,340 feet the highest mountain in Africa.
|DIANE PALMER and fellow climbers
on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro
The organizations that benefited from her effort were the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Kaduna, Nigeria, Hope for the Village Child; Sisters of Charity, B.V.M., Kumasi, Ghana, the Library and Literacy Center; Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Manyoni, Tanzania, schools for children; Congregation of St. Joseph, Songea, Tanzania, school for girls in rural areas; and the Christian Foundation for Children & Aging, Nairobi, Kenya, education and nutrition.
That’s the question second-year Sisters of Mercy candidate Audrey Abbata asked herself. Ten years ago she was married and had a successful career with the Hearst Corporation. Then, in 2001, her husband Anthony was diagnosed with leukemia. He died three years later. “The darkness that enveloped me in the next few months frightened me immensely,” she said. “In my despair I got down on my knees and asked God to save me. God, being ever merciful, heard my plea. I found hope. From that day forward I vowed never to stray . . . from God again. To keep that promise I needed to make God the focus of my life. I had no idea how to live this, so I asked God to show me the way.”
|AUDREY Abbata (left)|
To those considering a vocation to consecrated life, Abbata says: “Religious life is a radical form of discipleship. Radical by definition is fundamental. I believe that in every generation God calls individuals to a fundamental life of vowed service to God. If God is stirring this desire in you, be open and allow God to transform you. Discover the contentment of living in harmony with God. Have enough faith to answer the call. God will show you the way.”
To read the full story of Abbata’s journey to religious life, visit the Connect with Mercy Blog.
For years Father Don Senior, C.P. has traveled all over the Middle East without a major incident—until recently, that is, when he and the group he was leading from the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago found themselves in the middle of what looks awfully like a revolution in Egypt.
They were in Giza, about 20 kilometers outside Cairo and home of the famed ancient pyramids, when the violent demonstrations against the Egyptian government reached that city. “At night we started to hear a lot of gunfire,” said Senior, a Passionist priest, president of CTU, and a member of the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission. “We could smell the burning of the Giza police station. On Sunday it became clear to me that we . . . could not just go anywhere, and you sense the anxiety.”
|FATHER DONALD SENIOR, C.P.
on one of his many travels
Senior noted the kindness Egyptians showed them and asked to “remember the Egyptian people in your prayers at this moment of great danger and hope.”
CTU is the largest Catholic graduate school of theology in the U.S. and is sponsored by a number of Catholic religious orders.
Read the full report from Carol Marin of the NBC TV affiliate in Chicago.
In past years when films with religious themes have popped up at the Sundance independent film festival, they’ve tended to be satires or exposés liked Saved! or Jesus Camp. This year, however, religion, spirituality, and faith have moved more into the mainstream, with 12 of the festival's120 films spotlighting stories about religion or characters defined by faith.
“There are definitely more films [exploring spirituality] that ended up in the program this year than in years past,” John Nein, senior programmer for the annual Park City, Utah festival, told Piet Levy of Religion News Service.
Salvation Boulevard features Pierce Brosnan as a popular preacher who frames a born-again Christian follower for a crime, while the documentary The Redemption of General Butt Naked deals with a Liberian warlord-turned-preacher facing the loved ones of people he killed. The Italian film Lost Kisses focuses on a Sicilian community’s reaction to a 13-year-old girl who may be performing miracles. Two films explore Christianity and Islam: Kinyarwanda, set during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the documentary Position Among the Stars about the lives of an impoverished family living in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Japan’s Abraxas chronicles the life of a depressed Zen monk who reconnects with punk rock, while the American comedy The Catechism Cataclysm centers on a priest who loves heavy metal music. Three other American films—Martha Marcy May Marlene; Kevin Smith’s horror film Red State; and Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground—are concerned with cults and fringe religious sects.
The trailer for Position Among the Stars:
While recent decades have seen declines in the numbers of members of religious orders—and the resulting closure of facilities—the recent upward trend in membership has produced the opposite challenge: not enough space.
|DOMINICAN student brothers gather
at Aquinas Institute Spirit Week 2010.
