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2008 Posts

New film bears witness to a life of witness

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Friday 05, December 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

They Killed Sister Dorothy, a new film about the life and death of Dorothy Stang, S.N.D.deN., who was murdered in the Brazilian rain forest in 2005, recently won both the Grand Jury and Audience awards for best documentary feature at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

Stang was a native of Dayton and belonged to the Ohio Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who created a Tribute Page on their website to honor her.  At the time of her death, she was working with the Project for Sustainable Development, a government initiative created through Brazil's National Institute for Agrarian Reform which helps landless families benefit from sustainable farming systems.

The land was granted to the peasant farmers by the government, but is highly coveted by powerful ranchers. Stang, 73 at the time of her death, stood with farmers as they defended themselves against the ranchers and loggers who were evicting them from their land.

The area where Sister Dorothy was murdered, called "Esperança," (Hope) has since been reserved as a project of sustainable development. Stang, known as the "Angel of the Amazon," spent more than three decades working in the rainforest to ensure that farmers could claim and work their land.

Filmmaker Daniel Junge traveled to Brazil to investigate Stang's murder. Junge quickly realized that the trials of Sister Dorothy's suspected murderers, which included powerful loggers and ranchers, could "hold the fate of the Brazilian rainforest itself."

The movie was produced by Just Media of Denver, Colorado. It should be available for purchase on DVD when it completes its run at film festivals. For more information, see a movie review by Sarah Masters, Hartley Film Foundation, in Plainviews, an e-newsletter of The HealthCare Chaplaincy, and an article on Sister Dorothy in the 2006 Vision Vocation Guide.

People carry the coffin of Sister Dorothy Stang at a cemetery in Para, Brazil on February 15, 2005. Her casket is draped in a Brazilian flag.

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It's fun being a nun

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 22, November 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

"You haven't had real fun until you've had it in a convent," says Sister Virginie Fish, an Oblate Sisters of Providence, who along with the other members of her community, was featured in the December issue of Ebony magazine.

Sister Fish says of religious life, "It is a life of excitement, adventure, dedication. It is certainly not boring." But it does have its challenges.

When Fish joined the convent in 1946, there were more than 300 Oblate Sisters serving throughout the U.S. and in six foreign missions. The Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest U.S. religious community of women of African descent, now number 100 sisters and serve in 25 U.S. cities and Costa Rica.

Their primary focus has remained education and service to the poor. For more information about the Oblate Sisters of Providence go to

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Movies that matter

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 31, October 2008 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality

For you political junkies wondering what to do once the election is over, or for all those preparing to settle into winter, you might consider making your way through the list of 45 “best films” chosen by the Vatican in 1995 in honor of the 100th anniversary of cinema. Although film buffs may argue with certain selections and omissions, overall it is an admirable compilation that shows a real appreciation for the art of movies and moviemaking.

In the months ahead I will offer some mini reviews and commentary as I delve into these film classics. I encourage you to offer your own reviews or comments. We can also begin to compile our own VISION list of Best Films that can include releases in the past decade as well.

As I look over the list, of the ones I’ve already viewed, I’d have to say Babette’s Feast and Stagecoach top my list. I was happily surprised to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the list—it probably is my favorite Frank Capra film although I do love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It Happened One Night. But for all around entertaining Christmas films A Christmas Story is one I can and do watch over and over.

I look forward to your comments. Happy viewing!


The Vatican Best Films List (1885-1995)

Andrei Rublev * Andrei Tarkowsky (1969, USSR)
The Mission * Roland Joffé (1986, UK)
La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc) *
Carl T. Dreyer (1928, France)
La vie et la passion de Jésus Christ (Life and Passion of Christ) * Ferdinand Zecca and Lucien Nonguet (1905, France) Identified on the Vatican film list as La Passion Pathé
Francesco, giullare di Dio (The Flowers of St. Francis / Francis, God’s Jester) * Roberto Rossellini (1950, Italy)
Il vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According to Matthew) * Pier Paolo Pasolini (1964, France/Italy)
Thérèse * Alain Cavalier (1986, France)
Ordet (The Word) * Carl T. Dreyer (1955, Denmark)
Offret — Sacrificatio (The Sacrifice) * Andrei Tarkowsky (1986, Sweden/UK/France)
Francesco * Liliana Cavani (1989, Italy/Germany)
Ben-Hur [A Tale of the Christ] * William Wyler (1959, USA)
Babettes gæstebud (Babette’s Feast) * Gabriel Axel (1987, Denmark)
Nazarín * Luis Buñuel (1958, Mexico)
Monsieur Vincent * Maurice Cloche (1947, France)
A Man for All Seasons * Fred Zinnemann (1966, UK)

Gandhi * Richard Attenborough (1982, UK/USA/India)
Intolerance * D. W. Griffith (1916, USA)
Dekalog (The Decalogue) * Krzysztof Kieslowski (1987, Poland)
Identified on the Vatican film list as Il Decalogo
Au Revoir, Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) * Louis Malle (1987, France)
Dersu Uzala * Akira Kurosawa (1974, Japan)
L’albero degli zoccoli (The Tree of the Wooden Clogs) * Ermanno Olmi (1978, Italy/France)
Roma, città aperta (Open City) * Roberto Rossellini (1946, Italy)
Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) * Ingmar Bergman (1957, Sweden)
Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) * Ingmar Bergman (1957, Sweden)
Chariots of Fire * Hugh Hudson (1981, UK)
Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) * Vittorio de Sica (1948, Italy)
It’s a Wonderful Life * Frank Capra (1946, USA)
Schindler’s List * Steven Spielberg (1993, USA)
On the Waterfront * Elia Kazan (1954, USA)
Biruma No Tategoto (The Burmese Harp) * Kon Ichikawa (1956, Japan)

2001: A Space Odyssey * Stanley Kubrick (1968, UK/USA)
La Strada * Federico Fellini (1954, Italy)
Citizen Kane * Orson Welles (1941, USA)
Metropolis * Fritz Lang (1927, Germany)
Modern Times * Charlie Chaplin (1936, USA)
Napoléon * Abel Gance (1927, Italy)
* Federico Fellini (1963, Italy)
La grande illusion (Grand Illusion) * Jean Renoir (1937, France)
Nosferatu * F. W. Murnau (1922, Germany)
Stagecoach * John Ford (1939, USA)
Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) * Luchino Visconti (1963, Italy/France)
Fantasia * (1940, USA)
The Wizard of Oz * Victor Fleming (1939, USA)
The Lavender Hill Mob * Charles Crichton (1951, UK)
Little Women * George Cukor (1933, USA)

What would you add?
Films released prior to 1995?
Films released after 1995?

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Former trader "humbled" into priesthood

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 30, October 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Born in Manhattan into a blue-collar Irish family, Patrick Buckley worked at Smith Barney as a foreign exchange trader, earning a high salary. He enjoyed parties and the single life. He had an expense account, traveled, and entertained foreign traders. But now, at 43, he is called Father Pat and is the associate pastor of St. Stephen’s Parish in Warwick, New York. He was interviewed by Francis Moore.

You did not choose the priesthood as a teenager, right?
I chose what I wanted to do—put my degree to use, work in the business world, live the high life, go out to parties, be in the thick of millions of dollars, feel the high of money in your pocket.

The job was all you expected, but you became a priest. Why?
There was something missing: a lot of time with God. When you open your heart just a little bit to the grace of God, he gets in there and he doesn’t let you forget about it. That’s what happened to me. I kept thinking about it. My uncle was a priest. He never asked me to be a priest, but I kept watching him whenever I went out to see him on weekends, and I said, "Here’s a man who enjoys what he’s doing." It’s not about money; it’s about bringing Christ to and getting Christ from people.

