RSS feed button

2010 Posts

The year in review

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 29, December 2010 Categories:

The end of one year and the beginning of the next prompt many journalists to identify what they think to be the major events of the previous 12 months. The acclaimed public television program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly assembled its annual reporters roundtable to discuss the most important news and ethics stories of 2010.

The panel was made up of E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Washington Post, and a professor at Georgetown University; Kevin Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service, and Kim Lawton, managing editor of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. The story includes a video overview of 2010's major events.

Sisters bring fresh faces to college seminary

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 23, December 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

For decades Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa has prepared young men for global service as Divine Word Missionary priests and brothers. This month Sister Ana Julita Bele Bau, a 39-year-old member of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (the women’s community cofounded by the Saint Arnold Janssens, who established the Divine Word Missionaries), will become the first female graduate since the school refocused its mission to include new coeducational and lay formation opportunities.

SISTER JULITA walks the halls
of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa.
Photo by Jeremy Portje for the
Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

Facing declining enrollment—"we were at a critical point for student enrollment and we had a wealth of resources to share," said college president Father Mike Hutchins, S.V.D.—the school allowed Catholic sisters to enroll in its English classes and undergraduate degree programs four years ago. As of next month, 35 of the 122 students at the college will be women. Though the women are all Catholic sisters, in January two lay leaders from Society of the Divine Word parishes in Jamaica will begin undergraduate work.

"Our beginnings were low-key to see how it would work out," Hutchins told Mary Nevans-Pederson of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. "Now I don't think anyone would go back." The new students bring "new life and vitality" as well as maturity and experience to the campus. “The women religious set a really good standard for the guys—they out-study and outwork them," Hutchins said.

Sister Julita, who has taught in Indonesia and Antigua, completed four years of cross-cultural studies and will return to her community in Anitgua to accept her next assignment on the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean.

"I don't too much feel like a pioneer," she said, even though she was often the only woman in her classes and was 15-20 years older than most of her classmates. "They helped me with my math and I brought life experience and someone to talk to," she said. She says fellow students or staff never made her feel unwelcome.

Hutchins confronted the possibility of romantic male-female relationships head-on, calling a general assembly to discuss it. "It's something natural that can happen, falling in love, and there is nothing to be ashamed of," he said. "I urged them to be up-front and talk about it to our spiritual directors if it happens.

"The common denominator here is mission,” Hutchins said. “Everyone is committed to missionary service."

There has, however, been a previous female graduate of Divine Word. In 1994 Pat Cline, a working mother from Dubuque, Iowa, entered the college as the sole recipient of a scholarship designed to promote diversity. She completed her degree in 1998.

Chef's gingerbread National Shrine sure to earn brownie points

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 20, December 2010 Categories:

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. is the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America. This year, in a way, it may also be the most delicious. Charles Froke, executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, has created a massive gingerbread replica of the Shrine.

CHEF FROKE and his gingerbread National Shrine
"I've made a lot of cool buildings [out of gingerbread] in the past, but nothing like this," Froke told The Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. "In the past I've done the National Cathedral, the Smithsonian Castle, the White House, the Capitol, and Healy Hall at Georgetown University, but this is the most ambitious one to date."

Froke, a Catholic who attends St. Ann Church in Washington, crafted the gingerbread Shrine out of more than 125 pounds of specially prepared gingerbread dough. "It is a little more sturdy and not as sweet as regular gingerbread," he said.

The creation also includes about 55 pounds of icing and 20 pounds of sugar. Froke used dyes to create the Shrine's blue dome. The stained-glass windows—which are illuminated by electric lighting—are made from colored liquid sugar. He said it took him about 70 hours to create the gingerbread likeness.

Before he started baking, Froke spent hours at the Shrine, taking photos and making blueprints. Hundreds of individual gingerbread pieces were baked and then put together with "mortar" made of icing. Froke said it was his hope that his gingerbread National Shrine "earns me some brownie points in heaven."

Benedictine Sisters keep monastery ecofriendly

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 17, December 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

When the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri decided to do a makeover of their monastic facilities, they resolved that the demolition, construction, and finished product would be as ecofriendly as possible.

THE GEOTHERMAL heating and cooling system
requires the digging of 132 wells to be connected
into in-ground loops.
To that end, waste materials which the project produces are being recycled in the new construction or donated to the surrounding community. A geothermal heating and cooling system will reduce energy costs and dependence on fossil fuels.The new mechanism will cool the entire building efficiently--for the first time in the many years the monastery has sat through hot and humid Missouri summers.

Levelled floor variances and more accessible entryways will make the building easier for the sisters and their guests to navigate.

In gutting certain parts of the monastery, workers have also uncovered layers of past artwork and paint, The removal of the drop ceiling in the community room revealed not only the top of an arched mural but also original tin ceiling tiles and a crown molding.

You can follow the project's progress on the sisters' Sacred Stones, Sacred Stories blog.

Brothers hope to keep freshmen engaged in faith

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 15, December 2010 Categories:

As college freshmen struggle to balance faith and other priorities—and even contemplate opting out of their Catholic faith altogether—campus ministries and other Catholic organizations are working to bridge the faith gap between high school and college by inviting more students to live their faith through the sacraments, relationships, activities, prayer groups, and even a TV show.

The need for strong ministries is clear. A recent study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) indicates that during the freshman year students make friendships and join the organizations they’ll be part of for their whole college career, according to Judy Cozzens, chairwoman of the USA Council of Serra International’s program College Connection for Catholics.

Besides helping students grow in faith by involvement in a Christian community, a goal of campus ministry is to offer a better alternative to negative activities, said Brother Joe Donovan, a member of the Brotherhood of Hope community and a Catholic chaplain at Northeastern University in Boston. It’s one of four ministries the Brotherhood of Hope operates on campuses in the eastern United States. Attendance at Mass and programs continues to increase every year, possibly because of outreach efforts, he said.

Freshmen are experiencing a new kind of freedom for the first time, and many students stop practicing their faith, said Gordy DeMarais, founder and executive of St. Paul’s Outreach, adding that only 15 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds attend Mass every Sunday. “It is the case that if freshmen don’t get connected with a strong set of relationships and strong Catholic involvement, then after a year chances are pretty high that they’ll be abandoning the practice of faith in adult life,” he said. St. Paul’s Outreach also offers student households—homes where students live and share faith together.

Reaching out to freshmen and helping them get or stay connected to their faith through relationships with other students involved in the ministry is a primary goal of the Brotherhood of Hope’s work, as is encouraging students to move into leadership, Brother Joe said. In addition to welcoming events, prayer meetings, and liturgies, Brother Joe sometimes recommends that freshmen watch segments of the Brotherhood’s TV show Hope on Campus.

300-year-old Christmas cookies still delicious

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 14, December 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

The tradition of making and exchanging Christmas sweets goes back a long time—including recipes created by 16th- and 17th-century nuns in Mexico.

After sugar arrived in the country, sisters began to make sometimes complicated holiday confections, which they used as ways to thank donors and raise money.

So if you're ready for some Ciruelas Rellenas de Almendra (Almond-Stuffed Prunes), Rosquetes Impregnados de Espíritu de Anís (Anise Cookies), and other delicacies, see Fany Gerson's book My Sweet Mexico (Ten Speed) and Lesley Téllez’s blog Desserts of the Spanish convents in Mexico for more information and recipes.

Surge in young men entering U.K. seminaries

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 10, December 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

Father Stephen Langridge, chairman of the vocations directors of England and Wales, saw the number of men entering English seminaries to become Catholic priests rise to its highest level in a decade. According to Langridge, 56 men began their journey to priesthood this year. "The number of people responding to the call of Christ to be priests and religious has been rising slowly but surely, and may rise further as people respond to the visit of Pope Benedict."

At their annual conference held recently at Oscott seminary in Birmingham, the vocation directors discussed the approaches to vocations work that have contributed to this increase. Many dioceses and religious orders now run discernment groups for young men and women, where all vocations are discussed. Such groups encourage lay, religious, and priestly vocations.

Father Christopher Jamison, director of the National Office of Vocation, said: “When everybody in the church takes seriously [Blessed John Henry] Newman's insight that 'God has created me to do him some definite service,' then a greater number discover their call to the priesthood and religious life."

Vocations directors also discussed new ways to promote a culture of vocation. Some 300 young people attended the "Invocation"  festival held in Birmingham in July 2010 for Catholics aged 16-35 who are discerning their vocation. This event was so popular that it is being held again on the weekend of June 17-19, 2011.

Schools are now being provided with high-quality online materials, and youth ministers are developing new approaches to bringing the gospel to life for the young. Attending events such as World Youth Day is an important experience that opens the eyes of many people to the richness of life in church service, and plans for English and Welsh participation in such convocations have been developed.

These British vocation leaders recommend the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops video Fishers of Men (also available with lots of other resources on the a vocation to be priest? website):

Part 1 . . .

. . . and Part 2:

Rwandan sisters' courageous witness to hope

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 08, December 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, during which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were murdered, the Benebikira Sisters sheltered hundreds of orphans and others who sought refuge in their convents. At the Benebikira motherhouse in the village of Save, a militia stormed the convent and demanded that the sisters separate themselves by ethnic groups. The sisters said no—aware that at other convents 20 sisters had been killed for standing up to the militants. The militia then looted all their food, cut the water lines, and told the sisters they would return to kill them.

When the genocide ended, the sisters found themselves caring for about 350 orphans, most of them traumatized after witnessing the brutal murders of their parents. The children “had food and clothing,” Sister M. Juvenal Mukamurama told Kathleen L. Sullivan of the National Catholic Reporter, “but it was no life for them. Family is very important in our country. They needed a family. So we decided to build community houses and make families.” The sisters built 39 houses and grouped the orphans into “families” of six to eight children.

Benebikira means "Daughters of Mary" in Kinyarwanda, the native language of Rwanda. About 56 percent of Rwanda's population of more than 10 million is categorized as Catholic. Founded in 1919, the Benebikira Order is native to Rwanda and today has about 380 women religious whose primary mission is education. They run two preschools, eight primary schools, three vocational schools, and 13 secondary boarding schools in Rwanda and Burundi. Since the genocide they have opened four new schools.

Last September the Benebikira Sisters were honored with the Courage of Conscience Award by the Peace Abbey, a Sherborn, Massachusetts multifaith retreat and teaching center dedicated to nonviolence, peacemaking, and social justice. At the award presentation, Sister Mukamurama said: “It is nice to know people appreciate what we did and what we do. We do not do the work to be appreciated, but this appreciation does give us encouragement.”

“The sisters,” said Dot Walsh, program coordinator at the Peace Abbey, “told us it was the first time they had publicly been acknowledged for the courage and faith they displayed during the genocide, and they were very touched.”

The sisters have also established the Ministry of Hope, Healing, and Reconciliation in Rwanda to provide pastoral counseling for those affected by the genocide and to train young adults to serve as peer counselors.

“Rwanda wants to move forward,” said Sister Mukamurama, who is marking her 40th anniversary as a Benebikira sister. “We want to build our country, our relationships, a new life. We are no longer seen as Tutsi or Hutu. We live together. We are no longer separate. We are Rwandans.” A Benebikira Sisters Foundation Scholarship Video:

Caritas Internationalis calls for more HIV treatment funding

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 06, December 2010 Categories:

On World AIDS Day, December 1, Caritas Internationalis, a federation of 164 Roman Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, urged governments and pharmaceutical companies to invest more in HIV prevention and care for children and reducing mother-to-child transmission.

“We need to give children with HIV the chance to live,” said Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis. “Caritas asks governments and drug companies to support better and earlier testing and treatment for these children. This is a life or death situation.”

Caritas says many children and women are still being left behind in the fight against AIDS, despite welcome advances in HIV testing and treatment.

The UNAIDS Global Report for 2010 says 2.5 million children are living with HIV. The report also says 90 percent of HIV-positive children live in Africa, but only 26 percent of them are receiving life-saving treatment. Fifty percent of untreated children with HIV die before their second birthday.

Caritas launched the “HAART for Children” campaign in 2009. HAART stands for “Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment.” The campaign argues that cheaper and more sophisticated HIV and tuberculosis and “child friendly” medicines are required in poor countries.

Though these medicines are available at low cost in many parts of the world, a number of mothers avoid testing because of the fear of stigma and discrimination. Ninety percent of HIV-infected infants are born to mothers who were never tested and never received medicines to prevent transmission.

During 2011 Caritas will focus on advocacy for lower prices with an expanded range of HIV medications; on making accurate pediatric HIV and TB testing tools available at local clinics rather than concentrating them in urban centers; and on promoting greater access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs.

A video on the work of Caritas Internationalis:

His Holiness in HD

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 03, December 2010 Categories:

The Vatican will join the move to high-definition TV later this year thanks to a donation from the Knights of Columbus and a discount from Sony. Just in time for the pope’s Christmas Mass, the Vatican will unveil a multimillion-dollar HD mobile television studio, which will be located in a 45-feet-long 18 wheeler and have 16 workstations.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican television center and the Vatican press office, told reporters the mobile studio and its all-HD equipment were worth a little more than $6 million. Sony Italy gave the Vatican a discount of more than $1 million; the Knights of Columbus contributed over $1 million; and the television center, CTV, covered the rest.

Lombardi said he knows people may think the project is too extravagant or expensive, but with television broadcasters around the world moving to high definition, "The image of the pope would gradually disappear from the world of television over the coming years."

CTV is responsible for all video images of the pope taken at the Vatican. The television center provides those images to broadcasters and filmmakers around the world.

If the Vatican's production values do not meet the standards of broadcasters, he said, "we, in fact, would be blocking the broadcast of the image and, therefore, the message of the pope."

Lombardi said there is a continuing dialogue at the Vatican between communications professionals and papal liturgists to find ways to meet the needs of both. For example, the main altar at St. Peter’s Basilica often has high candlesticks and a crucifix that block camera shots, and the pope has insisted on having moments of silence during the Mass.

The silences make television directors nervous and can send radio producers into a panic because it can appear they've lost their signal, Lombardi said. To deal with the silences, television people add cameras to provide a variety of images, but it is still a challenge for radio, he said.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, also announced that the Vatican is developing its own multimedia aggregated news site. The site will be an internet portal for news and features from CTV, Vatican Radio, the Vatican newspaper, the Vatican press office, and Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

A short video about the new Vatican HD truck:

Circus sisters combine work and ministry

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 01, December 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

After returning to the U.S. from working in Papua New Guinea, Sacred Heart Missionary Sister Dorothy Fabritze was at a convention of the United States Catholic Mission Association when she heard about an opportunity to answer a pressing need—in circus ministry.

Keeping in mind the charism of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to reach out to those who have not heard the message of God’s love or are lax in their response, she asked Sister Bernard Overkamp, another Sacred Heart Missionary with whom she had worked in New Guinea, to join her. Although both were hesitant at first, they soon fell in love with their new mission. They eventually landed jobs with the “Greatest Show on Earth,” the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Sister Dorothy is one of the circus’ schoolteachers. “We have 19 schoolchildren, and I’m responsible for nine of these, grades one, two, and three,” Sister Dorothy says. She is also available for religious education and preparing children for sacraments. Occasionally adults approach her for marriage preparation or instruction in the Catholic faith. She has led interdenominational Bible studies and taught English.

A seamstress in the ladies’ wardrobe, Sister Bernard helps to maintain and handle the women’s costumes before, during, and after the shows. With others in her department, she makes sure everyone is dressed correctly before they go out on the floor, fixing dresses and shoes if necessary. “And then my ministry is to be with the young girls,” Sister Bernard says, “listen to them, listen to their stories, listen to their heartaches.”