The Dominicans recently purchased the former Loretto Academy building in St. Louis. The renovated space will open in the fall as a Dominican priory, a residential community for men preparing to become priests in the order. The men will live in the house for five years while they study at Aquinas, which also educates laypeople to serve in ministerial roles. Those considering entering the order also go to the order's retirement community in Chicago where they experience the older members' life of prayer and living in community.
The building that will house the priory was designed by an architectural firm begun by George I. Barnett, who also designed the Missouri governor's mansion, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, and several of the earliest buildings at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It includes 32,000 feet of living space and an additional 16,000 feet of chapel, corridor, and storage space. Living quarters will undergo extensive renovation but much of the common space will be untouched. Features include a tile fireplace with carved wooden mantle and a chapel with stained-glass windows by artist Emil Frei. A new addition will include other common spaces and a fully accessible main entrance.
“We have a wonderful appeal both as a community and as an apostolate,” Father Wright said. “Preaching the word of God is what we're all about. And that can be done in hundreds of ways. Men don't join just to be in teaching, mission work, or whatever.” Continuing the work of their founder, Saint Dominic (1170-1221), the mission of the Dominicans includes preaching, teaching, and doing works of justice in a variety of settings--campus ministry, parish work, high schools, colleges, and retreat centers, full-time preaching, service in health care as chaplains and ethicists, the arts, and more. Community life, Father Wright said, involves not only living together under one roof but also the willingness to share one’s life with one another, being “of one mind and one heart in God.” The four pillars of Dominican life are prayer, common life, study, and ministry.
Twice a year the Dominicans have a “come and see” event for young men considering a vocation to experience that life, with the next one scheduled for the weekend of February 26-28, 2011 in Dallas.
Since 1988 the Augustinians of the Assumption have been working with the riverboat community on the River Seine in the northeast Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte Honorine. One of the things making their ministry different from other parishes, however, is its location. Like the people it serves, it is on a barge, or rather a group of barges.
|THE COMMUNITY chapel on Le Je Sers|
The community’s ministry also functions as a place for emergency shelter. It welcomes former prisoners and streetwalkers and currently offers temporary housing to about 40 persons looking to get back on their feet. The office at the rear of the barge community, called La Pierre Blanche (“White Rock”), takes in a dozen or so people every day who are living at life's edge. Volunteers help those temporarily housed in the community with navigating government bureaucracy, searching for work or permanent housing, or learning French. The barges also house the headquarters for six social agencies.
Every morning after breakfast two teams leave to pick up food donations from various agencies and stores for the community’s cooks to prepare. Other residents or volunteers are responsible for the upkeep and repair of the barges.
Though the riverboat population is smaller than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, there is still plenty to do on Je Sers. The community has 6 employees, 20 regular volunteers, and over 100 other volunteers. Its nine barges—six owned by the community and three on loan from the Voies Navigables de France (Navigable Waterways of France)—include houses and apartments and have 50 residents. The community owns vans and cars and also uses vehicles on loan.
|PLAN of the four main barges making up
the community's living quarters
The chronicle for Nov. 26, 1946 of the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri included this cryptic note: "Arrangements were made also for the Empress Zita who is expected tomorrow afternoon."
“Empress Zita” was Zita von Hapsburg, the last empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and widow of its last emperor, Charles I. Two days after the above entry, having arrived with her daughter at the convent, she went to Thanksgiving Day Mass at the nearby Benedictine Conception Abbey.
What was a deposed member of European royalty doing in northwestern Missouri? Charles, Zita, and their children had been forced to leave Austria-Hungary at the close of World War I. Charles died at the age of 34, leaving behind 7 children and another on the way. When the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, Zita and her children had to flee again. Experiencing poverty and war-time suffering firsthand, she sympathized with the poor families of post-war Austria and, settling her family in Quebec, began a two-year trip across Canada and the United States to raise money for Central European war relief.
That explains the reason she was in the U.S. But why Missouri? For many years she had wanted to pray at the grave of Father Lukas Etlin, who had died in an auto accident in December of 1927 and was buried on the convent grounds in Clyde. Born in Switzerland in 1864, Etlin had served as the Clyde sisters' chaplain and had worked to raise funds on behalf of Austria's poor following World War I.
