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2011 Posts

A look at the hidden life of St. Joseph

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 21, December 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life,Clergy

Jesuit Fr. James Martin, S.J. recently published a brilliant piece about the hidden life of St. Joseph and his thoughtful ministry of raising Jesus and being a humble servent of the Lord. 

In this short film, Martin highlights and examines the life of Joseph and how important he was in Jesus's life as well as ours. St. Joseph is someone we should try to emulate. He was a great example of someone who lived a truly devotional life to his family and to the Lord. Take a couple minutes and check out this wonderful short film. In this season of Christmas, Martin urges us to remember St. Joseph.


Sister teams with five-star chef to feed the hungry in style

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 20, December 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

FRANCISCAN SISTER Maureen Dorr and Chef
Alfred Astl with patrons at the Trinity Café
As a young man Alfred Astl started cooking at his parents’ mountain inn in Austria. He went on to become a chef, working at restaurants in Europe and the United States, including the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, the Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania, and the late George Steinbrenner's Yankee Trader at Bay Harbor Inn. He also co-owned a restaurant with his wife and worked as a corporate chef.

The long hours of the restaurant world, however, began to burn him out, and ten years ago he saw an opening for a weekday lunch-chef position in Tampa, Florida and applied.

His new employer was Trinity Café, which serves 230 free hot lunches out of a Salvation Army facility every weekday, holidays included. “Anyone who comes to our door is welcome—without question or qualification,” the Café’s website says. “We serve free meals to homeless, poor, and anyone wishing to receive a meal.”

Besides a five-star chef in the kitchen, the restaurant has other amenities you might not expect in a place that offers free meals, like the cloth-covered tables set with china dishes and silverware Astl insists on. Volunteer waiters serve the patrons in courses, and every meal includes salad or soup, a healthy portion of protein, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert, and a piece of fruit, all for about $2 a serving. The café's $455,000 annual budget depends on donations and grants.

Astl and two part-time kitchen staff members cook 1,000 meals a week. Since it began, Trinity Café has served more than 717,000 meals.

”It could be very easy to say, OK, we’re feeding homeless people. Who cares?” Astl told Alexandra Zayas of the St. Petersburg Times. “If I ever say that, I’ll quit. . . . Some of these people have problems out there they can’t do anything about. By the time they leave, they’re in a whole different frame of mind.”

At the about the same Chef Astl started at the Café, Franciscan Sister of Allegany Maureen Dorr stopped in to volunteer. She has never left.

For 40 years Sister Maureen worked in education as a teacher and administrator. At the Café she walks the food line and dining room, giving out hugs, advice, and prayers. She can be persuaded to take a turn dancing in the middle of the room. Once a week she visits the jail.

“Saint Francis [of Assisi] taught us about living out the gospel and serving the poor," she told The Tampa Tribune’s Michelle Bearden. "But truth is, I don't minister to them. I minister with them. I firmly believe there are such good people who have had bad opportunities. They show me the way to God as much as I try to show them."

Now 81, Dorr has no plans to stop. "Nuns don't retire," she said. "We just get recycled. As long as God gives you the health, you keep on moving."

Read more about the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.

Light it Up

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 19, December 2011 Categories:

Just in time to get you into the holiday spirit. With only 5 days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, I thought it would be appropriate to show you some of the boldest, tackiest, silliest, over the top Christmas lights from across the US.

The Huffington Post published a very funny slideshow feature about some of the best (or worst) holiday lights people put up this Christmas season. Regardless, of how they look, it is the season to put out your best and enjoy the spirit of Christmas. Here is just one example of what was put up on display. 

Every year, I get more and more ideas about what to include in my Christmas light display. Each year, with the more I add, I find that I become more excited about what Christmas is all about. Spending time with our families or those we love and celebrating all the good times we have had is what the season is all about. Getting together and celebrating each other company is something I enjoy. 

So although some of these lights are a bit over the top, I have to commend people for getting into the spirit of the season and celebrating Christmas.

So put up a couple more lights, put on some Christmas music, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and prepare for the birth of our Savior with a little humor and light. 

Visitation Sisters' internship, monastic immersion programs

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 16, December 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

STUDENTS from Creighton University
in service with the Visitation Sisters.
The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis are launching two new programs: the Visitation Internship Program (VIP) and the Monastic Immersion Program. The programs are intended to identify ways in which the sisters can address needs within the north Minneapolis neighborhood in which they live and minister as well as attract people to their community. North Minneapolis is an economically challenged area of the Twin Cities, and the Visitation Sisters strive to create a prayerful presence in the neighborhood.

The VIP program, which was successfully launched this fall, is a year-long internship program where participants provide service alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. The sisters have welcomed two young women as the inaugural participants to the VIP Program: Kelly Schumacher, a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana College in Illinois, and Beth Anne Cooper, a native of New York and graduate of Hope College in Michigan. Both young women are teaching English as Second Language classes to immigrants and refugees, doing advocacy work, working with grade-schoolers on both schoolwork and relationship-building, coaching youth sports, learning more about restorative justice, and planning service-learning for small groups which includes urban immersion experiences.

The sisters are also in the process of launching the new Monastic Immersion Program, offered by the sisters to women desiring an in-depth immersion into the monastic life. Through the Monastic Immersion Program, women have an opportunity to " ‘try on’ monastic customs and values,” said Sister Mary Frances Reis, contact for Visitation’s Monastic Immersion Program. They are invited to live the monastic life with the sisters for a period of six months to a year. Each participant is expected to enter fully into the sisters’ life of prayer, presence, and ministry during her stay. Prospective participants may come from any Christian faith tradition.

For more information about the VIP Program:

For more information about the Monastic Immersion Experience:

Sisters make statement with Billboards

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 14, December 2011 Categories:

In preparation for the Iowa caucuses, 10 communities of religious sisters issued billboards Monday across Iowa with a Gospel message in addition to a statement calling on the president and Congress to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform.

The billboards read, "I was an immigrant and you welcomed me" with a strikethrough the phrase "a stranger" and signed "Jesus." The verse is a take on Matthew 25:35.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque is one of the 10 congregations that are advocating for new reform measures of immigrants. Sr. Patricia Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and vice president of the Sisters of St. Francis in Dubuque, Iowa, stated that many congregations take corporate stances on immigration laws.

The US Catholic Conference has been very active especially in response to new immigration measures which include Justice for Immigrants. On the same day these billboards went up all around Iowa, 33 US Catholic Latino and Hispanic bishops signed a letter to President Obama expressing some of their concerns.

When the rights of vulnerable people are abused, it is a short time before the rights of others are abused, Humility Sister of Mary Sr. Johanna Rickl said.

To read more about the platforms of these congregations or for more information on how to get involved with immigration reform measures please check out the National Catholic Reporter

Status Update: Jesus is Born

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 12, December 2011 Categories:
What if Mary and Joseph had a Facebook? Last week the Huffington Post published an article and video titled "A Social Media Christmas," that showcased what it would be like if the Blessed Mother and her beloved Joseph had Facebook pages.

In the short movie, it carefully depicts and details the pregnancy of Mary and takes viewers through a small mini-biblical recreation of the Nativity via newsfeed updates.


The short movie does a really nice job of recreating the story of the birth of Jesus but it also makes us realize how we have become a society that relies on social media to get our latest news about what is going on in the world.  All Joseph and Mary had were each other and the Lord. They had no distractions like cell phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, or computers. Even without all that, the story of the Nativity has been passed down for thousands of years and the message of Christmas still remains the same; A joyous occasion in which a Savior was born who brought goodness and light into the world and saved us from sin and death.

As we continue to wait for the birth of Jesus, let us take a moment to slow down, to put down the cell phones, shut off the computers or TV's and reflect on how significant the birth of Jesus is in our own lives and how he has blessed us. Let us look at the good in our lives and be thankful for what we have been given.

Generous Girl Scouts get glimpse of Carmelite life

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 09, December 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
GIRL SCOUT Troop 2272 outside the Carmel
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery.
Photo: Celeste Diller; Intermountain Catholic
In celebration of 100 years of Girl Scouting in the United States, Blessed Sacrament Girl Scout Troop 2272 in Utah donated more than 100 gifts to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery in Holladay (Intermountain Catholic, 12-9-11). Their visit to deliver the items to the sisters also gave them some exposure to religious life and allowed for interchanges between the girls and the sisters. Some of the scouts even felt the trip inspired them to consider a vocation to religious life.

Sister who followed Father Damien now on path to sainthood

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 07, December 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

BLESSED Mother Marianne Cope.
The successor to Saint Damien Joseph de Veuster of Moloka'i, Mother Marianne Cope, may soon join him in the ranks of the saints after the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared her "Blessed" on Tuesday. She was the only one of 50 people to accept a request for nuns to help care for Hansen's disease patients at the Kalaupapa settlement where they had been banished and where Father Damien, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, had ministered to them starting in 1873. She assisted him until his death in 1889 of complications from the Hansen's disease he had contracted at Kalaupapa. Mother Marianne died of natural causes in 1918 after spending the rest of her life working with the leprosy victims. Her initial positive response to go to Kalaupapa earned her the title of "beloved mother of the outcasts," said the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, N.Y. Mother Marianne was born in Germany and raised in Utica, N.Y.

The "first" vocation app?

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 06, December 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy
In an item on the CCN Belief Blog, the Catholic Church in Ireland claimed to have the "world first" religious vocation-related app. That was in October. We applaud their effort, but we think VISION got in ahead of them, both for iPhone/iPad and Android.

Paying it Forward

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 05, December 2011 Categories:

I read a really amazing article off of NPR the other day. The story was about a young man who was robbed coming home from work one night last March. The man Julio Diaz was simply trying to eat at his favorite diner, when he was approached by a teenage boy holding a knife asking for money. Julio Diaz gave him his wallet and before thinking offered the boy his jacket, claiming that if he was going to rob people all night he would need to stay warm.

The boy was taken aback by this gesture and asked Diaz why he was doing this for him. Diaz replied to the boy that all he wanted was to grab a bite to eat and asked the teenage boy to join him at dinner. They went to dinner and it was here the boy had a change of heart. While Diaz was talking to those he knew at the diner, the boy was impressed he was nice to "even the dishwasher." When the boy asked Diaz why, he responded "I was taught to be nice to everybody." The teen was shocked and responded, "Yeah but I didn't think people actually behaved that way."

It was here that Diaz asked the boy what he wanted out of life and the teen was speechless and had a sad look on his face. When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen that he would have paid had his wallet not been stolen.  Without hesitation the boy returned the wallet and also gave Diaz the knife. Diaz gave the boy $20 and hoped this would help the teenager out. 

Diaz did a great thing that night opening his heart up to this boy and being generous. "I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world."

As we are awaiting the birth of the Lord, let us be reminded that Advent is a time of giving and being generous. It is a time to focus on helping those who need help and to think about giving gifts instead of receiving them. Had Diaz not stopped to help the boy, he may have ended up in prison that night or worse. Because Diaz offered up what he had he was truly living out the message of Christ and that is to love your enemies and treat those that may hurt you with love and kindness. 


How sisters' communities adapt

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 30, November 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life, the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has an article on how “Nuns embrace new purposes: Despite drop in numbers, sisters are more diverse, have a variety of careers, homes,” which features a quote from N.R.V.C. executive director Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C.

Sisters give Wall Street a few tips

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 29, November 2011 Categories: Clergy,Consecrated Life

The resentment between Occupy Wall Street protestors and corporate America has certainly grown in the past couple of weeks. Each day we learn new information about what the protestors want and what Wall Street has no intention of doing.

It turns out Wall Street is also getting an earful from its investors, including the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Sister Nora Nash, OSF, head of the community's Corporate Social Responsibility mission, recently featured in an article in the business section of the New York Times, actively weighs in on corporate America's practices. A soft-spoken woman, Nash has been quite vocal in offering suggestions to some of the world's largest corporations.

”We want social returns, as well as financial ones,” says Nash. “When you look at the major financial institutions, you have to realize there is greed involved.”

Nash and her community formed a corporate responsibility committee beck in the 1980s after they had lost some of their retirement in the market. They wanted to vocalize the importance of wise investments and fiscal responsibility not only within their own community but also within some of Wall Street's major corporations. Their goal as a committee was to buy the minimum number of shares that would allow them to submit resolutions at a company's annual shareholder meeting. 

The group advises executives to protect consumers, rein in executive pay, increase transparency within corporations, and remember the poor.

The Sisters of St. Francis are not going it alone. They have teamed up with the Sisters of Charity Saint Elizabeth and Sisters of St. Dominic (Caldwell Dominicans), both in New Jersey, and many other Christian denominations and religious faiths. They are active in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

“Companies have learned over time that the issues we’re bringing are not frivolous,” says Fr. Seamus P. Finn, a Washington-based priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and a board member of the Interfaith Center. “At the end of every transaction, there are people that are either positively or negatively impacted, and we try to explain that to them.”

The goal of the group is not to bring corporations down, but to get these companies to become more responsible for their actions and be held accountable for their practices. Although success has been sporadic, the sisters believe in their mission.

Click here to read more about the Sisters of Philadelphia's corporate engagement.

Welcome Advent

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 28, November 2011 Categories:

This past weekend in Graz, Austria, Gert Hoedl and his team created a stunning ice sculpture of the Nativity. Perfect timing as we are beginning the Advent season. Hoedl and his team have been recreating this ice sculpture of the Nativity since 1996, marking the beginning of every Advent. Their sculpture is one of the largest recreations of the birth of Jesus throughout the world.

Watch how Hoedl and his team created such an amazing sculpture:



As we continue to prepare for the birth of Jesus, let us reflect on what was written in the Gospel of Mark: Be watchful and alert. Remember that Advent is a time to reflect on  the blessings we have received and to prepare ourselves for the greatest gift of all: Christ the Lord.

Happy Advent! 

The Pope shows his true colors: various shades of green

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 28, November 2011 Categories:

Pope Benedict XVI appealed for the success of the climate change talks that are opening Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa. Speaking to the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict said, "I hope that all members of the international community agree on a responsible and credible response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, taking into account the needs of the poorest and future generations."

The 84-year-old German pope has voiced increasing concern about protecting the environment in his encyclicals, during foreign trips, speeches to diplomats and in his annual peace message. Under Benedict's watch, the Vatican has installed photovoltaic cells on its main auditorium to convert sunlight into electricity and has joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting its CO2 emissions.

For the pontiff, "being green" is a moral issue: Church teaching holds that man must respect creation because it's destined for the benefit of humanity's future. He has argued that climate change and natural catastrophes threaten people's rights to life, food, health and ultimately peace.

Feast day of Mother Cabrini

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 14, November 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life
Yesterday November 13th was the feast day of St. Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. Known to many of us as Mother Cabrini, she devoted her life to providing opportunities for immigrants both here in Chicago and in New York. A woman of great faith and devotion, she was not afraid of hard work and doing what was right even in the face of adversity.

Born in Northern Italy in 1850, Mother Cabrini worked as a teacher in her early life and later ran an orphanage. In 1877 she took religious vows and formed the religious congregation the Missionary of the Sacred Heart.

