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2015 Posts

Biography of American priest martyred in Guatemala released

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 17, December 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Church History,Mary and the Saints,Clergy

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” wrote American priest Father Stanley Rother in 1980 in his last Christmas letter to Catholics in his native Oklahoma. He remained true to his word and was martyred the following year in Guatemala.

The first biography of the late priest, The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma, by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, was released in November. The cause for beatification of Father Rother is now being considered by the Vatican.

Five years after his ordination, in 1968, Father Rother arrived in Guatemala and served as a parish priest to Tz’utujil Mayan Indians in the farming community of Santiago Atitlan. He learned their languages, cared for their needs, and prepared them for the sacraments. Even after the violence of the Guatemalan civil war reached their village and kidnappings and killings became routine, Father Rother continued his work of building a farmers’ co-op, a school, a hospital, and a Catholic radio station.

When his name was put on a death list, he returned to Oklahoma in 1981 for three months, but decided not to abandon his people in Guatemala. The 46-year-old priest was shot to death shortly upon his return. He was among 10 priests killed in the country that year.

Scaperlanda is an award-winning author and journalist, published in both the Catholic and secular press. The Oklahoma-based writer blogs at

The book is available on Amazon and Our Sunday Visitor.

Year of Mercy events commence throughout United States

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 17, December 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Holy doors opened worldwide this month to begin the Year of Mercy, and in the United States, an abundance of events, observances, services, and pilgrimages are planned all year to commemorate it.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, an ambulance transformed into a mobile confessional named "Spiritual Care Unit," was blessed by the bishop and designed to "give greater access and availability of the sacrament to those who may have been away for some time," said Community of Jesus Crucified Father Michael Champagne. "We have already experienced persons who were away for decades from the sacrament returning home." 

In Dubuque, Iowa, local parishes will perform one corporal work of mercy for seven weeks. 

In New Ulm, Minnesota, the Church of St. Mary will host a workshop on human trafficking, and the diocese will encourage the corporal work of visiting the imprisoned. 

The New Orleans archdiocese is heeding Pope Francis' call for mercy toward those who have had abortions and is providing healing and support through counseling. 

Ecology is the focus of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, and it has organized a Catholic social ministry gathering, "Called to Live Mercy in Our Common Home," in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23-26.

Pilgrimages in many individual dioceses are also among the celebrations of this holy year.

Read the full article from the National Catholic Reporter here.

New Vatican document affirms role of religious brothers

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 16, December 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

On Monday the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life released a 54-page document, “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church,” that "addresses the identity of the religious brother in three ways: First, as a mystery of a gift received; second, as a communion of a gift shared; and, third, as a mission of a gift to be given away," according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Although not ordained as priests, brothers serve priestly roles in their ministries to the sick, the youth in schools, and the poor in body and spirit. It is important to note that these sentiments about brothers apply to religious women, too, as their consecrated lives are similar.

Crux reports that worldwide there are about 55,000 brothers in the Catholic Church today, a much smaller total than either priests (415,000) or nuns (705,000), though roughly comparable to the number of permanent deacons (42,000).

In this way of consecrated life of service, religious brothers become part of various communities of different orders, societies, or congregations, fulfilling the title of "brother" Jesus preached for himself and his apostles. 

Read another report on the Vatican document from Vatican Radio here

For further information and reflection, read VISION's current and archived articles on Brothers.

Creative ways to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 13, December 2015 Categories: Catholic culture
Being merciful can sometimes take practice. That's why Aleteia has compiled a list of 56 ways that one can be merciful during this Year of Mercy. The list has suggestions for both parents and young people, and even some ways families can act mercifully together.

From “Offering to drive an elderly person to mass” to “Offering hospitality in your home to someone or a group of people you would normally never invite over,” this list of suggestions provides helpful ways to begin and continue your journey toward mercy.

You can find the full list of suggestions here.

Mercedarian missionary sees "face of God" in detention ministry

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 10, December 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Vocation and Discernment

The BBC 100 Women series recently featured Mercedarian Missionary Sister Neyda Rojas and her detention ministry in the very violent and overcrowded prisons of Venezuela. Sister Neyda teaches literacy and other life skills to the inmates who she acknowledges have committed serious crimes, but who she continues to see as "God's children." She shares: "They've lost their freedom, but not their dignity."

Through out her 17 years of ministry, Sister Neyda's charisma and perseverance have gained her trust and respect among the inmates. Some of Sister Neyda's best memories include delivering the baby of a female inmate and ensuring inmates with serious illnesses got the medicine they needed. She spreads hope and respect to each person she encounters, which keeps her coming back to the inmates who call her "La Gota Blanca" (The White Drop) because of the color of her habit in a sea of darkness.

'Sister Rita to the Rescue' to air on BBC One

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 06, December 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The Telegraph reports that Sister Rita Lee is set to star in her own five-part BBC One series, "Sister Rita to the Rescue." To locals in Manchester, England, Sister Rita is known as “Attila the Nun” because of her strength in advocating for those often forgotten in society, especially in her inner-city neighborhood, Collyhurst.

Originally from Cork, Ireland, Sister Rita, 70, characterizes her adopted community as “real life at the raw edge” but see strength in it, too, saying, “People here are the salt of the earth.” When asked if she is ever fearful in her neighborhood, she explained, “If anyone said boo to me, they’d all be at the door, reassuring me. I know the Collyhurst people inside out. They’re wonderful.”

Her leadership style is fair but firm, and based in her Catholic faith. She says, “We must help one another in this life. It’s the commandment. We can’t just go on our own. 'Take the shirt off your back and give it to somebody.' That’s where I come from.”

At the age of 13, she began to hear her call when two nuns from Manchester came to her school in Cork to discuss vocation. They talked about Manchester, the poverty there, and a nursery in which they cared for children. At the age of 18, Rita joined a convent in Manchester and went on to work in the convent school. When the school closed, she worked in various other charitable organizations and eventually ended up in her current home of Collyhurst.

She is excited about the show airing but hopes viewers understand the message. "There’s a bit of a hype about all this, and there’s nothing hype about here," she said. "There’s nobody here above anyone else. We are all on the same level. And that’s it."

Pope calls on Catholic families to 'build bridges'

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Saturday 05, December 2015 Categories: Pope Francis,Catholic culture

In a meeting with the Association of Catholic School Parents, Pope Francis encouraged strong ties between families and schools, according to Vatican Radio

The pope spoke directly to parents in his address, emphasizing the importance of “building bridges” between schools, families, country, and other organizations in order to promote harmony. He said parents have a responsibility to advocate for their children’s education and make sure Catholic schools live up to their values. He added that Catholics must be accepting of everyone and not elitist in selecting education recipients.

“I pray to the Lord,” Francis said, “that a Catholic school does not take for granted the meaning of this adjective!”

Chicago churches named Year of Mercy pilgrimage sites

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Friday 04, December 2015 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Mary and the Saints

Parishes around the world are getting ready to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, to begin Dec. 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In Chicago, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich has designated 32 parishes and shrines in the city as Jubilee pilgrimage sites. By walking through the Holy Doors of these sites, the faithful may gain a plenary indulgence offered by Pope Francis.

One of those pilgrimage sites is Saint Ita Catholic Church, which houses an enshrined relic of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, O.L.M. (1905-1938), a Polish nun, mystic, and visionary, who is venerated as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, a devotion to the merciful love of God for all.

Bishop Francis J. Kane will bless the doors of Saint Ita Catholic Church, located at 5500 N. Broadway, on Dec. 13 at the 10:30 a.m. Mass. Starting in January, on the last Sunday of every month for the duration of the Year of Mercy, the church will offer Confession from 2-3 p.m., followed by recitation/chant of Divine Mercy from 3-3:30 p.m.

The Year of Mercy ends on Nov. 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.

A list of the Jubilee pilgrimage sites can be found at Information about obtaining a plenary indulgence can be found on the website of the Office for Divine Worship at

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'Mercy on the Mall' initiative to mark Holy Year of Mercy in Ireland

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 01, December 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Clergy

The Irish Catholic reports that priests will hear confessions at shopping malls around the country on Dec. 8, 2015, including as many as 16 priests at Skycourt Shopping Centre in County Clare. The "Mercy on the Mall" initiative will mark the opening of the Holy Year of Mercy.

Shannon parish priest Father Tom Ryan shares that these Irish priests are carrying the pope's message and answering his call "to go out to the market place and proclaim the Gospel."

Capuchin Friar Father Dan Joe O’Mahony, who runs a popular oratory in the Blanchardstown Centre in Dublin, said ministering in large shopping malls is about “meeting people where they are at. It’s all about getting the Church into the market place which is where the Lord worked himself."

The Year of Mercy will begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2015, and will conclude on the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016. 

"Your visit gives us courage," sister living in Kenya tells Pope

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Monday 30, November 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

Sister Mary Killeen, R.S.M., an Irish Sister of Mercy, who has been working in the slums of Kenya for the past 30 years, was chosen to address Pope Francis during his visit there this past week. Sister Mary told the Pontiff of the adversity the people of the slums face to achieve an education and self-sufficiency, not the least of which is rampant corruption and landgrabbing. Sister Mary thanked Francis for visiting their poor community, "Your visit gives us courage. By coming here, you shine a light on the challenges. Your meeting with us gives us dignity."

Follow Sister Mary's blog of her life in Kenya. Or better yet, join her in her work among the poor!


Pope encourages priests to remember their supportive roots

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 30, November 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life

The Catholic News Service reports that Pope Francis urged priests and their superiors to remember their roots and acknowledge the families and communities that support them throughout their spiritual journeys. Addressing a group of priests and bishops, he said, “You cannot be a priest believing that you were created in a laboratory. No, it begins in the family with the tradition of the faith and all the experiences of the family."

The pope also reminded them of their central mission of ministering to the faithful, saying, "I tell you sincerely: I am afraid of rigid [priests]. I am afraid. Rigid priests, keep them far away, they bite! The words of St. Ambrose come to mind: 'Where there is mercy, there is the spirit of God. Where there is rigidity, there are only his ministers.’ And a minister without the Lord becomes rigid. This is a danger for the people of God. Be pastors, not officials.”

The priests and bishops were gathered for a conference sponsored by the Congregation for Clergy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II decrees on priestly formation and on priestly ministry and life. 

Woman achieves lifelong dream, finally becomes a nun

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 29, November 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Sister Jannette Marie Pruitt, who is now a nun, but also the mother of three, grandmother of seven, great-grandmother of two, and one of two black Catholic nuns in the order of the Sisters of St. Francis.

She was educated by nuns and always active in her parish, even as she got older. Pruitt knew she wanted to become a nun when she was younger, but growing up in Mississippi in the 1950s her race was a factor and she was discouraged from joining an order.

When she was 47, she reconsidered this calling. At first, she thought it was a crazy dream, but when she saw an announcement in her parish bulletin calling for members of the black community who were interested in religious life to attend a weekend retreat and meet different orders. She went and spoke with Sister Marge Wissman who is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg, Indiana.

She explored other orders as well, but eventually she knew she had found the right fit with them, explaining, “The Sisters of St. Francis were very fun-loving and outgoing,”

The process of becoming a nun took years, which was good, says Sister Jannette, because she needed time to adjust to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She explained she needed to adjust her lifestyle a bit because she loved shoes, clothes, and spoiling her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but she gained much more than she gave up.

She is now a coordinator of the Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which helps organize programs for black Catholics. She also sits on the board of the National Black Sisters’ Conference and was twice nominated for the Harriet Tubman award, honoring a sister who is “Moses of Her People.”

The balance between religious life and family life may seem daunting to some, but Sister Jannette finds joy in both, saying, “I have two vocations. My life is full.”

Students gather in Capitol to push pope's message

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 16, November 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Doctrines & Beliefs,Pope Francis,Catholic culture

The Christian Post reports that hundreds of Catholic high school and college students met in Washington, D.C., last week and urged Congress to stand with Pope Francis and his message on climate change, immigration, and human rights in Central America.

The students also heard from Sister Simone Campbell, S.S.S., a Sister of Social Servie and Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby group. “Faith through justice," said Campbell, "takes care of our earth, takes care of our people, takes care of our politics. So you all, use this moment to build bridges and transform our nation and give people hope.”

Over the weekend, the students met with members of Congress and discussed policy. At the end of the conference, the Ignatian Solidarity Network hosted a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, the largest Catholic advocacy day of the year.

Pope Francis urges families to “power down”

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 15, November 2015 Categories: Pope Francis

While Pope Francis is certainly no stranger to technology, he has urged people to stop texting and tweeting during family time. The Los Angeles Times recently covered the pope’s remarks about cell phones and screens at the dinner table.

"A family that almost never eats together, or that never speaks at the table but looks at the television or the smartphone, is hardly a family," Francis said. Family togetherness is very important, especially for young children, he said, calling it a "beautiful virtue."

This past week, to an audience in St. Peter’s Square, he encouraged everyone to put down technology and spend more time discussing experiences of the day with one another.

Franciscans restoring Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo in Jordan

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Wednesday 11, November 2015 Categories: Church History,Scripture

“God keeps his promises,” Franciscan Father Fergus Clarke assured a group of Catholic reporters gathered for Mass in October at the friar’s small chapel atop Mount Nebo in Jordan—the very place a testament to his statement.

It was on Mount Nebo that Moses finally gazed upon the Promised Land. He died and was buried in the vicinity, according to Deuteronomy, but the exact place of his tomb is unknown.

Centuries later, according to 2 Maccabees, just before the Babylonian invasion of Israel, Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written) at Mount Nebo in a cave and sealed the entrance. The location of the lost Ark is, of course, a matter of great conjecture.

As part of the Franciscans' traditional ministry of caring for Christian sites in the Holy Land, the Franciscans maintain the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo. “By our very presence here, we proclaim that Jesus lives,” Father Clarke said.

The Ireland-born priest, formerly the guardian of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection), and two other friars reside on Mount Nebo and are overseeing the renovation of the remains of a Byzantine church at the summit.

The building has been closed to the public since 2007, although reporters were given a preview, as workers restore its stunning, sprawling mosaic floor, including one piece, in what was a shrine to the Blessed Virgin, that is an image of the Tabernacle in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The 4th-century church was discovered in 1933; it had been abandoned for more than 1,000 years. Several tombs have been found beneath the church, including one in the center of the cruciform.

Father Clarke said he hopes the building will reopen by early next year.

Dominicans celebrating 800th anniversary of order

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 11, November 2015 Categories: Church History,Consecrated Life

The Order of Preachers (Dominicans) began their year-long Jubilee marking the 800th anniversary of the order (1216-2016) this past Sunday. Vatican Today reports that Pope Francis "has granted the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence for all the faithful" taking part in the celebrations. The specific terms and conditions to receive the indulgence are outlined in a document sent by the Apostolic Penitentiary

Pope Francis encourages all Dominican priests to make themselves available to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in all Jubilee places to which the faithful may pilgrimage as well as administer Holy Communion to the infirm frequently throughout the Jubilee year.

Here is a short list of the many Dominican communities:

For further reading: 

"A Dominican’s day—timeless and timely," a recent VISION article about the daily life inside the church, office, and home of a Dominican priest. 


Associates of religious communities live charism without taking vows

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 09, November 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life

There are many Catholics who have not been called to vowed consecrated life but rather as formal associates of religious communities. These lay men and women, often called associates, consociates, oblates, or companions, share a commitment to living a particular religious order’s charism, or spirit. These communities invite associates into their ministry and way of thinking.

Most associates choose religious communities because they have been exposed to the community before, such as in school, or they have a strong will to share in the ministry of a particular community.

In a recent article in The Catholic Spirit, Bruce Labno, a 66-year-old Ignatian associate, said,  “Ignatian spirituality helps [people] focus on finding God in all things, at any moment, in so many different ways, all of which is called awareness. I have become aware of God around me, of my humanness, my brokenness and the many gifts given that are to be passed on to others. Ignatian spirituality is my way to actively live Christ in the world as it is today.”

Many orders invite associates from all walks of life to join them in ministry and prayer. Men, women, singles, couples, Catholic and non-Catholic, working and retired, may share in the religious community.

For many, such as Mary Ann Pearson, the communities offer a way to connect with God on a different level. “The important thing is this has deepened my relationship with God,” she said. “I think communities like this provide a far richer, deeper way to enhance our relationship with God than just going to church or meeting with a group regularly.”

Sister to compete for charity on Food Network’s "Chopped"

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 08, November 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy

According to Crux, Sister Alicia Torres, a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist in Chicago, is set to compete against three other cooks in a Thanksgiving episode of the Food Network’s Chopped, set to air Monday, Nov. 9.

The four contestants are part of the “Thanksgiving Soup-er Stars” episode and were chosen because of their work in soup kitchens. On the show, they are given a basket of mystery ingredients from which they must create a unique and stylish dish. There are three rounds: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. A chef is eliminated after each round and the winner will receive $10,000 to donate to charity.

Be sure to tune in and cheer on Sister Alicia this Monday! 

Anjara, Jordan: a haven for pilgrims, poor, and religious co-existence

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 05, November 2015 Categories: Ecumenism,Mission & Evangelization,Mary and the Saints,Consecrated Life

Jesus, his mother, and his disciples once passed through the ancient town of Anjara, located in Jordan in the hills east of the Jordan River Valley, and rested there in a cave, where now stands the Church of Our Lady of the Mount, a site of Christian pilgrimage and an example of community between Christians and Muslims in the area.

The pastor, Father Hugo Fabian, 46, is Argentinian but has lived in the Middle East for 18 years, including in Egypt and Syria. He is fluent in Arabic and has studied Islam. A priest of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word (IVE), he has worked in Anjara for the past decade.

“Thank God we are able to help many families in Anjara because so many of them need help,” Father Fabian said.

Anjara, population 20,000, is a particularly poor town, even for the poor country of Jordan. The parish’s weekly collection is about $50. The church and its school and mission are largely supported by Arab Christians in the United States and by donations from pilgrims who visit the shrine. And the parish has much to support.

There are about 220 students at the school, about half are Christian and half are Muslim. As part of the comprehensive curriculum, classes in Islam are taught to the Muslim students and catechism is taught to the Christian students. All are taught religious tolerance.

