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2014 Posts

Vatican releases positive report on U.S. sisters

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 17, December 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

In mid-December, the Vatican released its final report on a multi-year investigation into how American sisters live, work, and pray. The report was largely postive and expressed gratitude for the sisters' ministry and witness.

“Women religious have courageously been in the forefront, selflessly tending to the spiritual, moral, educational, physical, and social needs of countless individuals,” the report said.

The Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America
 resulted from a visitation beginning in 2008 "to look into the quality of the life of religious women in the United States." It was initiated because "apostolic religious life in the United States is experiencing challenging times."

Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference (VISION's parent organization), shared his thoughts on the report with America: "Religious sisters are an essential and formidable force in the life of the church. They have managed hospitals, schools, and universities and have forged innovative, effective ministries to meet the needs of the poor with little money, but with great vision and determination. I applaud the Congregation’s acknowledgement of the structural, cultural, and financial challenges women’s religious institutes face in attracting and retaining new members. I am especially heartened by the Congregation’s very clearly stated commitment to work with Pope Francis to find expression for 'feminine genius' and a role for women in 'decision making in the different areas of Church life.' During this Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis invites all religious to look to our future with hope."

The Global Sisters Report said of the report: "Using some form of the word 'gratitude' eight times over its 12 pages, the report also acknowledges the suspicion many sisters had over the launching of the investigation and says the Vatican is seeking 'respectful and fruitful dialogue' with those who refused to collaborate in the process."

Although the number of those in religious life is diminishing, support for these challenges is present in the report. The Year of Consecrated Life will offer even more opportunities for the laity and religious to experience the charisms, community, and grace of consecrated life.

Joy to the world: Pope Francis calls for happiness this holiday season

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 14, December 2014 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality
Pope Francis holds up a prayer book while encouraging listeners to find joy during Advent.

As thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square to have Pope Francis bless their figures of baby Jesus for their crèche scenes, the pope called for a spirit of joyfulness during Advent, saying, “We’ve never heard of a sad saint.”

He encouraged listeners to strive for happiness, saying, “Every family, every people, aspires to happiness.”

This past Sunday was the “Sunday of Joy” during which many priests around the world wear rose-colored vestments to represent the joy of anticipation.

Pope Francis sought to remind the world that in the rush towards Christmas, many people feel overwhelmed. “Think of all the good things life has given you . . . don't forget joy,” he said.

Read more here.

Priest rides to advocate for victims of climate change

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 14, December 2014 Categories: Clergy
Super-typhoons caused by climate change have devastated many areas of the Philippines.

Father Amado Picardal will ride his bike from Manila to Mindanao in the Philippines to raise awareness about climate change and its victims. Recently, super-typhoons have devastated many areas of the country, forcing citizens to rebuild.

Picardal wants to draw attention to the problem and will be advocating for change while biking through sites where the typhoons hit.

On his blog, he writes, “This covers approximately 1,800 km which I am doing in two weeks. I will be doing this alone most of the time, but along the way, there will be some local cyclists in major cities who will accompany me for a few hours. I will be staying overnight in parishes and will concelebrate in the Aguinaldo masses and preach.”

Picardal has done advocacy rides before, when he was younger, but the recent changes in climate inspired him to ride once more.

“The super-typhoons that have hit our country every year and other calamities such as floods and droughts have spurred me to ride my bike across the country once again. I am aware that these are not 'acts of God' or mere natural occurrences. These are manifestations of climate change.”

Read more here.

Capturing Carmelites

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 10, December 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
Contemplative Carmelite communities from Spain (left) and Southwest England (right) doing "everyday" things.

Two different blogs recently captured the lives of Carmelite sisters with stunning photographs. Carmelites are monastic, contemplative, and apostolic in character. One of the Carmelite communities featured is the Convento de Santa Teresa in Spain. Photographer/writer Lori Needlman shares of her experience: "The monjas (nuns), about ten or so, flashed smiles and passed their hands through the bars to be held by us. In utter chaos, each monja asked questions, laughed, and smiled. They were excited to have us visit on the day of my nephew's communion! This informal dance kept on for some time. I stood back observing and feeling lucky to be able to meet the monjas. This hidden part of Spanish culture is not something you can see as a tourist."

Visit her blog, on the Huffington Post, here. Visit her site to view more photos here.  

The Everyday Lives of Nuns, a photo blog by David Rosenburg, features a series called “Sisters of Sclerder” by Ibolya Feher. Rosenburg writes, "It’s one thing to decide to create a photographic series about an enclosed contemplative monastery; it’s another to make it happen. Determined to create a series about a world that seems almost otherworldly, Ibolya Feher went the modern route and did a Google search to find the monastery closest to her home in Southwest England. That turned out to be the Sisters of the Carmelite order, who live in Sclerder Abbey, about a three-hour train ride away. The Carmelite order is one of the oldest contemplative orders in which the sisters live and work primarily in silence and rarely allow outsider visitors."

A short list of Carmelite communities to peruse:

Carmelites (O.Carm)-Congregation of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm (O.Carm)
Carmelite Friars (O.Carm.) [St. Elias Province]
Association of British Carmels
Carmelite Monastery, Notting Hill Carmel, UK
Ware Carmel, UK
Discalced Carmelite Friars (O.C.D.) Washington Province

Japanese priest helps Cambodians get educated

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 08, December 2014 Categories: Catholic culture
The construction site of AMATAK House of Cambodia's 19th school.

Father Fumio Goto, 85, has helped build 18 schools in Cambodia, and is working on No. 19. Each new school serves about 200 children who would not be able to get an education otherwise.

A member of the Society of the Divine Word, Father Goto heads AMATAK House in Cambodia, a nonprofit organization based at Kichijoji Catholic Church in Tokyo.

The new school that is underway will serve five villages that are often overlooked by other aid efforts. Father Goto explained that many nonprofits tend to give aid to areas with high levels of infrastructure, often leaving underdeveloped areas neglected.

Education opens up unlikely options, according to Father Goto, who recalled an instance in which a young girl was going to be sold into slavery. “Parents who can’t afford to feed their children often end up selling their eldest daughter for $300. It doesn’t mean it’s their will; they just have no choice,” he said. Father Goto helped the family by sending them food, as long as they promised to keep the girl in school. When she eventually became a teacher herself, Goto found it difficult to express the emotion he felt about the situation. “When you see people like her, you realize what great joy you can find in helping people,” he said. “I’m so thankful that there are more and more people willing to help.”

Read more here.

It’s more than a game: Nun coaches football, teaches values

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 07, December 2014 Categories: Catholic culture
Football coach Sister Lisa Maurer encourages players from the sideline.

Benedictine nun Sister Lisa Maurer lives at St. Scholastica Monastery on the campus of the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. In addition to working at a health center and ministering to the community, she also coaches the college football team.

While this is the first football team Sister Maurer has coached, she had experience coaching girls’ volleyball, basketball, and softball before becoming a nun. She loves sports, and even though she never coached football, she always had a love for the game. “I was around football only because my dad was a football coach, obviously my brothers played and, you know, football is a staple in America. So I’m a lover of football but never played or coached it until this year,” she says.

This love drew her out to the football field whenever she had free time, where she would watch the players practice. The head coach, Kurt Ramler, eventually asked her if she would be interested in a coaching position. While she wanted to make sure it did not interfere with her vocational duties, she felt this position would allow her to establish relationships with student-athletes, so she accepted.

Maurer is the designated coach of the team’s kickers and punters. She aims to teach more than football to her players. “They have an awesome opportunity to get a great Catholic college education … plus they’re getting to play football, and along with that comes responsibilities of character and being … a good role model,” she says.

She, too, is a role model for both women religious and those discerning vocations, and hopes that her non-traditional role will inspire young people to think about religious vocations. “That is very near and dear to my heart because, you know, in our day and age, with all the different voices and all the different influences that young people have, it saddens me to think that the voice of God and the call of God could be getting drowned out,” she says.

Read more here.

Videos: skateboarding friar and rapping priest

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 05, December 2014 Categories:
Friar Gabriel shares his gift of skateboarding; Father Joshua Johnson raps Jesus' word.
Friar Gabriel, as he's simply known, of the Franciscan Immaculate, skated for seven years as a teenager, but felt his vocation was religious life. He gave up his passion for skateboarding to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Six years later, he was given permission to obtain a skateboard and go to the skatepark once a week. Skateboarding allows him to help others see the compatibility of exercising the body as well as the soul. 

A newly-ordained priest in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, La., Father Joshua Johnson uses the medium of rap music to communicate his message. “We need to immerse ourselves in Jesus’ word so that he can speak truth to us,” he says. Even if some skeptical young people aren’t totally convinced of his message, they at least hear him out, since it's not every day that you meet a priest who raps.

Religious leaders sign joint declaration to end slavery

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 05, December 2014 Categories: Ecumenism

On Dec. 2, the United Nations' Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Pope Francis and 11 leaders representing the Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, Anglican, Buddhist, and Hindu faiths met and made a united commitment to help eradicate slavery worldwide.

According to Catholic News Service, the leaders signed the joint declaration at the headquarters of Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican Gardens. The signatories included Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury; Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee; Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, an influential Shiite scholar; and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

The declaration recognized that any action that fails to respect every person's freedom and dignity is a crime against humanity. "We pledge ourselves here today to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored," it said.

"We cannot tolerate that the image of the living God [present in every human being] is subjected to this most abominable form of trafficking," Pope Francis said.

The pope asked that people of faith join together in the fight to end slavery and he called for the "steadfast support" of the world's governments, businesses, and people of good will to "join this movement."

Year of Consecrated Life opens, celebrated around the world

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 01, December 2014 Categories: Pope Francis,Consecrated Life
“This is a special time for celebrating, with all the Church, the gift of your vocation and for reviving your prophetic mission,” Pope Francis said of the Year of Consecrated Life. (photo credit: CNA)
Nov. 30 marked the first Sunday of Advent and the start of the new liturgical year, as well as the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life.

Msgr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Society of Apostolic Life, told Vatican Radio that the first Sunday of Advent was selected as the launch date because Advent represents "the time of hope par excellence." He said the congregation would like the entire year "to be lived with the hope that must always characterize consecrated life."

Pope Francis issued a letter for the YCL that states the focus of the year: "look to the past with gratitude," "live the present with passion," and "embrace the future with hope."

In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio, Zambia’s Bishop Patrick Chisanga of the Mansa Diocese of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals, said the declaration of a Year of Consecrated Life should be used by religious to revisit their call to religious life. "It is an important moment of introspection. Every religious institution in Africa needs to re-examine and ask itself where they are as an institution, where they are coming from, and where they are going. In other words, in this moment in time, what is their place and role in the Church?" Bishop Chisanga asks.

He emphasized that the year is not exclusively for religious. “It is a year in which the Church as a whole reflects on the charisms of the religious in the context of new evangelization and in the context of the importance of the family in Africa and in the Church. We must never forget that the men and women in religious life come from families,” he said.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Mass for the first Sunday of Advent at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl quoted Pope Francis on the role of religious men and women: “I want to say one word to you and this word is joy. Wherever consecrated people are there is always joy!” Cardinal Wuerl said, “The background against which we recognize the joy of religious life is of course the value or worth of consecrated commitment and its unique witness in the world. This vision is found in the Gospels and particularly in the longstanding appreciation of the extraordinary witness to the reality of God’s kingdom that is religious life.”

Upcoming events for the Year of Consecrated Life include:

Jan. 22-24, 2015 - Meeting of Catholic consecrated men and women and consecrated religious from other Christian traditions (to be held during the week of Christian unity).

Feb. 8, 2015 - Day of Open House with Religious.

