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2009 Posts

Holy sole and other monastery recipes

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Thursday 31, December 2009 Categories:

A compilation of spirited
food, drink, and travel

Wisconsin journalist Madeline Scherb recently published A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns (Tarcher, 2009), part cookbook, part travel guide.

According to her Amazon biography, Scherb, a Catholic and member of St. Bernard Parish in Middleton, WI, first came up with the idea for A Taste of Heaven while completing a journalism fellowship in 2003. Financing her efforts with her personal savings, Scherb took six years to complete the book and traveled to more than a dozen abbeys in the United States and Europe.

She offers many insights into religious life, including this observation from her introduction:

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from the example of monks and nuns is that a life lived simply can be both rewarding and sustainable. Monks and nuns don't live to work, they live to pray. They work only as much as they need to, but they give it their best effort every day. They work whether they are young or old according to their abilities (an octogenarian nun was recently spotted making chocolates at Bonneval, while monks of a similar age staff the reception desk at Gethsemani).


God texts the Ten Commandments

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 08, December 2009 Categories:

What if God had texted the Ten Commandments? Jamie Quatro on the literary ezine McSweeney's has some suggestions:

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix/idols

3. no omg's

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

VISION makes important youth connection

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 27, November 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Highlights from VISION Vocation Guide's first time attendance to the National Catholic Youth Conference--held last week in Kansas City, MO--included:

  • Greeting enthusiastic young adults, teenagers, youth ministers, parents, chaperones among the 22,000-plus in attendance
  • Watching teenagers bowl with the bishops using the Wii that sponsored
  • Feeling the enthusiasm and spirit of the faith-filled crowd in and around Kansas City's Bartle Convention Center
  • Eating at Lidia's restaurant--yum!

A few photos--sorry we couldn't provide more--we were glued to the booth!

Sisters at the National Youth
Conference inKansas City

Franciscan Friars at their booth
National Religious Vocation
Conference (NRVC) Board
Member Augustinian Father
Kevin DiPrinzio, NRVC
Executive Director Holy Cross
Brother Paul Bednarczyk, and
NRVC Associate Director
Sister of St. Joseph of
Philadelphia Charlene Diorka

London sisters take pot shots to raise funds

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 09, November 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Traditionally many religious communities devote time almost every day to what is known as "recreation," and Tyburn Convent, a cloistered monastery of Benedictine women in the heart of London, is no different. What is a bit unique is one of the sisters' recreational activities: snooker-which they also hope to leverage into some much-needed fundraising.

After a television documentary about their lives—and snooker-playing—brought international attention, the sisters decided to ask local businessmen to drop by the convent and ''put a shot in the pot''—that is, make a contribution each time they pocket a ball on the community's undersized snooker table. The donation goes to a restoration fund for their building. Constructed in the Victorian era, it was damaged by a bomb in World War II and the repairs have started to deteriorate.

''Snooker is a popular game and I think that it will appeal to a lot of people,'' Sister Simeon told the New York Times. ''I thought fundraising was a dreary business. I never knew it could be like this. This is a lot better than addressing envelopes. . . . Recreation is an important part of our day and I'm not keen on sitting down and knitting; not yet, anyway."

''Our skipping has aroused interest, too,'' added Mother Mary Xavier in reference to another of the sisters' recreations: jump-roping. ''We like to skip but it's the snooker that has taken off. If our skipping gets more popular, then we will have sponsored skipping. But right now, we must concentrate on snooker.''

The matriarch of Misericordia

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 03, November 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Originally a home for unwed mothers, Chicago's Misericordia/Heart of Mercy today supports over 500 children and adults with mild to profound developmental disabilities. For 40 of those years the director of Misericordia has been Mercy Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M.:

Don't mess with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 28, October 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Talk radio host
Stephanie Miller called to
task by a Sister of
St. Mary of Namur

Sister Carol Ann of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur was quoted on the Stephanie Miller radio show today. Stephanie Miller, comedienne and progressive talk radio host, apparently claimed tongue-in-cheek on an earlier show that she was "beaten by the nuns" during her time at DeSales Catholic High School in Lockport, NY.

Sister Carol Ann wrote and begged to differ. Apparently, the academy was not staffed by the sisters when Stephanie attended. Oops! Stephanie acknowledged that she had fibbed--all for the sake of a laugh. She promised Sister Carol Ann she would say two Hail Marys. 

Good for Sister Carol Ann for taking the time to set the record straight about the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. Good for Stephanie Miller for her on-air apology. We believe detention is in order, Stephanie.

Click here and type in Keywords "of Namur" or Code 348 to read the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur VISION listing.


Death becomes them: the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 28, October 2009 Categories:


Looking for a scary place to visit on Halloween or for a Day of the Dead celebration? How about the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo in Sicily featuring thousands of well-preserved corpses of the souls of the faithful departed.

Located below a Capuchin Monastery, the underground cemetery was dug in the late 16th century initially to house deceased monks. Later, the Capuchins, an order dedicated to service to the poor, opened the catacombs to the general populace and took in those who otherwise could not afford such a burial. According to recent AP story, some 8,000 mummies are stacked ceiling-high in the corridors of the catacombs, lying in open niches, or propped up in a standing position, many still dressed in their original clothes. Monks wearing dark frocks, priests in sacred vestments, aristocrats in their best Sunday dress, and the poor in rags as well as young children resting in their cribs were all buried in the catacombs.

Today, the mummies may give visitors the creeps or encourage sobering reflections on mortality, but in the cemetery's heyday they were a comforting presence for relatives and friends who could visit their loved ones, pray by their side, and care for the body.

You can find the Capuchin Catacombs at Piazza Cappuccini, 1, Palermo, Sicily. They're open daily, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Entrance fee is €1.50. More info at Sacred Destinations website.

For information of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in the U.S., view their VISION listing by click here, and typing in keyword "Capuchin" or code 091.

Vatican exhibit looks to the skies

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 16, October 2009 Categories:

When most people think of the Vatican and astronomy, they usually remember Galileo Galilei, the Italian scientist condemned for suspected heresy in 1633 for maintaining that the earth revolved around the sun (and who was "rehabilitated" in 1992 by a special Vatican commission established by Pope John Paul II).

Less well-known are the centuries-old contributions of Italy and the Vatican to astronomy. This history is the subject of a new exhibition, "Astrum 2009," running at the Vatican Museums from October 15, 2009 to January 15, 2010, said a Catholic News Service article by Carol Glatz.

The Vatican Observatory, the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, and the Vatican Museums have pooled their collections of antique telescopes, astrolabes, celestial globes, and manuscripts. Many of the 130 items in the exhibit have never been displayed publicly.

Some of the exhibit is dedicated to the Vatican's history of astronomical research, including its participation in the 19th-century international "Carte du Ciel" ("Map of Heaven") project to catalog and map the stars. Between 1910 and 1921 the Vatican Observatory assigned three nuns to help with the map project. These Sisters of the Child Mary measured the coordinates of tens of thousands of stars reproduced on photographic glass plates.

Also on display for the first time are photographs of a papal expedition to Russia in 1887 to witness and document a total solar eclipse. Three Italian priests made the trip, which proved unsuccessful due to poor weather and viewing conditions.

There are even some Galileo-related artifacts, like his original handwritten notes detailing his observations of the moon and his publication Starry Messenger from 1610, which detailed how he perfected the telescope to magnify distant objects 30 times their appearance to the naked eye.

Galileo opened up a brand new way of doing science, which wasn't accepted immediately, said Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the commission governing Vatican City, in a written introduction to the exhibit's catalog. These groundbreaking scientific discoveries help people better understand God's creation, he wrote, and the exhibit shows how science "is an inescapable part" of the human spirit and the whole human experience.

A video about the exhibit:

Margaret Paluch, vocation promoter extraordinaire, dies

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 12, October 2009 Categories:

All of us involved in vocation ministry lost a dear friend on Oct. 8 with the death of Margaret "Mickey" Paluch, chairman of the  board of the J.S. Paluch company and longtime promoter and supporter of Catholic church vocations. 

Margaret Paluch

In 1985 she established the J.S. Paluch Company’s National Vocation Awareness Division, which supports vocation ministry in the church and underwrites an annual national vocations seminar. In 1991 Mickey established the Endowment for the Margaret and Chester Paluch Chair of Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary/Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, IL, in support of that effort.In 1995 she created the Paluch Family Foundation, which funds liturgy, stewardship, and vocation projects.

In recognition of her devotion to vocation ministry, the National Religious Vocation Conference(NRVC) presented its John Paul II Award to Mickey in 1987. In 1989 the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD) bestowed its Stewardship Award on Mickey and later established the Margaret A. Paluch Award in her honor. In 2007 Mickey received the Pope John Paul II Seminary Leadership Award from the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Seminary Department in recognition of her distinguished service to Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States and Canada.

Father Damien and Jeanne Jugan among newest saints

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 12, October 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy,Consecrated Life

Pope Benedict XVI gave the Roman Catholic church five new saints on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009, including Father Damien, born as Jozef De Veuster in 1840, a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium who cared for leprosy victims on the Hawaiian island of Molokai from 1873 to 1889, when the disease killed him. The other new saints are 19th-century Polish bishop Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski; Spanish faithful Francisco Coll y Guitart and Rafael Arniaz Baron, and Jeanne Jugan, a Frenchwoman described by Vatican Radio as an "authentic Mother Teresa ahead of her time." (Click here for full AP story featured on NPR).

For more information about Father Damien, read VISION's online listing for Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (code 230).

For Jeanne Jugan, go to the VISION listing for the Little Sisters of the Poor (code 041).