SISTERS Bernard Overkamp, left, and Dorothy Fabritze
walk toward their trailer at the Ringling Bros.
and Barnum & Bailey Circus
(Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News).
The two have crossed the U.S. several times in their pickup truck, towing the 29-foot trailer they call home. “People like us, teachers or the prop crew or the wardrobe crew, can stay as long as they want” with the circus, says Sister Dorothy.

The 300 members of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus come from 18 different countries. For some of the younger artists it is their first time away from home. Others have grown up in the extended circus family.

New performers soon find out they can “go to Sister” to talk about faith matters or other personal issues. In her contacts with the artists, Sister Bernard always stresses the idea of circus as family. “I see her forming this oneness in how she deals with the young women,” says Sister Dorothy, “how she deals with their relationship issues at that time in their lives, how she encourages them and directs, guides . . . . She tells them, ‘Let’s stay together, let’s work together, let’s be a family, let’s respect one another.’ ”

“Faith is alive and well, whatever faith tradition it is,” Sister Dorothy says, pointing out that religion has always played an important role among circus people. “When you have a job that is more dangerous than some, you rely on your faith.”

“This is my goal,” says Sister Dorothy, “to be a living, breathing presence of God in this society called circus. The message that God does love, God does forgive, God is continually there for us, is a very unifying, making-us-one concept.”

Adapted from the Focolare Movement’s monthly Living City magazine (October 2009) (

Catholic Charities reports increased need for aid

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 29, November 2010 Categories:

According to a “snapshot survey” released November 23 by Catholic Charities USA, the U.S. workforce is “still waiting for a recovery.” According to the same news release, there has been a “steady increase” in the number of working poor seeking help for basic needs, especially emergency financial assistance.

LOCAL CATHOLIC Charities affiliates cite unemployment
as one of the reasons for rising aid requests.
In the second quarter of 2010, over 70 percent of Catholic Charities agencies reported an increase in aid requests from the working poor. In the third quarter, 81 percent reported an increase. Asked how the recession has affected clients, about 84 percent of agencies blamed increased unemployment, 65 percent named increased underemployment, and 58 percent indicated increased foreclosures. An extension for federal unemployment benefits expires on Nov. 30 and could push more Americans to seek assistance.

In response to the increased demand for serving basic needs like food, the Chicago Catholic Charities affiliate’s food bank serves more than 32,000 individuals and works as a distribution center for more than 75 member agencies such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters which provide food directly to those in need. In addition to a food bank, Catholic Charities of Terre Haute, Indiana operates a homeless shelter, a youth center and household exchange, and a clothes closet.

“Each of these programs has seen an increase in the number of individuals seeking assistance,” the report said. “More and more individuals are seeking assistance with clothing, especially for children; rent assistance because they are facing eviction; utilities (electric and heat) assistance; and even gas for their vehicles to get to work.”

Military archbishop asks for more chaplains

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 24, November 2010 Categories: Clergy

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services made an appeal to fellow bishops to allow more of their priests to serve as military chaplains.

In a brief talk on the opening day of the U.S. bishops' November 15-18 fall meeting, Broglio said his flock—which includes Catholics serving in all branches of the military, their families, and those at Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide—is ministered to by only 275 priests, a number that will decline in coming years.

Broglio said that most people serving in the military are between the ages of 18 and 28, and studies have shown that most of those who abandon the faith they were raised in do so before the age of 24.

After their service, members of the military and their families will return to the U.S. dioceses and archdioceses from which they came, "and I would like to be able to return them to you as Catholics," Broglio said.

A CATHOLIC chaplain presides
at a Mass for military personnel
Unlike a Catholic family in the U.S. who does not have a priest in their parish, the archbishop said, "military personnel cannot drive to another parish."

He also appealed to the pragmatic side of his fellow bishops, noting that about 10 percent of all priests ordained in the United States in an average year have prior service in the military and another 10 percent belong to families in which someone was in the military.

"More priest chaplains [to nurture vocations in the military] will mean more candidates for the priesthood," he said.

See one and another related posts on the military and vocations.

Sister builds zero-energy straw-bale house

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 23, November 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Jane Omlor, O.S.F., a Franciscan sister of Tiffin, Ohio, lived for 10 years in Mingo County, West Virginia where she saw mountaintop-removal mining leave her and her neighbors without well water. Seeing environmental destruction firsthand, she coordinated the construction of the Web of Life Ecology Center, built primarily with recycled materials. Earlier, while living in Spencer, West Virginia, she organized and assembled a “straw bale” chapel. Now, in Tiffin, she’s project manager for the building of a straw bale house she will live in.

The house, named Little Portion Green, is an effort of Project STRAW (Saving Today’s Resources In Awesome Ways), which itself is part of the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin. The home will serve as a demonstration and educational facility to show how a house does not have to “use any more energy than we can produce ourselves,” Omlor says, and save resources by using passive solar design, solar panels, straw bale insulation with earth plaster, Energy Recovery Ventilation, and other systems. It will be the first certified passive-energy structure in Ohio and the first certified passive straw-bale house in the United States.

Designed in the style of a “little Ohio farmhouse," as Omlor describes it, the 1,500-square-foot home will have two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. What it won’t have are a furnace and an air conditioning system. The house will be heated and cooled with an energy-recovery ventilation system or electric air-exchange unit. It will have electricity but rely on solar power.

Underneath the house’s concrete slab are four feet of a material called millcell, a product from Germany made from recycled glass, which prevents cold from radiating up into the house and helps keep heat inside. The roof will be made largely of recycled steel. Interior doors, railings, and other elements were salvaged for reuse from the St. Francis convent when a portion of the building was razed. Extra-large, triple-pane, high-efficiency windows will be mostly south-facing with deep-set sills. The rounded walls—and that’s where the bales come in—will be insulated with bales of locally grown straw and covered with an earth-tone clay plaster—all sustainable materials.

The house is expected to cost about $100,000, about half of which has been raised so far. Straw-bale houses cost more to build, but the savings come on utility bills. Almost 300 donors have "bought" a bale of straw for $100 each and will have their names etched into a glass "truth window." "In every straw-bale house there's a 'truth window' because there's always a skeptic that walks in and says, “This is not built of straw” because you can't see the straw," Omlor told the Toledo Blade. "So you open up this door and there's the straw."

See the project’s website. To buy a bale for the house, contact Barb DeBarbrie at Here’s the Little Portion Green PowerPoint:

Daughters of Charity receive humanitarian award

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 17, November 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul recently received the Van Thuân Prize for Solidarity and Development. The award, instituted three years ago by the St. Matthew Foundation of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, recognizes institutions, associations, and other entities that carry out humanitarian and work projects in developing countries to defend human rights through the promotion and diffusion of evangelical principles, following the directives of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

The award recognized the work of sisters in Haiti following the January 12 earthquake as well as the recent cholera outbreak that has left 284 dead and another 3,600 infected.

Sister Maria Teresa Tapia, provincial of the Daughters of Charity in Haiti, said that her communities have been working for 30 years in Haiti "on the level of instruction as well as health, in the promotion of women and in the struggle against malnutrition."

The congregation lost its provincial house and a school in the quake, but the sisters rallied nonetheless to go to the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince and aid the wounded.

"So many sisters then arrived from Spain, from France, from England, from the United States, and from South and Central America to help the victims of the catastrophe, taking care of them and helping them in the refugee camps, in the clinics, in the districts of Port-au-Prince and in the Petit Goave campaign," Tapia said.

She noted that millions of Haitians are still living in tents and "have urgent need of dwellings, food, water, care and health services, school resources, and structures for children."

A short video on the sisters' work in Haiti:

A day worth celebrating for Cuban Catholics

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Tuesday 16, November 2010 Categories:

In a ceremony joined by President Raul Castro, Cuba's Catholic bishops recently inaugurated the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary, the country's first major church-related construction in the half century since the Communist revolution.

Joined by Cuba's bishops and representatives of the Vatican and of the Catholic Church in the United States, Mexico, Italy, and the Bahamas,Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino noted that the late Pope John Paul II blessed the first stone of the new seminary at a Mass during his January, 1998 visit to the island.

At that point, then-President Fidel Castro pledged his support for the project, the cardinal said. "That promise has been faithfully completed," he said, adding his thanks to the Castros, "that this work was completed properly with the help of the state."

Catholic News Service reports that the opening of San Carlos and San Ambrosio takes place at a time of marked improvement in relations between the Catholic Church and the state, after 50 years of ups and downs.

 Analysts describe the current situation as "more relaxed," since a dialogue process that began with a meeting in May between Raul Castro, Cardinal Ortega and Santiago Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, president of the Cuban bishops' conference.


"Small garden sculpture" turns into something, well, larger

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 15, November 2010 Categories:

Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer will soon lose its title as the world’s largest statue

of Christ. At the end of November, Divine Mercy Parish in Swiebodzin, Poland will dedicate the world’s largest statue of Christ in what Poland's Zielona Gora-Gorzow diocesan spokesman Father Adrzek Sapieha describes as a “show of devotion” by local Catholics.

The statue in Swiebodzin stands on a 52-foot-high mound. It is

118 feet tall, topped by a 11-foot-tall crown of thorns, has an arm span of 79 feet, and weighs nearly 363 tons. The statue will be just taller than Christ the Redeemer, which stands at 128 feet tall.

"The fact that the biggest Christ figure in the world is being set up here shows the strength of Polish belief and will encourage Catholics to have trust in Christ and renew their faith," Sapieha said.

In Swiebodzin, after strong winds caused delays earlier last Saturday, cranes first lifted the outstretched arms onto the body, then the head, complete with gilded steel crown, was lowered onto the shoulders.

The priest behind the statue’s planning, Sylwester Zawadzki, now retired, is said to have initially decided upon "a small garden sculpture," but his ambitions grew into a project he hoped would make his economically depressed village a magnet for Catholic pilgrims from across Poland.

Instead, he split the country. Some supported him, but others thought his project ridiculous, and many Catholics called for the statue to be abandoned. Ridiculous or not, it is set to be unveiled later this month.

Chicago-area priest addresses possibility of women deacons

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 12, November 2010 Categories:

Regardless of how you feel about the role of women in the Catholic Church, the fact is that many Catholics would like to see women become priests. Although leaders in the Roman Catholic Church have made it clear that only men may serve in the priesthood, a suburban Chicago pastor is raising the question of whether women can become deacons.

Father Bill Tkachuk, pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Evanston, has been thinking about the topic for months after a longtime female parishioner expressed interest in becoming a deacon should the Vatican open up the option to women.

Experts say that's unlikely to happen any time soon. In the 16th century the Council of Trent recommended restoring deacons as a distinct permanent ministry, as it was in the early Western Church, but they weren't reestablished until the 1960s and another church reform council, Vatican II.

Like bishops and priests, deacons are ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is available only to men in the Catholic Church. Their ministry centers on the word, the sacraments, and service. Though they aren't allowed to consecrate the Eucharist or hear confessions, they can preside at baptisms and weddings. They often help priests with other liturgical and administrative duties.

There are transitional deacons who are on the road to the priesthood and permanent deacons who are not studying for the priesthood and, unlike most Catholic priests, may be married and have children. (In the Archdiocese of Chicago, for example, there are perhaps 500 active permanent deacons.)

Pope John Paul II closed off internal debate on allowing women priests. Among the arguments against ordaining women is that Jesus selected only male apostles. But there's no such ban on talking about the deaconate, which was clearly established by the early church. Supporters of the concept of women deacons note that the New Testament makes reference female deacons, though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates "there is no conclusive evidence that this office or the persons who fulfilled these roles were truly 'ordained' like the male deacons."

Tkachuk said he’d like to see women also serve in that role, and he is pushing for a “broader conversation” on the issue. St. Nicholas has hosted parish events centered on the topic, and Tkachuk has used the parish bulletin to further discussion.

Eventually he plans to reach out to the top Catholic cleric in the region, Cardinal Francis George, to see if he'll take up the issue. In recent months several Chicago-area priests have signaled their support for women in the priesthood—an idea George batted down in a recent column in the archdiocesan publication the Catholic New World.

"Whether women can be ordained priests has been discussed regularly since the 2nd century," George wrote. "Each time over the centuries, the church has said she is not free to change the gift that comes to us from Christ himself. The argument is with Jesus, not the church."

Hildegard of Bingen at the box office

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 10, November 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) practiced medicine, wrote poetry, plays, and mystical works, composed music, painted, and went on extensive preaching tours of Germany and France. Her abbey, of which she later became prioress, expanded several times as it attracted many of the gifted women of her day and also served as a place for medical care and a permanent home for indigent elderly women. She began experiencing mystical visions as a child, and her written descriptions of her visions are widely read today.

Illustrating the continuing fascination with Hildegard is a new film, Vision (like the title!), from German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa as Hildegard. Filmed in medieval German cloisters, Vision follows Hildegard’s life from her childhood entrance into a convent to her becoming its leader 30 years later. The film is in German with English subtitles.

Watch the film’s trailer, and watch what I guess you could call a Hildegard music video:

Catholics experience shift in voting

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 08, November 2010 Categories:

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life’s analysis of last week’s National Election Pool exit poll reported by CNN revealed Catholics to be the biggest “swing faith” in this year’s election. The poll showed Catholics voted 44 percent Democratic to 54 percent Republican, compared to 2008, when 55 percent of Catholics voted Democratic while 44 percent voted Republican.

Catholics were not the only group that experienced a significant shift in voting. According to the poll, Protestants, a group which traditionally votes Republican, managed to increase their support for the Republicans to 60 percent, up from 53 percent in 2008.

Even atheists and the unaffiliated, who normally vote Democratic, shifted 6 percent of their vote toward the Republicans, as they voted 66 percent Democratic as opposed to 32 percent Republican. In 2008 atheists and unaffiliated citizens voted 72 percent Democratic compared to 25 percent Republican.

This data raises a number of interesting questions, and major ones for Democratic strategists: Was the Catholic vote the big one that got away? And how can they reel those voters back in for 2012?

Full time position: No pay but eternal rewards

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 08, November 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy
Capuchin Friary in Rapperswil,Switzerland. Rapperswill is known
as the Riviera of Upper Lake Zurich.                   


Wanted: Bankers, traders, or lawyers for full-time, lifelong position. No pay.

Associated Press reports that the Capuchin Friars in Switzerland have started an unconventional vocation drive by advertising in a classifieds section normally reserved for high-flying executive roles. Instead of a salary the successful application will enjoy "freedom from personal material wealth" along with time for prayer and contemplation. The accommodations aren't too shabby either!

Catholic Extension to give $1 million for campus ministry

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 04, November 2010 Categories:

The Chicago-based Catholic Church Extension Society is allocating more than $1 million in grants to 59 under-resourced campus ministry programs in 30 under-resourced dioceses around the country.

The president of Catholic Extension, Father Jack Wall, issued a statement saying: “We are determined to reach young Catholics, not only because they need our support during these critical years when they are emerging as adults, but because we need their spirit and innate sense of hope if we are to continue to grow the dynamic presence of the Catholic faith in our country.

"Strong, well-funded, and well-run campus ministry programs for our college students are the best way to fuel our faith's bright future in under-resourced regions of America," Wall said.

Among the universities receiving money, the University of Wyoming in Laramie will be awarded $45,000 to help finance its St. Paul Newman Center. Florida State University in Tallahassee will receive $20,000 to subsidize the salary of two ministers who run the university’s conferences, retreats, Bible studies, and catechetical programs. The University of Texas at El Paso will be given $16,000 to support similar programs.