Of the king of Jordan, Abdullah II, Father Fabian said, “Thank God we have this open-minded man,” who promotes religious acceptance of the minority Christian population in this predominantly Muslim country.

The parish also runs a mission that takes in children of all ages and religions, who are in need of refuge for a variety of reasons including poverty and problems at home, providing them with food, clothing, shelter, and education. The mission regularly has about 30 kids in its care. Additionally, the church ministers to prisoners and prostitutes. And it wants to do more, including housing and other support for Syrian refugees.

In this place that is a sign that love and unity is possible among all people, a miracle occurred. On May 6, 2010, the statue of Our Lady of the Mount wept tears of human blood. Many believe the tears showed her sorrowful solidarity with the poor of Anjara. "The Virgin Mary cries with us and for us,” Father Fabian said.

There are 250 families in the parish, served by three priests and seven sisters, who belong to the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, founded in Argentina in 1984. The order has missionaries all over the world and began working in Jordan in 2004.

Consecrated life in Archdiocese of Los Angeles rich in forms and diversity

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 05, November 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

In a recent article in the Angelus, Sister Cecilia Canales, O.P., Vicar for Women Religious of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, gave a breakdown, with her personal perspective, of the many forms of consecrated life and the great cultural diversity now present in religious life in the Los Angeles area.

Canales shared that the sisters who serve the Archdiocese of Los Angeles come from Africa, Armenia, India, China, the Philippines, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Middle East countries, Poland, Slovakia, Vietnam, and almost every nation in Latin America. In addition to the cultural diversity, the religious women are part of a variety of consecrated communities including cloistered Carmelites, Dominicans, and Poor Clares as well as apostolic communities that have been in Los Angeles for a few hundred years. Some of the earliest groups in foundation who minister there, Canales said, were the Sisters of the Company of Mary (1607), Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (1633), and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd (1641). The first of the sisters to come to Southern California were the Daughters of Charity in 1856, to open hospitals, and the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, both in 1889 to open schools. Additionally, Canales explained that secular institutes, as well as newer communities, are establishing themselves and ministering to those in need in the archdiocese.

Discover more about religious communities becoming more culturally diverse in this recent VISION 2016 article: ¡Viva la diferencia! The colorful future of religious life.

Brothers' pilgrimage video promotes National Vocation Awareness Week

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 04, November 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

In honor of National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov. 1-7), the annual celebration that promotes and encourages prayer for religious vocations, the Brothers of Christian Schools have produced a short documentary-style video that follows a group of brothers and young men discerning religious life who walked the pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, in Spain this past summer. Together on a Journey explores the discernment and reflection opportunities they shared on their pilgrimage. 

Discover more about vocations by exploring our many Year of Consecrated Life resources here.

Pope Francis commends 'next-door saints'

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 02, November 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mary and the Saints

In his message on All Saints' Day, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of "next-door saints" who are not officially canonized by the church but are an example to all.

Speaking to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, he said, “We experience in a particularly vivid way the reality of the communion of saints, our extended family, made up of all members of the Church, both those who are still pilgrims on earth, and those—immensely more—who have already departed for heaven.” He said canonized saints as well as "next-door saints" who live ordinary lives are models for the faithful. He said that the latter are saints nonetheless and that they encourage all to find God in all aspects of life.

The pope said, “We, too, have met many of these saints. Perhaps we had one in our family or among our friends and acquaintances. We must be grateful to them, and above all we must be grateful to God who has given them to us, and who put them into our lives as living and contagious examples of a way of living and of dying in fidelity to the Lord Jesus and his Gospel.”


Youth ministry key to cultivating church life

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 01, November 2015 Categories: Catholic culture

The National Catholic Register recently reported that Catholic bishops are focusing on youth ministry as an important factor in renewing the life of local churches. St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Arizona, offers a great example of how to minister to youth in a meaningful way.

Located in a suburb of Phoenix, the parish has nearly doubled the size of its youth program, transforming it from traditional sacramental preparation to a more holistic approach of teaching youth from primary school through high school to be disciples in the world outside the church.

David Portugal, director of parish catechesis, works with youth and their families for sacramental preparation and in an “after sacrament program” in primary school and then taps high school and college participants to educate others. “We want to put to work all these [young people] we’ve formed,” he said.

A number of dioceses are engaging in similar practices, working to keep young people involved in the church. In the Diocese of Rochester, New York, Noelle Hiester, director of the office of evangelization and catechesis, said the diocese is providing opportunities for spiritual growth in which youth can respond to the “lived experience of the faith through events such as the National Catholic Youth Conference," which help young Catholics connect with others like them.

Developing youth ministry has great benefits for parishes and the faith as a whole. At St. John Vianney, the program has resulted in three going to seminary and nine to work in the diocese, as well as contributed to healthy marriages and new families forming.

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Who becomes a nun today? Author and sister responds

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 30, October 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C., co-author of New Generation of Catholic Sisters, asserts that "convents will survive" in a recent article exploring "Who Becomes a Nun in 2015?" in Pacific Standard magazine. The article, along with the book (also co-authored by Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN. and Dr. Mary Gautier), explores the number of young women choosing religious life. Although down from a peak of about 180,000 Catholic sisters in the United States in 1965 to about 50,000 currently (according to a 2014 CARA research study), millenials are showing a pull toward religious communities.

Many religious congregations have extensive social media presence, interactive websites such as VISION Vocation Match, podcasts, blogs, YouTube videos, and webinars and discernment chats, such as A Nun's Life Ministry. "This generation is shaped deeply by the Internet and social media, and it's important for older people and sisters to hear about that dynamic. It will enhance the whole group," Wittberg said. The community aspect of religious life is important whether it starts online or at an informational retreat. This new generation of sisters is bringing new perspectives and a new reality to religious life.

Check out the fourth and final event in the "Today's Catholic Sisters" series, which will be held on Jan. 23, 2016 from 9 am-noon at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, California. For more information or to view past events, click here

Congregation of the Humility of Mary celebrates Year of Consecrated Life with open house

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Thursday 29, October 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Congregation of the Humility of Mary held an open house in Davenport, Iowa, to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, according to The Quad-City Times. Guests were invited to learn more about the congregation’s various ministries, history, and consecrated life in general.

“We just wanted people to become more acquainted with us,” Sister Barb Kopel said. “It was just the gift of God we got such a beautiful day.”

The order was founded in France more than 150 years ago. Now, the community strives for justice by sponsoring an emergency homeless shelter and transitional housing for single-parent families and hosting retreats at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center.

The congregation has celebrated the Year of Consecrated Life in various ways and collaborates with lay women and men of all faiths through an associates program.

Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to ask questions and learn more about the work of the sisters and the various ministries they sponsor.

Relics of youngest Catholic saint inspire faithful to be merciful

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 25, October 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints

In October, the remains of the youngest Catholic saint, Saint Maria Goretti, were brought to St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, where crowds of the faithful waited in long lines to venerate her.

Saint Maria Goretti was just 11 years old when she was stabbed to death while resisting a sexual assault in 1902. The Italian girl is said to have forgiven her killer and appeared to him in an apparition while he was in prison, which inspired his conversion. Her words, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli … and I want him with me in heaven forever” were on display in the church. The relics were enclosed in a glass casket and members of law enforcement acted as pallbearers.

As the Holy Year of Mercy is set to begin, this tour of the saint's relics reminds many of the message to be celebrated by the church next year.

Many, such as Katie Higgins, were moved by the experience. She explained how “something comes over you and your heart is just at peace and you just steady out. You just know something touched you. … It was like a greeting, like getting a hug.”

Read more here.

College quarterback turned priest speaks about his vocation

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 14, October 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

As he explained to Indystar, Father Thomas Haan felt he was a bit different from his teammates in the Purdue University locker room. He worked hard and became a walk-on quarterback for Purdue as a freshman. He looked like he had it all, but he knew he wanted something more.

Raised on a farm in Lafayette, Indiana, Father Haan did not always want to be a priest. His family was religious and attended Mass regularly, but as a record-setting quarterback in high school, he thought he knew where his life was headed.  

One day, a parish priest said to him, “Are you open to whatever God’s got in store for you?” Father Haan explains, “I’d always say ‘Yes’ because I was dating someone throughout high school and I thought I knew what God wanted, so I didn’t take it seriously one bit in high school.”

In college, things started to change. He made the football team, which left little time for other activities. “When you’re playing college football, you study football, you play football, you think football, you eat football. It’s just very time-consuming. It wasn’t until after that year was over that I began to ponder bigger questions,” he said.

At the beginning of his sophomore year, he began praying and discerning and eventually decided to quit playing football and instead coach a junior high school team. “I loved teaching them technique, but I began to realize I cared more about them growing up as true men, their virtue, their relationship with God," he said. "I cared more about their spiritual life than their spiral.”

He began devoting time to Catholic studies and eventually left Purdue for the University of Notre Dame to live in a house of discernment with other men. He graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in economics and philosophy and a greater understanding of what he wanted to do.

He went to the seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and was ordained in 2013. He now works at Guerin Catholic High School where he helps students see the value in both sports and God. 

“I still see sports having the tremendous potential of being a great forum to learn the virtues of life,” Haan said. “Of self-sacrifice, of discipline, of tempering your passions, of teamwork, of humility, of obedience to superiors, to coaches.”

24-hour church in Madrid aims to accommodate all

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 11, October 2015 Categories: Catholic culture
The BBC recently featured San Anton Catholic Church in Madrid, Spain, that has made some significant changes including staying open 24 hours a day to both people and pets in order to help more encounter God. The church even has its own confession mobile app and free wifi. 
While these changes are not without criticism, one member defends this new church atmosphere. He explains, "We wanted to follow Pope Franicis' words. He advocates an open church where people can come day and night. So people who are away from the church can come back without any conditions." 
You can watch and learn more about what San Anton has to offer here

Pennsylvania's Immaculata University to host third 'Today's Catholic Sisters' event

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 07, October 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

The third of four events in the "Today's Catholic Sisters" series will be held in Alumnae Hall at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 1-4 pm, with Mass to follow. 

The National Religious Vocation Conference is organizing the "Today's Catholic Sisters" events taking place across the country over the course of several months. Featured speakers include various young sisters as well as the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.; Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.; and Dr. Mary Gautier. A Q&A session and raffle will follow the main presentation, and refreshments will be served.

The fourth and final event in the series will be held on Jan. 23, 2016 at 9 am-noon at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles, California.

All are invited to attend. RSVP here

Questions? Call the NRVC offices at 773-363-5454 or email Julie Montague at

German university student balances life as a monk

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 04, October 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

German media outlet DW recently profiled Tobias Schrörs, a Dominican monk and university student, about his discernment journey. He is not your typical guy on campus, and he knows it. "It's very clear to me that I stand out," he said. "That escapes nobody's attention."

As the youngest of four, Schrörs was raised in a devout Catholic family, and his parents are very involved at their church. When he first began discerning, he spoke with an older priest and even went to stay in a monastery for a week at the age of 14.

He did service for a year and then became a postulant in Braunschweig and a novitiate in Worms. His desire to enter religious life remained steadfast, so he went to Mainz and joined the St. Boniface Monastery and began his studies in Catholic theology at the Johannes Gutenberg University.

A few times a day, he puts aside his schoolwork in exchange for morning, afternoon, and evening prayer. When he is not representing the monastery, he dresses in skinny jeans and attends classes.

While Schrörs has taken his “simple vows,” he must still decide if he is ready to take vows for life. Though he is still in the midst of his discernment journey, he can picture spending his life in the monastery. "A healthy decision always comes with doubt. Especially a decision that will last until death. Such a decision is often put off. But when I look back on my time in the Order, I'm able to imagine a life like that.”

San Francisco religious community creating 'Catholic urban oasis'

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 04, October 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the growth of Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, a religious community near San Francisco where members focus on prayer and are encouraged to participate in painting, music, and yoga.

The order, established in Spain in 1963, is attracting many young women seeking to enter consecrated life as well as people from all over the world to its retreats, prayer groups, and spiritual discussions. They recently purchased a retreat center and reopened a shuttered convent. Its members are relatively young—most in their 30s and 40s.

The sisters interact with the outside community, and as Sister Rosalia Meza, who heads the community, says, "We are not holy-holy nuns who think this is a superior vocation. We want people to know that everyone has access to God."

Verbum Dei wants to transform its place into a "Catholic urban oasis" for people across the region.

Online outlets help millennials explore religious life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 30, September 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The increasing interest in religious life among millennial women in America may be surprising to the New York Times, and due in part to social media and reality television shows, but in the article, Sister Colleen Gibson, S.S.J., VISION Vocation Guide and Take Five for Faith author, corrects those notions. “I’ve never met anybody, who was like, ‘Oh yeah, I saw Christina on the Italian Voice and that really made me want to be a sister!’” Gibson said. Instead, she says, it is usually face-to-face interaction that helps young women realize their vocations.

However, this does come from someone who found her congregation on VISION Vocation Match, an online tool to help people in discernment find a religious community that fits with them. “It’s basically for nuns,” Gibson said.

There are many steps to becoming a Catholic sister and VISION Vocation Match and other online outlets are a great place to start the learning process and begin to connect with other discerners and sisters—a virtual introduction to religious life that jibes with the young. According to the article, the National Religious Vocation Conference reported that of the more than 2,500 women who completed online VISION Vocation Match profiles in 2013, the majority were under 30.

Read Sister Colleen Gibson's 2016 VISION article, "Why being single and living as a sister aren't the same," and check out Take Five for Faith, daily renewal for busy Catholics.

Plenary indulgence for Year of Consecrated Life decreed in Boston

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 29, September 2015 Categories: Doctrines & Beliefs,Consecrated Life

The Boston Pilot reports that Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley has issued a decree to allow Catholics to receive a plenary indulgence during the Year of Consecrated Live through Feb. 2, 2016. 

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a plenary indulgence is: "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

Effective Sept. 10, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston can receive the plenary indulgence in the following ways:

1. make a pilgrimage to Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Clement Shrine during the Year of Consecrated Life; or

2. attend Year of Consecrated Life celebrations such as the one held at the Cathedral on Nov. 29 or any open church in the archdiocese that day after 2 p.m.; or

3. worship with Franciscan women and men at their places of worship and/or, where invited, at their residences on Oct. 3, the Transitus of Saint Francis, or Oct. 4, the Feast of Saint Francis.

While making pilgrimage or attending a special Year of Consecrated Life celebration, those seeking indulgence must:

1. recite publicly the Liturgy of the Hours or for an appropriate amount of time dedicate themselves to pious thoughts;

2. pray the Our Father, recite the Profession of Faith or Creed and make "pious invocations" to the Blessed Virgin Mary;

3. pray for the intentions of the pope and make a sacramental confession and receive Communion as soon as possible. 

Read more about The Gift of the Indulgence from the Vatican website today.

'Francis Effect' enlivens vocations to priesthood

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 29, September 2015 Categories: Clergy,Vocation and Discernment

Prior to Pope Francis' recent visit to the United States, the first Jesuit pope sparked attention and interest in the Society of Jesus, the Franciscans, and the priesthood in general. According to Newsday, the Jesuits have experienced a surge in the number of men considering the priesthood, which vocation directors are calling the "Francis Effect."

The number of men inquiring with the Northeast Province of the Jesuits has jumped from one or two a week to as many as seven weekly since Francis was elected, according to the head of vocations for the province. Although only 10 percent of those seriously consider entering the order, the increase is cause for hope.

Jesuits live in community, with the core of their Ignatian spirituality being to "find God in all things." They are known for their work with the poor and living a life of simplicity.

In choosing the name Francis, the pope's commitment to peace and love of creation is clear. Father James Martin, S.J. said: "He's a Jesuit who took a Franciscan name, which is the perfect combination. The choice of Francis telescoped early on his desire to speak out for the poor, to care for the poor, and to encourage a church that is poor."

Discover more about the Jesuits, Society of Jesus and the Franciscans today.

Pope Francis emphasizes rehabilitation for prisoners

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 28, September 2015 Categories: Pope Francis

According to The Huffington Post, Pope Francis met with about 100 prisoners in Philadelphia on his final day in the United States. The pope spoke at Curran-Fromhold correctional facility and called for rehabilitation “which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.”

He encouraged society to “create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole."

The pope said that punishment is often just and necessary but should never exclude hope. He said it is “painful when we see prison systems, which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society."

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Sister competes on Mexico's "MasterChef"

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 27, September 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

Mexico News Daily recently profiled Sister Florinda Ruiz, who is competing on the Mexican version of the television program "MasterChef."

"MasterChef" is a cooking competition in which contestants vie for 1 million pesos. The sister's simple convent recipe for a dessert made from chayote, a Mexican staple, got Sister Ruiz into the competition. Now she is one of six finalists. Her signature dish is a three-meat course with dried chile sauce.

Sister Ruiz, who thanks Saint Joseph every time she advances to another round, is hoping to win the prize for her order, the Passionist Sisters, so they can pay off some bills at the school they run, Our Lady of Sorrows, in Puebla, Mexico. 

She knows the perfect recipe for success: “To me, the love I have for God is comparable to the love I have for cooking. I think that if I can win, it is because I have faith in my dishes.”

President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA serves homeless at luncheon with Pope Francis

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 24, September 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Former prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, served some 300 homeless at a lunch with Pope Francis at Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., after his historic address to Congress. 

According to the Adrian Dominican Sisters' blog, Sister Markham will also be a guest of a Holy See diplomat in New York City for the pope's address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 25. And following the U.N. event, Sister Markham will be with Catholic Charities of New York City for the pope's visit to Our Lady of Queen of Angels School in East Harlem to spend time with immigrants and refugees of the school and its parish.

Sister Markham said being at these events was a “thrilling and moving experience” and that it was an “incredible day” that brought together the Catholic Church and the U.S. government so powerfully. 

Discover more about Sister Markham, the first female president of Catholic Charities USA in this SpiritCitings blog post from Jan. 15.

