To show support for indigenous rights and environmental concerns, two Presentation Sisters spent their Thanksgiving weekend bringing firewood and sleeping bags to the protesters at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Sister Liz Remily, P.B.V.M., from Aberdeen, South Dakota and Sister Joanna Bruno, P.B.V.M., from San Francisco worked with other members of their community to gather supplies and then made a 450-mile drive to the reservation to deliver goods.
“It was encouraging and inspiring to see so many young and courageous people standing up for the earth and indigenous rights,” Bruno and Remily report. They were also impressed by the size and the spirit of the protest: “Along with the Lakota and Yankton Sioux were thousands ... representing over 200 tribes from North and Central America along with environmentalists.”
Explaining their rationale, the sisters say: “We can go to the moon and return safely to earth. How can we not figure out a way to move oil from point A to point B without sacrificing sacred lands and contaminating drinking water? If we are willing to rape indigenous sacred lands then we would be willing someday to run a pipeline through the main aisle of Notre Dame Cathedral.”
Seeing the Spirit at work in the world
To show support for indigenous rights and environmental concerns, two Presentation Sisters spent their Thanksgiving weekend bringing firewood and sleeping bags to the protesters at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
Photographer Toni Greaves spent seven years documenting the transformation of "Lauren" into "Sister Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart," and her sensitive, beautifully rendered images reveal much about the usually hidden world of cloistered religious life.
Three weeks after Lauren joined the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey, Greaves began taking photos. They show her entry into a world very distinct from her full life as a college student who played sports, had a boyfriend, and once dreamed of marriage and children.
"This story is a window into her early love of God," writes Greaves in the resulting photobook Radical Love. "The story also reveals her daily life over the years and her interactions living within a small community of nuns who are themselves in various stages of their own spiritual paths."
A Nun’s Life Ministry—an online initiative to help people discover and grow in their vocations—is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a cross-country trip Oct. 15-22.
The trip begins at A Nun’s Life headquarters in Toledo, Ohio and will end in Silicon Valley, a nod to the ministry’s use of technology, including anunslife.org and social media outlets ranging from Facebook to Snapchat.
During the trip, the staff of A Nun’s Life will interact with its global online community and will sponsor two live-streamed public podcasts:
● “Praying with the Sisters” will be broadcast from New Mexico on Monday, Oct. 17, at 5 pm ET. Viewers can join the sisters online for prayer and for conversation in the chat room.
● An “Ask Sister - Motherhouse Road Trip” podcast will be broadcast from California on Friday, Oct. 21, at 5 pm ET. The podcast will feature guests Sisters Cynthia Canning and Sally Gunn of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
The trip’s major stops will be in Chicago, Albuquerque, and three California cities: Cupertino, Campbell, and San Rafael.
Sister Maxine Kollasch, I.H.M., who co-founded A Nun’s Life with Sister Julie Vieira, I.H.M. in 2006, explained why they are undertaking the trip: “We want to celebrate the 10th anniversary by sharing the joy, adventure, and innovative spirit that’s at the heart of A Nun’s Life.”
The October journey continues a tradition of outreach through travel for A Nun’s Life Ministry, which sponsored a series of “Motherhouse Roadtrips” starting in 2013 that involved broadcasts from convents around the country.
VISION Vocation Guide featured the ministry’s founders in 2015: "Online door never closes on discerners".
Maryknoll Lay Missioners—a Catholic organization that supports laity living and working in poor communities in Africa, Asia, and North America—has named a new executive director, Matthew Boyle.
Boyle, who has been with the organization since 2014, says, “I am humbled by being selected to help lead this amazing organization into our next phase of growth and service in Christ’s image.”
Maryknoll Lay Missioners is an independent organization but works closely with Maryknoll fathers, brothers, sisters and affiliates in responding to basic needs of the poor and helping to create a more just and compassionate world.
“Pope Francis calls us all to come back to our missioner roots," Boyle says. "There are so many people in this beautiful world that God created for us, who need our assistance and love.”
Motivated by a profound tradition of Catholic Social Teachings and grounded in the history and spirit of the Maryknoll mission family, Maryknoll Lay Missioners recruits new missioners; helps potential missioners through a discernment process; trains new missioners with an intensive 10-week orientation; provides ongoing mission education, including language and cultural experiential learning; and helps match missioners’ talents with the needs of the population they will serve.
Learn more at www.mklm.org.
Read more here.
Pope Francis announced the canonization of Blessed Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad, a Swedish-born Lutheran convert who established the Bridgettine order, and Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, who founded the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Making the announcement in St. Peter's Square, the pope explained that members of the faithful should use these newly canonized saints as examples for living a life rooted in Christ, even during times of struggle.
Saint Mary Elizabeth (1870-1957) worked as a nurse in New York, which led her to reflect on her spiritual life. Guided by a Jesuit, she studied Catholic doctrine and was baptized. In 1904 she moved to Rome and with special permission from Pope Saint Pius X, she took the religious habit of Saint Bridget in the residence where the saint had lived, which was then occupied by Carmelites. Led by the Holy Spirit, she refounded the order of Saint Bridget in 1911. She has been honored by Israel for her efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust during World War II.
Saint Stanislaus (1631-1701) was born in Poland to poor and devout Catholic parents. In 1670, he founded the Institute of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. The three goals of this institute were: 1) to promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, 2) to offer prayers and sacrifices for the dead, especially those who were not prepared to die, and 3) to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Stanislaus dedicated himself with apostolic zeal to these charitable purposes until the end of his life.