Catholic Extension is also providing more than $29,000 to the Catholic Volunteer Network, one of the organization's partner groups. The network, based in the Washington suburb of Takoma Park, Md., promotes faith-based volunteer service opportunities to mission dioceses in the United States and abroad. The grant will help expand its outreach and create leadership positions for students on campuses in U.S. mission territory, including Boise State University, Diocese of Boise, Idaho; St. Mary's University in the Archdiocese of San Antonio; Jesuit-run Spring Hill College, Diocese of Mobile, Ala.; and the University of Wyoming in the Cheyenne Diocese. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops defines mission dioceses as those unable to provide their people with the basic pastoral ministries of word, worship, and service without outside help.

See videos featuring highlights from visits to mission dioceses with interviews from clergy, laity, and mission parishioners.

Franciscan sister honored for film on religious repression

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 02, November 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Award-winning DVD on Sisters Under
European Communism


Sylvania Franciscan Sister Judy Zielinski, O.S.F., writer/producer for NewGroup Media in South Bend, Indiana, recently received a Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy for Communication Art Professionals for her documentary Interrupted Lives: Catholic Sisters Under European Communism. This one-hour film tells the story of sisters in Eastern Europe imprisoned from the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 for openly practicing their religious faith.

These survivors—now in their 70’s, 80‘s, and 90’s—lived through various attempts of Communist regimes to suppress religion and religious expression. Almost 60 sisters were interviewed in cities ranging from Warsaw, Poland and Budapest, Hungary to Bratislava, Slovakia, Bucharest, Romania, and L’viv, Ukraine. Additional filming was done in the Toledo, Ohio area using Sylvania Franciscan Sisters as actors.

View the film’s trailer here.

Award-winning DVD on Sisters Under
European Communism

Catholic schools lead innovation in urban education

Posted by:   🕔 Saturday 30, October 2010 Categories: Catholic culture

The movie Waiting for "Superman" takes a look at the education gap in the United States and the problems involved in education policy. I thought I would use this blog post to talk about a couple of Catholic schools that have been leading innovators in providing an education to people from low-income urban communities at an affordable tuition.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was founded in 1996 in a low-income Latino neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The school places students at entry-level jobs, which cover roughly 65 percent of tuition costs. Cristo Rey students work five days a month and attend classes four days a week. Today around 575 students attend this high school. The Cristo Rey Network comprises 24 high schools around the United States.

The San Miguel Schools offer low-income middle-school students in Chicago two campus locations. The first San Miguel School opened in 1995 in the Back of the Yards area on the South Side and serves 80 Latino students in grades 6 through 8. In 2002 the Gary Comer Campus was established in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side and serves 110 African American students in grades 5 through 8. The San Miguel schools base their approach on the following formula:

Small classes: A 10:1 student to teacher ratio ensures small classes. Teachers are enabled to provide students with more individual attention and instruction.

More class time: San Miguel students have an 8.5- hour school day and attend school on a year-round calendar. They spend 53 percent more time in class than required by the state of Illinois.

A focus on reading and language arts: San Miguel students read an average of 120 books a year. Each day includes 80 minutes of reading.

San Miguel is not tuition-driven: San Miguel is accessible to children most in need.

A committed staff: Half of teachers are volunteers who receive only a monthly stipend and live together in the neighborhood where they teach. They live as a community dedicated to their students. Some are experienced educators; others are college graduates who wish to bring opportunity through education.

Parental involvement: San Miguel parents are expected to attend parent-teacher meetings every three weeks.

Experiential learning: San Miguel students travel to Washington, D.C. to learn about democratic traditions, to Minnesota to investigate the natural environment, and to college campuses.

Family and graduate support program: San Miguel graduates receive continual support throughout their high school years, including tutoring and mentoring sessions and various other youth development activities. Families receive educational opportunities and clinical counseling services

These schools accept donations and offer many volunteer opportunities.

School Sisters of Notre Dame get baseball card surpise

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 27, October 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

THE T206 from 1909
There are donations, and then there are donations. Religious communities are frequently remembered in people’s wills, but the School Sisters of Notre Dame were probably not expecting a particular special something in a recent estate they received from a late nun's brother: a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card, otherwise known as a T206—one the rarest of all sports collectibles. About 50 of the legendary player's cards are believed to exist.

A mint-condition card sold for $2.6 million in 2007, and although the sisters’ card is not in good condition, it is expected to fetch up to $200,000 at auction.

"It just boggles your mind," said Sister Virginia Muller. "I can't remember a time when we have received anything like this."

Sisters of Providence's social media "best practices"

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 27, October 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life


Religious communities are recognizing the need to expand their online communications, especially in the area of social media, if they want to get the word out about themselves and attract potential new members. Helping to lead the way are the Sisters of Providence, who were recognized for their social media marketing "best practices" by the National Communicators Network for Women Religious at their annual conference last September in Denver.

The Sisters of Providence use various forms of social media to help share their community's mission and ministry. In the last year the Sisters of Providence have seen a growth of interest in vocations, as well as other activities, that they believe to be directly related to their social media and website work.

See how the Sisters developed their social media strategy here, and links to all of the Sisters of Providence social media efforts here.

Vatican meeting looks at challenges for Catholic press

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 25, October 2010 Categories:

In North America and Europe the church has relied for decades on the Catholic press to provide the faithful with news, information, and the perspective they need to understand the church's position on a variety of current political, social, and ethical issues.

But the Catholic press faces the same challenges of falling subscriptions, a drop in ad revenues, and the competition from internet sites that most newspapers are facing. It also faces challenges tied directly to the identity and mission of the Catholic press itself, said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, at a gathering of Catholic journalists and communications professionals from 85 countries on October 4-7 at the Vatican

Speaking to the meeting, Pope Benedict XVI said that despite the "multiplication of antennas, dishes, and satellites" the printed word is still essential for communication, especially for a church community that draws its inspiration from scripture. "The search for truth must be pursued by Catholic journalists with passionate minds and hearts, but also with the professionalism of competent workers with sufficient and effective instruments," he said.

For Benedict, the job of a journalist is to help people make sense of information and evaluate events in the context of church teaching. The pope said that while new media can help spread information, often they are focused on attention-grabbing images and make little or no attempt to help people understand what is happening or what it means for their lives.

For their part, Catholic journalists, mostly laypeople, said that church officials need to recognize how communications works in the internet age. The World Wide Web, for example, isn't simply an electronic slate where a newspaper can be posted instead of being printed. The internet, especially blogs and social media such as Facebook, have created a new style of communications that is interactive—something most institutional church efforts, from homilies to the Vatican website, have not strongly encouraged.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the almost infinite number of "Catholic" voices in the media today means church officials and Catholic communicators must strengthen their conviction that "for us communications is and must be to promote communion, dialogue, and mutual understanding.”

New book profiles activist priest Michael Pfleger

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 25, October 2010 Categories: Clergy

Veteran Chicago author and journalist Robert McClory has a new book available from Chicago Review Press: Radical Disciple: Father Pfleger, St. Sabina Church, and the Fight for Social Justice.

During the past 26 years Reverend Michael Pfleger, a white Catholic priest who pastors a black Chicago parish, has never been far from the spotlight. His aggressive, innovative leadership has empowered thousands, making St. Sabina church one of the largest and most active black Catholic congregations in the country. At the same time, Pfleger has been continually criticized as a trouble-making maverick, a renegade cleric, and a publicity hound.

This biography concentrates on Father Pfleger’s work at St. Sabina from his earliest days there and covers his efforts to build up the parish, his activism, his work to rejuvenate the community, his battles with church leaders, and his strong relationship with his parishioners. It provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of the Catholic Church, the traditions of the black pulpit, and what it takes to change laws in a major American city.

On Facebook.

Washington runs for vocations to the priesthood

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 22, October 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

Running and vocations seem to be a hot topic on this blog (see previous item below). The latest installment: About 200 men and women from the Archdiocese of Washington will participate in the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K run to raise money for seminarians.

The archdiocese’s “Run for Vocations” team will seek to heighten awareness of the need for priestly vocations as well as bring in funds for seminarians. The marathon is slated for October 31 in Arlington, Virginia. The Marine Corps Marathon, now in its 35th year, claims to be the fourth largest marathon in the United States.

Among the archdiocesan runners, 49 are running the full 26.2-mile marathon while 138 are participating in the 10K. Funds raised through the team will help cover unexpected expenses for seminarians, including medical costs, travel expenses for family emergencies, and spiritual enrichment.

Follow the Marine Corps Marathon on Facebook and Twitter. For donations and registration information, visit the Run for Vocations website.

Nun + Run

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 20, October 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

There are Nun Runs. These are come-and-see events where women discerning their vocation visit several women’s communities in succession (in fact there’s a Nun Run coming up November 12-13 in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area—click on the link and scroll down).

Then there is the Run for Nuns, where people run to raise money to help prospective members of religious orders pay off their college debt. And don't forget nuns who run, like triathlete Sister Madonna Bruder and ultramarathoner Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd.

Now we hear about the upcoming fourth annual Run with the Nuns Motorcycle Rally and Show this Saturday, October 23, 2010 at the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs Casino & Racetrack in Bossier City, LA. The event benefits children's health through parent education, services to abused children, teen obesity prevention, and other child-welfare programs.

Last year almost 1,000 bikers and over 30 vendors participated in the Run. This year there will be live and silent auctions, games, and a larger vendor area. Breakfast and lunch will be served, live bands will perform throughout the day, and Shreveport Bishop Michael Duca will open the event with a blessing of the bikes. Says event chairwoman Liz Swaine, "You don't need a bike to come out and participate."

L.A. Archdiocese initiates creation sustainability ministry

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 18, October 2010 Categories:

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles will undertake a unique approach to ministry. In accord with Catholic social teaching, parishioners and students will learn about their responsibilities in promoting a clean environment.

"We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan; it is a requirement of our faith," states the website for the U.S. bishops' environmental justice program, "Caring for God's Creation."

"We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God's creation," it says. "This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored."

At certain churches and five high schools in Los Angeles, this effort will assist parishioners in reflecting on God's creation and in starting a dialogue with the community about contributing to environmental sustainability.

The creation-sustainability ministry will help people and parishes learn how to conserve resources by making better choices, such as using energy-efficient tools and appliances. "From our perspective, creation is a statement of faith," said Ramon Posada, ministry chairman and professor of philosophy and religion at East Los Angeles College. "It implies that there is a loving Creator from which we came . . . and who calls us to participate in this loving action in the world we live in."

The program includes three subcommittees:

• Justice: Assists people in finding solutions to their own environmental problems through networking with established organizations already working in the field.
• Formation: Provides information on the environment and empowers and helps nurture parishioners so they can become aware of and open to the call to be loving stewards of God's creation.
• Development: Finds ways to help parishes deal with practical concerns, such as energy efficiency or gas and water conservation.

"So the very nature of this ministry is community-building," said Posada, "because not just one person can come up with the solution; it has to be the action of the community.

Now you can call him Archbishop Gustavo

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 15, October 2010 Categories: Clergy

Bishop Gustavo
Garcia-Siller, M.Sp.S.
Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller—featured in a VISION article—has been appointed to lead the archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. He is succeeding Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who was named archbishop of Los Angeles in April. Garcia-Siller will be installed as San Antonio’s archbishop on November 23.

Born in San Luis Potosi in central Mexico and the eldest of 15 children, he has served as the Chicago archdiocese’s liaison for Hispanic ministry and is a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

Poor Handmaids raise the roof and catch a breeze

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 14, October 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

The “Inspired images” and “More about the artists . . . .” articles here on the VISION website feature the work of several members of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, including Sister Mary Baird, P.H.J.C., who is involved with the MoonTree Community, a Poor Handmaid ministry devoted to art, spirituality, and ecology.

THE SITE of MoonTree Lodge, gallery, and shop
timber-raising and wind turbine installation.
On October 21 the sisters and community will host the timber-raising of MoonTree Lodge and the installation of a wind turbine at the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Ministry Center complex in Donaldson, Indiana. MoonTree is one of several ministries at the PHJC Ministry Center that creates an intergenerational living and learning center which facilitates interchange across generational lines for the complex’s residents, coworkers, and students, as well as the public.

The current project consists of three separate buildings that will target Gold Level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification: a two-story heavy-timber residential lodge for the staff, a gallery with studios for clay, painting, and textiles, and a shop studio for wood and metal arts. The construction of the LEED buildings and solar water heating and wind turbine reflect the Poor Handmaids’ belief in the wise use and care of resources.

Legionaries ask, "Why not priest?"

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Wednesday 13, October 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

“Today is a marvelous time to be a priest!” These words of John Paul II were the inspiration for a group of Catholic seminarians from the Legionaries of Christ to develop, an innovative website with catchy videos on a range of topics of interest to young men considering priesthood.

One engaging video shows a series of quick clips of priests from around the world responding to the question of “Why Not Priest?” with one-line answers in their native languages (subtitled for viewer comprehension). Take a look and then answer for yourself—Why Not Priest? Why Not Sister? Why Not Brother? … And most importantly, Why not you?!



Next steps to attract new generations to religious life

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 12, October 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Dozens of vowed religious and Catholic lay leaders gathered in Chicago recently to discuss the next steps needed to attract young people to religious life.

"Together we are seeking to discover a truth of how we may effectively promote religious life to a new generation in a new century," said Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C. executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, as he opened the invitation-only symposium called "Moving Forward in Hope."

SISTER Joan Scanlon, O.P.,
facilitator of the symposium.

The gathering, which was funded by a foundation that wished to remain anonymous, included vocations directors, Catholic educators, major superiors, diocesan personnel, parents, young adult and campus ministers, younger men and women religious, media and communications experts, and church researchers and statisticians.

The gathering was designed to develop an action plan for promoting vocations in the United States. Bednarczyk said a final report on the symposium and the proposed plans would be presented to the foundation by the end of the year and made public after a board meeting of the vocation conference in February.

Among the potential responses to this issue, said Brother Sean D. Sammon, former superior general of the Marist Brothers and former president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, a key ingredient in establishing "the necessary lines of communication between this population and our congregations" is the creation of a "culture of vocation promotion," including the appointment of at least one full-time vocation promoter in each of the congregation's provinces or districts.

"If General Motors or IBM faced the personnel crisis that we have had on our hands for the last few decades, they would have long ago had their best people in the work of recruiting men and women for a career with their corporations," he said. "At the same time, each of us must learn to take some responsibility for this work."

He also suggested taking advantage of "opportunities available to educate as wide a population as possible," such as with a parish adult education course on religious life yesterday and today.

"In so doing, we might consider targeting parents especially," Sammon said. "They were once one of the strongest allies of those encouraging vocations; they need to be brought into that same position again."

Another crucial factor is visibility, he said, noting that "a number of us from older generations of religious have, to a large extent, become invisible in the places in which we serve and the communities in which we live."

"If we are truly interested in improving the witness value of our way of life," he said, "a number of us will need to find some new and more effective ways to be more visible."

“Sweeeet”: Vatican praises “The Simpsons”

Posted by:   🕔 Saturday 02, October 2010 Categories:

The Simpsons has been praised by many people from television critics to philosophy professors. Add the Vatican to the list. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said that the series reflects very modern notions—and confusions—about religion and spirituality.

"Rigid censors turn off the television [when the Fox program comes on], but the more serious analysts praise the realism and intelligence of its scripts, even if they often attack—and rightly so—the crude language and the violence of some episodes," the newspaper said Dec. 22.

Marking the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening, the paper described the show as a "tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, boisterous and profound, philosophical—and sometimes even theological—nutty synthesis of pop culture and of the lukewarm and nihilistic American middle class."

Of the myriad themes treated in the show's almost 450 episodes, "one of the most important—and most serious" is that of God and the relationship between each person and God, done in a way that mirrors "the religious and spiritual confusion of our times," it said.

"Simultaneously reflecting modern people's indifference toward and great need for the sacred, Homer . . . finds his ultimate refuge in God"—even if he doesn't always get God's name right, it said.