View Pope Francis' speech to Catholic Charities USA from CBS here

Mercy sister spearheads efforts to address hunger and homelessness at World Meeting of Families

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 23, September 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization

Update: Pope stopped on his way to celebrate his final Mass in Philadelphia to view the "Knotted Grotto" art installation, sponsored by

Sister Mary Scullion, R.S.M., a Mercy sister, was asked by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia to help with preparations for the World Meeting of Families, convening from Sept. 22-25, 2015. “The archbishop wanted to talk about how we could protect the poor and hungry,” says Scullion, in an interview with Huffington Post. “But I never imagined we could get so much done in that short time.”

"Since launching the World Meeting of Families Committee on Hunger and Homelessness, reports Jaleem Kaleem, "Scullion has used the pope’s high-profile visit and the convergence this week of the nation’s leading Catholic figures to raise $1.3 million to aid 52 projects and organizations centered on helping people struggling with poverty, mental illness or both."

“Pope Francis says the greatest virtue is mercy,” says Scullion. “But he also said that concrete works of mercy and spiritual development are not enough. We also need systemic change.” Learn more about the works Scullion helped spearhead at

Click her for more informations on the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

Priest builds Vatican replica with Legos

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 21, September 2015 Categories: Pope Francis,Catholic culture

USA Today recently profiled Father Bob Simon, who built a replica of the Vatican out of Legos.

Father Simon, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Moscow, Pennsylvania, first attempted the project in grade school, but it “didn’t look anything like the real thing,” he said. Ever since, he had wanted to build a more realistic model of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square, and when Pope Francis’ visit to the United States was announced, it seemed like the right time to try again.

In September 2014, he began the building process. It took about 10 months and nearly half a million Legos, but the end result was good enough to be featured in a display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. According to Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of the Franklin Institute, the replica and other Lego creations have brought “record crowds” in this summer.

The replica features a figure of the pope waving to a crowd along with figures of nuns with iPhones. Even a figure of Elvis is included. Father Simon said, "St. Peter's Square is one of those places where people from all over the world come together."

He compared the repetitive process of building the replica to praying the rosary. "While your hands are busy, your mind and heart are elsewhere," he said. "It frees up the mind."

Pope Francis focuses on service during visit to Cuba

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 20, September 2015 Categories: Pope Francis,Catholic culture

Pope Francis focused on the Christian call to service during his first Mass in Cuba this week, according to The Catholic News Agency. “Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it,” he said.

Francis addressed thousands of people gathered for Mass in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, or Revolution Square. He is the third pope to visit Cuba, preceded by Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

During his homily, Francis said, “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people."

He concluded, “Let us not forget the Good News we have heard today: the importance of a people, a nation, and the importance of individuals, which is always based on how they seek to serve their vulnerable brothers and sisters. Here we encounter one of the fruits of a true humanity.”

Illinois' Dominican University to host second "Today's Catholic Sisters" event

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 17, September 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The second of four events in the "Today's Catholic Sisters" series will be held in the Lund Auditorium at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, on Sunday, Sept. 20 from 1-4 pm. This symposium can be watched online live here.

The National Religious Vocation Conference is organizing the "Today's Catholic Sisters" events taking place across the country over the next few months. Featured speakers include various young sisters as well as the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.; Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.; and Dr. Mary Gautier. A Q&A session and raffle will follow the main presentation, and refreshments will be served.

All are invited to attend. RSVP here

Questions? Call the NRVC offices at 773-363-5454 or email Julie Montague at

Family study finds key influences to Catholic vocations

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Monday 14, September 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

A major study on the role of families in nurturing vocations found that recent entrants to religious life and diocesan priesthood come from families that go to Mass weekly, pray together often, have active faith lives, and encourage family members to be open to vocation options. The study, commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, also found that new entrants responding to the survey come from families who:

·       Give importance to private and public religious practices—in addition to Mass attendance—such as saying grace before meals and bedtime prayers, displaying religious art and objects, and actively participating in parish life and charitable services

·       Witness and talk about their faith in their daily lives

·       Attend Catholic schools or receive parish-based religious education

·       Regularly eat dinner together and gather as a family for games or discussions

·       Have Catholic periodicals and other media available in the household

·       Support the idea of a vocation to religious life and the priesthood

“The study confirmed what we’ve known instinctively: Families are the seedbed of vocations,” says NRVC Executive Director Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C. “Our goal is to help Catholic parents understand their crucial role in the future of religious life and ordained ministry and encourage them to create a culture of vocations within their families.”

The new taboo? Catholics have a hard time talking to their parents about vocations. Although most entrants to religious life and diocesan priesthood come from families that are open to vocations, approximately half of the respondents found it difficult to start a discussion with their family about their vocation, though they usually found support once they broached the topic.

Among the few who were actually discouraged from entering religious life or the priesthood, family concerns included that the family member was: “wasting” his or her talents, rushing things, or forsaking a career or marriage. However, among those families responding to the survey, most report that they are not worried now about the future of their family member who entered religious life or the diocesan priesthood. “She is so happy being a religious sister,” said one mother, echoing the comments of others, “There is no need to worry.”

Pope to visit three African countries in November

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 14, September 2015 Categories: Pope Francis

Pope Francis will soon make his first trip to Africa, according to The Huffington Post. In late November, the pope will visit Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic at the invitation of the heads of state and local bishops in each country. 

While this trip poses security risks, many feel the pope’s presence in the region is important given the religious extremism and violence that has plagued it.

Upon completion of the trip, the pope will have visited all continents except Oceania within his first three years as pope.  

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Possible miracle could make Blessed Mother Teresa a saint

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 13, September 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mary and the Saints

The Vatican is investigating a possible miracle that could lead to the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, according to the Catholic News Agency. It is a case of a Brazilian man who was cured of brain abscesses after his family prayed for the intercession of Mother Teresa.  

Pope Francis has expressed a desire to canonize Mother Teresa during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin on Dec. 8. The pope “wants to beatify and canonize men and women that were a sign of mercy for the world in this Jubilee [Year], and Mother Teresa is a model,” said Father Caetano Rizzi, who works for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

A priest who ministered to the man's family said, “Mother Teresa turned into their comfort and strength during that long time. So when his complete recovery was verified and the doctors could not explain it, I understood that there was the hand of the Blessed.”

Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity and ministered to the poor in India for most of her life. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in 1979. She died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003. A second miracle credited to her intercession is required before she can be recognised as a saint.

Young new members drawn to contemplative order in New Jersey

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 07, September 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The New York Times recently profiled a contemplative order of nuns that are attracting a fair number of millennials. The Nuns of the Order of Preachers at the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, are eliciting noteworthy interest in their cloistered life of prayer.

In the last decade, 15 aspirants entered the order and nine are on track to take their final vows or have already done so, and two more women will join the community this year.

The community credits the web and social media with helping the order get exposure to grow, but ironically, the appeal to the young lies partly in unplugging from a hyperconnected world. 

Sister Mary Catharine, a mentor there to six women under 30, welcomed four aspirants to the order this summer. When asked why she thinks these young women are interested in religious life, she explained, “With all the technology, I think they’re just saturated. And they see this life as really radical and they have a desire for it. Maybe their families are fractured and they see our life as really stable."

After photographer Toni Greaves accompanied a writer to the monastery to do a story about how the nuns were using the Internet to market their community, she was inspired to spend the next seven years capturing their daily lives. Her book, Radical Love, out this month from Chronicle Books, is a collection of images that document one young nun’s journey from her first weeks in the monastery to her solemn profession seven years later. 

“There was an exuberance and vibrancy to all the young women,” Greaves said. “It’s the energy that we embody when we’re in love, and it was amazing to me.”

Trappists in Virginia return to green roots

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 06, September 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life

The monks at Holy Cross Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Berryville, Virginia, decided in 2007 to work harder at being better stewards of the earth, which is part of their Cistercian tradition. Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on protecting the environment has bolstered their resolve.

The monks, who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, have always worked closely with their local community and the land on which they live. The monastery's Father James Orthman said, “We live a way of life that’s literally rooted in the land. The liturgical life reflects the succession of the seasons, and the more you become sensitized to that, the symbolism of the liturgy becomes so much more compelling.”

According to Catholic News Agency, the monks turned to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to author a study on how the abbey could become more sustainable. The resulting 400-page study, “Reinhabitating Place,” provided many suggestions, and since, the Trappists have taken steps to prevent cattle from polluting the river that runs through their property and planted native hardwoods and bushes in order to attract migrant animals, insects, and pollinators to restore proper biodiversity to the area. They also switched their heating and fueling sources to propane gas, and even started offering “green” burials, which eliminate the embalming fluids and lead in coffins that can be detrimental to soil.

The monks hope that their initiative may serve as a model for low-tech, low-cost solutions to environmental problems, especially in developing countries.

Of the pope's encyclical on the environment, Father Orthman said, “At the end of the day, I can ... say to myself ‘Ah, this is worth it. We should keep doing this. I’m going to keep putting up with the nonsense to get this done.’”

First "Today's Catholic Sisters" event coming up, streaming live

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 03, September 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

The first of four special gatherings featuring the newest generation of Catholic sisters will be take place on Sept. 12 from 9 am to noon (Central time), at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Watch the event online live via this link.

The National Religious Vocation Conference is hosting four "Today's Catholic Sisters" events over the next few months. Featured speakers include various young sisters as well as the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.; Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.; and Dr. Mary Gautier. A Q&A session and raffle will follow the main presentation, and refreshments will be served.

These events celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life by encouraging the support of Catholic sisters now and in the future. Family, friends, discerners, and parishioners are all invited to attend.

Questions? Call the NRVC offices at 773-363-5454 or email Julie Montague at

You may also RSVP for this event here

Bicentennial of Missionaries of the Precious Blood celebrated

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 31, August 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

Among the worldwide celebrations in August of the 200-year anniversary of the founding of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the Cincinnati Province held an outdoor Mass, mission presentation, and reception for 1,500 guests at the St. Charles Center in Carthagena, Ohio. The community also co-sponsored a youth and family event called "Jubilation!" with the Northern Network of Youth Ministers at the nearby Spiritual Center of Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics.

Meanwhile, in Peru, to commemorate the bicentennial, priests, brothers, parishioners, and friends celebrated Mass at the parish of San Francisco de Borja and held a large reception where several groups entertained guests with Peruvian dances and school children joined in a procession around the neighborhood. According to the congregation's website, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood have ministered in Peru since 1962.

The Missionaries of the Precious Blood is a worldwide congregation of priests, brothers, and lay associates (called companions) that was founded by Saint Gaspar del Buffalo in Italy on August 15, 1815. The congregation began preaching in towns throughout central Italy, igniting the "fire of faith in God's people."

A new film, The Dream Continues, available in English, Spanish, and Italian explores the spirituality, mission, and ministry around the world of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.

Author of book on Pope Francis speaks on pope's upcoming visit to U.S.

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 30, August 2015 Categories: Pope Francis

Austen Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: The Making of a Radical Pope, gave a lecture in August at Chicago's St. Ignatius College Prep in which he discussed the pope’s political role in the world, as well as the upcoming papal visit to the United States. Ivereigh, whose book has been praised by members of both political parties, started his lecture by stating that the most common problem that people run into with Pope Francis is that they overanalyze his agenda, often forgetting that it is his docility to the Holy Spirit that has captured the world’s attention. 

Pope Francis’ political journey started with his grandmother, Rosa, who was his political inspiration and who encouraged him to become engaged with issues. Ivereigh believes that the pope was a bit torn between politics and religion and ultimately combined the two, giving the pope his unique charismatic blend.

When asked about what the pope will say to Congress, Ivereigh said he believes the pope will work to keep both sides in constant tension with one another, creating the space for dialogue and reform. While many will try to frame the pope's remarks as being for one side or the other, the author explained that the pope hates being pigeonholed. Ivereigh predicts that Francis’ main message will be that politicians should be close to the realities of the people they serve and make every effort to care for those on the margins of society. The author said this visit should be seen by Congress and the public as an invitation for the renewal of U.S. politics. 

While in Chicago, Ivereigh was interviewed by The Catholic New World. Read more about his work and research on Pope Francis here

Canonical hermits honored in Indiana for Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 25, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

As part of the Year of Consecrated Life celebrations, a unique vocation was recently honored in Indiana's Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: canonical hermit.

According to Today's Catholic News, Sister Mary Ann Burkhart professed first vows at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne in July. Sisters Jane Brackebush and Nancy Frentz, who have been hermits for one and two years respectively, were part of the celebration.

All three women were married earlier in life (two of them have children and grandchildren) and later discerned a call to the eremitical life.

Bishops are allowed to accept hermits in their dioceses who were not affiliated with religious orders. Each hermit has a rule of life approved by the bishop, who serves as their superior.  Their lives are marked by solitary prayer.

Sisters of Life adding new young members

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 25, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Wall Street Journal recently featured the Sisters of Life, a New York-based religious order devoted to protecting the sacredness of human life. While many orders find their numbers declining and the median age of members increasing, the Sisters of Life are experiencing the opposite. This relatively new order boasts a median age of 30 and welcomed 10 new novices at the beginning of August, along with celebrating three sisters professing their first vows and another eight women professing their perpetual vows.

The order was founded by New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor in 1991. O’Connor was inspired by his visit to Dachau, site of a Nazi death camp, to start a religious community of women who added a fourth vow to the traditional three of poverty, chastity, and obedience: a vow to protect the sacredness of every human life. Since 1991, 84 nuns have joined the order.

This community gives expectant mothers counseling and emotional support and opens their convents to those in need.

Sister Bethany Madonna explained the community's mission: “We are asked to treat the children of other women as if they are our own flesh and blood. That means loving their mothers at a time in their lives when they may be feeling most alone and unloved.”

Nun ministers to victims of gender violence

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 24, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sister Angelique Namaika has helped thousands of women and girls who have been the victims of sexual violence and slavery. reports that between 2009 and 2015, Sister Namaika has helped more than 5,000 women overcome the horrors of the past. Her most important resources? A smile and a bike. 

She works to inspire victims to take control of their lives and develop skills to gain some independence. Sewing groups, farm work, and bakery businesses help them earn money and overcome community stigma, she explained. She encourages them to seek educational assistance, take literacy classes, and eventually train to be teachers, nurses, and midwives. 

Sister Namaika, who won the United Nations refugee agency’s top humanitarian award, plans to continue to fight against gender violence. "Very often as a human I am overwhelmed [by the women's stories] but I pray to God to help me to continue,” she said.

How well do you know Pope Francis?

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 23, August 2015 Categories: Catholic culture

In anticipation of Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States, The Huffington Post has released a quiz called “How Well Do You Know Pope Francis?” The quiz asks questions about his early life, papal activities, and even his favorite sport! See how well you know Pope Francis and take the quiz here.

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New community of sisters opens second U.S. convent in Wisconsin

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Sunday 23, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Sisters of Mary Morning Star, a new contemplative, non-cloistered community, opened a second convent in the United States in August. The community announced that three sisters from its convent in Ghent, Minnesota—Sisters Mary Thomas, Eva Nelly, and Benjamin Elisabeth—moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to start the new convent there. Two more sisters from Spain—Sisters Mary Alix and Sarah Rose—are also relocating to the Madison convent.

The Sisters of Mary Morning Star was established in Spain in 2014. There are about 250 members in 10 countries.

According to Global Sisters Report, “Even though a new foundation, this community belongs to an ancient cenobitic form of religious practice, where members live a combination of solitary and communal life. Their uniqueness is the combining of Carmelite, Carthusian and Dominican spiritualities, but without enclosure to isolate the sisters from people of the community. … They attend parish and diocesan functions and also invite the local community into the convent to share prayer.”

Hundreds attend ceremony for consecrated virgin in Indiana

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 20, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

Jessica Hayes, 38, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, recently became one of about 230 consecrated virgins in the United States. Hundreds attended the ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne out of curiousity and interest in Hayes' unusual vocation, according to the Daily Mail.

Unlike a religious sister, a consecrated virgin doesn’t join a religious community. A consecrated virgin provides her own home and livelihood and is expected to commit to prayer and volunteer service. In 1970, Pope Paul VI reinstituted the rite, which had fallen into disuse.

Hayes, a theology teacher at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, said she decided to become a consecrated virgin after years of prayer and consideration.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh celebrated its first Rite of Consecration of a Virgin in July for Sheila Ryan, a retired school teacher.

Discover more about consecrated life with the many Year of Consecrated Life resources on our website.

Pope Francis discusses discernment with youth

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Thursday 13, August 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

Pope Francis recently told a group of teenagers and young adults that one of his greatest challenges as a Jesuit has always been discernment. According to the Catholic News Service, the pope spoke in August to about 1,500 members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement from 35 countries during a meeting in Rome.

The pope explained to them that experiencing the peace of Christ is a sign that a person is on the right path, but he cautioned against "superficial peace, that peace that makes you a bit content" because true peace "comes wrapped in the cross."

"... don't be afraid of tension, because it helps you grow," he said. "... resolve tension with dialogue because dialogue unites."

The Eucharistic Youth Movement is a Jesuit-run outreach celebrating its 100th anniversary. The group helps guide young people to a life of church involvement and service.

Benedictine nun wins Weimar Award for Human Rights

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 12, August 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life

For her work defending human rights and the environment, Philippines-based Sister Stella Matutina, O.S.B. was named the winner of the 2015 Weimar Award for Human Rights, according to Minda News and the Sisters' Association in Mindanao.

The award is bestowed by the city council of Weimar, Germany, which decided the 47-year-old Benedictine nun deserved to be honored after learning about her fight against international gold mining companies for polluting and abusing workers in her homeland.

“This highlights the situation of Mindanao and the Philippines in general where the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the human rights activists and defenders of the environment endure harassment and face risks and death,” Sister Matutina said.

Sister Matutina heads the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) and has herself faced threats and false accusations that she's a communist rebel.

Sister Matutina will receive the award on Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

Events galore planned as Year of Mercy and Year of Consecrated Life overlap

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 12, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

Pope Francis is certainly giving Catholics much to celebrate by declaring an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, while the Year of Consecrated Life is still underway.