Pope Francis embraces those with autism

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 30, November 2014 Categories: Pope Francis,Catholic culture

Last Saturday, during the international conference on autism hosted by the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of hope for children and families affected by the condition.

The pope encouraged people around the world, especially governments and institutions, to break “‘the isolation, and in many cases also the stigma" associated with autism, which is characterized by varying levels of social impairment and communication difficulties.

The pope advocated for those suffering from autism and other spectrum disorders, saying, "It is necessary, the commitment of everyone, in order to promote encounters and solidarity, in a concrete action of support and renewed promotion of hope.”

The pope’s words touched everyone in the audience, especially families of those affected by autism.

"It was an explosion of emotions," said Maria Cristina Fiordi, a mother of a child with autism. "For us, we are parents of a child affected with autism, this meeting was very important. It was as an outstretched hand through a problem that is very often not considered in the right way."

Read more here.

Church opens the Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 25, November 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and 
Societies of Apostolic Life, will preside over the opening mass for the Year of Consecrated Life.
This year, the first Sunday of Advent, which marks the beginning of the liturgical year, is the start of the Year of Consecrated Life, which begins Nov. 30, 2014 and ends Feb. 2, 2016 on the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life.

Because Pope Francis will be on his apostolic trip to Turkey from Nov. 28-30, News.VA reports that the mass to open the Year of Consecrated Life will be celebrated by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Cardinal Braz de Aviz said in a January 2014 interview from VIS, "This year dedicated to consecrated life has been prepared in the context of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and, more specifically, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the conciliar decree on the renewal of consecrated life 'Perfectae caritatis.' … Because we recognize these 50 years that separate us from the Council as a moment of grace for consecrated life, as marked by the presence of the Spirit that leads us to live even our weaknesses and infidelities as an experience of God's mercy and love, we want this year to be an occasion for 'gratefully remembering' this recent past. This is the first objective of the Year for Consecrated Life.”

Important dates to remember for this worldwide event include:

Nov. 30, 2014: The Year of Consecrated Life begins (First Sunday of Advent).

Feb. 8, 2015: Religious Open House. Events will be coordinated to also celebrate the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia and will include tours, open houses, receptions, family activities, and presentations on the history of religious communities at convents, abbeys, monasteries, and religious houses.

Summer 2015: Day of Mission and Service with Religious. Events will include joining religious in their apostolates or special service projects, such as assisting the elderly, ministering to the poor and homeless, and caring for the less fortunate.

Sept. 13, 2015: Day of Prayer with Religious. Events will include vespers, rosary, or holy hours in convents, monasteries, religious houses, parishes, and churches.

Feb. 2, 2016: The Year of Consecrated Life closes on the World Day of Consecrated Life.

View resources on the Year of Consecrated Life from the USCCB and VISION.

#ycl2015 #yearofconsecratedlife #wakeuptheworld

Pope Francis to UN nutrition conference: ‘We ask for dignity, not charity’

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 25, November 2014 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs
Pope Francis addressing the United Nations Conference on Nutrition.

Pope Francis spoke out about the problem of waste in our society during the United Nations Conference on Nutrition in November. He said that having access to an adequate amount of food is a human right and should not dictated by profits.

Pope Francis warned against the ‘paradox of plenty,’ a term Pope John Paul II used during the first conference on nutrition in 1992. This paradox, in which there is enough food for all, but not all get to eat, remains true today, according to Pope Francis.

He urged people to work against waste and the commercialization of food, saying, “It is painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by 'market priorities,' the 'primacy of profit,' which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation.”

Read more here.

Nun promotes healthy habits

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 23, November 2014 Categories: Clergy
Sister Jean Marie Craig teaches fitness to her college students.

Sister Jean Marie Craig believes nourishing both the spirit and the mind are important to living a healthy life. That’s why this 80-year-old Sister of the Blessed Sacrament is still teaching aerobics classes at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.

An alumnus of Xavier herself, Sister Craig has been teaching physical education and CPR/First Aid for 32 years. While some may think taking an aerobics class from a nun is easy, her students say otherwise. “She challenges us every class and she wants us to do our best. She’s definitely hard-core for a nun,” junior Leticia McDaniel said.

Sister Craig understands the importance of physical fitness and what a blessing it is to be able to move. She wants to instill healthy habits in her students. “If you stop exercising, it’s a lot harder to get it back," she said.

As for being called “hardcore,” Sister Craig agrees. “Students say I’m tough. I expect them to come to class and earn their A-grade.”

Read more here.

Nun named among top Chicagoans

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 21, November 2014 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization
Sister Rosemary Connelly runs Misericordia with "a kind smile and an iron will."
Sister Rosemary Connelly, R.S.M., has been named one of the "2014 Chicogoans of the Year," by Chicago magazine. Sister Connelly, executive director of Misericordia, a group home for the developmentally disabled, has been leading this nonprofit for 45 years.

Connelly points out in the magazine that until 1975 disabled people received only custodial care through the state, with no educational or therapeutic programs. Misericordia offers speech, occupational, and physical therapies, as well as yoga and dance classes, an aquatic and fitness center, and residents work at a bakery and restaurant.

"Our philosophy is based on the belief that our children and adults have a right to a good life, and they deserve to be engaged in that life,” Connelly said. “Here, they know they’re loved and challenged and respected.”"

View the YouTube video honoring this Sisters of Mercy of the Americas here:

Boost in vocations for Benedictine Sisters of Erie

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 20, November 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Vocation director Sr. Marilyn Schauble believes that technology helps play a role in increasing vocations.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, four women entered the monastic religious order at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pa. In a recent article from Faithlife, vocation director Sr. Marilyn Schauble, OSB, said of the vocations, "It's new life, it gives you a little spark."

Schauble explained that all of the women are in their 50s, each of them researched several other religious communities before committing, and all have been working with Erie's inner-city poor.

VISION executive editor Patrice Tuohy said that the overall numbers of people entering religious communities are beginning to increase slightly. Tuohy attributes this to religious communities using the Internet to attract new members. Schauble similarly finds her vocation ministry responses must be quick and efficient via email and text to draw in younger women. "You always have to think of the future of the community," Schauble said.

Discover more about the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.

Check out the "Guide to growing your community in the digital age" for tips on how to reach young, energetic discerners of the modern world.

Catholic priest protects Muslims in Africa

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 17, November 2014 Categories: Ecumenism

Camillian priest Fr. Bernard Kinvi, OSCAM, is saving the lives of Muslims by sheltering them in the Catholic mission hospital he directs in Bossemptele, Central African Republic (CAR), according to The Guardian.

Since March 2013, this former French colony has been experiencing what is described by one United Nations official as "a massive ethnic-religious cleansing."

“It wasn’t a decision; it was just something that happened,” Kinvi says. “As a priest, I cannot support the killing of a man. We’re all human: religion doesn’t come into it...I don’t care who you are or what you do with your life or what your religion is, you are a human being and I will treat you.”

Kinvi was called to serve the church as a 16-year-old in his native Togo. After nursing his father through a long illness, he decided to join the Camillians, who minister to the sick. “When I became a priest, I undertook to serve the sick, even if it meant putting my life in danger,” he says. “I said that, but I didn’t really know what it meant. But when the war came, I understood what it means to risk your life. Being a priest is about more than giving blessings; it’s about standing with those who have lost everything.”

Kinvi’s efforts to protect the Muslims of Bossemptele have been recognised by the international NGO Human Rights Watch, which recently bestowed on him its Alison Des Forges award, which honors “people of valour who have put their lives on the line to create a world free from abuse, discrimination and oppression."

“I thirst for peace in CAR,” Kinvi says. “I want to see people able to move around safely like in any other country. I want to see my Muslim brothers, who have lost everything, return to their homes. It’s their country and they need to be back home.”

Best of VISION ebook available on Amazon

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 13, November 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The best of VISION Vocation Guide has been published as an ebook, ‘Discover Your Path,’ available on Amazon at

“Discovering our vocation in life is absolutely impossible without coming to some awareness of our own life stories and a deep appreciation of the advice and support of friends,” writes Friar Douglas Adam Greer, O.P., in VISION 2002, “Getting to know what makes us tick, what energizes us, what vision of life gives us hope, pounded-out and pulled-together in the mortar and pestle of friendship, is the process through which we come to make an informed vocation choice.”

To that end, the articles collected in 'Discover Your Path' will help discerners pound out and pull together information and insights into where God might be calling them—a process often referred to as “vocation discernment.” May the readers of 'Discover Your Path' find it useful as they seek the vocations within themselves.

Documents of Saint Francis of Assisi displayed in U.S.

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 12, November 2014 Categories: Church History,Mary and the Saints
Medieval manuscripts from the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Assisi.
For the first time in 700 years, 13 restored medieval manuscripts rom the Sacred Convent of St. Francis in Assisi will leave Italy and be displayed in the United States.

Rev. Pierangelo Massetti, responsible for the restoration laboratory at the Praglia Abbey, near Padua, said, “Saint Francis wrote this poem. And this text may be the foundation of the Italian language, the first text ever known in vernacular.”

According to the New York Times, the documents will be at the United Nations headquarters in New York City Nov. 17-28 and then open to the public in Brooklyn Borough Hall until mid-January in an exhibition, "Friar Francis: Traces, Words and Images."

According to news reports, "historians agree that he most likely dictated his writings, but certainly his hand touched the papal bulls that in the 1220s registered the pope’s messages to the order."

Ken Hackett, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said at a news conference in Rome last week: "This exhibition’s arrival in New York will give Americans the chance to know the history and the spirituality of St. Francis, and the chance to be inspired.”

Spanish nun promotes Catalan independence

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 12, November 2014 Categories: Clergy
Sr. Teresa Forcades promotes Catalan independence.

The Catalan region of Spain is moving toward voting on independence, and Sr. Teresa Forcades has been active in the political discourse surrounding the issue. She is an intellectual, doctor, political activist, but most importantly, a nun, saying, "That’s clearly my primary identity, because that gives me the sense of belonging, the sense of stability."

Over the past few years, Forcades has become one of the leading intellectuals in Europe, commenting on everything from independence to feminism to capitalism, while also working in the medical field, but her views have not been without controversy. Many believe that she is too outspoken on certain issues, but this has not stopped Forcades from sharing her opinions, and as the vote on independence nears, she has been a key activist for Catalan independence.

On Sunday, voters will decide two issues: Catalan statehood and whether that state should be independent from Spain. Forcades says she will vote yes to both and challenges the government’s opposition to the referendum, saying, “It’s an attempt to prevent the people of Catalonia from expressing themselves and I think it’s a fear of ascertaining that in Catalonia today a majority wants independence."

Read more.

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Eat like a pope: a Swiss Guard’s guide to papal dining

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 09, November 2014 Categories: Catholic culture
Pope Francis eats dinner with young people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

David Geisser, a young chef from the Vatican’s Swiss Guards, has created a cookbook of the favorite dishes of the popes, including Pope Francis.

The book, “Buon Appetito,” also features mealtime prayers. It has been released in German, and the Italian version is set to come out next year.

So, what are Pope Francis’ favorites? Empanadas; roast sirloin, known as colita de cuadril; and dulce de leche. Pope John Paul II enjoyed pierogis, of course, and Pope Benedict XVI loved Bavarian delicacies, all also in the cookbook.

Read more.

Pope encourages Salesian Sisters to be "missionaries of joy"

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Sunday 09, November 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
Pope Francis urged the Salesian Sisters "to be everywhere a prophetic witness
and educative presence through an unconditional welcome of the young."
According to official Vatican outlet, Pope Francis recently met with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, commonly known as the Salesian Sisters, who are in Rome for the institute's general chapter. Reflecting on the institute's mission and drawing new lines for pastoral action as well as electing a new general council is the goal of the general chapter.