It wasn’t the angel on the bedpost and it wasn’t bolts of lightning, it was walking to work after a snow storm at 6:30 in the morning and starting to see God in things: the homeless guy laying in a cardboard box, seeing that life isn’t about everything at your beck and call, the nice shoes, getting to work, having your coffee. Some people are cut out for that, but God was trying to tell me you’ve got to do something different.

Had you ignored a calling?
I ignored it! But if God wants you he works on you. It’s up to you. You respond. That’s where free will comes in. In my case, I didn’t want it; I was ignoring it but, in his divine plan, I know that the right time was when I left. That’s the great thing about God. He knows what’s going to happen; he lets it play out. Easily I could have rejected it.

Were you praying about the priesthood?
If I didn’t pray as I was discerning, I would never have made it to the seminary. Every morning I prayed before I went to work. I prayed that I would stay healthy, do well, and “is this what you want from me God?” That’s cooperating with God because when you pray you’re actually letting God into your life. Each one of us . . . God has the best in for us.

Have you discovered any benefit or reward from becoming a priest you never expected?
I think you become humbled. On the day of ordination, other priests who are like thirty or forty years a priest, come and kneel down before you and ask you for a blessing. So you are all built up and starting to feel like Superman, like you’ve got these powers. And when you actually do the blessing you feel like you’ve been humbled into the priesthood.

My expectations have all been fulfilled. Every day is something greater. It’s a surprise. Mother Theresa was right: We’re all instruments in God’s hands, and that’s a template for everybody. As a married man, God uses you to bring his love to your wife and your family. God uses me at the altar, at the nursing home. My expectations have all been fulfilled, even surpassed.

How have you changed as a person from when you were younger?
Have I changed much? No. Have I changed for the good? I’ve let God’s grace work in me. In the business world, you more went with the flow. As a priest you have to be more of a listener—compassionate and understanding. That’s the hard part. You never look down at people. You’re not higher than them. When you go into the priesthood, don’t look to be served; you’re there to work with people, to serve them. But, if you use the priesthood for your own personal agenda for power, you’re wrong.

What is calling about?
Calling is about being Christ-like to other people. If you have weaknesses, I should help you improve them, yet be who you are. That’s what’s good about being a priest. Everyone is different yet we have the same goal to be Christ-like.

There are three ways to go. God may say, “You’re not going to be a priest, you’re going to be a married man with a family and maybe a great lector at Mass. You’re going to bring up your family with Christian values. That’s one way. Or you’re going to be single the rest of your life and you’re going to do wonderful things. And the other way is the priesthood and the religious life. It all winds together with the question are you who you were when you were growing up.

Every day as a priest is a challenge and every day there is something new. I’ve never been happier. Have an active prayer life. A prayer life leads to avoiding temptation, and God can work with you when you pray. Cooperation with God and his grace help you make right decisions. If a young person thinks about becoming a priest, never look back. Be thankful you’ve answered the Call. Trust in God.

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Franciscan school in India offers media education

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 17, October 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life
Like parents in many other places, those of children at the Rosary Matriculation Higher Secondary School run by Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in the Indian city of Chennai are worried about the influence of the media, especially television, on their children.
Chennai, which used to have the colonial name of Madras, is the capital of Tamil Nadu state and India's fourth largest city. The school is known for its academic excellence and is rated as one of the best schools in the city. Last June the school presented a well-attended program for parents on media education, which, said principal Sister Mary Zacharia, “is crucial not only to children but also for parents. Children need formation and guidance to use media discriminately. Their future depends not only on their studies but also proper role models, moral, social, and spiritual formation.”

Dr. Magimai Pragasam, one of the presenters, highlighted the contribution of media to the growth of humanity but also discussed the damages media cause among children today and the practical strategies to develop healthy media habits so that children become critical consumers of media.

Enabling children to look at media critically, helping them to understand how media messages are constructed, and transforming them into active participants from the position of passive viewers were the three main areas each session dealt with.


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Even holy water didn't help the Cubs

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 14, October 2008 Categories: Clergy
Bill Sianis and his infamous goat

Prayer and superstition are very different things. Sometimes, though, they seem to butt up against each other, so to speak.

The Chicago Cubs recent three-game-sweep departure from the National League playoffs—a repeat of last year’s swift exit—once again raised the specter of a curse laid on the team, especially the “curse” of the billy goat.

Even if you don’t believe in a curse, you have to wonder. As everyone knows, the team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908—when Russia had a tsar and Wilhelm II was the German Kaiser; before widespread radio, not to mention penicillin and rural electrification—and haven’t appeared in a Series since 1945. This last playoff appearance joins a list of calamities: the slow death of 1969; the abrupt fall into the abyss against the Padres; being overmatched against the Braves and the Giants; and then what happened against the Marlins.

For curse true-believers, it all goes back to restaurant owner Bill Sianis and his goat. The linking of a curse with a goat is loaded with a good deal of legend, but the basic story is this. In the 1945 Series, when the Cubs played the Detroit Tigers, Sianis, the proprietor of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago (immortalized in the “cheezborger” bits on Saturday Night Live) bought a ticket for himself and a goat to one of the Series home games in Wrigley Field—an attempt both to publicize his establishment and “give the goat” to the Tigers. While allowed in, he was eventually asked to remove the animal because it presented, well, a hygenic challenge.

In retaliation Sianis reportedly said something to the effect of: "Them Cubs, they aren’t gonna win no more,” and later, after the Cubs did exactly that, sent team owner P. K. Wrigley a telegram that read, “Who smells now?”

The “curse” was probably the creation of a sportswriter looking for a colorful story, but 63 years of futility and heartbreak, as well as several unsuccessful attempts to lift the curse, have lent it a certain credence.

Jump to 2008. Before the start of the Cubs’ playoff division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cubs’ chairman Crane Kenney left a voice mail for Father James L. Greanis, a priest of St. James Greek Orthodox Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. “I’m a devout Catholic, and I’m not superstitious, but if there is anything there, I want to take care of it,” Kenney told Greanis. The call lead to Greanis’ appearance at Wrigley Field a few hours before the game when he blessed the Cubs’ dugout with holy water—and event caught on camera by a TBS cameraman:

"It’s not for ensuring the Cubs winning,” Greanis said in Chicago Tribune story by Paul Sullivan, “but for being safe and protected. I’m a priest first, and a Cubs fan second.”

Apparently the Cubs’ hope, however, was a bit more on the superstitious side. They reportedly thought one Greek American could lift the curse of another. But, Greanis said, “It’s not unusual. In Greece, the priest blesses soccer teams, and they did it in the Olympics, too. It was not intended to be a PR stunt or anything. . . . I don’t want anything to be mocked, and neither did Mr. Kenney.”

Whatever the motive, it didn’t help. Cubs’ starting pitcher Ryan Dempster gave up seven walks, Dodger first-baseman James Loney hit a grand slam, and the Cubs’ bats went into the freezer. “Now,” Greanis said, “I guess I’m just another Cubbie Occurrence.” Join the club.

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Sister wins instant celebrity simply by voting

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 14, October 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

After Italian media alerted the international media to the fact that a 106-year-old American sister living in Rome was voting for the first time since 1952 and that she was casting her ballot for Barack Obama, Sister Cecelia Gaudette of the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary became an instant celebrity. She now is hoping to recede from the limelight, and continue what she does best, quietly hoping and praying for peace and an end to the war in Iraq.