The Year of Mercy, which runs from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, will highlight the Catholic Church's "mission to be a witness of mercy." The Year of Consecrated Life doesn't conclude until Feb. 2, 2016.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which is organizing events for the Year of Mercy, published a calendar online at

According to the Catholic Herald, here are some major events planned in Rome for the Year of Mercy:

Dec. 8 - Opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Jan. 19-21 - Jubilee for those involved with guiding or organizing pilgrimages and religious tourism.

Feb. 2 - Jubilee for Consecrated Life and the closing of the Year for Consecrated Life.

Feb. 10 (Ash Wednesday) - Sending forth the Missionaries of Mercy, St. Peter’s Basilica.

April 3 (Divine Mercy Sunday) - Jubilee for those who are devoted to the spirituality of Divine Mercy.

May 27-29 - Jubilee for deacons.

June 3 - Jubilee for priests.

July 26-31 - Jubilee for youth, World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.

Sept. 4 - Jubilee for workers and volunteers of mercy.

Sept. 25 - Jubilee for catechists.

Nov. 20 - Closing of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica and the conclusion of the Year of Mercy.

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth co-founder honored with first statue of woman in Louisville

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 06, August 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

A statue of Mother Catherine Spalding (1793-1858) was installed outside the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky, among statues of presidents, civic leaders, explorers, and athletes. It is the first public statue of a woman in Louisville, which honors her work as co-founder of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and her many contributions to Louisville, according to Louisville's NPR news station WFPL.

Spalding, an orphan herself, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth took in many children who were abandoned during the settlement of the Kentucky frontier or orphaned by the cholera outbreak of the 1830s. Spalding's statue depicts her carrying a child in her arms and holding the hand of another child next to her.

Discover more about the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who work for justice in solidarity with oppressed people, especially women and the poor, and for care of the earth. They minister in the United States as well as India, Nepal, Belize, and Botswana. 

Wake up and smell the faith

Posted by:   🕔 Tuesday 04, August 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization

Jesuit Father Robert Dae-je Choi has found a way to wake people up—with caffeine and prayer. Father Choi and a team of volunteers run Ignatius Cafe in Los Angeles, where they help customers kick off their busy day in a peaceful way by creating an environment to quietly pray or happily converse.

“As a Jesuit and in the Jesuit faith, we find God in all things—coffee is in God and God is in coffee,” Father Choi said. The cafe is named after the founder of the Society of Jesus.

According to Jesuit News, Father Choi, who has a passion for coffee and a certification from the Coffee Quality Institute, opened the cafe in 2011 to help support St. Agnes Korean Catholic Church and provide a place for members to gather. All proceeds go to local and global causes. The drink menu is simple, and a $3 donation is suggested for all drinks. Not a bad price considering Father Choi has a selection of beans from around the world hand-sorted every morning in order to make the perfect brew. 

Daughter of Charity inspires student's vocation

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 03, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The Daughters of Charity released a video on YouTube, called Making an impact, about Brother Roberto Martinez, F.S.C., and the role of his grade-school teacher, Sister Marianne Olives, D.C., in helping him discern his vocation. 

Sister Olives taught Martinez how to read English, his second language. After grade school, Martinez attended a Catholic high school run by Christian Brothers. Martinez said that his faith and the prayers of the Daughters of Charity helped him get through a battle with cancer.

Throughout his discernment process, Daughters of Charity prayed for and supported him, and Sister Olives was present when he made his first vows. “It is always a joy to know that my consecrated life is an inspiration to somebody else who also wants to do the same with their life," she said.

Again following in the steps of Sister Olives, Brother Martinez is now a teacher. About the future of his students, he says, “You never know, one day [they may turn out to be] brothers and daughters.”

Sister helps steer young women into sciences

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 02, August 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life

Women tend to be underrepresented in the sciences, because they often aren't encouraged to explore those fields, but Sister Patricia McCarron, headmistress at Notre Dame Preparatory School for girls in Towson, Maryland, is working to change that.

According to the Catholic Review, Sister McCarron recently spearheaded an initiative at the school she calls “connecting the dots,” which promotes summer science internships for students, as part of the school’s Women in Science program. McCarron explains, “We’re all about opening doors; we don’t want any obstacles in place. If you want a summer internship in dentistry, engineering or veterinary science, we have a network of alums and business partners that help make that happen.”

She tells of her own experience as a young woman navigating her calling, remembering, “I was really blessed, because I had opportunities and people who saw potential in me. I never felt there wasn’t an opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do. I see that today with our girls. We believe and know they can do whatever it is they want to do.”

She hopes her students will change the world in positive ways, saying, "Mothers, business leaders, engineers, scientists; who will be the peacemaker? Are we going to be the school that educates the girl who’s going to bring clear water to everyone in Africa? The girls know the mission. You are your sister’s keeper.”

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Catholic cable network features congregations in Year of Consecrated Life series

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 30, July 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

New Evangelization Television (NET TV), a Catholic cable network in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, has produced and posted six episodes so far of a "Wake up the World" video series for the Year of Consecrated Life. Each episode focuses on the unique charisms, faith, and lifestyles of religious congregations in the Diocese of Brooklyn and beyond including:

The Marist Brothers

Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood

Franciscan Brothers

Sisters of St. Dominic

Vincentian Priests

Sister Servants of the Lord & the Virgin of Matara 

If you haven't yet watched VISION's Year of Consecrated Life video series on YouTube, add our YCL playlist next!


Polish co-founder of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to be beatified

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 28, July 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints

According to Radio Poland, Sister Klara Ludwika Szczęsna, the co-founder of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, will be beatified on in Kraków on Sept. 27. The Mass will be celebrated at the John Paul II Sanctuary by the pope’s envoy, Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  

Sister Szczęsna was born in 1863. At the age of 17, she left her home and worked as a seamstress. In 1885 she joined the Servants of Jesus and ran a shelter for women in Kraków. With Polish bishop Saint Józef Sebastian Pelczar, she later established a new religious congregation, the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the motto “All for the heart of Jesus.”

The congregation focuses on helping young women and the sick. Currently, the congregation has 500 nuns, 350 of whom work in Poland.

Pope Benedict XVI previously stated that she had lived a life of heroic virtue, and last month Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to her intercession. 

Philadelphia creates new mural for Pope Francis' upcoming visit

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 26, July 2015 Categories: Pope Francis,Catholic culture

According to the Catholic News Service, the World Meeting of Families (organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family) and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program have created a new mural for Pope Francis' visit to the city in September. Watch the video here.

Surprising ministry: missionary sister joins the circus

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 21, July 2015 Categories: Sacraments,Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life
One of the many tasks of Sister Dorothy Fabritze's circus ministry is sacrament preparation
for the performers, crew, and their families who travel around the United States.
Sister Dorothy Fabritze never imagined she'd join the circus. But this Missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus says, "God pursued me," and she's been traveling with and ministering to circus workers for the past 16 years, according to the Washington Post.

Sister Fabritze's faith-sharing ministry often occurs while she and the next act stand by the curtain she's responsible for opening between acts. She sometimes gets five minutes with that act as they wait in the wings for their cue. Mass is squeezed in between shows.

Since her home is on the road with the rest of the circus, Sister Fabritze made the master bedroom in her RV a small chapel and sanctuary for prayer. She teaches catechism, prepares liturgy, and often occupies the center ring with a visiting priest. 

Sister Fabritze has support in her circus ministry from Rev. Jerry Hogan, head chaplain of the circus ministry overseen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Circus ministry is considered by the church to be pastoral care of migrants, refugees, and travelers. 

In honor of the Year of Consecrated life, VISION Vocation Guide recently featured Sister Dorothy on our YouTube channel. Check out the exclusive video of Sister Dorothy's #surprisingministry with the circus here or on the homepage of VISION Vocation Network.

Abbot captures power of psalms in revised translation

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 20, July 2015 Categories: Scripture,Clergy
    “The Psalms have that very close proximity to the human experiences of longing,
need, thanksgiving, and praise of God,” Abbot Gregory Polan said.

When the U.S. Catholic bishops wanted a new translation of the psalms that captured their musicality while hewing closely to the original Hebrew, they turned to Abbot Gregory Polan, a musical prodigy and scripture scholar who teaches Hebrew.

Polan is also the leader of Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Missouri that dates to 1873. He teaches at Conception Seminary College.

In America magazine, Polan calls the psalms “the heartbeat of the Bible.”

“Jesus himself prayed the Psalms,” Polan said. “They were the prayers, if I can say, that he learned on his mother’s knee.”

His revised translation of the psalms was approved by the bishops’ conference in 2010.

Viatorians open their doors to local community for Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 19, July 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Viatorians celebrated the Year of Consecrated Life with an outdoor Mass and open house.

In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, Viatorians hosted an open house in July at their provincial center in Arlington Heights, Illinois. More than 200 people, including neighbors, school alumni, and benefactors, attended.

The day began with outdoor Mass. Then, visitors explored the center and viewed historical displays and a screening of a movie, The Search, about discernment and the Viatorian Novitiate. Viatorian associates, brothers, and priests were on hand to answer questions and describe some of their current ministries to visitors.

Father Thomas von Behren, C.S.V., provincial, said in his homily, “In this Year of Consecrated Life, we are asked by Pope Francis to ‘Wake up the World.’ During this special year, Pope Francis asks us to listen to those who have given their lives to a life of service — and to being a religious."

Kids get rare, firsthand look at how cloistered nuns live

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 17, July 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Sister Benedict told sixth-graders about the life of the Benedictine nuns at the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield, Vermont, and their focus on prayer and work.

Every spring, sixth-graders at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski, Vermont, take a 60-mile field trip to visit the Benedictine nuns of the Monastery of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westfield.

On this year's trip, the students attended Mass, listened to a presentation about the nuns’ lives, performed a brief musical program, and donated $550 in proceeds they earned from making and selling colorful rosaries.

“The fact that they work on those rosaries … and give the proceeds to us makes us feel part of their work,” said prioress Mother Laurence Couture.

Jesse Gaudette, principal of St. Francis Xavier School, accompanied the students on their visit. “You can teach about vocations in the classroom or show [students] in real life,” he said. “They can read a book or we can tell them in the classroom [about monastic life] or we can take them here and they can see it, they can touch it, they can live it.”

“Their life inspires people to be part of the church,” said student Brady Spencer. “It’s quite inspiring to see these people living here and worshipping God every day.”

Read the full article here.

New grant program pays college debt for 10 Catholic sisters-in-training

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 16, July 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Founded in 2014, NFCRV serves as a sign of hope in the future of consecrated life and is dedicated to increasing the number of women and men entering religious communities. The Fund hopes to accomplish this goal in numerous ways, including offering financial assistance to religious institutes so that they may accept candidates who have student loan obligations.

The National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations (NFCRV) awarded its first grants to religious communities to pay the educational debt of 10 candidates to religious life. The fund grew out of a 2012 Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life that found that student debt has become a serious obstacle for religious communities in being able to accept new candidates.

“It is notable that these first grants are being awarded during the Year of Consecrated Life, as established by Pope Francis,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M.,Cap., honorary chair of the NFCRV board. “This initiative will support the work of celebrating, renewing, and promoting the gift of consecrated life and help the people of God to gain a greater appreciation for this important vocation and ministry. We are grateful for the vision and initiative of the National Religious Vocation Conference and the financial support of the Conrad N. Hilton and GHR foundations.”

Brother Ronald Hingle, S.C, chair of the NFCRV board, says the Fund’s mission “is to support Catholic religious life by alleviating the financial strain educational debt poses for religious communities. We also want to assist communities in developing effective policies for candidates with student loan obligations.”

“There is no more satisfying ministry than to provide help to those in need,” says Mark J Teresi, CFRE, first director of the NFCRV. “The board and I are grateful to have the privilege to provide financial assistance to so many religious communities this year.”

“Our challenge and my goal,” says Teresi, “is to fully endow this fund, through soliciting major gifts, to solve this obstacle to vocations permanently for women’s and men’s religious institutes.”

The following women’s religious communities are the 2015 recipients of NFCRV grants:

Adrian Dominican Sisters
The Congregation of Divine Providence
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Felician Sisters of North America
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Conception
Sisters of the Humility of Mary
Sisters of Christian Charity

The funds awarded this year totaled $213,000. Payments will be made to grantees each year until the candidate with educational debt makes final vows and becomes a fully professed member of the community or the student loan is paid off, whichever comes first.

The Fund will send out grant applications to religious communities who are members of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), the founding organization of the NFCRV, in January 2016 with the NFCRV Board approving the year’s recipients at their May board meeting. Grantees will be notified of their application status in June.

For more information on the terms of the grant, applying for a grant, or donating to the fund, please go to, or contact Mark J. Teresi, CFRE at 773-595-4028 or

Xaverian Missionaries release Year of Consecrated Life video series

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 13, July 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life


The Xaverian Missionaries are celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life with a series of short videos. Come Pass it On explains consecrated life and the history of the order to viewers.

Watch the first video in the series here!

Wisconsin sisters follow Franciscan tradition of sustainabililty

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 12, July 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Vocation and Discernment
Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, work
in their garden, which is part of the order's sustainability plan.

Pope Francis may be making headlines for his recent challenge on climate change, but environmental action in the church is nothing new. Caring for the earth has always been part of the Franciscan spirit, and one Franciscan order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been practicing sustainability on its campus near Lake Michigan for years.

According to Milwaukee Public Radio, the order created a land-use committee in 2009, received a grant to help remove invasive plants, and are transforming an old athletic field into an urban forest. They also maintain bee boxes and vegetable gardens on their property.

The sisters rely on volunteers, the local Boy Scouts in particular, for help. They also have a group called “Habitat Healers,” which meets every Thursday morning to work where needed.

The sisters plan to eventually turn their headquarters into a meeting place for environmental groups. They hope that combining environmental stewardship with spirituality will be part of the order’s legacy.

Priest calls for "witnesses of joy" in Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 10, July 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, Father Ray Olusesan Aina spoke
on the importance of religious life at the Gaudium Et Spes Institute in Nigeria.
The Archdiocese of Abuja in Nigeria added to the many worldwide celebrations of the Year of Consecrated Life with a presentation on the importance of religious life. According to Vatican Radio, Father Ray Olusesan Aina recently delivered "Witnesses of Joy Keeping Watch" at the Gaudium Et Spes Institute in Nigeria.

A priest of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, Father Aina echoed the challenge of Pope Francis on the Year of Consecrated Life, saying that religious life "should continuously radiate joy and beauty if it is to bring people closer to God."

“The power of our consecrated life does not depend on the methods of reaching out to the world or our technical competence or intellectual pedigree,” Father Aina said. “On the contrary, what draws people is the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.”

Poorest of the poor of South America focus of Pope's trip

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 06, July 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Pope Francis

July 5-13 Pope Francis will be in South America visiting the continent's poorest nations: Ecuador, Paraguay, and Bolivia. 

"Bolivia and Paraguay are the continent's poorest countries, writes Nicole Winfield for the Associated Press, with one in four Bolivians living on $2 a day, according to the World Bank. The countries are also small in population and weight compared to regional powerhouses like Chile and Argentina."

"Here you see a bit the pope's criteria: To go to visit even those countries that aren't geopolitically at the top rank of the world panorama," said the Vatican spokesman, the Father Federico Lombardi.

"Indigenous people will take center stage during much of Pope's visit," says Winfield "while Francis' own Jesuit order will be in the spotlight for its role in evangelizing the continent centuries ago and even today. Environmental concerns in the Amazon, border conflicts and the region's tortured history with authoritarian regimes also factor into the agenda."

Read more here.

Pope blesses hands of Italian nun, midwife to 34,000 babies in Africa

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 05, July 2015 Categories: Pope Francis,Consecrated Life,Catholic culture
At the age of 81, Sister Maria Concetta Esu continues her lifelong work as a midwife in the Congo.

Pope Francis recently blessed the hands of Sister Maria Concetta Esu, 81, who has delivered more than 34,000 babies while working as a midwife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"The task of a midwife brings me great joy because God gives life but he doesn't give birth," says Sister Esu in an article by Agence France Presse.

Sister Esu works in the clinic run by her order, the Daughters of Saint Joseph of Genoni. About 40 babies are born in the clinic each month, and several parents have named their newborns Maria, after Sister Esu.

She was originally trained as a nurse in Italy and then studied tropical medicine in Belgium. She moved to the Congo in 1959, a year before the country’s independence.

Throughout the violence of wars and the rule of a dictator hostile to the Catholic Church, her mission became a haven of peace and assistance for many.

Currently, tension remains high in the country amid suspicions of political corruption, but Sister Esu says she has no plans to flee, explaining, "I want to stay here. I don't want to be a deserter. I've given my whole life here and I shall also give my bones."

Pittsburgh celebrates first Rite of Consecration of a Virgin

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 01, July 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Pope Paul VI re-instituted the Rite of Consecration of Virgins Living in the World
on May 31, 1970, exactly 45 years to the date of Sheila Ryan’s consecration. 

Sheila Ryan, a retired school teacher and administrator, became the first woman in the Diocese of Pittsburgh to receive the Rite of Consecration of a Virgin Living in the World, according to a report by Peter Smith in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This past May, Ryan received a veil and ring during the celebration to symbolize her marriage to Christ alone. She also received an edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, a set of daily prayers she has committed to offering.

Judith Stegman of Michigan, president of the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins, estimates that there are about 230 consecrated virgins in the United States and about 3,500 worldwide. Unlike a nun or religious sister, a consecrated virgin doesn’t join a religious community or take vows, Stegman says A consecrated virgin must provide her own home and livelihood and is expected to commit to prayer and volunteer in her parish.

“I knew as a teenager that I was not called to the married state,” Ryan said. “It’s listening to God and being open to his workings of grace within us. Nobody would seek this life, which is countercultural, unless it were a gift from God. And I consider it a gift.”
Read the full article here.

Sister "sews hope" for girls in Uganda

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Monday 29, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has dedicated her life to helping more
than 2,000 girls, who were previously abducted by soldiers, by teaching them valuable trade skills.

It takes more than courage to defy a warlord and work to undo the damage of his 20-year reign of terror with nothing but a sewing machine. It takes an inspiring capacity for love and forgiveness—and good old-fashioned practical problem solving.