The paper cited one episode in which Homer sort of prays: "I'm usually not a religious man, but if you're up there, save me, Superman."

Misnaming God actually is just a momentary lapse on Homer's part, the paper said, "because in reality the two know each other quite well.”

Homer Simpson on getting up for church:

Franciscan sisters, Bing Crosby, and an old movie

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 29, September 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

What do the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God and the Pittsburgh Pirates have in common (besides being located in the city of Pittsburgh)? A connection to the singer and actor Bing Crosby (yes, there was a “Bing” before the Microsoft search engine).

If you go to the vestibule of the Mary Immaculate Chapel at the sisters’ motherhouse, you’ll find listed in bronze among the thousands of other donors to the Chapel Fund of the 1940s and 1950s the name of Bing Crosby, writes Franciscan congregational archivist Mr. Dennis Wodzinski in the fall 2010 issue of The Whitehall Franciscan.

Bing’s name got there because of the determination of the then-motherhouse chaplain, Father Joseph Skripkus, who was so impressed with Bing’s performance in the movie The Bells of St. Mary’s, in which Crosby played a Roman Catholic priest attempting to save a New York City parish school from closure, that he wrote Bing a letter saying: “I want to say that I admire you and your work greatly. The roles you play are clean and will do much to prove to Hollywood that decency in films pays.” (Skripkus also included a copy of a short work by one Harold Bell Wright called The Uncrowned King which he thought “could become a pearl of the silver screen.” Father Joe, by the way, was not shy about letter-writing. In his personal papers is correspondence from members of the Roosevelt family, including a proclamation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

After Crosby acknowledged the note, Father Joe kept writing, including a letter about the motherhouse building that he concluded by saying: “Dear Friend, on account of your great charity, I . . . ask you to erect one more eternal monument, which will speak loudly of your charity as long as the St. Francis convent will exist.” Apparently the appeal succeeded.

BING CROSBY with Pirates manager
Billy Meyer in 1948.

Which brings us to the Pirates. Crosby was a co-owner of the team at the time, and it was his skittishness about watching them play the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series that led to the creation of a piece of history.

Bing was so nervous about jinxing the team that he couldn’t bring himself to watch the seventh and deciding game against the Yankees, played at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field 50 years ago on October 13, 1960. So he flew to Paris and listened to it on the radio. Some of his employees, however, filmed the game on kinescope so that he could see it in its entirety when he returned. (Kinescope recorded television programs by filming the picture from a video monitor. It was just about the only way to record TV before the widespread use of videotape. By the way, Crosby had a role in the development of videotape, when in 1951 engineers at Bing Crosby Enterprises demonstrated a black-and-white videotape recorder; Crosby backed the effort not only because of the commercial possibilities of the new medium but also supposedly so he could play golf and watch programs later.)

And watch the game when he got back we assume he did, because it ended up being one the most dramatic in World Series history: Pittsburgh second-baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off home run against Ralph Terry to give the Pirates a 10-9 win and a World Series victory over the mighty Yankees (who between 1947 and 1964 appeared in the World Series 15 times, winning 10 of them, including five in a row from 1949-1953).

Like most games of the era, it was thought no complete recording existed, its video documentation limited to newsreel highlights. But, as first reported in the New York Times, the entire kinescope copy of NBC’s TV broadcast of Game 7 was recently found in a wine cellar at Crosby’s old home near San Francisco. The films, which record every out of the game, are being transferred to DVD, and the game will be shown during a special on MLB Network this December.

“Maz’s” historic homer from a newsreel:

Fraternal spirit alive and well in religious brotherhood

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Wednesday 29, September 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (sponsors of VISION) was featured in a recent National Catholic Reporter (NCR) profile of the state of brotherhood in America, "Despite steep decline, brothers see hope for their vocation's future."

Interviewed by NRC reporter Robert McClory, Holy Cross Brother Bednarczyk spoke openly of how his sense of vocation developed early in life. He briefly considered studying for priesthood but became convinced brotherhood was the right choice for him.

Bednarczyk, 53, studied at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, run by the Holy Cross congregation, and formally entered the order as a novice in 1979. He says he felt comfortable as a brother from the beginning and he likes the fact that brothers are not part of the hierarchal structure in the church.

"We are not above anybody. A brother by definition is on an even level, on the same plane with everyone he encounters," says Bednarczyk, and this fact allows brothers to play a unique role in relating to today's egalitarian minded young people.

Bednarczyk also discussed with journalist McClory the challenge of reaching Catholics who grew up with Vatican II as ancient history. This generation knows Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he said, and they're not as vehement about fighting church battles as are older generations.

"But they are the signs of these times," he said, and must be taken seriously. He believes religious life as practiced by the brothers can provide a "prophetic dimension" to them and to the larger church, both through its emphasis on community life and in reaching out to the poor and suffering.

Photo of Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk (Photo Credit: NCR Publishing Company)

Cardinal John Henry Newman had ties to campus ministry

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 27, September 2010 Categories:

On Sunday September 19, 2010, in Birmingham, England, Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, officially recognizing him as “blessed.” In addition to his great significance for people in Great Britain and the world, Newman, writer, poet, and theologian, was particularly influential on campus ministers serving universities and colleges in the United States.

The theme for the pope's visit to the United Kingdom was Cor ad cor loquitur—“heart speaks unto heart.” Newman chose these words as the motto for his coat of arms when he became a cardinal in 1879. For Newman, true communication between people was a dialogue from heart to heart and represented the fruits of a moral life lived in communion with Christ. The relevance of that message is manifest for anyone engaged in campus ministry.

The Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) and the National Catholic Student Coalition (NCSC) are two groups that were originally founded as the U.S. Newman Foundation.

The first Newman Club in the United States was established in 1893 at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1906 Father Henry Hengells was appointed the first full-time chaplain of a Newman Club at a state university, the University of Wisconsin. Three other dioceses followed shortly thereafter.

Among the numerous Catholic student associations across the United States, many continue to carry the Newman Club name. Several campus ministries are also based in 476 Newman Houses/Centers.

“Cardinal Newman’s vision of a place on campus for integrating faith and intellectual study and creating a supportive community of Catholics guides Catholic campus ministries across our country,” said Father Martin Moran, executive director of the CCMA. “On this occasion, the members of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association join with the entire church in celebrating his life, his work, and his many legacies.”

A short report on Newman’s beatification:

Diocesan priest to hit the small screen

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 24, September 2010 Categories: Clergy

For those who hoped to become a media star only to watch their dreams go unrealized when they pursued a religious vocation, there may now be hope. Father Robert Barron, a professor at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary outside Chicago, will begin broadcasting a weekly national television show on WGN America to reach Catholics and others searching for faith and meaning in their lives. He will be the first Catholic priest since Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the 1950s and 60s to have a regular, national program on a commercial television network.

Barron runs a global media ministry called Word on Fire. His WGN America show will be called Word on Fire with Father Barron. It will premier at 8:30 a.m. Central on Sunday, October 3. It will also run on WGN Chicago at 9:30 a.m.

“Now is the time to reach out to Catholics and others who are searching for meaning in their lives or who have left the church because they are disillusioned,” Barron said. “In each episode, our mission will be to encourage believers to bring the transformative power of the gospel to the culture.”

The priest, who was ordained in 1986, has also been producing a ten-part documentary titled Catholicism, telling the story of the church through travels to 16 countries. He will preview highlights of the series in his weekly broadcasts.

“The faith of the church is our strength,” Barron said. “Our program will strive to show viewers the richness of the Catholic faith and how it is a treasure to be shared now and with future generations. The faith imbues our life with meaning and imparts to all a renewed sense of purpose.”

Funds for the WGN America program were raised through private donations. See the website for Word On Fire.

Here’s Father Barron from Word in Fire talking about the question, “Why do we believe in God?”

Catholic scholar offers perspective on anti-Muslim sentiment

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 23, September 2010 Categories:

Two weeks ago many prominent Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders held what they called an emergency summit in Washington, D.C. to address the interreligious tensions in the United States. The group released a statement denouncing anti-Muslim bigotry and urging respect for this country’s tradition of religious liberty. R. Scott Appleby, professor of history and director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, was interviewed on PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about the current situation.

While anti-minority sentiment in American history is nothing new, he’s sees something different in what’s going on now. “First of all, stories like this are immediate. They are broadcast right away, and we quickly hear not only the story itself but the echo of the story, what other people are saying about it. It takes on a life of its own. The second quality is the pervasiveness. It’s everywhere, that is to say, a story that has this kind of charge to it, by that I mean anti-Islamic feeling of whatever type, can be broadcast in a way and the media covers everything in such a way that someone who really doesn’t have a great standing or any expertise or knowledge but who wants to stir the pot, wants to get some attention wherever they may be from, can attract attention by pushing the envelope, doing something outrageous, and the cycle begins again. Another story, immediate echo, and we’re in the middle of a controversy.

“One thing that’s similar to other periods in our nation’s history of nativism, of attacks against people perceived as foreign, whether they are from another nation or another religion, what’s in common is we’re in an economic crisis. These episodes flare up when Americans are feeling displaced or threatened that their economic well-being and even their citizenship is somehow called into question by a threatening minority. And, of course, Islam in America is a tiny, tiny minority. Why pick on Islam? Because for nine years, almost a decade, the popular mentality is we’re in some kind of war with Islam, which of course is a distorted reading that’s not sufficiently shouted down by the right people. We are not in a war with Islam. We are in a conflict with a tiny minority of radicals who are denounced by the majority of Muslim leaders and Muslims around the world.

“There’s nothing about Islam itself that makes Islam stand apart from other religions. All the major world religions have texts and traditions that can be twisted, that can be interpreted to condone violence, including Christianity. Islam is not better or worse in that regard, that is, in what the sources of Islam say about violence. There are verses in the Quran and in the Hadith of the Prophet, the traditions of the Prophet, that can be read in either direction. Islam itself as a religion is in a different context today in the United States than Christianity or Hinduism in India, and so there are a lot of factors that make parts of the Islamic world and parts of the reaction in this country more vehement, more charged, and it doesn’t have a lot to do with the religion itself.

“The assumption [is] that Islam is inherently, that in its very nature Islam is violent, evil, that it’s a religion that produces murderers, liars, thieves, unpatriotic, etc. I’m a Catholic. The same thing was said about Catholics, and there are some parts of Catholic history, by the way, that can be interpreted as being anti-democratic and anti-American. The popes denounced religious freedom in the 19th century. So there are parts of a tradition, whether it’s Christianity, Islam, or Judaism, that can be lifted up, twisted, and used as a cudgel, as a weapon, against people you don’t like because you are fearing them for a variety of reasons, and that’s what’s happened to Islam today.”

On a related issue, here's Appleby commenting on President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo address to the Muslim world:

New data on diversification in the U.S. Catholic Church

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 20, September 2010 Categories:

Last month the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University published statistics suggesting generational changes are underway within the Catholic Church that are transforming the demography of the U.S. Catholic population.

The CARA polls place Catholics into four generational groups: Pre-Vatican II (born before 1943); Vatican II (born between 1943 and 1960); Post-Vatican II (born between 1961 and 1981); and Millennial (born after 1982 and up to 1992 in order to be 18 in time for this year’s survey). The polls show some striking differences between the Pre-Vatican II group and now.

“Through a combination of immigration and different fertility rates among sub-groups of the population,” writes CARA, “racial and ethnic identities of the Catholic population now vary significantly by generation.”

By “significant” CARA means 25 percent, as in the approximate increase of Hispanic Catholics and the approximate decrease of non-Hispanic white Catholics between the Post-Vatican II and Millennial generations. Perhaps the most telling statistic in terms of how much the U.S. Catholic Church has changed is that among the Pre-Vatican II generation Hispanics account for only 15 percent of that population, while whites account for 75 percent. Among Millennials in the survey, Hispanics account for 54 percent of the U.S. Catholic population.

In the other races included in the survey—African American, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander—very negligible shifts were found, with those groups hovering between 1 to 4 percent of Catholics in the U.S.

The Incarnation? That's genius!

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 18, September 2010 Categories:

Martin Sheen, the star, and Emilio Estevez,
the director, of "The Way," set in Spain
along the Camino de Santiago.

In an interview with Salon columnist Andrew O"Hehir, Martin Sheen talks about his faith, the importance of community, and his new film "The Way": "I am a practicing Catholic. I love the faith.  . . . The belief that God became human -- that's genius, man. And that God would choose to dwell where we would least likely look, inside ourselves and each other. The genius of God in our humanity, I love that.  . . . That's the fundamental belief in all true believers, that God is present, God suffers and is broken with us. That's why the Catholics never removed the corpse from the cross. Our hero is a convicted criminal. He was tried and convicted in a kangaroo court and then he was murdered. That's God. We're embraced by that. The most fundamental, most basic, most sincere beliefs -- that's not religion. It's spirituality. It's transcendence. People are looking for transcendence now more than ever, I think. Sometimes our transcendence becomes drugs, alcohol, money, power, sex, and they're so shallow. It's we ourselves, we must surrender ourselves to our brokenness. That's the beginning of community, and that's what this film is all about."

Note: See yesterday's blog post for more information about the film.

Hollywood stars premiere movie on American spirituality

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 17, September 2010 Categories:

Not many Hollywood directors or actors use films as a platform to examine their faith. On September 10, however, The Way, directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

According to Estevez, The Way is about genuine American spirituality. What started as a brief outline became 40 or 50 pages of script and led Estevez to read as many books as possible about the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Journalist Jack Hitt's book Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain captured Estevez's imagination and helped shape the story. By this time, Estevez had a full-fledged project he had never wanted to do.

Martin Sheen plays a 70-year-old American doctor who travels to Spain to claim the body of his son, who died halfway through the famous pilgrimage. The grieving father decides to complete the walk his son began and falls in with an oddball group of companions: an Irishman angry with the church; a cynical Canadian woman looking for some vague redemption; and a Dutchman who just seems lost.

Estevez' characters in The Way are all wondering about meaning in their lives. "None of these characters is in any way perfect. In fact they're all flawed, broken, and not particularly attractive. They're difficult to be around—for each other anyway," he said. "Ultimately, what they discover is that it is a community, a global community, and they are emblematic of that. And we can't do it alone. We can't walk this earth by ourselves. We need community. We need faith. We ultimately need each other."

A father burying his son and then walking for weeks through a foreign country may seem like a pretty grim premise for a movie, but Estevez said he believes he has made a film about American resilience.

"America will bounce back," he said. "Because of our resilience, because of our faith and our hope. I think faith plays an enormous part of it."

The movie's website. Also, the Spanish-language trailer:

"I’m seeing something that I didn’t make"

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 16, September 2010 Categories:

ABBOT Barnabas Senecal, O.S.B.
with some of his photographs
For the 2011 edition of the VISION Catholic Religious Vocation Discernment guide, I put together several articles on members of religious communities who are artists, including photographers (see “Inspired images," “More inspired images,” and “More about the artists . . . .” One photographer who slipped through the net is Barnabas Senecal, O.S.B., abbot of the Abbey of St. Benedict on the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Like many of the artists featured in the VISION articles, he considers his art to be a spiritual practice.

“Taking photographs reminds me of the positive,” Senecal told Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (Sept. 10, 2010). “Monastic mindfulness is pursuing what [Saint] Benedict taught about being aware daily of your presence of God with you and in the world. It’s mindfulness of creation and of sharing that with others.

“I am nourished by taking pictures,” he said. “Yes, it’s a spiritual exercise in that I don’t just take a picture and store it. I will reflect on it. Entering into these moments of photography is a conviction that I’m seeing something that I didn’t make, the other person didn’t make. It’s there . . . because it’s part of God’s creation.”

