“Principal Peggy Wertz and I worked alongside a great illustrator and saw Becoming Sister Mary Grace come alive,” said Father Kirby, vicar of vocations for the Diocese of Charleston, S.C. Wertz is principal of St. Mary Help of Christians School in Aiken, S.C., where illustrator Alice Judd is an art teacher.
The book is dedicated to the girls who were part of the St. Cecilia Vocation Club at Mary Help of Christians School when the book was begun. Those girls are now juniors and seniors in high school.
Natalie Gorensek, a junior, was really excited at the launch of the book and stated that, “Everyone knows about marriage and priests, but not everyone knows about nuns. So it’s important we have vocation clubs to get the word out that being a sister is interesting and cool. … Knowing other options (of vocations) is really helpful in spiritual development."
To read more about the book Becoming Sister Mary Grace, check out the artilce published in the National Catholic Register and let us continue to pray and encourage vocations throughout the world.
|Mother Mary Joseph in her office at the Sisters’ Motherhouse, Maryknoll, NY, 1941|
The founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, MM, has been named one of nine American women to be inducted in 2013 into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (NWHF).
Mother Mary Joseph, whose “extraordinary achievements were recognized and applauded” by all the judges, according to NWHF deputy director Amanda Bishop, will join the 247 eminent women who have been inducted into the Hall since its founding in 1969. Among others included in this year’s list were Betty Ford and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“We are thrilled and honored by Mother Mary Joseph’s selection,” said Sister Janice McLaughlin, MM, president of Maryknoll Sisters, and happy for the recognition it gives to our founder who achieved so much, not only for women religious, but for all American women, at a time when possibilities for them were far more limited than they are today.
“Mary Josephine Rogers, as she was called prior to joining religious life, broke through the negative stereotypes about the role of American Catholic women in church and society at the beginning of the 20th century,” Sister Janice said. “As founder of the first American mission congregation of Catholic women, she proved that women were equal to the demands of life and ministry abroad, particularly in places where poverty, physical hardship and sometimes, even safety during wartime, were commonplace.”
Mother Mary Joseph drew from a lifetime of spiritual depth when she stressed the need for the sisters to be compassionate women, adaptable and willing to try new ways without fear of failure or censure, according to a release put out by Maryknoll. Above all, she emphasized the primacy of a holy life.
Today, Maryknoll Sisters serve in 26 nations around the world, ministering to all people in need. Their numbers include doctors and nurses; authors, artists and dancers; social workers, ecologists and peace activists; theologians and spokespersons to the United Nations.Learn more about the Maryknoll Sisters here.
|A short film inspires Mary to become a nun.|
Have you ever been asked to consider religious life? Was there a period of time in your life where you thought about becoming a sister, nun, brother, or priest? Writer and director Teresa McGee recounts this period of time in her own life as the inspiration for a short film, The Mary Contest.
An 11-year-old, Mary Kelly, struggles to fit in and finds comfort in Sister Adelia, who invites her to join The Legion of Mary prayer group. It is in the prayer group where the contest to find the most names for the Virgin Mary ensues.
How many names can you think of for the Virgin Mary off the top of your head? What about Marian religious communities? With help from the VISION search tab, here's my "short" list of communities with Mary--or some form of Mary--in their name:
This week is National Vocation Awareness week and a lot of parishes are doing their part to encourage parishioners to pray for young men and women to consider becoming a priest, deacon and religious brother and sister.
|SISTERS of the Visitation, Tyringham, Mass.|
Actually, the USCCB are having guest blog posts by young priests and religious on their pursuit to the vocation and how they were prayed for and encouraged by God and others to live the consecrated life.
Additionally, the newest members of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Tyringham, Massachusetts come from very different life experiences and are a variety of ages but have all been drawn to the life of a cloistered nun. Peggy Weber of Catholic News Service shares the thoughts of each of the four new members as well as the director of novices’ Sister Mary Emmanuel’s goal for the community. Sister Mary Emmanuel says, "We're looking for someone with enthusiasm, someone's who's very interested in the religious life, someone who is a deep, faithful Catholic. She said that anyone considering religious life has to be open, willing to take a risk, and be someone who dares to be different.”
Thankfully, in the spirit of vocations, the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States is thriving! Deacon Greg Kandra shares on his blog The Deacon’s Bench, “with more than 50 men in formation,” their congregation, “is among the healthiest for Catholic religious orders in the United States.” The key to their success is shared by Vocations Director Holy Cross Father James T. Gallagher is simple: “We use social media as a way to make ourselves known to those young men discerning a call to religious life. But the personal interaction still comes first. Our social media outlets are just tools we use to help make Holy Cross known, share discernment tips and help deepen a man’s prayer life.”
Let the beautiful words of Archbishop José H. Gomez be our prayer during this National Vocation Awareness week; "Every priest is a sacrament — a sign and instrument that brings men and women to the encounter with the living God. So in this Year of Faith, we need to refocus ourselves, especially in our families, on helping men to hear this beautiful and noble calling from Jesus.” (Shared from his November 2012 Tidings article).
For her services creating the state-of-the-art St. George’s Park Retirement Village in Sussex, U.K., Augustinian Sister Mary Thomas was awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth in her New Year’s Honor’s List, Zenit reports. Sister Thomas, a native of Ireland, accepted the award on behalf of her religious community, the Augustinian Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus, and those who provide care in the Augustinian homes: “I recognize that the award is given not just to myself but in recognition, too, of my own religious community and many other professionals who have worked with us over these years to assist the elderly and most vulnerable in our society.”
The Augustinian Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus order was founded by Canon Peter John Maes in 1842. The sisters were to offer assistance to him in his ministry to the mentally ill. Today the sisters run four care facilities throughout the U.K. Their most ambitious project was the St. George’s Park Retirement Village. The award-winning development includes senior apartments, community building, restaurant, bar, shop, hairdresser, library, gym, game rooms, treatment facility, and lush grounds with a lake and park.
Sr Mary Thomas trained as a general and psychiatric nurse and has spent all of her religious life caring for the sick and elderly. When she was appointed Superior of the Order in the 1990s, she began to realize the sisters’ dream of an innovative new assisted living and care community.
For more on the Augustinian Sisters, read their online listing in the VISION community directory.
|SOME OF Kendall Ketterlin's fudge.
I've tried it and it's darned good.
The current issue of VISION Magazine has an article on "What does it mean to be a Carmelite?", available here and here. Author Pat Morrison has provided some addtional Carmelite resources.
Individual monasteries of Discalced Carmelite nuns listed under their respective associations:
• Carmelite Communities Associated
• Mary Queen of Carmel Association
• St. Teresa Association
Communities of friars located under their province listings:
• Washington Province
• Oklahoma Province
• Western Province
• Order of Carmelites (Friars)
WHEN Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, six Catholic communities of religious women lost not only convents, chapels, cars, and motherhouses but also buildings housing ministries that served the people of the city—high schools, daycare sites, community centers, senior nursing home facilities, and others. The story of the dilemma the sisters faced between remaining and rebuilding or ministering elsewhere is told in a new documentary, We Shall Not Be Moved: The Catholic Sisters of New Orleans.
The communities the film profiled (some of whom can be found in VISION)—the Ursuline Sisters, the Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Sisters of the Holy Family of New Orleans, the Marianites of Holy Cross, the Congregation of St. Joseph, and the Society of St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresian Sisters)—have served in the New Orleans area for an average of 175 years, the oldest for 285 years.
“This analysis elevates the program . . . to a complex and fascinating journey with religious women who faced an uncertain personal and public future,” said Sister of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio Judith Ann Zielinski, O.S.F., the film’s writer and producer for NewGroup Media in South Bend, Indiana. “Their choices were not uniform, simple, or immediate; ultimately, however, all six congregations . . . reconfirmed their commitment to the city and its people,” she said.
The SC Ministry Foundation in Cincinnati coordinated the film project and received funding from the Assembly of Catholic Foundations and other Catholic foundations and congregations of women religious.
“I have had the privilege of witnessing the faith, hope, and love of these women religious in New Orleans since 2005,” said Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, S.C., president and executive director of the SC Ministry Foundation and an executive producer of the film. “These prophetic sisters transformed the destruction and devastation through the power of the Spirit and through the abiding presence of Christ. They rebuilt high schools, child-care development centers, community centers, and motherhouses, in some cases starting from nothing. In other cases they began programs that responded to the needs they saw around them after Hurricane Katrina.”
The ABC network has been offering the film to its affiliates. To see if a broadcast is scheduled in your area, go online.
Here’s the trailer:
October is Mission Month in the Roman Catholic Church, and on October 1 the Maryknoll Sisters will go live with their first website for teens.
Teen4Mission features stories for, about, and by teens who are making mission part of their everyday lives. In October it will have an interactive daily calendar with articles, links to videos, and mission-focused games as well as places where teens themselves can upload their own articles, pictures, and videos about mission and share their thoughts about mission in daily life with other teens.
See a preview of the site.
"They were her only caregivers. The sisters got her medical help and are giving the boys some stability. Now the boys are free to claim much of the childhood they were losing. Clearly, we all share responsibility for the Matts and Marks in our nation."Here's Sr. Campbell's full address:
|ARCHBISHOP Aymond blesses the new
discernment house for women in New Orleans.
The current issue of the VISION Catholic Religious Vocation Discernment Guide has an item on Manresa House at Boston College, where students who are considering life as a sister, brother, or priest in a religious order can gather for talks, prayer, meetings, retreats, and other activities connected to the process of vocational discernment, regardless of which religious communities they may be interested in.
Now the Archdiocese of New Orleans has opened a similar facility for women in addition to the region’s men’s house of discernment that already exists. The idea of Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, S.S.F., director of the archdiocesean office for religious, Magnificat House of Discernment for Women is a full-time home for post-college-age women to live in community while discerning a possible call to religious life. The project is a collaboration between the archdiocese and women’s religious communities in the New Orleans area. For more information about Magnificat House, “like” NOLA Vocations on Facebook.
“Trailblazers in Habits,” a 90-minute film documenting the work of the Maryknoll Sisters, the first U.S.-based congregation of Catholic women religious dedicated to foreign missions, will have its New York premiere on Sunday, October 28, 2012, at 2 p.m. at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., New York, NY.
A portrait of the Maryknoll Sisters’ endeavors in Hong Kong and elsewhere throughout the world, the documentary tells the story in the sisters’ own words, a chronicle that spans 100 years and several continents. The premiere coincides with the Maryknoll Sisters' Centennial year. Here's the 7-minute trailer:
|SISTER Jennifer Gordon, S.C.L.|
|CORITA KENT in front of some of her work
(Photo courtesy LCWR).
Last month the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. wrapped up an exhibit of prints by Corita Kent, who is mentioned in this year’s VISION magazine article on the “Women of Spirit” exhibit about the history of religious sisters in the United States.
To read more about Corita Kent and the “R(ad)ical Love: Sister Mary Corita” show and see some images from it as well as watch a video, go the NMWA website.
Billboards are usually seen along expressways trying to grab our attention and get us to stop along the way. Often, we glance at these signs and continue driving to get to our destination. But what if a billboard was calling you towards religious life? Would you simply just read the sign and continue driving or would you answer the call?
Seeking to repopulate its thinning religious ranks, the Roman Catholic diocese of Austria's largest province launched a province-wide billboard campaign to recruit priests, nuns, and other laypeople. The requirements are simple: a sense of religious mission and a commitment to celibacy. Benefits: a possible inside track to Heaven. With over 80 large billboards and 300 small electric placards being placed around the provinces, the message is simple, “The Mission. Those who give all receive more.”
While unemployment is growing in Vienna, these billboards are a way to encourage men and women to consider entering into religious life. The billboard campaign has created some serious stir because mass advertisement for religious life is rare. Austria, which is overwhelmingly Catholic, is finding that is mostly in name rather than practice.
Like elsewhere in many parts of Europe, Masses are poorly populated in Vienna and other bigger cities and the number of declared Catholics is shrinking – in Austria by 13 percent since 1960 – as former believers fed up with church scandals and a perceived sense of the Vatican's disconnect with the world.
At the same time, however, the number of priests has declined rapidly – in Austria by 26 percent. In St. Poelten, Lower Austria's provincial capital, 244 priests are administering to the needs of 423 parishes. Country-wide, the overwhelming majority of priests are over 60, and young replacements are scarce.
The hope is that this billboard campaign will get people interested in religious life and service and to show people the importance of working with the Church. To read more about the billboard campaign check out the piece in the Huffington Post.
In response to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious statement regarding their commitment to dialogue, Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who is one of three bishops recently commissioned to oversee the LCWR, responded with the following statement:
Hmm… The sisters’ and bishops’ commitment to respectful dialogue coincides perfectly with today’s second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:
May the peace of Christ be with you all.
|ANDREW Domini wasn’t the only one at St. Mary-of-the-Woods
who wore out his shoes. Mother Guerin and her sister-companions
wore wooden shoes, or sabots, when working outside.
Last April Wabash College student Andrew Domini came across a CNN Presents documentary on Mother Theodore Guerin, the French nun and now canonized saint who founded the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana in 1840. The program talked about a miraculous healing that had been part of Mother Guerin’s canonization process, Domini was reminded of an aging friend who had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer six months earlier. “He wasn’t doing well, and he’s the kind of guy who gives so much and doesn’t expect anything in return,” Domini told CNN’s Jen Christensen. “I wanted to do something for him.”