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has dedicated her life to helping more than 2,000 girls, who were abducted, raped, tortured, and forced to kill their own family members by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which waged bloody civil wars that decimated northern Uganda and southern Sudan.

As the keynote speaker at the 2015 Catholic Media Conference in Buffalo, New York, in June, she related to the Catholic press how she answered the call to serve these girls—who have been shunned and persecuted by their own communities for bearing their captors’ children—as the director of St. Monica Girls’ Tailoring Centre in Gulu, Uganda, since 2002. The school provides the girls with safe sanctuary and job training in tailoring and catering so they can become self-reliant.

A native of Uganda, she began serving the people of her country after joining her order in 1976. Currently, about 250 girls and 250 children live at St. Monica. Sister Rosemary also oversees a second school in Atiak, Uganda. In 2014, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Sister Rosemary's work is the subject of Sewing Hope, a documentary narrated by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker and a book of the same name (Dust Jacket Press, 2013). All proceeds from book sales go to help the girls at St. Monica. For more information, visit

Pennsylvania diocese honors religious for Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 28, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Diocese of Scranton celebrated the Year of Consecrated
Life with a Mass honoring its priests, brothers, and sisters.

The Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania celebrated the Year of Consecrated Life with the annual Pontifical Mass for Consecrated Life, which took place at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Scranton.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was the celebrant for the Mass that honored priests, brothers, and sisters who celebrated their anniversaries of ordination or profession of vows.

All religious women and men and members of various forms of consecrated life were invited to the Mass and reception that followed. This year, 42 men and women jubilarians serving in the diocese were honored.

Read more here.

Signs of renewal in consecrated life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 26, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
"I am counting on you to 'wake up the world,'" Pope Francis wrote to all consecrated
people in an apostolic letter announcing this special Year of Consecrated Life.

In the June issue of Columbia, a publication of the Knights of Columbus, writer Brian Fraga reminds readers of the mission of consecrated life and points to signs of renewal for this vocation.

Although the number of those in religious life has dwindled, the statistics do not tell the entirety of the story, as there is a "quiet renaissance" in religious life underway.

Worldwide, more than 200 new religious communities have been founded since the Second Vatican Council, according to Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocations Conference.

“The Holy Spirit continues to call and raise up gifts within the Church,” said Brother Bednarczyk.

Fraga reveals that "among the more than 500 men being ordained to the priesthood in the United States this year, approximately 100 are members of religious orders."

Another sign of renewal is a form of consecrated life on the rise: secular institutes.

“Religious life and secular institutes, in their way of leavening in society, continue to give a witness in the Church to the Gospel and the absoluteness of God, which are things we need to remember,” said Sister Sharon Holland, of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who serves as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). "In addition to religious and secular institutes, the Church also recognizes forms of individual consecrated life, such as consecrated virgins and hermits."

Read more about the various forms of consecrated life and its renewal as we continue to celebrate this Year of Consecrated Life in the full article here.

Here are some great resources from VISION to help parishes celebrate and promote religious life and religious vocations.

Learn about "Today’s Catholic Sisters: Who They Are, Why We Need Them"

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 23, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
We need Catholic sisters now more than ever.

They said yes. Come learn why.

The remarkable stories of the newest generation of Catholic sisters will be shared at the symposium "Today’s Catholic Sisters: Who They Are, Why We Need Them" at four universities this fall and winter.

In partnership with the National Religious Vocation Conference and the GHR foundation, these events will feature several young sisters, along with the authors of New Generations of Catholic Sisters: The Challenge of Diversity. There will be a Q&A session and raffle following the main presentation. Refreshments will be served.

The event dates and locations are:

Sept. 12, 2015 9 am-12 pm
University of the Incarnate Word
San Antonio, Texas

Sept. 20, 2015 1-4 pm
Dominican University
River Forest, Illinois

Oct. 10, 2015 1-4 pm
(Mass to follow)
Immaculata University
Immaculata, Pennsylvania

Jan. 23, 2016 9 am-12 pm
Mount Saint Mary's University
Los Angeles, California

Featured Speakers:

New Generations of Catholic Sisters authors -
Sister Mary Johnson, S.N.D.deN.
Sister Patricia Wittberg, S.C.
Dr. Mary Gautier

Questions? Call 773-363-5454, or visit


Arizona newspaper profiles religious during Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 21, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Sister Cecilia Schlaefer, a member of the Sisters of St. Agnes in Phoenix, was featured
this month in
The Catholic Sun as part of a Year of Consecrated Life series.

The Catholic Sun
is featuring religious in the Diocese of Phoenix each month in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life. The newspaper is highlighting their roads to discernment and current contributions to the church and the community.

This month, it is highlighting the work of Sister Cecilia Schlaefer, who has been a Sister of St. Agnes for 75 years. She has a doctorate in musical arts and has taught music, Latin, and English to grammar school and high school students.

Sister Schlaefer knew from an early age she was called to religious life, saying, “I was three years old. I got to church and then we all went to the front pew. And we sat down and I heard the voice say, 'Cecilia, I want you to be My spouse.' I touched [my sister] Mary and I said, ‘Mary, what’s a spouse?’ She said, 'Quiet. We don’t talk in church.' She shut me up for the next 18 years.”

Read more about Schlaefer and other religious here.

Music-making Benedictine monks top charts

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 19, June 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization
A new Gregorian chant album by a group of Benedictine monks in Norcia,
Italy, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s classical music chart.
Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy—birthplace of Saint Benedict and his twin sister Saint Scholastica—have recently debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's classical music chart for their album of Gregorian chant, "Benedicta." 
Prior Cassian Folsom, the monastery's leader, founded the community of 18 men, half of them Americans, in Rome, but the people of Norcia recruited the monks to move into the town's ancient monastery.
Gregorian chant is, first and foremost, a form of prayer, based on the Psalms and other ancient texts. It has been “sung over centuries and centuries,” Folsom said, and to monks “chant is part of the air we breathe.”
Read the full story of the Benedictine community here.
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Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden to host “Stroll Through Time” tour

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 15, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden will host a tour of the congregation's Beaver County,
Pennsylvania campus on June 18 in celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life.

In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, a public walking tour exploring the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden in Pennsylvania will be held on June 18.

Archivist Kathleen Washy will lead the free tour while several sisters will be there to answer questions. The tour will include historical highlights and anecdotes about the buildings, grotto, and statues.

Congregation leadership team member Sister Mary Pellegrino is very excited to show off the campus to the public. “The grounds are beautiful [and include] a labyrinth, community gardens, and an orchard,” she said.

The sisters will certainly have a lot of history to share as their roles in the community changed from being mostly teachers and nurses to being chaplains, social workers, spiritual directors, counselors, foster parents, pastoral ministers, and social justice advocates.

Barbara Hecht, a spokeswoman for the sisters, said, “Sisters of St. Joseph always have responded to the needs of the times. They were called to Baden ... because of the growing need to staff the many schools in the Beaver Valley.”

Learn more here.

Nuns hike to raise money for the sick

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 14, June 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life
                 Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres climbed Mount Talamitam in the
Philippines to raise funds for their congregation's hospital.

Four Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres recently climbed Mount Talamitam in the Philippines to raise awareness and funds for the sick and poor.  

Sister Arcelita Sarnillo, 61; Sister Rachelle Rapio, 34; Sister Anna Maria Reyes, 49; and Sister Aurelie Cortez, 77, scaled the 630-meter mountain wearing gym shoes and hiking pants under their habits.

Along the way, fellow hikers asked to take “selfies” with the nuns, amazed by how the four women were putting their faith in action.

This was the nuns' first charity hike to help benefit St. Paul Hospital, which is run by the congregation, in Dasmariñas City. The hospital offers free medical consultations and operations for the poor. The funds raised by the hike will help patients with cleft palates and cleft lips that cannot afford surgery.

Sister Sarnillo found the experience challenging, but kept her eye on the finish line. “I just kept on meditating and looking up,” she said.

Once on the summit, the nuns led a short prayer at the Marian grotto. They sang “Hail Mary” before starting their two-hour descent. For their next climb, they plan to invite a priest to celebrate Mass at the summit to make the experience even more special.

Read more here.

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Ursuline sister facilitates clean water for children

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 11, June 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life
 Sister Larraine Lauter, O.S.U., executive director of Water with Blessings, gets water filters, the
size of an empty toilet paper roll, to those who need them, but she needs help to deliver more. 
Sister Larraine Lauter, of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, is the executive director and only full-time employee of Water with Blessings, a nonprofit organization that helps put water filters in the hands of mothers around the world.

"That's where the Water with Blessings model is different. The organization targets 'mothers and others,' those who play the role of mom. No matter where the organization sends filters, mother culture is always the same," Sister Lauter said. "Mothers share, and they don't say no to other people's kids."

"I always say God has put smart women everywhere," she said. "This is not gringo to the rescue. This is not that model. I am troubled by that model. And even if these women are barely literate they can still be amazing trainers."

Read the full story here.

Sisters of Charity to celebrate Year of Consecrated Life with service

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 08, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati will host days of service for volunteers in their community on June 13 and 19.

In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati have invited their neighbors to join them in a multitude of service activities in their local community on June 13 and 19.

Volunteers can share their talents on those days by helping with things such as yard work, weeding, demolition work, painting, gardening, and arts and crafts.

The Sisters of Charity will host all of the volunteers for lunch at the Sisters of Charity Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse, offering the opportunity for people of all ages to learn more about religious life today and develop new and lasting relationships.

Learn more here.

Hollywood star credits parish priest for his success

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 08, June 2015 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Catholic culture
Actor Mark Wahlberg at the recent premiere of the film Entourage.

Movie actor Mark Wahlberg said he never would have been able to get his life back on track as a troubled teen if he hadn't had a strong relationship with his parish priest, according to an interview in Square Mile magazine.

Wahlberg said he was saved from a life of drugs and violence when Father James Flavin intervened. The priest took him under his wing and taught him the importance of faith.

Wahlberg said, “I pray every day and try to go to church every day. My faith in God is what makes me a better man. It’s the most important part of my life.”

Wahlberg, star of The Departed and many other films, is also an executive producer of the former television series and current movie release Entourage. “I never would have been able to change my life and have the success and love that I have in my world today without my faith,” he said.

Read more here.

"Discernment Morning" encourages young women to consider vocation

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 01, June 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment,Consecrated Life
Religious women participated in a "Discernment Morning" in Phoenix
to encourage young women to listen for a call to consecrated life.

Young women learned about religious life and were encouraged to hear its potential call at a "Discernment Morning" on May 2 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Phoenix.

“The culture today is more about relationships, not even marriage but just being in relationships, and so the idea of consecrating yourself to Christ is very, very foreign to the culture,” said Sister Mary Eileen Jewell, of Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. “All the vocations are beautiful and we need to present all the vocations, but consecrated life especially tends to be the softest voice that people have a hard time hearing.”

Five religious communities participated in the event, including the Religious Sisters of Mercy; the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; the Missionaries of Charity of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta; the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; and the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.

All of the women who attended were given the chance to ask questions about consecrated life and hear the discernment journeys of many religious sisters.

One woman in attendence said, “We’re all called to something and some of us are questioning that. ... We just need that guidance. I think there are some people that just automatically assume they’re called to marriage and they don’t ever question another vocation. The possibility of a religious vocation shouldn’t be something scary because it’s what God wills for you and He’ll let you know.”

Read more here.

Spanish blog celebrates Year of Consecrated Life and family

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 01, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Familia Católica is a Spanish blog providing resources to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life.
Xhonane Olivas and other collaborators have created Familia Católica ("Catholic Family"), a Spanish blog to help families celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life at home. 
About the inspiration for starting the blog, Olivas said, "I wanted to do something so that we can grow in appreciation for the gift of consecrated life as a family" in response to Pope Francis' declaration of this year as the Year of Consecrated Life.
Equipped with a translator button, the blog shares a variety of links for downloading many lessons and resources, including VISION.
Check out the blog here.
Find more Year of Consecrated Life resources from VISION.

French contemplative order welcomes women with Down syndrome

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Sunday 31, May 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
The Institute of the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb is a unique
religious community of women with and without Down syndrome. 

The Institute of the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb is a 30-year-old contemplative order in France that accepts young women with Down syndrome called to religious life. 

According to Regina magazine, "At the priory, the Little Sisters receive young women touched by the spirit of poverty and dedication... Every day they receive the Eucharist, living in the spirit of silence and prayer, while meditating on the Gospel."

The order was founded with the encouragement of geneticist Jérôme Lejeune, who discovered the cause of Down syndrome.

Read more about this small contemplative community here.

Consolata missionary sister beatified

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 27, May 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Mary and the Saints
Beatification ceremony of Consolata Missionary Sister Irene “Nyaatha” Stefani in Kenya.
Italian-born Sister Irene Stefani of the Consolata Missionary Sisters was the first person to undergo a key step toward sainthood in the African country of Kenya. Stefani and the Consolata Missionary Sisters helped the wounded in Kenya and Tanzania during World War I. Stefani died of the plague in 1930 at the age of 39.

According to Vatican news reports, 100,000 people from all over the world gathered in Kenya to witness the beatification ceremony of Blessed Irene, nicknamed "Nyaatha,'' which means "mother of mercy'' in the local Kikuyu language. President Uhuru Kenyatta was among many dignitaries who attended the event, as well as Stefani's relatives from Italy.

Beatification is the first step toward possible sainthood, and it comes after official verification that a miracle happened after prayers were offered to the candidate. In the case of Stefani, a 1989 miracle in Mozambique was attributed to her.

Read the full story here.

Historic Holy Land religious women among new saints

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 20, May 2015 Categories:
Banners hang from St. Peter's Basilica of the four new 19th-century women religious saints.

On May 17, Pope Francis canonized four 19th-century religious sisters:

• French Blessed Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve, who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception for the education of poor children, the sick, and missions.

• Italian Blessed Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, who founded an institute dedicated to education, called Congregation of the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

• Blessed Marie-Alphonsine, who founded the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

• Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified, a mystic and member of the Discalced Carmelites.

The latter two new Palestinian saints were "instrumental in the promotion of women in the Arab world and in efforts for interreligious dialogue toward peace," said Jordanian Father Rifat Bader. The historic Holy Land saints urged "respect for religious and ethnic difference" and were among the first religious congregation of Arab women, putting them on the map in the fields of education and religious teaching.

Read the full story here.

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Iraqi nun asks U.S. to help refugees in ISIS territories

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 18, May 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Sister Diana Momeka speaks at a congressional committee hearing,
asking for U.S. support for religious minorities uprooted by ISIS.

Sister Diana Momeka, a Dominican Sister of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, spoke at a congressional committee hearing on Wednesday. She was one of four women who addressed the importance of protecting religious minorities in the region as well as religious sites.

Momeka recounted her personal story of being displaced after a bomb exploded at her convent in Mosul in 2009. The sisters were unharmed, but forced to move to Qaraqosh in Iraq’s Ninevah Plain. Last year, ISIS invaded the region telling them that they had three options: convert to Islam, pay a tribute to ISIS, or leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The sisters left and joined more than 120,000 people displaced in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

She shared how hopeless and fearful the displaced feel and urged that they be helped to return to their homes. She said that while they are struggling, the refugees have not lost faith. “We were displaced, yet the hand of God is still with us. In the midst of darkness we see God holding us," she said.

Read more here.

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New app takes collection plate into digital age

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Friday 15, May 2015 Categories: Catholic culture
The Archdiocese of San Francisco has adopted Evergive,
a mobile app that brings church communities online.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco is partnering with a new app, Evergive, which will allow Catholics in the area to donate money, share prayers, and more from their computers or smartphones.

Father Anthony Giampietro, the interim director of development for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said, "It helps our parishes, especially those with limited resources, get access to a level of technology that they never could have afforded."

While in the past churches used online platforms such as Paypal and Gmail to digitize donations and communications, Evergive puts it all in one place.

With more than 443,000 members, the Archdiocese of San Francisco is Evergive’s largest client to date, and Father Giampietro finds the ability to quickly organize donation campaigns on the application helpful. "The ease with which we could set up a campaign for Nepal or a youth group was astounding,” he said.

The application also has a social aspect, where people can talk about issues or ask for prayers.

James Ioannidis, CEO of Palo Alto-based Evergive, said, "Just because people are only physically going to church once a week doesn't mean that they only have to be part of that community once a week."

Read more here.

Sister Helen Prejean testifies for Boston Marathon bomber

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 12, May 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality,Doctrines & Beliefs
 The mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Prejean's congregation,
is to work toward the union of God and neighbor without distinction. 

Death penalty opponent and activist Sister of St. Joseph Helen Prejean made headlines and was a trending topic on Twitter Monday for doing what she does best: social justice ministry. Sister Prejean was called to testify for the defense in the sentencing of the convicted Boston Marathon bomber. She said she had met with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev five times and that "he expressed sympathy for his victims during their talks," according to The jury is deliberating a sentence of death or life in prison for Tsarnaev.

Last November at the University of Michigan, Prejean challenged students to ponder the question that calls her to continue to advocate against the death penalty: “Are people worth more than the worst thing they have done?”

Prejean's story has become the subject of movies (including the Academy Award-winning Dead Man Walking, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn), books, and even an opera. She has inspired national debate on the death penalty and helped drive the Catholic Church’s opposition to state executions. Prejean divides her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling death row prisoners, which has included accompanying six men to their deaths. She also travels around the world giving talks about her ministry.

Read more about her ministry and challenge to college students here.

German Dominicans flash mob for Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 12, May 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Pope Francis called on the faithful to express their gratitude for those in consecrated life. What better way to offer praise and thanksgiving than with a flash mob?

So in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life, Kloster der Dominikanerinnen (Dominicans of Germany) planned and recorded a flash mob outside the main train station in Berlin, singing the VISION-commissioned song for YCL, "Wake the World with Dawning Joy."

Help the sisters' work go viral!

Priest translates popular children's book into Latin

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 11, May 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Diary of a Wimpy Kid became Commentarii de Inepto Puero, thanks to Father Gallagher's Latin translation.

Monsignor Daniel B. Gallagher, an American who works at the Vatican’s Office of Latin Letters, recently helped translate the best-selling children’s book Diary of a Wimpy Kid into Latin, which remains the official language of the Roman Catholic Church.