The Pope encouraged the sisters to be "prophetic witnesses" and to recognize that generational needs are changing. Additionally, the Pope inspired the sisters to transform "their houses into environments for evangelization, implementing paths for change and pastoral conversion, and forming young people to become evangelizers of other youth."

Finally, he exhorted the sisters to “be missionaries of joy, witness to the values that are proper to (their) Salesian identity, particularly the value of encounter,” describing the latter as a "spring” from which they “can draw that love that revitalizes that passion for God and for the young."

Learn more about the Salesian communities:

Salesians of Don Bosco (S.D.B.)
Salesian Sisters (F.M.A.)
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters)
Don Bosco Volunteers (DBV)
Salesians of Don Bosco, UK (SDB)

Family is crucial to consecrated vocations

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 04, November 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
Br. Timothy Danaher, O.P., with his parents William and Theresa.

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., and chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, discusses the important role family plays in the conversation about consecrated life.

“The family has to be the foundation from which good vocations are received or planted and the seeds are nurtured. That can be related to vocations with the diocesan priesthood. So much of our work has to be with parents and families to help them understand what this life is and their role in encouraging their sons or daughters, when it comes to consecrated life, and to have their hearts open to it. That was presumed before. There was a time in history when, even when I was a seminarian … that was a given," Burbidge said. “So that’s where we have to do much better work: to be nurturing and helping the parents. That has to be the essential part of vocation work, so we’re not just going to say we need our young people to learn about consecrated life, but their families need to be involved, too."

According to a CARA survey on the discernment process, “The number three seems to be critical in making a difference in the life of someone contemplating a vocation. When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”

For more on this topic, read Fr. Andrew Hofer’s article "How to talk to your family about your vocation."

Catholic church to be built in Cuba

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 02, November 2014 Categories: Catholic culture
Pope Benedict XVI during his trip to Cuba in 2012.

For the first time in 55 years, a new Catholic church is being built in Cuba, which marks a shift in the country’s policy on the Catholic Church.

The church, which will be built in Sandino in the western province of Pinar del Rio, will be able to hold about 200 people, according to Christian Life. Catholics in Tampa, Fla., helped to raise funds for its construction. 

Since the 1959 revolution, the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Cuban government has been rocky, but improving steadily, especially since both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited the country.

According to Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor of the history of religions at the University of Havana, “The construction of a church is a clear demonstration of a new phase, of an improvement, in relations between the church and the state.”

Read more here.

Catholics called to build a "culture of vocations"

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 30, October 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
USCCB prayer card for vocations

The 2014 National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW), Nov. 2-8, will be celebrated in U.S. parishes as a special time to "foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life."

Pope Francis emphasized the culture of vocations in Evangelii Gaudium, proclaiming: "The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration." 

The observance of NVAW is sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The organization has created a variety of NVAW resources including news releases, videos of daily reflections, homily points, Holy Hours for Vocations, Prayers of the Faithful, prayers for vocations, and other resources such as lesson plans and activities.

Fr. Shawn McKnight, USCCB’s executive director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said: “When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”

Nov. 30 marks the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life. Check out the VISION Year of Consecrated Life section on our website for articles, resources, and the commissioned song “Wake the world with dawning joy," in honor of this celebratory year of consecration and discipleship.

'Nuns in the hood' celebrate 25 years of ministry

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 28, October 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
A nun from Visitation Monastery in Minneapolis hugs a young member of the community.

Nuns from an inner-city monastery on the north side of Minneapolis are celebrating 25 years of ministry in their community. Visitation Monastery was started in 1989 by four nuns. The community often refers to them as the 'nuns in the hood.'

The nuns of Visitation Monastery are a strong presence in the community, participating in peace walks and vigils for the slain and organizing events for children such as birthday parties and school-supply drives, as well as providing bus tokens and groceries to those in need.

According to resident Bianca Franks, the nuns provide more than services. "It’s just the idea of being present and having someone not only see but appreciate you and love you,” Franks said.

Retired journalist and professor Dave Nimmer said, “They are the closest thing that I can see to the face of Christ, of God, on this Earth.”

Read the full story

Priest takes a 'street sabbatical'

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 26, October 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
Fr. Paul Mast took to the streets to learn about homelessness on his 'street sabbatical.'

Fr. Paul Mast, 68, a priest in the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., recently took to the streets in what he is calling a ‘street sabbatical’ during which he tried to better understand the issues those living on the streets face every day.

Mast was recently told that he was in the early stages of memory loss, and this prompted him to take a sabbatical. He did not really have a plan for his time off, but he wanted to challenge his brain to think in different ways. His theory was "that by living outside of his normal routine, his mind could map new pathways and, perhaps, slow the decline and recover function.”

When he was out one day, he encountered a young, homeless Iraq war veteran in Washington, D.C., who challenged him to “find and listen to those who are homeless.”

Mast embraced his advice and traveled around the world to pursue this mission. He traveled from Wilmington to San Francisco, Dallas, New Delhi, Munich, Milwaukee, and Hawaii and has chronicled his experiences in a new book, Street Sabbatical.

Mast worked to build relationships with many of the people he met on the streets, often asking their names, their stories, and what he could do for them. He often bought those he talked with meals or other supplies they needed, and even stayed in a shelter to gain a “new perspective."

Mast often asked those he talked with what they wanted the average person to know about homelessness, to which one person responded, “Tell them to look beyond the mess that is me and find God hidden somewhere inside.”

Read the full story.

Dancing priest follows inspiration

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 23, October 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

A YouTube video has gone viral of seminarians Rev. David Rider, 29, of Hyde Park, New York, and Rev. John Gibson, 28, of Milwaukee, from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, tapping and Irish dancing in front of a crowd for a fundraiser in April at the college.

Rider attributes his vocational calling to Pope John Paul II. In a 2012 CNS video interview, "David Rider: Off Broadway," Rider speaks of the death and funeral of his "hero": "I saw the way he [Pope John Paul II] impacted the entire world for the choice he made for the priesthood. I felt well up within me also the desire to follow in his footsteps and become a priest." Despite a promising theatre career before him, Rider chose the priesthood and now dances "with the desire to bring forward the Kingdom of God," proudly wearing his collar.

On the heels of the dancing priests, Sister Cristina, the winner of the TV show, ‘The Voice of Italy,’ has released her first single: "Like a Virgin." According to the RNS report, "Sister Cristina, 26, says her version of the salacious pop song is a 'testimony of God’s capacity to turn all things into something new' as well as her personal calling to be a nun."

Little Sisters of the Poor awarded Poverello Medal

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 23, October 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
 Little Sisters of the Poor from the Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Chicago provinces with the president of Franciscan University and the Minister Provincial of the Sacred Heart Province receive the 2014 Poverello Medal.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, who “through their vocation wish to give quiet witness to the dignity of every human life, until the very end,” were recently awarded the Franciscan University of Steubenville's highest non-academic award, the Poverello Medal.

Named after Franciscan University's patron, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was known as “Il Poverello,” (the little poor man), Sr. Loraine Maguire, provincial superior of the Baltimore province, said, "I see in this medal the symbol of all the things that matter: to be poor, little, humble, and merciful to all those we serve; to treat others as Christ himself, and to live in a manner that reflects his very life."

The main address of the evening was given by Sr. Constance Veit, LSP, national communications director for the congregation. She recounted how Saint Francis of Assisi was horrified by lepers at first and that this same journey "from self to other" was taken by their French foundress, Jeanne Jugan.

Veit reminded the crowd that the elderly, who will represent 19 percent of the U.S. population by 2030, "have become the contemporary outcasts" of society. "I urge you to fight against the tendency to marginalize and abandon the elderly, to commit what the pope refers to as 'hidden euthanasia,'" she said.

Learn more about the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Little Sisters of the Poor (UK).

Lifetime’s new reality show: “The Sisterhood”

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 20, October 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
In the new reality series 'The Sisterhood,' five young women consider joining religious life.

Lifetime is set to release a new show, “The Sisterhood,” which profiles five young women who are considering becoming nuns. The “docu-series will provide an honest, behind-the-scenes look into the struggles, triumphs, and unique experiences that shape these women as they attempt to leave their old lives and take religious vows.”

The women profiled are all at different points on their faith journey and come from different backgrounds.

The Carmelites for the Aged and Infirm in New York, the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Illinois, and the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker in Kentucky agreed to let the series into their establishments for filming. This is the first time cameras have been allowed in convents to profile the discernment process. 

The show is set to premiere on Nov. 25 at 10pm ET on Lifetime.

Read the full story.

Maine priest leads effort to rebuild Haitian church

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Friday 17, October 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
Fr. Joe Corriveau is working to rebuild a Haitian church.

Fr. Joe Corriveau and his friends in Winthrop, Me., are working to raise $250,000 to rebuild St. Anthony of Padua Church in Haiti. Corriveau, who was born in Winthrop, was a pastor at St. Anthony of Padua in 2010 when an earthquake destroyed the church and the country surrounding it. According to the Red Cross, the earthquake killed 222,570 people, injured 300,572, and displaced 2.3 million people.

Corriveau, who is back in the United States for medical treatment, says the people of St. Anthony of Padua are still using a makeshift chapel of canvas and tin while they wait for a new church.

He says he is anxious to get back to Haiti and help new priests and missionaries that have been sent to the country. “I’m getting up there in age, and my hip doesn’t permit me to climb mountains any more. They put a younger priest there in my place and also put a seminarian there to get used to missionary work. I’m still attached to the parish because the young priest doesn’t have all the help that he needs,” Corriveau said.

So far, St. Michael’s Parish in Winthrop has raised $60,000 to help fund the new church. “We’ve always helped (Corriveau) out if there is any way we could help him," said Liz King, one of the people leading the project.

Corriveau understands how lucky he is to have the support of his friends and family in the United States. “The parish has been very generous and the men’s club very generous, and that’s how we’ve been keeping the (Haitian) parish open,” he said.

Read the full story.

Congregation of Holy Cross releases special feature 'Final Vows'

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 15, October 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life

Congregation of Holy Cross
released a special feature, 'Final Vows,' a video highlighting the men who recently took their final vows with Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Ind.

"When a religious professes his vows, he consecrates himself to God through the Church, but he also solidifies his bond with his community. From that moment on, he is no longer discerning; he is now and forever our brother in Christ," one of the men in the video says.

The purpose of the video is to raise awareness about the importance of final vows in the life of consecrated religious.

View the video:

For more information on Holy Cross vocations, visit:

New take on flash mobs fills churches

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 13, October 2014 Categories: Liturgy
"Mass Mobs" are boosting church attendance in Detroit.
Catholics in Michigan are coordinating “Mass Mobs” to fill the pews at often-empty churches and "breathe new life into the community.”

The most recent target, St. Florian Catholic Church in Detroit, has seating for 1,500 people, but the church reports that only about 200 people currently gather there each Sunday.

“Mass Mob” organizers spread the word about this specific parish on Facebook, and last Sunday’s noon mass attracted 2,000 people, according to NPR, and the collection total neared $19,000—10 times more than an average Sunday.

One of the organizers of the Detroit Mass Mob, Thom Mann, said he got the idea from a similar movement that popped up in New York earlier this year.

There is a renewed energy in these churches, according to Mann. "To be in attendance when it's full, as opposed to sparse—there's an electricity that's amazing," he said.

Read the full story

Veteran journalist quits BBC to join religious community

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 13, October 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
 Martina Purdy bids the BBC goodbye on Oct. 10.