Holy Face cloistered nun Sister Benedicta was recently awarded a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from India’s Defence Institute of Advanced Technology.
She previously earned an undergraduate degree at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Pune University. It was during her doctoral studies that she heard her calling to religious life, according to Crux.
Sister Benedicta joined the cloistered Carmelite convent in Pune in 2015. Sister Benedicta's graduation was the very first time she had stepped outside the convent since entering.
The Carmelite provincial, based in Bangalore, emailed Sister Benedicta and the entire Carmelite community, saying: “You have made the order proud,” and “God bless you!”
Read more here.
The Letters, a film about the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), portrays an intimate struggle with hope and despair by one of the most famous religious humanitarians of the 20th century. The story follows Mother Teresa's life as told through her revealing letters to her spiritual director Father Celeste van Exem. The reviews of the film were mixed, but the movie interestingly delves into many aspects of religious life and different types of religious communities.
The film begins with Mother Teresa's first congregation, Loreto Sisters of Dublin, who served in Darjeeling, India, as cloistered teachers of girls. After 15 years of service teaching geography and history, Mother Teresa experienced "a call within a call." She desired to work with the poor, sick, and dying on the streets of Calcutta.
The movie highlights the challenges she faced to establish a new religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, that was fully recognized by the Vatican. Despite her desire to give dignity to those most vulnerable, Mother Teresa experienced deep spiritual darkness at times, which is well-depicted.
The Letters is available on DVD and Netflix. Mother Teresa's canonization ceremony will be Sept. 4, 2016.
A dictionary for discerners is a great reference resource to help understand parts of the film.
In May, 61 cloistered nuns from six monasteries in Santiago, Chile, spent time with inmates at a local women's prison and attended Mass with them, as part of this Year of Mercy. Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who celebrated the Mass, shared with Catholic News Agency that the nuns requested the joint visit, “so the sisters who contemplate the face of God every day in prayer could contemplate him in the face of people who are suffering, going through a hard time in their lives.”
The nuns, who lead a traditional enclosed monastic life, sang a Chilean song and four even danced after they all celebrated Mass. "[It was] a grace to share with them, to really feel like a sister with them, to feel their sorrow, their joy and to become one with them,” said Sister Maria Rosa of the Discalced Carmelites from the San José monastery.
Read more here.
The Year of Mercy runs through November 2016.
As reported by Crux, Father Samuel Giese is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who serves as a senior Army chaplain for the D.C. National Guard, with the rank of colonel. During the Memorial Day weekend, he honors veterans who’ve given their lives for their country during Mass.
Father Giese has a special relationship with those who serve in the armed forces. He served in Iraq with the 155th Brigade Combat Team of the Mississippi National Guard, during a time when those soldiers not only faced the anxiety of war in that country but also worries about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in their communities back home.
“I think as Catholics, particularly as priests, we often talk about sacrifice. In situations like war, you have the opportunity to see people sacrifice for others, so it puts a lot of things in perspective, including Jesus’s sacrifice,” Giese said.
A delegation from the School Sisters of Notre Dame attended the 66th annual United Nations Conference for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from May 30 to June 1 in Korea. The theme of the conference was “Education for Global Citizenship: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Together".
Sister Eileen Reilly, director of the SSND UN-NGO office, said, “We are hoping that our participation in this conference with more than 1,800 delegates from around the world will give us a deeper understanding of what it means to educate for global citizenship in our divided world.”
Along with Sister Reilly, Sister Gloria Hirai, of Japan, and Sister Lourdes Pangelinan, of Guam, also attended the conference and worked with diplomats, United Nations officials, policy experts, scientists, educators, businesses, trade unions, parliamentarians, and local authorities.
Throughout the conference, the sisters and their colleagues sought to promote change that empowers women, the young, and the poor and marginalized and addresses systems of poverty and injustice.
Read more here.
Father Sabino Maffeo, S.J., assistant to the director of the Vatican Observatory, recently discovered the names of four Sisters of the Holy Child who helped map a section of the night sky that was assigned, as part of an international project, to the Vatican Observatory in 1887. Italian Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi, and Luigia Panceri helped catalog nearly half a million stars. Using photographic plates, the Vatican Observatory, along with 19 other countries, mapped the entire sky.
In 1920 Pope Benedict XV received the sisters in a private audience and gave them a gold chalice. Pope Pius XI also received the "measuring nuns" eight years later, awarding them a silver medal.
Inspired by the movie, "The Way," starring Martin Sheen, about a man who completes the 450-mile Camino de Santiago, the "Way of St. James," pilgrimage, Dominican Fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Shaefgen decided to do their own "Friars on Foot" pilgrimage in the United States to promote vocations while commemorating the 800th anniversary of their congregation.
According to Catholic News Service, the 478-mile pilgrimage will begin May 29 in New Orleans and end on June 29 in Memphis. Orozco and Shaefgen will average 16 miles per day and encourage people to join them on the walk for an hour or two that roughly follows Highway 51 north to Memphis.
"We will not carry any money and we will sort of beg. We hope people will provide us with apples and granola bars. We don't plan to use any money. We will carry ID cards and medical insurance cards in case that's needed. We've compromised with our superior that we will have somebody update the website every time we reach a destination," Father Orozco said.
The Dominicans plan to stay overnight with Catholic families and churches, celebrate Mass, and give vocation talks about the Order of Preachers, whose earliest members were itinerant.
Learn more about the Order of Preachers here.