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Putting a new face(book) on the vocation shortage

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Wednesday 08, October 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy,Consecrated Life
Jesuit priest and anthropologist Richard Malloy, S.J., writing in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine America, wonders why more young Catholics are not entering religious life. He argues that vocations are falling because Catholic faith and culture are not being passed on effectively in the internet age.
Young adults do not know many things that used to be common knowledge among Catholics, according to Malloy. Too easily we assume that young adult Catholics know who St. Francis or St. Ignatius was, Malloy says. “Today’s young adults know Harry and Hermione better than Jesus, Mary and Joseph. “
“In the 1950s and 1960s, older teens and young adults knew what the beatific vision was, and many yearned to see God face to face (1 Cor. 13.12); today all we have given them (or all they have paid attention to) is,” Malloy laments.
Malloy analyzes the vocation shortage from the perspective of an anthropologist. One’s culture, he says, is a set of relationships, a base upon which one makes life choices and commitments. Young adults today know few young religious sisters, brothers, or priests, he says. Recruiters are often decades older than discerners. “Why would a 30 year old want to join a community where the youngest members are 50 or 60?” he asks.
What do you think? As you consider religious life, are you concerned about a potential age and cultural gap between you and those already in religious life? Do you think the internet has helped or hurt to pass on Catholic culture and tradition? We’d like to hear from you!

Healing hands

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 23, September 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

At Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines, Illinois, chaplain and School Sister of Notre Dame Marlene Panko told Health Progress magazine, “we respect the integration of mind, body and spirit.” And she’s doing just that with her Loving Heart, Healing Hands program.

To the background of soft, instrumental music, Sister Panko gives hand massages to staff members and then talks and prays with them. She’s been providing this service for 10 years, starting it at a hospital in Santa Monica, California.

“I wanted a program that would not take away time from [the employees’] jobs,” said Sister Panko. “Soft music and touch, in my mind, are healing qualities. That’s an important part of this program. It just takes 3 to 5 minutes for this experience. That is what captivated the staff. They don’t have to miss out on their responsibilities, and they get a lift to help them get back to their work. You can see the peace and relaxation coming over them as I massage their hands.

“As a chaplain,” she said, “I see myself being available to patients, families, and staff members. I have many opportunities to work with patients and families, but my heart goes out to the employees and doctors and nurses. They work hard and carry heavy responsibilities. They deal with life-and-death situations every day. This weighs heavily on the staff. The helpers need help, too.”

The employees Sister Panko ministers to praise her for her work. “I firmly believe in the power of prayer,” said Eleni Harris, a psych intern-therapist. “Praying with Sister Marlene has provided me with a sense of inner peace, clarity, strength, and acceptance. I have witnessed miracles in both my personal and professional life. She truly touches and inspires all who come in contact with her.”

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Roma sister highlights hardships for E. European Gypsies

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 22, September 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

A Roma nun from Slovakia has said that membership of the European Union has done little to help eastern Europe's large Gypsy minority, despite pledges of support after most countries in the region entered the now 27-nation grouping in 2004.

"The [European Union] is supposed to have brought better conditions here but most Roma communities are still just as poor and downtrodden,” said Atanazia Holubova, a sister of Slovakia's Greek Catholic Church, which follows the Eastern liturgy but is in communion with the pope. "Although funds had been earmarked for Roma communities by the EU's governing commission, these were often diverted for other uses by local administrators," Holubova told Ecumenical News International.

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Test your faith

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 16, September 2008 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

I'm a long way away from the days when Sister Firmina would test us third graders on our weekly catechism, but I remember learning the four marks of the church from her. She would be proud that I got question #7 right on the "What's your Catholic IQ" quiz I came across in the current issue of Catechist, However, none of my high school and college New Testament professors will be pleased to learn that I missed #3. Better get back to my scripture studies!

Anyway hope you enjoy it. Let us know what stumped you and what you learned. Or better yet send us some of your questions, and we'll create our own Vision Catholic IQ quiz.

What's your Catholic IQ Quiz

Answer key


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Professional soccer player seeks new goal

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 21, August 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

When Chase Hilgenbrinck of Major League Soccer's New England Revolution wanted to talk with president of player personnel Michael Burns and coach Steve Nicol, the two “weren't exactly sure what he was going to say,” Burns said. “It’s not what you usually hear.”

Hilgrenbrinck with the
New England Revolution

What they heard from Hilgenbrinck was that he was retiring from professional soccer to enter the seminary and become a Roman Catholic priest.

Hilgenbrinck, 26, a defender and captain of the Revolution’s reserve team, will attend Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After his studies he will report to his home diocese of Peoria, Illinois for assignment.

"I felt called to something greater," Hilgenbrinck told ESPNsoccernet. "At one time I thought that call might be professional soccer. In the past few years, I found my soul is hungry for something else.

“I fell back on what I knew, and that was the Catholic Church," he said. "I grew up as a Catholic. I was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools. It was when I got out on my own that my faith really became mine. I really embraced it. I didn't have to go to church any more, I was free to really believe what I wanted to believe.”

Because professional sports careers tend to be short, did he consider putting off his move into the priesthood until his soccer career ended? "Trust me, I thought of that," he said. "I discerned, through prayer, that it was calling me to the Catholic Church. I do not want this call to pass me by," he said. "I was putting up a bunch of barriers, saying I'm not worthy to be called to something like that. But, one by one, the barriers started to come down.

"We are all called to do something. I feel like my specific call is to the priesthood. So, no, it was not possible to continue with soccer. It's absolutely inevitable."

Player personnel president Burns commented on Hilgenbrinck’s decision, "When he said it, I was glad. I was glad for him. This is something that he clearly wants to do, and we wish him all the best."

Father Damien gets his miracle

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 18, August 2008 Categories: Clergy

Holy folks need two miracles as part of the process of being declared a saint. Catholic missionary Blessed Father Damien de Veuster of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary recently had a second miracle associated with his cause approved by Pope Benedict, which clears the way for his canonization. 

The miracle is based on the testimony of Audrey Toguchi of Honolulu, who says she prayed at Damien's grave on the island of Molokai in Hawaii and was cured of a deadly cancer.

Toguchi's doctor, Y. M. Chang, says no one truly knows why some cancers disappear, "For the true believer or faithful, this is a miracle. For the true skeptic, this is a random or very unusual coincidence. For the doctor and scientist, we call it complete spontaneous regression of cancer."

The church is calling it a miracle, and Damien is expected to be canonized in 2009.

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When it comes to sex . . .

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Friday 15, August 2008 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

When it comes to sex, students at Catholic colleges apparently aren’t making choices that are much different from students at secular institutions, according to a new study. A large percentage of college students see no connection between their sexual behavior and their religious faith, says Boston University religion professor Donna Freitas in Sex and the Soul, published recently by Oxford University Press.

Despite the seemingly casual exterior, however, when given the chance to talk about their feelings many of students involved in the “hook-up culture” report feeling “awkward, used, dirty, regretful, empty, alone, miserable, disgusted, ashamed, duped,” Freitas said at a recent symposium. “They wanted to change the culture.”

Students at Catholic institutions, much like their counterparts at secular schools, seem to divorce their sexual practices from their spiritual life because they believe religious teachings on sex are outdated, potentially even laughable, said Freitas, a Catholic theologian and assistant professor of religion at BostonUniversity.