Her role was to help and work with Italian immigrants and in 1881 she did just that right here in Chicago. She opened up Assumption Church, the first Italian parish in Chicago. Throughout her life, she devoted her ministry to education and health care. She built hospitals and schools and created opportunities for immigrants that may have never had the chance to go to school or receive health care. In 1909 Mother Cabrini officially became a US citizen. After returning to Chicago in 1917, she fell ill and died on December 22, 1917.

In 1946 she was canonized by the Catholic Church. This was a significant honor as she was the first American citizen to be canonized a Saint. Mother Cabrini lived her life by devoting it to helping others. She never gave up and always believed in her mission. What a great role model to have in our lives today. Mother Cabrini is someone we still can look to for help each and every day.

To read more about Mother Cabrini and all her amazing works check out this article published by WBEZ

Communities need unity to thrive

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 12, November 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

Penn State students held a vigil Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 in
memory of the victims of the child sex-abuse abuse scandal
that hasshaken the university to its core
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon).

In the wake of the Penn State sex-abuse scandal and the ensuing crisis of community the university faces, I received my fall issue of the St. Mary's College Courier, the alumnae journal. I was struck by the eerily prescient comments made by the vice president for mission Holy Cross Sr. Veronique Wiedower, CSC in a letter about the college's core principle of community established by founder Blessed Basil Moreau:

Moreau believed that unity, one of the hoped-for graces of community, was a "powerful lever with which we could move, direct, and sanctify the world." Achieving unity requires all of us to strive for right relationships with self, God, the cosmos, and our neighbors. . . . Especially today, Moreau's vision of community through unity is one that our larger community, which radiates throughout the world and beyond to God, longs to see. This is the time in which we are all invited to model and live in right relationship.

Indeed it is. May we all have the courage and strength to set relationships aright in our educational communities, families, church, and beyond.

Read more about the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

Jesus and his funny bone

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 09, November 2011 Categories:

A great article surfaced yesterday in the Chicago Tribune about Christian Comedy. The article covered a comedian by the name of Jeff Allen who has found great satisfaction in telling clean, good humored jokes to Church's throughout the US.

Allen, a born again Christian, struggled early on in his career. A high school graduate, he had trouble finding his way. While performing he fell into dark times as he struggled with drugs and alcohol. On the verge of being divorced he realized he needed to make a change. Upon reading the bible and Ayn Rand, he had a slow conversion. On Aug. 17, 1997 he had his epiphany and that is when he devoted his life to Jesus Christ.

Allen, who now performs over 80 gigs a year, works very hard at keeping his routine clean and humorous. After his conversion, he was forced to find humor without all the expletives, and that has certainly made him a better comedian.

The article also looks into the Christian Comedy industry and how it has ebbed and flowed over the past 20 years. The Christian Comedy Association formed in 2002, focuses on appealing to comedy clubs that this venue is lucrative and funny. While their focus is to keep the humor clean and fun, the industry of comedy itself in Chicago is a dying one. They are trying to bring back the funny without all the trash.

One of Allen's top jokes is one I will leave you with. "I believe teenagers are God's revenge on mankind. One day God is looking down over his creation and says to himself, 'Hey let's see how they like to create someone in their own image who denies their existence.' I looked through the bible cover to cover, and it never mentions how old Satan was when he finally rejected God's authority. My guess? Sixteen."

So laugh a little today and enjoy the humor of life. 

The many faces of prayer

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 08, November 2011 Categories:

I read an interesting blog today on Huffington Post about different ways and places to pray. The author Rick Hamlin finds the best time to mediate is riding the NYC subway. His routine is to read a Psalm or passage from the bible and use his time traveling to work to reflect and mediate on this prayer.  

What a great perspective on prayer especially when so often we forget to pray. This weekend at Mass the priest asked the congregation how often they prayed. Many youngsters raised their hands to tell the priest that they usually do not pray. The priest reminded them that a simple prayer of "Thank you" or "I am blest" can go a long way.

Hamlin stated that after he mediates his whole day is better. He has a better spirit and attitude on approaching the world each day. What an idea! To think that a 15-minute subway ride reflecting on a prayer can change a person's whole outlook and inspire him to live better each day.

Even if our prayers are simple they acknowledge that someone outside ourselves (namely God) deserves our thanks, praise, and petitions for the sake of others in need. Another interesting thing about prayer is that it does not have to be done in a church or before meals. You can pray anywhere and in any way you want. That is what is so unique and inspiring.

Taking time to pray is something that we all can work on. Perhaps we will treat others better and be aware of how blest we are. What are some ways we can incorporate prayer into our daily lives? Where are some of the places you pray? These are questions to think about when you pray.  Let us know some great ways and places you pray.  

NRVC receives National Vocation plan grant

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 08, November 2011 Categories: Clergy,Consecrated Life

The National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), copublishers of VISION magazine and the VISION Vocation Network website, has been awarded a $281,000 grant by the GHR Foundation of Minnetonka, Minnesota to implement two major objectives of the NRVC’s National Vocation Plan—the largest single grant the NRVC has ever received. A previous grant from the GHR Foundation helped fund the NRVC’s Moving Forward in Hope vocation symposium in September 2010. The two new projects are intended to enhance and strengthen religious life in the United States and prepare religious communities to welcome new members.

In one the NRVC will develop a conversational tool to enable religious institutes to engage in a deeper exchange about the findings of the landmark 2009 NRVC/CARA study on recent vocations to religious life and their implications for apostolic life with respect to community, visibility, communal prayer, and celebration of Eucharist.

The second project will convene three gatherings for women religious in the eastern, middle, and western regions of the U.S. The purpose of these unprecedented gatherings will be for women religious to study the research regarding recent vocations and discuss and reflect on the combined implications of this information for religious sisters as they work together to increase their membership both individually and collaboratively.

Weekend at the Movies

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 02, November 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

Looking for something fun to do this weekend but aren’t really sure what to do? Coming from a family of unique perspectives and tastes, I often found when there were some dull weekends up ahead; we usually hit the big screen.

To this day I love going to see movies.Being able to curl up in comfy seats (movie theatres have updated their styles), eat an endless tub of buttered popcorn, and sit without interruption, watching and imagining a life similar to that on the screen is magical. The essence of movie making is truly a great one. The ability for movies to be “brought to life” gives us all a glimpse of new perspectives or simply a good quality laugh.

Recently, a new movie has made some buzz about a college women’s basketball team that won 3 national championships in the 1970s. “The Mighty Macs” as it is called, is a film about the Immaculata Women’s basketball team and their coach Cathy Rush who paved the way for women’s athletics in the 1970s. Set outside Philadelphia, this film is about inspiring women to seek out their dreams but also teaches valuable life lessons about hard-work, determination, faith and morals, and friendship.

According to the film’s director, Tim Chambers, he did not intend to make a “faith-based” film, rather he wanted something all ages would enjoy and appreciate.

Cathleen Falsani wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post, which explains in more detail about the movie about a team that changed history. She writes so thoughtfully about the perspective this movie has on faith and on the importance on what is essential in life. She writes, “"Be not afraid." Three simple words that, if heeded, can change everything. They can make a dream into a reality. An impossibility into a victory. Scarcity into abundance. Underdogs into champions. What is surprising about this little-film-that-could is its artistry, heart and universal appeal. Whether you are a sports fan or not, Catholic or agnostic, a girl or a boy, old or young -- "The Mighty Macs" will grab your heart, inspire your soul and send you away feeling like anything is possible if with faith, hard work and a community of sacred friends”.

So if you are looking for something to do this weekend, go root on the “Mighty Macs” at a local theatre. Click to watch the trailer

Jesus, Zombies, and Halloween

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 31, October 2011 Categories:
What an interesting perspective about Halloween and Christianity. In a recent Huffington Post article, Jim Kinley writes about the tension that brews between this ghoulish holiday and our sense of faith. According to Kinley are we really supposed to appreciate such a scary and almost satanic holiday? A day where we dress up as goblins, witches, demons, and other scary creations going around asking for candy? Seems pretty harmless to me but is it?

Kinley addresses this relationship between good and evil, in his new book "The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within," which focuses on our inner struggles with temptation and sin and how we can combat our own” inner zombie”.

The article looks at this issue with what is called our “old self” (Rom 6:6), a part of us that resists or tries to steer away from God and all that he does. We have this piece of us, our “inner zombie” that eats away at what we know to be good and true. Although this evil entity really has no authority over us it does creep in on us daily. Kinley writes that Christians are not much for disorder but God likes to throw us a couple curve balls, to really get us to think and engage in our daily thoughts and actions.

Kinley writes, “In doing this, we Christians discover we aren't really any "better" than anyone else. This zombie inside us smells as putrid as any portrayed by Hollywood. And though we have accepted Christ's atoning sacrifice on our behalf (Col 1:13-14), we still struggle with many of the same temptations and sins as the rest of humanity (Rom 7:15-25). We become acutely aware of an inner beast that constantly moans and gnaws at our spirit.” We have to work on suppressing this “inner zombie” and learn to continue to accept all that God has done for us.

So was Jesus a fan of Halloween? I am sure he was especially with all the delicious candy we have today.

Have a Happy Halloween and enjoy the tricks and treats!

More coverage of vocations, VocationMatch

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 31, October 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
National Catholic Register
reporter Judy Roberts recently wrote an article on the use of the internet and social media in exploring vocations to religious life that mention VocationMatch. The article also mentions the NRVC/CARA study on recent vocations to religious life.

Getting to know the ordinary folks who choose religious life

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 28, October 2011 Categories: Clergy,Consecrated Life

The Baltimore Sun reports that a panel of Roman Catholic priests, brothers, sisters, and deacons faced an audience of lively fifth graders Thursday (Oct 27), offering snippets of their personal history histories and the motivation for their career choices. But many children were so unfamiliar with a nun's habit and veil that several directed remarks to "the lady in the blue dress."

"We have regular teachers, not nuns," said Craig Kelly, a student at St. Ursula School in Parkville who attended a conference Thursday at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Classmate Cathyrose Odoh added, "They are not the ordinary people we see every day."

In Maryland and across the country, the Roman Catholic Church is looking to inspire younger students with a zeal for religious life and help stem decades of decline in the ranks of nuns and priests. National research suggests that students start to consider the priesthood or sisterhood at as young as 11. But overcoming students' unfamiliarity — even at Catholic schools — can be a challenge.

Sister Patricia Dowling, CBS vocation director for the Sisters of Bon Secours and co-chair of the event, helped organize the first Focus 11 in Maryland and is planning several others. It drew students from Catholic elementary schools throughout the area. Focus 11 includes activities like a quiz game between the children and panelists, who included a priest, a brother, a deacon and two nuns. The back and forth showed the children that vocations come from people leading ordinary lives.

"Nobody is born a priest or nun," said Sister Fran Gorsuch, CBS, who played emcee for the game. "God called them to that life. And, that life is anything but boring."

When she asked which panelist was a Phillies baseball fan and a motorcyclist who worked in the Dominican Republic, the children chose one of the men — not the correct answer (it was Sister Mary Beth Antonelli, OSF). They erred about who had mastered fencing. It was the "lady in blue," Sister Mary Grace Dateno, FSP. Emma Crowhurst, a student at Our Lady of Grace School in Parkton, said, "It is interesting how these ordinary people became priests and sisters."

More coverage on Baltimore TV:


Texas nun and 39-year Rangers fan

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 28, October 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
and her longtime friend
Sister Maggie Hession
with Nolan Ryan when
he pitched for the Rangers.

Describing herself as a tomboy who grew up in Temple, Texas playing baseball and football with boys, Sister Frances Evans has been a Texas Rangers fan ever since the team originated as one of the reincarnations of the old Washington Senators. She was at the Rangers’ opening game in 1972 and recently she attended the fifth game of this year’s World Series in Arlington (in row 14, behind home plate). “We got to know [Rangers' owner] Nolan [Ryan] when he was playing ball for us,” she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “When they built the new stadium, they asked us to be the first ones through the turnstile. Baseball’s been so good to us.”

Talking about her background, she had a few observations about her vocation. “I was a convert. I worked six years in Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio in the lab. There was something different about the sisters. The only thing I can think is, God just shook me by the neck and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ In 1950 I entered convent in San Antonio, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.”

Did they wear habits back then? “We sure did! We wore habits for a long time.” Could they go to baseball games? “Not back then, you didn’t go much of anywhere. I worked in the hospital most of the time. I don’t think we even had television when I entered.

“I was stationed here in Fort Worth in 1967,” she said. “It was beginning to lighten up a bit here and there. I remember well when they went to the shorter skirts and I walked out of chapel and felt the breeze on my knees. I never knew how good that would feel.”

See another profile of the sisters in the Wall Street Journal.

Another Saint Therese

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 25, October 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

"Therese" is the name of some pretty amazing women in Catholic tradition: Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Mother Teresa. The first two are saints and also Doctors of the Church and the third one of the most revered people in the modern world. But there are, of course, other Thereses, including another "Mother Therese": Saint Therese Couderc, foundress of the Cenacle Sisters.

The mission of the Cenacle Sisters is to awaken and deepen faith primarily through retreats, religious education, and other activities. Mother Therese Couderc started it all in 1805 when she turned a hostel for women pilgrims visiting the tomb of Saint John Francis Regis, the great Jesuit missionary, into a "cenacle"—a place of prayer and retreat, said Cenacle Sister Rosemary Duncan, r.c. in a recent newsletter article. The Cenacle Sisters have centers throughout the United States and the world.

By the way, the Chicago Cenacle is having a women's weekend retreat November 4-6 on "The Three Teresas—of Avila, of Lisieux, of Calcutta." For more information contact Sister Rosemary.

On Wisconsin and Hail Mary!

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 24, October 2011 Categories:

In a quaint Wisconsin town, lies a holy place. Champion, Wisconisn, about three hours north of Chicago, is home to the only official U.S. site where the Blessed Mother is said to have appeared to Adele Brise three times in 1859. According to Bishop Ricken of the diocese of Green Bay, and the Huffington Post, this holy site was officially dedicated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in December of 2010, and since then has seen a steady flow of pilgrims.

Our Lady of Good Help is the parish that surrounds this beautiful shrine, dedicated to the Blessed Mother. According to Bishop Ricken, the activity is nothing compared to places like Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadalupe, but over the past several years, car fulls of people have made the pilgrimage to try and get a glipse of what Adele Brise saw 150 years ago. Bishop Ricken's has been doing the best he can in trying to accomodate the large amount of visitors without disrupting the "peace of the place." 

Only time will tell how the shrine will hold up with the ever changing increase in visitors but according to most people, when you see this beautiful place you can sense "the special presence of Our Blessed Mother." 

Click here to read more about Our Lady of Good Help or to get directions on visiting the church. 

Malta Carmelites host student art exhibition

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 19, October 2011 Categories:
PAINTINGS from "Heritage in Stone."
Itself a restored and uniquely beautiful work of art, the Carmelite Priory in Mdina on the island of Malta is hosting an exhibition called "Heritage in Stone." Sponsored by the Bank of Valletta, the exhibition features art objects with a stonework theme by 28 students from local art and design schools.