So Domini decided to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Mother Guerin to pray for his friend, who didn't know abvout the trip beforehand. He could have driven but said he “wanted to walk. . . . I wanted it to be a sacrifice.” With a handful of supplies in a backpack, he left his fraternity house around 5 a.m. The first night “I asked for sanctuary at a couple of churches, but they told me they couldn’t do that,” Domini said. He slept on couch at a student union building, on a park bench, and inside an abandoned building. Twelve miles into the next day's walk his feet were blistered and bleeding, and a couple gave him a ride for about 10 miles. He walked the remaining two miles to St. Mary-of-the-Woods and crawled the last 90 feet to Mother Guerin’s shrine in the chapel.
After praying at the shrine for his friend, he visited the Sisters of Providence’s welcome center. At the museum there, Sister of Providence Jan Craven, who manages the shrine, approached him. “I swooped him under my wing to find out what brought him here,” Craven said. Since CNN’s program on Mother Guerin had run last month, Craven said her workload had tripled as she’d received hundreds of calls, emails, and letters.
After having something to eat with the sisters in the dining hall, Domini was offered a room in the men’s wing of the facility. He spent two days with the sisters, who talked with him about what Mother Saint Theodore meant to them and about their work. “We’ve been told by a lot of people that when they come onto the grounds, they feel a real sense of peace that we are this oasis in this modern jungle,” Sister Craven said. “We feel this, but because we live here sometimes we need a reminder. Andrew did just that.”
“I’ve been inspired,” Domini said. “I trusted in Providence to get me through this just like [Mother Guerin] did with her journey. We are here to make the world a better place, just like the sisters do every day.”
Read the complete CNN story.
Read more about the Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the death ofJosephite Sr. Irene McCormack, RSJ, at the hands of Shining Path terrorists in Peru. Born in Western Australia in 1938, Irene grew up on a sheep farm and was educated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
In 1957, Irene entered into the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart and began teaching. At an early age Irene knew she wanted to serve God and educate young people. After 30 years of teaching, she was asked to do missionary work in Peru.
She arrived in Peru in 1987 for missionary work. McCormack's first assignment was in El Pacifico, a low income suburb in San Juan de Miraflores.
On June 26 1989, McCormack left to serve in Huasahuasi. McCormack, with her companion, Sister Dorothy Stevenson, were asked to supervise the distribution of emergency goods by Caritas, a charitable food organization in Peru.
McCormack continued her ministry of providing library facilities to poor children, who had no chance of obtaining books to aide in their school homework. She wanted the village children to know how to read and write. She also focused on training the village people how to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, so they could serve other parishioners in outlying districts.
On December 17, 1989, the priests of Huasahuasi were warned that they were in danger from Sendero Luminoso, so they and the two sisters left the village for Lima. McCormack and Stevenson, however, felt that the church could not abandon the villagers at this time and returned on January 14, 1990. For 12 months Huasahuasi was without a resident priest. During this time McCormack and Stevenson served the people, led the communion services, and provided leadership.
On the evening of May 21, 1991, McCormack was captured by the terrorist group named Shining Path. Following a mock trial, she was found guilty of being an imperialist and working for the Peruvian government by distributing food for the poor. She was then killed by the terrorist group.
McCormack was buried in Peru on May 23. McCormack believed the Holy Spirit motivated her to work in Peru once stating: "This overwhelming experience of the unconditional gratuitous love of God became a reality in my life—not just a conviction.
Below is the morning offering of Sister Irene. As you reflect on this prayer, pray for Sr. Irene McCormack and all those who are involved in missionary work.
God, my Father, you love and forgive me so TODAY I accept all as gift - and ask to find you Lord the Giver in the gift. I choose to face life without fear and to live wholeheartedly in each present moment. May my heart sing today a song of grateful thanks and praise. I am God's work of art! I am precious in His sight.
Read more about the life of Sr. Irene McCormack and other modern-day martyrs and saints here.
Can you think of three words that describe the Season of Lent and what it means to you?
Well, if you are struggling to find three words or ideas, the Sisters of St. Francis might be able to help you out. Seven sisters from the Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania OH, filmed a short video about the season of Lent, sharing in three words what this holy season means to them.
This short yet powerful film describes all the attitudes and feelings we have as we journey through Lent toward Holy Week and Easter. Lent is considered a time of soul-searching and preparation, but it is also a time of gratitude for the great sacrifice Jesus made for us.
So in three words: Thank you, Lord.
Three years ago, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Arizona put their minds to raising funds to build a chapel and monastery in the Southwestern desert. They came up with a fun idea - have young and old alike run in an annual fundraiser named the Nun Run.
This year, their 3rd Annual Nun Run on March 10 attracted 1,135 participants at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Ariz., to compete in a 10K run, 5K run/walk, or opt for a slower-paced 1-mile walk.
"I started off the day full of energy and left with more than I arrived with," said Jill Sciarappo a volunteer and photographer.
The runners wore shirts designed by Sister Fidelis based on the year's motto from Isaiah 40:31 "You shall run and not get weary".
Many people came out for this amazing event from grandparents to young children. The "Nun Run" is trying to raise funds to continue work on building Our Lady of Solitude Monastery. The previous runs all help to fund the chapel and chapel appointments. After the final cosmetic work is completed on the chapel, the main focus will be completion of the Monastery to make rooms for 28 sisters.
Our Lady of Solitude is rising like a vision of medieval beauty on land donated to the sisters in Tonopah, just west of Phoenix. The sisters arrived here in 2005 from Hanceville, Ala., to establish the first Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration monastery in the West and to become the first contemplative community of nuns in the Phoenix Diocese.
The Nun Runs are helping to bring the diocesan community together for this project. "The Lord has inspired a lot of good people to come out and help us," said Sister John-Mark Maria. "A lot of people come together for Our Lord, and I experience that through the Nun Run. I'm very humbled, and I marvel in the Lord's goodness."
So if you see a nun run, go join in and think of the Lord. A young woman was running and wearing a shirt that had a picture of a sister with the words: "Not all habits are bad."
Let's remember to pray for those who are discerning a religious vocation or any vocation and let's continue to pray for the men and women who are priests or sisters, as they continue to inspire and work towards bringing about the Kingdom of God.
Check out more photos of the Nun Run or to get involved.
With moves from soccer greats like Pelé or Ronaldo, sisters and priests from the Diocese of Biloxi and southern Mississippi participated in a benefit soccer game for St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. In a girls vs. boys soccer showdown with a bit of religious flare, the sisters proved superior.
Dressed in habits, the sisters from the Community of Charity and Social Services (CCSS), along with help from parishioners and students in disguise, pulled a convincing 6-4 victory over the priests.
"We thought this would be a fun way to bring awareness of holy life," said Ginny Macken, who coordinated the game. "We had about 100 people out for a great afternoon, with proceeds benefiting the Long Beach St. Vincent de Paul Society. It was a fun competition with lots of laughs. Both the kids and adults had a great time."
Check out these great photos from St. Thomas Catholic Church, the parish that supports St. Vincent de Paul School. Including this one of Sr. Martha Troung, CCSS:
Well, it seems like forever since I last blogged about something going on in the news but I am happy to report that I am back from my week working with the Sisters of St. Joseph and their volunteer program.
I cannot go into too much detail about what I did (I am saving that for our magazine-so check it out in July), but it was a great week. I got involved in so many unique ministries that the sisters provide out in Rochester.
The overarching theme is Social Justice and Peace which stems from Catholic Social Teaching. All the ministries of the SSJ focus on these core components to provide the necessary resources people need in their daily lives. I was involved in education, health care, community and environmental ministries throughout the week and I had the opportunity to meet some really amazing people. It was truly an eye-opening experience to see how many lives we were able to touch just by being present and lending a helping hand.
Some words about Rochester, New York:
Rochester does have its areas of poverty and hardship like many cities but there was a feeling of welcome when I arrived. It was a great place to live and work for a week and I hope that others get inspired to participate in this amazing program and get a glimpse into the lives of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
sources: City of Rochester
Click here for more information about the Sisters of St. Joseph, Rochester, NY.
We've talk about actress-turned-contemplative sister Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., prioress of the of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, in this blog before. A documentary about her journey to religious life was nominated - but alas did not win - an Academy Award. I for one was hoping Tim Gunn was going to interview her on the red carpet and ask her about her dress, but in a way he did.
It is published twice yearly and there is no cost to receive it. It focuses on different themes in each issue, and past issues can be found on the website. If you would like to be put on the mailing list for this publication, please send your mailing address to: email@example.com.
This week the Benedictine Sisters of Erie got a much deserved mention in the Huffington Post being a group that inspires Faith. Each week the post writes about a well deserving person or group that works in bettering communities by faith and love.
The Benedictine Sisters of Erie are doing just that and more. These women offer services to teens, children, families, the elderly, physically challenged, homeless, and broken. While they may not always have the physical room, they always have their hearts open and welcoming to those in need.
The program that is being highlighted is their Neighborhood Inner City Art House. Since its inception this home provides classes in the arts-visual, performing and literary--- for at risk youth in a safe clean environment. There is no cost associated with attending any of these classes. They thrive mainly on donations and volunteers. The home has had over 2000 volunteers and roughly 500 children use this facility each year. The goal of the art house is to enable children to experience beauty, grow in a positive way, and develop into a fully productive human being.
What motivates this ministry? According to their website: Inspired by the Gospel and the Rule of Benedict we respond to the needs of all God's people. We steward the gifts, talents and skills that have been given to us and extend them through service. Community and non-community ministries alike provide the opportunity for meaningful work that is consistent with our monastic commitment to glorify God in all things.
So if you ever stop by Erie, PA check out this amazing home and see what you can do to help.
This past Sunday's Times Picayune ran an indepth profile on Alison McCrary, a young lawyer who is on her way to becoming a sister. Here are some highlights from reporter Sheila Stroup's story:
“People have such a misconception of what nuns are,” says McCrary. “We’re supposed to run into the world, not out of it. Our eyes are wide open, and our sleeves are rolled up.”
“My mother is Cherokee,” she says. “She wasn’t welcome at the white school or the black school when she was a girl. She just recently learned to read and write.”
Where McCrary lived, Confederate flags flew on many buildings, and the Ku Klux Klan marched in the square on weekends. “You grow up with something, you think it’s normal,” she says. “But that isn’t normal. . . . There are so many struggles of the poor and oppressed,” she says. “If I’m not engaged in some kind of social change, then something is wrong.”
She entered the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in August 2007. During her work as a paralegal and volunteer activities as a law student, she met several Sisters of St. Joseph and saw the important work they were doing, and she felt called to become a nun.
“I met Sister Helen Prejean and Sister Lory Schaff and all these incredible women who were living the gospel values, and I thought, ‘I want that,’” she says. She started meeting with a spiritual advisor, and after finishing law school and passing the bar in May, 2010, she took the first step to becoming a Sister of St. Joseph on Aug. 15, 2010.
“I knew I had to find the beauty in the middle of all the struggle,” she says. “My decision is something I feel at peace with. . . . I feel like I’m called to that commitment.”
When her fellowship is over in April, McCrary will begin the second step in becoming a nun. She will go from her busy ministry in criminal justice reform and cultural rights advocacy to a two-year novitiate. “You can’t work or volunteer,” she says. “It’s a time of contemplation, a time to explore your relationship with God.” She will live in Chicago with the other Sister of St. Joseph novices in a house owned by the congregation. “I think it will be really rewarding,” she says. She looks forward to finishing her novitiate and making her first vows in April 2014.
Posted in the Journal Sentinel, a creative and catchy way to approach religious vocations: Religious Trading Cards. These trading cards are unlike the traditional baseball or basketball cards. Rather they feautre highly respected and admired religious leaders in and around the Milwaukee area. Among them is Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki along with a handful of other local Catholic religious leaders featured on a new deck of trading cards circulating near and around Milwaukee.
The initiative, launched last week by two Catholic parishes — St. Monica’s in Whitefish Bay and St. Eugene’s in Fox Point — is meant to draw interest towards religious vocations.
“The biggest challenge today is indifferent families,” parish pastoral associate Monica Cardenas told the Catholic Herald. “We need families to embrace the idea for their children.” Among the others featured: Bishop Donald Hying; former Cardinal Stritch University President Sister Camille Kleibhan; and Father Paul Fliss, interim pastor at St. Eugene’s.
Cards include mini-bios, nicknames, favorite saints and individuals who influenced their interest in religious life. No word yet on the tradability of the cards but a unique way to get people interested in religious life.
Picking up from the previous efforts after the World Cup in 2010, 11 religious orders from Indiana and Michigan are picking up where they left off and are fighting to stop sex-trafficking this year down in Indianapolis at Super Bowl XLVI. According to these congregations, there is an increase in sex-trafficking that is associated with sporting events. Their goal this year is to reduce, if not eliminate, this potential threat at the Super Bowl.
These orders are members of the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan which was established in the 1990s. This Coalition is a part of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility which remains as the pioneer coalition of active shareowners who view the management of their investments as a catalyst to promote justice and sustainability in the world.
When the ICCR held its meeting last June and heard that the Super Bowl was in Indianapolis, "we picked up the ball and started running," said Sr. Ann Oestreich, an IHM sister who is also the justice coordinator for the Sisters of the Holy Cross in South Bend, Indiana.