According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), Freitas’ research grew out of a class she taught on dating at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont, in which students opened up with her and with each other about their dissatisfaction with the predominant “hookup culture” on campus. It eventually led her and five research assistants to survey 2,500 students online, read 500 journals, and individually interview 111 students.

“With the exception of evangelicals, American college students see almost no connection between their religious beliefs and their sexual behavior,” says Freitas. “This radical separation of religion and sex tells us important things not only about the power of the college hookup culture but also about the weakness of religious traditions in the face of it.” 

We’d like to hear from you on this subject. Here are a few questions you might consider responding to:
Would you agree that a “hook-up culture” exists on college campuses, and if so, how widespread do you think it is?
How do you feel about the sexual values and attitudes on campuses today?
Are you personally familiar with the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex and sexuality? If so, how important a factor are they in your own decision-making about sex?
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He's not heavy, he's a brother

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 07, August 2008 Categories:

SpiritCitings has featured everything from rapper martial-arts priests to ex-trucker religious sisters and Trappist monks who sell office supplies, so you shouldn’t be surprised when we bring your attention to a Capuchin Franciscan friar who's into heavy metal.

Brother Cesare Bonizzi, a 62-year-old friar from Milan, has been singing for over 10 years and fronts a band called Fratello Metallo (Metal Brother). The group has just released its second album and recently performed alongside bands such as Iron Maiden at Italy’s “Gods of Metal” festival.

Bonizzi, who calls himself a “preacher-singer,” discovered heavy metal about 15 years ago and says he was “overwhelmed and amazed by the sheer energy of it. I do it to convert people to life, to understand life, to grab hold of life.” See Brother Cesare in action (in Italian):

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What Catholic voters care about

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Thursday 07, August 2008 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

Catholic voters—47 million strong—are being wooed by Democrats and Republicans alike in the upcoming election cycle. “The trick,” says Amy Sullivan in a recent Time article, “is figuring out what Catholics want.”

That is no easy task. But here are the issues that should be of concern to Catholics as they weigh and measure the candidates, according to the United States Conference of Catholic bishops’ website

The Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person: Human life is sacred. Direct attacks on innocent human beings are never morally acceptable. Within our society, life is under direct attack from abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, and destruction of human embryos for research. These intrinsic evils must always be opposed. This teaching also compels us as Catholics to oppose genocide, torture, unjust war, and the use of the death penalty, as well as to pursue peace and help overcome poverty, racism, and other conditions that demean human life.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation: The family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, is the fundamental unit of society. This sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of children must not be redefined, undermined, or neglected. Supporting families should be a priority for economic and social policies. How our society is organized—in economics and politics, in law and public policy—affects the well-being of individuals and of society. Every person and association has a right and a duty to participate in shaping society to promote the well-being of individuals and the common good.

Rights and Responsibilities: Every human being has a right to life, the fundamental right that makes all other rights possible. Each of us has a right to religious freedom, which enables us to live and act in accord with our God-given dignity, as well as a right to access to those things required for human decency—food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: While the common good embraces all, those who are in greatest need deserve preferential concern. A moral test for society is how we treat the weakest among us—the unborn, those dealing with disabilities or terminal illness, the poor and marginalized.

Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers: The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Economic justice calls for decent work at fair, living wages, opportunities for legal status for immigrant workers, and the opportunity for all people to work together for the common good through their work, ownership, enterprise, investment, participation in unions, and other forms of economic activity.

Solidarity: We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. Our Catholic commitment to solidarity requires that we pursue justice, eliminate racism, end human trafficking, protect human rights, seek peace, and avoid the use of force except as a necessary last resort.

Caring for God’s Creation: Care for the earth is a duty of our Catholic faith. We all are called to be careful stewards of God’s creation and to ensure a safe and hospitable environment for vulnerable human beings now and in the future.

Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation, the bishops tell us. So, above all, VOTE!


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Fair trade Franciscan coffee

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 01, August 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life


Answering a need to defray the costs of supporting their retired and infirm sisters, as well as to extend their traditional Franciscan ministry to the poor and marginalized, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God in Pittsburgh have gone into the fair-trade coffee business.

Their Franciscan Blend coffee is locally produced by Arbuckle’s Coffee Company in Verona, Penn., and the coffee beans are purchased from Fair Trade importers.

According to Nick Rodi, a spokesperson for the sisters, “Over half of the world’s coffee is produced on small family farms with only a few acres of coffee trees. Alone, a small family farm cannot compete with larger corporate farms that control the international market price for coffee. With no alternative source of income in rural and agricultural communities, these families often live in extreme poverty.

“Fair Trade certification helps small coffee farmers organize into cooperatives that link them directly to coffee importers and allow them to sell their coffee. Through Fair Trade, importers are encouraged to extend financial credit to cooperatives and develop long-term trading relationships. Fair trade farmers are also guaranteed a premium over the prevailing price paid for coffee on the international market, allowing them to earn an income that will support their families.”

“Franciscan Blend Coffee is a wonderful blend of win-win,” said U.S.A. Provincial Minister Sister J. Lora Dambroski, O.S.F. “For us, as Franciscan Sisters, it is an opportunity to realize our life direction of extending the hospitality of God. For poor coffee farmers and their families, Fair Trade means a better income for their hard work, allowing them to hold on to their homes, keep their children in school, and invest in the quality of their harvest.”

The 12-oz. bags of ground regular coffee are available from or by calling 412-885-7223.

Priest recruits the military for church service

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 01, August 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

In June Father John McLaughlin left his parish north of Boston to become the first vocations director for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, which serves Catholics in the branches of the U.S. military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and people in U.S. government service overseas. McLaughlin will travel to bases around the country to build relationships with the chaplains in closest touch with those considering a call to Catholic religious life. Retreats and correspondence with interested troops will follow. He will also speak to military personnel about the possibility of pursuing a religious vocation, said a June 12 Associated Press story by Jay Lindsay.

He and church leaders believe the armed forces offer a promising source of vocations. Members of the military service, he thinks, could be open to service in the church as well. “You start realizing how fragile life is,” he said. “And when people start thinking in those terms, they eventually start thinking about helping people in life.”

Besides facing questions of life and death, service men and women tend to have traits necessary for religious life, including self-discipline and a willingness to sacrifice, said Monsignor James Dixon of the Military Archdiocese.

Church officials estimate 11 percent of seminary students during the last three years have served in the military or had a parent who served. The archdiocese has for a long time reached out to service members but never had the money to hire someone dedicated to that job, Dixon said. “We finally got to the point where we think it’s become an absolute necessity,” he said.

McLaughlin believes he’ll be helping both the church and the troops in his new job. If he succeeds in recruiting more priests to dioceses, he said, those dioceses may be more likely to allow their priests to serve in the military, where the priest shortage is particularly acute.

In the Army, for instance, only 100 priests serve more than 105,000 Catholic soldiers, said Chaplain Ran Dolinger, a spokesman at the Army’s office of Chief of Chaplains.

Army chaplain Paul Hurley, who attended seminary with McLaughlin in the early 1990s, campaigned for his friend to get the job without McLaughlin’s knowledge. Hurley said McLaughlin has an authenticity and a knack for getting young people to talk about what’s important to them. Those characteristics are crucial when someone is deciding if life as a priest, sister, or brother is right, he said. “He’s got that special touch,” Hurley said. “He finds a way of connecting with people where they’re at.”