Senecal is also known as the “Singing Abbot” for his fine baritone voice, which he uses not only at abbey liturgies but also at Confirmation Masses he celebrates at the request of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann throughout the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

How to keep the Sistine pristine?

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 13, September 2010 Categories:

I have visited the Sistine Chapel, and I’m glad I did. Those who have yet to make a trip there, however, may have to weigh the value of their personal experience with the efforts to maintain Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

After a summer-long project to remove four years of dust from the chapel’s walls and ceiling, Vatican Museum director Antonio Paolucci is cautioning that “excessive” traffic without sufficient countermeasures could lead to significant damage down the line.

Paolucci described the massive endeavor to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, an undertaking that took 30 specialists working in rotation during the night nearly a month to complete. He also noted that the staff removed “unimaginable quantities of dust and sediment” that had collected on surfaces, the result of an average of 20,000 visitors per day.

Paolucci explained that there is "excessive anthropic pressure"—that is, too many visitors—for the climate and pollution control measures that are currently in place.

"If we want to conserve the Sistine in acceptable conditions for the next generations," Paolucci warned, "this is the challenge that we must defeat. . . ." This challenge is "more arduous," he added, than the one posed by the restoration.

Ironically, there was also an article in the same newspaper on another day announcing the extension of visiting hours on certain days in September to include evening visits.

Here’s what it’s like to visit the Sistine Chapel as a tourist. The video’s poster commented: “The Sistine Chapel is gorgeous but no one is very reverent. They pack in tons of people and it is very loud and very hot.”

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags: sistine chapel

Poor Clares "move on without the horses and the tourists”

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 10, September 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Angela with miniature horses
Situated about 75 miles northwest of Houston between the famed Blue Bell ice cream factory and Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park, where Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico was signed in 1836, is the 98-acre Monastery of St. Clare. For the last 25 years the monastery’s Franciscan Poor Clare sisters have raised miniature horses. Now, the shrinking and aging of the community along with increasing costs and declining tourism are forcing them to sell the property.

Originally a community of 20 sisters, it has dwindled to three: Sister Angela Chandler, 54, who oversees the convent and runs the place with Bill Chandler, her brother, and his wife Becky, and two sisters Chandler cares for: 95-year-old Sister Holy Spirit Aleman and 89-year-old Sister Joseph Palacios.

“It’s gotten to be a lot just to try to keep up. It’s too much for us,” Chandler told the Associated Press. “We’ve reached a burnout phase, I think, and so much of our energies have gone outward and it’s time to focus them inward before we totally die out. It feels like it’s time for us to move on without the horses and without the tourists.”

The monastery is worth nearly $2 million with the horses, $1.7 million without, and includes a gift shop, commercial kitchen, chapel, 18-bedroom residence, and several smaller buildings. Chandler has received inquiries from potential buyers interested in creating a retreat center or an assisted living facility.

Miniature horses have been bred for over a century after owners selectively mated their smallest horses. Standing at about 34 inches at the shoulder, the animals can weigh as much as 350 pounds and pull carts carrying two adults. They are not strong enough to carry a rider.

The idea to raise horses first came to Chandler’s predecessor, the late Sister Bernadette Muller (coauthor of Sister Bernadette: Cowboy Nun from Texas, a copy of which you reporter, who has also visited the monastery, is a proud owner). Muller oversaw a cat- and bird-raising business but switched to miniature horses once she discovered their earning potential. A trained mare can sell for $3,000, and gelded yearlings start at $500. In 1985 the monastery outgrew it 20-acre site in Corpus Christi and moved to Brenham.

“We were just expecting to—as with the birds—just quietly raise horses and sell them to a few people here and there,” Chandler says. Instead, tourists came from across the country and as far as Tasmania and Russia to see the horses. Chandler estimated the monastery has welcomed 20,000 tourists and earned about $250,000 each year through admissions, donations, and sales from horses and the gift shop.

She says the plans are to bring more sisters into the monastery and focus on the nuns’ spiritual life. The monastery also gets income from selling altar breads, and Chandler plans to expand her desktop publishing and design business.

“It’s been wonderful and we’ve loved meeting these people,” Chandler says. “But at the same time, all good things must come to an end. It’s time for us to change focus.”

Holy Land contemplatives accepting email prayer requests

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 08, September 2010 Categories:

According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, a number of contemplative communities in the Holy Land are now accepting e-mail prayer requests, says the Zenit news agency.

In a statement, the patriarchate—the diocese for about 70,000 Latin Rite Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Cyprus—acknowledged these prayer intentions "may be very important to you and this is the reason why you want to entrust them to the people who have devoted their life to God and who live and pray in the Holy Land."

The statement also quoted the upcoming synod of bishops for the Middle East, which states that "the first mission of the monks and moniales [cloistered religious] is the prayer and intercession for society."

The patriarchate invited the faithful to send their prayer requests to one or several of the religious communities. It noted: "You can entrust them your prayers, specifying the details you want to communicate. All this will stay private and only be known by you and the community!"

Here are the communities' email addresses given by the patriarchate:
• Poor Clares, Nazareth:
• Carmelites, Mount Carmel, Haifa:
• Nuns of the Emmanuel, Bethlehem:
• Bridgettine Sisters, Bethlehem:
• Silent Workers of the Cross, Mater Misericordiae, Jerusalem:
• Benedictines, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem:
• Poor Clares, Jerusalem:
• Carmelites of the Pater, Jerusalem:
• Nuns of Bethlehem, Bet Gemal, Bet Shemesh:
• Little Family of the Resurrection, Jerusalem:

Hagia Maria Sion Abbey, a Benedictine abbey in Jerusalem just outside the walls of the Old City near the Zion Gate:

Felicians an early force behind the faith of Domino's Pizza mogul

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 06, September 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life


CALIFORNIA: Eli and Edythe Broad; Michele Chan and Patrick Shoon-Shiong; Ann and John Doerr; Larry Ellison; Barron Hilton; Joan and Irwin Jacobs; Lorry I. Lokey; George Lucas; Alfred E. Mann; Tashia and John Morgridge; Bernard and Barbro Osher; Herb and Marion Sandler; Jeff Skoll; Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor

GEORGIA: Bernie and Bill Marcus; Ted Turner

HAWAII: Pierre and Pam Omidyar

WASHINGTON D.C.-MARYLAND: David M. Rubenstein; Vick and Roger Sant

MICHIGAN: Tom Monaghan MISSOURI: Jim and Virginia Stowers

NEBRASKA: Warren Buffett; Walter Scott Jr.

NEW YORK: Michael R. Bloomberg; Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg; Elaine and Ken Langone; Ronald O. Perelman; Peter G. Peterson; Julian H. Robertson Jr.; David Rockefeller; Jim and Marilyn Simons; Sanford and Joan Weill; Shelby White

OKLAHOMA: George B. Kaiser

PENNSYLVANIA: Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest

TEXAS: Laura and John Arnold; T. Boone Pickens

UTAH: Jon and Karen Huntsman

WASHINGTON: Paul G. Allen; Bill and Melinda Gates


Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan credits the Felician Sisters with forming his faith and putting into perpective the most important things in life,

"I came into the world penniless and as a Catholic Christian," he wrote in a letter of intent to a billionaires' group pleding half of his fortune to charity. "I know that I cannot take any of it with me, so it has long been my desire to use the material resources that I have been blessed with to help others in the most meaningful ways possible. My faith has always been a central part of my life. My early experience of the Catholic faith, taught to me by the Felician Sisters when I was in the orpha

nage during my formative years, served as a foundation for what I would believe to be the most important things in life. As I built and expanded Domino's Pizza for 38 years, my desire to spread the faith also grew."

Monaghan has recently joined "The Giving Pledge," a $125 billion charity drive organized by Bill Gates that involves some of the wealthiest families in the world. "I think it's a great idea to encourage people who have that kind of money to give it to charity," Monaghan said. "When Bill [Gates] recently contacted me, I was more than happy to participate. I've already committed virtually everything I have to charities."

Gates and Buffett, worth $100 billion combined, persuaded 40 others from the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans to join them in the pledge. These billionaires -- worth an estimated $251 billion -- have promised to donate at least half of their wealth to charitable causes of their choice. Gates and Buffett started the program after becoming concerned that the recession cut into charitable giving. The pair, ranked first and second respectively on the Forbes 400 list, reached out to between 70 and 80 of their counterparts, with nearly half responding to the request.

The "Mother Express" rolls out

Posted by:   🕔 Sunday 05, September 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

A car of the "Mother Express"
We recently posted an item below about the lighting of the Peace Bridge between the U.S. and Canada in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Blessed Mother Teresa's birth. Among other honors was the gathering of more than 25 000 people at Kolkata, India's Sealdah railway station for the launch of the "Mother Express" train. Painted in white and blue, the colors of the Missionaries of Charity Mother Teresa founded, the air-conditioned train is a mobile exhibition about her life. It will travel across the country to spread her message of love and care.

Though a Roman Catholic born in Macedonia, Mother Teresa is a national hero to people of all faiths in India. "The poor were attracted to Mother because they perceived that her compassion was authentic. In her presence, they felt consoled and assured that God loves them and cares for them," said Sister Prema, the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity.

The Missionaries of Charity now have 765 houses in 137 countries with more than 5,020 sisters, 370 brothers, and 38 priests.

Catholic colleges do well in annual rankings

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 03, September 2010 Categories:

THE UNIVERSITY of Notre Dame was the top-ranked
Catholic university in the recent U.S. News rankings
The U.S. News and World Report rankings of U.S. colleges for 2010 listed many Catholic universities and colleges in the highest level of schools for 2010. The University of Notre Dame was the top-ranked Catholic school at 19th on the overall list. Georgetown University came in at 21st. Boston College ranked 31st, and Fordham University took 56th. Marquette University ranked 75th, St. Louis University 86th, and the University of Dayton 99th.

Loyola University Chicago tied with the University of San Francisco at 117th. The Catholic University of America and Duquense University also tied at 120th. St. Thomas University (St. Paul, Minn.) followed at 124th. DePaul University and Seton Hall University tied at 136th, while St. John’s University (Jamaica, N.Y.) took the 143rd spot. Immaculata University ranked 176th, and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota at 183rd was the final Catholic school in the magazine’s tier-one listing. Others were listed among tier-two schools.

Among the best liberal arts schools, the College of Holy Cross ranked first among Catholic colleges at 32nd. St. John’s University (Collegeville, Minn.) followed at 62nd. Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, Calif.) ranked 71st. The College of St. Benedict (St. Joseph, Minn.) came in at 81. St. Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Ind.) tied with St. Michael’s College for 93rd place. Siena College (Loudonville, N.Y.) took the 114th spot. St. Anselm College was 122th, St. Norbert College followed at 127th, and St. Vincent College (Latrobe, Pa.) ranked 152nd.

A unique take on the papal chair

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 02, September 2010 Categories:

THE POPE'S chair under construction
Some teachers in Coventry, England are doing their part to give the beatification Mass of Cardinal John Henry Newman a sense of hometown flavor. During the Mass on September 9, Pope Benedict XVI will sit on a chair designed and crafted by Ian Hall, deputy head at Cardinal Newman School, who had the help of two other staff members. The team has been working for three months to build not only the chair but three altars and a lectern that will also be used for the Mass, says England’s

Hall said he wanted people to understand that the project was “not just about making pieces of furniture. I’m a golf fanatic and for me it’s like being asked to play in the Ryder Cup," he said. It’s a way of giving something back to the faith. My children will be able to see it and say ‘my dad made that’.”

The eight-foot chair will be fitted with stained-glass panels depicting the images on the papal coat of arms: a bear, a Moor’s head, and the keys of Saint Peter. The scallop shell on the velour cover is also taken from the papal crest. The three altars, which will be finished next week, will be made out of white ash and also have stained glass. Side by side they will measure 18 feet across.

Hall got involved in the project after Father Timothy Menezes, parish priest of St. Thomas More in Coventry, asked the school’s head teacher if she knew anyone who was up to the job. The designs were approved by officials at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

"Third World" comes in first for women's vocations growth

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 26, August 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

Catholic sisters in India attend
a continuing education program
Although India is an overwhelmingly Hindu and Islamic country, a recent report by Catholic Culture showed that the country led the world in the number of vocations to women’s life in the Catholic Church. India recorded an increase of 9,398 women religious from 2002-2007. In addition to India, the rest of Asia made considerable gains in the number of female religious since 2000. Vietnam saw an increase of 2,545 sisters, while South Korea and the Philippines had increases of about 500.

There was also an upward trend in Africa, where the numbers of sisters in Tanzania and the Congo grew by about 1,500. Nigeria, Madagascar, Kenya, and Angola added 500 to 800 sisters.

In Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, however, there was a downward trend. Overall, 99 nations have seen increases in women’s vocations since 2000. Unfortunately, these gains have not been able to offset the 4.6 percent decline among Western religious sisters. Italy, for example, lost 11,156 sisters from 2002-2007. The United States experienced a loss of 10,454 during the same period.

Currently there are about 750,000 religious sisters serving around the world.

Notes on a monastic discernment

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 24, August 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

A few months ago discerner Jon Perrotti wrote VISION to say that at the time he was "taking part in an 'observership,' a noncommittal residential experience of monastic life, at Mount Saviour Monastery in Pine City, New York." And so," he said, "if sharing my experience can ever be of any help to other men or women considering a monastic vocation, this is the time to capture it with words. . . ." Here’s some of what he said.

"My life has afforded me a great deal of travel and adventure, and I have had much contact and rich encounters with people of other faiths, and indeed even religious experience outside of Christian tradition. I first meditated in a Zen Buddhist temple when I was a 17-year-old exchange student in Japan and practiced meditation off and on into my adulthood. I have done Hindu kirtan chanting and took part in a sweat lodge ceremony on an American Indian reservation. I have had conversations with and been impressed by the intellectual honesty and integrity of atheists, taken part in interfaith dialogue and prayer with Muslims, and danced and drummed with pagans. Yet, for me, [my] vocation would not be remotely possible if I could not bring my heart and mind into exclusive loyalty to one faith.

"I happen to have been born and raised Catholic, and something consistently drew me back to a Catholic expression of Christian faith, but the major turning point of my life that brought me to where I am today happened at the ecumenical monastic community of Taizé. There, the fragmented church, the broken Body of Christ, comes together to declare that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. I learned there that the monastic life is not lived just for the sake of the life itself and its consequences to the monk. It is a radical life of following Christ courageously focused on powerful prayer and powerful witness.

"What a gamble it is to act on the hope that I can make . . . a difference in the world with prayer . . . . Do I really believe in God enough to take such a risk with my life? I don't want to be wasted! Can I trust God to hear my prayers? Where do you start? The problems of the world are so great. Am I running away from the challenge by going off to pray? Not if I believe the words of our Lord. He promised us that we would move mountains with our prayer. By the grace of God, that is what monks are doing and are called to do—move mountains."

He has some important questions. "How about proclaiming the gospel? The Lord told us: ‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house’ (Matthew 5:15). . . . The risk of failing to proclaim the gospel is the same for monks as it is for any other Christian. But the monastery has a unique and powerful opportunity for witness in the modem world, perhaps more than it has in any time in the history of Christendom, because as the world becomes more outrageous in its injustice, depravity, greed, and insane pace, the anomaly of the monastery stands out in stark relief for simply not following suit. More importantly, something happens when believers come together and dedicate their full lives to prayer and praising God. The Holy Spirit makes its presence known. An encounter with real holiness has got to be the most powerful witness to the existence of God that anyone, believer or nonbeliever, will find.