"In CCRIM, we had done a process in terms of picking one issue that was important to all of our members. Prior to the Super Bowl, the issue of human trafficking came up," Sister Ann told Catholic News Service.
"It's such a broad issue. How do we get at it as investors, as socially responsible investors? So we decided to take a look at the hospitality industry and purchasing stock in their companies so we could get into a conversation with the hotels."
Coalition representatives contacted the federal Department of Health and Human Services for assistance. "We asked for printed copies of brochures on their website, and HHS was kind enough, when they heard what we were doing, to provide 2,000 printed copies of those brochures."
They prepared a fact sheet and their goal was to reach 220 hotels in a 50 mile radius. So far according to Sr. Ann, "the response has been good."
Based on a Jan. 12 conference call with coalition members, "we've got about 50 responses so far for the hotels," she added. About half of the hotels have asked for further info that we're offering them in terms of training, in terms of signing the ECPAT code." ECPAT is an acronym for Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking, which has developed a code of conduct to deter child sexual exploitation.
Once the hotels get the materials they need, the sisters will leave the hotels be and let them do their work. The hope of the coalition is that these hotels will continue to respond and ask for further information even once the Super Bowl is over.
|PAINTING BY Sister Marjorie Raphael, S.S.M.|
It was also in Haiti, in a convent on the grounds of the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince, where Sister Marjorie was living when the 2010 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the country, killing an estimated 300,000 people and destroying or damaging tens of thousands of buildings, including Sister Marjorie’s convent. The sisters have been continuing their work with only one building remaining; the other had to be demolished.
Sister Marjorie has now returned to her community’s motherhouse in Roxbury, Massachusetts. There she will not only resume a longtime personal activity, painting, but will actually have a show at a local gallery. Through February 2012 her exhibit “Under the Skies, Four Seasons," which depicts many of the places where she’s lived or visited, will be at the Helen Bumpus Gallery in Duxbury, south of Boston (where her community is relocating after selling their Roxbury location).
There will be a reception at the gallery this Saturday, January 21, 2012 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sources: Boston.com and the Sisters of St. Margaret
As we close out Vocation Awareness Week, we reflect on the recent message of Pope Benedict XVI who has emphasized the need for good spiritual counsel for those who are discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. The Catholic News Agency along with ETWN, reported the Pope's very important message on vocations.
"I would like to emphasize the critical role of spiritual guidance in the journey of faith and, in particular, in response to the vocation of special consecration for the service of God and his people," the Pope commented this Sunday at his Angelus address.
Also instrumental in the process, he said, are parents "who by their genuine faith and joyful married love, show children that it is beautiful and possible to build all your life on the love of God."
Speaking from the Papal apartments to several thousand pilgrims, the Pope explained his point with references to the Scripture readings at Mass on Sunday.
The Pope concluded his comments by entrusting all educators, "especially religious including priests, sisters, and parents," to the Virgin Mary as they help young people discern their vocation in life.
After speaking on religious vocations the Pope also mentioned the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will run Jan 18-25. He invited everyone "to join spiritually and, where possible, practically, to ask God for the gift of full unity among the Disciples of Christ."
I am sure many of us had heard of the movie/show "Band of Brothers" which follows a group of paratroopers in WWII featured on HBO, but have you ever heard of Band of Sisters?
Band of Sisters, is a documentary film that tells the "unforgettable story of Catholic nuns in the United States: how they responded wholeheartedly to the call of Vatican II, risked everything in their unwavering commitment to social justice, and made a remarkable transformation from 'daughters of the church' into citizens of the world."
After Vatican II, these congregations searched and re-engaged with their pasts and learned that their true mission was to serve those of the greatest need: the poor. Now on the verge of losing what these sisters fought so hard for, they are fighting to preserve their freedom and to be able to continue to help the world.
Scheduled to be released this March, travel alongside these sisters Nancy Sylvester IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary), Miriam Therese MacGills OP (Caldwell Dominican), Pat Murphy and JoAnn Persch RSM (Sisters of Mercy) and their congregations as they take you through their journey and struggle to survive to maintain their mission.
For more information check out their website bandofsistersmovie.com.
Jesuit Fr. James Martin, S.J. recently published a brilliant piece about the hidden life of St. Joseph and his thoughtful ministry of raising Jesus and being a humble servent of the Lord.
In this short film, Martin highlights and examines the life of Joseph and how important he was in Jesus's life as well as ours. St. Joseph is someone we should try to emulate. He was a great example of someone who lived a truly devotional life to his family and to the Lord. Take a couple minutes and check out this wonderful short film. In this season of Christmas, Martin urges us to remember St. Joseph.
|FRANCISCAN SISTER Maureen Dorr and Chef
Alfred Astl with patrons at the Trinity Café
The long hours of the restaurant world, however, began to burn him out, and ten years ago he saw an opening for a weekday lunch-chef position in Tampa, Florida and applied.
His new employer was Trinity Café, which serves 230 free hot lunches out of a Salvation Army facility every weekday, holidays included. “Anyone who comes to our door is welcome—without question or qualification,” the Café’s website says. “We serve free meals to homeless, poor, and anyone wishing to receive a meal.”
Besides a five-star chef in the kitchen, the restaurant has other amenities you might not expect in a place that offers free meals, like the cloth-covered tables set with china dishes and silverware Astl insists on. Volunteer waiters serve the patrons in courses, and every meal includes salad or soup, a healthy portion of protein, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert, and a piece of fruit, all for about $2 a serving. The café's $455,000 annual budget depends on donations and grants.
Astl and two part-time kitchen staff members cook 1,000 meals a week. Since it began, Trinity Café has served more than 717,000 meals.
”It could be very easy to say, OK, we’re feeding homeless people. Who cares?” Astl told Alexandra Zayas of the St. Petersburg Times. “If I ever say that, I’ll quit. . . . Some of these people have problems out there they can’t do anything about. By the time they leave, they’re in a whole different frame of mind.”
At the about the same Chef Astl started at the Café, Franciscan Sister of Allegany Maureen Dorr stopped in to volunteer. She has never left.
For 40 years Sister Maureen worked in education as a teacher and administrator. At the Café she walks the food line and dining room, giving out hugs, advice, and prayers. She can be persuaded to take a turn dancing in the middle of the room. Once a week she visits the jail.
“Saint Francis [of Assisi] taught us about living out the gospel and serving the poor," she told The Tampa Tribune’s Michelle Bearden. "But truth is, I don't minister to them. I minister with them. I firmly believe there are such good people who have had bad opportunities. They show me the way to God as much as I try to show them."
Now 81, Dorr has no plans to stop. "Nuns don't retire," she said. "We just get recycled. As long as God gives you the health, you keep on moving."
Read more about the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.
|STUDENTS from Creighton University
in service with the Visitation Sisters.
The VIP program, which was successfully launched this fall, is a year-long internship program where participants provide service alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. The sisters have welcomed two young women as the inaugural participants to the VIP Program: Kelly Schumacher, a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana College in Illinois, and Beth Anne Cooper, a native of New York and graduate of Hope College in Michigan. Both young women are teaching English as Second Language classes to immigrants and refugees, doing advocacy work, working with grade-schoolers on both schoolwork and relationship-building, coaching youth sports, learning more about restorative justice, and planning service-learning for small groups which includes urban immersion experiences.
The sisters are also in the process of launching the new Monastic Immersion Program, offered by the sisters to women desiring an in-depth immersion into the monastic life. Through the Monastic Immersion Program, women have an opportunity to " ‘try on’ monastic customs and values,” said Sister Mary Frances Reis, contact for Visitation’s Monastic Immersion Program. They are invited to live the monastic life with the sisters for a period of six months to a year. Each participant is expected to enter fully into the sisters’ life of prayer, presence, and ministry during her stay. Prospective participants may come from any Christian faith tradition.
For more information about the VIP Program: http://www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/visitation-companions/visitation-internship-program-vip/
For more information about the Monastic Immersion Experience: http://www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org/tag/monastic-immersion-experience/
|GIRL SCOUT Troop 2272 outside the Carmel
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery.
Photo: Celeste Diller; Intermountain Catholic.
|BLESSED Mother Marianne Cope.|
The resentment between Occupy Wall Street protestors and corporate America has certainly grown in the past couple of weeks. Each day we learn new information about what the protestors want and what Wall Street has no intention of doing.
It turns out Wall Street is also getting an earful from its investors, including the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Sister Nora Nash, OSF, head of the community's Corporate Social Responsibility mission, recently featured in an article in the business section of the New York Times, actively weighs in on corporate America's practices. A soft-spoken woman, Nash has been quite vocal in offering suggestions to some of the world's largest corporations.
”We want social returns, as well as financial ones,” says Nash. “When you look at the major financial institutions, you have to realize there is greed involved.”
Nash and her community formed a corporate responsibility committee beck in the 1980s after they had lost some of their retirement in the market. They wanted to vocalize the importance of wise investments and fiscal responsibility not only within their own community but also within some of Wall Street's major corporations. Their goal as a committee was to buy the minimum number of shares that would allow them to submit resolutions at a company's annual shareholder meeting.
The group advises executives to protect consumers, rein in executive pay, increase transparency within corporations, and remember the poor.
The Sisters of St. Francis are not going it alone. They have teamed up with the Sisters of Charity Saint Elizabeth and Sisters of St. Dominic (Caldwell Dominicans), both in New Jersey, and many other Christian denominations and religious faiths. They are active in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
“Companies have learned over time that the issues we’re bringing are not frivolous,” says Fr. Seamus P. Finn, a Washington-based priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and a board member of the Interfaith Center. “At the end of every transaction, there are people that are either positively or negatively impacted, and we try to explain that to them.”
The goal of the group is not to bring corporations down, but to get these companies to become more responsible for their actions and be held accountable for their practices. Although success has been sporadic, the sisters believe in their mission.
Click here to read more about the Sisters of Philadelphia's corporate engagement.
Born in Northern Italy in 1850, Mother Cabrini worked as a teacher in her early life and later ran an orphanage. In 1877 she took religious vows and formed the religious congregation the Missionary of the Sacred Heart.
Her role was to help and work with Italian immigrants and in 1881 she did just that right here in Chicago. She opened up Assumption Church, the first Italian parish in Chicago. Throughout her life, she devoted her ministry to education and health care. She built hospitals and schools and created opportunities for immigrants that may have never had the chance to go to school or receive health care. In 1909 Mother Cabrini officially became a US citizen. After returning to Chicago in 1917, she fell ill and died on December 22, 1917.
In 1946 she was canonized by the Catholic Church. This was a significant honor as she was the first American citizen to be canonized a Saint. Mother Cabrini lived her life by devoting it to helping others. She never gave up and always believed in her mission. What a great role model to have in our lives today. Mother Cabrini is someone we still can look to for help each and every day.
To read more about Mother Cabrini and all her amazing works check out this article published by WBEZ.
|Penn State students held a vigil Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 in
memory of the victims of the child sex-abuse abuse scandal
that hasshaken the university to its core
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon).
In the wake of the Penn State sex-abuse scandal and the ensuing crisis of community the university faces, I received my fall issue of the St. Mary's College Courier, the alumnae journal. I was struck by the eerily prescient comments made by the vice president for mission Holy Cross Sr. Veronique Wiedower, CSC in a letter about the college's core principle of community established by founder Blessed Basil Moreau:
Moreau believed that unity, one of the hoped-for graces of community, was a "powerful lever with which we could move, direct, and sanctify the world." Achieving unity requires all of us to strive for right relationships with self, God, the cosmos, and our neighbors. . . . Especially today, Moreau's vision of community through unity is one that our larger community, which radiates throughout the world and beyond to God, longs to see. This is the time in which we are all invited to model and live in right relationship.
Indeed it is. May we all have the courage and strength to set relationships aright in our educational communities, families, church, and beyond.
Read more about the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
In one the NRVC will develop a conversational tool to enable religious institutes to engage in a deeper exchange about the findings of the landmark 2009 NRVC/CARA study on recent vocations to religious life and their implications for apostolic life with respect to community, visibility, communal prayer, and celebration of Eucharist.
The second project will convene three gatherings for women religious in the eastern, middle, and western regions of the U.S. The purpose of these unprecedented gatherings will be for women religious to study the research regarding recent vocations and discuss and reflect on the combined implications of this information for religious sisters as they work together to increase their membership both individually and collaboratively.
To this day I love going to see movies.Being able to curl up in comfy seats (movie theatres have updated their styles), eat an endless tub of buttered popcorn, and sit without interruption, watching and imagining a life similar to that on the screen is magical. The essence of movie making is truly a great one. The ability for movies to be “brought to life” gives us all a glimpse of new perspectives or simply a good quality laugh.
Recently, a new movie has made some buzz about a college women’s basketball team that won 3 national championships in the 1970s. “The Mighty Macs” as it is called, is a film about the Immaculata Women’s basketball team and their coach Cathy Rush who paved the way for women’s athletics in the 1970s. Set outside Philadelphia, this film is about inspiring women to seek out their dreams but also teaches valuable life lessons about hard-work, determination, faith and morals, and friendship.
According to the film’s director, Tim Chambers, he did not intend to make a “faith-based” film, rather he wanted something all ages would enjoy and appreciate.