One of Northern Ireland's most respected political journalists, Martina Purdy, announced she was leaving her career of almost 25 years to enter a religious congregation. In a statement, she said: "This is a very personal decision. I ask that the media respect my privacy and that of the religious congregation which I am entering, as I face up to the new challenges of my life. I will not be making any further public comment about this matter."

However, she was recently spotted on her way to mass with a group of religious from Adoration Convent of the Falls Road in Belfast, and she also took to Twitter to thank the public for their support.

In June, VISION posted on Facebook a report from the National Catholic Register that a famous Spanish model, Olalla Oliveros, also left her career to enter religious life.
Perhaps moving out of a profession to religious life is more common than we think! 

Paulist priest's mission in the pubs of Portland

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 09, October 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization
Fr. Bill Edens serving up spirituality in Portland, Ore.
Fr. Bill Edens, CSP, associate pastor of St. Philip Neri Church in Portland, Ore., has found that meeting and serving young adults in their "natural habitat" is great for his ministry.

Portland's Division Street, near his church, is lined with bars, music venues, restaurants, food trucks, and microbreweries, and Edens frequents these places with his Roman collar on, which has sparked many conversations. 
He shares on his Paulist Profile of one 'mission' to the music venue Mississippi Pizza: "Eventually I got the courage to go to the dance floor. It was not couple’s dancing nor was it romantic dancing. It was simply people rocking out to the music. After a few songs, I went back to my seat, and on the way several people stopped and told me it was great to have a priest at the bar. One even said he wanted to go to confession."

On another night, after strutting his stuff on the dance floor, Edens wrote: "Several young people came up to me afterwards and said, 'Wow, we don’t get many priests here!' Several spoke about having been Catholic when they were younger."
Edens believes there is a unique opportunity for the Paulists to enhance young adult ministry in the Portland Archdiocese. He has a three-fold approach to reaching young adults: 1. Spend time where young adults socialize. 2. Visit parishes with young adult ministries to learn how young adults get spiritual sustenance. 3. Visit alumni gatherings of Catholic high schools to try to learn why some Catholics fall away.

Albanian nun tells stories of bravery

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 07, October 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Vocation and Discernment

Sr. Maria Kaleta, an 85-year-old Franciscan Stigmatine nun, was a highlight of Pope Francis’ recent trip to Albania. During his meeting there with priests, religious, seminarians, and members of ecclesial lay movements, Kaleta recounted stories of her faith during the Communist regime in that country.

Kaleta spent seven years with her order but was forced to return home to her family by the Communist regime before taking her final vows. While there, she was unable to publically declare her faith but learned “to keep the faith alive in the hearts of the faithful” in secret.

She recalled a time when a Communist woman approached her and asked her to baptize her child. “I was afraid," Kaleta said, "because I knew the woman was a Communist, and I told her I didn't have anything to baptize her with because we were on the road, but she expressed so much desire that she told me there as a canal with water nearby. I told her I didn't have anything to collect the water with, but she insisted that I baptize that child, and seeing her faith, I took off my shoe, which was made of plastic, and I filled it with water from the canal and baptized her.”
 This was just one of many times she risked her life and safety to spread God’s word and witness her faith.

Among other stories of how she lived out God’s will in secret for years, Kaleta also focused on the strength her faith gave her. "The Lord gave strength to those He called; in fact, he has repaid me from all my sufferings here on earth," she said.

Read the full story.

Irish priest receives Vatican award

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 06, October 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Vocation and Discernment
Fr. Vincent Mulligan receives Vatican's Good Samaritan medal.

Fr. Vincent Mulligan, 74, was awarded the Good Samaritan medal by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers for his decades of service as the director of pilgrimages for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) order in Dublin, Ireland. For the past 27 years, Mulligan has been conducting pilgrimages to Lourdes, France, for patients suffering from illnesses. He is the first Irish priest to receive this honor.

“I didn’t expect it at all, and I don’t deserve it either," Mulligan said, after receiving the award. "I am just an ordinary working priest. Lourdes is a place of peace and contentment. You are faced with suffering on a massive scale. Your health is your wealth, and if you haven’t got that, you’ve got nothing.”

Lourdes is home to the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes, where many pilgrims travel to pray to the Blessed Mother for healing. Along with many volunteers, Mulligan takes those who would not have otherwise had the opportunity to travel to the religious site.

Even after visiting Lourdes so many times, Mulligan still enjoys the trip and is thankful for the volunteers that accompany him. “I look forward to it," he said. "You are helping people that cannot help themselves. It is not something I expected at all in any shape or form. I feel this is recognition of all the workers, all of them. Without them, and without the young people, we could not do what we do here.”

Read the full story.

“Days with Religious” announced for Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 03, October 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
 2015 Year of Consecrated Life
On Oct. 1, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced the observance of “Days with Religious” for the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life (YCL). The “Days with Religious” initiatives and resources will help families learn about the consecrated life of religious men and women. Activities will focus on sharing experiences of prayer, service, and community with those living a consecrated life.

Important dates to remember for this worldwide event include:

Nov. 30, 2014: The Year of Consecrated Life begins (First Sunday of Advent).

Feb. 8, 2015: Religious Open House. Events will be coordinated to also celebrate the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia and will include tours, open houses, receptions, family activities, and presentations on the history of religious communities at convents, abbeys, monasteries, and religious houses.

Summer 2015: 
Day of Mission and Service with Religious. Events will include joining religious in their apostolates or special service projects, such as assisting the elderly, ministering to the poor and homeless, and caring for the less fortunate.

Sept. 13, 2015: 
Day of Prayer with Religious. Events will include vespers, rosary, or holy hours in convents, monasteries, religious houses, parishes, and churches.

Feb. 2, 2016:
The Year of Consecrated Life closes on the World Day of Consecrated Life.

View more resources from the USCCB and VISION.

#ycl #yearofconsecratedlife #wakeuptheworld

“Hour Children” nun gives second chances

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 01, October 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Sr. Teresa Fitzgerald

Sr. Teresa Fitzgerald always knew she had a calling to work with children, and she did so, first as a Catholic schoolteacher and later as an administrator. Then, that calling took her in a new direction.

One of her colleagues, who was working with imprisoned mothers with infants, asked if “other nuns would be interested in dealing with older children, giving them a home and offering them the chance to stay in touch with their mothers.” Fitzgerald decided to seize this new opportunity.

She went on to start “Hour Children”—named for “the typical hour allowed for visits with incarcerated women”—which houses 70 children. The program offers thrift shops, a day care center, a food pantry, and job training. The residents and nearly all the staff are former convicts.

Fitzgerald has made it her goal to help people who society often casts off as those who brought this upon themselves. “For some, there weren’t any choices, it was just a life experience that they were channeled into for whatever reason–economic or personal or addictive issues. But I was amazed and touched by their goodness and their openness…I met very few people who blamed someone. And their resiliency, their hopes and dreams are big,” she says.

Fitzgerald recognizes that there are many factors that lead people to make the choices they do. She realizes that everyone makes mistakes, giving her the reputation of “the nun who gives second chances.”

Read the full story.

Nun who won Italy's 'The Voice' teases upcoming album

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 29, September 2014 Categories: Catholic culture
Sister Cristina

Sister Cristina, who became a YouTube sensation after her performance on the TV show, ‘The Voice of Italy’, went on to win the entire competition—and a record deal with Universal Records.

The song that made her famous, ‘No One’, was originally preformed by Alicia Keys and will be featured on Sister Cristina’s debut album. Universal Records recently released a short teaser for the album on YouTube, which features some video footage of Sister Cristina in the recording studio.

While there is no official release date for the album, the clip suggests that she will be in the spotlight again very soon; however, Sister Cristina has said she did not try out for the competition because of her desire to be a celebrity, revealing, "I'm not here to start a career but because I want to impart a message.”

Read the full story.

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Orders featured in advance of Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 25, September 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
(Catholic Sun file photo)

With the Year of Consecrated Life approaching soon, The Catholic Sun, the newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix in Arizona, highlighted accomplishments of religious orders in its area. Some of them include:

• Sr. Mara Rutten began her canonical year with Maryknoll Sisters last month. The Minnesota native earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in history at Arizona State University and just completed a year of theological studies with Maryknoll at an intercongregational novitiate program in Chicago.

• A San Diego newspaper profiled two Sisters of St. Joseph last month on the occasion of their 50th and 60th jubilees. One of them, Sr. Suzanne Ensminger, now works with refugees through Catholic Charities and first experienced religious life growing up with the women religious at Sacred Heart Parish in Prescott, Ariz . “I grew up with the sisters in Prescott,” Ensminger says. “They were joyful, happy women. I went to college for a year before I entered, but I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

• Nadin William Ospino recently entered the postulancy program of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers. The ceremony was in Phoenix, which serves as headquarters for one of the order’s three provinces.

• The Society of Jesus, which has a Jesuit parish and elementary, junior, and high school in the Diocese of Phoenix, welcomed 33 men into this year’s novice class. Their average age is 28, with nearly 40 percent having attended a Jesuit high school or university.

View more Year of Consecrated Life resources.

The poor deliver the good news

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 23, September 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life
"I return from Honduras evangelized by the poor, strengthened to live out my own gift of self with love, joy, simplicity, humility, and generosity," Friar Marius-Petrus Bilha O.F.M. says of his mission trip.

From March to August, Friar Marius-Petrus Bilha had a "profound and intense 'formation' experience" at the Friars Minor Conventual mission in Tegucigalpa, Honoduras. On the outskirts of the capital, Friar Marius-Petrus did pastoral ministry at the parish of St. Maximillian Kolbe in a poor and highly dangerous area. For him "this experience was like a letter written to me by God, through the people, events, and encounters I experienced. Four special words spring up in my heart: affection, joy, simplicity, and generosity.

"I received so much more than I was able to give back. It’s really true—the best evangelizers are the poor!" 

Read Friar Marius-Petrus Bilha OFM's full mission experience here.

If you want to know more about the Franciscan communities, here are a few links:
Franciscan Friars, Conventual
Franciscan Friars (OFM) Province of Saint Barbara
Franciscan Friars (O.F.M.) Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
Order of Friars Minor, UK
Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn
Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province
Franciscan Friars, Assumption of the BVM Province
Franciscan Friars, Sacred Heart Province
Franciscan Friars (T.O.R.), Immaculate Conception Province
Franciscan Friars (O.F.M.) Province of the Immaculate Conception
Franciscan Friars (O.F.M.)
Capuchin Francican Friars of Great Britian
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement

New Jersey nun to be beatified

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 22, September 2014 Categories: Mary and the Saints,Clergy

Thanks to today’s reality TV, New Jersey is not always associated with holiness, but one of its own is on the way to sainthood. 

Sr. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich will be beatified in Newark next month, putting her one step closer to canonization.

Her beatification is set to take place in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. Cardinal Angelo Amato, who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will say the mass.

Demjanovich was born in 1901 in Bayonne, N.J. After earning a degree in literature from the College of St. Elizabeth in New Jersey, she entered the Sisters of Charity in 1925. She died just two years later, but she left behind 26 letters on prayer and spiritual life, written while preparing to take her vows, which were later published as a book that became popular in the 1930’s.

She is being beatified after a miracle was attributed to her intercession. A third-grade boy suffered from macular degeneration and lost his vision. His school, run by the Sisters of Charity, prayed for Demjanovich to help the student. The boy regained his sight without treatment after the school’s prayers.

The cure was deemed a miracle by the Vatican. Demjanovich needs another miracle attributed to her in order to be canonized. If that happens, she would be only the second American-born person, after Saint Katherine of Drexel, to be named a saint.

Retired nun brings loving touch to NICU

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 21, September 2014 Categories: Clergy,Vocation and Discernment

Sr. Loretta Mann, 85, a Sister of St. Francis of Assisi since 1948, retired from education in 2008, but not from service, and she joined the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., as a "cuddler," where she volunteers three times a week.