Finding her way through racism

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Sunday 04, October 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. with two of her students
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sister Patricia Lucas, D.H.M. professed her final vows with the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary, an all-African American order, in 1965. It was while searching for a community that she encountered discrimination.
"As a young adult, I was told by many religious communities that the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary was my only option. I was not encouraged to join any other order," she told the Catholic Advocate. Then, while working in Chicago, she joined the Daughters of Heart of Mary, in 1985, because of that community's flexibility. The members move among the people whom they serve, with no external identification. "I chose the Daughters of Heart of Mary because I can work in any milieu I want to. There are doctors and lawyers who are also sisters," she said.

Now the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, Lucas is also a member of the multicultural and evangelization committees for the archdiocese. In addition she is the regional director of formation for the Daughters of the Heart of Mary and has ministered in Ethiopia and the inner-city prisons of Chicago.

After joining the Daughters she was assigned as director of Nazareth School for Girls in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she was responsible for 1,400 young women. "At that time, the president of Ethiopia had his daughter attend Nazareth School. Everyone there valued their education and viewed attending the school as a stepping stone to England or America. The students prayed so much; they prayed for peace every morning," Lucas said.

Due to the continuing civil war in the area that ended in 1991, she relocated back to the U.S. to become president of a mostly white school. "I sent in my résumé for the job without a photo," she said. "When I was voted in, people were definitely taken aback. I didn't see overt racism, but it was racism that was covered by a smile. People don't respect you as a person with intelligence."

"My faith has made me a stronger person," she confessed. "I could not endure the racism, even within my own church, if it was not for my faith. It made me look beyond the atrocities and realize there is a God."

L.A. teens put words to feelings

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 23, September 2009 Categories: Clergy
Student with Father
Stan Bosch, S.T.
"What is the purpose of what we do here?" Father Stan Bosch asked the young people sitting around him. "Get stuff out," one 17-year-old said, "so it don't burn inside you." "Beautiful," Bosch said.

Bosch, a Missionary Servant of the Holy Trinity, works at a Soledad Enrichment Action charter school in South Los Angeles, where those who aren't making it in the regular school system get another chance.

A motorcyclist and former college football player, Bosch had been a pastor at a nearby parish where, said a story by Scott Gold, "it seemed the entirety of his ministry was trudging from one hospital to the next in the middle of the night, tending to the grieving relatives of dead gangbangers." "I had developed a deep inner sadness," he said. "I just couldn't do it anymore."

If he couldn't do it anymore, he could do something about it. He got a doctorate in psychology, moved into the rectory of a church next to the school, and started working with the students, some of whom use drugs, have committed crimes, are homeless, or come from dysfunctional homes, among other problems. He was convinced many of these kids needed to be able talk about their pain with their peers.

"It's bringing kids together to put words to feelings," he said in an article for The Tidings, the weekly newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "It's dealing with what's called 'alexithymia,' in psychodynamic terms, the incapacity to put words to feelings. Many of our kids don't know what they feel, and nobody asks them." No one except Bosch, that is.

Captured by the Heart

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 18, September 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Sr. Jan Lane's reflection on her vocation as an Adorer of the Blood of Christ

In October, 17 years ago, five United States Adorers of the Blood of Christ were murdered in Liberia, West Africa by
                 Sr. Jan Lane, ASC                
soldiers under the command of Charles Taylor, who subsequently became the country's president and proceeded to pillage the nation's people and resources, eventually fleeing only to stand trial in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hearing the story of these five brave Martyrs of Charity prompted the vocation of Sister Jan Lane, now the Adorers' U.S. Region Vocation Director. This anniversary of the Martyrs prompted Sister Jan to recall her own call to religious life.

When I was 35, anyone looking at my life would have thought I was perfectly content with the direction my life was taking. I had earned a B.A. in Parks & Recreation Administration and completed 10 years of successful employment serving as Program Director of a large recreation facility in my hometown. I loved working with people of all ages and social-economic backgrounds in designing programs to meet their need for organized social and recreational activity. On my free time I enjoyed training and competing in various 10k runs, biathlons and triathlons, just to stay in shape. I was a home owner, loved my cat, and found pleasure in picking out my own new vehicles and recreational gear. I enjoyed a great circle of supportive friends, which included dating and even thoughts of marriage from time to time. Who would have thought that a call to Religious Life would enter the picture of my very active life? I didn't! At least, not until I started to pay closer attention to my prayer life and a deeper desire to search for God.

Part of my search included drawing closer to my parish community by getting involved with prayer groups, sponsoring RCIA candidates and teaching PSR classes. Another part of my search included attending retreats and "Come and See" weekends, which connected me with women religious. One particular retreat captured my heart and significantly changed the direction of my life forever. I met an Adorer of the Blood who had lived and served in Liberia, Africa for 17 years. She shared her personal experience as a missionary and the story about the five Adorers who had been martyred in 1992. I was struck by the radical witness of the Adorers in living fully their spirituality which is rooted in adoration of the Precious Blood of Christ. They seemed impelled to share their lives, talents and resources for the purpose of building up a community of people who had less then they had.  After that retreat, I knew I wanted to learn more about the Adorers and their mission to "bring about that beautiful order of things that the Son of God came to establish in His blood." For the first time in my life, I felt within me a desire to explore the possibility of a vocation to Religious Life.

Today I am a professed Sister with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and I still love the opportunity of working with people from all walks of life. I have had a variety of ministry experiences including working with inner city after-school programs, hospital and hospice chaplaincy, pastoral training programs for laity, and vocation outreach for the Adorers. Even as a Sister, exercise remains important to me and I have a steady routine of early morning runs and evening swims at the YMCA. I still consider myself a seeker, one who searches for God in my daily encounters and activities. Prayer remains central to my spiritual growth. The difference now is I live in a supportive community of faith-filled women who share a common mission. Together, we draw from a rich spiritual heritage that gives depth and meaning to life both personally and communally.  Becoming an Adorer of the Blood of Christ has opened my life to a greater sense of purpose and direction, something that was that was missing at the age of 35. For those feeling the nudge to consider Religious Life as a vocation my advice is: "Go for it! Your life may change forever."

For more information about the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and the ASC presence in Liberia is available at or contact S. Jan Lane, Vocation Director for the U.S. Region at or 1-877-236-7377 ext. 1455

Composer and Franciscan John Paul Russo

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 18, September 2009 Categories:
Brother John Paul Russo
Spring and summer of last year saw the premieres of two compositions by Brother John Paul Russo of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars, Province of the Stigmata. His Miss pro nova aurora ("Mass for a New Dawn") was performed in April 2008 by Florida Pro Musica in Tampa. And his Holy Rosary was to be performed several times at World Youth Day in Sydney the following July. Scored for soloists, chorus, and string orchestra, Russo described the latter as a "multi-media, interactive work meant to enhance the prayer of the rosary."

"I see music as a form of spiritual nourishment," he said. "If it connects people to God, then I'm willing to try anything. Doors are opening, and I'm going through."

More on Brother John, including a biography and program notes and a Tampa Tribune story about the Mass for a New Dawn as well as links to a musical clip.

Aspiring nun runs for her religious life

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Thursday 10, September 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Many people who feel called to a religious vocation face the task of eliminating financial debts, whether accumulated from education loans or other sources, so that they can be free of debt when entering into religious life.  One young Chicagoan has found a creative way to address that challenge.

On Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009, Alicia Torres will run the Chicago Half Marathon as part of "The Nun Run,," an idea, complete with its own website,, that she created to attract sponsors to help her eliminate her student debt. Torres hopes to become part of The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, a Franciscan community that is forming at the former Our Lady of the Angels parish on Chicago's west side.

On TheNunRun website, Torres says, "This September 13, myself and a group of generous friends will run the Chicago Half Marathon-13.1 miles along the beautiful lakefront-with the goal of raising funds to help me remit my educational debt so I may enter Religious Life Training is in full swing, and every day I try more and more to surrender to God's mercy and grace."

Torres works for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Respect Life Office. A 2007 graduate of Loyola University Chicago, she was first attracted to Religious Life while a university student. "Men and women in my generation are looking for meaning. We desire to make a difference in the world. Religious life really is a supernatural way of living, serving our neighbor in need while acknowledging God is the center of life," Torres told in an interview.

"Today many men and women want to serve in this way but are hindered by their educational debt. Ironically, the cost of education that should prepare us to serve others actually hinders our ability to freely live a life of prayer and service," said Torres.

Torres is being assisted in her efforts to retire her debt by the Laboure Society, a non-profit organization that helps men and women who desire to enter religious life eliminate their debt. The Society receives donations on behalf of individuals, so that donors may receive a tax-deduction for their gift. All gifts made to The Nun Run will be channeled through the Laboure Society and are fully tax-deductible. The Laboure Society makes payments to the lenders on behalf of the men and women.

"In our world today we function so often as individuals. Really, we can't be successful without the support of others. Every person who helps me as I work toward eliminating my debt is not just assisting me in a financial need. They are enabling me to live a life of love and service. In this way, they are part of the mission of love and service I will live as a vowed religious in the Catholic Church," Torres said.

Cooking priest vs. celebrity chef

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 09, September 2009 Categories: Clergy

Father Leo Patalinghug, founder of Grace Before Meals, a ministry that encourages cooking and sharing meals together as  away to nurture faith, was challenged to a cookoff with celebrity chef Bobby Flay. The results of the showdown airs on the Food Network Challenge, Sept. 9 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.According to a Balitmore Sun article by Matthew Brown, Patalinghug, the director of pastoral field education at Mount St. Mary's Seminary, had been lured in front of the cameras for a supposed feature on his ministry. But he soon learned that it was a setup for an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." Pataolinghug adopted a tone of mock outrage when the ruse was revealed: "Food Network, you lied to a priest!"

Patalinghug's website,, on which he posts recipes and professionally produced webisodes, gets 10,000 hits daily; he is talking with PBS about airing a series. His self-published cookbook, "Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life," has entered its second printing, and he is in talks with Random House to produce the third. All of it, he says, is an extension of his work as a priest. "I'm inviting people to the table," Patalinghug says. "I'm doing what Jesus did. Before he started teaching theologically, he fed them loaves and fishes. I don't want to separate people and only address their spirit." "People aren't going to read a long theological essay," he says. "But surely they can look at a five-minute passage while the water is boiling."