Over the centuries, there have been many monasteries that have made and sold wine and beer. In recent years, with craft breweries becoming all the rage in the United States, some beer-brewing monks are tapping into the trend, according to the Los Angeles Times, namely the American monks who produce a beer line called Birra Nursia at the Monastero di San Benedetto in central Italy.
“I knew the difference between craft beer and run-of-the-mill factory beer,” says Father Benedict Nivakoff, originally from Connecticut, who is proud of Birra Nursia’s two beers, a blond ale and a Belgian strong ale that hit the U.S. market in April. “Our life is mostly centered around prayer,” he says, “so we get up at 3:30 in the morning, we pray seven times a day, we’re in and out of the church every hour—there isn’t a lot else we can do, besides the brewery.”
Another popular beer brewed by monks is Ovila Abbey Saison—this one in the United States. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. brews the Ovila Abbey Ales series in collaboration with the Trappist monks of Abbey of New Clairvaux. These Cistercian brothers harvest fruit for the beer from their orchards in Vina, California, where they also tend vineyards for wine-making.
Read more: "Raise a glass to the brewing monks!".
The Los Angeles Times reports that Father George "Jerry" Hogan is celebrating the sacraments with circus performers, allowing them to work around busy performance schedules and make time for their faith. Recently, 11 members from the Circus Vargas troupe—mainly the children of performers—took their next steps into the Catholic faith with Confirmation.
Father Hogan understands that for many of the performers there is not much free time outside of practice and performing. He said, "They do three shows on Saturday and three shows on Sunday, so it's impossible for them to go to church." He has been ministering to circus performers for more than 22 years, and he even has circus vestments.
He is not alone in his suprising ministry. Sisters Dorothy Frabritze and Mary Seibert help to prepare performers and their children for the sacraments while on the road, and transform the center ring into a space suitable for Mass by adding an area for Baptism and an altar.
The performers are grateful to have Father Hogan to minister to them. Josue Marinelli, who received his First Communion and was confirmed by Hogan a few years ago, said, "My older daughter was also baptized by Father Jerry. It's kind of like a family tradition, which is hard, working in the circus because we're always traveling around. Luckily, we have Father Jerry to help us out."
Portrait photos of Hawthorne Dominican Sisters were recently featured in the New York Times, profiling those who serve the dying at Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York. Founder Mother Mary Alphonsa, born Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, daughter of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, said, "We cannot cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days and keep them comfortable and free of pain."
The photographer Gillian Laub learned of the sisters when her mother-in-law was suffering from terminal cancer and spent her final days with the sisters. Laub wanted to capture the tenderness and care in the eyes and faces of these Hawthorne Dominican Sisters in the 15 portraits of each woman.
View the slideshow of the portraits and original article here.
Discover more about Dominican Sisters (O.P.) here.
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have had a long, tumultuous history in Iraq, and now as many Iraqi Christians are fleeing the region, their role there has become even more important. Along with continuing their service work in the community, they are seen as a symbol of hope and resistance in an area full of violence. The mission of the sisters is to serve all Iraqis equally, no matter their religion.
According to the Order of Preachers, the first Dominican priest visited Iraq in 1235, and in 1873, six French Dominican sisters set up a convent there. They've remained ever since--during World War I, when Christians were persecuted under Turks and their Kurdish allies, and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when killing and looting became commonplace. Through it all, the sisters have not stopped serving the people
They have set up schools, hospitals, urgent care centers, and maternity wards, and even trained nurses to work in the government health sector. While some of these buildings have been forced to close, others remain open despite constant bombing and ransacking.
Sister Maryanne Pierre, the manager of St. Raphael Hospital in Baghdad, said in an interview with CBS News, "This is my job to stay here to help people. ... It's our duty to stay here for all the people."
Founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor, the Sisters of Life are an emotional and spiritual outreach to pregnant women in crisis in New York City. As a contemplative and active religious community, the sisters' charism is to “protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.” Pregnant women are welcome at the congregation's Visitation Mission and its Holy Respite residence at Sacred Heart Convent, and some are permitted to stay in the residence until their babies are one year old.
“One of the reasons for the joy in the community is we believe each person has some beautiful, unique goodness and we have the joy of discovering that in them and reflecting it back so she has the experience of her own dignity, goodness and strength,” Sister Mary Elizabeth said. “That person becomes a gift to us in our recognizing her for who she is. She reveals to us the splendor and beauty of God.”
The sisters do not advertise and rely on word-of-mouth from friends and former clients to share the mission of their community.
Read more from Catholic News Service here.
This week on ABC's "The View," actress Whoopi Goldberg surprised the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Harlem, New York, by showing up on air dressed in a habit like her character from her 1992 film Sister Act. She gave the order a $10,000 donation to stock their food pantry as well as a new car to help with transportation of food.
The sisters are one of only three orders of black nuns in the United States and recently celebrated their 100th anniversary.
Sister Gertrude Ihenacho is often told she resembles Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act and often gets asked for her autograph. She cried tears of joy when the Hollywood star came out on stage in a habit.
In the above video, CBS Evening News profiled Sister Martha Mary Carpenter, O.S.F., the principal of Saint Peter Mission School in the Gila River Indian Community, home to the Pima tribe, in Arizona.
Many there suffer from adult-onset diabetes, even children, so Sister Carpenter began to make lifestyle changes a part of the students' school day. Now, they run before classes each morning to stay healthy and keep energy levels high. She has even challenged the Federal government and modified the school lunch guidelines for her students.