"Mothers who have grown kids or have other responsibilities, they can't be here, but I can," Mann says. As a cuddler, she rocks the babies and keeps them company, often reading books and singing to them.

Mann joined the convent when she was 19, knowing she wanted to work with children. She taught in Pennsylvania for two decades and was then sent to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to get a master’s degree in administration. While she was not happy about the transition at first, she understood that it was part of God's plan. "I always believe that God puts you where he wants you," she says.

After working as a principal in Media, Penn., she was placed in the Hartford area as the curriculum coordinator for the archdiocese and later became superintendent, a post she held until she retired.

"Did I want to retire? No. But I knew it was time. And do you know what? I was at the St. Francis NICU the very next day as a cuddler," she says.

Her services are appreciated by many at the hospital, including Dr. Jose Arias-Camison, the director of the NICU, who says Mann's loving touch helps the infants recover.

"As we know, for many years when the mothers come and touch and hold their babies, their vital signs improve. Sister is not their Mom, but it has the same effect," Arias-Camison says.

Mann's kind spirit and willingness to help spreads throughout the NICU, and she loves making sure the infants know someone is there.

"I have loved every job, every ministry I have been in," she says. "When I gave up teaching, I thought that was the best job in the world, but then I came here."
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Nuns back on the bus

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Thursday 18, September 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Clergy

NETWORKS’s Nuns on the Bus are back at it. Starting Sept. 17, the nuns will travel through 10 states. This year, the group’s stated goal is to “encourage candidates to commit to policies that benefit the 100 percent.”

NETWORK is a national Catholic social justice lobby, founded in 1971, in Washington, D.C. It advocates for issues in education, healthcare, immigration, housing, fair trade, peace through economic development, wage equity, and food security.

NETWORK sponsors Nuns on the Bus, a small group of nuns who travel on a dedicated bus in the United States to publicize different issues. The campaign first hit the road in 2012, fighting against budget cuts that would leave many on the margin without assistance. In 2013, the nuns spread the word about the need for immigration reform.

“‘We will call on ‘We, the People’ to stand up against big money and inequality in the upcoming November election,” Sr. Simone Campbell, NETWORK executive director, wrote in an email sent to supporters.

The tour will end Oct. 17, after visiting Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

For more information about Nuns on the Bus, visit their Website.

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Pope Francis tweets Iraq photo for prayers for peace

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Thursday 18, September 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Pope Francis is no stranger to Twitter, and he recently tweeted his first photo on the social media site. The photo, by Catholic Relief Services, shows two children and their families, who have been displaced in central Iraq.

His tweet reads: “I pray every day for all who are suffering in Iraq. Please join me.”

Pope Francis has been quite vocal in his criticism of the Iraqi government, saying, "Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!"

The pope has expressed great support for the men and women of the church working to help in Iraq, and he recently called Iraqi Christians the heart of the church, which would ‘defend her defenseless and persecuted children’ like a mother.

Follow Pope Francis on Twitter @Pontifex.

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Scorsese to direct movie about Jesuits

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Thursday 18, September 2014 Categories: Catholic culture

Holiness and Hollywood seem to go hand in hand these days. The latest religious film reportedly coming to theaters soon is Martin Scorsese’s upcoming project, Silence, starring Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson, which will begin shooting in Taiwan later this year. The film is based on a 1980 novel by Shusaku Endo, set in 17th-century Japan.

 The movie plot, according to The Huffington Post: “The Jesuit order sends a young priest (Garfield) to find his Portuguese mentor who has been missing for 10 years. Rome believes the older Jesuit (Neeson) may have renounced his faith under torture during the severe persecution of Christian missionaries and converts.”

This is not the first time the Jesuits have been featured in film. Movies such as The Mission (1986) and Black Robe (1991) show Jesuits in action. Why is the order popular among Hollywood filmmakers? “Jesuit missionaries were on the forefront of globalization before the term became trendy. Their lives and ministries dramatized the meeting of civilizations. … That’s high drama,” Rev. Thomas J. Reese explained in The Huffington Post report. 

Read full story.

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#VoicesofYoungCatholicWomen letter campaign to meet Pope's challenge

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 16, September 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Prayer and Spirituality
Saint Mary's College (Notre Dame, Ind.) President Carol Ann Mooney will hand deliver the #VoicesofYoungCatholicWomen letters when she and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, have a general audience with Pope Francis on November 26.

Pope Francis has called on Catholic youth to contribute to the Church’s life and mission. “The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity, and the joy that is so characteristic of you,” he said at World Youth Day 2013. His call to action comes at a time when an estimated 35 percent of Millennial women who were baptized Catholic no longer practice their faith. (Source: General Social Survey.)

“The Voices of Young Catholic Women project has allowed me to see my academic studies come to life. As a religious studies major and a gender and women’s studies minor, this experience is giving me a tangible experience where I am able to see the intersection of religion and gender,” said Saint Mary’s College student Tori Wilbraham ’15 (seond from the left pictured with the organizing group).
A group of students active in Campus Ministry at Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, Ind.) are rising to meet this challenge by organizing a letter-writing response to Pope Francis’ outreach to youth called “Voices of Young Catholic Women" (#VoicesofYoungCatholicWomen). They’re inviting Catholic women of the Millennial Generation (born between 1981-1995) to write the pope about their love for the Catholic tradition and ideas for how the Church might better reach their demographic.

The project asks for examples of how women can be more involved in the Church and conveys the message that young women are a very vital and important part of the Church's life. The students in this initiative are supported by the College’s Division for Mission, including the Center for Spirituality and Campus Ministry. During the development of this project, the division was headed by Sister Veronique Wiedower, CSC, then-vice president for Mission at the College. This month Sister Veronique was installed president of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the congregation that founded Saint Mary's 170 years ago.

For more about the Sisters of the Holy Cross, click here.

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Virtual choir of Carmelite nuns honor St. Teresa of Avila

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 10, September 2014 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Consecrated Life
Virtual choir of cloistered Carmelite nuns sing: “Nada Te Turbe” (“Let Nothing Disturb You”) in an original composition by Sr. Claire Sokol.

As first seen from the Global Sisters Report-"Ninety-three Discalced Carmelite nuns in 24 countries have reached out of their cloistered monasteries to sing together in a virtual choir honoring St. Teresa of Avila on the 500th anniversary of her birth."

View and listen to “Nada Te Turbe” (“Let Nothing Disturb You”) in an original composition by Sr. Claire Sokol here:

The Carmelite friars and Secular Carmelites join them in the 11th century “Salve Regina” chant with an added descant written by Sokol here:

Discover more about the Carmelites here:
Carmelites (O.Carm)-Congregation of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm
Association of British Carmels
Carmelites, Notting Hill, UK
Discalced Carmelite Friars (O.C.D.) Washington Province
Carmelite Friars (O.Carm.) [St. Elias Province]

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Catholic sister offers the gift of literacy to immigrant women

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 08, September 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
“There are two kinds of people — battery chargers and battery drainers,” says Amy Manion of Sugar Grove, Ill. “Sister Kathleen (Ryan) is a battery charger. She inspires the students and tutors.”

Sister Kathleen Ryan, O.P., a Springfield Domincan, saw a need for literacy among immigrant women and took matters into her own hands, reports the Chicago Tribune’s Leslie Mann. Sr. Kathleen is founder of the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora, Illinois, where she teaches female immigrants to speak, read, and write in English. Ryan started the program in 1993 using her experience as a former school teacher and principal.” When asked why the program caters only to women, Ryan said, “the men learn English at work and the children learn it at school.”

With support from the Springfield Dominican sisters, Sr. Kathleen and other tutors began to teach in a church basement.

Now, the program is housed in an old convent. Ryan and her staff have taught more than 2,500 students and about 500 have graduated, according to the Tribune report. She and her staff teach women from all over the world, and students in the program can also attend sessions where tutors “read the paper and talk about getting mortgages, good credit scores, car loans, child care, transportation, jobs, kids’ vaccinations.” These are questions that many would not have answered if they did not have Sr. Kathleen or the Dominican Literacy Center.

Sr. Kathleen works hard and has helped so many in the community, but says she tries to find the joy in work. When asked about her life motto she exclaimed, “Life doesn’t have to be dreary. Work can be hard and painful, but if you try to be playful, it can be fun.”

Click here to learn more about the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.


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Alaska: Please protect this beauty

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Saturday 23, August 2014 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization

Father Brown’s Cross on Mount Roberts, Juneau, Alaska

Recently, I went on a family vacation to Alaska where breathtaking views greet you at every angle. Coming from Chicago, I was not used to air so clean or skies so clear. The water was blue, dozens of whales swam through the ocean, bald eagles flew through the sky, and massive glaciers could be seen peaking through the mountains.

Everywhere I turned there was another beautiful part of nature--of God’s creation, but, as I learned, there are also many threats to this pristine land. Perhaps people taking this trip in the future would not see the same things I had the privilege to experience. Would I come to this place in 20 years with my children to find it all destroyed?

Pope Francis is reported to be writing an encyclical on the environment. I look forward to his guidance and wisdom on this important issue. In a talk in July, he said, "This is our sin, exploiting the earth and not allowing her to her give us what she has within her."

I will be the first to admit that the earth has not my number one priority. But after my Alaskan adventure, I realize how truly amazing the earth is. I am coming to understand that care for the poor and justice and peace go hand-in-hand with care for the environment. What good is a peaceful world without a healthy place to live? And how can we achieve peace when so many conflicts stem from people fighting for accesss to resources. God gave us this precious gift to protect, and we must take our role as stewards seriously.

Here are a few more images of the earth’s astounding beauty:

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska


Johns Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska

European Jesuits and women religious story told through museum exhibition

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 20, August 2014 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life,Clergy
This 19th-Century gold dalmatic worn by deacons during special occasions such as Christmas and Easter is one of many items on display at "Crossings and Dwellings."
Loyola University Museum of Art (Chicago) exhibition: “Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience, 1814–2014,” which opened on July 19 and runs through Oct. 19- is using historical maps, books, objects, and textiles, to tell the story of European Jesuits and women religious who arrived in America's borderlands to serve indigenous and immigrant populations.

According to Catholic New World, curator Jesuit Father Stephen Schloesser, a professor of French history: "Hopes the exhibit helps people realize that the Jesuits and the other religious who came to the United States were immigrants, some serving immigrant populations and others going out to evangelize among the Native Americans.

“In a way, it make totals sense for a European historian to do this,” Schloesser said. “It gets at the idea that this is the American story, a story of immigration.”"

"The exhibit, mounted in honor of the 200th anniversary of the second Jesuit restoration, starts by telling the story of the Jesuit presence in the American Midwest and their travels across North America. It also looks at the contributions of religious women to the development of Chicago and other parts of the United States, particularly the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
A 1930 photo of Sister Mary Justitia Coffey, BVM, the first president of Mundelein College, and her desk also on display at the LUMA exhibit.

Time for Pope Francis to weigh in on the best pop albums?

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 10, August 2014 Categories: Catholic culture
Summer and music seem to go hand in hand. As music festivals across the country come to an end and we assess the good and bad of what we heard, someone turned my attention to the Vatican’s “semi-serious” list released back in 2010 of the “best pop albums of all times.”

That list compiled by L’Osservatore Romanoplaced the Beatles’ album, “Revolver,” at the top, followed by David Crosby’s “If only I could remember my name”, Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Steely Dan’s “The Nightfly,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” U2’s “Achtung, Baby,” Oasis’ (What’s the story) Morning Glory, and Carlos Santana’s “Supernatural.”