Grace Before Meals overview:

UPDATE from It's official - Father Leo Patalinghug defeated renowned chef Bobby Flay in a Fusion Fajita cook-off. The episode of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” will be re-broadcast on September 20 at 11 p.m. EST and September 21 at 2 a.m. EST.


Sisters without borders

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 09, September 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life
Sister Pat Murphy prays with an immigration detainee

Setting up in the library of the McHenry County Jail outside Chicago, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas JoAnn Persch and Pat Murphy listen to, advise, pray with, and bring what comfort they can to immigrant detainees from around the world who are facing deportation. About 250 of the 650 inmates in the jail fall into this category.

"The immigrant detainees are different from the criminal detainees," said Persch. They most likely are never going to see their families [in the U.S.] again. . . . They're afraid. They're very sad for their family, very worried about their family. It's like in an emergency room when they bring a chaplain in. . . . your presence, your compassion, your prayer . . . that brings comfort to them."

In addition to their direct ministry, Persch and Murphy have fought for the right of detainees to pastoral care. They have also advocated in support of immigration reform and have become so well known in immigrant and Catholic circles, said a Chicago Tribune story by Margaret Ramirez, "that they are often just called 'The Sisters.' "

Murphy gets frustrated with Catholics who oppose her ministry with immigrants in this country illegally. "The church has lost it," she said. "Jesus didn't just say feed the people in your country, clothe the people in your city or whatever. It's open to every human being."

Two and a half years ago the sisters expanded their ministry when they started traveling to a federal detention center which is the last stop for detainees before deportation. There they prayed the rosary and boarded buses to bless the deportees. Since then they have been joined by almost two dozen clergy and activists.

The sisters have a long history of service to the vulnerable. Before their prison work they had run an outreach ministry for seniors at a Sisters of Mercy hospital; taught at an alternative school for high school dropouts; started Su Casa Catholic Worker House, a home for Central American survivors of torture; and worked at a shelter for African American women recovering from domestic violence and drug addiction. Later they started helping a mentally challenged single mother raise her daughter, becoming foster moms to the 13-year-old, picking her up from school, paying for singing and dance lessons, and helping with admission to high school.

"You see, I believe that the divine and the sacred are the ordinary things of life," Murphy said. "And I believe the moments in that jail are sacred moments with those people. We give them life, and they give us life. . . . It's a mutual thing. It's a human exchange, but I believe that God is present in that."

See more photos of the sisters at work.

Click here to learn more about the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Jill Kress, I.H.M.: "We all have a calling"

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 02, September 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Jill Kress, a novice of the Monroe, Michigan Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is taking questions. In an interview with the Michigan Catholic she talked about her vocation, snd in a video (see below) she answered the question, “What special advice would you have for someone who is an only child and wants to become a Sister?"

The newspaper asked her a series of good questions, and she had equally good responses. “What,” she was asked, “would you suggest to someone now discerning the call?” “Listen. Notice. Pray,” she said. “Listen to yourself, and that sometimes means having another, such as a spiritual director to reflect back at you what they’re hearing. Notice what feelings, ideas emerge from this. Does a certain theme keep coming back? And pray—in solitude, in community, in whatever ways work for you, hold your desires in prayer and see what happens. It’s a pretty simple formula, I didn’t invent it, [and] it’s helpful to have some way to track inner feelings.”

Why did she think God called her? “How does God call each of us to our true vocation, to what Thomas Merton calls our true selves? We all have a calling, and to figure out what we are called to has to do with living in such a way that we can hear that message in our lives.”

The paper then asked her about the role her own desire plays when it comes to discerning her vocation. “This might not make much sense,” she said, “but I would say that my own desire has everything and nothing to do with my vocation. I say it has everything to do with it because I can’t imagine wanting anything else . . . and yet, it’s not really my desire. I believe it comes from God.

“And yes, I do think that God calls us to a life we’re not necessarily comfortable with. It’s not about suffering for the sake of suffering, I am not at all advocating that. I think of this more as a ‘holy longing,’ or like the Jesuit principle of magis, always seeking the more. The cofounders of the IHM community, Louis Florent Gillet and Theresa Maxis, were always seeking out how to better serve God. As Louis Gillet once wrote, ‘I desire to be everywhere when I see so many needs.’ To IHMs today that speaks of a sense of dis-comfort with the way things are in the world—dissatisfaction with injustice, violence, and poverty in the world, and acting out of that holy longing for peace, wholeness, reconciliation. There is a certain amount of unsettledness with being a seeker, and to the extent that God calls us to see with new eyes the injustices, but also the beauty of the world and to continual conversion.”

Did anyone try to discourage her from pursuing religious life? “I’ve . . . had people in my life who have tried to dissuade me. This has been difficult because my tendency is to want to please others, and knowing that people who are close to me were unsupportive of my call to the IHMs was hard to take. But ultimately it’s between me and God and no one else.”

Read more about Sr. Jill. And here’s the video:


Vocation flavors in Julie and Julia

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 26, August 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

What does a movie centering on cooking have to do with vocation? Could be plenty. To my mind, Julie and Julia is not only a fun movie to watch, but it's something of a secular meditation on what we Catholics call a "vocation story." There is no prayer in this movie (at least none is portrayed). There is no discussion of "calling" or "discernment," yet at heart the movie is about two women who are in the process of discovering who they are, where they belong in the world and what it is that they love and are good at.

For people of faith, these foundational concerns are the building blocks of vocation. Who am I? What are my gifts? What am I passionate about? What stirs me? These all play into the pivotal question of "What is God calling me to?" After all, God calls us according to our gifts and our deepest desires.

Julia Child had a gift for cooking and for communicating her love of cooking to others. The blogger, Julie Powell, also had a passion for cooking and writing. In the movie, over the course of months and years, both women learn by trial and error about their individual gifts and passions. They both have failures and experience uncertainty. Yet, as they come to know and appreciate themselves better, their talents finally begin to bloom in a way that becomes noticed by others. Throughout the movie they share their talents with others, especially their husbands who enthusiastically devour the scrumptious goodies that flow from the kitchen. Many of this movie's luscious food scenes hint at the heavenly banquet.

Julie and Julia is a secular story. But Christians, too, can gain some insights about the importance of self-discovery in vocation and the wisdom of sharing our gifts with others.

Post submitted by Carol Schuck Scheiber, VISION's content editor

Why we need religious, priests, brothers, sisters

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Thursday 20, August 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

I was at the Paluch Seminar on Vocations this past week and met some young adults who had never met a religious sister until they were well in their teens or 20s—even though they had attended Catholic schools. It made me realize that many people may not know or see the value of nuns, sisters, brothers, and religious priests.

I'd love to hear from others on what they see as the value for themselves and for the church of having people choose religious life. For myself I would say that I have been inspired by the fact that priests, brothers, sisters have been at the forefront of every major social movement in the U.S.: child labor laws, civil rights, peace, social justice. They helped establish our extensive Catholic school and healtchcare systems. They are now leaders in the immigration and healthcare reform movements.

I do believe their witness and dedication to the church is essential to the life of the church. Please let me know what you think.

St. Joseph Workers begin their ministry

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 19, August 2009 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

The St. Joseph Worker Program (SJW), sponsored by the Congregation of St. Joseph, has announced the first class of St. Joseph Workers for their new year-long volunteer program in New Orleans, Louisiana. Four young women, who have a blog, joined recently-named program director Jackie Schmitz, C.S.J. on July 31, 2009. Their volunteer year will end June 30, 2010.

SJW is a year-long volunteer program for single women between 21 and 35 who are committed to social change. This program is based on the St. Joseph Worker program the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet began seven years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota that has since grown to two houses in the Twin Cities as well as an alumni house.

The program trains and supports women to be agents of change as they provide direct services to the communities they serve. The core of the program includes development in leadership, community, justice, and spirituality, which participants work toward through training programs, retreat days, living together in community, ministry experiences, and interaction among themselves, the sisters and associates of the Congregation, and others they meet.

Best practices for encouraging religious vocations

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 12, August 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

A Study on Recent Vocations was just published by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference (the group which holds the copyright for VISION Vocation Guide). The study shows an increase in ethnic diversity among new entrants and a desire for prayer, communal living, and Catholic identity, which correlates with the VISION annual trend surveys and reader statistics.

For full details of the study, click here.

Best practices gleaned from the study for attracting and retaining new members:

  • Being Proactive about Vocations
  • Creating a Culture of Vocations
  • Vocation Director and/or Team
  • Use of Media for Vocation Promotion
  • Discernment Programs
  • Targeting Age Groups

Parishes, religious educators, and families also play a role in promoting vocations. Let's hope the study spurs more vocation awareness among all Catholics.


Take nothing with you . . .

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 08, August 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

You may have seen the news story about the group of Franciscan friars-in-training who along with two older

Friars at their journey's end.

friars walked from Roanoke, Virginia to Washington, D.C. The idea was, in the words of the Washington Post, "to emulate the wanderings of their founder, Saint Francis of Assisi . . . to journey together as a fraternity, ministering to one another and to strangers, while depending on God for every meal and place to sleep," and by so doing help form themselves in the Franciscan spirit.

They took no money-what people pressed on them they spent on food and gave the rest away-and made no plans to have a roof over their heads. Their destination was the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land near Catholic University in Washington, which for them had a symbolic meaning as the close of their trip.They have a website about their journey. Their journey echoed Jesus' command to the disciples he sent out ahead of him to "take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money-not even an extra tunic" (Luke 9:3). "Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time," said one of the older friars. "But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step."