A former Boston College wrestler and later a high school coach, McLaughlin, 50, said his first major encounter with God came when he was stabbed in the liver at age 20 while walking near Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace. He and his brother were jumped without provocation, he said. As he lay on the street, McLaughlin prayed for forgiveness and for his family. “Even when I faced the worst hardship I turned to God,” McLaughlin said.

His commitment to the priesthood came more than a decade later, after experiencing an overwhelming peace during visits to a Marian shrine. “I thought, this is what God wants me to do, is to tell people about that and bring that peace of God to them,” he said.

“The hope is that they’ll think about it, talk to me about it, and then at the end of their [military] commitment, that’s when they’ll make the decisions,” he said. “All I know is that if I show them I enjoy the priesthood and believe in it, if God wants it to happen, it will happen.”

How do you think the church would best serve those in the military? What do you think are good ways for the church to recruit vocations to religious life among military personnel?

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Mercy Sister pays tribute to Russert

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 01, August 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

In the wake of the death of journalist Tim Russert, the public has found out a lot about his Catholic faith, including the influence of growing up Catholic in Buffalo, New York and of his grade school teacher Sister of Mercy Mary Lucille Socciarelli and Father John Sturm of Buffalo’s Canisius High School.

In the book The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans Recall Their Mentors, Russert said of Socciarelli: “In the seventh grade at St. Bonaventure School in Buffalo, New York, Sister Mary Lucille, a Sister of Mercy, was both impressed and yet concerned by—shall we say—my excessive energy in class. She expressed that in her words, ‘We have to channel that energy, Timothy,’ because I was prone to mischief. One day she told me, ‘I’m going to start a school newspaper and you’re going to be the editor. This means that you have to give out assignments, you have to edit the copy, you have to write your own articles, you have to go around and interview students, teachers, and administrative people, and publish the paper. You have to distribute it. You have to decide whether you're going to charge for it, or if you’re going to have a fundraiser to underwrite the cost.’

“It became this extraordinary project that I threw myself into and so did all my friends. If left us little time to get in trouble because we were so devoted to the paper, called The Bonette after St. Bonaventure School. Then she said, “If you don't keep up your grades we're not going to be able to do the second edition of the newspaper.” That made us all committed to studying harder. It became a real class project.”

Russert established the Sister Mary Lucille/Father Sturm Award, a cash prize provided to a Buffalo Catholic school teacher each year who has made a difference in a child's life by acting as a mentor.

At the memorial service for Russert, Socciarelli returned the favor:

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Passionist named bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 17, June 2008 Categories: Clergy
Father Neil Tiedemann, C.P., a Passionist priest from New York, has been named bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica. In an interview filmed shortly after the announcement, he talks of how and why he joined the Passionists.

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Vocation in black and white

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 05, June 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

A new book sheds light on a little-known branch of Catholic religious life: cloistered Dominican sisters. In fact, the book’s introduction says, they make up the oldest part of the Dominicans, predating the order’s official founding by 10 years.

A collaboration of Dominican monasteries in the United States under the sponsorship of the Association of Dominican Nuns of the U.S.A., Vocation in Black and White: Dominican Contemplative Nuns Tell How God Called Them has 23 stories of calls to this kind of religious life.

The book hopes, it says, “to aid those discerning a call to the monastic life, to recall the ‘first love’ of those who have chosen it, and to raise awareness of Dominican contemplative life. The following accounts are told by the nuns themselves. They are all true, although a few sisters prefer to remain anonymous. Given the many contributing factors and the mysterious element in every vocation, selection in what to tell is necessary. This choice was left to each nun.”

The book is available from iUniverse; a community of Dominican sisters; and the major online booksellers.

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Holy rolling down the highway

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 30, May 2008 Categories: Clergy

Msgr. Mark Giordani
on his Harley-Davidson Road King

On a flatbed truck parked between the Paterson, New Jersey County Jail and St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Monignor "Father Mark" Giordani (right) presides at the Annual Bike Blessing and Mass for the couple thousand bikers who stop in downtown Paterson on their way to the yearly Memorial Day Rolling Thunder event, when bikers assemble in Washington, D.C. to honor Americans who have died in wars, are missing in action, or have been prisoners of war.

When Giordani came to the United States from Italy, where he was born, he asked to be assigned to the poorest parish in the Paterson diocese. Today he is rector of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral parish, which numbers 3,000 mostly Latino members. He also serves as chaplain to the county prison, the Paterson police and sheriff’s offices, and the New York-New Jersey Port Authority—a job he took ten days before the 9/11 attacks. Giordani also founded the Christian Riders Motorcycle Club in Paterson in 1969 “to promote faith, dignity, and brotherhood through motorcycling.”

His arrival in the U.S. led him as well to move up from his Vespa motorcycle to a Harley-Davidson Road King (see above)—which is decorated with images of Christ’s life. “We have the Nativity,” Giordani told Lucky Severson of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. “We have the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, and, of course, the Holy Spirit on the tank, which branches out to the saddle bags.”

He loves riding. “It’s just exhilarating—the sense of freedom, the sense of enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, and it’s just a powerful and magnificent gift for me,” he said. But his involvement with motorcycles goes beyond personal enjoyment. He also ministers to people—bikers—who can feel unwelcome in churches. “We’re ostracized just for our hobby, our mode of transportation,” said rider David Bove, “and it’s nice to be in a group of people that kind of look like me. We all have the same mindset.”

Giordani attests to the faith of many bikers, even if they don’t belong to a church, let alone a Catholic church. “They read the Bible,” he says. “They say their own prayers, and they offer prayers for those who are sick, so there is a special connection with God in their own unique way. I mean, what does God want really want from us? A loving, humble heart. So uncomplicated.”

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Sister hits the slopes

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 15, May 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

When Mercy Sister Joan Margret Schwager, R.S.M. isn’t teaching in a classroom in Whitefish, Montana, you may find her on slopes instructing 5 to 8 year olds in the basics of skiing. After beginning to ski 15 years ago, a friend who works a ski resort asked Schwager is she would be interested in teaching skiing. Now she coordinates instruction for about 40 young beginners each season. “It’s fun and an opportunity for great evangelization, too, during the great chats one has riding up and down the ski lifts!” she said.

Schwager is a member of the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and is part of the team in the Sisters of Mercy New Membership Office.

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Benedictine Bed & Breakfast

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 28, April 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

Brothers Ignatius and Edward with their B&B awards

“All guests who present themselves,” Saint Benedict of Nursia wrote in his Rule for monks, “are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Matthew 25:25).” Fifteen hundred years later, a group of monks on Chicago’s South Side are continuing the Benedictine tradition of hospitality: a Benedictine Bed and Breakfast.

The Monastery of the Holy Cross’s Benedictine Bed and Breakfast has won national awards from the hospitality industry and is listed on several travel and food websites. Most nights from spring through early winter the bed and breakfast, which is housed in a former parish complex the monastery occupies, operates at full capacity. It is also available year-round. Drawing on an international as well as national and local clientele, the B&B has welcomed guests from countries on almost every continent, including New Zealand, Brazil, Singapore, Australia, Denmark, Russia, Finland, Wales, Croatia, Switzerland, the Philippines, Japan, the Middle East, South Africa, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, England, Canada, and Austria.

For more information on the monastery, visit


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Vocation Match makes the national news—again

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 21, April 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric for Thursday, April 17 showcased the VISION VocationMatch as one of the ways the Catholic Church has gone "high-tech" in its promotion of religious vocations. The story also gathered some of its background statistics from VISION's recent Trends on Vocations press release.