Four years later, we have a new pope and many new artists taking the stage. Perhaps a new list to enlighten the musical tastes of the faithful is needed. And who knows, maybe we will see Pope Francis on a musical fact-finding mission at Lollapalooza or Coachella next year!

Saint Marianne Cope O.S.F.'s remains return to Hawaii

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Saturday 02, August 2014 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life
Francisan Saint Marianne Cope's remains return to Hawaii and will be held in the reliquary in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu.

Saint Marianne Cope, a Franciscan sister, was working with the leprosy patients in the Hawaiian island of Molokai when she died in 1918. At the time, her remains were returned to Syrause, New York, to the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of the Neuman Communities.

Now the building which housed her remains is no longer structurally sound, according to an Associated Press report, and her community made the decision to return the saint's remains to Hawaii where she served most of her life.

Her fellow sisters carried her remains out of the building in a box shaped like a canoe made of Hawaiian koa wood. When the remains arrived in Honolulu, “hundreds packed into the cathedral," according to the AP report, "where people lined up for a chance to kiss the box. The remains will be kept in Honolulu where they will be entombed in a special chapel.

Bishop Larry Silva of the Honolulu diocese gave the homily during the the welcoming Mass, saying, “The mortal remains of this frail creature of God...have an incredible spirit of their own, an aura that makes us want to be near them. . . . We want to touch the relics of this woman who dedicated herself to healing, so that we may be healed and may be healers.”

Learn more about the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

Franciscan Friar to explore the roots of creativity

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 30, July 2014 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life
Franciscan Friar, Fr. Bob Hutmacher, O.S.F., of Chicago, hoping to go viral on youtube to help fund a PBS video project on creativity. 

Learn more about the project at Learn more about the Franciscan Friars here.

Pope Francis takes on mafia, again!

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 30, July 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Pope Francis,Catholic culture

In January, following the death of a 3-year-old boy after a Mafia ambush, Pope Francis began speaking out against organized crime. Then in June, the pope traveled to the place of the murder and “accused Mafia members of pursuing the ‘adoration of evil’” according to a report in Huffington Post, and even went so far as to excommunicate members of the mafia.

Next, Pope Francis will visit a mafia stronghold near Naples, in the town of Caserta, and many are wondering what this fierce anti-mafia stance will do for his papacy and his papal legacy.

Philip Willian, author of The Vatican at War, says, “The church has been divided over what sort of stance to take against organized crime. When the Pope puts his weight decisively behind the people fighting that battle, he gives them extra strength and encouragement.”

Since the Pope has started actively speaking out, other clerics have been more active in fighting the Mafia as well.  A bishop in Calabria “put a 10 year moratorium on naming godfathers at baptisms in a bid to stop Mafia members from spreading their influence” and another bishop “ordered an end to religious processions after hundreds of people carrying a statue of the Madonna bowed in front of the house of a powerful godfather.”

The problem the Vatican and the church is facing is that Catholic rituals and practices are often “embedded in the secret rituals and practices of the Calabrian Mafia” and other rings of organized crime.

Enzo Ciconte, a top Mafia expert in Italy, says many mafia members “use religion simply as a means to gain social approval and advance their criminal operations. The actions of the pope could drive a wedge between the Mafia and those who are genuine believers.”

While many have stressed their concerns for the Pope and his safety, Ciconte also adds, “The Mafia is not stupid. It is not worth it for [them] to attack the pope. They will look for ways to pressure the faithful or will stop giving money to the church.”

Nun who stood up to outlaws in the Wild West up for sainthood

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 21, July 2014 Categories: Church History,Consecrated Life

Sister Blandina Segale, S.C, once called the "Fastest Nun in the West” for her quick response to injustice in the frontier towns of the Southwest, is now up for sainthood. The Santa Fe Archdiocese has taken up her cause after receiving approval from the Vatican, according to a statement issued by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Segale’s religious community.

As a young sister, Italian-born Segale was sent by her superior to Trinidad, Colorado, a frontier mining town (pictured above), to teach poor children. One of her first battles, says a profile of Segale at, was against lynching, a rough form of justice practiced in remote areas at the time. Segale was later transferred to Santa Fe, where with little resources she was able to found public and Catholic schools and construct a hospital. She was an untiring champion of the poor and marginalized of the community, particularly Native Americans.

This is the first time that New Mexico can lay claim to a person being considered for sainthood, making locals very excited. In an interview in the New York Daily News New York Daily News., Allen Sanchez, president and CEO for CHI St. Joseph's Children in Albuquerque, a social service agency Segale founded, explains, "There are other holy people who have worked here, but this would be a saint (who) started institutions in New Mexico that are still in operation.”

While her work with the poor made her well known throughout the local community, it was her interaction with outlaw Billy the Kid and his gang that gave her national attention. She has been the subject of books and an episode of the T.V. Western series “Death Valley Days.”

Even after all that, it may take a while to have her become officially recognized as a saint. The church needs to research, investigate, and validate claims of her miracles.

“Miracles could come in the form of healings," says Sanchez, "assistance to recent Central American immigrant children detained at the U.S. border or some other unexplained occurrences after devotees pray to her.”

Learn more about the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati here.

Catholic nun among passengers on downed Malaysian flight

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 19, July 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sacred Heart Sister Philomene Tiernan, R.S.C.J., on a return flight to Sydney, Australia after a trip to Europe, was aboard Malaysian Flight MH17 that was shot down over Ukrainian airspace July 17, 2014. 

According to a statement from the school where Tiernan worked, the 77-year-old sister had been making an annual retreat that included a trip to Europe and a visit to St. Francis Xavier Church in Paris, where the founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, is buried.

"She was a leading light and will be an incredible loss to the Society of the Sacred Heart, and a huge loss to our school community." said Ms. Johnston-Croke, principal Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, where Tiernan served as a teacher and administrator for more than 30 years.
The Society of the Sacred Heart has schools in 44 countries and all have conveyed their tributes and condolences to the school, Johnston-Croke told The Australian."I've been getting email and texts from all over the world," she said.

Below is a short video made earlier in which Sr.Tiernan and past students talk about the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart and Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, its foundress.

Heroes and the human faces of immigration

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 09, July 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Scripture,Clergy
A sign of peace is offered at at all Souls Mass at the US-Mexico border.

Sisters of Charity of Cincinatti novice Tracy Kemme writes a touching account of how she "encountered the human face of immigration" in "No Fences," a blog featured on the Global Sisters Report. "Every year on All Souls Day," she writes, "people gather at the border fence to celebrate a binational Mass in memory of all those who have died crossing the border. In 2010, I attended the Mass on the Mexico side with some of the families from Proyecto Santo Niño...How unsettling that the fence prevented us from embracing or shaking hands! We were reduced to touching our fingertips together through the chain links of the fence."

But, says Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M., director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Conference, in the crisis at the border "heroes are emerging." In her blog post "Birmingham, Vietnam and Murrieta," Walsh highlights those who rate heroe status in her book: "First might be [Missionaries of Jesus] Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley... Another is Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville. He gets the problem. On his social media blog, he notes: 'What we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes is a humanitarian and refuge reality, not an immigration problem.' He adds that 'the Church must respond in the best way we can to the human need' and says 'at the same time we ask our government to act responsibly to address the reality of migrant refugees. A hemispheric response is needed, not a simple border response. And we ask the government to protect the church’s freedom to serve people.'”

Click on these links to participating VISION communities to find more about the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and the Sisters of Mercy.

S.J. Fr. "selfie" from famous Titanic photographer

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 24, June 2014 Categories: Clergy
        FATHER FRANCIS Browne, S.J. took photographs from 1897 until his death in 1960.
's question, "Did the Irish priest on board the Titanic take a “selfie”?" sparked my interest into the life and photographic work of Jesuit priest Father Francis Browne, S.J. According to the report, Father Eddie O'Donnell found a tin trunk containing 42,000 negatives of the life's work of Father Browne. This "selfie" of Father Browne is the cover of O'Donnell's latest work: “The Life and Lens of Father Browne.”

The Jesuits of the Wisconsin Province had a blog post, "Get off that ship!", that includes what I found to be the most amazing part of Browne's story: Upon arriving in Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland from Southampton aboard the Titanic, Browne received a small envelope that contained an importantant directive from the Jesuit provincial: "GET OFF THAT SHIP!" That message saved Browne's life, according to the Jesuits, "and set him on the course to becoming a master photographer."

Click here to learn more about the Jesuits.

Two Michigan towns are neck and neck in vocations

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 19, June 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life,Clergy,Vocation and Discernment
Twins, Todd (left) and Gary Koenigsknecht, are among the Class of 2014 newly ordained priests.
The New York Times recently profiled newly ordained identical twin priests Todd and Gary Koenigsknecht from Fowler, Michigan who are "among 22 [priests] from their hometown, Fowler, Mich., population 1,224. They officially tie up the leader board with the neighboring village of Westphalia, population 938, which has also produced 22 priests, making for a robust rivalry in both football and Roman collars."

But that is not all...

"The elevation of religious life here has also had an effect on young women: Westphalia has produced 37 Catholic nuns over the decades, according to diocesan data, while Fowler claims 43. Marita Wohlfert, who is 20, is in the running to make it 44, having professed her first vows last year with the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará and taking the name Sister Mary of the Holy Family."

Is grass-fed beef the culprit? What's in the water of Westphalia and Fowler, Michigan? Please share it with the rest of us!

SCJ priest works with his Asperger's

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 17, June 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
 “I RESISTED it at first but then realized that it would be good for me and the community to get some answers.” —Father Greg on his diagnois.
While still in temporary vows Father Greg Schill, S.C.J. was diagnosed with Asperger's, a developmental disorder. He naturally "worried that the diagnosis would affect his ability to move forward toward final vows and ordination" as a Priest of the Sacred Heart.

Schill says that his provincial administration "was proactive with me throughout the process as I learned what I needed to do to modify certain behaviors to compensate for the Asperger’s. The advantage of having the diagnosis is that now I know why I have been ‘different,’ and knowing that, I can be a better minister and a better community member.”

Read more about Father Greg's journey of acceptance and advocacy as well as brief profiles of other Priests of the Sacred Heart community.

The real sister that inspired the OITNB character

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 10, June 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK character Sister Ingalls (left) is really Dominican Sister Ardeth Platte.
The very popular Netflix series Orange is the new Black (OITNB) character Sister Ingalls is inspired by pacifist nun Sisters Ardeth Platte, Jackie Hudson, and Carol Gilbert. According to the Common Dreams site, Platte, along with Hudson and Gilbert, "were arrested in October 2002 after they allegedly cut a chain link fence surrounding a Minuteman III missile silo in northern Colorado. The nuns then used baby bottles to dispense their own blood in the shape of a cross on the silo."

Character Sister Ingalls and Sister Ardeth lived in their "camp," serving their time as well as serving as chapel clerk and ministering to women of many faiths. And post-camp life, the real-life-Domincan Sisters Carol, Ardeth, and Jackie continue to advocate for peace and justice.

#oitnb #domincansisters #peaceandjustice

Pope Francis heads to the Holy Land

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 21, May 2014 Categories: Ecumenism
POPE FRANCIS will visit the Holy Land
May 24-26, 2014.

I remember my sacred Holy Land trip from 2008 often. The day after Easter I was given the wonderful opportunity to embark on a pilgrimage as a Catholic educator with other instructors hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Because of the beautiful interfaith discussions and subsequent friendships that blossomed, my trip to Israel still ranks number one. The overwhelming tug of my faith heart strings still feels fresh with each step through the plush green hills of the Galilee to the cobbled crowded arcades of the old city of Jerusalem.

I can't help but feel nostalgia as Pope Francis begins his journey to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage experience, particularly to the Holy Land, is something every Christian should experience once in their lifetime.