Needless to say they attracted a lot of attention. "Dressed like we are in our habits," another said, "it's like a walking sign that says, 'Tell us your life's problems.' " And of problems they did hear: relationship-difficulty-afflicted commuters poured out their hearts; a woman who had recently kicked out her husband and daughter told them her troubles. They chatted with a group of intoxicated bikers. Others who had no idea who they were thought them to be on their way to a Star Wars convention. Some kids took them for Shaolin monks. At the Lincoln Memorial folks wanted their picture taken with them. On one occasion the local police wanted to know what they were up to.

Along the Lee Highway in Fairfax, Va. a woman and her three children picked them up in her minivan and took them out to eat at Chik-fil-A. "It was the oddest experience sitting there at Chik-fil-A with everyone staring at us," the woman said. "The high point was when the guy dressed up like a cow came out and gave us all high fives. He was in costume. They were in robes. A lot of people were wondering what was going on."

Their outdoor sleep locations included a trampoline next to a firehouse (one moved, they all moved); picnic tables behind a church; and five nights on the Appalachian Trail. Indoor locales were the home of a tattooed and toothless Native American healer (where they spent the night exchanging gospel/Native stories and double flute playing/Latin hymn chanting); a Trappistine abbey; Catholic churches; a Baptist church; a church deacon's basement; a police academy barracks; and several nights in the "homes of strangers."

Read the full story with photo gallery.

Put on a radiant face

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 08, August 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi
The papal nuncio (ambassor) Archbishop Pietro Sambi gave the keynote address at this past week's gathering in St. Louis of the major superiors of men religious. In his address, National Catholic Reporter's John Allen reports,

Sambi called upon the church in the United States “not to remain a prisoner of the sex scandal” nor “a prisoner to the crisis in religious life.” Sambi acknowledged that the sexual abuse crisis has taken a terrible toll, saying that in some quarters it has “deprived us of all credibility.” Likewise, he conceded that diminishing numbers have induced a crisis of confidence in some circles of religious life. Nonetheless, Sambi insisted that rebirth is possible through adopting the spirit of St. Paul, being “seized,” “grasped,” by the Gospel of Christ, and preaching that gospel relentlessly. “There is a Christian way of dealing with problems,” Sambi told the several hundred leaders of religious life. “It involves converting humiliation into strength by fidelity to our vocation and mission.”

Also on his blog, Allen had this to say about the papal nuncio:

Here’s a window onto Sambi’s personality: When I sat down next to him at the speaker’s table on Thursday morning, I asked how he was doing. “Better every day,” he said with a broad smile, adding. “We must be optimistic ... we are Christians, after all.” Sambi is the kind of guy who, just by being himself, puts a radiant human face on the church.

That seems to be a worthy aspiration for all Christians: Commitment to putting a radiant human face on the church.

“Choices you can live with tomorrow”

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 29, July 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life
“Let the choices you make today be choices you can live with tomorrow." Those words can be found on a wall of Kenmare Alternative High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, founded in 1981 by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace to help young women ages 17-35 who have dropped out of high school; provide them with an academic education; and offer job skills training. Many Kenmare students have children and family responsibilities which would otherwise prevent them from attending school. Sister Joan Repka of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth is the principal.

An exceptional teaching staff, a social worker, and volunteers work to ensure that the women receive not only a diploma but also the skills and confidence they will need throughout life.

Women who have completed their stay at Kenmare come back to say that the lessons in discipline and self-respect at the school have enabled them to begin new lives, which may include technical training or earning their GED and going to college.

Volunteering as a way of discernment

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Thursday 23, July 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Vocation Director Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C. recently wrote about the connection between volunteering and discernment for the website and e-newsletter of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

When I was a boy, my father directed me in the helpful path of volunteering. During the summer he would send me with our lawn mower to an elderly woman to cut her grass. She was nice, but I never received anything from her but friendship and gratitude. Both my parents and my siblings also volunteered to help her with other chores around her little house. By imitating my parents, I discovered that doing a task for another person helps create a mature spirit of generosity. When the gospel said to help your neighbor with acts of mercy, I understood from experience the way to do this.

As I grew, the number of ways to volunteer increased. Some of them were more difficult, which also helped shape my character. Shoveling snow day after day for my grandmother created endurance, and helping my father with the garden created a spirit of sacrifice which became the foundation of a religious commitment. Volunteering helped me see others as children of God, a perspective which in turn helped shape my desires so that I was willing to make sacrifices to help another person.

One day in the seminary, my brother and I were assigned the task of washing and waxing the dining room floor. We worked with efficiency and cooperation and later that day someone remarked that we worked well together. I thought nothing of the incident at the time, but day after day of working as brothers for the well-being of our family made a habit of giving of self for the good of others. Teamwork and love created a spirit of community among us.

Any volunteer commitment shapes us, but volunteering can also help us discern our life's calling. When a person works alongside a member of a religious community, he or she is sharing the experience of the same values, identifying with the organization and its charism. For instance, when a person volunteers as a catechist, he or she takes on the evangelizing characteristic of the church. It is for this reason that when a person is discerning about a religious vocation, the vocation minister may suggest that the person act as a mentor in the RCIA program of his or her parish for a year. Hopefully the person will internalize the characteristic of evangelizing as a life skill, which deepens the awareness of a life commitment to the goals of the church and to the charism of the particular religious order.

Many young men and women have committed themselves to a year of volunteer service with an organization. The U.S. government has developed service projects to pay back loans for education and build the value of patriotic generosity to one's country. The church has provided volunteer programs as a means for the faithful to begin to respond to their baptismal call. While not all immersion experiences are designed as "mission" endeavors, they can serve as good cross-cultural preparations and as wake-up calls to a dormant baptismal calling. A year of volunteer service helps a person feel like a missionary and shapes the person's character accordingly. Volunteering with an organization helps us get to know the organization better, which is also an excellent tool for discerning whether or not this is the way we are being called to serve the church and each other.

Any form of volunteer service helps discern one's vocation, and volunteering is good preparation for all vocations. The call to marriage is founded on self-giving. The single way of life overcomes loneliness by being committed to giving amply of one's time for the good of others. The ordained celibate life finds it strength in personal sacrifice. Consecrated life comes from community support and a life of prayer together in the companionship of Christ. To volunteer in Jesus' name is to direct one's life according to the mind and heart of Jesus himself.

Take us out to the ballgame

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 21, July 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, will help commemorate the bicentennial of the Sisters of Charity with Sisters of Charity Day at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, on September 19. Before the start of the game the sisters' choir will lead in signing the National Anthem. All attendees are asked to wear black and gold. Hopefully the presence of the sisters and their friends will provide some inspiration to the Pirates, who as of this writing are in last place in the National League Central Division.

Exhibit features U.S. Catholic sisters' history

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 08, July 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America is a traveling exhibit sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in association with the Cincinnati Museum Center. It offers history museums across the country an opportunity to display artifacts and images the general public has rarely seen.

Opening last May in Cincinnati, the exhibit is scheduled for various locations in the next three years and is accepting new bookings. It allows exhibit-goers, its website says, to “meet women who corresponded with President Thomas Jefferson, talked down bandits and roughnecks, lugged pianos into the wilderness, and provided the nation’s first health insurance to Midwestern loggers.” Hey, even Maria Shriver and Cokie Roberts endorsed the show.

For more information, go to

Monastery mustard merits medal

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 02, July 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

“Monastery Mustard,” report the Benedictine Sisters of Queen of Angels Monastery in Mt. Angel, Oregon of their community’s product, “again won silver in the prestigious Worldwide Mustard Competition with our superb Glorious Garlic flavor. This is the second time in three years that Glorious Garlic was awarded the Silver Medal in the Garlic Mustard category at the competition, which is a part of the 15th Annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival. Over 400 mustards from seven countries entered the competition.”

While Sister Terry Hall, O.S.B., mustard chef and coordinator, has been making the mustard for years, the product was just introduced to the public in the summer of 2005. “Two new mustard flavors have been added in the past year. Orange Cranberry is going to be a seasonal product that will be available during the late fall and winter. . . . Jubilant Blueberry, which was introduced in 2006 for the Sisters' 125th anniversary celebration, will also become a seasonal mustard, available during the late summer and early fall.

“The standard flavors—Divinely Original (horseradish), Glorious Garlic, Heavenly Honey, Angelic Honey Garlic, Hallelujah Jalapeno, and Devoutly Dill—remain available year-round online.”

An oasis of peace and silence in downtown Boston

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 01, July 2009 Categories: Clergy

Begun by the Franciscans when Boston’s Prudential Mall first opened, and staffed by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary since 1982, the recently renovated Saint Francis Chapel is located in the Hynes Court of the mall at the base of the Prudential building, one of the tallest buildings in Boston. M.I.T., Boston University, Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Berklee College of Music, Symphony Hall, Fenway Park, and the Boston Conservatory of Music are all located within a few blocks of the mall.

People from all over the world come through the chapel, where Mass is celebrated four times every weekday and ten times (in two languages) every weekend. Priests are available for the sacrament of Confession every day, and eucharistic adoration is also a part of the daily chapel schedule. The chapel hosts devotions such as the rosary, prayer to St. Jude, the Divine Mercy novena, and the Way of the Cross as well as a Fall speaker series and an Ignatian spirituality program.

But what people value most about the chapel, say the Oblates, is that it is a quiet and prayerful space in the midst of a busy and noisy city. More than one person has called the chapel an “oasis of silence” and an “oasis of prayer.”

Here’s a video introducing the chapel:



Catholic prime minister of Japan to meet the pope

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 27, June 2009 Categories: Ecumenism

During his visit to Italy in early July for the G8 summit, Japanese Prime Minsiter, Tara Aso, will have a speicial audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Although you may find it surprising that Japan has a Catholic prime minister--considering that Catholics are a tiny minority in Japan--1 million in a population of 127 million--Taro Aso is actually the third Catholic to become prime minister of Japan. But Aso is the only one of the three to meet the Pope. The other Catholic prime ministers were Hara Takashi (1918-1921) and Hosokowa Morihiro (1993-94).