“Am I to live the sacrament of marriage? If so, when? Am I to live the single life? Live as a chaste single person? Am I to be a priest? Am I to be a lay minister? Part time? Full time? Am I to be a religious brother? A religious sister? Am I to be a consecrated lay person? Is it time to make a first step toward commitment? To this person? To the church? To this religious order? To this organization?
“When discerning about something, it is important to be a person of faith. Believe that God has a plan for you. Each of us does the hard work of dating, inquiring, studying, volunteer activities, prayer, and searching. We must be engaged in the process. Passivity is not discernment. God will not spoon-feed us into a life commitment. Yet, when we turn our action over to guidance from God, situations, persons, and circumstances will be tools to illuminate the direction. Prayer is necessary. In prayer, mention the person or the actions or the circumstances around the process of one’s search.
“Talk with people. The gospel uses the image of the lamp on the lamp stand which illuminates the entire room. We cast light onto our experience when we talk about it. Parish marriage preparation or Engaged Encounter helps a person to see clearly that this person is choosing me as her or his life partner. Sharing our spiritual journey with a mentor helps to clarify God’s will for our lives. A trusted friend or an experienced person can help clarify confusing experiences. Searching for a call to serve as a priest or a consecrated person is nourished by the lives of the saints, involvement in ministries, making sacrifices, and living with sisters, brothers, or priests for a short time."
The end of one year and the beginning of the next prompt many journalists to identify what they think to be the major events of the previous 12 months. The acclaimed public television program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly assembled its annual reporters roundtable to discuss the most important news and ethics stories of 2010.
The panel was made up of E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Washington Post, and a professor at Georgetown University; Kevin Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service, and Kim Lawton, managing editor of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. The story includes a video overview of 2010's major events.
For decades Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa has prepared young men for global service as Divine Word Missionary priests and brothers. This month Sister Ana Julita Bele Bau, a 39-year-old member of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (the women’s community cofounded by the Saint Arnold Janssens, who established the Divine Word Missionaries), will become the first female graduate since the school refocused its mission to include new coeducational and lay formation opportunities.
SISTER JULITA walks the halls
Facing declining enrollment—"we were at a critical point for student enrollment and we had a wealth of resources to share," said college president Father Mike Hutchins, S.V.D.—the school allowed Catholic sisters to enroll in its English classes and undergraduate degree programs four years ago. As of next month, 35 of the 122 students at the college will be women. Though the women are all Catholic sisters, in January two lay leaders from Society of the Divine Word parishes in Jamaica will begin undergraduate work.
"Our beginnings were low-key to see how it would work out," Hutchins told Mary Nevans-Pederson of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. "Now I don't think anyone would go back." The new students bring "new life and vitality" as well as maturity and experience to the campus. “The women religious set a really good standard for the guys—they out-study and outwork them," Hutchins said.
Sister Julita, who has taught in Indonesia and Antigua, completed four years of cross-cultural studies and will return to her community in Anitgua to accept her next assignment on the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean.
"I don't too much feel like a pioneer," she said, even though she was often the only woman in her classes and was 15-20 years older than most of her classmates. "They helped me with my math and I brought life experience and someone to talk to," she said. She says fellow students or staff never made her feel unwelcome.
Hutchins confronted the possibility of romantic male-female relationships head-on, calling a general assembly to discuss it. "It's something natural that can happen, falling in love, and there is nothing to be ashamed of," he said. "I urged them to be up-front and talk about it to our spiritual directors if it happens.
"The common denominator here is mission,” Hutchins said. “Everyone is committed to missionary service."
There has, however, been a previous female graduate of Divine Word. In 1994 Pat Cline, a working mother from Dubuque, Iowa, entered the college as the sole recipient of a scholarship designed to promote diversity. She completed her degree in 1998.
When the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri decided to do a makeover of their monastic facilities, they resolved that the demolition, construction, and finished product would be as ecofriendly as possible.
|THE GEOTHERMAL heating and cooling system
requires the digging of 132 wells to be connected
into in-ground loops.
Levelled floor variances and more accessible entryways will make the building easier for the sisters and their guests to navigate.
In gutting certain parts of the monastery, workers have also uncovered layers of past artwork and paint, The removal of the drop ceiling in the community room revealed not only the top of an arched mural but also original tin ceiling tiles and a crown molding.
You can follow the project's progress on the sisters' Sacred Stones, Sacred Stories blog.