Read the official itinerary of Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land here.

As NPR reports

In an unprecedented move, Francis asked two friends from Argentina to accompany him to the Holy Land, Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Islamic studies professor Omar Abboud.

Francis will pray with Syrian refugees in Jordan on Saturday. He'll then travel to Bethlehem, Jesus' birthplace in the Palestinian territories. Finally, he'll visit Jerusalem.

"He'll also commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic rapprochement between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. And he'll appeal for an end to the Christian exodus from the Middle East, where more and more Christians are dying in recent conflicts.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister saves through sewing

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Saturday 10, May 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe holding a pop tab purse made by her St. Monica's Girls' Tailoring School students in Gulu, Uganda.

Last week the Global Sisters Report highlighted an extraordinary Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister from Uganda-Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe. Perhaps you remember her as one of 2007 CNN’s Heroes or as the recent keynote speaker for the 2014 TIME Magazine -The 100 Most Influential People in the World.

In fact Sr. Rosemary’s vocation and survival during the horrific time of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army is the subject of a new book and movie narrated by Forest Whitaker, Sewing Hope. Her life’s story is “the story of one woman's fight to restore hope to her nation. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe resides over Saint Monica's Vocational School in Gulu, Uganda. Rosemary learned that [many girls] had been abducted and spent years with the rebels, losing a chance at any education. Rosemary introduced a practical tailoring course, where students who could not complete school were able to learn skills to provide for themselves and their families.”

View the Official Website for the Documentary Film and Book Sewing Hope here.

#bringbackourgirls #sewinghope #sisterrosemarynyirumbe

Discernment trends - Millennials blog their journey

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 28, April 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
REBECCA GUTHERMAN, a senior at Immaculata University, blogs about her plan to join the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
The growing trend of blogging, social media communities for discerners, and other resources like VISION Vocation Match attract and connect many millennials on their journey to religious life online. VISION also has a Blog Index.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently interviewed millennial Becca Gutherman about her blog, “Road Less Traveled” (the title a nod to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”) and her journey to becoming a nun.

“The blog gives a face to religious life,” says Gutherman, who is majoring in English and secondary education, with a minor in theology. When she graduates in May, she would like to teach in the inner city and someday write a young-adult fiction book. “People see that this is still a real life choice.”

What other online ways have you witnessed millennials discern?

#discernmenttrends #millennialnuns #bloggingmillennials

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Vocation reflection from saintly popes

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 23, April 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII -photo credit CNA
As we prepare for the canonizations of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII, I stumbled upon a couple of quotes that continue to inspire purpose and vocation in life.

“We deem it opportune to remind our children of their duty to take an active part in public life and to contribute toward the attainment of the common good of the entire human family as well as to that of their own political community. They should endeavor, therefore, in the light of their Christian faith and led by love, to insure that the various institutions—whether economic, social, cultural, or political in purpose—should be such as not to create obstacles, but rather to facilitate or render less arduous man’s perfecting of himself in both the natural order and the supernatural . . . . Every believer in this world of ours must be a spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying leaven amidst his fellow men. And he will be this all the more perfectly, the more closely he lives in communion with God in the intimacy of his own soul.”
―Pope John XXIII ( Pacem in Terris: Peace on Earth)

"I invite you all to pray for those young people who, throughout the world, hear the call of the Lord and for those who may be afraid to answer that call. May they find educators at hand to guide them! May they perceive the grandeur of their vocation: to love Christ above all else as a call to freedom and happiness! Pray so that the Church may help you in your search and in arriving at a correct discernment! Pray so that Christian communities may always know how to pass on the call of the Lord to the younger generations! With me, thank the Lord “for the gift of a vocation, for the grace of priesthood, for priestly vocations throughout the world” (Gift and Mystery, 10)! Let us thank him for consecrated persons! Let us thank him for families, parishes, and movements, the cradles of vocations!"
―Pope John Paul II, Paris 1997

#JohnXXIII #JP2 #popescanonization

How monastics - and discerners - can bury the fat

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 22, April 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
Lent may be over, but I came across a funny post on the blog of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about them imagining what it would be like if their community practiced the medieval monastic custom of having a funeral service and burial for the butter, lard, and fat the monks were giving up for Lent. The post also has some good reflections on how "discerning a life choice such as whether to enter a religious community will entail burying a few things": Amuzing Grace - Confessions of a Vocation Director.

The wedding singer priest wows the world

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Thursday 10, April 2014 Categories: Clergy

Fr. Ray Kelly of County Meath, Ireland, surprised an out-of-town couple who didn't know of his singing prowess with an absolutely beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, replete with verses specific to the bride and groom.  

Several things to love about this story:

  1. That the priest sang to delight his congregation: "I enjoy singing but I wouldn't want to do it full time - I love what I'm doing as a priest." 
  2. That his efforts were so well received: by the wedding goers, who gave him a standing ovation, and by the world: with nearly 5.4 million views so far on youtube.
  3. That he presented such a joyful and loving image of priesthood. 

Thank you, Father Ray.

Here is more from a BBC story:

The parish priest of Oldcastle, County Meath, told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme  that the couple had no idea what was going to happen.
"Normally local people know I sing at weddings, funerals or when I'm asked, but they didn't know - the bride Leah is from Dublin and the groom Chris is from Cookstown in County Tyrone," he said.
"They were having their reception at a hotel about 10 miles away and chose our church.
"We had the rehearsal on Thursday evening and at the end I said, 'sure maybe I'll sing an aul song for you myself' - Leah grinned and said 'OK sure' but I don't think she was taking it too seriously."
Fr Kelly changed the original lyrics to be more suitable for a wedding. It begins: "We join together here today, to help two people on their way."
Fr Kelly is a trained singer who is currently working on his third album.
"The way I look at it is, it's a gift one has, and if you have a gift you use it."

"Imagine a Sister's Life" website - 21st century connection for aspiring religious

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 09, April 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
The Sisters of Bon Secours' new website connects women on their journey to religious life.

In an age where advances in technology can sometimes disconnect us, I must say that the "Imagine a Sister's Life" website welcomes the visitor in very real way. This site offers a conversation starter for women both struggling to find their purpose or need confirmation that they're on the right path.

With a wide array of multimedia tools, "Imagine a Sister's Life" invites visitors to explore religious life by exploring three steps that are outlined on the home page: 1. Meet a Sister, 2. Picture Yourself as a Sister, and 3. Becoming a Sister.

Don't forget to click the "Talk to a Sister" tab to view their blog, join the chat room, and even send a comment or suggestion.

Click Sisters of Bon Secours to discover more about this innovative community.

#imagineasisterslife #pictureyourselfasasister #becomingasister

Sister Camille's conversations take a turn toward religious life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 02, April 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
NCR columnist Sr. Camille D'Arienzo

Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, whose column Conversations with Sr.Camille is regularly featured in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), recently posted two great interviews with members of religous communities: Providence Sr. Susanne Gallagher, S.P. on her work with children with special needs, and Marist Br. Sean Sammon, F.M.S. on the future of religious life.

Providence Sr. Susanne Gallagher, right, with her sister Rita who inspired her work with Special Religious Development, better known as SPRED.
Sr. Susanne, a recent recipient of the University of Notre Dame's Laetare medal, said that her interest in special education was due in part to the fact that her younger sister has Down syndrome: "I had been praying for a way to commingle my work and my prayer life and to become involved with people who are intellectually challenged, said Gallagher. ... I sensed that SPRED ministry would be a place where I would become more aware of God's presence in my life."

Read the full interview here.

Learn more about the Sisters of Providence--Saint Mary-of-the--Woods, IN 

Br. Sean Sammon, F.M.S., says that religious life is meant to be a leaven within the church and society.

Br. Sammon told Sr. Camille that there has never been a "golden age" of religious life. "Each era has had its challenges. We need to use our energies to address today's, including the changes that very few welcome. ...Young people coming to religious life today are reminding us that community and a vibrant life of prayer are as important a part of religious life as the ministry of our congregation."

Read the full interview here.

Learn more about the Marist Brothers.

#spred #sistersofprovidence #maristbrothers #sistersofmercy

Happy birthday to a celebrity-worthy nun

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 01, April 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life,Church History

“She was a bit of a flirt, entertaining and witty, and a woman who didn't easily take no—even from the men who were technically her superiors.” Does this sound like a cloistered nun, mystic, and Doctor of the Church? asks VISION Content Editor Carol Schuck Scheiber.

SAINT TERESA OF AVILA by Peter Paul Rubens.

Yes, if you’re talking about Saint Teresa of Avila, whose 500th birthday will be in about a year from now, March 28, 2015. Patricia Morrison, editorial director of ICS Publications, is a life-time student of all things Carmelite, and those are her words about the Teresa the saint. “She was a flesh-and-blood woman dealing with the same kinds of challenges and issues people do today,” said Morrison.

Originally sent to the convent by a strict father who wanted his daughter reined in, she eventually became a tireless reformer of the Carmelite religious order, mystic, and author of books on prayer still being published today.

Teresa’s biting humor shows in an often-cited story. Teresa lamented to God about a setback and heard God reply, “That’s how I treat my friends.” To which she said: “No wonder you have so few of them.”

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Sister Cristina evangelizes on The Voice of Italy

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 21, March 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
#suorcristina hopes to get a call from #popefrancis next after her show stopping performance on The Voice of Italy.
All four judges turned their chairs as 25 year old Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, Suor Cristina belted out Alicia Keys’ “No One,” on The Voice of Italy singing competition show.

As Catholic News Agency reports: “A native of Sicily, Sr. Cristina arrived at the show accompanied by four sisters from her community, as well as her parents.
The four judges of the popular TV program are the Italian singers Raffaella Carra, J-Ax, Noemi, and Piero Pelu. After her performance, Carra asked Sr. Cristina if she is really a nun, and why she chose to compete on the show.
“Yes, I am truly, truly a sister,” she replied.

“I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I am here to evangelize.”

The final remarks of the article include Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s stamp of approval using the trending hashtag #suorcristina he tweeted: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10)”.

Read the full Catholic News Agency’s article here, The UK Daily Mail’s coverage here, and what the Huffington Post said here.

Discover more about the Ursuline sisters communities with these links:
Ursuline Sisters - Roman Union
Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph
Ursulines of Jesus
Ursline Sisters, Roman Union, UK

#suorcristina #singingnun #thenewsisteract

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Jimmy Fallon thought he "had the calling"

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 19, March 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Clergy
"It’s my first experience on stage is as an altar boy. You’re on stage next to the priest, I’m a co-star," Jimmy Fallon on growing up Catholic and wanting to be a priest.

Deacon Greg Kandra reminded us on his blog that in the wake of Jimmy Fallon's succesful debut as the new host of "The Tonight Show," Fallon wanted to be a priest.

Deacon Greg recalls Jimmy Fallon's 2012 interview with NPR about his Catholic upbringing in Brooklyn, NY.

Fallon  shared: "I just, I loved the church. I loved the idea of it. I loved the smell of the incense. I loved the feeling you get when you left church. I loved like how this priest can make people feel this good. I just thought it was – I loved the whole idea of it. My grandfather was very religious, so I used to go to Mass with him at like 6:45 in the morning, serve Mass. And then you made money, too, if you did weddings and funerals. You’d get like five bucks. And so I go ‘Okay, I can make money too.’ I go, ‘This could be a good deal for me.’ I thought I had the calling... It’s my first experience on stage is as an altar boy. You’re on stage next to the priest, I’m a co-star."

Read the full 2012 NPR transcript here.

#NCSW The inaugural National Catholic Sister Week concludes

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Saturday 15, March 2014 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
 SISTER STORY website launched during the first National Catholic Sister Week.