In recent months the Vatican and Japan have strengthened ties. In mid March, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign secretary, made a six-day visit to Japan as an official guest of Japanese Foreign Ministry. He was the first Vatican top diplomat to make an official visit to Japan in the 67-year history of established diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

Catholic sister new dean of Presbyterian seminary

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 22, June 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Elizabeth Liebert blazed an ecumenical trail when she became the first Catholic sister to be named dean of a Presbyterian seminary in the United States. Said Liebert, a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who was tapped to become dean of San Francisco Theological Seminary earlier this month, “Behind me is my whole religious community. I know they all stand behind me. They function as my family. We’re always talking and praying.”

San Francisco Theological Seminary is a school of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Married priests? A plea for dialogue

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Thursday 18, June 2009 Categories: Clergy

The editors of the Catholic newsweekly America suggest that during this Year for Priests church leaders be open to dialogue on the question of married clergy. Otherwise, say the editors, Catholic communities run the double risk of being only infrequent Eucharistic communities and losing the benefit of the pastoral care and public witness of priests.

"Silence and fervent prayer for vocations are no longer adequate responses to the priest shortage in the United States," say the editors. After reaffirming that "vocations can be promoted through youth rallies, the Internet and, as always, with prayer," they ask, "What about the recruitment and training of married men as priests?"

The editors point out that married priests already minister in the Catholic Church, both East and West, including former Anglican and Lutheran ministers who have entered the Catholic Church and been ordained in the Latin rite. They suggest that the wishes of the more than 16,000 permanent deacons in the United States, as well as the 25,000 priests who have been laicized, should be considered as the question is examined.

"Our plea is modest," the editors conclude in the May 4, 2009 edition of America. "The bishops of the United States should take greater leadership in openly discussing the priest shortage and its possible remedies. These should not be conversations in which we face a problem only to find every new avenue of solution closed. Rather, they should be exchanges fully open to the possibilities offered by the Spirit."

Discerners, how do you feel about this question?  

Why I do what I do

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 18, June 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Father Jeremy Tobin, O. Praem. writes of the involvement of his community, the Norbertine Fathers and Brothers, with Catholic social justice.

I was at a national convention of human rights activists. Many were young people fired up about doing something to improve the quality of human life on the planet. They represented numerous causes, issues, and every group imaginable. People spoke from firsthand experience with candor and fervor. Every religion as well as no religion was represented. To see 500-plus young people animated about doing something to alleviate the immense gap between rich and poor, workers and managers, made me come alive with our own Catholic tradition of social justice. I see hope for the future. This goes way back beyond Vatican II, but the Council brought it together and gave it new life. So many other groups, religious and secular, freely acknowledge the influence Catholic social teaching has on their particular issues.

This is partly why I get up in the morning. Another piece is Mississippi. We chose Mississippi precisely because it is the poorest state in the union. It has a hoary history of oppression. It has a sparse population of Catholics (2 percent). At the same time it has a Christian culture. The Catholic population has been here from the beginning. The people are friendly and very appreciative of whatever talents we bring. The needs are huge. The enthusiasm is strong.

Katrina brought young volunteers from all over the country, and they still come. Many groups share our hospitality and encouragement at our priory-in-the-woods. I dream of some of them staying longer to do more to help us raise the quality of life and the spiritual energy of all our people.

For those who want to work with immigrants, there are plenty of opportunities: Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese—all with long Catholic histories. African Americans, Catholic and Protestant, offer a wide range of opportunities to serve from our religious tradition. Catholicism among people of African descent goes back to the very beginning of this region. For those interested in Native Americans, the Choctaw Nation, now with its resorts and enterprises, has been here before anybody else. Many are Catholic, but we can serve all. Everybody is called to be God’s child.

All these groups offer a wide range of social justice, human rights, and religious formation areas to energize those dedicated people who pass through here. There is a strong social justice community, Catholic, Protestant, and other, working in harmony to make this new century one of rebirth and hope.

Norbertines are social workers and teachers, parish priests and chaplains in hospitals and prisons. Opportunities are limitless and the support is strong.

It all comes from Jesus, “When I was hungry, you fed me, thirsty you gave me a drink, naked you clothed me, homeless you gave me shelter, in prison you visited me, sick you healed me.” This is the core of Catholic social justice. Join us!

7100 Midway Rd., Raymond, MS 39154, 601-857-0157

This article reprinted from

Saint John Vianney takes center stage

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 12, June 2009 Categories: Clergy

Saint John Vianney—patron of priests—is the subject of Vianney, a play that will begin a U.S. tour in August. Produced by Leonardo Defilippis, it tells the story of Vianney from his childhood during the French Revolution to his 40 years serving as the Curé, or parish priest, of the village of Ars in France. August 4, 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of Vianney's death.

Father Joseph Corpora, C.S.C.

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 12, June 2009 Categories: Clergy

In recognition of the Year for Priests, June 19, 2009 to June 2010, VocationCitings will feature stories of Catholic priests—their vocations and lives.

It is hard to believe that I am in my seventh and final year as pastor of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon. It just seems like yesterday that I learned that the Congregation of Holy Cross accepted Archbishop Vlazny’s invitation to serve at Holy Redeemer.

These seven years have been years of growth and inspiration. I love Holy Redeemer School and look forward to bringing my passion for Catholic schools to my new assignment working with the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame. I will work for the future of Catholic elementary and high schools on a broad, national level.

As I think about another change in assignment, I am reminded that God gives me exactly what I need when I need it. God has been faithful to me all my life, and I have no reason to think that will change. God will always be faithful. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This is most true when it comes to God’s faithfulness. My entire life as a Holy Cross priest has involved accepting assignments that I wasn’t so sure about, and they all turned out to be unique opportunities for God’s grace in my life.

I have a friend who says, “The worst thing that can happen to you in your life is not that your life plan fails. Rather the worst thing that can happen to you is that your life plan works. God’s plan for your life is always bigger and better than what you could have imagined.

Read more stories of Congregation of Holy Cross priests.

The Iron Nun rides again

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 03, June 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Madonna Bruder after winning the women’s 75-plus age division at Ironman Canada.

They say 70 is the new 50, but Sister Madonna Bruder is taking that age calculation to a whole new level. Called the “Iron Nun,” the 78-year-old Sister for Christian Community divides her time between ministry and triathlons.

Bruder, of Spokane, Washington, has completed over 325 triathlons, including 35 “Ironman”-class events consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26-mile run. At the Hawaii Ironman over 10 years ago she became the oldest woman ever to complete the race, finishing in 16:59:03, an hour under the 17-hour midnight cutoff time. Her accomplishments have been featured on ABC News, complete with video, and in numerous internet stories.

"Well, you know, as long as God is giving you your health,” Bruder said, “there's no reason to stop.”

Dancing with the monastics

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 01, June 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life
If you think Dancing with the Stars-type competitions are only for professional athletes and B-level celebrities, think again. Earlier this spring students from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University Ballroom Dance Club collaborated with members of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Joseph, Minnesota in a "Dancing with the Monastics" competition, reported Dave Schwartz on (March 21, 2009). A panel of judges rated each couple, and ties were broken by applause from the audience of over 350.

“We were trying to do something to really connect monastics with students this year,” said Sister Molly Weyrens.

Click on the must-see video of Sister Eunice Antony and student Megan Priebe performing.

If the nuns could see me now

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 01, June 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Lady Gaga, a 23-year-old singer/song-writer from Yonkers, NY, who is famed for her outrageous and revealing get-ups, doesn't think teachers at New York's Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic school would be offended by the way she expresses herself, according to a Bang Media article recently posted online. "I haven't had any feedback from the nuns," says the young artist who was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. "But it's interesting because I think everyone assumes that because I went to such a religious school perhaps they don't appreciate what I'm doing now. But it is quite the opposite.

"I got a really solid education, in particular how to analyze art, how to make art. So if anything, my teachers are sort of nodding their heads and saying, 'She did a good job of using her artistic abilities to really create a new kind of pop.'" would be interesting to hear from some Sacred Heart sisters just to confirm their thoughts on the matter. But in the meantime, it's nice to know Lady Gaga appreciates the education she received at their hands.

In India, on a different path

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 22, May 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Cyril Mooney, a member of the Irish-based Sisters of Loreto (Mother Teresa’s community before she founded the Missionaries of Charity), has been part of Calcutta's streets for more than 40 years, a Religion & Ethics Newsweekly story reports. Like the late Mother Teresa, Sister Cyril first came to India, in 1956, to teach in the elite English-language schools the sisters started during the colonial period in India.

Unlike Mother Teresa, however, Sister Cyril continued teaching, becoming the school principal and expanding her educational reach to underprivileged children living on the streets of Calcutta. Today, 50 percent of the students— mostly from slums—attend her community’s school for free.

"Our idea is to push them as far as they can go academically, and then if they can't go any farther they'll vet them into one of the vocational trainings and give them training whereby they can start to work," Sister Cyril said. "My hope is that every child who comes out will have a better future and I think the next generation will have a very good future.

A vision for religious life

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 13, May 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

In a new book, The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision (Ave Maria Press), the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) talks about how its perspective is in keeping with the vision of religious life set forth by Vatican II, suggesting that its commitment to a more visibly countercultural life and ministry is what sustains its orders and attracts young women to CMSWR communities.