Cathleen Falsani wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post, which explains in more detail about the movie about a team that changed history. She writes so thoughtfully about the perspective this movie has on faith and on the importance on what is essential in life. She writes, “"Be not afraid." Three simple words that, if heeded, can change everything. They can make a dream into a reality. An impossibility into a victory. Scarcity into abundance. Underdogs into champions. What is surprising about this little-film-that-could is its artistry, heart and universal appeal. Whether you are a sports fan or not, Catholic or agnostic, a girl or a boy, old or young -- "The Mighty Macs" will grab your heart, inspire your soul and send you away feeling like anything is possible if with faith, hard work and a community of sacred friends”.
So if you are looking for something to do this weekend, go root on the “Mighty Macs” at a local theatre. Click to watch the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_VXhJCetwc
The Baltimore Sun reports that a panel of Roman Catholic priests, brothers, sisters, and deacons faced an audience of lively fifth graders Thursday (Oct 27), offering snippets of their personal history histories and the motivation for their career choices. But many children were so unfamiliar with a nun's habit and veil that several directed remarks to "the lady in the blue dress."
"We have regular teachers, not nuns," said Craig Kelly, a student at St. Ursula School in Parkville who attended a conference Thursday at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Classmate Cathyrose Odoh added, "They are not the ordinary people we see every day."
In Maryland and across the country, the Roman Catholic Church is looking to inspire younger students with a zeal for religious life and help stem decades of decline in the ranks of nuns and priests. National research suggests that students start to consider the priesthood or sisterhood at as young as 11. But overcoming students' unfamiliarity — even at Catholic schools — can be a challenge.
Sister Patricia Dowling, CBS vocation director for the Sisters of Bon Secours and co-chair of the event, helped organize the first Focus 11 in Maryland and is planning several others. It drew students from Catholic elementary schools throughout the area. Focus 11 includes activities like a quiz game between the children and panelists, who included a priest, a brother, a deacon and two nuns. The back and forth showed the children that vocations come from people leading ordinary lives.
"Nobody is born a priest or nun," said Sister Fran Gorsuch, CBS, who played emcee for the game. "God called them to that life. And, that life is anything but boring."
When she asked which panelist was a Phillies baseball fan and a motorcyclist who worked in the Dominican Republic, the children chose one of the men — not the correct answer (it was Sister Mary Beth Antonelli, OSF). They erred about who had mastered fencing. It was the "lady in blue," Sister Mary Grace Dateno, FSP. Emma Crowhurst, a student at Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton, said, "It is interesting how these ordinary people became priests and sisters."
More coverage on Baltimore TV:
|SISTER FRANCES Evans (left)
and her longtime friend
Sister Maggie Hession
with Nolan Ryan when
he pitched for the Rangers.
Talking about her background, she had a few observations about her vocation. “I was a convert. I worked six years in Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio in the lab. There was something different about the sisters. The only thing I can think is, God just shook me by the neck and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ In 1950 I entered convent in San Antonio, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.”
Did they wear habits back then? “We sure did! We wore habits for a long time.” Could they go to baseball games? “Not back then, you didn’t go much of anywhere. I worked in the hospital most of the time. I don’t think we even had television when I entered.
“I was stationed here in Fort Worth in 1967,” she said. “It was beginning to lighten up a bit here and there. I remember well when they went to the shorter skirts and I walked out of chapel and felt the breeze on my knees. I never knew how good that would feel.”
See another profile of the sisters in the Wall Street Journal.
|MOTHER THERESE Couderc.|
The mission of the Cenacle Sisters is to awaken and deepen faith primarily through retreats, religious education, and other activities. Mother Therese Couderc started it all in 1805 when she turned a hostel for women pilgrims visiting the tomb of Saint John Francis Regis, the great Jesuit missionary, into a "cenacle"—a place of prayer and retreat, said Cenacle Sister Rosemary Duncan, r.c. in a recent newsletter article. The Cenacle Sisters have centers throughout the United States and the world.
By the way, the Chicago Cenacle is having a women's weekend retreat November 4-6 on "The Three Teresas—of Avila, of Lisieux, of Calcutta." For more information contact Sister Rosemary.
|KATHLEEN TURNER and Evan Jonigkeit in "High."|
Kathleen Turner will reprise her Broadway role as a tough-talking sister (and we do mean tough—the play has its share of nudity, profanity, and violence) who counsels a young drug addict in a planned national tour of the three-character drama High, by Matthew Lombardo.
High bills itself: “When Sister Jamison Connelly (Turner) agrees to sponsor a 19-year-old drug user in an effort to help him combat his addiction, her own faith is ultimately tested. Struggling between the knowledge she possesses as a rehabilitation counselor and a woman of religious conviction, she begins to question her belief in miracles and whether people can find the courage to change. High explores the universal themes of truth, forgiveness, redemption, and human fallibility.”
When a wildfire threatened the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in south central Washington State, the Greek Orthodox nuns who live there went out and did what most property owners would: They helped fight the fire.
Sr. Helena Burns, F.S.P. reports that the air conditioning in the motherhouse chapel in Boston was cranked down to 50 F and “even the audience faked it with us” but the taping of the Daughters of St. Paul Christmas concert video went came off fine, even though “the swinging jib camera arm thingy knocked over the decorative burning candle on the altar rail and clocked the same lady in the head twice. Otherwise,” Sr. Helena says, “no casualties.”
The video that will be created from the filming will air on the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn's NET TV channel this Christmas, and a DVD will be available. Daughters of St. Paul Christmas Concert Tour locations will also be announced and will include Boston, N.Y.C., Virginia, and Cleveland, and other cities.
The Daughters of St. Paul are on VISION.
|DEFORESTATION of farmland in Cameroon.|
The Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, Minnesota have been involved in such efforts. They are part of the Carbon Covenant, which itself is a project of Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), founded by Episcopal priest Rev. Canon Sally Bingham. IPL is an organization of 10,000 congregations in 30 states who pledge to cut their energy consumption through energy-efficiency and alternative energy sources. Through the Carbon Covenant, the Rochester Franciscans helped the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon purchase 35,000 tree seedlings to combat deforestation.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester are on VISION.
World Youth Day, Aug. 19: The Pope assured 1,600 sisters, representing nearly 300 religious communities and institutes, that the church and society continue to need the “Gospel Radicalism” of their religious consecration.
Benedict XVI gathered with the women religious at the Monastery of San Lorenzo in El Escorial
|SISTERS AWAIT the pope's arrival at
the Monastery of San Lorenzo outside Madrid.
Photograph: Andrea Comas, Reuters
After a few words of introduction from Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, the Pope listened to Belén González, a member of the Siervas de Maria congregation, who spoke on behalf of all the nuns present.
“Your Holiness, we know that the Cross placed on your shoulders by God is heavy. We want you to know that you are not carrying it alone, you can count on us who, in the silence of the cloister or in serving the Church in our work, help you in our simplicity and poverty, and with the strength that we receive from Jesus Christ”.
The Pope thanked the women religious for their “generous, total, and perpetual yes” and expressed his wish that this “yes” might “speak to young people, inspire them and illuminate them”. The Pope explained that consecrated life means “getting to the root of love for Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, and not putting anything before this love.” The Pope asked that, in the face of relativism and mediocrity, they live their “Gospel radicalism” in communion with the pastors of the Church, their own religious institution, and other members of the ecclesial community, such as the laity who give witness to the same Gospel in their own vocation.
“We can’t cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days, and keep them comfortable and free of pain.” Those were the words of Rose Hawthorne, later Sister Mary Alfonsa, O.P., a daughter of the great American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who in 1896 went to the slums of New York to care for poverty-stricken cancer sufferers, where she was soon joined by the young Alice Huber.
|DOMINICAN SISTERS of Hawthorne pray
at a new Rose Hill Home facility dedication.
"If you have to be terminal, this is the place to come," one resident told Catholic News Service. "It's the most unusual place I've ever been. You're not conscious of people being ill here. We all have cancer and we're all terminal, but it's serene and there are lots of moments of fun and laughter," she said. "The care is done with love and . . . . the women who care for you gave up their lives for this work and it's their vocation."
A while back I posted an item about Mother Dolores Hart, prioress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a Benedictine monastery in Bethlehem, Connecticut, who before becoming a sister had an acting career which included giving Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss (she's still a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). She's making an appearance this evening in Chicago to kick off the St. Michael Church (outdoor) Film Festival. After screening clips from her films, she will speak on “A Culture of Life: Healing the Heart, Fragmented & Disintegrated.”
Here's a short video with some publicity shots from her acting career, followed by a home movie of a birthday party she attended with Elvis:
There are monasteries of Trappistines—the women’s branch of the Trappist Cistercian order of monastics—all over the world, but in Ireland there is only one: St. Mary’s Abbey in Glencairn, which is home to 37 sisters.
The community is diverse, with sisters from India, Nigeria, and the Philippines as well as Ireland. And more sisters are on the way: Six women are in formation, and the abbey’s vocation director Sister Sarah Branigan says she is “occupied . . . with inquiries from people of all different ages, people from 20 to late 60s, so there are a steady flow of inquiries about this kind of life.”
|SISTERS at prayer,
St. Mary's Abbey
The monastic life, Mother Fahy adds, is “the opportunity to live close to God and close to one’s self and have time for prayer and have time for leisurely walks and good reading and reflection on God’s word, and I think living at a deeper level.”
Sister Fiachra Nutty, who joined the community five years ago and expects to make her solemn profession of vows next year, describes the fit between herself and the community’s life. “I felt I needed space to be with God,” she says, “and that’s not very easy, I’ve found, for me in the outside world, because I am quite an extrovert, and I get involved in an awful lot of things, so enclosure was important to me, but at the same time I have a horror of restriction, as in claustrophobia. So here we are absolutely truly blessed. We have 200 acres within which to wander, you know, so that was a huge factor for me. Also the enormous welcome and warmth I felt from the community on my very first visit. That was just so wonderful.”
Religious life is in the midst of a paradigm shift. The large novitiate classes of the 1950s and 1960s are aging and fewer women are entering religious life today. Many of the younger sisters recognize they will be called to leadership in their communities and the church within the next 10 to 15 years.
Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M.—a theologian and leading authority on Catholic women's religious life—shared her insights throughout the conference. “We are in a kairos moment that, if we seize it, could really galvanize into a whole new era of American religious life,” she said on the opening night of the conference.
While the main purpose of the gathering was to create a space for the voices of younger women religious, sisters of all ages were invited to participate. The youngest sister in attendance was 25 while the oldest was 88.
“The most meaningful part was the excitement and energy I felt after seeing other great women who are living this life just like we are, with the struggles and joys,” said 40-year-old Ursuline Sister Jeannie Humphries. “Religious life is a viable option and opportunity in our world today—it’s about being open to being with others and growing and learning.”
Giving Voice is an organization of vowed women religious in the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced religious life only since the Second Vatican Council. The July conference was the sixth national gathering of younger women religious women organized since 1997.
For highlights from the gathering, visit the conference blog.
|RETREAT GROUP with planning team in
back row: Sisters Amalia Camacho,
C.S.J.P., Jo-Anne Miller, C.S.J.P.,
Patricia Novak, O.S.F., Joan Gallagher, S.P., Monika Ellis, O.S.B., Francine
as a young sister
AS PUBLICIZED in the regularly updated Events Calendar of the VISION Vocation Network, the Archdiocese of Seattle Religious Vocation Team, comprised of vocation directors in the Seattle Archdiocese, held their first Intercommunity VIVA! Vocation Retreat weekend retreat earlier this month.
Eight young Catholic women who are exploring a call to religious life attended. Sisters from several local communities presented their vocation stories.
The Western Washington Serra Clubs sponsored the retreat.
BRAZILIAN Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 64, was appointed in January as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican body responsible for overseeing Roman Catholic religious life.
Bráz de Aviz
Commenting on the Vatican visitation of of women’s religious congregations in the United States, the archibishop said: "That, too, has not been an easy matter. There was mistrust and opposition. We’ve spoken with them, and their representatives have come here to Rome. We’ve started to listen again. That’s not to say there aren’t problems, but we have to deal with them in a different way, without preemptive condemnations and by listening to people’s concerns. By now, we’ve received many reports which we have to work through. There’s also the relationship with Mother Clare Millea [the Vatican-appointed head of the visitation], which will be important."
From John L. Allen, Jr.'s report on the NCROnline blog.
FOUNDED IN 2002, UNANIMA International is a nongovernmental organization (NGO—the international term for a nonprofit organization) made up of 17 congregations of Roman Catholic sisters--whose 17,500 constituents work in 72 countries.
UNANIMA's work is to advocate on behalf of women and children—particularly those living in poverty—immigrants and refugees, and the environment and takes place primarily at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where they aim to educate and influence policymakers at the global level.
In December 2005 UNANIMA International was officially accepted as an affiliated NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information. Primary campaign areas: women and children; human trafficking; migration and refugees; eco-justice; water; social development; financing for development; indigenous issues; and HIV/AIDS.
FYI, the four central purposes of the United Nations, which was founded in 1945 after the Second World War are:
|One UNANIMA's several campaign|
• To keep peace throughout the world
• To develop friendly relations among nations
• To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people to conquer hunger, disease, and illiteracy and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms
• To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals.
