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.
In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI said Jesus was such an influential man because of his words and deeds, in particular those that were focused on the poor, sick, hungry, and less fortunate.
For us "authority often means possession, power, control, success," the Pope said to those gathered in St. Peter's Square. "For God, however, authority means service, humility, love. . . It means entering into the logic of Jesus who stoops to wash the disciples' feet, who seeks the true good of man, who heals wounds, who is capable of a love so great as to give up his life, because he is Love."
Jesus heals us both spiritually and physically with his miracles and teachings, said Benedict, and he suggested that Jesus' use of words immediately opened up most of those listening to "the will of the Father and the truth about themselves." However, the scribes who "struggled to interpret the Holy Scriptures with countless reflections" were not open to his words.
The Pope highlights the idea that Jesus was powerful not for his control over people or the possessions he had; rather had power because of his unconditional love. Imagine if we saw our own power coming from the love we had for others: our relationships with others, how we treated people, and how we served others instead of the amount of money or political influence we had. What an interesting idea? Think how different the world would be?
It is definitely something worth thinking about especially in your own life. How have you treated people? How will you be remembered? These are some heavy things to consider, but that's what the Pope was calling us to do.
I figured since this is one of the first Sunny days we have had in January (here in Chicago), I would blog about something with a little humor today.
Now I admire and even praise the man in the video below for having the courage to sing in front of all these people, but his rendition of "Looking for a City" will definitely give you a few chuckles.
The performance -- which lasts for nearly three minutes -- might leave you speechless, but the ballad does solicit whistles and applause from a rather brave audience.
Have a great weekend and if you finding yourself wanting to sing, depending on your talents, it might be wise to think twice!
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.
In honor of Catholic Schools Week, the National Catholic Reporter spoke on the importance of Catholic education and all its benefits. Out of Trenton, NJ the Briant Family, which includes, Alison Briant Burley, Ellen Briant Reilly, Susan, and Katelyn Briant have all credited their own Catholic education in becoming Catholic school teachers.
Their parents, Doris and Thomas Briant, both products of Catholic education, made sure their children all had 12 years of Catholic education, despite the prospect of all that tuition. "My motivation was to show (our) commitment to Catholic education," Doris said, in spite of the financial hardships.
Crediting those that influenced the family, Tom and Doris praised two people in particular for having a good influence on their daughters: the late Sr. Juliana Naulty, a Dominican Sister of Hope who was principal of St. Joseph School in Toms River, and the late Fr. William P. Gardner, parochial vicar at their parish, St. Joseph.
"Sister Juliana demonstrated to all the girls that being a Catholic educator went beyond the classroom walls," Doris said. "She celebrated with them in their victories and supported them when they were down, (and) she knew the best way to help her students was to help their families. All four were honored to have known her."
Alison Briant Burley said that it was a wonderful opportunity to attend Catholic school and hoped that she could give her children the same experience she was given--an education of the whole person. "I want them to be encouraged and empowered to be their best selves by nurturing their faith and their minds at the same time."
Ellen Briant Reilly began her teaching career in the second-grade classroom at St. Aloysius School in Jackson. She now teaches at St. Joseph School.
Susan Briant has taught the fifth-graders at St. Dominic School in Brick for four years. S
Katelyn Briant a first-year teacher of Spanish at St. Paul School in Princeton.
Did you have a Catholic education? Take VISION's Tiny Snapshot survey on the homepage that is tracking the number of years our site visitors received formal Catholic education.
Today my 2nd Grade Catechesis class makes their First Reconciliation. I stumbled upon an article in The Huffington Post about the art of confession written by verteran Catholic author Paul Wilkes.
As I was reading through the article, it got me thinking of how I addressed to my class what Confession is. To a 2nd grader, the idea of Confession is pretty minuscule. They understand it to be merely a "scary" meeting with the priest explaining why they didn't take care of their pets better or played video games too long. The true art form of confession is missed; however there is something to be said for getting a group of 2nd graders stating the Act of Contrition in unison.
"Small c" confession, says Wilkes, is directed to a higher powe and is a pillar of not only religious belief but also mental health--it demands that we are honest with ourselves.
Confession is realignment--when we sin or betray ourselves, we are unaligned. Until we confess our sins our souls remain confused and out of alignment. This "small c" confession demands self-reflection and change and it's taking an honest look at your true inner self. Confession is not only for those who have committed public or private sin, but also for our daily hurts, neglects, and carelessness that disjoints our soul.d.