Search keyword "Carmelite" for information about Carmelite communities on the VISION Vocation Network.

Prayer in Modern Times

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 17, October 2011 Categories:

In a recent Huffington Post article, Jeffrey Small examines the use of prayer today.

Many of us use prayer as a form of wanting or seeking something from God. According to Small, it is not that our intentions of prayer are wrong, instead, we need to tweak our approach to prayer, to help deepen our relationship with God on a different level.

I think Small certainly offers a unique and interesting perspective. He writes about how it is especially important in today's day and age to use prayer in a way that transforms us into better people, while enhancing our relationship with others and with God.

Small states, "A popular conception of prayer is that if we have faith in God, pray diligently and if the cause we are praying for is a righteous one (like the health of another person), then God will intervene in a supernatural way to make our wish come true. Many people can site examples where their prayers "have been answered" in such a miraculous way. But why do many other equally deserving prayers go unanswered?" Small seeks to explain why this is the case. According to Small, we are approaching the idea of prayer in a wrong way, especially today. He finds that there are five ways to deepen our prayer routine that allows us to be fully immersed in God's love for us.

Small writes, "Instead of seeing prayer as a method of asking God for something we want (even if that something is good), maybe we can use prayer as a way of opening up ourselves to God. Prayer can become a means of connecting us with the divine ground that is the essence of existence."

Check out the article to see Small's five ideas to become better at prayer in the modern sense. 

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Catholicism Video Series to appear on PBS

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 13, October 2011 Categories: Clergy

Fr. Robert Barron of the Chicago Archdiocese is launching a video series in hopes of "lifting" the Catholic spirit. In a recent Tribune article, Fr. Barron describes his series "Catholicism" airing October 13, 2011, as " a walk through Catholicism from the viewpoint of faith." 

This faith series reflects on the life of Jesus, the Catholic vision of God as the Trinity, the missionary movement that began with Peter and Paul, and the reverence of Mary. Airing on PBS will be the first four parts of the "Catholicism" series. The additional six episodes will air on ETWN starting in November.  

According to Fr. Barron, this series is about creating a "vivid sense of the concrete reality of Jesus," that will hopefully provide a modern approach to the Catholic faith. 

Catholicism Series Trailer


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Catholics are fun

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 11, October 2011 Categories:

"Fundamentally, I don't think the Catholic church gets enough credit for being a hell of a lot of fun. There's great warmth and laughter in most Catholic circles, a rich intellectual tradition, a vast body of lore, an incredible range of characters, a deep desire to do good, an abiding faith against all odds, an ability to go anywhere and feel instantly at home, and even a deep love of good food, good drink, and good company. All that is part of the tapestry of Catholic life, but it rarely sees the light of day in commentary and reporting that focuses exclusively on crisis, scandal, and heartache."--John Allen, Jr., NCR, Oct. 7, 2011

Here's Catholic video that put a smile to my face. Might have to run it again on All Saint's Day:

Kathleen Turner plays tough religious sister-rehab counselor

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 06, October 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life
KATHLEEN TURNER and Evan Jonigkeit in "High."

Kathleen Turner will reprise her Broadway role as a tough-talking sister (and we do mean tough—the play has its share of nudity, profanity, and violence) who counsels a young drug addict in a planned national tour of the three-character drama High, by Matthew Lombardo.

High bills itself: “When Sister Jamison Connelly (Turner) agrees to sponsor a 19-year-old drug user in an effort to help him combat his addiction, her own faith is ultimately tested. Struggling between the knowledge she possesses as a rehabilitation counselor and a woman of religious conviction, she begins to question her belief in miracles and whether people can find the courage to change. High explores the universal themes of truth, forgiveness, redemption, and human fallibility.”

The "Transitus" of Saint Francis

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 04, October 2011 Categories: Clergy

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, father of the Franciscan order and patron of all Franciscans. Many Franciscan communities celebrate a devotion recalling stories of the Transitus, or passing, of the saint from earthly life. For more on this ritual, visit the The Transitus: An Introduction which includes accounts of Francis' death from the Franciscans Thomas of Celano and Saint Bonaventure.

The VISION Vocation Netwok has many listing for both men's and women's Franciscan communities (here and here).

The Lord loves a cheerful liver

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 30, September 2011 Categories:

In an America magazine podcast promoting his forthcoming book, Between Heaven and Mirth (HarperOne, 2011), Jesuit Father James Martin talks about how joy and laughter are essential to the spiritual life. Here are a few snippets:

  • There are many instances of humor in the Bible, says Martin, starting with Abraham, who, when he was told by an angel that his wife Sarah at age 97 was going to have a baby, "falls on his face laughing." Sarah laughs too. And so when their son is born, they name him Isaac, meaning "he laughs."
  • "At the beginning of our religion--Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--is a story of laughter. Laughter is something God is inviting us to."
  • "When I was a Jesuit novice I asked the Jesuit Superior General Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, 'How do we increase vocations?' and he said, "Live your own joyfully."
Read more about the the Jesuits here.

Orthodox nuns help keep wildifre from monastery

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 27, September 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

When a wildfire threatened the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in south central Washington State, the Greek Orthodox nuns who live there went out and did what most property owners would: They helped fight the fire.

Women & Spirit exhibit DVD available

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 23, September 2011 Categories:
An earlier post on this blog mentioned the Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America exhibit that has been touring the country. The exhibit sponsors, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), has followed up the exhibit with a DVD documentary narrated by National Public Radio senior new analyst and ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts. Featuring interviews with historians, journalists, and women religious, the one-hour documentary brings to life the personal and communal stories of Catholic sisters and their contributions to the American landscape. The DVD is available on the LCWR website or the Women & Spirit website.
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A look at Catholicism's role behind the scenes

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Thursday 15, September 2011 Categories:

In his newly released memoir, Life itself, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert writes about his relationship with iconic film director Martin Scorsese, "Scorsese and I were born five months apart in 1942, into worlds that could not have differed more, but in important ways we had similar childhoods. We were children of working-class parents well aware of their ethnic origins. We attended Roman Catholic schools and churches that, in those pre-Vatican II days, would have been substantially similar. We memorized the Latin of the mass, we were drilled on mortal sins, venial sins, sanctifying grace, the fires of hell; we memorized great swaths of the Baltimore Catechism. We were baffled by the concept of Forever and  asked how it was that God could have no beginning and no end. . . . Every time I've met Marty, the conversation has come around sooner or later to Catholicism and sin."

VISION author makes final vows!

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 09, September 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

In the author blurb at the end of his fine article for the current issue of VISION, “Blessed are we who comfort the mourners,” in which he tells his vocation story, it says that Matthew Kuczora, C.S.C "is expected to profess his final vows in August 2011." Well, he did it!

The Holy Cross Office of Vocations informs the world: “On Saturday, August 27, 2011, Mr. Matthew C. Kuczora, C.S.C. made his final profession of vows with the Congregation of Holy Cross. Matt professed forever the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the midst of a celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. In taking these vows Matt committed the rest of his life to living and serving in the Congregation of Holy Cross as an educator in the faith." Congratulations, Matt!

Holy Cross is on VISION.

Christmas (concert) in August for Daughters of St. Paul

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 02, September 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sr. Helena Burns, F.S.P. reports that the air conditioning in the motherhouse chapel in Boston was cranked down to 50 F and “even the audience faked it with us” but the taping of the Daughters of St. Paul Christmas concert video went came off fine, even though “the swinging jib camera arm thingy knocked over the decorative burning candle on the altar rail and clocked the same lady in the head twice. Otherwise,” Sr. Helena says, “no casualties.”

The video that will be created from the filming will air on the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn's NET TV channel this Christmas, and a DVD will be available. Daughters of St. Paul Christmas Concert Tour locations will also be announced and will include Boston, N.Y.C., Virginia, and Cleveland, and other cities.

The Daughters of St. Paul are on VISION.

Sisters support overseas reforestation

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 30, August 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

DEFORESTATION of farmland in Cameroon.
Conservation of natural resources is a natural area of ecumenical cooperation. Whether they are from different churches or even other religions, people of all faiths recognize that damage to the earth means damage to what the divine created and a challenge to the sustainability of the world all creatures share.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, Minnesota have been involved in such efforts. They are part of the Carbon Covenant, which itself is a project of Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), founded by Episcopal priest Rev. Canon Sally Bingham. IPL is an organization of 10,000 congregations in 30 states who pledge to cut their energy consumption through energy-efficiency and alternative energy sources. Through the Carbon Covenant, the Rochester Franciscans helped the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon purchase 35,000 tree seedlings to combat deforestation.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester are on VISION.

"Most" and " least" religious U.S. colleges

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 25, August 2011 Categories:
In my last post I talked about a recent survey that found that in some ways more educated people are also more religious. Another day, another survey, but with a somewhat different twist.

As part of its 2012 “The Best 376 Colleges” survey, educational services company Princeton Review interviewed 122,000 students at 376 colleges and asked them to rate their schools and campus experiences. Besides questions about “Most Conservative/Most Liberal Students,” “Best Professors,” and “Great Financial Aid,” the firm also asked students to respond on a five-point scale as to whether they agreed or disagreed that other students on campus were religious.

The top 5 with the “most religious” students:

• Brigham Young University in Utah
• Hillsdale College in Michigan
• Thomas Aquinas College in California
• Wheaton College in Illinois
• Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

The top 5 with the “least religious” students:

• Bennington College in Vermont
• Reed College in Oregon
• Bard College, Vassar College, and Sarah Lawrence College, all in New York.

More educated, more religious, survey says

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 23, August 2011 Categories:

Since 1972 the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has conducted the General Social Survey (GSS), a cumulative and nationally representative survey known to social scientists as the “gold standard” of social data. Based on a recent analysis of this information, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Philip Schwadel found that people actually tend to become more religious—by some definitions, at least—as they further their education, reports Jim Kavanagh on the CNN Belief blog.

“It all falls down to what you consider to be religious,” Schwadel said. “If it’s simply attending religious services, then no. Highly educated people are not less religious; in fact, they’re more religious. But if it’s saying the Bible is the literal word of God and saying that only one religion is the true religion, then they are less religious.”

Schwadel found that, among other things, with each additional year of education:
• The likelihood of attending religious services increased 15 percent.
• The likelihood of reading the Bible at least occasionally increased by 9 percent.

Respondents to the GSS were asked whether they believe in God without any doubts; with various levels of doubt; whether they have a different concept of God or a higher power; or whether they didn’t believe in any such thing, Schwadel said. “With more years of education, you aren’t relatively more likely to say, ‘I don’t believe in God,’ " he said. "But you are relatively more likely to say, ‘I believe in a higher power.’ ”

Then again, last year’s Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life U.S. Religious Knowledge survey found that atheists/agnostics scored highest among various faith (or non-faith) groups when it came to basic religious knowledge! —Ed.

The church needs nuns, says the Pope

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 19, August 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

World Youth Day, Aug. 19: The Pope assured 1,600 sisters, representing nearly 300 religious communities and institutes, that the church and society continue to need the “Gospel Radicalism” of their religious consecration.

Benedict XVI gathered with the women religious at the Monastery of San Lorenzo in El Escorial
SISTERS AWAIT the pope's arrival at
the Monastery of San Lorenzo outside Madrid.
Photograph: Andrea Comas, Reuters

After a few words of introduction from Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, the Pope listened to Belén González, a member of the Siervas de Maria congregation, who spoke on behalf of all the nuns present.

“Your Holiness, we know that the Cross placed on your shoulders by God is heavy. We want you to know that you are not carrying it alone, you can count on us who, in the silence of the cloister or in serving the Church in our work, help you in our simplicity and poverty, and with the strength that we receive from Jesus Christ”.

The Pope thanked the women religious for their “generous, total, and perpetual yes” and expressed his wish that this “yes” might “speak to young people, inspire them and illuminate them”. The Pope explained that consecrated life means “getting to the root of love for Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, and not putting anything before this love.” The Pope asked that, in the face of relativism and mediocrity, they live their “Gospel radicalism” in communion with the pastors of the Church, their own religious institution, and other members of the ecclesial community, such as the laity who give witness to the same Gospel in their own vocation.

N.Y. Dominicans’ vocation: Provide free care to terminally ill

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 19, August 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

“We can’t cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days, and keep them comfortable and free of pain.” Those were the words of Rose Hawthorne, later Sister Mary Alfonsa, O.P., a daughter of the great American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who in 1896 went to the slums of New York to care for poverty-stricken cancer sufferers, where she was soon joined by the young Alice Huber.

DOMINICAN SISTERS of Hawthorne pray
at a new Rose Hill Home facility dedication

Those beginnings evolved into a religious community—the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne—and in 1901 the Rosary Hill Home north of New York City. Today the home is a 72-bed skilled nursing facility dedicated to providing palliative care to persons afflicted with incurable cancer who cannot afford to pay for care. No payment of any kind is accepted from patients, their families, or the government. Present-day sisters still provide direct care for the residents.

"If you have to be terminal, this is the place to come," one resident told Catholic News Service. "It's the most unusual place I've ever been. You're not conscious of people being ill here. We all have cancer and we're all terminal, but it's serene and there are lots of moments of fun and laughter," she said. "The care is done with love and . . . . the women who care for you gave up their lives for this work and it's their vocation."

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How Catholics read the Bible

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 09, August 2011 Categories:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website has an interesting article on “Changes in Catholic Attitudes Toward Bible Reading” by Msgr. Daniel Kutys, a pastor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He says, "Catholics who hear of and see other Christians quote or cite Scripture verses wonder why they cannot. Such experiences lead Catholics to seek familiarity with the Bible. Such attitudinal changes bode well for Catholics, especially when reading and praying with the Word of God leads to lessons learned, hearts inspired and lives profoundly moved for good."

See also on the VISION site Alice Camille’s Ask Alice about Catholicism article “Reading the Bible: Should I read the Bible myself or can I just rely on hearing it at Mass?”

Jesuits sell historic 7th-century St. Cuthbert Gospel

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 08, August 2011 Categories:

THE ST. CUTHBERT GOSPEL in its original binding.

I realize I've been on a Jesuit-related theme in recent posts, but here's one more I offer because it reminded me of the item below about the discovery that a painting hanging for years in Oxford University's Jesuit residence was actually by Michelangelo.

Recently, the British Jesuits were again in the news in connection with an artistic and historic treasure: Catholic News Service reports that the British Province of the Society of Jesus has sold the historic St. Cuthbert Gospel—believed to be the oldest intact book produced in Europe—to the British Library for $14.7 million.

The pocket-sized late 7th-century Latin translation of the Gospel of John, produced by monks of Wearmouth-Jarrow in northeast England, was found inside the coffin of Saint Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, when the saint's grave was opened in 1104. Experts believe the manuscript was placed inside the casket within 10 years of the bishop's death in 687.

The Jesuits will use the proceeds from the sale to restore a historic church and pay for educational work in London and Glasgow. The British Library will make the the manuscript available for people to view either directly or online.