"Then, says Sister Cynthia on the Connect with Mercy blog, "go looking for some Roman Catholic sisters in your neighborhood, at your school, or in your church. Take some time to talk with them. You might be surprised by what you learn about their lives.
"You might know a sister who teaches all day every day, and perhaps after school or on weekends as well. But do you know that she may also be deeply involved in advocacy on any number of social justice issues? Ask her about the death penalty, about immigration, or about what’s happening in Darfur. See how her responses turn inside out what you might have thought about nuns.
|Sister Cynthia, R.S.M.|
"We devote our energies to serving others in whatever way God chooses. We pray to hear God’s voice, and to be obedient. We are so serious about this that we take a vow of obedience to God, a vow to listen really hard and then to act on what we hear. We recognize that the resources of Earth are limited, and that we need to share and take care of each other, especially the least among us. So we take a vow of poverty: we put all our money together to see what we can do to make a difference. Our work lives often balance each others. While some of us work as hospital administrators, others are on out the streets befriending immigrants. While some run colleges, others are doing volunteer literacy training.
"Our commitment to those on the edge is grounded in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who turned everything upside down, from ideas about who God is, to oppressive religious laws, to debilitating diseases, to tables in the temple., Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, turned her part of the world upside down by putting her house in a neighborhood of wealth, taking her sisters to the streets, demonstrating and teaching that women have a place and a voice in the world. She turned herself inside out to make a difference in her world.
"We try as hard as we can to be Mercy every day, visibly, right out loud, wherever we can, whenever it matters. We wear our faith in God’s loving providence with pride and joy. And we happily join with others who are on the same path, lifting little by little, block by block that part of the world which just might be the crucial corner edge to turn the whole thing over and allow a new world to emerge – a world where everyone has what they need and people work together in mutual respect.
"The Sisters of Mercy have been turning the world upside down for more than 175 years. We invite you to come with us to the streets, to turn yourselves inside out for the sake of God’s reign, for the health of God’s people, for the love of mercy."
Sisters of Mercy on VISION.
This Saturday, May 7, the 8th annual “Stepping Up the Call: Pilgrimage for Vocations” will step off at 8:30 a.m. from the Maria Stein Center of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, 2291 St. John's Rd., Maria Stein, OH. The event is a fun and healthy spiritually-based day that has drawn hundreds of participants of all ages from a multistate area who walk (or ride) to area churches and shrines, prayer, talks, benediction, snacks and lunch, and closing Mass, finishing at 4 p.m.
|Missionaries and Sisters of the Precious Blood
and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati organize
an annual eight-mile vocation pilgrimage.
The Bon Secours RIchmond Health system is among 12 companies that top the list of Working Mother magazine’s “2011 Best Companies for Hourly Workers.” The companies are recognized for innovative, family-friendly policies that provide training, educational assistance and promotional opportunities for hourly workers, who make up nearly half of the nation’s work force, the magazine says. Such policies include tuition reimbursement, mentoring and career counseling, flexible child-care spending accounts, and flex work and telecommuting.
The Bon Secours Richmond Health System is also a two-time Gallup Great Workplace Award recipient. Founded by the Bon Secours Sisters, who arrived in the U.S. in 1861, the Bon Secours Health System was the result of the sisters' mission to bring compassion to healthcare and be good help to those in need, especially those who are poor and dying. Over time, the Bon Secours sisters built a multi-state network of hospitals, long-term care facilities, and healthcare services. True to the sisters’ original mission of a comprehensive healing ministry. Bon Secours Richmond is active in community outreach health programs and services. As a system of caregivers, their stated mission is to commit themselves "to help bring people and communities to health and wholeness as part of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church."
Learn more about the Sisters of Bon Secours.
Goldman Sachs is facing a call from the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel to review whether the pay awarded to chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and other top executives is excessive, according to the Telegraph. The proposal will be put forward at the Wall Street bank’s annual general meeting next month by the orders, who own shares in Goldman, the bank revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank’s pay practices have faced criticism from religious orders in the past, but this call comes as Goldman revealed last week that its five most senior executives were awarded $69.5m in pay last year despite a drop in the bank’s profits.
Mr Blankfein, who said in an interview in 2009 that the bank was doing “God’s work”, received a cash bonus of $5.4m as part of a total pay package of $14.1m for last year. The Benedictine nuns, along with the US charity, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, also asked Goldman’s committee to explore “how sizeable layoffs and the level of pay of our lowest paid workers impact senior executive pay.”
In the SEC filing, the bank said that shareholders already have enough information to assess how Goldman rewards its executives and a further report would “entail an unjustified cost to our firm and would not provide shareholders with any meaningful information.”
In another case of investor nuns fighting back, last year Morgan Stanley was sued by a group of Irish nuns for allegedly failing to redeem an investment for them. The case, The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary v. Morgan Stanley, is still pending in Britain's high court.
In 2010 Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C., vocation director for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, formed two parish vocation committees in parishes the M.S.C.’s serve. The purpose of these committees is to reach out to parents and others in the local church to assume the responsibility of supporting young men and women who hear a call to serve God, the church, and others by becoming a religious brother or sister or through ordained ministry.
The process includes asking the pastor to identify and encourage 12-15 people who would have an interest in learning about the need for a vocation committee. Father Torma makes a presentation to them explaining the importance of forming a “culture of vocation” in the parish to inspire young men and women to consider consecrated life. The committee brainstorms possible parish activities to promote a vocation culture and chooses two or three activities to be implemented in the parish immediately.
Finally Torma asks three people to be the committee for three years, with a chairperson for two years. This committee can add members as they are able to recruit others from their parish. After the meeting Torma sends the committee ideas and keeps in contact with them to encourage their work.
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.
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.
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.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, also known as the Nashville Dominicans, recently celebrated their 150th anniversary with a postulant class of 27 young women, or 10 percent of the entire community, following up on last year’s group of 23 entrants.. The sisters are active across the United States and in Australia, where they teach more than 13,000 students in 34 schools.
Sister Catherine Marie, a spokeswoman, says the current group of first-year students represents ten percent of the whole community. "There are 270 of us and our growth of late has been rather extensive. This year we had 27 young women enter. Last year, it was 23. Great blessings to us."
In addition, these women are young, with nearly one third of the community now under age 30. That fact is especially relevant considering a recent poll by the Pew Research Center which showed that participation in organized religion is falling among Americans under 30. A different group, the National Opinion Research Center, found that 17 percent of Americans do not identify with any faith, including almost 25 percent of first-year university students.
Sister Kelly Edmunds is a first-year postulant with the St. Cecilia community. She says she came to the order out of a desire to serve others. She had seen Dominican sisters serving at the University of Sydney.
"Just to watch them, walking down the main boulevard of campus wearing their habits—it was just such a powerful witness,” she said. “I had friends in engineering who were, like, they knew I was Catholic so they would say to me, ‘Who are these nuns on campus?’ And so it was a really great witness to me of the power of religious life."
Beloved, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia's vocation video:
The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, a chapel and complex amidst dairy farms in Champion, Wisconsin, has become one of only about a dozen sites worldwide—and the first in the United States—where apparitions of Mary have been officially validated by the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1859, the year after Mary is said to have appeared at Lourdes in France, a Belgian immigrant in Champion named Adele Brise said she was visited three times by Mary, who hovered between two trees in a bright light, clothed in white with a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars above her head. As instructed by Our Lady, Brise devoted her life to teaching the Catholic faith to children. By all reports Brise was humble and honest and faithfully carried out Mary’s mandate to serve the church throughout her life.
On December 8, after a two-year investigation by theologians who found no evidence of fraud or heresy and a long history of shrine-related conversions, cures, and other signs of divine intervention, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay declared “with moral certainty” that Brise did indeed have encounters “of a supernatural character” that are “worthy of belief.”
Catholic leaders described the decree as a piece of joy at a trying time for the church, “This is a gift to the believers,” said the Father Johann Roten, director of the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton.
The Vatican gives primary responsibility for evaluating apparitions to local bishops. Wary of fraud, the church is generally reluctant to even investigate such claims. During the 20th century, Roten said, 386 major apparitions of Mary were reported at a level beyond local rumors. About 75 of those were studied, and at most a dozen were recognized as valid, he said.
Local officials may now have to ask themselves whether they thought too small when they designed the Shrine’s parking lot—planned well before the decree—to fit only 75 cars.
Bishop David Ricken reads the declaration approving the apparitions given to Adele Brise in 1859:
A year after the earthquake in Haiti, Salesian Missions has launched a news site that focuses on disaster recovery efforts in the area of Port-au-Prince. With so much media attention focusing on the negative aspects of the post-earthquake situation, ProgressInHaiti.org hopes to provide information and insight about programs and progress in Haiti related to Salesian Missions activities and those of partner organizations as well as overall issues in the country.
Through a new Salesian University Network, for example, hundreds of university students who had been unable to return to school following the Jan. 12, 2010 quake will have a chance to continue their education through 13 computer labs or cybercafés throughout Haiti.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, Salesian Missions provided disaster relief to victims—many of them their own students and teachers. Early efforts focused on the basic human needs of food, water, medical supplies, survival kits, and tents for shelter. Thousands of refugees were housed within the confines of those facilities which were not destroyed, and thousands more were provided meals.
In addition to getting news, people can visit ProgressInHaiti.org to make donations for recovery work. To date about $2.5 million have been spent by Salesian Missions on relief efforts for the Haitian people, along with additional in-kind donations. More than 23,000 students and 1,200 teachers have returned to classes at 10 Salesian Missions educational facilities.
Salesian Missions "What's your mission?" video”:
The Salesians also have a YouTube channel.
“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."
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.
The tradition of making and exchanging Christmas sweets goes back a long time—including recipes created by 16th- and 17th-century nuns in Mexico.
After sugar arrived in the country, sisters began to make sometimes complicated holiday confections, which they used as ways to thank donors and raise money.
|CIRUELAS RELLANAS de Almendra|
During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, during which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were murdered, the Benebikira Sisters sheltered hundreds of orphans and others who sought refuge in their convents. At the Benebikira motherhouse in the village of Save, a militia stormed the convent and demanded that the sisters separate themselves by ethnic groups. The sisters said no—aware that at other convents 20 sisters had been killed for standing up to the militants. The militia then looted all their food, cut the water lines, and told the sisters they would return to kill them.
When the genocide ended, the sisters found themselves caring for about 350 orphans, most of them traumatized after witnessing the brutal murders of their parents. The children “had food and clothing,” Sister M. Juvenal Mukamurama told Kathleen L. Sullivan of the National Catholic Reporter, “but it was no life for them. Family is very important in our country. They needed a family. So we decided to build community houses and make families.” The sisters built 39 houses and grouped the orphans into “families” of six to eight children.
Benebikira means "Daughters of Mary" in Kinyarwanda, the native language of Rwanda. About 56 percent of Rwanda's population of more than 10 million is categorized as Catholic. Founded in 1919, the Benebikira Order is native to Rwanda and today has about 380 women religious whose primary mission is education. They run two preschools, eight primary schools, three vocational schools, and 13 secondary boarding schools in Rwanda and Burundi. Since the genocide they have opened four new schools.
Last September the Benebikira Sisters were honored with the Courage of Conscience Award by the Peace Abbey, a Sherborn, Massachusetts multifaith retreat and teaching center dedicated to nonviolence, peacemaking, and social justice. At the award presentation, Sister Mukamurama said: “It is nice to know people appreciate what we did and what we do. We do not do the work to be appreciated, but this appreciation does give us encouragement.”
“The sisters,” said Dot Walsh, program coordinator at the Peace Abbey, “told us it was the first time they had publicly been acknowledged for the courage and faith they displayed during the genocide, and they were very touched.”
The sisters have also established the Ministry of Hope, Healing, and Reconciliation in Rwanda to provide pastoral counseling for those affected by the genocide and to train young adults to serve as peer counselors.
“Rwanda wants to move forward,” said Sister Mukamurama, who is marking her 40th anniversary as a Benebikira sister. “We want to build our country, our relationships, a new life. We are no longer seen as Tutsi or Hutu. We live together. We are no longer separate. We are Rwandans.” A Benebikira Sisters Foundation Scholarship Video:
After returning to the U.S. from working in Papua New Guinea, Sacred Heart Missionary Sister Dorothy Fabritze was at a convention of the United States Catholic Mission Association when she heard about an opportunity to answer a pressing need—in circus ministry.
Keeping in mind the charism of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to reach out to those who have not heard the message of God’s love or are lax in their response, she asked Sister Bernard Overkamp, another Sacred Heart Missionary with whom she had worked in New Guinea, to join her. Although both were hesitant at first, they soon fell in love with their new mission. They eventually landed jobs with the “Greatest Show on Earth,” the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Sister Dorothy is one of the circus’ schoolteachers. “We have 19 schoolchildren, and I’m responsible for nine of these, grades one, two, and three,” Sister Dorothy says. She is also available for religious education and preparing children for sacraments. Occasionally adults approach her for marriage preparation or instruction in the Catholic faith. She has led interdenominational Bible studies and taught English.