"Is all this vow-taking biblical? I was always particularly impressed with Jesus' admonishment about making oaths: ‘Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black’ (Matthew 5:36). This always rang true for me—live in the now, man! I didn't even like to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag because I thought, why should I pledge allegiance to my country? Who knows what our government will do tomorrow! Someone pointed out to me that vows are really statements of hope. A couple who make vows of marriage join in a common statement of hope that, with God's grace, their love will survive. I can conceive of taking vows because I have hope in Christ . . . and if I believe he is calling me to a particular life, I can make a vow as a statement of hope that I may be able to answer that call to the end.

"The more daunting fears are the fears of one who has made his bet with Christ. . . . If my choice to follow the Lord puts a wedge, or even a world of distance, between me and others, be they strangers whom I would have befriended or members of my own dear family, will that sacrifice have been for nothing? Would God let me make such a mistake? What if there's not a God, and my choice to live a life of prayer is a choice to waste my life? The greater fears about a monastic vocation are human ones. Surely there will be days when God seems to be absent. I think that is true for any pope or street-corner preacher, as it is for all who seek him through their lives. . . . So I will do my best on those days to sing with the psalmist, ‘O Lord . . . . why do you hide your face from me?’ (Psalm 88:14). I pray such days will be few. I believe they will be few, because so far God keeps showing up, amazingly."

Peace Bridge to shed light on Mother Teresa

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 20, August 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

On August 26 the iconic Peace Bridge near Niagara Falls will be lit in blue and white in honor of Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 and is currently under consideration for sainthood. The bridge is being lit as the result of a joint request from the Dioceses of Buffalo and Saint Catharine’s, Ontario.

"We get numerous requests such as this," said Ron Rienas, general manager of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, which runs the Peace Bridge. "We did not take the view that this was a religious request. It's really commemorating the charitable works of Mother Teresa."

The request "seemed fitting," given that Mother Teresa was "certainly a woman of peace," said Kevin A. Keenan, spokesman for the Buffalo diocese. "This is symbolic in that Blessed Mother Teresa's light continues to shine around the world."

The Peace Bridge, which spans the Niagara River connecting Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ontario, received a lighting makeover in 2009 that allows for color-changing lights nightly. Nearly 700 light-emitting diode fixtures replaced floodlights on the 1927 steel arch bridge, creating a dramatic new look at night, typically between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Rienas said the requested tribute for Mother Teresa did not appear to be controversial. "Regardless of anyone's religious background, I don't think anyone can argue with the good works that Mother Teresa did. That's the viewpoint we took," he said.

The manner in which this request was handled is in stark contrast to a similar one a few weeks ago to have the Empire State Building in New York City lit to commemorate Mother Teresa. The request was denied, which resulted in protests by some Catholics and eventually led to the joint request by Bishop Edward Kmiec of the Buffalo diocese and Monsignor Wayne Kirkpatrick of the St. Catharine’s diocese for the lighting of the Peace Bridge.

The Peace Bridge LED Lighting System:




Nun makes ultimate contribution to Alzheimer's research

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Friday 13, August 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Catholic nuns are known for their acts of charity, but Sister Adrienne Schmidt has found a way to give beyond the grave: she will donate her brain to science, reports John Biemer in The Chicago Tribune.

First, though, she participates in an annual battery of memory tests administered by Rush University researchers. Schmidt, 82, repeats numbers and stories in exercises designed to provide a history of how her brain is aging.

When the time comes, Schmidt's brain will join hundreds of others in cooling units in a laboratory at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study tracks cognitive decline to identify risk factors for Alzheimer's.

Schmidt, of the Congregation of St. Joseph in La Grange Park, Illinois, said some of the other sisters were a bit squeamish about donating their brains. But not her: "You know, what's my brain going to do once I'm gone anyway?" she said. "It's ceased."

The Rush researchers sought members of religious orders, hoping they would be willing to donate and would not have children or spouses interfering with that arrangement at the last minute. More than 1,100 nuns, priests and brothers across the country representing a wide range of ethnic groups take part.

I'll trade you two Father Johns for a Father Bill

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 11, August 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

FATHER DAVE Korth, executive director
of St. Augustine Indian Mission
in Winnebago, Nebraska, and senior associate pastor
of four parishes in the Winnebago area,
with his Priesthood Trading Card.
Photo by Lisa Maxson and Shannon R.A. Tarvin/staff
of the Omaha Catholic Voice.
Four mothers from Omaha are taking a unique approach to promoting vocations to the priesthood: collectible priest trading cards. Diane Anderson, one of the moms involved with the project, said, "We wanted to take something secular and put a holy twist to it. We wanted to make it personal, something fun, but something holy as well."

The cards will feature photos and statistics of priests serving in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Anderson, along with Lori Mellender, Cathy Hula, and Melia Vankat, said they thought the cards were a fun way for children, especially boys, to participate in a popular hobby and at the same time learn about local priests and possibly gain interest in the priesthood.

Both active and retired priests have been asked to provide information for the cards. The information includes ordination date, hobbies, favorite prayers and patron saints, and desired charism (blessing or talent the priest has to offer). Cards are published only with the permission of the priest. is printing and packaging the cards, which are being sold in packs of eight at local Catholic bookstores and through card-project coordinators. Packs sell for $1.Each pack includes a card with a picture of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests, and a prayer for priests.

According to Mellender, the project's goal is to encourage children to collect every priest's card, as well as open their hearts to the call to the priesthood.” We want them to understand that God calls ordinary men to do something extraordinary," she said.

Anderson added that the idea of a vocation is somewhat philosophical, so making note of the humanity of each priest may help boys relate and aspire to be a priest. "We need more vocations within our archdiocese, and I personally think that the younger you start to talk to boys about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood, the more open they are to it," Anderson said.

There is no word yet on what a complete set of the cards might be worth in 20 years.

Not by bread alone

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 05, August 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Joellen Tumas runs Casa Catalina, a food pantry in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood. It serves more 350 households a week, but "when you minister to the hungry, it's not just about food," Tumas, a pastoral associate at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church who has led Casa Catalina since 1990, told Dawn Turner Trice in the Chicago Tribune. "Children lose their parents. People get evicted. Families get their gas cut off. We just try to help as best we can to make sure basic needs are met."

Every 15 days people come for food—the bulk of which is provided by the Greater Chicago Food Depository—as well as donated clothes, toiletries and supplies for babies and children, and help with government forms.

Tumas, 67, grew up in Back of the Yards when the stench from the Chicago Stockyards inundated the neighborhood, which was then made up of Eastern European immigrants. "We grew accustomed to pulling together," said Tumas, who has spent much of her career as a teacher, child-care worker, and school spiritual director in the neighborhood. "So this is nothing new."

While the Archdiocese of Chicago was closing parishes the descendants of European immigrants had left, the community's Mexican-American congregations were outgrowing their churches. Tumas learned Spanish and began teaching the new residents English. In 2005 Casa Catalina partnered with Catholic Charities to provide more services, including counseling, rental assistance, legal clinics, blood drives, and health fairs. "Many of our brothers and sisters are diabetic, so we've assembled special diabetic bags with high-fiber spaghetti, brown rice, and sugar-free Jell-O," Tumas said. "It's important to not just feed, but teach about nutrition and living a healthier lifestyle."

Sister Joellen Tumas, Casa Catalina from Meg Handley on Vimeo.

Benedictine nuns sign on with Lady Gaga's record company

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 02, August 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life


As of May 2010 musician Lady Gaga has sold over 15 million records for Universal Music. Universal Music and its subsidiary label, Decca Records, are now hoping that an order of Benedictine nuns will be able to produce similar success. The women religious of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation in France won a global search of more than 70 convents across Europe, the U.S. and Africa. The order was chosen as the finest Gregorian chant singers in the world.

This order dates back to the 6th century and, staying true to their reclusive tradition, the nuns did not seek out a record contract. “We never sought this, it came looking for us,” said the Reverend Mother Abbess. "At first we were worried it would affect our cloistered life, so we asked Saint Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered, and we thought that this album would be a good thing if it touches people's lives and helps them find peace."

The order’s strict rules also meant that Decca Records managing director Dickon Stainer was unable to enter their cloister to sign the contract. "I passed the contract through the grille, they signed it and passed it back," he said.

The sisters' album, Voice: Chant From Avignon, will be released in November. Decca is hoping to repeat the sales of the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, whose 2008 album, Chant: Music for Paradise, has sold more than one million copies.

Green wisdom on the prairie

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 28, July 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Many religious communities are embracing a "green" lifestyle (see the posts on the Sisters of Providence, a group of English Benedictine sisters, and an Austrian monastery and an article in the upcoming 2011 issue of VISION Magazine). We can add another to the list: the sisters of Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton, Wisconsin, an ecumenical community in the Benedictine tradition, which received the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum rating ever: 63 out of 69 points for sustainability, energy efficiency, and choice of materials. The building has bamboo flooring, solar panels, and windows oriented to maximize sunlight and prairie views.

The monastery and part of its prairie
"People wonder why such a small [three-member] community would do something like this," said Sister Mary David Walgenbach. "But we are charged to tread lightly upon the earth."

Pope moves up in the ranks of oldest pontiffs

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 26, July 2010 Categories:

Pope Benedict XVI

This past April, Pope Benedict XVI became the seventh-oldest pope since reliable records began being collected in the year 1400. Benedict XVI, now 83, moved just behind John Paul II who died at 84 years of age. Anura Guruge, an IBM information systems expert, posted a table that ranked the oldest known popes on his website

Guruge did not consider popes who were in office before 1400 as those records “are either unreliable or unavailable and as such are impractical for meaningful analysis.”

Should Benedict XVI remain pope until 2015, he will move into second place behind Clement XII who was 87 at the time of his death. The oldest modern pope, Leo XIII, lived to be 93.

Benedict XVI was elected pope April 15, 2005 three days after his 78th birthday. He was the fifth oldest pope ever to be elected and the oldest in the past 274 years.

During a 2008 homily, Benedict reflected on a passage from the Book of Wisdom on age: “The world reputes that he who lives a long life is fortunate, but God, more than at age, looks at the rectitude of the heart. God,” he said, “is the true wisdom that does not age, he is the genuine richness that does not spoil, he is the happiness to which the heart of every [person] aspires profoundly.”

For sister, they may be Giants

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 22, July 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj, O.S.F.
and her sister Terri Macor at a Giants game
When Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj, O.S.F. is not leading the Villa Maria Education Center—a school for children with learning disabilities where she is director—teaching graduate education classes, writing books, serving on various boards, or utilizing her artistic abilities with her Bernardine Franciscan community in Connecticut, she has a few other things up her sleeve.

Building on a childhood interest in sleight of hand, Nawracaj is a professional magician and a member of the Society of American Magicians. Besides doing magic for her students, faculty, family, friends, and other sisters, she has performed for David Copperfield and Paul Newman and appeared on Entertainment Tonight. She also used her magic to entertain the audience of Nunsense at the Connecticut Broadway Theater.

But that’s not all. During the summer of 1974, when she was studying at Fairfield University where the New York Giants football team was training, she slowly became "first a friend, and then a fan" of the team. She baked cookies for the coaches and players and even made Christmas stockings for their kids, according to an article in the New York Times.

Her developing relationship with the team led to then-head coach Ray Perkins naming her an honorary assistant coach, and subsequent head coaches have renewed her contract. In this capacity she gives “spirit” talks at team meetings, sends congratulatory messages and birthday and holiday remembrances, and collects news clippings of the team that she artistically displays for the players at the end of each season. She accompanied the Giants to all of their Super Bowls and shared in their victory celebrations. Her role as coach has been featured in many newspaper articles, and she has appeared on CBS, FOX, WOR, NFL Today, Sports Channel, and Sports Update.

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

Two halves of a whole: Raphael's designs, tapestries reunited

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Tuesday 20, July 2010 Categories:

The Vatican Museums and London's Victoria and Albert Museum are bringing together two “long-lost twins,” two halves of an artistic masterpiece conceived by the Renaissance master Raphael, reports Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service.

Some of Raphael's enormous tapestries for the Sistine Chapel and his preparatory paintings, called cartoons in the art world, will be united for the first time in the Sistine Chapel exhibition. Since the Renaissance, "the cartoons and the tapestries have led separate lives" and the Sept 8-Oct. 17 exhibit will bring together "the two halves of the same story," said Mark Evans, senior curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Michelangelo completed the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1512. When Pope Leo X was elected the following year, he wanted to leave his mark on the chapel, but every surface had already been painted. He decided to commission a special set of tapestries for the chapel's lower walls. Tapestries were a popular art form at the time and the church liked to use them for special liturgical ceremonies.

Because the designs would be sent off to famed tapestry artisans in Belgium, Raphael had to color them exactly like a painting so weavers would know what precise hues to use. That unique kind of detail meant the cartoons eventually became prized works of art in and of themselves.

The tapestries depicted the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul and events from the Acts of the Apostles. They also were designed to specifically correspond to the frescoed images of the lives of Moses and Jesus.

In 1623, before becoming king, Charles I of England bought seven of Raphael cartoons. They became, as they are to this day, the property of the British royal family. Coinciding with Pope Benedict's visit to England in September, the exhibit is meant to be a visible sign of the coming together of the two countries' common cultural heritage, said Arnold Nesselrath, director of the Vatican Museums' Byzantine, medieval, and modern collections.

Seeing the cartoons alongside the final product is considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, he said; "it was something not even Raphael ever got to see."

(photo credit: one of Raphael's tapestries hanging from a wall of the Sistine Chapel--CNS)

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

One of top U.S. hospitals has Franciscan roots

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 15, July 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Mother Alfred Moes
U.S. News & World Report just released its annual ranking of best U.S. hospitals. Only 152 medical facilities out of almost 9,000 considered made the list, and of those 14 got onto the “honor roll” for their ability to take on and meet the most medical difficult challenges. At number two (behind Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, which has held the top spot for 20 consecutive years) is the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Last July I blogged about the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America exhibit, which is making its way through various venues in the United States (see schedule below). If you attend the exhibit you will find out (among many other things) that the foundress of the Rochester, Minnesota community of the Sisters of Saint Francis, Maria Catherine Moes, later known as Mother Alfred Moes, also had a role in the founding of the Mayo Clinic.

The “Mayo” in the clinic’s name comes from Dr. William Worrall Mayo. After witnessing the destruction of Rochester by a tornado in 1883, Mother Moes proposed to Dr. Mayo that she would build and staff a hospital if he and his sons would agree to provide the medical care. This hospital was the beginning of what would become the Mayo Clinic.

Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America Touring Schedule
May 9, 2010-August 28, 2010: Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Cleveland, Ohio
September 24, 2010-January 22, 2011: Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Liberty Island, New York
February 2011-April 2011: The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, Dubuque, Iowa
June 17, 2011-August 14, 2011: Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles, California
September 2, 2011-December 31, 2011: Center for History in association with the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College, South Bend, Indiana

Attorney-turned-Dominican on national legal aid board

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 08, July 2010 Categories: Clergy

Father Pius Pietrzk, O.P.
On Friday, June 25, President Barack Obama announced the appointment of Father Pius Pietrzyk, O.P. as a member of the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation, reports Father Brian Mulcahy, O.P., prior provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph.

The Legal Services Corporation was established in 1974 and operates as an independent nonprofit corporation to promote equal access to justice and provide grants for high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. It is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. The corporation is headed by a bipartisan board of directors whose 11 members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Before becoming a Dominicans, Pietrzyk attended the University of Chicago law school and after graduation worked in corporate and securities law for the Chicago-based law firm of Sidley & Austin. In that time he discerned a vocation to the priesthood and left the practice of law to enter religious life. He entered the Province of St. Joseph as a novice in 2002 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2008. He currently serves as parochial vicar in St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Zanesville, Ohio.

The musical theme of a monk's journey

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 30, June 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

In April of 2008 I posted a blog item about the Monastery of the Holy Cross, an urban Benedictine monastic community on Chicago’s South Side. Specifically I talked about the award-winning bed-and-breakfast they operate out of one of the monastery buildings.