Meet the ordination class of 2009

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 01, May 2009 Categories: Clergy

The U.S. Catholic bishops have posted their annual survey of the newly ordained. The 2009 survey, commissioned by the U.S. bishops and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), had a response rate of approximately 70 percent of the 465 potential ordinands.They included 239 men being ordained for dioceses and 71 for religious orders. Among the survey's findings:

  • The average age for the Class of 2009 is 36.
  • One quarter of ordinands were born outside the United States, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Poland and the Philippines.
  • Most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, although one in ten (10 percent) became Catholic later in life, on average at 21.
  • Before entering the seminary, two in three ordinands completed college (65 percent), and one in five of those had a graduate degree (19 percent).
  • Half of responding ordinands (51 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is a slightly higher rate than that for all U.S. Catholic adults. Ordinands also are more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school and are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college. .
  • Whether or not they ever attended a Catholic elementary or high school, 57 percent (65 percent of diocesan ordinands and 54 percent of religious ordinands) participated in a religious education program in their parish.
  • Ordinands have been active in parish ministries, with between about half and three-quarters indicating they served as an altar server, lector, and/or Eucharistic minister.
  • About two-thirds of ordinands report having full-time work experience before entering the seminary, most often in education.
  • Responding ordinands represent 112 dioceses/eparchies and 46 religious congregations.

The National Religious Vocation Conference hopes to work with the USCCB Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations on a similar project highlighting the newly professed men and women in religious institutes.

"Wild horses could not keep me away!"

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 01, May 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

by Sister Mary Michael, O.S.F., School Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Panhandle, Texas

July, 1993: I came to visit here in Panhandle with an agenda: I wanted to know what it was like to live in a convent.

"What is it like to get up at 5:00 in the morning? What do they do all day anyway? Can I keep up with the schedule and the demands of this life?" I was very curious, but I had no intention of joining this community. It was just a convenient place (30 miles from home) where I could get some answers.

I told the superior to be sure to tell the sisters not to pressure me into joining. As a 23-year-old that liked to go to Mass every day, I had been pressured enough. I just wanted to be able to stay for a few days—to watch, to learn, to experience. The Mother Superior answered wisely with the best answer she could have given:

"If you're supposed to be here, wild horses could not keep you away."

Wow. That was exactly what I needed to hear. To my great surprise, I loved it at the convent! I found myself really enjoying the sisters. I was touched by the way they loved each other. When it was time to leave, I felt like I was being ripped away from something, someplace, and some people that I wanted to be a part of. I now realize that the reason why I had such a connection in my heart with these people was because this was the exact place where God was calling me.

I went home and thought about the sisters a lot. I kept looking at my watch, thinking about how they were doing things without me. "It's 3:00—they're having coffee break without me! It's 6:00—they're praying without me! It's 6:30—they're eating without me!" I called the next day and asked for an application.

I needed a little extra push. It's not easy entering a convent—giving most everything away, moving, saying good-bye to everyone (at least temporarily), and going to a place that you hope is as wonderful as you had already experienced.

Here I am almost 16 years later. (I can't believe it's already been that long!) This truly is where God has called me. It has been a long trip but a good one. Hopefully I have responded to God's grace to make me more like Him every day. There is definitely a lot more for me to work on, but I'm glad that I am here to do it.

If you are considering religious life, in the words of Pope John Paul II, "Be not afraid!" Pray that God leads you to the wonderful place where He is calling you. Pray that others will find it, too.

Pumpkin bread to the rescue

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 22, April 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

In the midst of Hollywood a community of 20 Dominican sisters live a cloistered life. Only a few of them ever leave their Monastery of the Angels to buy necessities.

"We don't go around with the iPods, the music, we don't go around with the cell phone on constantly," Sister Mary Raphael, 65, who has lived in the community since she was 18, told National Public Radio’s Mandalit del Barco in an All Things Considered story.

"I've seen it when I go out shopping. They're constantly on their phone. I want to say, 'Hello? Did you say hello to God today? Did you call God?' "

While the 85-year-old community survived the Great Depression, they are now struggling through the current economic crisis. Last January, Sister Mary Raphael, who also handles the monastery’s finances, found out the community’s investment portfolio had dropped 70 percent. In addition, medical bills for elderly sisters have drained the community’s cash.

“That’s when we began to get really scared,” said mother superior Sister Mary Raymond.

To raise money the sisters have for 40 years been baking and selling pumpkin bread. They also sell various items in gift shop, like candies and greeting cards. But recently more misfortune struck: The oven broke down. The bread had been popular, even reaching a future president when Los Angeles City Council Member and Monastery of the Angels fan Tom LaBonge gave a loaf to Barack Obama during his campaign. The sisters have also started appealing to benefactors and pondering reviving the charity garden parties, bridge teas, and retreats that once attracted movie celebrities like Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, and Jane Wyman.

"We're praying for everyone who is suffering in the financial slump," Sister Mary Raphael said. "And I think God let us experience it so we can know what other people are suffering, too."

Thinking back on the history of the community also serves as a source of consolation for the sisters. "It's been a long history with the sisters," said Sister Mary Raymond. "Four old ladies—not old, they were young then—had to struggle to get this place going. And they had to go out and beg, just like we're doing now, but they went from door to door."

Read or hear the full story, which includes a recipe for the pumpkin bread.

Katrina volunteers take no break

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Friday 17, April 2009 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans remains a prime destination for thousands of out-of-state volunteers willing to take a break from their own lives to help rebuild the city--never more so than during the recently concluded spring break season.

Here, at least, Katrina fatigue has not yet settled in, say managers of major church and community groups that consume millions of volunteer hours as they build and repair thousands of homes.

 "We're completely maxed out," said Paul Cook, senior project coordinator for Catholic Charities' Operation Helping Hands.

Similar reports came from other major rebuilding nonprofit groups: the St. Bernard Project, Habitat for Humanity, the United Methodist Church's Southeast Louisiana Disaster Recovery Center, the Presbyterian-affiliated Project RHINO and others.

Many Catholic colleges and universities now have "alternative spring break" programs in place, to make such opportunities available. Here's a question for college students' and recent grads--Does your school have such a program? If so, have you participated in an alternative spring break? Tell us about it!


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Catherine of Siena—Live and on stage!

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 14, April 2009 Categories: Mary and the Saints

Nancy Murray, O.P. as Catherine of Siena, O.P.

Nancy Murray is a sister in many ways, first to her community of Dominican sisters, to all those she has served over the years—and finally to her brother, actor Bill Murray, with whom she shares a vocation of acting.

Sister Murray brings to life another Dominican, the great 14th-century saint and doctor of the church Catherine of Siena. Dressed in a Dominican habit and using only a few props and a put-on Italian accent, Murray takes her one-woman show,  Catherine of Siena: A Woman for Our Times, to audiences of all ages in parishes, schools, youth groups, even refugees in Darfur.

In preparation for her performances she sometimes reads back issues of parish bulletins to see what the community has been up to in providing help to others, then incorporates those stories into the play so that “they recognize themselves,” she told reporter Jeannette Cooperman in a National Catholic Reporter article.

After a life of intense personal prayer closeted in a room in her parents’ home, Catherine moved out into public life, caring for the sick and dying and visiting prisoners condemned to death. Murray has taught, worked with the poor, cared for those dying of cancer and AIDS, and visited prisoners.

Eventually Catherine went even farther out into the world, traveling and playing a major role in trying to reunite the papal schism in the 1300s which saw two men claiming to be pope. Catherine pressured Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon in France and return to Rome to get the church’s house back in order. In a letter to Gregory she said, “When are you going to get back here? We need you to come back to Rome and be a voice of unity. The church is like a flock that is being torn apart by wolves.” Witnessing the corruption of the Avignon court, she said “it stinks” and compared the bishops Gregory had appointed to “weeds planted in the garden of a church.”

Murray commented on Catherine’s activism by saying, “Our Catholic Church, for example, has not had a stellar record. So when you look at somebody from the 14th century confronting it—a woman, who was 27 at the time—you can imagine how countercultural she was.” A former file clerk at Rotary International, Murray joined the Dominicans Sisters of Adrian, Michigan over some resistance from her mother, who had once witnessed a profession of religious vows and remembered the “drama of the young woman, throwing her crown of flowers to her parents and saying, ‘I renounce the world and all its treasures,’ ” Cooperman wrote. “It left a terrible impression on her,” Murray said.

But then her father, a former seminarian, signed the papers allowing her to enter the Dominicans, saying, “They have rules of silence; she won’t last long.”

After Murray’s dad died suddenly, she was sure her mother would summon her home. But her novice director advised her to ask her brothers and sisters, so she did. “You stay where you are,” they said, “and pray for us.”

You gotta be there

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 16, March 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

by Sister Karen Zielinski, O.S.F.

It was a typical Saturday in Sylvania, Ohio, home of my community, the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio. I had two major community events going on at the same time: a meeting and a weekend retreat. I attended the meeting and when we broke for lunch, I rushed to the retreat. Then I went back to my meeting. When the meeting ended early, I attended one of the retreat conferences. A friar there shared some words that hit me right in the heart:

“If a visitor came to your 89-acre campus and asked directions to a building, a Franciscan way of responding to the question is for the person to just accompany the visitor to the spot. That is a relational, Franciscan way of living.”

Just like the gospel message, simple but hard to live out, our presence to others is fundamental but often difficult to do. So many times a sister might present a lecture or a recital or have a fundraiser she is involved in, and we are asked for our support. Usually that means attendance at an event. We are often tired after a day of ministry or not feeling too well. The weather might be cold or rainy, and we just want to put our feet up and stay home. But we go to the talk or lecture. And once we get there, we are glad we did.

Of course all beauty is God’s, and when we rest in prayer, we rest in the presence and beauty of God. Prayer is the ultimate gift of God’s presence. We have to be there to receive that presence as well.

Saint Francis of Assisi’s presence to people guides me. “Francis once took a certain sick brother, whom he knew had a longing for grapes, into a vineyard, and sitting down under the vine, he first ate to give the other courage to eat.” He did not only send the brother the grapes, or send a representative.