Click here to viewto the CBS clip. The link to the clip is also available on the VISION website homepage.
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Cistercians chant for CD

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 11, April 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

Universal Music was looking to get on the Gregorian chant bandwagon, but where to find monks to record some? Then company execs ran across a YouTube video (see below) featuring the Cistercian monks of Austria's Heiligenkreuz Monastery, and it was a deal. The monks join a Universal artist roster that includes Amy Winehouse and Eminem.

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African school calls for multitasking

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 31, March 2008 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
At St. Lucy School in Raruowa, Nairobi, Kenya, Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia Frances Cassidy has the usual tasks and challenges of a teacher and principal, But then there a few that your average teacher doesn’t have to deal with, like dealing with rats in students’ lockers or snakes under their beds; cows giving birth outside the school; or people trying to break into the dorms at night. Add the fact that money and water sometimes runs out and end-of-year chores such as clearing fields and gathering stones to fill in the rutted road, and Cassidy has a full-time vocation.

Mission work sometimes puts people in challenging situations. How would you react to some of the situations Sister Cassidy faces?
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Novice Bryan Cuocci, O.S.B.M.

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 19, March 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Novice Bryan Cuocci, O.S.B.M.

I first felt the call of the Lord to follow him more intimately at the age of 10. At that time I participated enthusiastically in the various religious activities of my parish. As I grew older, I did volunteer work at a nearby orphanage and got involved in children’s catechesis. I was also a member of the Catholic Youth Action. The Lord’s call became clearer to me when I was 15, at World Youth Day 2000 in Rome with Pope John Paul II, when I heard interiorly with a soft and irresistible voice the “come, follow me” of the Lord. God called me to be His ‘sentinel of the dawn’. Moved by immense joy I responded, “Here I am, Lord, may your holy will be done in me!”  The One and Triune God had captured me with His love.

From that time on I understood that God had chosen me to consecrate myself totally to Him. I did not yet understand, however, where He was calling me to live this vocation. And I did not know how I was going to communicate this choice to my family, who, though devout and practicing Catholics, had other plans for my future.

For about four years, I prayed for discernment to understand where the Lord wanted me to live the religious vocation to which he was calling me. I always remained open to others, and always had the desire to work with others. But I desired above all to pray and to be in the constant presence of God. At first I never thought of my vocation to be a monastic one. But truly, our thoughts are not His thoughts, nor our plans His plans.

Gradually, I understood the basic points of my vocation to be the life of prayer, community life, faithful witness of the gospel, devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, and the religious habit as a sign of my special consecration to God. That which touched me most was the biblical example of the “narrow gate” and the words from the gospel, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world . . . freely you have received, gratuitously you give.” These words gave me the courage and the strength to offer myself to God in a radically evangelical life without reserve. Surely there were always problems, but the Lord sustained me always by his grace.

During my philosophical studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, I met the Basilian monks of the Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata. This is an ancient Catholic Monastic Order of Oriental rite and traditions that has ecumenical dialogue as its specific mission within the Church. The monks live and pray to bring about Jesus’ ardent prayer to the Father at the Last Supper “so that they all may be one” and the words of St. Paul, “so that God may be All in all.” In fact, the Byzantine rite is a great help for the Orthodox brethren to draw closer to the Catholic Church, and the Latin Catholics to approach more easily to the Oriental Christianity.

Immediately I was touched by the monks’ lifestyle, marked by prayer. I was particularly struck by the spirituality of Saint Basil the Great and the Byzantine tradition. I was also captivated by their interesting activities, their profound and joyful fidelity to the monastic life, their fraternal life, and their openness to life in Christ. In short, my contact with the monks was a spark of light that ignited in me great happiness and serenity. I finally understood that it was here that God was calling me. “You have called me? Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will: You are my highest Good forever!”

After an experience of about 20 days in the monastery, I entered as a postulant in August of 2005. On June 28, 2006, during the feast of the Apostle Saints Peter and Paul, I made the monastic investiture and then entered into the novitiate. The first year of novitiate was a year of abundant graces. Guided and accompanied by the novice master Fr. Antonio, I began to deepen my relationship with God. I studied the monastic Typikòn (our Holy Rule), the Byzantine liturgy, the Greek liturgical language, the writings of Saint Basil the Great, the ascetic life, and the spirituality of the holy fathers and the Holy Scriptures. I have served in our laboratory for the restoration of ancient books and in our infirmary, serving the sick in the community. I am presently a second year novice and God willing, I will make my solemn vows next year. As part of the ascetic-monastic formation, I am studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University and at the same time doing diverse duties in our community.

The monastic life is a mystical experience which someone enters only through God’s invitation. The solemn vows are evidence. But it is an invitation that requires our attention. Yes, because the Lord Jesus calls many, but some people do not listen, do not realize that their names are uttered by the lips of God. My invitation to all youth like me is this: If you feel this attraction towards God, don’t put off the flame of Love that the Creator has ignited in you. Respond generously and readily and you will never regret it! God is love! 

I belong to: The Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata. For more information about the Basilian Monks, contact Father Antonio Costanza, O.S.B.M. at 0039-06.9459309 or write to: Basilian Monks—Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary, Corso del Popolo 128, I-00046 Grottaferrata (Rome) Italy. E-mail:

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Sisters of Providence green up their advertising

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 13, March 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

Ode and Body+Soul magazines goes out to people interested in "conscious" living—health, an environmentally friendly lifestyle, and peace. Now, alongside the ads for organic chocolates are those for the Sisters of Providence, headquartered in St.-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

"It's the right audience for us," Diane Weidenbenner, the director of marketing for the sisters, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "The magazines appeal to women interested in a right relationship with God, other people, and earth."

The sisters devote more than 340 acres of their 1,200-acre grounds to organic farming and also host the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. Located in a former laundry facility, this education center and meeting facility includes a wetlands restoration project, a trail of bluebird houses that is part of a Cornell University bird study, a herd of 50 alpacas, a straw bale retreat house, organic and biodynamic gardens grown for farmers' markets, a library, and a greenhouse where staff members produce seedlings for use in organic/biodynamic gardens.

The ads, said Sister Denise Wilkinson, vicar and first general councilor for the Sisters of Providence, are intended to appeal to anyone in need of spiritual nourishment. If someone is interested in joining the community or donating, all the better.

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“In Whatever Way It Is Shown to Me”: The Sisters of the Living Word

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 11, March 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Sister and Foundress Annamarie Cook, S.L.W.

The Sisters of the Living Word, founded in 1975, minister in 12 dioceses across the United States. Their mission is to reflect and affirm the Word, Jesus, who frees the oppressed and gives new life. “As Jesus was sent by the Father in the Power of the Spirit, so are we sent as Sisters of the Living Word. We reflect and affirm the Word in the Word, the Word who continually frees the oppressed and gives new life.”

In keeping this mission alive, the sisters celebrate the memory of foundress Annamarie Cook. Her unbounded courage—based on total, loving openness to God’s call—is a poignant model for the Sisters. Cook passed away October 20, 2005. In her own words: “As I look back to 1975 I am grateful to God for forming us as a new community. I look forward to whatever time I have left in this world to continue to bring Christ to others wherever and whenever I can. Meantime, I live from day to day knowing that all I want to do is His will in whatever way it is shown to me. When He calls me at the end of my journey, I will say a happy ‘Yes.’ ”

Their works include youth and adult education, parish, campus and diocesan ministry, health care, retreat and spiritual direction, counseling, healing ministries, environmental advocacy, and outreach to new immigrants as well as to victims of violence, hunger, unemployment, and homelessness.