"We don't teach subjects, we teach children," she said. "And we're giving them the skills, lifelong healthy habits. How to eat and how to inexpensively take care of yourself, good running shoes and take-off."
This week, the Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit up in red in memory of the blood shed by Christian martyrs throughout the world. The Catholic News Service reports that the event was sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity that seeks to "draw attention to the dramatic issue of anti-Christian persecution" around the globe.
The event included guest speakers, who shared stories of men and women who have died for their faith. Images of these martyrs were projected onto the fountain, including those of four Missionaries of Charity who were murdered in Yemen in March.
Through this visual representation of the plight of modern Christian martyrs, the church hopes to increase awareness of a growing worldwide problem.
The Benedictine Monks of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, led by Fr. Columba Steward, O.S.B. and the staff at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Libray, are helping to preserve precious Islamic literary works that were threatened with destruction by militants in Mali, reports The Economist.
The secret evacuations began at night. Ancient books were packed in small metal shoe-lockers and loaded three or four to a car to reduce the danger to the driver and minimise possible losses. The manuscript-traffickers passed through the checkpoints of their Islamist occupiers on the journey south across the desert from Timbuktu to Bamako. Later, when that road was blocked, they transported their cargo down the Niger river by canoe.
The man behind the project was Abdel Kader Haidara. In 2013 he put out a request for help to digitize the more than 370,000 manuscripts, including Korans, Hadiths, and studies on grammar and rhetoric, that were brought to safe houses. He received an answer from a monastery on the other side of the world.
Father Columba sees digitizing these sacred texts as part of the Benedictine tradition of literary preservation dating from the sixth century when St. Benedict of Nursia set down his Rule. “We had scriptoria for very practical reasons,” referring to the “writing places” of medieval European monasteries. “You can’t do theology without philosophy,” he says, standing in his own 21st-century equivalent. “You can’t try to be a self-sustaining monastery if you can’t take science seriously.” So, as a policy, any relevant text was copied. Over one and a half millennia, knowledge has been a matter of survival for the Benedictines, allowing one collective to pick up where another left off, in low times and in high. Today, thanks to machines, the library is copying more efficiently.
“Benedictines are fundamentally optimistic about the human project, says Fr. Columba. "That’s why we’re not frightened by science or novelty. When people look at what we’re doing with Muslim communities, they say, why do you do this? I say, this is the time God has given us. We can’t pretend we live in the sixth century when Benedict wrote his rule, or the 13th, or the 1950s. We live now. And part of the reality is cultures which are threatened trying to figure out how to work together on this fragile planet.”
And so, "guided by a Christian teacher from the sixth century, monks of the 21st century archive texts about an Arabian prophet from the seventh."
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 17 has taken the lives of more than 400 people, including Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, age 33, and six others of the order.
According to Catholic News Agency, Sister Crockett, originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, once said she felt there was "no room for God" in the Catholic-Protestant tension and violence of her youth. At 18 she was an aspiring actress, but a free trip to Spain that turned out to be a 10-day pilgrimage, which she tried to get out of, changed her life. "It was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back home, back to her and her Son,” she said. “I was not a very happy camper. Nevertheless, it was on that pilgrimage that Our Lord gave me the grace to see how He had died for me on the Cross. After I had received that grace, I knew that I had to change." Sister Crockett entered the Servant Sisters in August 2001 and made her perpetual vows in 2011.
Spiritual director Father Roland Calhoun told BBC Radio Foyle (Belfast Telegraph) that Sister Crockett was "a young girl who gave her life to God and died for the gospel. She was a joyful girl, I've known her since she was a teenager. A beautiful person. I'll remember the joy that she brought to her youth group and the enthusiasm she showed for her vocation to religious life."
The Sisters of Bon Secours have launched an amazing, eye-catching, heartstring-pulling app, Imagine a Sister's Life, to explore what religious life is all about and what it would be like to be a sister. The free app includes daily reflections, blogs, news and views, faith sharing, virtual retreats, upcoming events, and stories about how sisters were called and their passion for their vocation.
The sisters developed the app to create a place "where a busy young seeker of truth can pause to reflect on the meaning of life, pray in silence, and read articles and thought-provoking commentary on world conditions and social justice efforts."
What's more, "Young adults can share their thoughts online and share opportunities to get involved in helping those unable to help themselves. The application gives them a gentle reminder of the presence of God in their life and provides many areas of support and knowledge as they continue to grow through their life experiences. For those interested in learning more about religious life there are a variety of professional videos that give them a sense of what an active life in community and ministry looks like as a sister."
Check out this app with these download links:
ImagineASistersLife APP on iPhone:
ImagineASistersLife APP on android phone:
The sisters said, "Based on current world conditions, the millennials will be called upon over the course of their lifetime to make many serious moral and ethical decisions both in their own lives and in protecting the health and well-being of others globally. It is hoped that this application proves to be a strong support for young adults, creating an online community that enriches their journey of faith."
"James A. Flavin wore old clothes, drove a beat-up old car, and lived alone in a small home he had inherited from his parents in a poor inner-city neighborhood," writes Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown. "When he died a year ago at age 71 with no obvious family in the picture, his fellow parishioners at St. Adrian’s Catholic Church in Marquette Park came together to give him a proper funeral and burial."
What nobody knew was that Flavin, an alumnus of St. Ignatius, a Jesuit high school in Chicago, was a wealthy man. A safe deposit box discovered after his death revealed stocks and investments valued above $3.4 million. And more surprising, a will prepared in 2008 indicated that Flavin wanted the bulk of his estate to go to the Sisters of Mercy, who had educated his mother.