Presence is a gift of attention and an opening of the mind to be receptive to the other person. In society today people often feel relieved simply to write a check, make a donation, or find a reason not to attend. Presence is a gift of time, that precious part of our daily lives that we guard for things which are important. There is nothing like being at an event, present in all our humanity to the other person. Being there is important.

The gift of our presence is very simple. We all can remember the times when we accompanied a family member or friend to a medical test. I remember having to go through an MRI test—something I dislike but need for my overall health care. A friend simply accompanied me to the test and sat there with me. It meant the world to me. She was just there beside me, being my friend.

Although a telephone call is not the same as being there, it can be a much warmer presence than email. So often my mother asks me if I have talked to my sister Judy. I tell her I have, because I email my sister often. When my mother asks, “How does she sound? How is her cold?” I realize that I have not been very present to my sister. But email is so convenient! Maybe I can try to make even my email message more “present” to my sister, too—more open to everyone.

Being there is not restricted to Franciscans but to anyone who has a Franciscan heart. A friend of mine who works for the Detroit Tigers baseball team gave me four tickets to a recent game. I went to the stadium with three other sisters. We got to our seats and because I had pulled my back out the week before I simply stayed in the handicapped section and advised my three sisters to go down to the better seats. While I watched the game in the top row, someone called to me. “You all alone? Where are your girlfriends?”

The African American man had one leg and wore a green jogging suit with the words “Turkey Man” on the back of his jacket. I had seen him 20 minutes earlier in the clubhouse—he was the team’s caterer for that game and had just unloaded pounds of freshly roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, and rolls.

“I told them to go down to watch the game. My back is on the mend,” I said to Turkey Man. Turkey Man came over to me and asked where I was from. I told him we were Franciscan Sisters from Ohio and had come to see the game.

“You should not be alone! I will bring you a Coke.” So Turkey Man got me a Coke and shared “Franciscan presence” with me. Oh, one of the sisters came up later and sat with me, but I was most touched by Turkey Man.

Much is said today about the art of being present. Saints Francis and Clare were highly skilled at that. Clare had a profound sense of God’s abiding presence. She never felt abandoned by God; she felt his presence at all times. Being there is actually quite simple: presence to our brothers and sisters flows from our presence to God. You gotta be there!

The church exists because of—not despite—our differences

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 10, March 2009 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

I stumbled upon this comment from an address given to vocation directors about the diversity in mission and ministries among religious communities, but it certainly has a wider application for all Catholics and Christians:

“The church exists today because of the contentiousness of Paul and the impetuousness of Peter. It exists today because of the gentleness of John and the passionate love of the Magdalen. It exists because of the diplomacy of Timothy and the generous hospitality of Lydia. It exists because of the capable leadership of Phoebe and the eloquent wisdom of Stephen. As the early church had them and their contributing gifts and charisms, today it has us. Saint Catherine of Siena wrote in her Dialogues that God said to her: ‘I could well have made human beings in such a way that they had everything, but I preferred to give gifts to different people, so that they would all need each other.’ ”

—Brother Paul Bednarcyk, C.S.C., from “Empowered by the Holy Spirit, let’s work together to build our future,” the 2009 Winter issue of Horizon.

Interested in having your vocation choice captured on film?

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 03, March 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
GALAFILM Productions, a respected Canadian documentary film company, is currently looking for Canadians who are seriously discerning a religious vocation to be part of their new documentary series "My Last 24." The concept of the show is to document ordinary people during the last 24 hours before an important event in their lives, such as entering religious life. The show will examine people's motivations, hopes, struggles, and obstacles leading to the event. Those interested may email Julie Girard at For more information, click here.
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Number of priests increasing worldwide

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 03, March 2009 Categories: Clergy

The Vatican's official yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, formally presented to Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28, shows a gradual increase in the number of Catholic priests worldwide. There are now more than 408,000 priests in the world (up from 405,178 in 2000), and more than 115,000 seminarians training for priestly ministry.

The number of priests has grown by over 20 percent in Africa and Asia and is holding steady in the Americas. Europe and Oceania experience a slight decline, the Vatican said.

An uptick in those interested in and entering religious life is noted in's annual surveys on vocation trends. Click here for more information on VISION's statistics and recent vocation surveys.

Happiness attracts

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 25, February 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Cardinal Edward Egan, who is retiring as Archbishop of New York, said at a recent news conference that his “greatest sadness” was that the archdiocese did not produce more vocations to the priesthood, according to the New York Times. The diocesan seminary in Yonkers will graduate only three students this year to be ordained to the priesthood.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who will be installed as the new Cardinal and archbishop of New York on April 15, visited St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers recently and said that increasing vocations was his "first mandate." Asked his strategy, Dolan replied, “Happiness attracts.”

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Ex-con jobs

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Thursday 19, February 2009 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit job-training program started by a Jesuit priest for ex-convicts in East Los Angeles, offers hope and a helping hand to former prisoners as they try to rehabilitate their lives and find jobs in a down economy.

For years Homeboy Industries put former felons to work at a bakery and cafe it runs in East Los Angeles. Last summer, Father Greg Boyle, S.J., who started Homeboy two decades ago, was approached by a supporter about the idea of preparing them for the green economy.

Because job-placement for ex-convicts is especially difficult in a recession, "I leapt at the opportunity," said Boyle. Homeboy Industries now has been training a group composed mostly of former gang members on parole to install solar panels so they can improve their skill set and market themselves for the new green economy.

Homeboy has joined forces with the East Los Angeles Skills Center, a public vocational school that offers a hands-on program to teach the design, construction, and installation of solar panels. The course is one of only a few such programs in California and commands a months-long waiting list.

The center created an intensive course for Homeboy. "I loved the idea of doing something for these guys," said Brian Hurd, the senior instructor who designed it. "My best student ever was a Homeboy referral" in a construction course "who needed a second chance."

Read more in an "A New Gang Comes to Los Angeles: Solar Panel Installers" by Miriam Jordan for the Wall Street Journal.

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Vatican videos could use some vibrancy

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 09, February 2009 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Cathleen Falsani, award-winning religion writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, says in a recent column that she greeted the news that the Vatican had introduced its own YouTube channel with happy anticipation because one of her all-time favorite online videos is of Pope John Paul II watching three Polish breakdancers performing at the Vatican. Falsani writes:

"Though struggling with the effect of Parkinson's disease, John Paul II is clearly enthralled by the dancers. He raises his hands in joyful approval, smiles and even attempts to clap in time with the hip-hop beat. 'Breakdancing for the pope,' as the video is called, never fails to lift my spirits."

"Alas," says a disappointed Falsani: "The Vatican's YouTube fare thus far is decidedly more, shall we say, austere. Each of the 30 videos posted on YouTube is a minute or two long, and most show Pope Benedict seated in a gold throne or behind a glass lectern reading from a script in Italian, Latin, French and English."

Falsani's advice: "These staid Vatican videos are vying for young people's attention with YouTube phenoms such as Spaghetti Cat, orange-clad Filipino inmates dancing to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller,' or that maddeningly memorable song, 'Chocolate Rain'? If the Vatican can loosen up a little bit and post video content with a bit more soul -- think more break dancing and less Latin chanting -- its efforts to bridge the digital divide to young Catholics could be a great success."

What's your advice? Send us your ideas for Vatican videos you'd like to see, or links to Catholic videos that haven't made it to the Vatican's YouTube channel.

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A real, live nun offers insight into religious life

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 09, February 2009 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Nun encounters are rare occurrences in the lives of most Americans. In the January issue of America, Sister Charlene Diorka, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, describes how her chance meeting with a curious 20-year-old during a short plane flight, gave her the opportunity to reflect on her vocation and what it means to be a "real, live nun" in the 21st century. Here are the key things she says she learned over the past 25 years:

  • A call always involves an invitation to freely come and see.
  • A call is about God’s time. It involves waiting and tending to a process.
  • A call is a journey of trust, and God is always with us.
  • A call is a gift graciously given and full of grace.

For the full article click here.

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Plunging into deep water

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 03, February 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

by Sister Marie Tersidis, O.P.

I grew up in East Africa. It was in 1977 that my vocation to religious life began to stir. I was born and raised around religious. My schoolteachers were 80 percent religious sisters. Besides, I have an older sister who is a religious. Providentially, our home is very close to the motherhouse of my sister's religious community so I had the privilege of attending daily Mass at the convent before school for seven years from the age of 10 to 17.

As I grew, observing the sisters coming to Mass in procession after their morning prayers and making their profound genuflection on both knees two by two, made my heart dance with joy. I could hardly wait to be one of them.

As soon as I completed elementary school, I sought to enter the convent, but by this time I did not want to join the community that my sister belonged to. I chose an international congregation, which meant I had to learn English. I did well with English. However, as I advanced in my religious training, I faced a challenge that threw me off my horse. The senior sisters who returned from their missionary activities shared with the novices their experiences in the missions.

The spirit of the founder was to preach the Word to all people and especially to the people in the remotest parts of the world. There are parts of the world where education is unheard of, and people are really primitive in many ways-clothing and eating, to mention a few. Now, one of the challenges at the missions was to identify with the people in their way of eating and dressing. That was way too difficult for me to conceive. I was too afraid to face this reality so I chose to go back home and pursue high school studies.

I tried to silence the voice within me. I thought I had succeeded when all of a sudden, [during] the final year of my studies, the desire came back stronger than ever. Now the dance changed. It was no longer an outward dance, but an inward dance of the heart. I had now to face the reality that I could no longer quench the desire to consecrate my life to God. It felt so unreal and yet so real. A mixed feeling! I started asking advice. My parish priest did not seem convinced of my vocation. This was very painful, but I trusted in God. Finally, I decided to go back to the same community I left.

I applied myself to my religious training. Two years passed. Then my fears about the missions began to build up. I could not believe I was to step out of the convent a second time.