A seamstress in the ladies’ wardrobe, Sister Bernard helps to maintain and handle the women’s costumes before, during, and after the shows. With others in her department, she makes sure everyone is dressed correctly before they go out on the floor, fixing dresses and shoes if necessary. “And then my ministry is to be with the young girls,” Sister Bernard says, “listen to them, listen to their stories, listen to their heartaches.”
|SISTERS Bernard Overkamp, left, and Dorothy Fabritze
walk toward their trailer at the Ringling Bros.
and Barnum & Bailey Circus
(Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News).
The 300 members of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus come from 18 different countries. For some of the younger artists it is their first time away from home. Others have grown up in the extended circus family.
New performers soon find out they can “go to Sister” to talk about faith matters or other personal issues. In her contacts with the artists, Sister Bernard always stresses the idea of circus as family. “I see her forming this oneness in how she deals with the young women,” says Sister Dorothy, “how she deals with their relationship issues at that time in their lives, how she encourages them and directs, guides . . . . She tells them, ‘Let’s stay together, let’s work together, let’s be a family, let’s respect one another.’ ”
“Faith is alive and well, whatever faith tradition it is,” Sister Dorothy says, pointing out that religion has always played an important role among circus people. “When you have a job that is more dangerous than some, you rely on your faith.”
“This is my goal,” says Sister Dorothy, “to be a living, breathing presence of God in this society called circus. The message that God does love, God does forgive, God is continually there for us, is a very unifying, making-us-one concept.”
Adapted from the Focolare Movement’s monthly Living City magazine (October 2009) (livingcitymagazine.com).
Sister Jane Omlor, O.S.F., a Franciscan sister of Tiffin, Ohio, lived for 10 years in Mingo County, West Virginia where she saw mountaintop-removal mining leave her and her neighbors without well water. Seeing environmental destruction firsthand, she coordinated the construction of the Web of Life Ecology Center, built primarily with recycled materials. Earlier, while living in Spencer, West Virginia, she organized and assembled a “straw bale” chapel. Now, in Tiffin, she’s project manager for the building of a straw bale house she will live in.
The house, named Little Portion Green, is an effort of Project STRAW (Saving Today’s Resources In Awesome Ways), which itself is part of the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin. The home will serve as a demonstration and educational facility to show how a house does not have to “use any more energy than we can produce ourselves,” Omlor says, and save resources by using passive solar design, solar panels, straw bale insulation with earth plaster, Energy Recovery Ventilation, and other systems. It will be the first certified passive-energy structure in Ohio and the first certified passive straw-bale house in the United States.
Designed in the style of a “little Ohio farmhouse," as Omlor describes it, the 1,500-square-foot home will have two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. What it won’t have are a furnace and an air conditioning system. The house will be heated and cooled with an energy-recovery ventilation system or electric air-exchange unit. It will have electricity but rely on solar power.
Underneath the house’s concrete slab are four feet of a material called millcell, a product from Germany made from recycled glass, which prevents cold from radiating up into the house and helps keep heat inside. The roof will be made largely of recycled steel. Interior doors, railings, and other elements were salvaged for reuse from the St. Francis convent when a portion of the building was razed. Extra-large, triple-pane, high-efficiency windows will be mostly south-facing with deep-set sills. The rounded walls—and that’s where the bales come in—will be insulated with bales of locally grown straw and covered with an earth-tone clay plaster—all sustainable materials.
The house is expected to cost about $100,000, about half of which has been raised so far. Straw-bale houses cost more to build, but the savings come on utility bills. Almost 300 donors have "bought" a bale of straw for $100 each and will have their names etched into a glass "truth window." "In every straw-bale house there's a 'truth window' because there's always a skeptic that walks in and says, “This is not built of straw” because you can't see the straw," Omlor told the Toledo Blade. "So you open up this door and there's the straw."
The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul recently received the Van Thuân Prize for Solidarity and Development. The award, instituted three years ago by the St. Matthew Foundation of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, recognizes institutions, associations, and other entities that carry out humanitarian and work projects in developing countries to defend human rights through the promotion and diffusion of evangelical principles, following the directives of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.
The award recognized the work of sisters in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake as well as the recent cholera outbreak that has left 284 dead and another 3,600 infected.
Sister Maria Teresa Tapia, provincial of the Daughters of Charity in Haiti, said that her communities have been working for 30 years in Haiti "on the level of instruction as well as health, in the promotion of women and in the struggle against malnutrition."
The congregation lost its provincial house and a school in the quake, but the sisters rallied nonetheless to go to the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince and aid the wounded.
"So many sisters then arrived from Spain, from France, from England, from the United States, and from South and Central America to help the victims of the catastrophe, taking care of them and helping them in the refugee camps, in the clinics, in the districts of Port-au-Prince and in the Petit Goave campaign," Tapia said.
She noted that millions of Haitians are still living in tents and "have urgent need of dwellings, food, water, care and health services, school resources, and structures for children."
A short video on the sisters' work in Haiti:
Illustrating the continuing fascination with Hildegard is a new film, Vision (like the title!), from German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa as Hildegard. Filmed in medieval German cloisters, Vision follows Hildegard’s life from her childhood entrance into a convent to her becoming its leader 30 years later. The film is in German with English subtitles.
Watch the film’s trailer, and watch what I guess you could call a Hildegard music video:
|Award-winning DVD on Sisters Under
Sylvania Franciscan Sister Judy Zielinski, O.S.F., writer/producer for NewGroup Media in South Bend, Indiana, recently received a Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy for Communication Art Professionals for her documentary Interrupted Lives: Catholic Sisters Under European Communism. This one-hour film tells the story of sisters in Eastern Europe imprisoned from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 for openly practicing their religious faith.
These survivors—now in their 70’s, 80‘s, and 90’s—lived through various attempts of Communist regimes to suppress religion and religious expression. Almost 60 sisters were interviewed in cities ranging from Warsaw, Poland and Budapest, Hungary to Bratislava, Slovakia, Bucharest, Romania, and L’viv, Ukraine. Additional filming was done in the Toledo, Ohio area using Sylvania Franciscan Sisters as actors.
View the film’s trailer here.
|Award-winning DVD on Sisters Under
|THE T206 from 1909
A mint-condition card sold for $2.6 million in 2007, and although the sisters’ card is not in good condition, it is expected to fetch up to $200,000 at auction.
"It just boggles your mind," said Sister Virginia Muller. "I can't remember a time when we have received anything like this."
Religious communities are recognizing the need to expand their online communications, especially in the area of social media, if they want to get the word out about themselves and attract potential new members. Helping to lead the way are the Sisters of Providence, who were recognized for their social media marketing "best practices" by the National Communicators Network for Women Religious at their annual conference last September in Denver.
The Sisters of Providence use various forms of social media to help share their community's mission and ministry. In the last year the Sisters of Providence have seen a growth of interest in vocations, as well as other activities, that they believe to be directly related to their social media and website work.
The book and film Dead Man Walking did a lot to get the word out about Sister of St. Joseph Helen Prejean's efforts against the death penalty. But did you know the book was also made into an opera, with music by Jake Heggie and a libretto by Terrance McNally? Heggie has also set to music Prejean's poems The Deepest Desire: Four Meditations on Love called The Deepest Desire: Four Dramatic Songs of Praise, which talk about the vocation of love and her own vocation.
The texts of the songs are below. Here's a performance:
Prelude: The Call
More is required
More is required than being swept along—
All the currents pulling me
Easy and wide in a long, slow drift—
Without rudder, floating backwards, now to the side.
What can one person do against a sucking tide?
I coil like a bow;
I gather like a fist;
I forge like a rudder
And I lean into the wide, slow drift.
I tack and veer by God's own will.
I raise my voice against the silence.
My voice alone until a chorus joins.
Love is the pure energy of God: pray for it ardently.
Be grateful when it comes into your life: give of it generously.
Lavish it on others: even the undeserving ones.
Cultivate friendship with care: it is the best love of all.
I catch on fire
Long black dress to my toes—Flowing black sleeves and veil.
A walking bolt of black material.
Fourth grade religion class-Teaching full force:
The gospel according to . . .
Fifty little eyes wide. Twenty-five voices shout:
"Sister! Sister! You're on fire!"
Flames shooting. Hands beating.
Children, this teaches us always to be careful with fire.
Now, years later, when I pray
I catch on fire.
The deepest desire
Traditionally many religious communities devote time almost every day to what is known as "recreation," and Tyburn Convent, a cloistered monastery of Benedictine women in the heart of London, is no different. What is a bit unique is one of the sisters' recreational activities: snooker-which they also hope to leverage into some much-needed fundraising.
After a television documentary about their lives—and snooker-playing—brought international attention, the sisters decided to ask local businessmen to drop by the convent and ''put a shot in the pot''—that is, make a contribution each time they pocket a ball on the community's undersized snooker table. The donation goes to a restoration fund for their building. Constructed in the Victorian era, it was damaged by a bomb in World War II and the repairs have started to deteriorate.
''Snooker is a popular game and I think that it will appeal to a lot of people,'' Sister Simeon told the New York Times. ''I thought fundraising was a dreary business. I never knew it could be like this. This is a lot better than addressing envelopes. . . . Recreation is an important part of our day and I'm not keen on sitting down and knitting; not yet, anyway."
''Our skipping has aroused interest, too,'' added Mother Mary Xavier in reference to another of the sisters' recreations: jump-roping. ''We like to skip but it's the snooker that has taken off. If our skipping gets more popular, then we will have sponsored skipping. But right now, we must concentrate on snooker.''
Originally a home for unwed mothers, Chicago's Misericordia/Heart of Mercy today supports over 500 children and adults with mild to profound developmental disabilities. For 40 of those years the director of Misericordia has been Mercy Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M.:
|Talk radio host
Stephanie Miller called to
task by a Sister of
St. Mary of Namur
Sister Carol Ann of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur was quoted on the Stephanie Miller radio show today. Stephanie Miller, comedienne and progressive talk radio host, apparently claimed tongue-in-cheek on an earlier show that she was "beaten by the nuns" during her time at DeSales Catholic High School in Lockport, NY.
Sister Carol Ann wrote and begged to differ. Apparently, the academy was not staffed by the sisters when Stephanie attended. Oops! Stephanie acknowledged that she had fibbed--all for the sake of a laugh. She promised Sister Carol Ann she would say two Hail Marys.
Good for Sister Carol Ann for taking the time to set the record straight about the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. Good for Stephanie Miller for her on-air apology. We believe detention is in order, Stephanie.
Click here and type in Keywords "of Namur" or Code 348 to read the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur VISION listing.
Pope Benedict XVI gave the Roman Catholic church five new saints on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009, including Father Damien, born as Jozef De Veuster in 1840, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium who cared for leprosy victims on the Hawaiian island of Molokai from 1873 to 1889, when the disease killed him. The other new saints are 19th-century Polish bishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski; Spanish faithful Francisco Coll y Guitart and Rafael Arniaz Baron, and Jeanne Jugan, a Frenchwoman described by Vatican Radio as an "authentic Mother Teresa ahead of her time." (Click here for full AP story featured on NPR).
For more information about Father Damien, read VISION's online listing for Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (code 230).
For Jeanne Jugan, go to the VISION listing for the Little Sisters of the Poor (code 041).
Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. with two of her students
Now the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, Lucas is also a member of the multicultural and evangelization committees for the archdiocese. In addition she is the regional director of formation for the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and has ministered in Ethiopia and the inner-city prisons of Chicago.
After joining the Daughters she was assigned as director of Nazareth School for Girls in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was responsible for 1,400 young women. "At that time, the president of Ethiopia had his daughter attend Nazareth School. Everyone there valued their education and viewed attending the school as a stepping stone to England or America. The students prayed so much; they prayed for peace every morning," Lucas said.
Due to the continuing civil war in the area that ended in 1991, she relocated back to the U.S. to become president of a mostly white school. "I sent in my résumé for the job without a photo," she said. "When I was voted in, people were definitely taken aback. I didn't see overt racism, but it was racism that was covered by a smile. People don't respect you as a person with intelligence.""My faith has made me a stronger person," she confessed. "I could not endure the racism, even within my own church, if it was not for my faith. It made me look beyond the atrocities and realize there is a God."
Sr. Jan Lane's reflection on her vocation as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ
In October, 17 years ago, five United States Adorers of the Blood of Christ were murdered in Liberia, West Africa by
| Sr. Jan Lane, ASC
When I was 35, anyone looking at my life would have thought I was perfectly content with the direction my life was taking. I had earned a B.A. in Parks & Recreation Administration and completed 10 years of successful employment serving as Program Director of a large recreation facility in my hometown. I loved working with people of all ages and social-economic backgrounds in designing programs to meet their need for organized social and recreational activity. On my free time I enjoyed training and competing in various 10k runs, biathlons and triathlons, just to stay in shape. I was a home owner, loved my cat, and found pleasure in picking out my own new vehicles and recreational gear. I enjoyed a great circle of supportive friends, which included dating and even thoughts of marriage from time to time. Who would have thought that a call to Religious Life would enter the picture of my very active life? I didn't! At least, not until I started to pay closer attention to my prayer life and a deeper desire to search for God.