The community has an interesting history, tracing its roots to three founding brothers who had done mission work and felt called to form a community of prayer. In 1991 they were invited to Chicago in order to establish a contemplative presence in the city and were given a parish church that had been closed. They began renovations of the church and over the next few years were able to purchase several adjacent properties, allowing them to welcome more guests and accommodate more monks. In the mid-1990s the community sought to affiliate itself with the Subiaco Congregation of the Order of Saint Benedict, and in May of 2000 the founding members made their solemn professions as Benedictine monks. On the same day the first new member made his first vows.

The story of the current prior of the community, Father Peter Funk, O.S.B., is as interesting as that of the community itself. Coming from a musical family, Funk studied music theory at the University of Chicago and was getting hired as a cantor at Chicago parishes and leader of music at the university’s Catholic campus ministry. With his childhood friend Jon Elfner, Funk formed a jazz-rock fusion band called Om in 1994, which also included bassist Aaron Kohen and a rotating group of other local musicians. They played their last gig at the Taste of Chicago in 1997. “I wasn’t surprised at all,” Elfner said of his friend’s decision to enter monastic life. “Knowing him as long as I did, he always vested a lot into his religious life.” Funk was prepared to give up music to focus on his monastic formation but got lessons with a voice coach instead.

These days, besides the community’s liturgical music (they devote three and a half to four hours a day to communal sung prayer), Funk also plays in a trio with fellow Benedictines Brother Brendan Creeden, Funk’s former novice master, and novice Ezekiel Brennan. The group performs at social functions the monastery hosts. While he doesn’t listen to much modern music anymore, Funk is still a fan of Steve Reich and Steve Coleman.

Source: and the Chicago Sun-Times

Father’s Day comes early for one dad, now priest

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Tuesday 29, June 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

A former Protestant pastor who is a married father of eight was ordained a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this past June 15. The newly ordained Fr. Paul Shenck was raised Jewish and baptized a Christian when he was 16 years old, Catholic News Agency reports.

In 1994 Shenck left the New Covenant Tabernacle, an evangelical church he founded, and became a pastor in western New York for the Reformed Episcopal Church. He entered the Catholic Church in 2004. He and his wife Rebecca have been married for 33 years.

While Latin-rite Catholic priests are ordinarily required to be celibates, a special provision instituted in 1980 by Pope John Paul II allows the ordination of married men in certain cases.

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags: married priest

Ursuline Sisters Celebrate 475 Years

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 25, June 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
Saint Angela Merici
with Ursuline sisters

How could a woman in her 60s, together with a small supporting group of older women, gather two dozen young women to live a new life and end up becoming a force for reform and renewal in the whole Western Church? This is what happened in 1535 in Brescia, Italy and the woman was Angela Merici, says Ursuline Sister Elisa Ryan, OSU in an update sent to VISION about her community.

Within 100 years, following the reforming Council of Trent, her small Company of St. Ursula inspired Ursuline foundations throughout Europe and soon after in North and South America. Today Ursulines are found in every corner of the world. The Holy Spirit was Angela's life-long guide. Her parting counsel to the members of her company was to remain united and obedient to the Holy Spirit who speaks without ceasing in their hearts.

Ursulines are women called to grow in holiness, women committed to respond to the counsels and urgings of the Holy Spirit to lead a new life in our Church and in our world. Ursuline life mentors this growth in ways that have reflected the very diverse times and needs of the Church. Today a new Church awaits a new generation of Ursulines. Click here to read more about the Ursulines in VISION's digital edition.

The Blues Brothers a Catholic classic?

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 22, June 2010 Categories:

While Catholicism plays only a supporting role in John Landis’ 1980 film The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues, it still qualifies as a “Catholic classic”, at least according to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the movie's release, the paper put it on a list of recommended films which also includes Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, Jesus of Nazareth from Franco Zeffirelli, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Victor Flemming's Joan of Arc, and It's a Wonderful Life from Frank Capra.

But, besides providing the reason for the wild road trip the brothers make—to raise money for the church-run orphanage where they grew up—there isn’t that much church in the movie. In fact, the scene where Sister Mary Stigmata—also known as “The Penguin”—sends them on their “mission from God” is dotted with obscenities, and beatings from Sister.

Nonetheless, the editor of L’Osservatore, Gian Maria Van, said the film’s “Catholic and spiritual heft were not lacking” and was “rich with ideas.” Heck, one scene even had a photo of the young Pope John Paul II hanging on a wall. Of the brothers’ effort to save the orphanage, Van wrote: “For them, this Catholic institution is their only family—and they decide to save it at any cost.” The movie is a “memorable film and, judging by the facts, a Catholic one” (emphasis added).

Official church opinion of the film, however, was not always so positive. When The Blues Brothers first appeared, the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered this review: “The plot is interspersed with scenes of wholesale destruction and frenzied chases which are spectacularly unfunny and uninvolving . . . . Some good musical portions from Cab Calloway and Ray Charles, but not enough depth from director John Landis to save this zany comedy from milking cheap laughs from rough language and crude situations.” The bishops’ gave office the movie an A-III rating: “For Adults Only.”

Sister recognized as an innovative educator

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 16, June 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Cristina Marie
Trudeau, S.N.D.
The American Montessori Association recently gave a lifetime achievement award to Sister Christina Marie Trudeau, S.N.D., a member of the California Province of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Trudeau, the Association said, “has worked tirelessly on behalf of Montessori education, providing inspiration to Montessori teachers, teacher educators, and adult learners around the world.”

In a 60-plus-year career she has been instrumental in starting Montessori teacher education programs and Montessori schools for young children in California, Washington State, Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines.

Her interest in children and serving the poor led Trudeau to emphasize the Montessori Cosmic Plan of Education in the teacher education programs with which she has been associated. This approach uses the cullture of the place where the program is located as well as its natural environment as the basis for integrating curriculum and creating materials, rather than relying on European materials and organizing curriculum according to disciplines.

Empire State Building turns off to Mother Teresa

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Tuesday 15, June 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

New York City's Empire State Building said "yes" to Mariah Carey, dog shows, cancer charities, even the 60th anniversary of communist China. But the landmark skyscraper's owners have declined to illuminate the iconic skyscraper in honor of the late Mother Teresa.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said his advocacy group requested that the building be lit on August 26 for the centennial of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner's birth. The request was denied in an unsigned, faxed letter, Donohue said, "and they never gave an explanation."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the Associated Press that she spoke with Empire State Building owner Anthony Malkin. Although the real estate mogul was "very professional" and said he "would reflect on the points I made," she said, he didn't give her a satisfactory answer.

Mother Teresa helped open a pioneering hospice for AIDS patients in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. "Her impact on the world was so much greater than one religious group," Quinn said.

Illuminating the 102-story high-rise on Fifth Avenue in different colors to mark an important date, cause, or personality is a New York tradition. The building is color-decorated for religious holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah and other special occasions.

For Mother Teresa, the building would glow in blue and white in the New York night--the colors of her Missionaries of Charity order. Mother Teresa died in 1997, at 87, and was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church-- a step toward possible sainthood.

Requesting a lighting display involves filling out an application evaluated by the Empire State Building Co., which is privately owned and considers selection "a privilege, not an entitlement," according to the website with the application form. A decision is made "at the sole discretion of the (company's) ownership and management."

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

French church reaches out for more priests

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 11, June 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

There are around 24,000 priests in France today, down from 42,000 in 1975. But vocation ministers are responding by launching a campaign to reach out to the public with newspaper inserts and brochures that showcase real priests and their passion for people and humanity, says a National Public Radio story. The campaign is also distributing 50,000 postcards aimed at 16- to 22-year-olds—depicting a Catholic priest's garb with a button reading "Jesus is my Boss" pinned to the lapel and the slogan "Why not?"—in cafes, bars, and cinemas and on college campuses.

“Priests suffer from a low social status, so we're trying to change that by showing what being a priest really means,” says Frederic Fonfroide de Lafon, the head of the firm the church has hired to run the campaign. “A priest has extensive training in philosophy and the humanities. He is not someone who lives apart from society in his own world, but someone who participates. A priest accompanies people in the most important moments of their lives." Church officials say they are pleased with the campaign's reception; its Facebook page has had 40,000 visitors already, and vocation ministers say they are receiving more than 100 emails a day since the campaign began in April.

Listen to the full National Public Radio story.

She must have used her "nun voice"

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 08, June 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

When Sister Lynn Rettinger, S.C., a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill in Pittsburgh, saw a man reach into an open car window and take a wallet a couple of weeks ago, she spoke to him as she would have any erring student in her 50 years of teaching, telling him, “You need to give me what you have.”

The man, whom police were still looking for, handed over the wallet, apologized, and walked away.

Sister Rettinger, by the way, just celebrated her jubilee anniversary as a Sister of Charity and has this to say about her vocation: “Striving to live always in the presence of God and practicing that charism in my daily routine has had a centering effect on my ministry. Through the years the virtues of humility, simplicity, and charity have become part of the fabric of living to the point where we ourselves don’t recognize how integral they are to us. It is always an awakening when a lay person comments on how those virtues are lived. It is often someone from outside oneself who points out what we take for granted.”

Some relief for victims of Gulf oil spill

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Tuesday 01, June 2010 Categories:

As millions of gallons of oil from the offshore rig explosion foul hundreds of square miles in the Gulf of Mexico, at least there is some news to cheer. Catholic News Service reports that well owner BP donated $1 million in emergency relief funds to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The grant will allow local church relief agencies to provide emergency food, financial and counseling assistance to needy fishing families.

BP earmarked $750,000 to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans for direct assistance such as gift cards to local grocery stores, case management and counseling, and $250,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana for emergency food boxes.

In response to the catastrophe, Catholic Charities has opened five emergency centers at local churches to distribute the financial aid and offer counseling to fishing families. The $1 million grant will help fund outreach services for three months, and the program is likely to be extended if the impact of the oil spill grows.

Sisters' stories

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 27, May 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life
The National Catholic Reporter Online has a “Women religious: Lives of mercy and justice” section that draws “attention to the remarkable work of women religious around the globe.” It currently includes a number of reports from the five-day meeting of the International Union of General Superiors held in Rome in early May, which gathered 800 leaders of women's religious communities from around the world.

The reappearing nun

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Thursday 20, May 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Bobby Brasher tells a story of coincidence on an American Public Media radio program called The Story. It involves two of the lowest moments of her life—and a nun who appeared at just the right time, in two different hospitals, years apart. Even though Bobby hasn't seen Sr. Jane Neussendorfer in almost 20 years, to her, their interaction was unforgettable.

Bobby thinks of this odd coincidence often as she does her own work as a nurse.

Tune in to listen to the fascinating story of how a Catholic nun made a real difference—twice—in the life of a woman at the most critical moment.

Building a monastery of the heart

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 18, May 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

St. Scholastica Chapel at Mount St. Scholastica
“Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?”

That’s the question that spoke to journalist and poet Judith Valente from the Rule of St. Benedict, which has guided Benedictine monastic life for about 1,500 years. The 17th-century bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet called the Rule “an epitome of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgement of all the doctrines of the gospel, all the institutions of the Fathers, and all the counsels of perfection"—or, as Valente reported in an October 30, 2009 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly story, “It’s been said everything one needs to know about living the spiritual life is contained in this little book.”

Starting in June of 2008 the Rule had become Valente’s constant companion. She had been invited to share as a layperson in the life of Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery for women in Atchison, Kansas (and a VISION Vocation Network advertising-community), for a book she’d been asked to write. “I admit I questioned at first what practical wisdom a monastery might hold for a modern, married, professional woman like me,” Valente said. “It turns out I’ve learned plenty.

“I used to think of monasteries as outmoded remnants of a past era,” Valente said. “But now, when I enter Mount St. Scholastica, I feel as if I’m peering into the future, a future our world so desperately needs—one that stresses community over competitiveness, service over self-aggrandizement, quietude over gratuitous talk, and simplicity over constant consumption. The Mount is a place where those who listen are valued as much as those who speak up; a place where people forgo personal wealth but want for nothing; where prayers are said for the victims of violent crime and bells are tolled when a Death Row prisoner is executed.”

Valente found another countercultural example in the monastic idea of stability. “At Mount St. Scholastica there are sisters who have lived together for as many as 75 years. Having moved from state to state here in the U.S. and lived in three European cities over the course of my career, the notion of spending one’s entire life in the same place seems quite foreign to me. In fact, the whole concept is alien to our highly mobile American society. Stability reminds us to grow where we’re planted.

“I suppose,” she said, “I am just one of the many Benedict has spoken to through the ages who yearns for life and desires to see good days. ‘Run, then,’ Benedict reminds me and all of us, ‘while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.’ ”

Nun on the run

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 12, May 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Lisa Smith Batchen
and Sister Mary Elizabth Lloyd

We’ve talked about athlete-nuns before (see the item on triathlete Sister Madonna Bruder, 6/3/09 below), and here’s another one: ultramarathoner Sister Mary Elizabeth Lloyd, M.P.F., 62, of the Religious Teachers Filippini, who with her friend Lisa Smith Batchen has pledged to walk and run 50 miles in each of the 50 states within 62 days to raise $1 million for orphans around the world.

Lloyd first met Smith Batchen, now a leading endurance runner, when Lloyd was a teacher and track coach at Villa Walsh Academy Catholic high school in Morristown, New Jersey and Smith Batchen was a cross-country running coach there.

When Smith Batchen was trying to come up with a way to celebrate her 50th birthday, Lloyd suggested the run/walk event. The 50 miles-50 states idea stands for the Filippini community’s 100th anniversary in the U.S. this year, while the 62 days comes from the 62 miles in ultramarathons which equal 100 kilometers, a race standard.

Lloyd has elected to walk and jog the her part of the trek, called “Running Hope Through America,” because she is still recovering from losing her toenails at a Labor Day marathon. “My goal is to stay out six hours each day,” she said. The two began their effort on April 20 in a Morris Township, New Jersey park where Smith Batchen ran a loop all day until completing 50 miles.

Lloyd, who has a doctorate in nutrition and public health from Columbia University, received the 2008 Servitor Pacis (Path to Peace) Award from the Vatican’s Mission to the United Nations for her work with AIDS orphans.

Ring one up for the church in Phoenix

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 28, April 2010 Categories:

A U.S. federal court has ruled that a Phoenix, Arizona, ordinance that limits the sound of church bells is an unconstitutional infringement of religious expression, reports Ecumenical News International. Three Phoenix churches, including a Roman Catholic parish, had sued over the ordinance, which prohibits "any unusual or disturbing" sound. In one instance neighbors had complained after one of the congregations moved to a new location and began ringing their church's electronic bells every hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The bells rang at 67 decibels; the law had made an exception for ice cream trucks, which were allowed to ring up to 70 decibels.

ARIZONA UPDATE: Arizona is taking heat from the church again--this time for its newly enacted immigration law. Arizona's bishops have expressed their opposition to the legislation. They stated earlier this month that the legislation may have many unintended consequences, including keeping dangerous criminals on the street because illegal immigrants will be afraid to report crimes. Now New Mexico's three Catholic bishops have issued a statement saying they are concerned the law could lead to racial profiling, community distrust, and a pervasive fear among immigrants. According to an Associated Press report, Arizona's law would make it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally. Set to take effect in late July or early August, the law directs state and local police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal. The New Mexico Catholic bishops say immigration reform is needed at the national level to deal with disparities in current immigration law and that Arizona's measure "is not in keeping with the best traditions of our nation."

Catholic population grows

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 28, April 2010 Categories:

The number of Catholics in the world is now 1.16 billion, according to the just released Statistical Yearbook of the Church published by the Vatican and comprising information from 2000 through 2008.