Also it seems that confession has lost its vitality because we have such an antiquated notion of right and wrong in the world. So how can we truly understand what confession is all about if we really don't know right from wrong? According to Wilkes, Confession is an art. It is an attitude and a way to live honestly and consciously that can heal our souls. Confession is a realignment of what is best in us and how we can live a better life. Once we realize this and we acknowledge this, we can truly understand the Art of Confession and obtain all the benefits it has to offer.
When confession becomes a practice, a daily reevaluation of one's actions -- an art -- its power continues to grow, instilling a new sense of confidence, a vision of what life truly can be and hold. It is building upon something strong and sure and ultimately reliable.
Not sure 2nd graders can get all that--it's enough that they remember the Act of Contrition. But with practice of saying I'm sorry, they may eventually come to understand the true art of Confession and its importance in their lives.
Unsure of some of the more formal aspects of the sacrament of Confession? Check out the VISION article "How to Make a Good Confession."
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.
Monday afternoon, the Catholic News Agency reported that Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications emphasized that the presence of Catholics on the internet is essential and important. He noted that in 2009, roughly 440 million Catholics went online.
Commenting at Mercy University in Switzerland during a meeting by the Bishops conference of Switzerland and the Swiss Press League, the bishop stated, "Language, understanding of communities and the visibility are great challenges facing those who want to be present in the new digital continent."
Speaking as a part of the 40th anniversary of the pastoral instruction on social communication, Archbishop Celli stated that society has passed from the "era of information" to the "era of conversation" in which the content is itself the object of dialogue.
The Archbishop touches on something that we here at VISION work on each and every day. We are trying to present the most current and legitimate resources for Catholics discerning on the internet. The most important thing, as the Archbishop mentioned, is allowing all these wonderful resources to be available to Catholics everywhere. Here at VISION, our goal is to do just that. Remember if you have any questions or need any information please do not hesitate to contact us.
Please check out our Facebook page and our website for the most current information on discernment.
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."
|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 the Pope continues his series of reflections on prayer this week, yesterday he spoke and explained why the Eucharist is the "apex" of all Christian prayers.
EWTN news reported from the Vatican, that over 7000 pilgrims were tuning into the Pope's message about the value of the Eucharist as a prayer. According to Pope Benedict, "By participating in the Eucharist we have an extraordinary experience of the prayer which Jesus made, and continues to make for us all. Jesus offers us this prayer so that the evil we encounter in our lives may not triumph, and that the transforming power of Christ's death and resurrection may act within each of us."
The Pope's reflections on prayer have been a part of his ongoing set of discourses on prayer and its importance. He devoted mass yesterday to the importance of the Last Supper and emphasized how this meal brings us salvation and eternal life. In his reflection the Pope taught the pilgrims that it was here that Jesus reveled himself as the Pascal Lamb for all. It was also Christ's wish that the supper be "something special, different from other gatherings," and so he "gave something completely new: Himself," in anticipation of his cross and resurrection.
The Pope said that in contemplating the words and gestures of Jesus "we can clearly see that it was in his intimate and constant relationship with the Father that he accomplished the gesture of leaving to his followers, and to all of us, the sacrament of love."
As we continue to celebrate the Eucharist, let us continue to remind ourselves what the Eucharist truly means. As the Pope mentioned, Jesus gave us himself and like Jesus we too must give ourselves to fully appreciate this sacrifice.
|Pilgrims being baptized in the Jordan River|
I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Sound familiar?
For many of us, recalling our baptism is probably pretty hard to do without photos, videos, or stories, since we were so little. However, this weekend hundreds of Pilgrims in Qasr El-Yehud, Israel flocked to the Jordan River to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord reports the Catholic News Service.
Hajeh Mattar and her family made the journey to the Jordan to get baptized and to celebrate Jesus' baptism. According to Hajeh, "I came here to thank God. I came here to thank God for my grandchildren. They have strengthened my faith."
Nearby, mass was celebrated by Franciscan priest Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Many, parents were handing their children to him to receive the sacrament of Baptism and many people renewed their baptismal vows by stepping into the river.