Part of my search included drawing closer to my parish community by getting involved with prayer groups, sponsoring RCIA candidates and teaching PSR classes. Another part of my search included attending retreats and "Come and See" weekends, which connected me with women religious. One particular retreat captured my heart and significantly changed the direction of my life forever. I met an Adorer of the Blood who had lived and served in Liberia, Africa for 17 years. She shared her personal experience as a missionary and the story about the five Adorers who had been martyred in 1992. I was struck by the radical witness of the Adorers in living fully their spirituality which is rooted in adoration of the Precious Blood of Christ. They seemed impelled to share their lives, talents and resources for the purpose of building up a community of people who had less then they had. After that retreat, I knew I wanted to learn more about the Adorers and their mission to "bring about that beautiful order of things that the Son of God came to establish in His blood." For the first time in my life, I felt within me a desire to explore the possibility of a vocation to Religious Life.
Today I am a professed Sister with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and I still love the opportunity of working with people from all walks of life. I have had a variety of ministry experiences including working with inner city after-school programs, hospital and hospice chaplaincy, pastoral training programs for laity, and vocation outreach for the Adorers. Even as a Sister, exercise remains important to me and I have a steady routine of early morning runs and evening swims at the YMCA. I still consider myself a seeker, one who searches for God in my daily encounters and activities. Prayer remains central to my spiritual growth. The difference now is I live in a supportive community of faith-filled women who share a common mission. Together, we draw from a rich spiritual heritage that gives depth and meaning to life both personally and communally. Becoming an Adorer of the Blood of Christ has opened my life to a greater sense of purpose and direction, something that was that was missing at the age of 35. For those feeling the nudge to consider Religious Life as a vocation my advice is: "Go for it! Your life may change forever."
For more information about the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and the ASC presence in Liberia is available at www.adorers.org or contact S. Jan Lane, Vocation Director for the U.S. Region at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-236-7377 ext. 1455
Many people who feel called to a religious vocation face the task of eliminating financial debts, whether accumulated from education loans or other sources, so that they can be free of debt when entering into religious life. One young Chicagoan has found a creative way to address that challenge.
On Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, Alicia Torres will run the Chicago Half Marathon as part of "The Nun Run,," an idea, complete with its own website, TheNunRun.com, that she created to attract sponsors to help her eliminate her student debt. Torres hopes to become part of The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, a Franciscan community that is forming at the former Our Lady of the Angels parish on Chicago's west side.
On TheNunRun website, Torres says, "This September 13, myself and a group of generous friends will run the Chicago Half Marathon-13.1 miles along the beautiful lakefront-with the goal of raising funds to help me remit my educational debt so I may enter Religious Life Training is in full swing, and every day I try more and more to surrender to God's mercy and grace."
Torres works for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Respect Life Office. A 2007 graduate of Loyola University Chicago, she was first attracted to Religious Life while a university student. "Men and women in my generation are looking for meaning. We desire to make a difference in the world. Religious life really is a supernatural way of living, serving our neighbor in need while acknowledging God is the center of life," Torres told HeadlineBistro.com in an interview.
"Today many men and women want to serve in this way but are hindered by their educational debt. Ironically, the cost of education that should prepare us to serve others actually hinders our ability to freely live a life of prayer and service," said Torres.
Torres is being assisted in her efforts to retire her debt by the Laboure Society, a non-profit organization that helps men and women who desire to enter religious life eliminate their debt. The Society receives donations on behalf of individuals, so that donors may receive a tax-deduction for their gift. All gifts made to The Nun Run will be channeled through the Laboure Society and are fully tax-deductible. The Laboure Society makes payments to the lenders on behalf of the men and women.
"In our world today we function so often as individuals. Really, we can't be successful without the support of others. Every person who helps me as I work toward eliminating my debt is not just assisting me in a financial need. They are enabling me to live a life of love and service. In this way, they are part of the mission of love and service I will live as a vowed religious in the Catholic Church," Torres said.
|Sister Pat Murphy prays with an immigration detainee|
"The immigrant detainees are different from the criminal detainees," said Persch. They most likely are never going to see their families [in the U.S.] again. . . . They're afraid. They're very sad for their family, very worried about their family. It's like in an emergency room when they bring a chaplain in. . . . your presence, your compassion, your prayer . . . that brings comfort to them."
In addition to their direct ministry, Persch and Murphy have fought for the right of detainees to pastoral care. They have also advocated in support of immigration reform and have become so well known in immigrant and Catholic circles, said a Chicago Tribune story by Margaret Ramirez, "that they are often just called 'The Sisters.' "
Murphy gets frustrated with Catholics who oppose her ministry with immigrants in this country illegally. "The church has lost it," she said. "Jesus didn't just say feed the people in your country, clothe the people in your city or whatever. It's open to every human being."
Two and a half years ago the sisters expanded their ministry when they started traveling to a federal detention center which is the last stop for detainees before deportation. There they prayed the rosary and boarded buses to bless the deportees. Since then they have been joined by almost two dozen clergy and activists.
The sisters have a long history of service to the vulnerable. Before their prison work they had run an outreach ministry for seniors at a Sisters of Mercy hospital; taught at an alternative school for high school dropouts; started Su Casa Catholic Worker House, a home for Central American survivors of torture; and worked at a shelter for African American women recovering from domestic violence and drug addiction. Later they started helping a mentally challenged single mother raise her daughter, becoming foster moms to the 13-year-old, picking her up from school, paying for singing and dance lessons, and helping with admission to high school.
"You see, I believe that the divine and the sacred are the ordinary things of life," Murphy said. "And I believe the moments in that jail are sacred moments with those people. We give them life, and they give us life. . . . It's a mutual thing. It's a human exchange, but I believe that God is present in that."
See more photos of the sisters at work.
Jill Kress, a novice of the Monroe, Michigan Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is taking questions. In an interview with the Michigan Catholic she talked about her vocation, snd in a video (see below) she answered the question, “What special advice would you have for someone who is an only child and wants to become a Sister?"
The newspaper asked her a series of good questions, and she had equally good responses. “What,” she was asked, “would you suggest to someone now discerning the call?” “Listen. Notice. Pray,” she said. “Listen to yourself, and that sometimes means having another, such as a spiritual director to reflect back at you what they’re hearing. Notice what feelings, ideas emerge from this. Does a certain theme keep coming back? And pray—in solitude, in community, in whatever ways work for you, hold your desires in prayer and see what happens. It’s a pretty simple formula, I didn’t invent it, [and] it’s helpful to have some way to track inner feelings.”
Why did she think God called her? “How does God call each of us to our true vocation, to what Thomas Merton calls our true selves? We all have a calling, and to figure out what we are called to has to do with living in such a way that we can hear that message in our lives.”
The paper then asked her about the role her own desire plays when it comes to discerning her vocation. “This might not make much sense,” she said, “but I would say that my own desire has everything and nothing to do with my vocation. I say it has everything to do with it because I can’t imagine wanting anything else . . . and yet, it’s not really my desire. I believe it comes from God.
“And yes, I do think that God calls us to a life we’re not necessarily comfortable with. It’s not about suffering for the sake of suffering, I am not at all advocating that. I think of this more as a ‘holy longing,’ or like the Jesuit principle of magis, always seeking the more. The cofounders of the IHM community, Louis Florent Gillet and Theresa Maxis, were always seeking out how to better serve God. As Louis Gillet once wrote, ‘I desire to be everywhere when I see so many needs.’ To IHMs today that speaks of a sense of dis-comfort with the way things are in the world—dissatisfaction with injustice, violence, and poverty in the world, and acting out of that holy longing for peace, wholeness, reconciliation. There is a certain amount of unsettledness with being a seeker, and to the extent that God calls us to see with new eyes the injustices, but also the beauty of the world and to continual conversion.”
Did anyone try to discourage her from pursuing religious life? “I’ve . . . had people in my life who have tried to dissuade me. This has been difficult because my tendency is to want to please others, and knowing that people who are close to me were unsupportive of my call to the IHMs was hard to take. But ultimately it’s between me and God and no one else.”
Read more about Sr. Jill. And here’s the video:
I was at the Paluch Seminar on Vocations this past week and met some young adults who had never met a religious sister until they were well in their teens or 20s—even though they had attended Catholic schools. It made me realize that many people may not know or see the value of nuns, sisters, brothers, and religious priests.
I'd love to hear from others on what they see as the value for themselves and for the church of having people choose religious life. For myself I would say that I have been inspired by the fact that priests, brothers, sisters have been at the forefront of every major social movement in the U.S.: child labor laws, civil rights, peace, social justice. They helped establish our extensive Catholic school and healtchcare systems. They are now leaders in the immigration and healthcare reform movements.
I do believe their witness and dedication to the church is essential to the life of the church. Please let me know what you think.
The St. Joseph Worker Program (SJW), sponsored by the Congregation of St. Joseph, has announced the first class of St. Joseph Workers for their new year-long volunteer program in New Orleans, Louisiana. Four young women, who have a blog, joined recently-named program director Jackie Schmitz, C.S.J. on July 31, 2009. Their volunteer year will end June 30, 2010.
SJW is a year-long volunteer program for single women between 21 and 35 who are committed to social change. This program is based on the St. Joseph Worker program the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet began seven years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota that has since grown to two houses in the Twin Cities as well as an alumni house.
The program trains and supports women to be agents of change as they provide direct services to the communities they serve. The core of the program includes development in leadership, community, justice, and spirituality, which participants work toward through training programs, retreat days, living together in community, ministry experiences, and interaction among themselves, the sisters and associates of the Congregation, and others they meet.
A Study on Recent Vocations was just published by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference (the group which holds the copyright for VISION Vocation Guide). The study shows an increase in ethnic diversity among new entrants and a desire for prayer, communal living, and Catholic identity, which correlates with the VISION VocationMatch.com annual trend surveys and reader statistics.
For full details of the study, click here.
Best practices gleaned from the study for attracting and retaining new members:
Parishes, religious educators, and families also play a role in promoting vocations. Let's hope the study spurs more vocation awareness among all Catholics.
|Papal Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi|
Sambi called upon the church in the United States “not to remain a prisoner of the sex scandal” nor “a prisoner to the crisis in religious life.” Sambi acknowledged that the sexual abuse crisis has taken a terrible toll, saying that in some quarters it has “deprived us of all credibility.” Likewise, he conceded that diminishing numbers have induced a crisis of confidence in some circles of religious life. Nonetheless, Sambi insisted that rebirth is possible through adopting the spirit of St. Paul, being “seized,” “grasped,” by the Gospel of Christ, and preaching that gospel relentlessly. “There is a Christian way of dealing with problems,” Sambi told the several hundred leaders of religious life. “It involves converting humiliation into strength by fidelity to our vocation and mission.”
Also on his blog, Allen had this to say about the papal nuncio:
Here’s a window onto Sambi’s personality: When I sat down next to him at the speaker’s table on Thursday morning, I asked how he was doing. “Better every day,” he said with a broad smile, adding. “We must be optimistic ... we are Christians, after all.” Sambi is the kind of guy who, just by being himself, puts a radiant human face on the church.
That seems to be a worthy aspiration for all Christians: Commitment to putting a radiant human face on the church.
An exceptional teaching staff, a social worker, and volunteers work to ensure that the women receive not only a diploma but also the skills and confidence they will need throughout life.
Women who have completed their stay at Kenmare come back to say that the lessons in discipline and self-respect at the school have enabled them to begin new lives, which may include technical training or earning their GED and going to college.
Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America is a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in association with the Cincinnati Museum Center. It offers history museums across the country an opportunity to display artifacts and images the general public has rarely seen.
Opening last May in Cincinnati, the exhibit is scheduled for various locations in the next three years and is accepting new bookings. It allows exhibit-goers, its website says, to “meet women who corresponded with President Thomas Jefferson, talked down bandits and roughnecks, lugged pianos into the wilderness, and provided the nation’s first health insurance to Midwestern loggers.” Hey, even Maria Shriver and Cokie Roberts endorsed the show.
For more information, go to www.womenandspirit.org.
“Monastery Mustard,” report the Benedictine Sisters of Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon of their community’s product, “again won silver in the prestigious Worldwide Mustard Competition with our superb Glorious Garlic flavor. This is the second time in three years that Glorious Garlic was awarded the Silver Medal in the Garlic Mustard category at the competition, which is a part of the 15th Annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival. Over 400 mustards from seven countries entered the competition.”
While Sister Terry Hall, O.S.B., mustard chef and coordinator, has been making the mustard for years, the product was just introduced to the public in the summer of 2005. “Two new mustard flavors have been added in the past year. Orange Cranberry is going to be a seasonal product that will be available during the late fall and winter. . . . Jubilant Blueberry, which was introduced in 2006 for the Sisters' 125th anniversary celebration, will also become a seasonal mustard, available during the late summer and early fall.
“The standard flavors—Divinely Original (horseradish), Glorious Garlic, Heavenly Honey, Angelic Honey Garlic, Hallelujah Jalapeno, and Devoutly Dill—remain available year-round online.”
Sister Elizabeth Liebert blazed an ecumenical trail when she became the first Catholic sister to be named dean of a Presbyterian seminary in the United States. Said Liebert, a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who was tapped to become dean of San Francisco Theological Seminary earlier this month, “Behind me is my whole religious community. I know they all stand behind me. They function as my family. We’re always talking and praying.”
San Francisco Theological Seminary is a school of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
They say 70 is the new 50, but Sister Madonna Bruder is taking that age calculation to a whole new level. Called the “Iron Nun,” the 78-year-old Sister for Christian Community divides her time between ministry and triathlons.
Sister Madonna Bruder after winning the women’s 75-plus age division at Ironman Canada.