The number of priests worldwide increased slightly over this nine-year period from 405,178 to 409,166. Non-ordained religious men decreased from 55,057 in the year 2000 and 54,641 in 2008.  Women religious continue to outnumber priests by almost 2 to 1 but their numbers have fallen from 800,000 in 2000 to 740,000 in 2008. 

With an 11.54 percent increase in Catholics, we can rest assured that new vocations to religious life are in the making!

Maronite Catholic honored by Israel

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 19, April 2010 Categories:

Yossef Mtanes' decision to be one of the torch lighters at the April 19 opening celebration of Israel's 62 Independence Day commemorations was not an easy one, writes Judith Sudilovsky of Catholic News Service.

An 82-year-old Maronite Catholic, Mtanes was born in the northern village of Biram, which was destroyed during Israel's 1948 war of independence.

Israel wanted to honor Mtanes for his actions as a 19-year-old, when he worked in the offices in the then-British-run refinery. When a riot broke out in November, 1947, Mtanes hid his six Jewish co-workers, protecting them from injury and possible death. Since then, he also has worked to ensure ethnic Jews and Arabs live peacefully together.

Mtanes said his deep religious faith has directed his actions throughout his life. "I believe in God and I believe that it is forbidden to kill an innocent man," he said. "What else could I have done? These were innocent people who had nothing to do with the violence going on outside. I am very proud that they have remembered me after 63 years and want to (show their respect) for me."

Biram, Mtanes' native village, was destroyed by fledgling Israeli forces after the residents left voluntarily when they were promised they would be able to return within a short time.

Although the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the villagers were wrongfully removed from their village and many successive Israeli governments have supported the return of Biram's residents, no government has actually taken action to move the case forward

His son, Kamil Mtanes, 52, said his father is a prominent member of the Maronite community in Israel and has been very active preserving its history. "I am very proud to be the son of such a father," he said. "He has always been a guiding light for us."

Communities receive—community award!

Posted by: Dianne Potter   🕔 Wednesday 14, April 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

Recently I posted an item below about the ministry and vocation activities of the Visitiation Sisters in Minneapolis. Now, the larger Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary to which they belong has received some major recognition: the 2010 Religious Community Award from the National Catholic Education Association. The Visitations shared the award with Franciscan family of sisters and the Sisters and Daughters of Charity.

The award is presented each year to "orders tied to the schools that have been working in the vineyard for a long time and have given long and faithful to the Catholic school system," said the NCEA's Brian Gray. The award is also often tied to a significant anniversary of an order. This June, for example, the Visitation community celebrates its founding 400 years ago, in Annecy, France.

You can find information about all these communities, and many others, here on the VISION Vocation Nework website.

Was official’s foot-washing a step too far?

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 12, April 2010 Categories:

On Holy Thursday the practice of the washing of feet is part of the liturgy. But what happens when a government official brings it into the workplace?

Craig Taffaro, president of St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, didn’t see a problem with his going through his office washing the feet of employees who wished it, reports an April 7, 2010 Religion News Service story. Far from it, actually:

“As the chief executive officer of St. Bernard Parish Government, I thought it was an appropriate gesture to show that I am as humbled as any other sinner in the world, so much so that I would offer to wash the feet of the employees,” Taffaro said.

He also said employees were not pressured to take part and that most did. “If they wanted to participate, they could. If they didn’t, no problem,” said Taffaro, who is Catholic. “I didn’t keep a list or anything like that.”

His blurring of the line between religion and state, however, did not escape the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose executive director, Marjorie R. Esman, wrote Taffaro a letter reminding him that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government officials from imposing religious practices on employees at the workplace. Esman said the ACLU trusts he will refrain from further religious practices in the workplace.

St. Bernard Parish Councilman Wayne Landry heard about Taffaro’s action from employees when he came to work Thursday afternoon. He said a few employees told him they felt uncomfortable with the way it was done.

“Perhaps had it been an invited thing for whoever wanted to come, maybe those types of comments I received would have been avoided,” Landry said. “On the other side, I certainly wouldn’t want to diminish the good will that was exhibited by the president in the spirit of Easter. I believe his intentions were good.”

More new Catholics in Baltimore

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 05, April 2010 Categories:

William J. Huller has been attending Mass with his wife for more than a half-century. The Catonsville man drove their six children to catechism classes and celebrated as they advanced through the sacraments of the church. On Saturday, at the age of 83, Huller became a Catholic, reports The Baltimore Sun.

"It'll be a change," Huller said before the Easter Vigil Mass at his local parish, where he formally became a member of the church into which he had married and raised his family. "It's kind of a new experience for me."

Huller was one of 1,090 adults who joined the Catholic Church at Masses throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore this Easter, establishing a new record for the archdiocese for the second straight year.

Photo: Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun

"We're on a roll, I guess,' said Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien. He said while he'd like to give credit for the increase to the archdiocesan staff, he said, "the rubber hits the road in the parishes. It's there where we find the real life of the church."

Many parishes have active evangelism programs run by lay members, which provide an opportunity for people to invest in the life of the church, O'Brien said. "The fact that the church is active and upfront and involved gets people's attention," he said. "We're not being ignored. We're there in every part of the process and very visible and audible, and that creates an interest in people who may have no church community."

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

There's an app for that

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Friday 02, April 2010 Categories:
Ave Maria Press has announced the launch of Stations of the Cross, its first application for the iPhone and iPod Touch, reports Lynn Garrett of Publishers Weekly. The free download is based on John Paul II's Biblical Way of the Cross by Amy Welborn and Michael Dubruiel with full-color station images from paintings by Michael O'Brien (Ave Maria Press, 2009), a popular devotional for Catholics.



Visitation Sisters get proactive about new members

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 31, March 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

In the 2004 issue of VISION magazine we ran an item about the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis, who for 20 years have opened the doors of their Old Highland area homes to neighbors in need of food, shelter, other physical necessities, or just someone to talk with. They reach out especially to children and families, offering toys, crafts, games, snacks, and activities such as baking and trips to karate lessons. If friends and neighbors arrive during prayer time, they are invited to join the sisters in their chapel, which is consciously located next to the front door.

Baking party at the sisters' house
Now, says a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Carolyn Mann, the sisters “are waging a multimedia campaign to draw more women” to their community. They are seeking to double their membership, to 14, and their efforts include news releases, bulletin announcements at parishes, Facebook (they have over 300 fans), and blogging."For a long time we've wanted new members, but we just took the bull by the horns this year," says Sister Katherine Mullin, V.H.M.

Their effort began last January with the launch of a new website. With a group of supporters they call Vocation Partners the sisters are also developing a strategic plan to attract women between 20 and 45 years old. Outreach will include “live in” experiences and “nonthreatening” ways to attract people, like hosting dinners and information sessions, says Sister Joanna O'Meara, V.H.M.

"The effort is really to shout out with a loud voice, 'We're here, we're here!' " O'Meara said. "We want to be able to continue here. Certainly there are many things we could be about, but we need more members to do it, for kind of practical reasons."

Their community, says Sister Suzanne Homeyer, V.H.M., offers young women an opportunity "to combine their spirituality, religion, and life in the real world."

Drive-through Stations of the Cross

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 29, March 2010 Categories:

There's an innovative version of the Stations of the Cross in Margate this weekend, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Photo: Archdiocese of Miami

The U-shaped driveway of St. Vincent Catholic Church will be the pilgrimage route for a drive-through Stations of the Cross, reports James D. Davis, Sun-Sentinel religion writer.

Drivers will see some 80 costumed members of the parish do short dramas on small sets, including a mountain and a street scene. "We have a lot of older members who find it hard to walk," said Robert Ciantelli, who will direct the presentations. "We can also show it to more people this way."

Update: Father Tolton's sainthood cause opened

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 24, March 2010 Categories: Clergy

   Father Augustus Tolton
We ran an item in this blog last January 5 on the life of Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897), the first African American Roman Catholic priest in the United States. On March 18 the Archdiocese of Chicago announced it was taking the preliminary steps in making Father Tolton a candidate for official sainthood.

The Chicago Sun-Times story on the move had an interesting quote from Tolton: "It was said that I would be the only priest of race in America and would not likely succeed," he wrote. But an Italian cardinal told him, "'America has been called the most enlightened nation; we'll see if it deserves that honor. If America has never seen a black priest, it has to see one now.' "

The Vatican all a-twitter

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 22, March 2010 Categories:

The Vatican this weekend opened six Twitter accounts, including one in English, reports John Thavis of Catholic News Service. The move comes in response to promptings from Catholic media worldwide that the Holy See get up to speed with regard to the use of "new media"—social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The Twitter presence was launched the day Pope Benedict published his letter to Irish Catholics on priestly sex abuse. As a result, the first nine Vatican tweets were on the sex abuse issue, mainly citing past papal statements. In the future, Twitter will be used by Vatican Radio and other Vatican media outlets when there's particularly important news.

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

Eco-friendly nuns choose to live under a green roof

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 22, March 2010 Categories: Consecrated Life

One of the stories we're following for our upcoming VISION 2011 issue is communities going green. Here is a great story and video about the eco-friendly Benedictine nuns of the Conventus of Our Lady of Consolation in England:
















Pope's apology includes call for renewal

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 20, March 2010 Categories:
Among the 14 specific points Pope Benedict XVI addressed in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, issued on March 19, was a call to renewal among priests and religious, bishops, and lay Catholics:

10. To the priests and religious of Ireland
All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse. In view of the outrage and indignation which this has provoked, not only among the lay faithful but among yourselves and your religious communities, many of you feel personally discouraged, even abandoned. I am also aware that in some people’s eyes you are tainted by association, and viewed as if you were somehow responsible for the misdeeds of others. At this painful time, I want to acknowledge the dedication of your priestly and religious lives and apostolates, and I invite you to reaffirm your faith in Christ, your love of his Church and your confidence in the Gospel's promise of redemption, forgiveness and interior renewal. In this way, you will demonstrate for all to see that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (cf. Rom 5:20).

I know that many of you are disappointed, bewildered and angered by the way these matters have been handled by some of your superiors. Yet, it is essential that you cooperate closely with those in authority and help to ensure that the measures adopted to respond to the crisis will be truly evangelical, just and effective. Above all, I urge you to become ever more clearly men and women of prayer, courageously following the path of conversion, purification and reconciliation. In this way, the Church in Ireland will draw new life and vitality from your witness to the Lord's redeeming power made visible in your lives.


11. To my brother bishops
It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. . . . All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should do likewise. . . .

Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily. For them, in the words of Saint Augustine, you are a bishop; yet with them you are called to be a follower of Christ (cf. Sermon 340, 1). I therefore exhort you to renew your sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with your people and to deepen your pastoral concern for all the members of your flock. In particular, I ask you to be attentive to the spiritual and moral lives of each one of your priests. Set them an example by your own lives, be close to them, listen to their concerns, offer them encouragement at this difficult time and stir up the flame of their love for Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters. The lay faithful, too, should be encouraged to play their proper part in the life of the Church. See that they are formed in such a way that they can offer an articulate and convincing account of the Gospel in the midst of modern society (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and cooperate more fully in the Church’s life and mission. This in turn will help you once again become credible leaders and witnesses to the redeeming truth of Christ.


12. To all the faithful of Ireland
A young person’s experience of the Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving, nourishing community. In this environment, young people should be encouraged to grow to their full human and spiritual stature, to aspire to high ideals of holiness, charity and truth, and to draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition. In our increasingly secularized society, where even we Christians often find it difficult to speak of the transcendent dimension of our existence, we need to find new ways to pass on to young people the beauty and richness of friendship with Jesus Christ in the communion of his Church. In confronting the present crisis, measures to deal justly with individual crimes are essential, yet on their own they are not enough: a new vision is needed, to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith. By treading the path marked out by the Gospel, by observing the commandments and by conforming your lives ever more closely to the figure of Jesus Christ, you will surely experience the profound renewal that is so urgently needed at this time. I invite you all to persevere along this path.

VISION helps discerner discern

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 03, March 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Hannah Corbin (left) gets a hug from Sister Denise Wilkinson, general superior, during her entrance into the postulancy Sept. 14 under the watchful eye of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
Hannah Corbin is a postulant with the Sisters of Providence—and part of her journey to religious life involved VISION!

“Hannah’s ‘call’ to religious life,” says a story on the Sisters of Providence website, “was a gradual process. . . . She began to research other religious communities to see what choices were possible. She went online to the VISION website and read flyers on bulletin boards at college. She remembers seeing the Providence Volunteer Ministry (PVM) opportunity [on the VISION site] with the Sisters of Providence.”

Read Hannah’s full story here. And check out the Opportunities section on the VISION site to find a large number of discernment and service events available with Catholic communities of consecrated life.

NY Times columnist wants "to grow up and become a Polish nun"

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 01, March 2010 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff, who often writes about humanitarian crises around the world, has this engaging paragraph in his February 27, 2010 column on the growing role of faith-based groups in humanitarian relief efforts:

"One of the most inspiring figures I've met while covering Congo's brutal civil war is a determined Polish nun in the terrifying hinterland, feeding orphans, standing up to drunken soldiers and comforting survivors--all in a war zone. I came back and decided: I want to grow up and become a Polish nun."

Keep missionaries and relief workers of all faith traditions in your prayers today. And tell us how YOU are helping alleviate suffering somewhere in the world--through a donation, a volunteer effort, alternative spring break, or the like.

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:

Catholic higher education provides lifelong lessons

Posted by: Dan Grippo   🕔 Monday 08, February 2010 Categories:

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University is a nonprofit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. CARA has conducted a significant amount of research on the long-term effects (throughout life) of attending a Catholic higher education institution, with some interesting results:

Catholics who attended a Catholic college or university are more likely than Catholics who attended a non-Catholic college (public or private) to:

  • Attend Mass every week (34 compared to 19 percent)
  • Register with a parish (75 compared to 55 percent)
  • To agree that "I seriously consider the Church's statements, such as those of the Pope and U.S. Bishops on social, political and moral issues" (55 percent compared to 38 percent)
  • To agree that "all human life, from conception to natural death, is sacred. For this reason, the taking of life-whether through abortion, the death penalty, or assisted suicide-is wrong" (53 percent compared to 35 percent)
  • To oppose the death penalty (51 compared to 33 percent)
  • To disagree that "a woman should have the right whether or not to abort an unwanted pregnancy" (44 percent compared to 24 percent)
  • To oppose "making it legal for a physician to help a dying person commit suicide" (53 compared to 43 percent)
  • To agree that "Catholics have a duty to close the gap between the rich and the poor" (54 percent compared to 38 percent)
  • To agree that "society has a responsibility for helping poor people get out of poverty" (76 compared to 59 percent)
  • To agree that "the United States has a responsibility to take the lead in global peace-building (i.e., non-violent solutions to conflict)" (73 percent compared to 60 percent)
  • To agree that "It is important to me to do what I can do to help poor and needy people in countries outside of the United States" (71 percent compared to 54 percent)
  • To say that, when making political choices, they draw on their Catholic faith either "very much" or "somewhat" (70 compared to 55 percent)
  • Among men, those who have attended a Catholic college are more likely to say they considered becoming a priest or brother (43 compared to 23 percent)
  • Among women, those who have attended Catholic college are more likely to say they considered becoming a sister or nun (39 compared to 20 percent)

"Across the board, Catholics who have attended a Catholic college or university are more likely than those who attended a non-Catholic college to respond in a manner that is more consistent with Church teachings and practice," says CARA in reporting on its research.

What is your own experience? What is your opinion of Catholic colleges and universities and their role in faith development?

0 comments  -  Add your own comment  -  Follow my posts  -  Permalink Tags:


Follow Us


Click on a date below to see the vocation events happening that day!