Actress-turned-sister Dolores Hart in Chicago appearance

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 05, August 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

A while back I posted an item about Mother Dolores Hart, prioress of the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a Benedictine monastery in Bethlehem, Connecticut, who before becoming a sister had an acting career which included giving Elvis Presley his first on-screen kiss (she's still a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). She's making an appearance this evening in Chicago to kick off the St. Michael Church (outdoor) Film Festival. After screening clips from her films, she will speak on “A Culture of Life: Healing the Heart, Fragmented & Disintegrated.”

Here's a short video with some publicity shots from her acting career, followed by a home movie of a birthday party she attended with Elvis:


Jesuits seek new ground to help disadvantaged youth in NYC

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 03, August 2011 Categories: Clergy

In the 1960s on New York City’s Lower East Side, Father Walter Janer, S.J., a Puerto Rican-born Jesuit, started what would become the Nativity Mission School by setting up study halls and recreational activities for local youth as well as opening a summer camp in upstate New York. “We saw how much they had changed over the summer,” said Father Jack Podsiadlo, S.J. current president, of the young people who came through the door. “The idea was to see how many of our kids we could prepare for admission to Jesuit high schools.”

After formally opening in 1971, Nativity Mission Center and its middle school relied on priests, volunteers, and young teachers and welcomed young people whose parents could not afford parochial school tuition. Teachers were always there throughout the school day and during evening study hall. Since then Nativity has sent scores of young men to New York Jesuit high schools like Fordham Prep, Regis, and Xavier.

THE LOWER EAST SIDE at Delancey St. and the Bowery.
The Lower East Side, however, once home to legions of Jewish, Italian, and later Puerto Rican immigrants, has become on the city’s hottest boutique neighborhoods. Rapid gentrification, which forced many of the area’s lower-income Latino families to move out, coupled with a slow-down in donations from many of the center’s Wall Street benefactors, led Nativity’s board to vote to relocate.

That decision sent Father Podsiadlo, in the spirit of generations of Jesuit missionaries, on a journey to find an area of New York that the center could better serve, like the South Bronx and Brooklyn, where it plans to relocate in 2012. “We serve the poor,” said Father Podsiadlo, who has worked at the Lower East Side school since 1973. “If they’re not here, then we’ll move to where they are.”

Read the full New York Times article.

Editor’s note: With World Youth Day beginning shortly in Madrid, remember to check out the article on “Pilgrimage: The adventure of walking with God,” which mentions Father Podsiadlo and his walk of Spain’s historic Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route, in the upcoming 2012 issue of the VISION Catholic Religious Vocation Discernment Guide, available now in print and soon in a digital edition on this site.

The Jesuits are on VISION.

Sister Marilyn’s vocation story

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 02, August 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
SISTER MARILYN, center, with other members
of the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Waterton, N.Y.
In the past on this blog we've posted items about the vocation stories of members of religious communities. Sister Marilyn of the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Watertown, New York wanted to share hers.

Irish Trappistines cultivate inner life

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 29, July 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

There are monasteries of Trappistines—the women’s branch of the Trappist Cistercian order of monastics—all over the world, but in Ireland there is only one: St. Mary’s Abbey in Glencairn, which is home to 37 sisters.

The community is diverse, with sisters from India, Nigeria, and the Philippines as well as Ireland. And more sisters are on the way: Six women are in formation, and the abbey’s vocation director Sister Sarah Branigan says she is “occupied . . . with inquiries from people of all different ages, people from 20 to late 60s, so there are a steady flow of inquiries about this kind of life.”

SISTERS at prayer,
St. Mary's Abbey
What is that kind of life? “It’s a place where God is loved and worshiped, and it’s a place where we pray for humanity,” Abbess Mother Marie Fahy told Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. “We’re conscious of interceding before God for people, and it’s a place of conversion, where we constantly try to become who we are meant to be as fully human persons and overcome the demons and the less positive aspects of our life.”

The monastic life, Mother Fahy adds, is “the opportunity to live close to God and close to one’s self and have time for prayer and have time for leisurely walks and good reading and reflection on God’s word, and I think living at a deeper level.”

Sister Fiachra Nutty, who joined the community five years ago and expects to make her solemn profession of vows next year, describes the fit between herself and the community’s life. “I felt I needed space to be with God,” she says, “and that’s not very easy, I’ve found, for me in the outside world, because I am quite an extrovert, and I get involved in an awful lot of things, so enclosure was important to me, but at the same time I have a horror of restriction, as in claustrophobia. So here we are absolutely truly blessed. We have 200 acres within which to wander, you know, so that was a huge factor for me. Also the enormous welcome and warmth I felt from the community on my very first visit. That was just so wonderful.”

Michelangelo painting found in Jesuit residence

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 28, July 2011 Categories:

When a Jesuit residence at Oxford University bought a painting of the Crucifixion in the 1930s at a Sotheby’s auction, they thought they were getting a work by the 16th-century Italian artist Marcello Venusti. It turns out the painting is by one of Venusti’s somewhat more well-known contemporaries, Michelangelo.

After more than 70 years of quietly hanging on the wall of Campion Hall, infrared technology has revealed the painting’s real creator, says historian and conservationist Antonio Forcellino. “You can immediately see the difference between this work and that of Venusti,” said Forcellino. “No one but Michelangelo could have painted such a masterpiece,” he writes in his new book, The Lost Michelangelos.

The painting has been sent to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology. “It’s a very beautiful piece, but far too valuable to have on our wall anymore,” said Jesuit Father Brendan Callaghan, the community’s superior. “Simply having it hanging on our wall wasn’t a good idea.”

Younger nuns engage emerging future of religious life

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 26, July 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

From July 21-24, 150 Roman Catholic sisters from more than 50 U.S. congregations of women religious across the United States gathered at Loyola University Chicago for the 6th Giving Voice National Gathering. The conference was organized by Catholic sisters under 50 years of age. The sisters, many of whom are the youngest members of their religious orders, explored the emerging future of religious life in the 21st century and their role of leadership in that future.

Religious life is in the midst of a paradigm shift. The large novitiate classes of the 1950s and 1960s are aging and fewer women are entering religious life today. Many of the younger sisters recognize they will be called to leadership in their communities and the church within the next 10 to 15 years.

Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M.—a theologian and leading authority on Catholic women's religious life—shared her insights throughout the conference. “We are in a kairos moment that, if we seize it, could really galvanize into a whole new era of American religious life,” she said on the opening night of the conference.

While the main purpose of the gathering was to create a space for the voices of younger women religious, sisters of all ages were invited to participate. The youngest sister in attendance was 25 while the oldest was 88.

“The most meaningful part was the excitement and energy I felt after seeing other great women who are living this life just like we are, with the struggles and joys,” said 40-year-old Ursuline Sister Jeannie Humphries. “Religious life is a viable option and opportunity in our world today—it’s about being open to being with others and growing and learning.”

Giving Voice is an organization of vowed women religious in the Roman Catholic Church who have experienced religious life only since the Second Vatican Council. The July conference was the sixth national gathering of younger women religious women organized since 1997.

For highlights from the gathering, visit the conference blog.

Are you prepared to confess your sins to the Pope?

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 23, July 2011 Categories:

IN HIGHLIGHTING the sacrament of Penance at this year's World Youth gathering in Madrid (Aug. 16-21), Pope Benedict XVI will spend an hour hearing the confessions of World Youth Day participants before he celebrates Mass on August 20.

Just in case you are one of the lucky participants chosen to meet with the Pope, you might want to take a look at this refresher provided by VISION: Back in God's embrace: How to make a good Confession.

Now that the Pope is getting familiar with the iPad, wonder if he's downloaded the Vatican-approved Confession app?

Seattle retreat gathers discerners, vocation directors

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 22, July 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

RETREAT GROUP with planning team in
back row: Sisters Amalia Camacho,
C.S.J.P., Jo-Anne Miller, C.S.J.P.,
Patricia Novak, O.S.F., Joan Gallagher, S.P., Monika Ellis, O.S.B., Francine
Barber, O.P.
and blogger
Susan Francois,
shares her
vocation story
as a young sister
in temporary


AS PUBLICIZED in the regularly updated Events Calendar of the VISION Vocation Network, the Archdiocese of Seattle Religious Vocation Team, comprised of vocation directors in the Seattle Archdiocese, held their first Intercommunity VIVA! Vocation Retreat weekend retreat earlier this month.

Eight young Catholic women who are exploring a call to religious life attended. Sisters from several local communities presented their vocation stories.

The Western Washington Serra Clubs sponsored the retreat.

Vatican liaison to religious communities talks about his job

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 21, July 2011 Categories: Clergy,Consecrated Life

BRAZILIAN Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, 64, was appointed in January as the new prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican body responsible for overseeing Roman Catholic religious life.

Bráz de Aviz
In a recent interview with the Italian journal 30 Giorni, Archbishop Bráz de Aviz was asked what kind of start his work in the congregation had gotten off to. "We’ve had to confront many difficulties," he said. "There was little trust on the part of the religious, on account of some positions taken previously. Now, the focal point of the work is precisely that of rebuilding a relationship of trust. I work together with the secretary of the congregation, Archbishop Joseph Tobin. We talk a lot, so that decisions are taken in common."

Commenting on the Vatican visitation of of women’s religious congregations in the United States, the archibishop said: "That, too, has not been an easy matter. There was mistrust and opposition. We’ve spoken with them, and their representatives have come here to Rome. We’ve started to listen again. That’s not to say there aren’t problems, but we have to deal with them in a different way, without preemptive condemnations and by listening to people’s concerns. By now, we’ve received many reports which we have to work through. There’s also the relationship with Mother Clare Millea [the Vatican-appointed head of the visitation], which will be important."

From John L. Allen, Jr.'s report on the NCROnline blog.

Jesuit volunteers help garbage-dump familes

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 18, July 2011 Categories: Clergy

THE SECTION of Guatemala City known as Zone 3 is not a place many outsiders go. In it is a huge garbage dump where hundreds of people live and scavenge for plastic, glass, metal, and other materials they can sell to recyclers in order to get by. Animals also live and feed there, and fires spread smoke everywhere in the tropical heat.

In the summer of 1994 a group of students from St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio, led by the school's then-president Father Don Vettese, S.J., were on a service trip to an orphanage in Guatemala City. Because of an accident and the resulting traffic jam and detour, they got stuck in traffic for about 20 minutes near the dump in Zone 3. The sight left them speechless. Children banged on the van, begging for food, money, and help.

PART OF the massive garbage dump
in Guatemala City's "Zone 3."
Afterward the students talked with Fr. Vettese and wanted to know what they could do. Their first concern was to help the children, but they eventually looked for other ways to improve the lives of the dump workers and others living in Zone 3. With the approval of the Jesuits, a year later Fr. Vettese established a nonprofit organization in Toledo, originally calling it Central American Ministries but renaming it International Samaritan in 2009 to reflect its growing global outreach.

In the 16 years since then the ministry has started programs to alleviate severe poverty in seven countries—Guatemala, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Haiti—and is studying the possibility of expanding to Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and the Philippines. It serves about 13,000 extremely poor people each year. Fr. Vettese would like to extend the program to every garbage dump in every developing country in the world, he told David Yonke of the Toledo Blade.

The plan in each community is to start with a nursery to get the children out of the dump. The next step is to provide education as a key to breaking the cycle of poverty. To that end International Samaritan first builds a grade school, then a middle school.

BRENDA LOPEZ and three of her children in their
International Samaritan-built home.
The organization also builds concrete-block houses to replace the plastic, cardboard, and tin shacks where dump workers live. The concrete-block houses have running water, a bathroom, and electricity and provide a sense of pride and safety.

Teams of high school and college students from the Toledo area and around the country have traveled to different International Samaritan sites to help in a variety of ways. Some trips focus on construction and renovation while others teach English to dump workers' children.

"We're not trying to convert people to Catholicism, but the fact of the matter is they know we are Catholic. They know we are Christians,” Vettese said. “We're evangelizing through example."

The Jesuits on VISION.

One fifth of ordained in 2011 attended a World Youth Day

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 12, July 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

LAST APRIL we mentioned a new survey profiling those ordained to the priesthood in the U.S. in 2011. With World Youth Day (WYD) coming up next month in Madrid, it’s interesting to note that according to that study over 20 percent of the men ordained in 2011 have attended a WYD.

Do you know any priests, brothers, or sisters who have participated in a WYD? Do you think going to WYD would have an impact on discerning your life's vocation?

Visit VISION's special page devoted to this year's WYD, LikesGod.

Sisters advocate at U.N.

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 05, July 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

FOUNDED IN 2002, UNANIMA International is a nongovernmental organization (NGO—the international term for a nonprofit organization) made up of 17 congregations of Roman Catholic sisters--whose 17,500 constituents work in 72 countries.

UNANIMA's work is to advocate on behalf of women and children—particularly those living in poverty—immigrants and refugees, and the environment and takes place primarily at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where they aim to educate and influence policymakers at the global level.

In December 2005 UNANIMA International was officially accepted as an affiliated NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information. Primary campaign areas: women and children; human trafficking; migration and refugees; eco-justice; water; social development; financing for development; indigenous issues; and HIV/AIDS.

FYI, the four central purposes of the United Nations, which was founded in 1945 after the Second World War are:

One UNANIMA's several campaign

• To keep peace throughout the world
• To develop friendly relations among nations
• To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people to conquer hunger, disease, and illiteracy and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms
• To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals.

Holy Cross merges Eastern and Indiana Provinces

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 01, July 2011 Categories: Clergy

ON FRIDAY July 1, 2011 the former Eastern Province of Holy Cross Priests and Brothers officially merges into the Indiana Province to form the new Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers.

The merger was approved at the Congregation of Holy Cross’ general chapter meeting in Rome in the summer of 2010. In December the two provinces agreed that the merger should place on July 1, 2011, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“This merger is a union and an act of God,” said U.S. Provincial Superior Father David T. Tyson, C.S.C. “Holy Cross has trusted in God’s divine providence from the beginning. Today with this union, He continues to bless us. With more than 100 seminarians, we are now more than 500 strong. We are men of different ages, cultures, and ministries, but we are united in the common mission of Holy Cross: to make God known, loved, and served!”
Nearly 400 Holy Cross religious from the Indiana
and Eastern Provinces gathered in a joint assembly June 13-16
on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

The ministries of the new U.S. Province include four colleges and universities: the University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, Ind., 1842); University of Portland (Portland, Ore., 1901); King’s College (Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 1946); and Stonehill College (Easton, Mass., 1948).

Other ministries include 15 parishes in the U.S. and Mexico; André House in Phoenix; the Downtown Chapel in Portland; Ave Maria Press in Notre Dame; Holy Cross Mission Center, serving people around the world; and Holy Cross Family Ministries in North Easton, Mass. The United States Province is also present in Mexico, Chile, Peru, and East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania).

And don’t forget: VISION will be at World Youth Day in August in Madrid at the Holy Cross Family Ministries booth.

Holy Cross on VISION.

Pope's historic iPad tap: How tweet the sound

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 29, June 2011 Categories:

"Dear Friends, I just launched Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI."