This new edition of the book was published by Milan-based Il Castoro, which teamed up with Gallagher to help with the translation.

Gallagher said he was inclined to translate “a great story” that many of his English-speaking nieces and nephews had already read, saying, “It’s a story of a kid who has a kind of conversation when he has to make a choice on whether to be faithful to his friends or not. He makes the right choice ... For me that’s not just a Christian teaching, but a human teaching.”

Although he is a skilled translator, Gallagher did admit that there were some difficulties in translating some modern concepts such as ‘wow’ or ‘heavy metal’ (which became “musica metallica gravis”).

The publishers and Gallagher are hoping that this newly translated text will help students learning Latin. He explained, “It is important for all students to see that Latin is not a dead or outdated language; you can still express today’s thoughts in Latin.”

Read more here

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Pope says "no more boring homilies"

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 10, May 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Clergy
Pope Francis speaks to newly ordained priests about connecting with the faithful.

During the ordination of 19 priests, Pope Francis told them to make their homilies interesting and to speak from the heart in order to reach the hearts of the faithful.

Pope Francis said that priests are called to help members of the church through their homilies. He urged them to ensure “that your homilies are not boring, that your homilies arrive directly in people’s hearts because they flow from your heart, because what you tell them is what you have in your heart.”

During Mass on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the pope used the prepared homily in the ritual book for ordinations, but added his own reflections as well, giving the newly ordained priests advice on celebrating the sacraments and reaching out to the church community.

The pope emphasized the depth of God’s love and the true role of priests: “We must follow the Good Shepherd. In particular, those who have the mission of guiding in the church—priests, bishops, popes—are called to not assume the mentality of a manager, but that of a servant in imitation of Jesus.”

Read more here.

Score another vocation for Google

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Wednesday 06, May 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

When Sister Mary Anne Francalanza considered religious life, writes Janet Tansley in an aricle for the Liverpool Echo, she did what most of us do when we’re looking for a book or new outfit: She went on the internet.

Sister Mary Anne took her final vows with the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) in Wavertree, Liverpool (U.K.) three years ago.

“I was the first person to have contacted the sisters through the internet," she says. But things are different now. “Today if people want to look for us we are on Facebook, Twitter, [VISION!], the lot..."

“It’s about finding God in all things and all places!”

Click here to learn more about the Faithful Companions of Jesus.

Celebrating YCL with "Conversations with the Consecrated"

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 05, May 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Precious Blood Father Denny Kinderman (right) ministers to Chicago's youth within a "peace-making circle."

Catholic New World, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago, is featuring a new column in celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life: "Conversations with the Consecrated."

The most recent column profiles Missionary of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.) Father David Kelly, who is the director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. This jail ministry works with those who have experienced conflict or violence and tries to create a space where they can come together, both offenders and victims, and work toward reconciliation.

"We try to form an environment of hospitality where they can talk, and hear one another, and rebuild relationships severed due to any kind of violence," Kelly says.

In the column, Kelly explains his attraction to the strong reconciliation charism of the consecrated missionary community, as well as the successes and struggles of his everyday work with his ministry with juveniles in the detention center.

Despite all the frustrations and injustices he encounters, Kelly says, "The biggest thing is not what I do for others but what others do for me. The work I do with the young people, their families or the community is mutual. By their loyalty, and willingness to be vulnerable, their willingness to be in relationship with us, is very powerful and makes me a better priest, and a better human being. People think, don’t you do wonderful work? Yeah, we do, but we also receive so many blessings in this work.”

Read the full article.

"Snowball effect" credited for increase in vocations in UK

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 05, May 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
 Theodora Hawksley left academia to join the Congregation of Jesus.

Last week the Guardian reported that the increasing number of women joining religious orders in the United Kingdom is perhaps, according to postulant Theodora Hawksley, because of a "snowball effect." Hawksley believes, "God always calls people to religious life, but various things can make it harder to hear that, and one of the things that makes it easier is lots of people openly talking and thinking about it, and giving it a go."

According to the article, the number of women entering U.K. religious communities has reached a 25-year high. The article debunks myths surrounding religious life and highlights the joy of living in community. The religious interviewed encourage people to spend time with religious communities, including on hosted retreats. One sister quoted said, “Things like that raise the profile of different ways of living out vocations and help normalise what it is to be a nun or religious sister in the Catholic church."

Read the full article here.

Explore your vocation through weekend encounters, retreats, volunteering, and more on the VISION Vocation Network Events page! 

Discover more about the Congregation of Jesus today.

Diary of Irish priest in World War I trenches available online

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 04, May 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Church History,Clergy
A page from Father Francis Gleeson's diary during World War I.

The diary of Father Francis A. Gleeson, an Irish priest who became a World War I chaplain, is now available to read online. Father Gleeson traveled with the Second Battalio Royal Munster Fusiliers and kept a detailed diary while he was ministering to the soldiers. The diary came into the possession of the Dublin Diocesan Archives, which put it online for the public to read.

Noelle Dowling and Peter Sobolewski of the Dublin Diocesan Archives worked for about nine months transcribing Gleeson's items, including his diary, letters he wrote to families of men missing or killed in action, and letters he received in return. The diary includes accounts of several incredible days on the front line, with Gleeson describing everything from coming under fire and thinking death was imminent to the excitement of having bacon to eat.

Dowling said it is the soldiers’ faith during this difficult time that he finds most interesting in Gleeson’s accounts of daily life in the trenches. “They all would have had rosary beads, or holy pictures. There were stories of a bullet hitting a holy medal,” he said.

Read more here.

A mother journeys to accept her son’s vocation

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 03, May 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
A mother comes to terms with her son's priesthood in "Vocation Crisis" in America magazine.

Kristin Grady Gilger faced the same journey that many parents have when finding out their son or daughter has been called to a religious vocation. In her article, "Vocation Crisis," in America magazine, she recounts the shock she and her husband felt after their son, Patrick, told them that he wanted to convert to Catholicism and join the Society of Jesus. She writes, “As a Catholic priest, he would take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—vows that are about as countercultural as you can get in 21st-century America. And even then, he would wait a decade or more before he would be ordained a priest and be allowed to do the things priests aspire to do: say Mass and administer the other sacraments. ...Why would any 20-year-old in his right mind choose a life like that?”

She recalls how she was wondering what she had done wrong and how she and her husband “didn’t even raise him Catholic!” She was angry, frustrated, and felt that her son was throwing away his future, until one friend brought God into the equation. Gilger remembers, “He said something that made me sit back hard in my chair. ‘God has his hands on your family in such a special way,’ he told me gently. Something inside of me shifted when he said those words: It was the first time I had considered whether God had anything to do with it.”

By acknowledging God’s part in the discernment process, she was able to better understand the call her son was feeling, and as her son entered the priesthood and she was able to see firsthand the different ways he was needed and loved, her worries about loneliness began to vanish. She writes, “In fact, he is far less alone than almost anyone I know. He even, on occasion, goes on vacation.”

When it comes to her son, Gilger still worries, as most mothers do, about his future, but by acknowledging the role of God and the joy her son has found in his role as priest, she has come to accept his decision and has recently completed a memoir about how her son’s journey has brought her family back to the Catholic Church.

Priest who helped Jews during Holocaust honored

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 26, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Father Joaquim Carreira of Portugal risked his life to save dozens of Jews during the Holocaust.

Father Joaquim Carreira, a Catholic priest from Portugal, has been honored by Israel for hiding Jews during the Holocaust while he was living in Rome as a member of the Pontifical College.

The actions of Carreira, who died in 1981, remained largely unknown until Portuguese journalist Antonio Marujo began researching his story.

This investigation led to the priest’s inclusion last year in Yad Vashem’s list of the Righteous Among the Nations, which is Israel’s honorary title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, making him the third Portuguese citizen on the list.

In April, Father Carreira’s nephew accepted a medal from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in recognition of his late uncle’s actions at a ceremony held at Lisbon’s main synagogue.

Read more here.

Shroud of Turin on display to commemorate Salesian anniversary

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 23, April 2015 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Church History,Vocation and Discernment

The public exposition of the Shroud of Turin officially opened in April at the Italian city's cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

According to Catholic News Service, Pope Francis authorized the public display of the shroud to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint John Bosco, a 19th-century priest from the Turin region who was a pioneer in vocational education, worked with poor and abandoned children, and founded the Salesian order. The pope is scheduled to visit Turin June 21-22 to venerate the shroud.

The famous relic is believed to have been the cloth to have wrapped the crucified body of Christ. On the shroud is the image of a man that bears "all signs of the wounds corresponding to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death."

The church invites the faithful to reflect on the shroud's image as a way to grasp the suffering Jesus endured and the love for humanity that sacrifice entailed.

Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin said, "The shroud invites us to never let ourselves be beaten down by evil, but to overcome it with good."

Nuns seek to take negativity out of Tax Day

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 20, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Sister Marge Clark has #TaxPayerPride for the beauty of the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C.

The nuns behind NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, are trying to take the anger and stress out of Tax Day. The nuns promoted the hashtag “TaxPayerPride” to remind people of the good services that taxes provide for society.

They have asked people to post a photo with goods or services for which their tax dollars pay on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with #TaxPayerPride.

Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s executive director, says that too many politicians have been focusing on cutting taxes and in turn many services that help better the community. She wants to celebrate how taxes support healthcare, education, food, and transportation and make America a “stronger, more humane country.”

She said, “Caring for one another is a faith issue. We are all children of God, and government is meant to serve the common good. It’s that simple."

Read more here.

Bishop urges Congress to approve nuclear agreement with Iran

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 20, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
The U.S. bishops are encouraging Congress to support the draft of a nuclear agreement with Iran.

The head of the U.S. bishops’ international peace committee supports the new guidelines for Iran’s nuclear program and is urging Congress not to “undermine” the deal.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico said, “We welcome the most recent step the United States and its international partners have taken with Iran and encourage our nation to continue down this path.”

The plan is the result of negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the European Union, and the P5+1 countries (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China), who are set to reach a final agreement on June 30.

The plan reduces the number of Iran’s centrifuges and limits the level of uranium that can be enriched and the amount of low-enriched uranium that may be stockpiled. It also states that Iran would not be allowed to construct new enrichment facilities for 15 years and that the underground nuclear facility at Fordow must be turned into a research facility.

The sanctions related to the nuclear aspect of Iran’s policies will be lifted while those placed upon the country due to human rights violations, terrorism, and ballistic missiles will remain in place.

Pope Francis also praised the plan in his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on Easter Sunday saying, “In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

Read more here.

Network of religious sisters combats human trafficking

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 16, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization
 "Human trafficking is not something that you recognize quickly and this is why
we have to speak up about it. We have to inform the world that these are
people who need help," Comboni Missionary Sister Gabriella Bottani said.

Comboni Missionary Sister Gabriella Bottani was recently appointed coordinator of Talitha Kum, a project of the Unión Internacional de Superioras Generales (International Union of Superior Generals) and the Rome-based international network of religious sisters working to end human trafficking.

In a Global Sisters Report interview, Bottani shared the staggering statistics of moderm-day human trafficking: "Between 800,000 to 2 million people are trafficked each year, 80 percent of whom are women and girls. Human trafficking facilitates sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic servitude; it leads to organ removal and forced marriage."

Talitha Kum's network is "now present in 81 countries and are more than 1,000 sisters strong. At first [in the early 2000s], the idea was to train sisters and have them become leaders in this area—and to go from there to create a movement. So the first step was to organize training programs in different countries. And the first goal was to inform and train sisters as to what human trafficking is. The second goal was to organize a network. In 2009, there was an international meeting that called all of the programs together. And it was decided to form this network, which was called Talitha Kum," Bottani said.

The continued goal of Talitha Kum is to "strengthen our identity and to help the local networks improve their capacity to confront human trafficking."

"We are in a very positive place with the engagement of Pope Francis and his commitment against human trafficking. I think he is helping the church to confront and to see this problem," Bottani said.

Beatification campaign for Titanic priest opens

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 16, April 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints
In 1912, Father Thomas Byles forewent two opportunities
to board a lifeboat when the Titanic hit an iceberg.

Father Thomas Byles, of St. Helen's Church in Essex, England, boarded the Titanic to cross the Atlantic to attend his younger brother's wedding in New York. Sadly, he was one of the 1,500 who died with the "unsinkable ship." According to Catholic News Agency, Byles "forewent two opportunities to board a lifeboat, according to passengers aboard the sinking ocean liner, in order to hear confessions and offer consolation and prayers with those who were trapped aboard." 

More than a century later, Father Graham Smith—a current priest at Father Byles’ former parish—is the promoter for opening the cause of beatification of Byles. “We hope people around the world will pray to him if they are in need, and if a miracle occurs, then beatification and then canonization can go forward,” Father Smith said.

“Father Byles could have been saved, but he would not leave while one [passenger] was left, and the sailor's entreaties were not heeded,” Helen Mary Mocklare, a third-class passenger, recounted. “After I got in the boat, which was the last one to leave, and we were slowly going further away from the ship, I could hear distinctly the voice of the priest and the responses to his prayers.”

The canonization process first requires that the person in question be found to have lived the Christian virtues to a heroic degree. A miracle attributed to the intercession of the individual must then be approved for the title of “Blessed” to be bestowed.

Priest to open new type of Catholic school

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 13, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
 Michael Keelan (left) and Father David Simonetti are set to open a unique high school in Chicago.

A priest in Chicago is establishing a college prep high school that some are calling unprecedented.

Father David J. Simonetti has financed the Pope Benedict XVI Academy of Excellence, which he plans to open in suburban Chicago in the fall, with his own money. While it is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, it needs archdiocesan approval to rent six classrooms at St. Paul Catholic Church in Chicago Heights, Ill. Tuition and private donations are going to fund the school after its opening.

So far, 10 students are enrolled and 35 are in the application process. The school will start with only a freshman class in the first year and continue to add new classes each year thereafter. Michael Keelan, who has been in education for 12 years, will be the school president.

The students will study traditional subjects such as language arts and mathematics, with a modern twist. Some of the coursework will incorporate Illinois Virtual School, a supplementary online teaching tool, and the classrooms will be wired with smart boards, according to Keelan.

Simonetti added that students will study art, music, philosophy, and theology, and the school will "incorporate teaching the faith across the curriculum.”

"They will be doing community service where they're at," Simonetti said. "What kids do matters. Their lives matter. They have something to contribute to society, and they have something to receive from society. I want to help them grow in charity. I want them to understand that their lives matter, but it only matters when one gives one's life away.”

Chicago Heights already has a Catholic high school, but the new academy’s tuition of about $5,900 would be about half of what other Catholic schools charge, and class sizes would be smaller.

Graziano Marcheschi, Saint Xavier University's vice president of university ministry, said there are other non-archdiocesan Catholic high schools in the Chicago area, but they are usually funded by established religious orders. He noted that the smaller, more affordable option that this new school would provide would likely appeal to many people.

Read more here.

Priest ordination increases in U.S.

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 12, April 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Clergy
This year, 595 priests will be ordained in the United States, up 25 percent from the 477 who were ordained in 2014.

Nearly 600 men will be ordained Catholic priests in the United States in 2015, more than 100 men more than last year.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said the increase is “encouraging” and he noted that those who will be ordained spoke about “very high” support from their families, parish priests, and Catholic schools.

A survey from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University received responses from 411 of the men and of these, 317 are prospective ordinands in 120 different dioceses and 94 are vowed religious. The median age of the priests-to-be is 31, which is a slight decrease from past years.

Father W. Shawn McKnight, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, did express one concern about the increase in young priests: student loan debt. “Considering the high percentage of the men ordained already having earned an undergraduate degree, it will be important to find ways to assist in debt reduction in the future,” McKnight said.

Read more here.

Benedictines of Mary drop fourth chart-topping album

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 07, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality
"Easter at Ephesus" is the followup to chart-topping albums "Advent at Ephesus," "Angels and Saints at Ephesus," and "Lent at Ephesus" by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, are a young, contemplative order who pray, work, and sing at their monastery just north of Kansas City, Mo. Founded in 1995, these singing Benedictines have released their fourth album, "Easter at Ephesus," which reached No. 1 on Billboard's classical traditional chart and Amazon and iTunes' classical charts.

According to Zenit, the new album "features an array of chants and hymns that are sung with a purity of sound that perfectly evokes and celebrates the Easter season."

Check out the trailer for "Easter at Ephesus" here:

Holy Week around the world

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 07, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality
Crowds gather to watch processions during Semana Santa in Seville, Spain.

In the days leading up to Easter, Christians around the world take part in various cultural and religious traditions to remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. PBS has compiled a series of photographs that show different festivities.

In Jerusalem, Christian clergy participate in washing of feet ceremonies, while in Spain, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is marked by processions. In the Philippines, penitents dress up as moriones, wearing soldier outfits from biblical times.

While these many traditions are different, they all aim to honor Jesus and remind onlookers of the importance of Holy Week.

See the photos and more traditions here.

Pope Francis’ Easter address calls for peace

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 05, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy

Pope Francis celebrated Easter mass with members of the faithful who stood in the rain to see the pontiff. In his Easter message, he urged peace in countries around the world and specifically mentioned Syria and Iraq, along with the Holy Land, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To the crowd in St. Peter’s Square he said, "We ask Jesus, the victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups, which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees.”

The pope gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square. These remarks come after those that he gave on Good Friday, in which he criticized the international community for its “complicit silence” regarding the persecution of Christians.

Read more here.

Nuns alleviate acute malnutrition with algae

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 02, April 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization
 Nuns at St. Joseph's Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic grow vitamin-rich
 green algae spirulina to care for those suffering from acute malnutrition.

The children of Central African Republic have long suffered from malnutrition due to the ravages of the civil war that has divided the country since 2013. But at St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, under the direction of Sister Margherita Floris, there is hope growing in the form of algae spirulina.

According to PBS Newshour, "The nuns of the centre, who serve women and children with pre- and post-natal care, do their best to alleviate the suffering of children with acute malnutrition. They have literally taken matters into their own hands."