“Living among this Lakota tribe has helped me to see the beauty of a people that has survived in small numbers against great adversities.” —Elaine Tworek, S.L.W. is ministering to the young, the elders, the sick, and those in search of deep faith in Lower Brule, South Dakota. Her deepest desire is to help empower and invite each individual to claim and share their personal richness and goodness so the entire community can grow stronger in faith and love.

“I feel blessed to be here. Our parishioners are from all over the city, and a number of our parishioners are homeless. I feel privileged to be with them for breakfast and lunch listening and sharing with them. This also affords me the opportunity to give them resources that might benefit them. In addition to this, I am a director for religious education for our small religious education program. Our teachers and children are an inspiration to me. I am truly grateful to God for leading me to this parish.” —Vianney Moore, S.L.W. is ministering at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and its center, St. Jude, which is located at the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans.

“Collaborating with our sacramental minister and my brothers and sisters in this faith community, we have been able to fulfill—a long-desired dream—that of building a new church and hall. This dream became a reality in 2002 with the dedication of this new building—indeed a day of celebration and thankfulness to our God for the support given by our bishop, benefactors, and parishioners.” —Joanne Fedewa, S.L.W. is Pastoral Coordinator of Christ the King Parish in Flint, Michigan.

“I believe so much in the body-mind-spirit connection that I explored massage therapy as a ministry. This is what my ministry is to this day.” —Jeannine Randolph, S.L.W. offers massage therapy at the House of the Good Shepherd whose residents are abused women. She also offers massage therapy to the frail elderly at various nursing homes, including Lutheran Home, Resurrection Life Center, and Addolorata Villa, all in Illinois.

Most people think religious orders were founded centuries ago, but many were established in the last few decades. Does that fact change how you think about religious orders?

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Contemplation in Cuba

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 06, March 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life
For 320 years Dominican contemplative sisters have had a presence in Havana, Cuba. Currrently, seven sisters—two Cubans, two Mexicans, and three Colombians—live in a convent in the capital city, says a ZENIT news story.

Sister Yolanda of the Child Jesus, from Cuba, says the community’s contemplative life is a matter of “simply getting rid of everything in order to place oneself at the disposal of God, who gives, enlightens, and transforms. He gives the strength and so it is like an emptying of everything so that the Lord can fill it.”

Saint Dominic, the founder of the Domincans, “did not bind us to any method,” says Sister Yolanda. “He proposed a very simple path of prayer. He said, first read the sacred scriptures, the Divine Office, or what you have. Go from reading to prayer; from prayer to meditation; and from meditation to contemplation. That was the only method he left us.” How do the sisters integrate contemplation and work? “When one lives in that union with God,” says Sister Ofelia of St. Joseph, from Mexico, “one can continue with work, but firmly united to him. And I can sew, clean, do whatever, but it does not take me from that union with God, which is lived in each moment . . . . A continual prayer that is lived in each moment, and in everything that is done, God is present. I can say this by experience, that I can be cleaning and cooking and feel the Lord there. Everything that is done is for love of God.” Adds Sister Yolanda, “One should live in an atmosphere of contemplation. And at times the Lord speaks more when we are working than when we are praying.”

“I am happy in my vocation,” says Sister Ofelia. “For me life in the cloister is not routine. It is a different dawn since each day has its joys, sufferings, and concerns, but even more happiness. When one gives oneself more to God and the years pass—I say this by experience—the cloister, contemplative life, it is a gift of God.”

What do you think it would like to be a contemplative in a country like Cuba?
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A journey towards justice

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 21, February 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

In 1964 Sister Lois Aceto, a Racine Dominican sister, had been teaching in that Wisconsin city for 14 years when her order gave her the opportunity to fulfill her dream as a foreign missionary: After spending five months in Lima, Peru learning Spanish, she and three other Dominican sisters went to Bolivia. The group had no specific instructions and “didn’t even have a place to stay,” Aceto told Racine Journal Times reporter Marci Laehr Tenuta. “I went there kind of naive about many things.”

After the sisters spent a period riding the buses of La Paz, Aceto started teaching religion in the public schools. There she organized high school and college students to work on justice-related issues—a delicate matter in a country then governed by a dictatorship. “You can’t talk against the government without getting arrested, which I was twice,” she said
Aceto also started a small library and hospital and a school for the blind, a task for which she learned Braille. Other activities included keeping young people out of brothels. “Boy, was that an education, let me tell you,” she said. “I’m always doing things I’m not prepared to do.”

Traveling outside La Paz, Aceto established an outpatient clinic for people with no medical care. She supervised orphanages and started a group for street children called New Hope. “It was beautiful,” she said. “It’s still going, by the way.” In an effort to be better prepared for her ministry, she even went to Madrid to study medicine.

When her father became seriously ill in 1981, Aceto returned to the United States. But she didn’t stop working on justice issues. She became involved in local programs like Restorative Justice and the Conflict Resolution Center housed at Neighborhood Watch, of which she is the director and where she trains others to be mediators and teaches conflict resolution in area prisons.

Aceto recently published a book, Journeying toward Justice, that recounts her time in Bolivia. “I feel driven to share my story,” she writes in the book. “For this is not merely one woman’s story: It symbolizes many of us—unknown, perhaps to all but a few—but people earnest, zealous, dedicated to serving God in the way we feel called, to engaging ourselves in the struggle for peace and justice in the world.”

Aceto says her work in Bolivia “changed me completely. I loved it, every minute of it. It taught me how to rely on the providence of God. You learn how to walk with God, all the time.”

Journeying toward Justice is available at


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Working for peace and unity

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 01, February 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

Elias Mallon, S.A.

For more than 20 years Father Elias Mallon, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, has worked in Christian dialogue with non-Christians, Muslims in particular. His most recent efforts have been with Franciscans International, a nongovernmental (nonprofit) organization and the United Nations, where he is involved in issues of interreligious conflict transformation and peace building, including those in the Middle East. He also speaks and teaches widely.

Previously Mallon was on the faculty of the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches in Bossey, Switzerland, where he also represented what is now the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He worked as well at the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, a ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, and was even interim dean for a year of Auburn Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary in New York City.

In addition to his ecumenical work, Mallon has taught Old Testament and Near Eastern Languages.

“How one asks a question greatly determines how one seeks the answer,” Mallon says. “For centuries Christians have been asking if non-Christians could be saved. Early on in my work with non-Christians the question which arose for me and continues to motivate me is: What is our good and loving Creator trying to tell us by the existence of different religions in our world? It is a question which fascinates me, humbles me, and drives me on.”

What do you think people can learn from dialoging with those from other religions?

The nun who kissed Elvis

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 25, January 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B.

Mother Dolores Hart, prioress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a Benedictine monastic community in Bethlehem, Connecticut, has helped bring about an arts and crafts renaissance of sorts at the monastery. The community has released its fourth CD of chant. It hosts a 200-seat open-air theater. Steel sculpture created by Mother Praxedes Baxter—a former printmaker who also helped designed the abbey’s church—adorns the grounds.

But then Regina Laudis is not Hart’s first foray into the arts. She gave Elvis Presley his first onscreen kiss.

Before entering monastic life in 1963 at age 24, Hart had appeared in 10 films, including Loving You—in which she kissed Elvis— King Creole, and Where the Boys Are. She had begun visiting Regina Laudis while performing on Broadway in The Pleasure of His Company, for which she received a Tony nomination.