That was Pope Benedict's first tweet on the Vatican News Twitter page: @news_va_en. The portal combines information from the Vatican's print, online, radio, and television media.

Benedict put the site online himself by tapping an iPad, said Thaddeus Jones, project coordinator and an official with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Moments later the pope sent his first tweet.

VISION Vocation Network at World Youth Day in Madrid

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 23, June 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

VISION VOCATION NETWORK is going to Madrid for World Youth Day! In collaboration with Holy Cross Family Ministries, VISION will have a display in the Palacio de los Deportes under the banner “Love and Life: A Home for English-Speaking Pilgrims.”

We hope to meet and greet as many World Youth Day attendees as possible throughout the weeklong event (Aug. 16-21). We will have all sorts of fun giveaways (stickers, pens, t-shirts, buttons), and we will be looking for photos, tweets, and videos from attendees to post on our dedicated World Youth Day webpage:

If you're planning on going to World Youth Day this summer, please keep us updated on your preparation—both spiritual and practical—and tweet, text, or email us updates while you're there.

Go to for more information.

"Moving from devotion to spirituality"

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 22, June 2011 Categories:

With the celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus coming up on July 1, 2011, Missionary of the Sacred Heart Brother Joe Tesar, M.S.C. reflects on how devotion to the Sacred Heart can lead to an active spirituality.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart on VISION.

Benedictine university gives unemployed adults a chance

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 20, June 2011 Categories:

Benedictine University, an apostolate of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, Illinois outside Chicago, is offering an “Illinois Back to Work” program in which unemployed Illinois residents earn a college degree and have their remaining tuition and fees covered after all eligible state and federal aid is applied.

See the local news report.

Benedictine Rule is up for debate

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 16, June 2011 Categories:

Last Monday Republican presidential hopefuls descended on Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire to debate in the U.S.’ first presidential primary state. The school has hosted Republican and Democratic presidential debates in previous election cycles, and while it has sometimes drawn criticism for appearing to get involved in partisan politics, a professor of politics at the college, defended the school's role as being a great example of Benedictine hospitality.

“The Rule of St. Benedict says every visitor should be treated as Christ himself,” said Prof. Dale Kuehne. “If you talk to people about the events at Saint Anselm, they would’ve felt that hospitality . . . regardless of their political or religious position.” Thirty Benedictine monks live in the abbey at Saint Anselm.

Source: “The Benedictine Rule is up for debate,” Preaching the News for Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cinema needs a patron saint

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 15, June 2011 Categories:

The Daughters of St. Paul inform me that there is not an official patron saint of film, despite the medium being around for over 100 years! Their worthy candidate is Blessed Father James Alberione (1884-1971), who founded the Pauline Family of 10 communities of which the Daughters are part and that are dedicated to using modern means of communications to spread the gospel.

The Daughters of St. Paul on VISION.

Our Lady of the Surf catches wave of controversy

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 14, June 2011 Categories:

In his most recent “Pastoral Trends” column on the website, Catholic sociologist Bryan Froehle says the church needs to reach out “to people’s aspirations and culture” in the same way social media does. Images of the Blessed Virgin Mary have always done such reaching out. From the most sublime icons to decals in the rear windows of pick-up trucks, people have used the material forms of their cultures to express their devotion to and trust in Mary.

In downtown Encinitas, California, Jack Quick owns art supply store near a railroad bridge between Vulcan Ave. and Hwy. 101. A little before Earth Day last April, which was also shortly before Easter, he noticed a group of men in hard hats installing something under the bridge. In broad daylight and in full view of the 18,000 cars that pass daily, they put up a nicely executed 10-by10-foot-square rock and stained-glass mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe—on a surfboard. On the nose of the board was the face of Saint Juan Diego, and the words “Save the Ocean” ran along the side. Quick estimates the mysterious workers put at least $1,000 in raw materials and 100 hours of labor into the project. The mosaic seemed to be fastened to 5-by-5-foot plaster boards which were then glued to the concrete wall.

THE SURFING MADONNA of Encinitas, Calif.
Of course the piece has inspired debate. First of all, officials are not sure whether that part of the bridge is owned by the city of Encinitas or the North County Transit District. The Encinitas public works department got calls, some complaining about the presence of religious art on public property, others hoping the piece would be allowed to stay where it is. It has attracted droves of onlookers, some of whom leave flowers and votive candles ,and it also has Twitter and Facebook accounts ("I'm the Surfing Madonna. Cherished public mosaic. Hangin' in Encinitas. Hoping to become famous enough to be saved"). However citizens feel about it, though, the mosaic unauthorized use of public property and, legally speaking, graffiti and therefore by law must be removed.

Give city government some credit though. Encinitas is historically art-friendly, and the city council wants the mosaic to be relocated to a place where the public can continue to view it and has already paid a Los Angeles sculpture conservation agency to test ways to safely remove the piece. Local businesses are raising funds to cover the city's expenses, and several people have offered to buy the artwork. Sources: and he Associated Press

Sources: Articles by Julie Watson for the Associated Press and Jonathan Horn for

Cory Lamb and Stephen Baldwin team up to "Break the Cycle"

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 10, June 2011 Categories:

Faith-oriented moviemaking has gotten some attention in the last few months, and we’ve had a post or two on this blog about some recent films that are upfront about religion. Now, actor/director Stephen Baldwin has directed his first music video for singer Cory Lamb’s single Break the Cycle, the title-track of Lamb's new CD. It’s a song about going from the world where you exist for yourself to one where you live for God. For Baldwin, the youngest of the acting Baldwin siblings and a devout Christian, getting the chance to direct the song’s video was a great fit.

Baldwin, who has been in more than 60 movies, told CNN’s Steve Almas he’s been told many times by producers that he should try directing and said he “was pretty jazzed when someone [from the PR agency both he and Lamb use] gave me the song.”

The video was shot for the most part with the help of film students from Florida State University. “They were a real blessing,” Baldwin said. “It was a little bit of a risk to use the kids, but many of them knew as much as the people on the crews of the movies I’ve been in. That’s not an exaggeration.”

Each day before beginning work Baldwin would gather together a small group and pray. It wasn’t a big group prayer, he said, because he wanted to respect the feelings of everyone on the set. “We didn’t want to be too forward with the other members of the crew,” he said. “They knew what we were about. I prefer to lead by example.”

Baldwin has been working on two faith-based films and is also considering a feature-film directing opportunity. Lamb, who describes his music not so much as Christian but as still having a positive message, is touring and wants to go on a mission trip to Haiti with the Christian nonprofit Conduit Mission.

Cory Lamb's music video for his new single Break the Cycle, directed by Stephen Baldwin:


A glossary of religious life

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 07, June 2011 Categories:
Wondering about the difference between a simple and a solemn vow? A novice and a neophyte? A postulant and a prelate? See the Institute on Religious Life's life glossary of vocational terms. Also, the VISION Vocation Network has answers to "16 questions about vocations."

Know your monastic sign language

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 27, May 2011 Categories:

In the 2008 edition of the VISION Annual Religious Discernment Vocation Guide, there was an article by Brother Dismas Warner, O.C.S.O., a Trappist monk of Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey in Monck’s Corner, South Carolina, about “A day in the life of a monk.” In it he wrote of the monks' early morning prayer: “At 3 a.m., I enter the church. Brother Gregory, my 80-something neighbor in choir, has beaten me there and has set up my songbook. With a smiling bow of my head, I make the Trappist sign for ‘thank you.’ He smiles back and pats his belly: ‘You’re welcome.’ In two years I have had fewer than ten verbal interactions with Gregory, yet I wouldn’t hesitate to consider him a friend.”

The “Trappist sign for ‘thank you’”? I was reminded about this article and the mysterious sign language it alludes to when I was recently contemplating the purchase of some Trappist fruitcake from Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri (see the upcoming 2012 edition of VISION, available at the beginning of August 2011, online on this site and in print for an article about this cake and other good things religious communities produce).

The rule of life that Trappists and other members of the Benedictine family follow limits speaking in the community in order to emphasize contemplative silence. To allow for communication during periods of silence, monks (as well as other religious communities outside the Benedictines) developed a sign language to communicate basic information (like the ‘thank yous’ and ‘you’re welcomes’ Brother Dismas exchanged with Brother Gregory ). This practice goes back to at least the Middle Ages, and while its use has varied over the centuries, some forms of it still exist in Trappist monasteries today.

The language uses symbolic gestures for basic concepts. Some examples:

  • The sign for “God” is the thumbs of both hands touching each other and the index fingers touching and pointing upward—a triangle for the Blessed Trinity.
  • The sign for “bread” is the same joining of the hands making the triangular shape but pointing outward and parallel to a table top—the shape of a wedge of bread.
  • Having a good day? Touch your cheek. A bad one? Rub your nose then touch your cheek.

The famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky was so good at this sign language he could tell jokes in it.
I DON’T KNOW if there’s a Trappist sign for "fruitcake,"
but there is one for "cheese" (above): “Place palms of hands
together and twist them gently against each other a few times.”

For demonstrations of Trappist sign language, go to this page on the website of the Virtual Museum of Canada and look through the links under “What is Monasticism?”

Ava Trappists on VISION.

Reading for discerners

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 19, May 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Here is some recommended reading on discernment from the Spring 2011 issue of the National Religious Vocation Conference's HORIZON magazine:

Catholics on Call: Discerning a Life of Service in the Church edited by Father Robin Ryan, C.P. (Liturgical Press, 2010); eBook

A Sacred Voice Is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience by John Neafsey (Orbis Books, 2006)

Awakening Vocation: A Theology of Christian Call by Edward P. Hahnenberg (Liturgical Press, 2010); eBook

The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola by Father Dean Brackley, S.J. (Crossroad, 2004)

Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints by Father James Martin, S.J. (Hidden Spring, 2006)

Don't forget the milk—and the spiritual counseling

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 18, May 2011 Categories:

DEACON Willi Holzhammer
The Reuters news service reports that Willi Holzhammer, an Austrian Catholic deacon, will be touring the province of Tyrol and offering spiritual guidance—in supermarkets. For five Saturdays Deacon Willi will dispense free spiritual counseling from tables in grocery stores in different Tyrolean towns. He believes these “personal encounters” are an important step in reaching out to people.

The retired computer specialist already has Facebook page where people can "Ask Willi" for advice.

The Dominicans? There's an app for that

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 17, May 2011 Categories: Clergy

The Dominican Friars from the St. Joseph Province in the U.S. and the Province of Ireland have created the iDoms Reader app. Those with an iPhone/iTouch or iPad can download the app to get access to articles and videos aggregated from the various websites of the Dominican Order. Future updates of the application will provide access to a wider variety of content and introduce extra functionality.

The Dominicans on VISION.

"Do you want to turn the world upside down?"

Posted by:   🕔 Sunday 15, May 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

"Then, says Sister Cynthia on the Connect with Mercy blog, "go looking for some Roman Catholic sisters in your neighborhood, at your school, or in your church. Take some time to talk with them. You might be surprised by what you learn about their lives.

"You might know a sister who teaches all day every day, and perhaps after school or on weekends as well. But do you know that she may also be deeply involved in advocacy on any number of social justice issues? Ask her about the death penalty, about immigration, or about what’s happening in Darfur. See how her responses turn inside out what you might have thought about nuns.

Sister Cynthia, R.S.M.
"Did you know that sisters talk all the time about their call by God to be of service? More than any other group I know we talk and read and reflect. We dig far enough and hard enough to learn the truth that sometimes hides under politics, or racism and sexism. We talk about what we have learned. Then, most importantly we go do something about it. That’s why these days you can find sisters in courts of law as well as in community shelters for homeless people. They don’t look for fame in either place. They look for improvement in the well-being of those whom much of society would like to ignore, knowing that this is the best test of our country’s own health.  That’s how they turn the world upside down.

"We devote our energies to serving others in whatever way God chooses. We pray to hear God’s voice, and to be obedient. We are so serious about this that we take a vow of obedience to God, a vow to listen really hard and then to act on what we hear.  We recognize that the resources of Earth are limited, and that we need to share and take care of each other, especially the least among us. So we take a vow of poverty: we put all our money together to see what we can do to make a difference. Our work lives often balance each others. While some of us work as hospital administrators, others are on out the streets befriending immigrants. While some run colleges, others are doing volunteer literacy training.

"Our commitment to those on the edge is grounded in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, who turned everything upside down, from ideas about who God is, to oppressive religious laws, to debilitating diseases, to tables in the temple., Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy,  turned her part of the world upside down by putting her house in a neighborhood of wealth, taking her sisters to the streets, demonstrating and teaching that women have a place and a voice in the world. She turned herself inside out to make a difference in her world.

"We try as hard as we can to be Mercy every day, visibly, right out loud, wherever we can, whenever it matters. We wear our faith in God’s loving providence with pride and joy. And we happily join with others who are on the same path, lifting little by little, block by block that part of the world which just might be the crucial corner edge to turn the whole thing over and allow a new world to emerge – a world where everyone has what they need and people work together in mutual respect.

"The Sisters of Mercy have been turning the world upside down for more than 175 years. We invite you to come with us to the streets, to turn yourselves inside out for the sake of God’s reign, for the health of God’s people, for the love of mercy."

Sisters of Mercy on VISION.

Capuchins lead peace pilgrimage in Mexico

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 13, May 2011 Categories:

For the second consecutive year missionary friars of the Western American Province of the Capuchin Franciscansorganized a Pilgrimage for Peace in Northern Mexico. Working with the mayor of the municipality of Yecora and the leaders of the Pima tribe in Sonora, the May 7 pilgrimage traveled between towns and prayed and witnessed for an end to violence in the region and in all of Mexico.

Capuchin Franciscans on VISION.

Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 2011

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 12, May 2011 Categories:
Read Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, May 15, 2011. This year’s theme: "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church."

Brother Paul Quenon, Trappist monk and poet

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 09, May 2011 Categories:
BROTHER PAUL, O.C.S.O. at Gethsemani Abbey
Brother Paul Quenon, a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in northern Kentucky and a poet who was inspired to write by his mentor and fellow monk Thomas Merton, says, “The purpose of the monastic life in the modern world is to show that we don’t need a purpose. The purpose of life is life.” See a profile of Brother Paul at Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Project launched to address vocations and educational debt

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 06, May 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

The first meeting of the working group of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) Educational Debt and Vocations Project took place at the provincial office of the Franciscan Friars, Holy Name Province, in New York City. (The NRVC is a copublisher of the VISION Vocation Guide and VISION website.)

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to the NRVC for the study. The goals of the project are:

• To assess the extent educational debt is hindering vocations to religious life; and

• To produce resources that will help address the problem of educational debt as it relates to vocations for various constituencies, including religious congregations, support organizations for vocations and religious communities, philanthropic organizations, and those considering life as a religious sister, brother, or priest.

A main impetus for the debt study was the finding in the 2009 NRVC/Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) Study on Recent Vocations to Religious Life in the United States that the average age of those entering religious life is 30 and that most entrants are college educated. In addition, feedback provided in the NRVC’s regular vocation trends surveys on indicates that debt has played a role in candidates’ readiness or eligibility for religious life. This project is timely also because the secular press is increasingly reporting on the growing issue of the overwhelming debt today’s college graduates face.