Using a French pharmacist's formula, the nuns produce vitamin-rich green algae spirulina in their own backyard. The spirulina contains all of the essential amino acids plus minerals such as iron, and it is a good source of protein.

Sister Margherita’s eyes sparkle with satisfaction as she tells me “none of our babies die anymore, we have a huge success with this.”

Worship from a priest’s point of view

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 25, March 2015 Categories: Clergy
View from the altar of the Church of Santissimo Redentore in Seriate, Italy on Sunday.

Many people often wonder what priests see when standing on the altar. Now, with the help of remote-controlled cameras set up behind church altars in Italy, photographer Giorgio Barrera and Niccolò Rastrelli captured this view.

Their project, "Andate in pace” (Go in peace), is a portrait of the Catholic communities in Rome, Milan, Turin, Florence, Naples, Potenza, Avezzano, Taranto, and Pescara.

The photographers explain, “The images in this photographic inquiry attempt to achieve a synthesis, to show viewers the church as an architectural, corporeal space. The human element is essential to our work: the word chiesa [church] derives from the Greek ekklesìa, and means community. Therefore the ecclesiastical edifice should be understood as a space built of people in flesh and blood, of 'living stone' as Saint Paul affirms.”

The result of their work is 23 photographs and a video installation, curated by Daniele De Luigi and produced by the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation) of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. The exhibit will be on display through April 30 at the Fondazione Studio Maragoni in Florence, Italy.

See some of their photos here.

Catholics in Texas attend Catholic Advocacy Day

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 25, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Catholics attend Catholic Advocacy Day in Austin, Tex.

Catholics from around Texas traveled to the state’s capital, Austin, for “Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day.” The event was organized by the Texas Catholic Conference, which is known as the public-policy voice of Catholic bishops in Texas.

Fox 26 reports that the participants, known as Archangels, gathered with other Catholics from dioceses across the state for a rally on the steps of the state capitol before meeting with legislators.

The faithful met with lawmakers to promote legislation that would support the most vulnerable members of society.

Watch the full news report here.

Emotions mix for mother of Catholic sister

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 24, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life
Pictured with her parents, Sister Mary Joseph, born Barbara Evans, is now a Handmaid of the Heart of Jesus.

Mother of six from Mendota Heights, Minn., Joan Evans recently shared with the New York Times her struggle with and acceptance of her daughter entering religious life.

Evans said that she and their family miss their daughter and sibling but feel joy "that this is the vocation God designed for her and that it fulfills the deepest longings of her heart."

Evans shared how she and her daughter, born Barbara Evans and now Sister Mary Joseph, said goodbye upon becoming a Handmaid of the Heart of Jesus: "I told her how much I would miss her and that giving her to the Lord had been one of the most difficult things I had ever had to do. Then I felt a surge of strength, looked her in the eye and added that I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I know she is exactly where the Lord wants her to be. In that moment, I experienced such grace. My daughter already offered her yes to this vocation. I’m doing my best to offer mine."

Father Andrew Hofer, O.P. offers some great conversation starters in the article "How to talk to your family about your vocation". "Why I encourage my kids to consider religious life" is another article from a parent's perspective.

Starstruck nuns swarm Pope Francis in Naples

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 23, March 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints,Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
Pope Francis was happily overwhelmed by his enthusiastic reception in Naples.

Pope Francis recently met with priests, religious leaders, and seminarians at the cathedral in Naples, Italy, and The Telegraph reports, "once Pope Francis' presence was announced, the starstuck sisters broke into applause and waved excitedly... and then a half dozen of them scurried up close surrounding the pontiff in their long black religious habits. One carried a large wrapped present."

Over a microphone, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe urged restraint and made lighthearted commentary. “Sisters... Later... Well, would you look at that? And these are the cloistered ones. Just imagine the non-cloistered ones,” he said, provoking laughter from the crowd in the cathedral.

Pope Francis said the sisters' great enthusiasm was a reminder to religious leaders to "live their convocation with joy and enthusiasm."

Catholic Athletes for Christ helps players practice faith

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 23, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality
Catholic Athletes for Christ helps athletes keep their faith strong while competing.

Ray McKenna, a Washington-based attorney, has been busy recently at baseball spring training camps in Arizona and Florida. As a former minor-league baseball chaplain, McKenna knows the strain that being an athlete can place on religious commitments, so he founded Catholic Athletes for Christ 10 years ago.

“The service is to provide the sacraments to the players so the players are able to practice their faith,” McKenna says.

When he worked as a chaplain, he could give spiritual advice, but could not provide players with the sacraments. "The result of that logically was that players were leaving the Catholic faith and becoming so-called non-denominational, born-again Christians and not understanding and receiving the fullness of our Catholic faith," he says.

The organization now has a network of priests who hear confession and celebrate Mass at stadiums, clubhouses, and practice fields. It also coordinates events with the Vatican’s Church and Sports office within the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Knights of Columbus.

While the organization had only focused on professional athletes in the past, it now has a program for middle-school and high-school athletes as well, helping them to work with their sports schedules to make time for faith.

Tyler Flowers, catcher for the Chicago White Sox, is very grateful for the services that Catholic Athletes for Christ provides, saying, "They do a great job helping us. We can have Mass at the stadium at the majority of places we go."

Read more here.

Spanish convents use social media to help women discern

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 22, March 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Sister Xiskya Valladares, the "tweeting nun," takes a selfie with young people.

The name of the Spanish website,, translates to “I am looking for something more.” When users enter the site, a women immediately greets them by asking if they’ve ever considered religious life and says, “You may have a vocation without even knowing it.”

This is just one of the many ways Spanish convents are recruiting new members to religious life. They are also turning to Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media sites.

Many, such as Olga Maria, the prioress of the barefoot Carmelite convent in Valladolid in northeast Spain, seek to give young women alternative methods to discern. In 2012, she went to Rome to ask for permission to use social networks while recruiting young women as well as permission to let discerners join the convent for a trial period to see if it suited them. Since then, the convent’s popularity has grown considerably, with its Facebook profile receiving 8,000 likes and its Twitter account gaining 461 followers. It also uses WhatsApp to reply to young women’s questions about the discernment process.

In Mallorca, Spain, Sister Xiskya Valladares of iMisión has become famous as the “tweeting nun” and has almost 25,000 followers on Twitter. She says, “We have to be in touch with reality, and listen to people who are suffering, both existentially and materially. As Pope Francis says, 'The shepherd should smell of sheep.'”

Read more here.

Missionaries of Jesus sister to speak to U.N.

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 17, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization
 Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., hopes the opportunity to speak to the U.N.
will bring more attention to immigrants on the U.S./Mexico border.

Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., ministers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to those on "the frontlines of the crisis on the border," according to ABC-KRGV. Pimentel, Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, and Catholic Charities have helped nearly 18,000 immigrants. She has been invited by the United Nations to address the organization and share her experience.

"Oh wow, what an honor. I'm humbled to know that they asked me to do this," Pimentel says.

Read the full article and watch the brief interview here.

Selma sisters sparked social activism

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 11, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Mission & Evangelization,Church History
Catholic sisters marched with clergy and non-violent protesters in Selma, Ala. in 1965.

A recent Global Sisters Report article, “The Selma effect: Catholic nuns and social justice 50 years on,” documents the vital role Catholic Sisters played during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in 1965. Pictures of Catholic sisters who marched were splashed on the front pages of newspapers all over the country. Those images of solidarity for the marginalized were a catalyst for the future of social justice ministries in religious communities.

GSR shares, “Although the six Catholic sisters who marched in Selma were among hundreds of marchers, their presence was a landmark occurrence, an event that would reverberate around the country. Never before had Catholic sisters been involved in a national public protest, let alone one that was covered by all the national media. Initially the six nuns did not anticipate the impact of their public witness, but the violent racism and poverty they observed in Selma—and the reactions from the American Catholics, both positive and negative—provided a wake-up call to action for U.S. Catholic sisters from a wide range of communities in all parts of the country.”

Read about the full legacy of the sisters’ stories of working toward "gender equality and women’s empowerment, education, health, poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships," especially during this National Catholic Sisters Week.

Pope Francis recognizes International Women’s Day

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 10, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture

International Women’s Day was celebrated around the world on March 8. Pope Francis sent a special message to women around the world and thanked them for their contribution to the church and its mission.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis commended “all the women throughout the world who are seeking, every day, to build a more human and welcoming society,” following the Angelus on Sunday.

“A world where women are marginalized is a sterile world, because women don’t just bear life but transmit to us the ability to see otherwise, they see things differently. They transmit to us the ability to understand the world with different eyes, to understand things with hearts that are more creative, more patient, more tender,” Francis said.

Pope Francis then offered a special blessing and prayer over all the women in St. Peter’s Square and for women around the world.

Read more.

National Catholic Sisters week begins Monday, March 8

Posted by: Patrice Tuohy   🕔 Friday 06, March 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

National Catholic Sisters Week, an annual celebration to honor women religious, begins March 8. Events during the week, sponsored by groups all over the country, are meant to instruct, enlighten, and highlight the lives and witness of women religious and encourage a new generation of young women to follow their example.

Here are some ways to participate in National Catholic Sisters Week:

• Visit, to find resources and ideas for
celebrating both the Year of Consecrated Life and National Catholic Sisters Week. 
• Participate in the hashtag campaign during National Catholic Sisters Week.
• Watch oral histories of Catholic sisters, read blog posts by the young women who created the
histories at, and read first-person accounts of religious life.

First joint canonization of married couple

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 05, March 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints,Consecrated Life
Historic joint canonization of Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, parents
of Saint Therese of Lisieux, is expected to take place in October.
Pope Francis is expected to canonize Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux, French Discalced Carmelite nun. Their canonization will be the first joint canonization of a married couple and will coincide with the upcoming world Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.

According to Zenit, Salesian Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, made the announcement at a recent meeting organized by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana to discuss the topic “Of What Use Are Saints?”

“Saints are not only priests and nuns, but also lay people,” Cardinal Amato said, referring to this exemplary French married couple.

The couple were married in 1858 and had nine children, with all five of their surviving daughters Marie, Pauline, Leonie, Celine, and Therese entering into religious life. The daily life of the Martins included Mass at 5:30 am, Angelus and Vespers, rest on Sundays, fasting during Lent and Advent— and also jokes and games, as Louis liked to fish and play billiards. They invited poor people to dine in their home and they visited the elderly. They also taught their daughters to treat the underprivileged as equals.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified both parents in 2008. 

Learn more about the Carmelites (O.Carm) - Congregation of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm (O.Carm).

Followers call for Czechoslovakian priest to be recognized as martyr

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Monday 02, March 2015 Categories: Church History
Czechoslovakian priest Father Josef Toufar was tortured and beaten to
death for refusing to deny a miracle witnessed by his parishioners.

During Communist rule of Czechoslovakia, Father Josef Toufar was tortured and beaten to death for refusing to deny a miracle that many of his parishioners witnessed. Now, Catholics in the region are calling for him to be recognized as a martyr.

In 1949, parishioners told Father Toufar that they saw a cross on the altar of their church moving from side to side on its own, and it became known as the Cihost Miracle.

When police heard about it, they demanded that Father Toufar testify that he moved the cross himself. When he refused, the police brutally beat him, and he died two months later.

After his death, the government attempted to eliminate all religion from the country, but the story of the Cihost Miracle has survived.

This February marked the 65th anniversary of Toufar’s death; more than 500 people attended mass in his honor. The possible canonization of Toufar is under preliminary review.

Read more here.

Homeless man buried among Vatican elite

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 01, March 2015 Categories: Catholic culture
A volunteer from the Italian organization 'City Angels' speaks with a homeless person at the Vatican.

Willy Herteller, an 80-year-old Flemish man who used to live in the streets near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, died in December last year. He has been buried in the Teutonic Cemetery, which dates back to medieval times, alongside clergy and aristocrats.

Herteller was a familiar face to many in Vatican City, including clergy who would often bring him food. As Father Bruno Silvestri, pastor of the Vatican's Church of Saint Anne, remembers, “For over 25 years he attended the 7:00 Mass. He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist.”

While many reportedly tried to help Herteller find permanent housing, he ended up back on the streets and died on Dec. 12 due to cold. An anonymous German-speaking family paid for his funeral arrangements.

As Pope Francis’ papacy continues to focus on helping the marginalized, the Vatican has been championing creative ideas to help those in need, such as distributing sleeping bags and umbrellas and building public showers near St. Peter’s Square.

Read more here.

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Armenian Monk newest Doctor of the Church

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 26, February 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints,Scripture
Armeninan monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, is the newest Doctor of the Church.

Pope Francis confirmed this week the proposal put forward by the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints to "confer the title of Doctor of the University Church" for Saint Gregory Narek, Vatican news reports.

Saint Gregory, a 10th-century Armenian poet and monk, is revered as "one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature."

His Book of Lamentations is considered to be Saint Gregory's masterpiece, the central theme being a man's separation from God and his quest to reunite with Him. His first writings, commissioned by an Armenian prince, were a commentary on the Song of Songs. At the age of 25, Gregory became a priest and lived most of his life at the monastery of Narek, taught at the monastic school, and dedicated himself to God. October is the month Saint Gregory of Narek is remembered by the Armenian church.

Discover more on monastic life and explore discerning religious life at a monastery: "How to know where God is leading you".

New book 'Being Catholic: A user's guide' released

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 26, February 2015 Categories: Sacraments,Prayer and Spirituality
Being Catholic: A user's guide

Catholics of all kinds—committed, curious, questioning, and confused—will find in the new book 'Being Catholic: A user's guide' resources, insights, and helpful suggestions that are sure to enrich your faith and deepen your understanding of Christ’s Good News and the Church’s Great Mission in the world.

The collection of articles by award-winning Catholic authors is now available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.

The essays will help you "hear of the richness of heritage, the wisdom of teachings, and the beauty of traditions available to Catholics and people of good will everywhere."

The articles first appeared in the annual VISION Vocation Guide, published by TrueQuest Communications, on behalf of the National Religious Vocation Conference.

Follow us on Twitter (@VisionVocation) for a chance to win a copy of the book. See this ‪#‎AmazonGiveaway‬.

Hashtag '#ashtag' popular on social media

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 22, February 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Religious tweet pictures with their ashes using the hashtag '#ashtag'.

This last Ash Wednesday, a new trend emerged on the social media platform Twitter. Many religious tweeted pictures of themselves with ashes using the hashtag ‘#ashtag.’ The trend started last year, but gained even more traction this year.

While some feel this trend is a great way for the church to be present on social media, others are not so fond of this display of faith. Greg Hills, an associate professor of theology at Bellarmine University, is not completely on board, but said, "I don't at all want to detract from something that may, for some, make for an even more meaningful Lent."

Perhaps the #ashtag is here to stay.

Read more here.

Diocesan priest credits other religious for his vocation

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 19, February 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Religious celebrate their jubilees on the World Day for Consecrated
Life at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles diocesan priest Father Sam Ward recently wrote an eloquent tribute to those in consecrated life in the Angelus: The Tidings Online, attributing "the gift of my priestly vocation in a large measure to the daily prayers, intercession, and sacrifices of many holy and faithful religious sisters.

"They were praying for me before I even knew that God was calling me to be a priest," he wrote. "They prayed for me through the seminary. And they have sustained me by their sisterly love and support for my 11 years as a priest."

The first Catholic school Ward attended was the seminary. "When I entered the seminary in 1997 I knew instinctively that developing a close relationship with the sisters would be essential to my vocation. Why? Because I knew from afar the beauty and powerful witness that religious life has had on the life of the Church—past, present, and with God’s grace, far into the future. And I knew that I would need their support and friendship."

Read more about Father Ward's appreciation of religious sisters, brothers, and priests as a celebratory thank you during this Year of Consecrated Life.

Slain sister's work for the poor continues in Brazil

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 19, February 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life
"Sister Dorothy Stang did not set out to be a martyr, but she was deeply committed to doing God’s
work of defending human rights and promoting justice." - from VISION tribute to Stang

A decade ago, Ohio-born Sister Dorothy Stang, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was slain because of her tireless work for the poor and landless in Brazil. She advocated for the small-scale farmer who is still, 10 years later, the frequent victim of harassment, forced evictions, threats, physical violence, and even killings.

However, according to the Huffington Post, "In recent years, independent civil society truth commissions have begun investigating the history of violence in the Brazilian countryside, grappling with the roles of unequal land distribution, poor documentation of land rights, and expulsion and killings of indigenous peoples. These investigations were inspired by Brazil’s National Truth Commission, which reported human rights abuses under the 1964-1985 military dictatorship."

For Girolamo Treccani, a law professor at the Federal University of Para and a member of Para State’s Rural Truth Commission, the question of prison time was less important than ensuring that all cases are acknowledged and investigated.

“The right of justice demands denouncement and recognition,” he said, “even if individuals can’t go to prison." This denouncement is key as "in Brazil defendants are sometimes granted liberty while the lawyers exhaust all of their options of appeal, which often takes years."

Stang’s case was, in many ways, exceptional, because her killers were identified and brought to trial. Of the 1,270 cases of homicide of rural workers documented by the Pastoral Land Commission between 1985 and 2013, less then 10 percent were ever prosecuted. Stang’s case was one of the first times a mandante (someone who orders a killing) was convicted in Para.

From a tribute to Sister Dorothy Stang in the VISION article, Sister Dorothy Stang: Her dying shows us how to live: "Stang’s faithfulness to the gospel and commitment to her community’s mission to educate and stand with the poor is a profile in courage and true Christian discipleship. Stang is her community’s first martyr. They have pledged to continue the struggle for a world of justice and peace."

Center for studying religious life first of its kind in U.S.

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 18, February 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
Sister Maria Cimperman, director of the new Center for the Study of Consecrated
Life, speaks at the center's opening at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

The Center for the Study of Consecrated Life at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago opened in February with activities including a symposium on hope and discussions on the changing nature of religious life. Under director Sister Maria Cimperman, the center plans to have both on-campus and online courses, as well as host symposia and workshops for participants to explore and study consecrated life in all its forms.