This site was reopened in May to the public after many years of planning. Up until this point, people were only allowed by the Jordan River for special circumstances due to the threat of terrorism. Rania Basir, 36, a Palestinian from Jerusalem studying in Cairo, filled empty bottles with water from the river. "This is like a blessing," Basir said.
Baptism is such an important sacrament welcoming each of us into the Church and becoming adopted into God's loving embrace. As we recall our own baptisms, think about how joyous this occasion was and how this first step encouraged us to live a life of faith in God.
Closing the end of the 12 Days of Christmas as well as the Christmas Season, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the Wise men coming from afar to bring gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem.
Traditionally, Epiphany is observed by blessing the home (recalling the Magi's visit to Jesus' family), blessing water (especially the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized), exchanging gifts, performing "Magi plays" (to tell the story of Jesus' childhood) and feasting.
In my local parish bulletin there was a special section devote to the blessing of the home. You might have to ask your parish if they have blessed chalk. Using the blessed chalk you mark the entrance of your door with the Year (2012) separated by the inscription CMB, the initials for Casper, Melchoir, and Balthasar, the names of the three Magi. The inscription should look something like this: 20+CMB+12 with the Cross of Christ in between. While inscribing this upon the doorway this short prayer may be used to bless your home:
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill them with the light of Christ, that their concern for others may reflect your love. (With the chalk write the inscription above the door) May your blessing remain always in this home and on those who live here. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen
As we close out the season of Christmas and begin anew, let's celebrate the gifts that we have been given and like the Magi let us offer to live justly, be generous, and offer all we can to God and others.
The Chicago Sun Times recently reported on a new trail in Northern Israel that gives visitors the chance to walk in the steps of Jesus.
The 39 mile "Gospel Trail" opened officially in December after many years of planning to make sure the most important spots were picked. The trail, which is government funded, starts just outside of Nazareth at Mount Precipice and heads northeast past major sites in Jesus' life. Travelers get a glimpse of the Mount of Beatitudes before the trail ends in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.
Along the trail are gas stations, farms and houses so if you need a break there are plenty of places to stop along the way. The Department of Tourism is hoping that this new trail will spark business in Israel. Their hope is that businesses will begin to build hotels and restaurants along the way to help rebuild the tourism industy in Israel.
If want to learn more about the Gospel Trail or to simply immerse yourself in the culture visit goisrael.com
Though the Vatican Library is one of the world’s oldest—founded in 1475—it’s turning to contemporary digital imaging technology to address an ongoing challenge: preserving manuscripts and codices, some of which predate the invention of the printing press and can be up to 1,800 years old.
|SCANNING manuscripts at the Vatican Library.
Photo: Vatican Library
But there’s a possible catch: Will future computers will be able read the digital images? To solve that problem Ammenti turned to the flexible image transport system (FITS) format, designed by NASA and European space scientists in the 1970s to store images taken by satellites and orbital telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
"If you have a tool that can read FITS today, you can read FITS files from 20 years ago," said Pedro Osuna, head of the European Space Agency's scientific archives. "It's always backwards compatible." FITS’ open-source approach stores all instructions about how to read and process the information in a text header at top of the data. That allows FITS files to be read without conversions to different formats that might be incompatible with future computers, even ones built 100 years from now.
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.
While celebrating New Year's Day Mass, the Pope praised young people for securing the future of the church amid a time of great uncertainty where we see "shadows on the horizon of today's world."
Educating youth is a responsibility of all people, said the Pope; and teaching them knowledge of truth and the importance of faith and values is crucial in the survival to the church.
"Young people must "learn the importance and the art of peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, dialogue and understanding. Young people by their nature are open to these attitudes, but the social reality in which they grow up can lead them to think and act in the opposite way, even to be intolerant and violent. If they are educated properly, they will become builders of peace in the world."
After Mass, in remarks in English from his studio window, Benedict invited all to pray with him "earnestly for peace throughout the world, for reconciliation and forgiveness in areas of conflict, and for a more just and equitable distribution of the world's resources."
Again, turning his attention to young people, Benedict said that they "look today with a certain apprehension toward the future," and their concerns include "the difficulty in starting a family and finding a stable job." For more on the Pope's New Year's day comments, click here.
At the beginning of each New Year, we all hope and pray that this year is going to be better than the last and we work on making that happen (our resolutions). As we look ahead in 2012 let us work on continuing to strive for a more optimistic outcome and work on being compassionate to each other.