And now, what next? What a dilemma! What a disappointment! I was plunged into a dense cloud where I was drawn to pray and to meditate on the word of God. I had within me the faith to seek the will of God in my life at any cost. My family was very mad at me because I had given up what was "the most important in the world," namely education and the good jobs that go with it.

Finally, the Lord, in his own mysterious way, led me to my true vocation. This I cannot explain because I never wanted to become a cloistered nun. Providentially, I was acquainted with a Dominican priest who wanted to establish a contemplative religious community in his country in West Africa. The priest was a good friend of the Dominican nuns in Lufkin, Texas, U.S.A. He managed to convince me that nuns live a normal life and that I should come to the States to be trained so that I could be of help in the formation of those interested in the life back in Africa.

I came to Lufkin and met the nuns. I was so scared that my neck hardly moved. I looked at them so carefully. I noticed they were happy. They dressed the same. There was nothing that indicated different classes in the way they dressed. Then I was led to the enclosure where I awaited strange things to happen. Nothing extraordinary happened. I noticed, too, they ate from the same table with the prioress and did everything in a good community spirit. I began to feel at home and at peace. I began to realize and savor the nobility of the life.

Before I knew it, my time for training was over and I had to go back to Africa to help in the formation of the postulants and novices. There I met another disappointment. The original vision of the community had changed remarkably within the two years I was away. I realized then that my real vocation was to be a cloistered contemplative after all. I sought to come back to Lufkin, and here I am.

All I had to do was to say yes to God, try it out, and let God do his work. I felt like Peter and the apostles when they spent all night fishing with no success. When the Lord gave the command to cast the net into deep water they caught more than they could handle. The same could be said of my vocation story. The Lord let me try so hard with no success until he plunged me into the enclosure.

Sister Marie Tersidis, O.P. is a sister of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas. Her story is reprinted with permission and adapted from Vocation in Black and White: Dominican Contemplative Nuns Tell of How God Called Them, from iUniverse and available from the major online booksellers.

Trappist cheese makes comeback in Bosnia

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 03, February 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life
Roman Catholic monks in Bosnia-Herzegovina have resumed production of their world-famous Trappist gourmet cheese after the Balkans war forced them to stop in the mid-1990s, according to a report by Jonathan Luxmoore for Ecumenical News International.

"Our numbers fell and we were forced to cut back, and in 1996 we stopped making it completely when the last brother who knew the recipe died," explained Zvonko Topic, one of two surviving Trappist monks at the Marija Zvijezda, or “Star of Mary,” monastery near Banja Luka. "But we've now decided to bring it back to consumers here, and we'll be opening a small shop soon for tourists and visitors."

The recipe, traditionally known only to a single monk, had been rediscovered by another Bosnian Trappist in the 1970s while a novice at a monastery in Normandy, where the order was founded in 1664.

The cheese will be made at a farm belonging to the Catholic charity Caritas at Aleksandrovac, 12 miles from Banja Luka. Topic said the monastery currently has only three postulants and has been maintained by funding from the local Catholic bishop. Marija Zvijezda Monastery played a key role in Catholic life in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Topic said he hoped the community would slowly rebuild.

Cistercians of the Strict Observance, who follow the Sixth Century Rule of St Benedict, the Bosnian monks began making the Trappist cheese when the order returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1872 after fleeing Turkish rule. The monastery's 200 monks produced it on a mass scale, while also running a brewery, sawmill, craft school, brick and cloth factories, until their property was seized by Yugoslavia's communist regime after the Second World War.

Hmm . . . How about some Trappist ale to go along with that gourmet cheese. Yum.

A (chicken) wing and a prayer

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 22, January 2009 Categories: Clergy

Father Daniel Coughlin has done it again. As the first Roman Catholic chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives, he has to offer a lot prayers. A memorable one was the invocation at the memorial service for former President Gerald Ford in 2006 (see below). Last Tuesday he gave a meal blessing at the inaugural luncheon for President Barack Obama. Let's face it: The guy knows how to deliver a prayer. Here’s the text:

"Lord God of history, we have been blessed to witness the meteoric rise of President Obama, the long, faith-filled journey of African Americans, the vibrant hopes of a nation catapulting into new directions.

"Lord God of the present moment, we are blessed, as free people to see your hand in the peaceful transfer of power, and your guidance in the affairs of state. May we be attentive to your word and reach our full potential, with equal justice for all, compassion for the least, and self-discipline to achieve lofty goals.

"Lord God, be with us into the future, bless us by shaping a changing world into a more stable one where all peoples and all nations will live in peace. Protect and guide with creative touch President Obama and Vice-President Biden, their families, and all in public service. May each day be filled with peace and satisfaction because they are about building your reign here on earth. Amen."

And from the Gerald Ford memorial:

“ ‘How mighty is the hand that can turn a page of history!’ ” Lord God, you call each of us by name and you alone know each of us through and through. You have called Gerald R. Ford unto yourself and again he has responded to you with hope and is confirmed by America’s prayers just as he sought them when called to serve as president of this great nation.

“As we welcome Mrs. Ford and President Ford’s family and friends to this rotunda, the nation is called to surround them with their prayers—their sympathy for their loss and their gratitude for sharing his love and his loyalty with all of us for so many years in government service.

“Again, at this moment of death, we humbly ask you, Lord, to grant peace and reconciliation, healing and gentle civility to this nation, as this man so nobly tried to do in life’s singular moments by his efforts to close chapter upon chapter on America’s sadness.

“May the brightness of hope and the promise of eternal life reward this modest man, the Honorable Gerald Ford. And may the story of the 38th president of the United States inspire others in this nation and around the world to respond to your providential call as he did. Lord, call many to seize their moment to make a difference ‘by serving the people’s urgent needs’ Then empower them to make bold steps in searching for ways of peace and reconciliation, just as he did. ‘For mighty is the hand that can turn a page of history.’ ”

For more information about the Office of the Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, go to

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"A long road back" for Rourke

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 16, January 2009 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality

When Mickey Rourke accepted a Golden Globe award recently for best actor in the film The Wrestler, he said, “It’s been a long road back for me.”

(By the way, Mickey’s not afraid to use some colorful language, so be forewarned if you’re a “younger or more sensitive viewer.”)

After roles in the 1980s-era movies Diner, The Pope of Greenwich Village, and others, his life went downhill. Arrested for various misdemeanors, he tried a career as a professional boxer, and like many aspiring fighters got the stuffing knocked out of him, to the point of disfiguring his face. By 1998 he was contemplating suicide.

Then he turned to a Catholic priest, who suggested he pray to Saint Jude, the patron saint of people in difficult and even desperate situations (“hopeless causes,” the phrase usually associated with this saint, always seemed wrong to me because if people were feeling truly hopeless they wouldn’t be praying in the first place).

Rourke wrote a reconciliation letter to his ex-wife, tucked it behind a statue of Saint Jude, and lit a candle. These days he has a statue of the Virgin Mary in his living room and talks about “turning the other cheek.”

"I let my past destroy me.” Rourke said. “I was walking around my adult life with my fists clenched, pointing the finger at everyone but me. But I finally opened my hands and said, Wow! This is a lot easier than walking around with smoke coming out of my a--."


Watch more Award Season videos on AOL Video

Sisters in Doubt

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 07, January 2009 Categories: Consecrated Life

The newly released movie Doubt, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, was written and directed by Pulitzer prize-winning author John Patrick Shanley. Shanley received his elementary education from the Sisters of Charity of New York at St. Anthony School in the Bronx. He based the character of the young Sister James on his first grade teacher, Sister of Charity Margaret McEntee, who was known as Sister Marita James when she first took her vows.

Shanley dedicated his play “to the many orders of Catholic nuns who devoted their lives to serving others in hospitals, schools and retirement homes. Though they have been much maligned and ridiculed, who among us has been so generous?”





Watch the CBS interview with the author and his inspiration.

Go to the Sisters of Charity of New York website for more information about their community and the sisters connection to Doubt.


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Former doorman closes the door on criminals

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 01, January 2009 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs

"He's just the doorman." With those words residents of an upscale co-op in Manhattan dismissed the young Patrick Fitzgerald, who spent his summers working as a doorman to help pay for college. This Catholic schoolboy turned tough prosecutor on some of the past decade's most high profile cases is not now so easily dismissed. Fitzgerald, who holds the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, was once again in the spotlight with the recent of arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was charged with selling the Senate seat left vacant by President Elect Barak Obama.

Fitzgerald has a reputation as a workaholic and uncorruptible who fights mob bosses, terrorists, drug lords, and double-dealing public servants.

Friend Richard Phelan, a Chicago lawyer, says of Fitzgerald "If he were not a prosecutor, he'd be a priest. He's totally and completely dedicated." (Time, Oct. 30, 2005).

His parents, who were born on opposite sides of County Clare, Ireland, met in the United States and raised their son in the Midwood-Flatbush area of Brooklyn. After attending Our Lady Help of Christians grammar school and Regis Jesuit High School, he was a Phi Beta Kappa math and economics student at Amherst College and received his law degree form Harvard Law School in 1985.

"I'm very indebted to my parents. They were very hardworking, straight, decent people,” Fitzgerald said in a 2005 Washington Post article by Peter Slevin. “The values we grew up with were straight-ahead. We didn't grow up in a household where people were anything but direct. I'm hoping that if you're a straight shooter in the world, that's not that remarkable."

This onetime doorman has made a career of showing the prison door to an array of criminals. In addition to being the special prosecutor investigating the leak of the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, Fitzgerald convicted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the defendants in the bombings of U.S. embassies; the staff of the 9/11 commission called him one of the world's best terrorism prosecutors. He also extracted a guilty plea from Mafia boss John Gambino and successfully prosecuted former Illinois governor George Ryan and associates of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on influence-peddling and corruption charges.

View Fitzgerald’s press conference announcing the arrest of and criminal complaint against Blagojevich:


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