The authenticity of the will needs to be verified, but as his only living relatives aren't disputing the terms set in the 2008 document, it looks as though the Sisters of Mercy are in for some money. How nice!
The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago organized a peace walk in April to grieve the loss of the life of 18-year-old Antonio Robert Johnson, who was recently gunned down in front of their home, St. Scholastica Monastery. The sisters and their neighbors walked in solidarity against violence and injustice in their north side neighborhood of Chicago.
The primary ministry of the Benedictine Sisters (O.S.B.) of Chicago is community: to minister in education, social services, pastoral ministry, spiritual development, and social justice, to name a few.
Sister Benita Coffey, O.S.B., who promotes social justice for the Benedictines, shared with the Chicago Tribune: "We've been on this property since 1906 and we are not getting up and leaving the neighborhood. We're going to support our neighbors in whatever ways we can."
As part of their 800-year tradition, Franciscan friars pray for the intentions of those who ask and now continue to with the help of technology. The U.S. Franciscans have developed "The Friar App", available in both the Apple App and Google Play stores, for the faithful to send prayer intentions to Franciscan friars across the United States and for followers of the app to lift up those prayers as one community of faith.
Followers of the app can join in the prayers of others in addition to posting their own prayer requests. It's free to download and post and follow prayers, but for a small fee, you may have a real candle lit in a Franciscan church for a particular intention.
Discover more about the many provinces of Franciscan Friars serving both domestic and foreign missions in a variety of ministries.
The Catholic New World recently profiled Deacon Pablo Perez of Chicago. Perez is the assistant director of the Kolbe House, a ministry that trains male and female volunteers to visit inmates in Chicago-area jails. They offer bilingual Bible studies, Mass, and Communion services to those in jail. Kolbe House also ministers to families of the incarcerated, families of victims, and those released from jail or prison.
Perez was once a member of a gang and overdosed on drugs. He credits God with helping him get his life back and uses his story to help minister to inmates, saying, “He [God] did it with me. He could do it with you."
Jail ministry was not what Perez originally saw himself doing, but he could not escape God's plan for him. He says, “...I saw the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the church in jail. Part of me stays in the jail now, because their suffering has become my suffering.”
According to the Amsterdam News, the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary are celebrating a century of service in Harlem, New York, with a gala at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan. One of only three orders of black nuns in the United States, they established one of the first preschool educational programs in New York in 1923 and feed more than 20,000 families annually at the St. Edward Food Pantry on Staten Island.
With six new sisters in formation and the opening of a new convent in Nigeria, the sisters believe, as shared by congregation minister Sister Gertrude Lilly Ihenacho, that “the mission of the order has not yet ended, and the spirit informed us to wake up and revive what is left before we die.”
Essence magazine editor-in-chief emerita and founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement Susan L. Taylor will present the Centennial Award to the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary at the gala, which Sister Ihenacho hopes will have a wonderful turnout as the proceeds benefit scholarships for children to attend St. Benedict Day Nursery with the next generation of FHM sisters.
FoxNews reports that Father Bernard Kinvi, of the Order of St. Camillus, has been nominated for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an annual international peace prize that honors those who put their lives at risk to serve others.
Father Kinvi was nominated because of his heroic rescue of more than 1,500 Muslims in the Central African Republic. He started a church and mission hospital three years ago in the northwestern town of Bossemptee, where fighting between Muslim and Christian extremists escalated in 2013. Despite being threatened for his actions, he has helped Muslims who were targeted find refuge in neighboring Cameroon.
He said, “I did not check their religion before helping them. I had in front of me human beings whose lives were in danger. It is my duty as a Camilian priest who has dedicated his life to the service of those who are ill and those who are suffering, even if it meant risking my own life.”
If he wins the prize, Father Kinvi plans to use the money to continue his work is Bossemptee. He was honored to be recognized, saying, “There are many priests and nuns who carry out the same type of work as I do. Just like me, they work quietly and do not seek recognition."
The winner of the Aurora Prize receives $100,000, and $1 million goes to the charity of their choice.
The Press of Atlantic City reports that Father Krzysztof Wtorek brings together God and music with his rock-gospel choir at Epiphany Church in Longport, New Jersey. With six women singers, he transforms traditional hymns into rockin’ beats with programmed bass and drum sounds. He also uses a keyboard and a Fender Stratocaster to move parishioners and touch their hearts with music.
Father Wtorek was a musician as a teen, but when he came to the United States in 1988 and entered the seminary, he thought his life as a musician was over. Instead, he has found himself creating updated arrangements of hymns, using a variety of instruments and computer software.
He will lead an international rock-gospel group of singers and musicians from the United States, Germany, and Poland this summer. The group will perform for Pope Francis at World Youth Day, which will be held July 25-31, 2016.
"This is really evangelization," he said of his music. "You can be happy. You can be peaceful. You can be meditative. I believe in that. I put my life into that."
Vatican Radio reports that Father Edwin Gariguez of the Philippines received an award for environmental heroism from the Jesuit-run Xavier University in Cincinnati. He has battled against a nickel mine in order to protect Mindoro Island’s biodiversity and the indigenous people in the area.
Father Roberto Yap, university president, said that Father Gariguez's ministry is an inspiring response to Pope Francis challenge "to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."