Father Robert Schreiter, professor of theology at the Catholic Theological Union, said the timing of the center’s opening is perfect. He believes the center is exactly what Pope Francis meant when he called for religious institutions to be “closer to people and their struggles in general and closer to the poor in particular.”

While there are a few centers dedicated to the study of religious life around the world, the center at the Catholic Theological Union is the first in the United States. Here, many will be able to gather information from all over the country as well as work with other international centers in order to use resources like never before.

Father Mark Francis, CTU president, said, “I believe the center is going to be a clearinghouse for a lot of what’s going on in the study of religious life. We hope to link up with the other international centers, and examine how religious life is transforming itself. We want to make sure we’re looking not just here, but at the developing world and from all these various perspectives.”

Sister Barbara Reid, vice president and academic dean at CTU, expressed her excitement for both the future of religious life and the new center for studying it. At the opening, she explained some of the goals for the recent addition to CTU, saying, “Part of the vision for this is that we are at a turning point – the way religious life was lived in the past, that form of religious life is dying. Something new is coming about, and we’re right at the cusp of that.”

Read more here.

Cloistered Carmelites in India celebrate six new religious

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 13, February 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Carmelites in India celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Avila
as well as the addition of six new members during this Year of Consecrated Life.

The Discalced Carmelites in India are celebrating with "joyful gratitude to the Lord" the six new religious who will make their final vows soon. This year, the Year of Consecrated Life, is also the 500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Avila, reformer of the Carmelite order.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the Prioress of the Baroda Monastery explained that the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life last November "was the first time that we contemplative celebrated a liturgy with the active congregations." For the occasion, the cloistered nuns invited the Missionaries of Charity and the Auxilium Sisters.

Discover more about the Carmelites here.

Pope Francis to address U.S. Congress

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Thursday 12, February 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Pope Francis is welcomed by fans during his weekly general audience.

On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis will become the first pope to address both chambers of Congress. House speaker John Boehner invited Pope Francis to address Congress during his visit to Washington D.C., New York, and Philadelphia later this year.

“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds. His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another. We look forward to warmly welcoming His Holiness to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people,” Boehner said.

While Pope Francis could touch on a wide range of topics during his address, many hope that he will continue to champion things such as immigration and climate change and encourage Congress to take action on these important issues.

After Pope Francis’ instrumental involvement in improving relations between the United States and Congress, Pope Francis is also expected to visit the White House while in Washington D.C. President Obama expressed his welcome, saying, “Like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable. He challenges us to press on in what he calls our ‘march of living hope’.”

Read more here.

Young novice received direction from VISION Vocation Match

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 12, February 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Using VISION Vocation Match, Rebecca Lasota researched
many communities before deciding to enter religious life.

At the age of 18, Rebecca Lasota is the youngest woman formally discerning religious life with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate (PVIM). She is joining the contemplative order whose sisters are also missionaries, according to The Catholic Sun.

Lasota's journey to sisterhood began at a young age. She read about Saint Dominic’s early start with missionary work and prayer, which appealed to her. At 15, her serious research of religious communities began when someone suggested that she try VISION Vocation Match at, a tool designed to narrow the search in a fun and easy way.

From her match results to a series of conversations, lunches, and visits to the motherhouse in New York, Rebecca became a postulant three years later with the community whose "unique apostolate is fallen-away Catholics."

First priest, Franciscan, featured on Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday"

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 06, February 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality
"We really connected, I think it's safe to say. If you care to watch, there's good chemistry
between us," said Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., about his interview with Oprah Winfrey.

NCR reports that Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr, O.F.M., of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico will be on Oprah Winfrey's "Super Soul Sunday" on Sunday Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. ET on the OWN network or online here.

The focus of the interview will be one of Rohr's books, which he said Oprah "had highlighted page after page, arrow after arrow. She wasn't threatened by Catholic theology." But the book was so marked up, he said, that "she didn't get to ask one-tenth of what she wanted to say."

He added, "she says she's going to have me back."

Rohr's Franciscan ministry has strived for "45 years to preach the Gospel in a way that makes sense to a spiritual seeker, a person who's more secularly oriented, and to someone who's more theologically oriented," he said.

On the topic of Pope Francis, which Rohr said he is often asked about, he said, "But the brilliance of Pope Francis—and I pinch myself every day that I've lived to see a pope like this—you see that he does bring Jesuit discernment, a kind of clarity of thought. If people want to write him off as bleeding-heart liberal or lightweight intellectual, you see he's really rather strategic. People in management see this. He's strategizing. ... He's strategizing the reform of the church. The discernment of spirits, as the charism is called, is the best of the Jesuit tradition. He's put together the two biggest orders of the church in just one man."

Discover more about the Franciscans and the Jesuits today.

Exiled Dominican priest preserves ancient manuscripts

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 05, February 2015 Categories: Church History,Scripture
One of the many Christian Syriac manuscripts being preserved by Father Najeeb Michaeel, O.P.

The lifework of Iraqi Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel is preserving Christian manuscripts in Northern Iraq. After studying in the United States, he founded the Center for Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts in 1990 to make manuscripts more accessible for study, according to Catholic News Agency.

There has been a Christian presence in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years in the cities of Mosul and Bakhdida. Mosul's Dominican (Order of Preachers) friary was established in the 1750s, and it had a library of thousands of ancient manuscripts and more than 50,000 modern volumes. When these cities fell under the control of the Islamic State, Michaeel and other Christians fled.

But first he collected about 1,300 manuscripts from the 14th to the 19th centuries, put them in two large trucks, and transferred them to a secret location in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where they are safe. They include not only Christian works, but manuscripts on the Quran, music, and grammar.

"We passed three checkpoints without any problem, and I think the Virgin Mary [had] a hand to protect us," he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

YouTube’s ‘singing priest’ releasing album in the United States

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 03, February 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Father Ray Kelly, famous on YouTube, will release his album in March.

Father Ray Kelly became an Internet sensation after his version of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" went viral on YouTube. Now, he has released albums in both Ireland and Germany, and his U.S. album is set to be released on March 10.

Kelly understands how lucky he is, saying, "Ninety percent of people don’t get a break and now, at this stage of my life, it is happening for me. Dreams do come true."

The priest’s album is entitled “Where I Belong" and will feature his famous version of “Hallelujah” along with some other modern songs, three Irish folk songs, two traditional hymns, and two original tracks.

Kelly reassured fans that this newfound success will not draw him away from his most important job. "I'm fairly grounded at this stage in life. I'm happy with the job that I have, the music is going to be a fantastic sideline, and I'm going to enjoy it as much as possible. As long as I enjoy it I would keep doing it."

Read more here.
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Father Joshua Johnson, Baton Rouge’s youngest priest

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 01, February 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy,Vocation and Discernment
Father Josh Johnson speaks about his vocational journey.

Father Joshua Johnson, 27, is a priest at Christ the King Catholic Church at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He is the youngest priest in the diocese, and uses his gifts of rapping and storytelling to connect with young Catholics.

Johnson explains that he was not initially open to his calling, revealing, “I was raised Catholic, but I just never liked the Catholic Church growing up. I thought it was boring, and I didn’t understand it.”

He first encountered Christ through Eucharistic adoration during a retreat, but even after he understood his calling, he was not ready to accept it. Still, he went on to earn his master's degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

Johnson used to rap to entertain other seminarians; now he raps to witness for Christ. He said, “Whenever I got to seminary, I continued to do it for fun and people started hearing me, and the next thing you know I’m doing it at festivals and youth conferences.”

While some do not condone his religious rapping, Johnson believes it is a way to connect with young people and help them find Christ, explaining, “Rap in and of itself is not evil; it’s not a sin. It’s part of the culture. We can use that. We’re not called to reject the culture; we’re called to go into the culture and promote what’s good. And there’s a lot of good that can come from this kind of music.”

Read more here.

Study: Newly professed are highly educated

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 30, January 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
 A CARA study finds about 68 percent of religious entered their institute with at least a bachelor’s degree.

The latest study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) was released just before the World Day for Consecrated Life (Feb. 2) and the national Day of Open House with Religious (Feb. 8).

Study highlights on religious men and women who professed perpetual vows to the nearly 800 communities in 2014 include:

* They were more likely to have attended Catholic high schools and colleges than the average American Catholic.

* Two in three (68 percent) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree (61 percent for women and 80 percent for men). 18 percent of religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute.

* Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among those who did report educational debt, however, they averaged one year of delay while they paid down an average of $15,750 in educational debt.

* The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2014 was 37. Half of the responding religious were age 34 or younger. The youngest was 24 and the oldest was 64.

* Nearly all of the religious of the Profession Class of 2014 (89 percent) participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute. Most common was a “Come and See” experience (59 percent) or a vocation retreat (50 percent).

* Nearly half said that a parish priest or a religious sister or brother encouraged their vocation (49 and 47 percent). Men were more likely than women to have been encouraged by a parish priest, religious sister, or brother.

“Given the fact that 89 percent of those responding to the recent CARA survey of new religious had participated in some form of a ‘Come and See’ experience prior to entering their religious institute, we know it is important for our youth and young adults to have greater exposure and familiarity with the community life of religious,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, N.C., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to visit local religious communities in their own area during the Day of Religious Open Houses, Sunday, Feb. 8.”

Read the full CARA study here.

For a full list of upcoming Open House and "Come and See" events, click here.

Pope Francis mentioned in State of Union

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 25, January 2015 Categories: Catholic culture
President Obama mentioned Pope Francis in his recent State of the Union address.

Pope Francis was mentioned by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address, marking the third time in U.S. history a pope has been referred to during this speech.

Obama praised Pope Francis’ diplomatic abilities. “As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of 'small steps.' These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba,” Obama said.

Pope Francis has been credited with helping the United States and Cuba re-open diplomatic relations with each other. He sent personal letters to leaders of both countries, and the Vatican was host to many talks between the United States and Cuba.

While many popes have influenced diplomatic relations throughout history, only two other presidents have mentioned a pope in their State of the Union addresses. The first was President Lyndon B. Johnson, who mentioned Pope Paul VI. The second, President Bill Clinton, who spoke about Pope John Paul II.

Read more here.

Pope to canonize Californian Franciscan missionary

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 22, January 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Mary and the Saints
 Blessed Junipero Serra, O.F.M., founded nine of the 21 Spanish missions in California.

Pope Francis announced at a press conference that Blessed Junipero Serra, O.F.M., founder of California's first missions, would be canonized.

"Blessed Serra's canonization will be the latest in a systematic action from Pope Francis to give a boost to evangelization efforts throughout the world," Catholic News Agency reports.

This announcement was given the day after Pope Francis celebrated Sri Lanka's first saint, Joseph Vaz, a missionary who evangelized through difficult terrain.

Saint Joseph Vaz and Serra are "people who did a lot of evangelization and who are in keeping with the spirituality and theology of Evangelii Gaudium. That's the reason I chose them," Pope Francis said.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles reflected on Francis' announcement in the Angelus: "Blessed Junípero is one of my spiritual heroes and a giant figure in the evangelization of the New World. He is one of California’s founders and he is associated with the origins of Los Angeles and its original name, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula, “The Town of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula.

"I believe Padre Serra’s canonization will help the Church’s new evangelization. It will remind us that our state and our country and all the Americas are built on Christian foundations.

So we thank God today for this special moment of grace. We rejoice with the universal Church, with the Franciscan religious order that Father Serra belonged to, and with the Catholic faithful in the two parishes and high schools that we have named for our new saint, Blessed Junípero Serra."

Learn more on the Franciscan order and the many provinces here.

Catholic Charities names sister--first time ever--as president

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 18, January 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Catholic culture

Sister Donna Markham, O.P., an Adrian Dominican with a background in clinical psychology, has been named the next president of Catholic Charities, USA. This makes the first time in its 105-year history that a sister has been named the head of the organization.

Catholic Charities serves more than 9 million people annually, making it extremely important to the social justice and service work of the Catholic Church in the United States.

“I feel blessed to walk among the many dedicated Catholic Charities workers across the country who daily make the gospel come alive through their care for their sisters and brothers in need," Markham said in a statement released by Catholic Charities. 

"There can be no greater call than to serve and advocate on behalf of persons who struggle to get by in a world where they are all too frequently relegated to the margins of society and where they long for dignity, hope, and compassion.”

Read more about the Adrian Dominicans.

Religious communities release videos for Year of Consecrated Life

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 15, January 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Congregation De Notre Dame in Canada released its first video in a series celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life. It was released on foundress Marguerite Bourgeoys' feast day (Jan. 12), and others will follow this year sharing more of her life and charism.

"The invitations that I have received because of my religious life, because of the consecrated life... it's just been an adventure, with the community, and with ministry, and with prayer, I get the graces I need at the time to respond to the challenges," says VISION author Sister Susan Kidd, CND.

The "Wake up the World" series from NETTVCATHOLIC features the Marist Brothers community in Brooklyn, N.Y., also in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life. The brothers talk about their personal vocations as well as their community's charism in the video below.

Farm work part of religious life for nuns

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Wednesday 14, January 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy
Benedictine nuns at the Abbey of St. Walburga raise cattle, water buffalo, llamas, chickens, and bees.
A few miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming boarder, Benedictine nuns at the Abbey of St. Walburga raise cattle, water buffalo, llamas, chickens, and bees. Sister Maria Walburga Schortemeyer runs the abbey’s ranch, while other nuns volunteer their time to feed and milk the various animals.

The nuns sell the natural beef—mostly to those looking for organic, cruelty-free food. “We have kind of a corner on the market," Schortemeyer says. "People just kind of believe in it."

They have sold their all-natural beef for about seven years, and sell out of their product regularly. "We always have a waiting list for the beef," Schortemeyer says.

While this may seem like an unusual way of life for nuns, the bond between agriculture and religious orders dates back centuries, when monasteries were self-sustaining. While they have received their fair share of criticism, the nuns feel that the farm connects them to the outside world.

Schortemeyer, especially, feels the farm work is invaluable to the religious work of her fellow sisters. “[The ranch shows] we're not above and beyond," she says. "It's good to be at the mercy of the environment, and so that other people know we don't live some ethereal life.”

Read more here.
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Oscar Romero named martyr

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 13, January 2015 Categories: Catholic culture,Church History
People march with signs in San Salvador on the anniversary of Oscar Romero's assassination.

Oscar Romero, a former archbishop who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1980 while saying mass, is one step closer to sainthood. He has been named a martyr by a panel of theologins at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The ruling was unanimous.

Romero was shot after delivering a homily calling for soldiers to lay down their guns and end government repression during the country’s bloody civil war.

After being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II in 1997, Romero’s case lingered because of concerns about his ties to controversial liberation theology. Pope Francis reopened the case, and it is reported that he is supportive of Romero’s sainthood.

While sainthood usually requires two miracles, one for beatification and one for canonization, only one is required for martyrs, as they can be beatified without a miracle.

Read more here.

Pope to visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 12, January 2015 Categories: Ecumenism,Mission & Evangelization
 Excitement builds for the pope's second trip to Asia.

For his second trip to Asia and his seventh apostolic journey, Pope Francis will visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines this week, according to news reports.

While in Sri Lanka, the pope will canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century South Asian priest who established missions in Sri Lanka. In the Philippines, the pope's emphasis will be comforting the victims of natural disasters that have struck this area hard recently.

According to Reuters, Pope Francis' trip to Asia will focus on the pope's "concern for inter-religious dialogue, poverty, and the environment." In fact, "the Vatican says Francis, who is preparing an encyclical on the environment, will speak about the issue several times."

The Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka has posted the pope's full itinerary online and will live telecast the pope's visit there. is the official web site of Pope Francis' 2015 visit to the Philippines, which includes the full interary, resources, and press releases.

New religious orders work toward 'pontifical status'

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 08, January 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in Chestnut Hill, Mass., started in December 2011.

With the Year of Consecrated Life underway, there is more cause for celebration as new religious orders are working toward "pontifical status" as official religious communities. According to the National Catholic Register: "None of these orders are pontifically approved, but they have diocesan approval, which is one of the first steps for a new community.

"Virtually no community jumps to pontifical status immediately; they move through various stages in their original diocese and then get received into other dioceses, building toward the day when they can apply for universal recognition by the Holy See."

The three communities striving for pontifical status include:

Sisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace, with their apostolate being parish work and ecumenism.

The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth order is entrusted to the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph.

Brigittine Servitores charism is with Marian spirituality as well as the Latin liturgy.

Read more about the formation of these religious communities here.

Paralyzed priest walks, thanks to power of prayer

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Tuesday 06, January 2015 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality
Father John Murray attributes his healing to prayer after being paralyzed from the neck down.

Father John Murray, a priest in Brooklyn, N.Y., fell four years ago. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down, with doctors saying he would never walk again.

“'You should expect no voluntary movement.' That’s a quote. 'No voluntary movement for the rest of your life,'” he says.

Murray has since proven those doctors wrong after rising from his wheelchair on a Jersey Shore boardwalk a year and a half after his accident. “I think it's a result of prayer," he says. "Other people’s prayers and my prayers, without a doubt.”

NBC reports that prayer can lead to more everyday health benefits as well, quoting a physician who said that “most studies show religious people have better mental health, are less likely to experience depression, and cope better when they do." Research shows that people who pray daily are 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure.

So, perhaps saying a prayer a day can keep the doctor away!

Read more here.

Pope Francis calls for unity against human trafficking

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 04, January 2015 Categories: Pope Francis,Catholic culture
Pope Francis delivers his noon address on New Year's Day.

At the start of the new year, Pope Francis encouraged people of all religious backgrounds and ethnicities to unite against injustices including slavery and human trafficking. This, the first mass of 2015, marked the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, with the theme “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.”

Pope Francis emphasized the importance of working together: "All of us are called (by God) to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture, and religion, let us join our forces."

This papal goal for 2015 comes as no surprise to many. Pope Francis has recently asked both consumers and heads of state to be aware of how goods are produced and the negative effect of forced labor, and he has also championed the rights of workers.

After mass, he delivered the traditional New Year’s Day noon address, encouraging those seeking peace to continue their work. "Peace is always possible," he said, "but we have to seek it.”

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