“Acting was what I thought I always wanted to do, and there was nothing about it I didn’t like,” Hart said in a December 30, 2007 New York Times story by Cynthia Wolfe Boynton. “I loved the idea of playing different parts, of learning about other people’s lives. But then I came to visit the abbey and realized I belonged here. Like the theater, the monastery gives people a different view of life and inspires them to come alive, to fully live their story.”

The monastery combines contemplative life not only with the arts but also with with making products from the animals the sisters keep on the grounds: raw-milk cheese, ice cream, honey, jellies, leather, and other things that help support the community. Cheese-making is supervised by Mother Noella Marcellino, who has a doctorate in microbiology. “As an enclosed community, we have the time to contemplate, create and nurture our crafts, and then send the results out into the world,” she said. “That’s our gift to people.”

“She encourages us,” Marcellino said of Hart, “to tap into our emotions and to find a positive way to express them. Mother Dolores taught us that emotions are universal—that everyone experiences happiness, sadness, anger, joy, and passion—and that we can use them to better connect with people outside the abbey through our art, whether it be in the plays we host, in the songs we sing, or in the ways we celebrate God as we chant and read prayers during worship.”

“Music and the arts help people come alive,” Hart said. “They lift people’s minds and spirits, and in that enlightened state help people find God. God isn’t a whiskered old man. He’s alive and can be experienced in things that move us to feel love or beauty. That’s why we use the arts as a form of prayer, and then try to share those prayers with other people.” The sisters have also recorded several "Women in Chant" CDs (see their website).

Despite 45 years of religious life, however, Hart is still a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and, according to the rules, keeps her Oscar votes a secret.

“I went from a lead role to a supporting role,” she said, describing her transition from actor to religious sister, “but it’s where I belong.”

How would the arts help you express your faith?

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Sister Cheryl Blanchard, M.M.M.

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 25, January 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Mission & Evangelization

From the heart of a missionary

Words come rushing into my awareness as I think of my missionary life so far . . . Kenya, my dream come true, far away from my birthplace of Detroit, Michigan. Fulfilling years of wondering, praying, searching, which culminated in my joining the Medical Missionaries of Mary, in Boston, Massachusetts. One dream, of being a nurse, had already come to fruition; now the missionary segment was unfolding. I was sent to a place called Turkana, a desert area tucked away in a corner of northwest Kenya. It was a land so totally new to me and “foreign,” yet it was there, in a seemingly barren land, that my life really bore fruit. I found a new life, a new home and all my dreams were fulfilled.

How to sum up my years as a missionary? So many experiences: joys and frustrations of learning a foreign language, becoming part of a gifted people so very different from my own. So much learning: about life and death, risk-taking and loving, failures and accomplishments. I discovered within me: my love for a people and land that is so deep that they will always be enmeshed in my heart and soul. It was a land where I experienced the deeper meaning of communion and commitment, of realizing more deeply what a missionary really is, the costs as well as the tremendous gift.

O what wondrous things I have experienced! What can compare with an old woman’s toothless smile as she eagerly awaits the often mispronounced or haltingly expressed words I speak in her language? Or who would trade anything for the laughter of a healthy baby and mother who have successfully fought the battle against tuberculosis? Again, what is equal to helping to quench the thirst for knowledge about God, about healthy living, about what the “rest of the world is like” that young people have?

Whom did I find? I found friends, people I am close to and will remain so until the day I die. I found Christ already present among the people who were labeled animists by some and heathens or pagans by others. I, the missionary, was missioned to, in countless ways, such as the heartfelt compassion I received from a starving mother of three who comforted me as I cried while telling her we had no more food to give, that our supplies were finished after a year-long drought and famine. I am the woman of little faith that, during that same famine, when death from hunger and disease were literally all around us, thought that Christmas would be dismal—but who had the best Christmas of her life! I experienced that Christmas Eve the true spirit and meaning of Christmas shining in the eyes and hearts, in the faith and joy of the people. These and countless other experiences I hold dear and will cherish always.

I lift my heart in gratitude to God for my missionary vocation and for all I have lived and experienced as a result! Glory and praise to our God!

I belong to: The Medical Missionaries of Mary

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Back to beginnings

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 15, January 2008 Categories: Consecrated Life

Lasallian Teacher Immersion
Program Participants

“This is my 35th year in education,” says Christian Brother Patrick Conway. “One thing I’ve noticed is the shrinking pool of male teachers, particularly as related to theology and religion teachers. In the United States today, 19 percent of all Catholic school teachers are men. In the public schools it’s 21 percent . . . .”

To address this shortage, the Midwest province of the Christian Brothers has initiated the Lasallian Teacher Immersion Program to guide more young men into teaching. The program draws on students from Christian Brothers universities and colleges and gives them supervised classroom teaching experience and chances to serve those in need, all while earning college credit.

The first group of Lasallians volunteered at an inner city middle school for at-risk young people and worked in shelters, soup kitchens, and day-care facilities. In addition, they took classes themselves at nearby Christian Brothers schools. A future semester will involve students in a five-week program in Guatemala. Other activities include community living and working at a Catholic Worker house.

The Lasallian program returns the Christian Brothers to their roots of working in inner cities among immigrants, Brother Patrick tells Catholic News Service. “We are now returning to our mission. We have been trying to become more attuned to the plight of the poor.”

Have ever thought being a teacher? What do you think would be the rewards and challenges of teaching?

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Nancy Gucwa

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 04, January 2008 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

About Me: I grew up in a big family, 6 kids—I was the second oldest. We all went to St. Patrick School, which is where we received the sacraments and first learned about our faith. Although I enjoyed the teachers and the sisters, it never occurred to me that I could aspire to be a religious sister.

Nancy Gucwa

While a senior in high school, I was considering becoming a lawyer, but the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) announced it would accept women. I was intrigued about its history of developing leaders of character. So I graduated with the first class of women, serving 5 years active duty after graduation. I then left active duty, and with an M.B.A. got a job at a large bank in downtown Manhattan, all the while staying in the Army reserves. I enjoyed this job, the fast pace of the city, and the world of finance. Five years later, I accepted a position in St. Louis with a different firm that offered more responsibilities and new challenges.

In St. Louis, the job became busier, often requiring late hours and weekends. I felt I had no time for the Army reserves, so I put that aside for a while. I had a full life, with working and dating and a weekly Bible study with a great group of people. The latter led to learning about various retreats in the area, and I would squeeze one or two weekend retreats in my busy schedule.

My Vision: Although outwardly successful, I still felt something important was missing. So when my company was purchased and my job was phased out I started working for myself in a financial seminar business, which afforded me a more flexible schedule. I had time for more prayer and reflection that really fed my soul.

In November of 2004 while on retreat at a hermitage in High Ridge, Missouri, I chatted with the priest there, telling him about myself and my career journey. At a break in the conversation, he shocked me with his invitation, “Have you ever considered a religious vocation?” It hit me like a bolt of lightening, and I knew I found what I was searching for. Yet, what kind of religious order? To help me narrow this down, I found a wonderful priest who helped me discern whether an active or contemplative order would be a better fit.

After visiting several orders, I visited and fell in love with the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, a contemplative order. We live a monastic life of work and prayer, following the rule of Saint Benedict. We make altar breads and also pray the Liturgy of the Hours several times a day. I have been here a year and a half now and feel extremely happy and blessed. I would encourage all women who have had careers, even in their 30’s and 40’s, to consider whether a religious vocation is right for them.

I Belong to: The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, Missouri

How would use your talents if you were a member of a religious community?




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