Father Gariguez was also awarded a doctorate in humanities for his efforts. He received the award during the university’s graduation ceremony, where he also delivered the keynote address.
This is not the first time he has been recognized for his environmental efforts. He won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists, and he is the executive secretary of CBCP-NASSA, the social development, humanitarian, and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
According to The New York Times, Father Robert Palladino, former Trappist monk and world-renowned master calligrapher, died on Feb. 26 at age 83 in Sandy, Oregon. Palladino is credited with influencing the onscreen fonts and overall physical design of the Apple computers that Steve Jobs would create after auditing Palladino's calligraphy class at Reed College in 1972, four years before founding the company.
Palladino's vocation to religious life began in 1950 at age 17 when he joined the Trappist order in Pecos, New Mexico, where he first received his calligraphic training, in silence, and later became the principal scribe in 1955. When the monastery moved to the Willamette Valley in Oregon in 1958, Palladino was ordained a priest. However, the reforms of Vatican II led him to leave the monastery in 1968 and settle in Portland where he joined Reed College a year later and was able to continue his advance study in calligraphy. Ironically Palladino never used an Apple computer.
According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, four members of the Pennsylvania-based Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill presented their discernment stories to a crowd of parishoners, students, and community members at St. Sylvester Church in Brentwood, Pennsylvania, last week. They told stories about how they responded to God’s call and how they serve. Radio journalist Jennifer Szweda Jordan produced the program, called "Standup Sisters."
Some sisters were shy about sharing their stories at first, but later realized the effect they might have on their community. “We rarely toot our own horns,” said Sister Barbara Einloth. "That might be a good thing and humble, but it doesn’t help people know who we are and what we do. This is an opportunity for people to get to know who we are.”
The women all share unique stories about working in nurseries and hospice care centers. Although they acknowledged the hardship that comes along with their calling, they understand the importance and beauty of it all. As Sister Barbara Ann Boss, president of Pittsburg's Elizabeth Seton Center, said, these experiences "teach you how to appreciate the joy and how to be with someone who’s suffering.”
During the third annual National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), women religious are being celebrated in a series of events at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and beyond. NCSW is a week-long chance to recognize, focus on, and honor the lives of women religious and the incredible example and difference they have made in the world in a variety of online and local events; check out the entire list here.
According to the Global Sisters Report, co-executive directors of NCSW Molly Hazelton and Dominican Sister Mary Soher said NCSW is an opportunity for the larger community to get to know about the sisters all around them.
"We have found again and again . . . young women—whether they consider themselves religious or not—they're just in awe of these sisters," said Christina Capecchi, a spokesperson for NCSW. "They're blogging about their relationships with them, they just admire the sisters so much. . . . Of course, their work with social justice, that really excites the young women we work with. To these girls, they're heroes."
The Telegraph reports that as part of the Year of Mercy, a special confession drive in England on March 4 and 5, known as “24 hours for the Lord,” invited non-Catholics to speak to a priest and unburden themselves of things that weighed heavy on their hearts. A priest was available to talk with participants, but they were not bound to the formal steps of expressing penitence for their sins, and instead of absolution, they simply received a blessing.
The idea was put forth by England's Bishop of Plymouth Mark O’Toole. He said, “Confession continues to be a priceless treasure in my own life, and I hope every Catholic can avail of its gift more deeply. Even if you are not Catholic, come and see. You are welcome in our churches, there will be time and space for prayer, and you can approach the priest and chat with him, and receive a blessing."
This initiative is part of the Year of Mercy, which is centered on forgiveness. The church hopes that this gives both Catholics and non-Catholics an opportunity to receive mercy, while also inspiring them to show mercy to others.
The Catholic Herald reports that Sister Aloha Vergara of the Handmaids of the House of God in the Philippines is behind movie actor Leonardo DiCaprio all the way. Upon winning his first Academy Award in February, he made a plea on behalf of the environment and condemned the “politics of greed.” Sister Vergara recently attended a conference at which Catholic and Protestant religious and environmental activists denounced alleged human rights violations in a mining town in the northern Philippines. She said we need to “support those who speak for all those who are affected of corporate greed and the destruction of the environment,” including high-profile advocates such as DiCaprio.
Redemptorist Brother Ciriaco Santiago, convener of an anti-mining group in Manila, hopes that environmental issues will be important to citizens in upcoming national elections. He believes DiCaprio's message about the environment came at a perfect time, especially because the country's resources have been abused and health conditions have worsened.
“Actions and programs that destroy creation [are] an attack on the Church’s mission; therefore, the Church should be in the front line to protect people who go against these plunderers of the environment,” said Lito Latorre, coordinator of the Philippine Redemptorists’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation program.
Brother Joseph Maria, of the South Bend, Indiana, Franciscan Brothers Minor, jogs around town in his brown woolen robe and sandals, sporting a beard and shaved head, according to the South Bend Tribune.
This friar, along with five others, are among the subgroup within the Franciscan order established by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades (Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend) six years ago. The brother friars are fully recognized by the church but are going through the steps to gain more jurisdiction over themselves. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, living simply to focus on service to the gospel, these brothers focus on prayer, work with a Mishawaka youth group, and religious education at a nearby parish.
Brother Joseph struggled with whether to continue jogging as a friar, but decided that running in his robe is an outward sign that the brothers continue the "walk" of Saint Francis. As they have no income, the brothers walk for transportation and beg for what goods and foods they need.
Learn more about the Franciscans Friars here.