NRVC will contract with CARA to survey religious institutes regarding their policies, practices, and experience of working with candidates with student loan issues. After the survey results NRVC will develop resources for religious institutes, their treasurers and vocation directors, as well as for those who are discerning religious life.

Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., NRVC executive director, is hopeful that the “study will better equip religious congregations to work with candidates who have student loans so that student loan debt isn’t an obstacle to religious vocations and the call to consecrated life.”

13 Polish Dominicans make solemn profession

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 04, May 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

The Dominican Order of Preachers Vocations blog reports that the growth of vocations in the Dominicans extends to Poland, where 13 friars took their solemn vows in Krakow. Their priory was founded by the early Dominican Saint Hyacinth and has been in continual use since the beginning of the order in the 13th century.
THE POLISH DOMINICAN friars who recently made their solemn profession of vows.

Stepping Up the Call Pilgrimage for Vocations

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 02, May 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

This Saturday, May 7, the 8th annual “Stepping Up the Call: Pilgrimage for Vocations” will step off at 8:30 a.m. from the Maria Stein Center of the Sisters of the Precious Blood, 2291 St. John's Rd., Maria Stein, OH. The event is a fun and healthy spiritually-based day that has drawn hundreds of participants of all ages from a multistate area who walk (or ride) to area churches and shrines, prayer, talks, benediction, snacks and lunch, and closing Mass, finishing at 4 p.m.
Missionaries and Sisters of the Precious Blood
and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati organize
an annual eight-mile vocation pilgrimage.
(Look for an article on “Stepping Up the Call” and other pilgrimages in the upcoming [out in August] issue of the VISION Catholic Religious Vocation Discernment Guide.)

For more information, contact Sr. Carolyn Hoying, C.P.P.S., 937-231-1244, or Fr. Vince Wirtner, C.P.P.S,

Learn more about the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood

Rome prepares to celebrate Pope John Paul II on a grand scale

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Thursday 28, April 2011 Categories:

In addition to installing a massive photo of Pope John Paul II dwarfing the columns in Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City, Rome's city government has plastered 30,000 posters of John Paul II around the city on everything from coffee shop windows to taxicabs and buses, according to a CNN report. Streetlamps are draped with banners, and every major Italian newspaper and magazine has issued special editions. Epoca magazine's retrospective issue even refers to John Paul II as a saint despite the fact he will remain one step away after Sunday.

Documentaries about John Paul II's life have dominated Italian airwaves in recent days, and the beatification will be broadcast in St. Peter's Square and in Italian city squares from Brescia to Bari. In a rare move, the Vatican and the Italian government are both issuing stamps to commemorate the occasion. Blessed John Paul II's feast day will be celebrated on October 22.

Follow the Vatican web cam over the next few days to watch as preparations for the Beatification ceremony progress.

Survey of new priests in U.S. affirms the value of Catholic education and service

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 27, April 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

A new survey of those ordained to the priesthood in 2011 in the U.S. show they are younger and influenced by parish priests, Catholic education, service as altar boys, and social and church environments.

The Class of 2011: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood is an annual national survey of men being ordained priests for U.S. dioceses and religious communities. The study also includes information on the ages, education, ethnicity and country of origin, and other characteristics of the newly ordained’s backgrounds.

Fake nuns help real nuns make a movie

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 26, April 2011 Categories:

The Daughters of St. Paul will benefit from a special Late Nite Catechism performance.

The funds raised will be used to make a film about the Daughters founder, Blessed James Alberione, S.S.P.

Learn more about the Daughters of St. Paul.

Spare some time for the 20-Minute Novitiate

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 21, April 2011 Categories: Clergy

The novitiate is the period of time when new members of religious orders learn the spirit and work of their community, its history, and way of life.

Father Harry Hagan, O.S.B. of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana has put together an online 20-Minute Novitiate in which he talks about six hallmarks of the monastic life in order to present an overview of the life:

1. The Rule and the Tradition;
2. Stability;
3. Fidelity to the Monastic Life;
4. Obedience;
5. Prayer and Work;
6. Hospitality.

Learn more about the Benedictine Monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

Brother Luke's paintings show the depth of his talent

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 13, April 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

an acrylic in the Byzantine style
commissioned by a Philadelphia parish
On the VISION Vocation-Network and in VISION magazine we frequently talk about the various talents and life experiences people bring to religious life—and continue to cultivate once there. Recently I came across the story of Brother Luke (Pape) of the Benedictine Monastery of Mount Saviour in Pine City, New York, who passed away at the age of 92 last summer.

In the 1930's, before becoming a monk, Brother Luke earned a living as a bookkeeper and took dance classes in the evening at the wonderfully named Boris Volkoff School, which performed at a festival in Berlin in 1936 in conjunction with the Olympics. He served in the Canadian army medical corps in Europe in World War II and after the war studied art at the Central School of Art in London and then became an interior designer, helping the National Ballet of Canada as a costume designer. In 1952 he entered Mount Saviour and among other activities continued his art studies and painting, taking up subjects like portraits, landscapes, farm scenes, buildings, and flowers.

A PAINTING Brother Luke completed at the age of 90.

Learn more about the Benedictine Monks of Mount Savior Monastery.

Bon Secours Health System honored by Working Mother magazine

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Tuesday 12, April 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Bon Secours RIchmond Health system is among 12 companies that top the list of Working Mother magazine’s “2011 Best Companies for Hourly Workers.” The companies are recognized for innovative, family-friendly policies that provide training, educational assistance and promotional opportunities for hourly workers, who make up nearly half of the nation’s work force, the magazine says. Such policies include tuition reimbursement, mentoring and career counseling, flexible child-care spending accounts, and flex work and telecommuting.

The Bon Secours Richmond Health System is also a two-time Gallup Great Workplace Award recipient. Founded by the Bon Secours Sisters, who arrived in the U.S. in 1861, the Bon Secours Health System was the result of the sisters' mission to bring compassion to healthcare and be good help to those in need, especially those who are poor and dying. Over time, the Bon Secours sisters built a multi-state network of hospitals, long-term care facilities, and healthcare services. True to the sisters’ original mission of a comprehensive healing ministry. Bon Secours Richmond is active in community outreach health programs and services. As a system of caregivers, their stated mission is to commit themselves "to help bring people and communities to health and wholeness as part of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church."

Learn more about the Sisters of Bon Secours.

Shareholder nuns ask Goldman execs to justify their pay

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 06, April 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

Goldman Sachs is facing a call from the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel to review whether the pay awarded to chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and other top executives is excessive, according to the Telegraph. The proposal will be put forward at the Wall Street bank’s annual general meeting next month by the orders, who own shares in Goldman, the bank revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank’s pay practices have faced criticism from religious orders in the past, but this call comes as Goldman revealed last week that its five most senior executives were awarded $69.5m in pay last year despite a drop in the bank’s profits.

Mr Blankfein, who said in an interview in 2009 that the bank was doing “God’s work”, received a cash bonus of $5.4m as part of a total pay package of $14.1m for last year. The Benedictine nuns, along with the US charity, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, also asked Goldman’s committee to explore “how sizeable layoffs and the level of pay of our lowest paid workers impact senior executive pay.” 

In the SEC filing, the bank said that shareholders already have enough information to assess how Goldman rewards its executives and a further report would “entail an unjustified cost to our firm and would not provide shareholders with any meaningful information.”

In another case of investor nuns fighting back, last year Morgan Stanley was sued by a group of Irish nuns for allegedly failing to redeem an investment for them. The case, The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary v. Morgan Stanley, is still pending in Britain's high court.



Monk's children's book wins Christopher Award

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 04, April 2011 Categories: Clergy

Known for his cookbooks and public television cooking shows, Benedictine Father Dominic Garramone is now an award-winning children's author. His Brother Jerome and the Angels in the Bakery, which tells the story of a monk who struggles to make a success out of a new bakery and relies on faith in God to see him through, won a Christopher Award in the "Books for Young People" category.

The Christopher Awards recognize TV programming, feature films, and books for adults and children that "affirm the highest values of the human spirit."

Father Garramone is a priest and monk of St, Bede Abbey in Peru, Illinois.

The "Word is God" at Shakespeare's theatre

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 29, March 2011 Categories:

William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London is calling its 2011 season "The Word is God" and will mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible with a cover-to-cover reading between Palm Sunday, April 17 and Easter Monday, April 25, reports Ecumenical News International. That's a total of about 3.5 million words.

The King James Version of the Bible, named after King James I of England, who called for a new translation of scripture from the original Greek and Hebrew, was first published in 1611 and underwent major revisions in in the 18th and 19th centuries. The 1885 "Revised Edition" was the basis of the 1901 American Standard Version which in turn became the Revised and New Revised Standard version, one of the most widely used Bibles in the English-speaking world.

Obama visits Oscar Romero's tomb

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 25, March 2011 Categories:
A story that flew under the radar—at least for me—was President Obama's visit to the tomb of slain El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero during his recent Latin American trip. Here's an item from the Catholic News Service blog.
PRESIDENT OBAMA with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes
and San Salvador Archbishop Jose Escobar
in the San Salvador cathedral crypt
where Archbishop Romero is buried (photo: CNS).

Brothers of Charity: 47 new Nairobi novices

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 23, March 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Last month the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity accepted no fewer than 47 postulants from 11 different African countries into its international novitiate in Nairobi, Kenya. The event comes on the centenary of the departure of the first Belgian Brothers of Charity missionaries for the then Belgian Congo, beginning the Brothers' presence in Africa.
AFRICAN BROTHERS of Charity enter novitiate
on February 26, 2011
The Brothers of Charity serve in 30 countries, where in addition to education they care for the mentally ill and persons with disabilities.

Parish vocation committees encourage local culture of vocation

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 22, March 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy,Consecrated Life

In 2010 Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C., vocation director for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, formed two parish vocation committees in parishes the M.S.C.’s serve. The purpose of these committees is to reach out to parents and others in the local church to assume the responsibility of supporting young men and women who hear a call to serve God, the church, and others by becoming a religious brother or sister or through ordained ministry.

The process includes asking the pastor to identify and encourage 12-15 people who would have an interest in learning about the need for a vocation committee. Father Torma makes a presentation to them explaining the importance of forming a “culture of vocation” in the parish to inspire young men and women to consider consecrated life. The committee brainstorms possible parish activities to promote a vocation culture and chooses two or three activities to be implemented in the parish immediately.

Finally Torma asks three people to be the committee for three years, with a chairperson for two years. This committee can add members as they are able to recruit others from their parish. After the meeting Torma sends the committee ideas and keeps in contact with them to encourage their work.

Sister brings natural healing to Brazilians

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 17, March 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life
Sister Elma Barbara Klafke of the Bernardine Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Reading, Pennsylvania works in Brazil and belongs to the Health Pastoral Group in Dom Feliciano, Brazil. The group cultivates medicinal herbs which they offer to sick people during visits.

Online visit to the Sistine Chapel

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 10, March 2011 Categories:

In this blog (9/13/10) we posted an item about the effect the tons of visitors have on the Sistine Chapel. With the post was a video by a tourist who described the place as "gorgeous but  . . . . they pack in tons of people and it is very loud and very hot.”

Here are, then, for you digital tourists, from the hopefully climate-controlled comfort of wherever you are, the Vatican's interactive views of the Chapel - no people, high resolution, and ethereal background choir music to boot. (Warning: Navigating the image may make you a little woozy.)

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Boerne Benedictines open House of Prayer

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 09, March 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Boerne, Texas recently completed their new House of Prayer near the existing Omega Retreat Center on their grounds in Boerne. This spiritual haven is already being used for private and directed retreats.

For more information about retreats at the House of Prayer, please contact Sister Frances Briseño, O.S.B., Omega Outreach Director, at 830-816-8470. Sister Kathleen Higgins, O.S.B. is the community’s director of vocations, 830-816-8504.

A (church) sign of the times

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 07, March 2011 Categories:

When the “Blizzard of ’11” hit the Chicago area in early February, Father Chris Gustafson, pastor of Our Lady of Ransom in suburban Niles, was ready. He changed the message on the church's outdoor sign to read: “Whoever is praying for snow, please stop.”

Earlier this month, reports Katie Drews in the Chicago Sun-Times, the message was: “Under same management for 2,000 years.” He next plans to run: “Stop, drop, and roll doesn’t work in hell.”

ANOTHER SIGN—this one more permanent—
at Our Lady of Ransom

“My experience in life is that little things like that can be enough,” Gustafson said. “If somebody’s having a hard time . . . it’s a little tool that can hopefully reach them.”

And apparently it does. According to Donald Seitz, who has authored three books on church signs in the U.S., “Usually in 10 words or less, they are communicating a very powerful message to someone who, at the most, has 10 seconds to read it and drive by,” he said. “But those messages seem to have an impact for a long duration. They encourage us to live better lives and to pray more often.”

Sister helps in Haiti

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 03, March 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Lorraine Malo, a Sister of St. Joseph of Toronto, is in Haiti working with children injured by the earthquake and also helping in other ways. She was interviewed on a recent edition of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio program Tapestry.

"And the Oscar goes to . . . ."

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 28, February 2011 Categories:
Three movie-watchers discuss the moral, ethical, religious, and spiritual themes they saw in some of this year’s Academy Award nominees, on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

National Vocation Plan ready

Posted by:   🕔 Sunday 27, February 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy,Consecrated Life
Last September the Moving Forward in Hope Project, initiated by National Religious Vocation Conference and funded by the GHR Foundation, met to study in depth the NRVC/CARA study on recent vocations to consecrated life, and to develop a strategic plan of concrete action steps to promote new membership in religious communities. The resulting National Vocation Plan is now available. To see both the plan and the original study, go to

Sister, 103, celebrates birthday with a polka

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 24, February 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

They brought in a polka band to celebrate the 103rd birthday of Sr. Cecilia Adorni, and she stepped up to the challenge. The party, by the way, took place at the Hamden, Connecticut care facility where she works. Here's the CNN story.

Searches help sisters

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 22, February 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Sisters of St. Benedict of Beech Grove, Indiana have found what they call a simple way to financially help their Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center:
On GoodSearch, registered users designate organizations they want to support from among the 97,000-plus nonprofits who have joined the site. Except for a few kinds of searches, 50 percent of the revenue generated from sponsored search advertisers is shared with organizations of the user’s choosing. The searches are powered by Yahoo!

For more on sisters’ use of GoodSearch, see the community’s homepage.

Angry monks stop “insulting” beer ad

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 17, February 2011 Categories:

Why this story made’s “Weird news” is beyond me. Maybe they think anything religious is weird. At any rate, Svyturys-Utenos alus, Lithuania’s largest brewery, had recently run a billboard advertising campaign showing a Franciscan friar holding a glass of beer. Their idea was, friars and monks had been producing beer and other alcoholic beverages since the Middle Ages, so what was the problem?

The problem was Lithuania's conference of monks and nuns, who said in a statement the advertisement made them feel "insulted and trampled upon." They wrote a protest letter to Svyturys, who apologized and withdrew the ad.