Bruder, of Spokane, Washington, has completed over 325 triathlons, including 35 “Ironman”-class events consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26-mile run. At the Hawaii Ironman over 10 years ago she became the oldest woman ever to complete the race, finishing in 16:59:03, an hour under the 17-hour midnight cutoff time. Her accomplishments have been featured on ABC News, complete with video, and in numerous internet stories.
"Well, you know, as long as God is giving you your health,” Bruder said, “there's no reason to stop.”
“We were trying to do something to really connect monastics with students this year,” said Sister Molly Weyrens.
Click on the must-see video of Sister Eunice Antony and student Megan Priebe performing.
Lady Gaga, a 23-year-old singer/song-writer from Yonkers, NY, who is famed for her outrageous and revealing get-ups, doesn't think teachers at New York's Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic school would be offended by the way she expresses herself, according to a Bang Media article recently posted online. "I haven't had any feedback from the nuns," says the young artist who was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. "But it's interesting because I think everyone assumes that because I went to such a religious school perhaps they don't appreciate what I'm doing now. But it is quite the opposite.
"I got a really solid education, in particular how to analyze art, how to make art. So if anything, my teachers are sort of nodding their heads and saying, 'She did a good job of using her artistic abilities to really create a new kind of pop.'"
Hmm...it would be interesting to hear from some Sacred Heart sisters just to confirm their thoughts on the matter. But in the meantime, it's nice to know Lady Gaga appreciates the education she received at their hands.
Sister Cyril Mooney, a member of the Irish-based Sisters of Loreto (Mother Teresa’s community before she founded the Missionaries of Charity), has been part of Calcutta's streets for more than 40 years, a Religion & Ethics Newsweekly story reports. Like the late Mother Teresa, Sister Cyril first came to India, in 1956, to teach in the elite English-language schools the sisters started during the colonial period in India.
Unlike Mother Teresa, however, Sister Cyril continued teaching, becoming the school principal and expanding her educational reach to underprivileged children living on the streets of Calcutta. Today, 50 percent of the students— mostly from slums—attend her community’s school for free.
"Our idea is to push them as far as they can go academically, and then if they can't go any farther they'll vet them into one of the vocational trainings and give them training whereby they can start to work," Sister Cyril said. "My hope is that every child who comes out will have a better future and I think the next generation will have a very good future.
In a new book, The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision (Ave Maria Press), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) talks about how its perspective is in keeping with the vision of religious life set forth by Vatican II, suggesting that its commitment to a more visibly countercultural life and ministry is what sustains its orders and attracts young women to CMSWR communities.
by Sister Mary Michael, O.S.F., School Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Panhandle, Texas
July, 1993: I came to visit here in Panhandle with an agenda: I wanted to know what it was like to live in a convent.
"What is it like to get up at 5:00 in the morning? What do they do all day anyway? Can I keep up with the schedule and the demands of this life?" I was very curious, but I had no intention of joining this community. It was just a convenient place (30 miles from home) where I could get some answers.
I told the superior to be sure to tell the sisters not to pressure me into joining. As a 23-year-old that liked to go to Mass every day, I had been pressured enough. I just wanted to be able to stay for a few days—to watch, to learn, to experience. The Mother Superior answered wisely with the best answer she could have given:
"If you're supposed to be here, wild horses could not keep you away."
Wow. That was exactly what I needed to hear. To my great surprise, I loved it at the convent! I found myself really enjoying the sisters. I was touched by the way they loved each other. When it was time to leave, I felt like I was being ripped away from something, someplace, and some people that I wanted to be a part of. I now realize that the reason why I had such a connection in my heart with these people was because this was the exact place where God was calling me.
I went home and thought about the sisters a lot. I kept looking at my watch, thinking about how they were doing things without me. "It's 3:00—they're having coffee break without me! It's 6:00—they're praying without me! It's 6:30—they're eating without me!" I called the next day and asked for an application.
I needed a little extra push. It's not easy entering a convent—giving most everything away, moving, saying good-bye to everyone (at least temporarily), and going to a place that you hope is as wonderful as you had already experienced.
Here I am almost 16 years later. (I can't believe it's already been that long!) This truly is where God has called me. It has been a long trip but a good one. Hopefully I have responded to God's grace to make me more like Him every day. There is definitely a lot more for me to work on, but I'm glad that I am here to do it.
If you are considering religious life, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "Be not afraid!" Pray that God leads you to the wonderful place where He is calling you. Pray that others will find it, too.
In the midst of Hollywood a community of 20 Dominican sisters live a cloistered life. Only a few of them ever leave their Monastery of the Angels to buy necessities.
"We don't go around with the iPods, the music, we don't go around with the cell phone on constantly," Sister Mary Raphael, 65, who has lived in the community since she was 18, told National Public Radio’s Mandalit del Barco in an All Things Considered story.
"I've seen it when I go out shopping. They're constantly on their phone. I want to say, 'Hello? Did you say hello to God today? Did you call God?' "
While the 85-year-old community survived the Great Depression, they are now struggling through the current economic crisis. Last January, Sister Mary Raphael, who also handles the monastery’s finances, found out the community’s investment portfolio had dropped 70 percent. In addition, medical bills for elderly sisters have drained the community’s cash.
“That’s when we began to get really scared,” said mother superior Sister Mary Raymond.
To raise money the sisters have for 40 years been baking and selling pumpkin bread. They also sell various items in gift shop, like candies and greeting cards. But recently more misfortune struck: The oven broke down. The bread had been popular, even reaching a future president when Los Angeles City Council Member and Monastery of the Angels fan Tom LaBonge gave a loaf to Barack Obama during his campaign. The sisters have also started appealing to benefactors and pondering reviving the charity garden parties, bridge teas, and retreats that once attracted movie celebrities like Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, and Jane Wyman.
"We're praying for everyone who is suffering in the financial slump," Sister Mary Raphael said. "And I think God let us experience it so we can know what other people are suffering, too."
Thinking back on the history of the community also serves as a source of consolation for the sisters. "It's been a long history with the sisters," said Sister Mary Raymond. "Four old ladies—not old, they were young then—had to struggle to get this place going. And they had to go out and beg, just like we're doing now, but they went from door to door."
Read or hear the full story, which includes a recipe for the pumpkin bread.
Nancy Murray, O.P. as Catherine of Siena, O.P.
Nancy Murray is a sister in many ways, first to her community of Dominican sisters, to all those she has served over the years—and finally to her brother, actor Bill Murray, with whom she shares a vocation of acting.
Sister Murray brings to life another Dominican, the great 14th-century saint and doctor of the church Catherine of Siena. Dressed in a Dominican habit and using only a few props and a put-on Italian accent, Murray takes her one-woman show, Catherine of Siena: A Woman for Our Times, to audiences of all ages in parishes, schools, youth groups, even refugees in Darfur.
In preparation for her performances she sometimes reads back issues of parish bulletins to see what the community has been up to in providing help to others, then incorporates those stories into the play so that “they recognize themselves,” she told reporter Jeannette Cooperman in a National Catholic Reporter article.
After a life of intense personal prayer closeted in a room in her parents’ home, Catherine moved out into public life, caring for the sick and dying and visiting prisoners condemned to death. Murray has taught, worked with the poor, cared for those dying of cancer and AIDS, and visited prisoners.
Eventually Catherine went even farther out into the world, traveling and playing a major role in trying to reunite the papal schism in the 1300s which saw two men claiming to be pope. Catherine pressured Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon in France and return to Rome to get the church’s house back in order. In a letter to Gregory she said, “When are you going to get back here? We need you to come back to Rome and be a voice of unity. The church is like a flock that is being torn apart by wolves.” Witnessing the corruption of the Avignon court, she said “it stinks” and compared the bishops Gregory had appointed to “weeds planted in the garden of a church.”
Murray commented on Catherine’s activism by saying, “Our Catholic Church, for example, has not had a stellar record. So when you look at somebody from the 14th century confronting it—a woman, who was 27 at the time—you can imagine how countercultural she was.” A former file clerk at Rotary International, Murray joined the Dominicans Sisters of Adrian, Michigan over some resistance from her mother, who had once witnessed a profession of religious vows and remembered the “drama of the young woman, throwing her crown of flowers to her parents and saying, ‘I renounce the world and all its treasures,’ ” Cooperman wrote. “It left a terrible impression on her,” Murray said.
But then her father, a former seminarian, signed the papers allowing her to enter the Dominicans, saying, “They have rules of silence; she won’t last long.”
After Murray’s dad died suddenly, she was sure her mother would summon her home. But her novice director advised her to ask her brothers and sisters, so she did. “You stay where you are,” they said, “and pray for us.”
Nun encounters are rare occurrences in the lives of most Americans. In the January issue of America, Sister Charlene Diorka, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, describes how her chance meeting with a curious 20-year-old during a short plane flight, gave her the opportunity to reflect on her vocation and what it means to be a "real, live nun" in the 21st century. Here are the key things she says she learned over the past 25 years:
For the full article click here.
by Sister Marie Tersidis, O.P.
I grew up in East Africa. It was in 1977 that my vocation to religious life began to stir. I was born and raised around religious. My schoolteachers were 80 percent religious sisters. Besides, I have an older sister who is a religious. Providentially, our home is very close to the motherhouse of my sister's religious community so I had the privilege of attending daily Mass at the convent before school for seven years from the age of 10 to 17.
As I grew, observing the sisters coming to Mass in procession after their morning prayers and making their profound genuflection on both knees two by two, made my heart dance with joy. I could hardly wait to be one of them.
As soon as I completed elementary school, I sought to enter the convent, but by this time I did not want to join the community that my sister belonged to. I chose an international congregation, which meant I had to learn English. I did well with English. However, as I advanced in my religious training, I faced a challenge that threw me off my horse. The senior sisters who returned from their missionary activities shared with the novices their experiences in the missions.
The spirit of the founder was to preach the Word to all people and especially to the people in the remotest parts of the world. There are parts of the world where education is unheard of, and people are really primitive in many ways-clothing and eating, to mention a few. Now, one of the challenges at the missions was to identify with the people in their way of eating and dressing. That was way too difficult for me to conceive. I was too afraid to face this reality so I chose to go back home and pursue high school studies.
I tried to silence the voice within me. I thought I had succeeded when all of a sudden, [during] the final year of my studies, the desire came back stronger than ever. Now the dance changed. It was no longer an outward dance, but an inward dance of the heart. I had now to face the reality that I could no longer quench the desire to consecrate my life to God. It felt so unreal and yet so real. A mixed feeling! I started asking advice. My parish priest did not seem convinced of my vocation. This was very painful, but I trusted in God. Finally, I decided to go back to the same community I left.
I applied myself to my religious training. Two years passed. Then my fears about the missions began to build up. I could not believe I was to step out of the convent a second time.
And now, what next? What a dilemma! What a disappointment! I was plunged into a dense cloud where I was drawn to pray and to meditate on the word of God. I had within me the faith to seek the will of God in my life at any cost. My family was very mad at me because I had given up what was "the most important in the world," namely education and the good jobs that go with it.
Finally, the Lord, in his own mysterious way, led me to my true vocation. This I cannot explain because I never wanted to become a cloistered nun. Providentially, I was acquainted with a Dominican priest who wanted to establish a contemplative religious community in his country in West Africa. The priest was a good friend of the Dominican nuns in Lufkin, Texas, U.S.A. He managed to convince me that nuns live a normal life and that I should come to the States to be trained so that I could be of help in the formation of those interested in the life back in Africa.
I came to Lufkin and met the nuns. I was so scared that my neck hardly moved. I looked at them so carefully. I noticed they were happy. They dressed the same. There was nothing that indicated different classes in the way they dressed. Then I was led to the enclosure where I awaited strange things to happen. Nothing extraordinary happened. I noticed, too, they ate from the same table with the prioress and did everything in a good community spirit. I began to feel at home and at peace. I began to realize and savor the nobility of the life.
Before I knew it, my time for training was over and I had to go back to Africa to help in the formation of the postulants and novices. There I met another disappointment. The original vision of the community had changed remarkably within the two years I was away. I realized then that my real vocation was to be a cloistered contemplative after all. I sought to come back to Lufkin, and here I am.
All I had to do was to say yes to God, try it out, and let God do his work. I felt like Peter and the apostles when they spent all night fishing with no success. When the Lord gave the command to cast the net into deep water they caught more than they could handle. The same could be said of my vocation story. The Lord let me try so hard with no success until he plunged me into the enclosure.
Sister Marie Tersidis, O.P. is a sister of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas. Her story is reprinted with permission and adapted from Vocation in Black and White: Dominican Contemplative Nuns Tell of How God Called Them, from iUniverse and available from the major online booksellers.
The newly released movie Doubt, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, was written and directed by Pulitzer prize-winning author John Patrick Shanley. Shanley received his elementary education from the Sisters of Charity of New York at St. Anthony School in the Bronx. He based the character of the young Sister James on his first grade teacher, Sister of Charity Margaret McEntee, who was known as Sister Marita James when she first took her vows.
Shanley dedicated his play “to the many orders of Catholic nuns who devoted their lives to serving others in hospitals, schools and retirement homes. Though they have been much maligned and ridiculed, who among us has been so generous?”
Go to the Sisters of Charity of New York website for more information about their community and the sisters connection to Doubt.