WUSA9 News profiled Father Joseph Jensen, a 91-year-old monk at St. Anselm's Abby in Washington, D.C.. He is an author and teacher who has given his all to his faith. Father Jensen says, "God expects us to be doing something good in the world. All of us are given gifts and the gifts are not for ourselves; they're for other people, and we should be using them for that."
Learn about his way of life in the full video segment above.
"Ave Maria" is one of five live-action short films nominated for the Academy Award this year and is getting great reviews from religious sisters, as well as from Jewish and Palestinian Arab and Christian audiences, according to The Global Sisters Report. This 14-minute comedy of errors combines the unlikely encounter between contemplative Carmelite nuns who live a vow of silence and a family of Jewish settlers whose car breaks down in front of the convent in the Palestinian West Bank. The Jewish settlers are struggling to adhere to the Sabbath laws while the sisters are attempting to help repair the car with no verbal communication.
Palestinian-British director Basil Khalil wanted to highlight in the film that sometimes "strict rules can be broken for the common good. ... It won't be the end of the world when you reach out to help someone in need, even though you might have to break a rule or two."
Learn more about the Carmelite order here.
CNN reports that Pope Francis called for an end to the death penalty, asking Catholic leaders to recognize the Year of Mercy by placing a moratorium on the practice for a year.
In St. Peter's Square, he said, "I make an appeal to the conscience of all rulers, so that we can achieve an international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty, and I propose to those among them who are Catholic to make a courageous and exemplary gesture: that no sentence is executed in this Holy Year of Mercy."
The pope's remarks come as an international conference on "A World Without the Death Penalty" begins in Rome on Monday. Ministers of justice from more than 30 countries will attend to discuss the issue.
Pope Francis hopes the conference will help efforts to end capital punishment. "The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty," he said.
Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned the Saint John's Bible, the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press more than 500 years ago. Twelve were produced.
One copy of this rare Bible was gifted and presented to the Library of Congress in honor of Pope Francis' address to the joint meeting of Congress in September 2015.
Since 1998 theologians at Saint John's Abbey and University and a team of artists and calligraphers have been working on the Bibles entirely by hand, writing with quills and illuminating it with precious metals and paints ground manually from minerals.
The Bible is on display at Saint John's Abbey and will go on tour as an exhibit around the world, including as part of a 2016 summer seminar: The Resurrection in the Gospel of John Illuminated through the Saint John's Bible at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana.
According to The Global Sisters Report, when Pope Francis visits San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, he will read from scripture and pray in the languages of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal, two ethnic Mayan groups, and he will address issues of inequality, indigenous rights, and migration, in what is Mexico’s poorest state.
Sister Manuela Hernández Núñez, a nun with Misioneros Crecares Diocesanas, says the pope's outreach to indigenous people is important since many have left the Catholic Church in recent years.
Sister Nora Gonzalez, a Tzotzil and a member of the order Hermanas de la Caridad de la Presenacion de la Santisima Virgen, adds, "If the people listen to him, maybe they will change and return to church because he has made it clear he is open to anyone. If they hear his call, their faith will get stronger. Right now there are many divisions and differences of opinion. Right now, I think everybody fights over everything. I believe the main message of the pope will be compassion and peace and coming together of both men and women of all faiths."
Sister Núñez is inspired by the pope’s inclusiveness and hopes that his visit will help inspire others to come back to the church. "His visit will be a confirmation of faith," she says. "In that way, we will get stronger."
According to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis began his trip to Mexico by urging Mexican leaders to help the nation’s young people. He said, “A people with a youthful population is a people able to renew and transform itself; it is an invitation to look to the future with hope and, in turn, it challenges us in a positive way here and now.”
With youth making up more than half the population of Mexico, the pontiff said there is a responsibility to create a future for men and women “who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good.”
The pope spoke at the National Palace to Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto, the country's diplomatic corps, and civil and social authorities.
The pope emphasized the church’s willingness to assist the Mexican government with caring for its citizens, saying, “The Mexican government can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, which has accompanied the life of this nation and which renews its commitment and willingness to serve the great causes of mankind: the building of the civilization of love.”
In celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has chosen more than 1,000 priests to be "missionaries of mercy" and preach and teach about God's mercy during this holy year. According to Catholic News Service, 700 of the 1,071 missionaries chosen by Francis will be in Rome on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10) to concelebrate the liturgy and receive their special mandate at St. Peter's Basilica.
The Jubilee of Mercy website explains the various functions and characteristics of the missionaries in detail. Diocesan bishops nominated these priests to apply and the Holy Father chose the missionaries personally. The missionaries will be able to pardon, during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, types of sins usually reserved for the Holy See.
The missionaries are to be:
1. A living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness.
2. Facilitators for all, with no one excluded, of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again.
3. Guided by the words: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all; inspiring preachers of Mercy."
4. Heralds of the joy of forgiveness.
5. Welcoming, loving, and compassionate confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.
Read about two Franciscans of the Province of St. John the Baptist who will serve as missionaries of mercy here.
Read more profiles of Dominican, Jesuit, Holy Cross, and diocesan priests commissioned to be missionaries here.
The Global Post profiled Sister Mary Dillon, a a 70-year-old nun from Ireland, who has been caring for HIV/AIDS patients in Kachin, Myanmar for more than a decade. Since the country held democratic elections, there have been promises of peace and justice, but for the Kachin people, these promises seem empty.
As an ethic minority in the north, many from Kachin turn to one of 40 camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Among these is The Hope Center, a shelter for impoverished people with AIDS and HIV. It currently provides care and medicine to nearly 80 people, ranging in age from 1 to 54. The center serves about 520 people a year.