The National Catholic Sister week has successfully concluded and created a lot of buzz for women religious.

Attendee Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau writes on her blog: "This new tradition [NCSW] is sparked by the funding obtained by St. Kate’s [St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN] from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for a 3-year project called “Sister Story.” One of the goals of this project is to demystify religious life by collecting the personal stories of Sisters from various communities/congregations from all over the nation.  To accomplish this, college women are being paired with Sisters with the goal of forming close relationships that will culminate in a videotaped interview which will be made accessible on a public website."

The sisterstory site Sister Paule is referring to, provides an opportunity for viewers to participate in the "Tell Us Your Story" tab which includes thanking a nun. Particularly noteworthy is the SisterStories tab itself. It is quite incredible to read the "In their own words" stories as the Huffington Post acknowledged their blog a wrap up of the NCSW: "Let's Hear It For The Nuns! 7 Stories To Kick Off Inaugural National Catholic Sisters Week."

Enjoy being demystified by these remarkable stories as I am.

#ncsw #sisterstory #womenreligious

What will you eat this Fat Tuesday?

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 04, March 2014 Categories:
Here are a few articles that help remind us what Fat Tuesday a.k.a Shrove Tuesday is all about as we prepare to fast, repent, and pray during this upcoming season of Lent.

From the UK Edition of the International Business Times: Pancake Day 2014: What is it and Where Did it Come From? (features pancakes and packzi's).

The L.A. Times give us: Mardi Gras: Celebrate with king cake and 16 additional recipes!

And finally from Patheos-Hosting the Conversation on Faith's article on Ash Wednesday from the point of view of an evangelical American Christian: What is Ash Wednesday? How Do We Observe Ash Wednesday? Why Should We Observe Ash Wednesday? How Ash Wednesday Enriches Our Lives and Our Relationship with God.

So...what will you eat?

#shrovetuesday #fattuesday #pancakeday #packziday #kingcake

Sister Megan Rice, S.H.C.J. sentenced to three years

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 26, February 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice a,nd Greg Boertje-Obed arriving for their trial in May 2013. Photo: Michael Patrick/AP
We first introduced Holy Child of Jesus Sister Megan Rice S.H.C.J., Greg Boertje-Obed, and Michael Walli, to you in a blog post from June 2013 as charges and convictions were made.

Last week many news outlets including The Guardian reproted that: "An 84-year-old nun was handed a 35-month jail term on Tuesday for breaking into a US nuclear weapons plant and daubing it with biblical references and human blood. Sister Megan Rice was sentenced alongside two co-defendants, Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, and Michael Walli, 64, who both received 62-month terms."

"In a recent interview with the Guardian from prison, Rice said she hoped U.S. district judge Amul Thapar would seize the opportunity to "take his place in history" and sentence them in a way that would reflect their symbolic, non-violent actions–actions she said were intended to highlight the US stockpile of nuclear weapons they believe is immoral and illegal."

Read the full article here.

"Precarious monasteries reveal faith close to the edge"

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 24, February 2014 Categories:

A friend of mine pointed me to this item on the Huffington Post, a pictorial about monasteries from various religious traditions which are perched onand sometimes inmountains, cliffs, and so on. The photos alone are worth a look.

Lessons from the Olympics

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 17, February 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life

One of the greatest gifts from the Olympics for me is that the world in solidarity and peace admires and cheers on the incredible talent and skill of athleticism executed in a variety of events. But before we get caught up in the medal count, here are a couple articles with great inspirational advice to remember during these games.

Catholic News Agency’s article on the author of “The Catechism of Hockey,” Alyssa Bormes, praises and advises us about the games in Sochi saying: “It’s very Catholic to give everything to what you’re doing,” she said. “Olympic athletes, just by qualifying for the games, in many cases have already given everything they have…We organize our schedules around sports. I’m asking parents not to give that up, but to do the same for the faith, and teach their children the faith as if it were football or basketball.”

Back in October, CNA reported how Britain’s Olympic gold medalist runner Jason Gardener “credited Catholic nuns for encouraging him to succeed.” Gardner said: “I’m not outspoken, particularly, about my faith, but I’m a believer and I’m very pleased to have had a good life which I’ve had to this day. I’m very thankful–I’ve worked very hard, and having good morals instilled in me, behaving well as a citizen–I believe has helped me on the journey to where I am.”

But let’s be honest, it is fun to cheer on our native countries by yelling at the TV or taking to social media to congratulate and support. Even ‘Media Nun’ Sister Helena Burns F.S.P. of the Daughters of St. Paul) tookto her twitter account to support or stab with a competitive edge her devotion to hockey. Catholic News Service reports that despite being born in Boston, Sister Helena will be pulling for Canada. “So come Feb. 13 when Canada faces off against Norway in its first game of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Sister Burns -- who will be in Chicago where she lived for eight years before moving to Toronto -- will be wearing her blue habit and Boston accent. Luckily for her, the nuns in Chicago, who lived with her during the Blackhawks' past two Stanley Cups, are used to the yelling. Some of them might even watch the game with her.”

Who and how will you cheer now during these Olympic games?

#sochi2014 #olympicspirit #catholicspirit

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Italian monastery becomes a destination for bargain-seeking brides

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 12, February 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
SISTER MARIA LAURA, a seamstress before entering
the monastery, assists a bride with her dress.
Photo: Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times.
For years the monastery of St. Rita in Cascia has operated a secondhand wedding dress depot, once frequented mostly by young women from disadvantaged families. Why? Because, says the New York Times, “The monastery—once home to Saint Rita, an abused bride and a widow before becoming a nun about 600 years ago—has long been a pilgrimage site for Italian women, who come to pray to the saint to protect their marriages. The collection, as it were, began when some women brought their wedding dresses as an offering of thanks.

“But as Italy continues to suffer from the fallout of a prolonged recession, what was begun as an act of charity for a few young women in need has become a trendy choice for growing numbers of brides who want to keep their wedding costs down.

“In the process, the atelier has become a full-time job for Sister Maria Laura, who oversees an expanding collection of donated wedding gowns—now numbering in the hundreds—in various sizes, train lengths, and styles.

“But choosing her dress at the St. Rita monastery was not merely an economic transaction,” one bride said. “I’ve felt at home here from the very first minute,” she said. “After all, nuns have a calling. Love is a calling, too.”

The full story in the New York Times.

Chart-topping nuns to release new album

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 05, February 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
If their track-record continues, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Gower, Missouri may end up with another No. 1 album when their third recording, Lent at Ephesus, is released Feb. 11.

Their previous albums, Angels and Saints at Ephesus and Advent at Ephesus, spent a total of 19 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Classical Traditional Music chart. In addition, the community of contemplative sisters was named Billboard’s Classical Traditional Artist 2012 and 2013; they're the first order of nuns ever to win an award in the history of the magazine. Last year Angels and Saints also reached No. 8 on the Overall Classical Music Chart, fending off competition from Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album and Downton Abbey: The Essential Collection.

Lent at Ephesus is a seasonal compilation of chants and hymns of glory and redemption, including three original pieces. The album was produced by Grammy Award-winning classical producer Blanton Alspaugh, who said of his experience recording the sisters: “Their singing has a very pure and yet sophisticated style. It certainly earns its place in the international arena of classical music. Their talent is as remarkable as their sense of charity. To record them at their priory was one of the highlights of my career.”

Initial plans for the Year of Consecrated Life revealed

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Saturday 01, February 2014 Categories: Clergy,Consecrated Life

In a press conference on Friday, the Vatican prefect for consecrated life, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, outlined the three objectives for the Year of Consecrated Life, which will commence in the fall of 2014 and conclude in November of 2015:

1) The first objective: “We believe that the [Second Vatican] Council has been a breath of the Spirit not only for the whole Church but, perhaps especially, for the consecrated life. . . .  For this reason, he said, the first objective of the Year of Consecrated Life would be to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past.”
2)     With this positive outlook on the past, he continued, “we want to ‘embrace the future with hope’— the second objective.
3)    This hope cannot keep us from “living the present with passion” — and this is the third objective of the coming Year. . . . In this regard, the Year of Consecrated Life will have an evangelical focus, helping people to realize “the beauty of following Christ” in the various types of religious vocations.

The Year of Consecrated Life is expected to begin in October of 2014, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Church, which has a specific chapter dealing with consecrated life. The anniversary of the publication of Perfectae caritatis, the Council’s decree on the renewal of consecrated life, will be the occasion of the close of the Year in November 2015.

Learn more here. Be sure to look to the VISION Vocation Network for resources and information on consecrated throughout the year.

iBenedictines: 2013 Blogger of the Year

Posted by:   🕔 Wednesday 29, January 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life

iBenedictines, a blog hosted by the Benedictine Nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery, Herefordshire in the U.K., is not only in the VISION Vocation Network's Blog Index and is one of the this week's VISION Blogs of the Week—it's also the winner of the 2013 Christian New Media Blogger of the Year award.

Students, Sisters of the Holy Cross take a leap of faith with oral history project

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 20, January 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
SISTER JANE Frances Reus, C.S.C.,
and Saint Mary’s College student participants
in the faith sharing oral history project of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
In her Intro. to Communication Studies course, Saint Mary's College (Notre Dame, IN), assistant professor of communication studies Marne Austin, Ph.D, challenged her students to "engage directly with their communities" with an oral history project assignment.

Austin's assignment was simple: One or two students would be paired with a Sister of the Holy Cross (the congregation's motherhouse is on campus) and meet five times over a five-week period to get to know one another, collect oral histories of the sisters’ faith experiences, and create a video archive for the College and the congregation.

Read the full journey here of how this "class project evolved into eye-opening, intergenerational experiences of faith sharing and friendship for both the undergraduate students and the sisters, most of whom are age 70 or older."

I have a feeling this getting-back-to-basics oral history project will effect these students as well as the Sisters of the Holy Cross community of Indiana for the rest of their lives.

Are you challenged to do your own oral history project now, like I am?

Final thought: recently the Pope on his Twitter account @pontifex reminds us: “No elderly person should be like an “exile” in our families. The elderly are a treasure for our society.”

#challenged #oralhistory #eldelyaretreasures

First "official" Trappist beer brewed in U.S.

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 20, January 2014 Categories:

St. Joseph's Abbey, an hour's drive west of  Boston, will now join the world's eight monasteries that produce "the only beer recognized by the International Trappist Association as authentic Trappist beer" with their Spencer Trappist Ale golden beer.

Read the full article about the "journey from jams to beer started five years ago when St. Joseph's sent two monks on a fact-finding mission to the Belgian Beer Fest in Boston."

Cheers to the St. Joseph's monks and their success with "Trappist Preserves"—and now their "Spencer Trappist Ale" which is approved by their European counterparts! Discover more about Trappist Cistercian communities.

Priests work the inner city

Posted by:   🕔 Saturday 18, January 2014 Categories: Clergy
FATHER PETER Banks in Los Angeles.
The PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly recently ran a story on Father Michael Doyle, a diocesan priest who has worked for 40 years in Camden, New Jersey, which the FBI considers the most dangerous city in America. The item also has a link to R&EN's 2009 segment on Irish Franciscan Father Peter Banks, who had also worked for nearly 40 years in another difficult urban setting, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Niece remembers martyred aunt, a Columban sister

Posted by:   🕔 Monday 06, January 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life
SISTER Joan Sawyer in Lima.
Photo: The Guardian.
A reminiscence in The Guardian (U.K.) from Irish woman Hilary Georgina Cross as she got ready to visit Lima, Peru for the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of her aunt, Columban missionary Sister Joan Sawyer, who died at the hands of government forces after being taken hostage by prisoners.


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