Source: Thomson Reuters via

What's to love about being a priest?

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 16, February 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

"I love being a priest," says Fr. Charles B. Gordon, CSC, in an essay in the March issue of U.S. Catholic, "because right now there are more than a billion people in the world for whom I'm not only a priest but also their priest. On the off chance that we ever meet, they will know what to make of me, and I will have a way to be with them.

Gordon, a Holy Cross priest, who teaches theology and literature at the University of Portand in Oregon, lists a number of other reasons he loves being a priest, including "because I hear about miracles. That's because people tend not to tell each other about their miracles. But they'll tell a priest.

"I know a woman whose beloved father died when she was barely out of her teens. When it happened, she turned to scripture for solace. She opened her Bible at random and read, "In place of your fathers will be your sons." She was single then. Now she is married and has four children, all of them boys. That is her miracle.

"...I've spoken to a Chinese physicist who converted from atheism to Christianity because ice floats. He told me that every other liquid sinks when it freezes. If water sank when it froze, he assured me, the earth would be entirely lifeless. We exist because water behaves in this odd way. That, he said, cannot be a coincidence and so he believes in our Creator God."

For the entire article go to U.S. For more information about the Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers, click here and type in Congregation of Holy Cross or key in code 097.

Church has not lost young generation, conference says

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 16, February 2011 Categories:

Although Catholic young adults are not as attached to the church as young adults were in the 1940s and 1950s, they are hardly a generation that has lost its faith, according to speakers at a two-day forum at Fordham University.

More than 700 people participated in the Jan. 28-29 "Lost? Twenty-Somethings in the Church" conference cosponsored by the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies and the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture. Participants included young adults, campus ministers, youth ministers, and others.

Sociologist James Davidson, professor emeritus at Purdue University, said young Catholics "distinguish between the Catholic faith, which they identify with and respect, and the Catholic Church, which they are less attached to."

Quoting a wide body of research, including his own, Davidson said eight of 10 young Catholics believe there are many ways to interpret Catholicism and they grant more authority to their individual experience than they do to the church itself.

"They stress the importance of thinking for themselves more than obeying church leaders," he said. "Instead of simply embracing church traditions and teachings, they tinker with them. They distinguish between abstract beliefs and principles that they think are at the core of the Catholic faith, and more concrete norms and codes of conduct that they consider optional or peripheral," Davidson said.

"They believe that doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Mary as the Mother of God, Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, and the need to be concerned about the poor are more important than teachings such as the need to limit the priesthood to men, the need for priestly celibacy, the church's opposition to artificial birth control, and its opposition to the death penalty," he said.

Tami Schmitz, assistant director of spirituality in campus ministry at the University of Notre Dame, said young adults yearn for good catechesis, a connection with God, and a place in a community. Many of the students she sees have a weak understanding of the basics but are eager, open, and curious to learn about the faith.

"We owe it to them to develop ways to feed this precious hunger in them. Catechizing them in ways that are creative and exciting and answering their questions is a good start," she said. "If we don't do it, where else are they going to get their answers? And how long will they keep searching?"

Schmitz said those in their 20s seek community. "They want someone to know, listen to, and treasure their story. They want to know that being a part of a faith community makes a difference in their lives. When you are part of a true faith community, you can't be lost: Someone will come looking for you because they will miss you if you are not there."

Women entering religious life: high achievement, low encouragement, survey finds

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 11, February 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

A new study suggests that women entering religious life today are highly educated and experienced in church work—and also that many receive little or no encouragement from their families in their vocation.

The Profession Class of 2010: Survey of Women Religious Professing Perpetual Vows, released by the U.S. bishops on February 2, the World Day for Consecrated Life, and conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, found that more than half of the women who professed final vows to join a religious order in 2010 said a parent or family member had discouraged their religious calling. Only 26 percent of the surveyed sisters said their mother encouraged them to consider religious life, and only 16 percent said their fathers supported their choice.

In a presentation to the U.S. bishops in 2009, Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, pointed to the discouragement from family and friends as a troublesome trend for the church. "Although people want a full-time pastor in their parish or religious sister teaching their children in the Catholic school, ironically, they are reluctant to have their own son or daughter choose that vocation," Bednarczyk said.

Nevertheless, religious life continues to attract highly educated and skilled candidates. Of those surveyed, six in ten entered their religious community with at least a bachelor’s degree and a quarter already possessed a graduate degree. Eighty-five percent had ministry experience before entering, most commonly in liturgical ministry, faith formation, or social service ministry.

More on this story at Preaching the News and USA Today.

Kili climbed for charity

Posted by:   🕔 Thursday 10, February 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

It’s not unusual for individuals to raise money to support the work of religious communities, but last month Diane Molitor-Palmer of Wichita, Kansas found a unique way to solicit donations for five Catholic women’s religious orders who run missions in Africa: She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 19,340 feet the highest mountain in Africa.

DIANE PALMER and fellow climbers
on the
summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro
Palmer, 65—who was not an experienced climber—chronicled her trek and the African volunteer work she has been doing since it at, where you can get lots more information as well as click-throughs to video and podcasts.

The organizations that benefited from her effort were the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Kaduna, Nigeria, Hope for the Village Child; Sisters of Charity, B.V.M., Kumasi, Ghana, the Library and Literacy Center; Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Manyoni, Tanzania, schools for children; Congregation of St. Joseph, Songea, Tanzania, school for girls in rural areas; and the Christian Foundation for Children & Aging, Nairobi, Kenya, education and nutrition.

“How did I get here?”

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 09, February 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

That’s the question second-year Sisters of Mercy candidate Audrey Abbata asked herself. Ten years ago she was married and had a successful career with the Hearst Corporation. Then, in 2001, her husband Anthony was diagnosed with leukemia. He died three years later. “The darkness that enveloped me in the next few months frightened me immensely,” she said. “In my despair I got down on my knees and asked God to save me. God, being ever merciful, heard my plea. I found hope. From that day forward I vowed never to stray . . . from God again. To keep that promise I needed to make God the focus of my life. I had no idea how to live this, so I asked God to show me the way.”

AUDREY Abbata (left)

That way led her to the Sisters of Mercy, where she is now pursuing answers to other questions, like “how many of us long for something more in life?” and “how many of us live our lives content that we are on our journey with God?”

To those considering a vocation to consecrated life, Abbata says: “Religious life is a radical form of discipleship. Radical by definition is fundamental. I believe that in every generation God calls individuals to a fundamental life of vowed service to God. If God is stirring this desire in you, be open and allow God to transform you. Discover the contentment of living in harmony with God. Have enough faith to answer the call. God will show you the way.”

To read the full story of Abbata’s journey to religious life, visit the Mercy sisters website.

Click here to learn more abou the Sisters of Mery of the Americas.

L.A. Catholic schools modify longer school year plan

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 08, February 2011 Categories:

In late January the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced it would become the first school system in California—public or private—to move to a 200-day academic year at its elementary campuses. But after complaints from parents that the longer year would disrupt family schedules, diocesesan chancellor Mary Elizabeth Galt said that the decision on whether to add instructional days will be left to schools.

According to Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archdiocese planned to add 20 days to the school year because of the clear relationship between time spent in an academic setting and increased student performance. "Elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are responding to this critical national issue in order that our students grow up to be successful leaders in the global workforce," Mahony said in a statement.

Kevin Baxter, the archdiocese's superintendent of elementary schools, said about 10 schools already operate on an extended schedule, and the Los Angeles Times reported that 70 percent of the archdiocese's schools have said they will adopt the extended year; some are expected to phase it in over two years. The move will result in slightly higher teacher salaries and tuition costs, he said.

Nashville Dominicans see big rise in entrants

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 04, February 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life

The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, also known as the Nashville Dominicans, recently celebrated their 150th anniversary with a postulant class of 27 young women, or 10 percent of the entire community, following up on last year’s group of 23 entrants.. The sisters are active across the United States and in Australia, where they teach more than 13,000 students in 34 schools.

Sister Catherine Marie, a spokeswoman, says the current group of first-year students represents ten percent of the whole community. "There are 270 of us and our growth of late has been rather extensive. This year we had 27 young women enter. Last year, it was 23. Great blessings to us."

In addition, these women are young, with nearly one third of the community now under age 30. That fact is especially relevant considering a recent poll by the Pew Research Center which showed that participation in organized religion is falling among Americans under 30. A different group, the National Opinion Research Center, found that 17 percent of Americans do not identify with any faith, including almost 25 percent of first-year university students.

Sister Kelly Edmunds is a first-year postulant with the St. Cecilia community. She says she came to the order out of a desire to serve others. She had seen Dominican sisters serving at the University of Sydney.

"Just to watch them, walking down the main boulevard of campus wearing their habits—it was just such a powerful witness,” she said. “I had friends in engineering who were, like, they knew I was Catholic so they would say to me, ‘Who are these nuns on campus?’ And so it was a really great witness to me of the power of religious life."

Beloved, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia's vocation video:

U.S. Catholic group escapes Egyptian chaos

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 02, February 2011 Categories: Clergy

For years Father Don Senior, C.P. has traveled all over the Middle East without a major incident—until recently, that is, when he and the group he was leading from the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago found themselves in the middle of what looks awfully like a revolution in Egypt.

They were in Giza, about 20 kilometers outside Cairo and home of the famed ancient pyramids, when the violent demonstrations against the Egyptian government reached that city. “At night we started to hear a lot of gunfire,” said Senior, a Passionist priest, president of CTU, and a member of the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission. “We could smell the burning of the Giza police station. On Sunday it became clear to me that we . . . could not just go anywhere, and you sense the anxiety.”

on one of his many travels
They had arrived on January 26 but due to disruptions in cell phone and email access were able to send home only minimal news about their status until the morning of Jan. 31, when in a message Senior described how they were able to get out. “Through the help of our long-time friend and travel agent in Israel we were able to secure places for all on an emergency El Al flight sent to Egypt on Sunday night. After a harrowing trip to the airport and a ten-hour struggle in the utter chaos of the Cairo airport, the whole group is now in Jerusalem. We arrived at 5:00 am this morning. . . . and our travel agent is arranging for us to resume our return on February 5 more or less as planned!”

Senior noted the kindness Egyptians showed them and asked to “remember the Egyptian people in your prayers at this moment of great danger and hope.”

CTU is the largest Catholic graduate school of theology in the U.S. and is sponsored by a number of Catholic religious orders.

Read the full report from Carol Marin of the NBC TV affiliate in Chicago.

Award-winning film about Trappist monks fails to make Oscar cut

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 31, January 2011 Categories: Clergy

The French, and no doubt some Trappist monks, are disappointed that the second-place winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Of Gods and Men ("Des hommes et des dieux"), failed to make the 2011 list of Oscar nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

The film, which has enjoyed wide critical and commercial success, is based on the true story of French Trappist monks living in an Algerian village in the 1990s who must decide whether or not to remain in their monastery despite a wave of Islamic extremism. In the process of making their final decision, they are forced to examine their consciences and the nature of their vocations, writes Philip French in the Guardian. "In a beautifully staged walk through the countryside, passing an emblematic flock of sheep, and sitting beside a lake, Christian [the abbot] appears to be examining himself in the light of Christ's teaching. We inevitably think of Thomas Beckett's self-questioning in T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral and those key lines: 'The last temptation is the greatest treason/ To do the right thing for the wrong reason.' . . . The subject matter is urgently topical, the themes raised eternal and universal."

Wisconsin shrine recognized as first U.S. apparition site

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 28, January 2011 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, a chapel and complex amidst dairy farms in Champion, Wisconsin, has become one of only about a dozen sites worldwide—and the first in the United States—where apparitions of Mary have been officially validated by the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1859, the year after Mary is said to have appeared at Lourdes in France, a Belgian immigrant in Champion named Adele Brise said she was visited three times by Mary, who hovered between two trees in a bright light, clothed in white with a yellow sash around her waist and a crown of stars above her head. As instructed by Our Lady, Brise devoted her life to teaching the Catholic faith to children. By all reports Brise was humble and honest and faithfully carried out Mary’s mandate to serve the church throughout her life.

On December 8, after a two-year investigation by theologians who found no evidence of fraud or heresy and a long history of shrine-related conversions, cures, and other signs of divine intervention, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay declared “with moral certainty” that Brise did indeed have encounters “of a supernatural character” that are “worthy of belief.”

Catholic leaders described the decree as a piece of joy at a trying time for the church, “This is a gift to the believers,” said the Father Johann Roten, director of the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton.

The Vatican gives primary responsibility for evaluating apparitions to local bishops. Wary of fraud, the church is generally reluctant to even investigate such claims. During the 20th century, Roten said, 386 major apparitions of Mary were reported at a level beyond local rumors. About 75 of those were studied, and at most a dozen were recognized as valid, he said.

Local officials may now have to ask themselves whether they thought too small when they designed the Shrine’s parking lot—planned well before the decree—to fit only 75 cars.

Bishop David Ricken reads the declaration approving the apparitions given to Adele Brise in 1859:

Sundance films feature faith

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 26, January 2011 Categories:

In past years when films with religious themes have popped up at the Sundance independent film festival, they’ve tended to be satires or exposés liked Saved! or Jesus Camp. This year, however, religion, spirituality, and faith have moved more into the mainstream, with 12 of the festival's120 films spotlighting stories about religion or characters defined by faith.

“There are definitely more films [exploring spirituality] that ended up in the program this year than in years past,” John Nein, senior programmer for the annual Park City, Utah festival, told Piet Levy of Religion News Service.

Salvation Boulevard features Pierce Brosnan as a popular preacher who frames a born-again Christian follower for a crime, while the documentary The Redemption of General Butt Naked deals with a Liberian warlord-turned-preacher facing the loved ones of people he killed. The Italian film Lost Kisses focuses on a Sicilian community’s reaction to a 13-year-old girl who may be performing miracles. Two films explore Christianity and Islam: Kinyarwanda, set during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the documentary Position Among the Stars about the lives of an impoverished family living in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Japan’s Abraxas chronicles the life of a depressed Zen monk who reconnects with punk rock, while the American comedy The Catechism Cataclysm centers on a priest who loves heavy metal music. Three other American films—Martha Marcy May Marlene; Kevin Smith’s horror film Red State; and Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground—are concerned with cults and fringe religious sects.

The trailer for Position Among the Stars:

Dirty Vagabond Ministries reaches out to inner-city youth

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 24, January 2011 Categories:

Dirty Vagabond Ministries, based in Steubenville, Ohio, is a Catholic apostolate to inner-city young people whose communities typically lack the resources to pay for religious youth workers and programs. The ministry seeks to mentor urban teens through Catholic incarnational theology: Its workers immerse themselves in the slang, fashion, and music of inner-city culture and give themselves to the pain, hopelessness, and anger of urban teens in order to bring Christ, and "be" Christ, with people.

Struck by the absence of visible urban youth ministries in service to Catholic youth, veteran youth ministers Bob and Kate Lesnefsky founded Dirty Vagabond in hope of bridging that gap. As a Christian hip-hop artist and speaker, Bob travels the country reaching out to contemporary teens through rap music and hip-hop culture, while Kate puts degrees in theology and catechetics to use mentoring teenage girls.

The ministry’s main approach is a one-on-one method in which relationships are developed on a personal level so that every individual who visits a Dirty Vagabond Ministries community center is personally heard, loved, and ministered. Dirty Vagabond does not organize large-scale youth events or even seek to draw large numbers of young people. Instead, their hope is to develop new leaders that will remain in the community to mentor others.

Rather than overlook the configuration of urban life, Bob and Kate lead Dirty Vagabond Ministries in addressing the unique challenges of inner-city communities, where the widespread single-parent family structure can lead to a lack of structure, motivation, and attention among the kids who live there.

Their ministry seeks to be a healthy classroom and youth group to a generation of teens who have grown up in a hostile time and environment. Dirty Vagabond Ministries provides resources and catechetical models to develop the faith, character, life skills, and knowledge that lead urban teens to the sacramental life of the church and pastoral leadership within their communities.

Dirty Vagabond Ministries’ How Much Can Be Done in a Year?:

Salesian Missions launches Haiti recovery website

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 21, January 2011 Categories: Clergy,Consecrated Life

A year after the earthquake in Haiti, Salesian Missions has launched a news site that focuses on disaster recovery efforts in the area of Port-au-Prince. With so much media attention focusing on the negative aspects of the post-earthquake situation, hopes to provide information and insight about programs and progress in Haiti related to Salesian Missions activities and those of partner organizations as well as overall issues in the country.

Through a new Salesian University Network, for example, hundreds of university students who had been unable to return to school following the Jan. 12, 2010 quake will have a chance to continue their education through 13 computer labs or cybercafés throughout Haiti.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Salesian Missions provided disaster relief to victims—many of them their own students and teachers. Early efforts focused on the basic human needs of food, water, medical supplies, survival kits, and tents for shelter. Thousands of refugees were housed within the confines of those facilities which were not destroyed, and thousands more were provided meals.

In addition to getting news, people can visit to make donations for recovery work. To date about $2.5 million have been spent by Salesian Missions on relief efforts for the Haitian people, along with additional in-kind donations. More than 23,000 students and 1,200 teachers have returned to classes at 10 Salesian Missions educational facilities.

Salesian Missions "What's your mission?" video”:

The Salesians also have a YouTube channel.

Dominicans see increase in vocations, need for expansion

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 19, January 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy

While recent decades have seen declines in the numbers of members of religious orders—and the resulting closure of facilities—the recent upward trend in membership has produced the opposite challenge: not enough space.

DOMINICAN student brothers gather
at Aquinas Institute Spirit Week 2010.
For example, the Dominican friars in the central and southern U.S. welcomed 10 men last fall, their largest class in more than 20 years. Dominican Father David Wright, master of students in St. Louis, said two provinces have priesthood candidates living in St. Louis who attend Aquinas Institute, a graduate school of theology next to St. Louis University. In 2007, he said, “We had 18 students and this year we’re up to 25. Next year, if all those presently in the novitiate come in, we could have an increase of up to 30. It was time to expand.”

The Dominicans recently purchased the former Loretto Academy building in St. Louis. The renovated space will open in the fall as a Dominican priory, a residential community for men preparing to become priests in the order. The men will live in the house for five years while they study at Aquinas, which also educates laypeople to serve in ministerial roles. Those considering entering the order also go to the order's retirement community in Chicago where they experience the older members' life of prayer and living in community.

The building that will house the priory was designed by an architectural firm begun by George I. Barnett, who also designed the Missouri governor's mansion, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, and several of the earliest buildings at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It includes 32,000 feet of living space and an additional 16,000 feet of chapel, corridor, and storage space. Living quarters will undergo extensive renovation but much of the common space will be untouched. Features include a tile fireplace with carved wooden mantle and a chapel with stained-glass windows by artist Emil Frei. A new addition will include other common spaces and a fully accessible main entrance.

“We have a wonderful appeal both as a community and as an apostolate,” Father Wright said. “Preaching the word of God is what we're all about. And that can be done in hundreds of ways. Men don't join just to be in teaching, mission work, or whatever.” Continuing the work of their founder, Saint Dominic (1170-1221), the mission of the Dominicans includes preaching, teaching, and doing works of justice in a variety of settings--campus ministry, parish work, high schools, colleges, and retreat centers, full-time preaching, service in health care as chaplains and ethicists, the arts, and more. Community life, Father Wright said, involves not only living together under one roof but also the willingness to share one’s life with one another, being “of one mind and one heart in God.” The four pillars of Dominican life are prayer, common life, study, and ministry.

Twice a year the Dominicans have a “come and see” event for young men considering a vocation to experience that life, with the next one scheduled for the weekend of February 26-28, 2011 in Dallas.

Friars from the Bronx work in tough Irish neighborhood

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 17, January 2011 Categories:

Frank McCourt’s famous memoir Angela’s Ashes depicts life in Limerick, Ireland’s fourth-largest city, where for decades residents have struggled  to overcome poverty, unemployment, and other social problems Three years ago a trio of Franciscan Friars from the Bronx, New York moved to the Limerick suburb of Moyross to serve the needs of its residents.

Brothers Shawn O’Conner, Jason Grandell, and Thomas Joseph of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal established their friary there in 2007 by converting three abandoned houses into a simple residence and chapel. Shortly before they moved in, they got a reminder of how tough the neighborhood was. Two children were nearly burned to death when a group of teenagers firebombed the car they were sitting in. But O’Connor and the others saw a need, and over the last three years they have worked hard to get to know the community.

“Many of the young people here just have no real proper guidance, that’s one thing we found,” O’Connor says. “They’re very wild. They’re great and they’re wonderful kids but they don’t have any discipline, they don’t have any sense of right or wrong.”

The monks persist with the kids, not shying away from a bit of soccer or American football or some good-old-fashioned roughhousing. They do it all wearing their grey, hooded robes, beards, and shaved heads.

Among other projects, the monks have built a community garden and a youth center. They’ve endured the teasing, the jokes, and the rocks that were sometimes thrown through their windows.

“Anytime there is a new brother, too, the young people test him. You have to go through somewhat of a crucible and rightly so because you have to earn the peoples’ love and respect,” said Brother Joseph.

Earlier this year the monks organized a rap contest in the neighborhood. Though the area is still a troubled place—and the current economic crisis will not make life there any easier in the coming years—the contest and other efforts are the kind of small gestures they believe give people in Moyross a sense of pride and hope for the future.

The friars at work in Moyross:

French Augustinians serve river community

Posted by:   🕔 Friday 14, January 2011 Categories: Clergy

Since 1988 the Augustinians of the Assumption have been working with the riverboat community on the River Seine in the northeast Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte Honorine. One of the things making their ministry different from other parishes, however, is its location. Like the people it serves, it is on a barge, or rather a group of barges.

THE COMMUNITY chapel on Le Je Sers
Established by Father Arthur Hervet and now staffed by four other Assumptionists, the barge-chapel, named Le Je Sers (“I serve”), is one of two “river parishes” in France. The parish does everything a landlubbing parish does, like celebrating the sacraments and conducting catechism classes for the children of residents of the barge community and children in the immediate surroundings. The chapel is open 24/7, and all are invited to share the community's times of prayer.

The community’s ministry also functions as a place for emergency shelter. It welcomes former prisoners and streetwalkers and currently offers temporary housing to about 40 persons looking to get back on their feet. The office at the rear of the barge community, called La Pierre Blanche (“White Rock”), takes in a dozen or so people every day who are living at life's edge. Volunteers help those temporarily housed in the community with navigating government bureaucracy, searching for work or permanent housing, or learning French. The barges also house the headquarters for six social agencies.

Every morning after breakfast two teams leave to pick up food donations from various agencies and stores for the community’s cooks to prepare. Other residents or volunteers are responsible for the upkeep and repair of the barges.

Though the riverboat population is smaller than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, there is still plenty to do on Je Sers. The community has 6 employees, 20 regular volunteers, and over 100 other volunteers. Its nine barges—six owned by the community and three on loan from the Voies Navigables de France (Navigable Waterways of France)—include houses and apartments and have 50 residents. The community owns vans and cars and also uses vehicles on loan.

PLAN of the four main barges making up
the community's living quarters
In addition to the 100 meals served onboard daily, the parish distributes 100 food baskets to the needy every day and makes gifts to various groups in need, such as the Roma people (Gypsies), immigrants, and other soup kitchens or food pantries. Each week it gathers, recycles, and distributes one ton of clothes. About half its budget of €800,000 ($1,000,000) comes from gifts and the other half from subsidized rents.

Rosary recalls royal visit to monastery

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 11, January 2011 Categories:

The chronicle for Nov. 26, 1946 of the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri included this cryptic note: "Arrangements were made also for the Empress Zita who is expected tomorrow afternoon."

“Empress Zita” was Zita von Hapsburg, the last empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and widow of its last emperor, Charles I. Two days after the above entry, having arrived with her daughter at the convent, she went to Thanksgiving Day Mass at the nearby Benedictine Conception Abbey.

What was a deposed member of European royalty doing in northwestern Missouri? Charles, Zita, and their children had been forced to leave Austria-Hungary at the close of World War I. Charles died at the age of 34, leaving behind 7 children and another on the way. When the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, Zita and her children had to flee again. Experiencing poverty and war-time suffering firsthand, she sympathized with the poor families of post-war Austria and, settling her family in Quebec, began a two-year trip across Canada and the United States to raise money for Central European war relief.

That explains the reason she was in the U.S. But why Missouri? For many years she had wanted to pray at the grave of Father Lukas Etlin, who had died in an auto accident in December of 1927 and was buried on the convent grounds in Clyde. Born in Switzerland in 1864, Etlin had served as the Clyde sisters' chaplain and had worked to raise funds on behalf of Austria's poor following World War I.

Father Norbert Schappler is the only monk now living at Conception Abbey who was there the day the empress came for Mass in 1946. He told Dana Webster of the Maryville (Mo.) Daily Forum that he remembers Zita wore “dark, drab clothes” (she dressed in mourning for her husband from the time of his death in 1922 until her own death in 1989 at the age of 96). As a momento of her visit, she gave the monks a small rosary, which is still on display at the monastery.

Pre-Islamic Christian site uncovered in United Arab Emirates

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 10, January 2011 Categories:

The archaeological remains of an ancient Nestorian Christian monastery and church on Sri Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates have been opened for public viewing, providing an important glimpse into the pre-Islamic history of the region.

The site was unearthed in the early 1990s and is believed to be the only permanent settlement ever established on the island, which is 160 miles southwest of Abu Dhabi. The complex includes monks’ cells, kitchens, and animal pens surrounding a courtyard dominated by a church. At least eight houses have been unearthed. The monastery is thought to have been an important destination for pilgrims traveling along a trade route to India.

TOURISTS visiting the excavation site of the monastery
on Sir Bani Yas Island off Abu Dhabi.
"Twenty years ago, we had no idea that Christians came this far south and east in the Arabian Gulf," said Dr. Joseph Elders, the archaeological director of the excavation project. “This shows that Christianity had penetrated far further than we thought before. . . . We don't have many monasteries from this period."

Christianity spread throughout the Persian Gulf between 50 and 350 A.D. The inhabitants of the settlement were probably part of the Nestorian Church, also known as the Church of the East. Nestorianism denied Mary the title of “Theotokos” or “Mother of God” and was considered heretical by the early orthodox Christian Church because of differences between the two groups regarding beliefs about the true nature of the person of Jesus Christ.

A mixture of people from along the Gulf and local residents who spoke Syriac and Arabic made up the community on Sri Bani Yas. Artifacts at the site suggest the monks had ties to the regions of modern-day Iraq, India, and Bahrain.

The settlement appears to have been peacefully abandoned in about 750 A.D. The spread of Islamic influence probably diminished the monks’ ability to find new recruits, Archaeology Daily suggests.

“Figuring out my call”

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 05, January 2011 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy,Consecrated Life

Torma, M.S.C.
In his recent Vocation Corner online column, Father Andrew Torma, M.S.C., vocation director for the U.S.A. Province of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, offered some reflections on “Figuring Out My Call”:

“Am I to live the sacrament of marriage? If so, when? Am I to live the single life? Live as a chaste single person? Am I to be a priest? Am I to be a lay minister? Part time? Full time? Am I to be a religious brother? A religious sister? Am I to be a consecrated lay person? Is it time to make a first step toward commitment? To this person? To the church? To this religious order? To this organization?

“When discerning about something, it is important to be a person of faith. Believe that God has a plan for you. Each of us does the hard work of dating, inquiring, studying, volunteer activities, prayer, and searching. We must be engaged in the process. Passivity is not discernment. God will not spoon-feed us into a life commitment. Yet, when we turn our action over to guidance from God, situations, persons, and circumstances will be tools to illuminate the direction. Prayer is necessary. In prayer, mention the person or the actions or the circumstances around the process of one’s search.

“Talk with people. The gospel uses the image of the lamp on the lamp stand which illuminates the entire room. We cast light onto our experience when we talk about it. Parish marriage preparation or Engaged Encounter helps a person to see clearly that this person is choosing me as her or his life partner. Sharing our spiritual journey with a mentor helps to clarify God’s will for our lives. A trusted friend or an experienced person can help clarify confusing experiences. Searching for a call to serve as a priest or a consecrated person is nourished by the lives of the saints, involvement in ministries, making sacrifices, and living with sisters, brothers, or priests for a short time."

Ancient scripture practice recommended for modern Catholics

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 04, January 2011 Categories:

Lectio divina, a meditative way to read scripture which members of religious orders have been practicing for centuries, is an ideal way for contemporary Catholics to unplug from worldly distractions and establish holy intimacy, permanent friendship, and fruitful companionship with Jesus Christ, says Trappist Brother Simeon Leiva.

Lectio divina—"sacred reading" or "divine reading"—dates from the 2nd century. It uses a pattern of reading, reflection, prayer, contemplation, and action to meditate on short scriptural passages.

Leiva addressed priests of the Archdiocese of New York Dec. 9 at the American Bible Society's launch of two books devoted to the practice: The Catholic Prayer Bible: “Lectio Divina” Edition and Pray With the Bible, Meditate With the Word: A Manual for the Prayerful Reading of the Bible.

Leiva said lectio cultivates the human heart to activate to its highest potential and helps bring Christian souls to their natural state with Jesus Christ at the center of their being. "Union with Jesus is the whole of my life, and my relationship with him is the primal relationship that invigorates all others," he said.

Lectio is a "Catholic way to decompress and pray at the same time. For whatever reason you practice it, it requires you to slow down and unplug yourself,” Leiva said. “It's healthy, and it's very doable.”

In the Archdiocese of New York, lectio training began last year and will be offered twice in 2011. Capuchin Franciscan Father Brendan Buckley, parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, N.Y., said he plans to work with two neighboring parishes to introduce the practice to Spanish-speaking groups in Lent "to promote the sense that the Bible is the living word of God.”



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