“Life is very hard; very cruel here,” says Sister Dillon, who opened the center in 2005 after two years of making house calls. “[Myanmar's government] is not a government for the people—it's a government for themselves.”
Along with little government support, the lack of medicine and health education as well as high rates of drug addiction in the area are worsening the problem. With stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDS, Sister Dillon has created her own "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy at The Hope Center. She seeks to help anyone and everyone who comes through her door.
“We don't ask questions here. This is not a hospital. This is a home where people who are discriminated [against] are welcome,” she says. “Whether you are KIA [Kachin Independence Army] or Burmese army or Christian or Buddhist, we are all one here.”
Homeboy Industries founder and executive director, Father Greg Boyle, SJ, will be honored with the 2016 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award on May 2 at the Civic Opera Building in Chicago. According to the James Beard Foundation, the award is "given to an individual or organization whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large."
L.A. Weekly recapped Father Boyle's ministry in Los Angeles, where he founded Homeboy Industries after the 1992 L.A. riots and brought rival gang members and former prisoners together to learn baking and business skills at the Homeboy Bakery. The humble Jesuit "homie" continues to grow the mission of Homeboy Industries, which is now the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. The organization now also runs Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Diner in Los Angeles City Hall, and a retail presence at farmers’ markets around Los Angeles.
On Jan. 20, six novices of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion pronounced their first vows in Jerusalem as the Year of Consecrated Life concluded (officially on Feb. 2). Novices Alejandra, Clara, Joey, Victoria, Rozeni, and Arlyne are originally from Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines, and Egypt.
In taking these three-year vows, the novices embrace the Sisters of our Lady of Sion charism: "to work against all forms of racism, oppression, and marginalization." In each of its ministries, particularly Jewish-Christian and other interfaith relations, the sisters seek to respond to the biblical call to freedom and the imperative to “hear the cries of the poor."
View the celebration and commitment to consecrated life in the Christian Media Center's video below:
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana are inviting all to make a Year of Mercy pilgrimage to their motherhouse, nestled among 1,200 acres of land filled with gardens and forests, and the Shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who overcame personal struggles to establish the order and academy now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. There are many sacred spaces, indoor and outdoor, at the site, and visitors can take guided and self-guided tours. Learn more here.
The White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, is great place to visit and learn about sustainable living and caring for all creation. You may even see some alpacas!
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is beautiful in all seasons. Schedule a pilgrimage by calling 812-535-2945.
According to The Huffington Post, Pope Francis is publishing a book of his responses to letters from children. The book, Dear Pope Francis, will be out March 1 from Loyola Press in Chicago. The pope selected 30 letters and responded to each, often complimenting the artwork of the children.
Father Antonio Spadaro, who, like Pope Francis, is a Jesuit and is also the director of the Rome-based journal La Civilta Cattolica, was instrumental in the project, working with Tom McGrath, a vice president at the Jesuit-founded Loyola Press, to co-edit the book.
About 250 letters to the pope from kids aged 6 to 13 were received in 14 languages and from 26 countries around the world.
“He loved the project right from the beginning,” McGrath said. “He has this great affection for children, who have a great affection for him. He was surprised at the depth of the questions.”
The responses were neither edited nor condensed. McGrath said, “These are the pope’s exact words. At one point he mentioned, 'These are tough.’ He realized that he owed the kids a deeper answer than right off the top of his head.”
The book will be released in the United States in English and Spanish, and as part of an international Jesuit project, it will also be published in Brazil, Indonesia, Slovenia, Mexico, and India.
The Catholic News Agency reports that Ursuline Sister Maria Pavla Hudacekova figure skated in full habit, even completing a 12-spin pirouette, at a rink in Slovakia, and a teen captured the moment with a cell phone, producing a video that has gone viral.
Sister Maria was a junior champion skater as a girl and was visiting the ice rink in the capital city of Bratislava with her fellow sisters. Sister Maria told a Christian news website: “I did not like ice skating races, but I liked to perform. My joy was in the audience.”
During her 10 years in religious life, Sister Maria has used skating to evangelize. “I used to hold religious meetings with ice hockey players. I spoke to them about Jesus and supported them,” she said.
When she is not skating, Sister Maria coaches young figure skaters and teaches math and IT at a primary school in Bratislava.
A new play, "The Glory of the World," by Charles Mee, being staged at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music, explores the life of Trappist monk, mystic, and philosopher Thomas Merton. The New York Times reports that the play is set at a 100th birthday party for Merton, where the guests take turns arguing about how to describe the life and works of "a prolific writer, a champion of nonviolence, and a friend to Eastern religions before dying at 53 of an accidental electrocution in Thailand."
A former Episcopal monk and lottery winner, Roy Cockrum, of Knoxville, Tennessee, is financing the production. During his time as a monk, Cockrum lived a vow of poverty and always said if he were to come into money, he would donate to theater.
Read more here about this production celebrating Thomas Merton, who, along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Day, was the subject of Pope Francis' recent address to Congress.
Discover more about Trappists monks and nuns here.
According to the New York Times, Sister Elisabeth Anne has visited the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx every Wednesday for the past 35 years. The 76-year-old squeezes fruit and greets the workers as she shops for food to prepare at the Queen of Peace Residence in Queens Village, where she lives and works. There is one difference to this shopping though: Sister Elisabeth Anne does not pay for the food. Instead, she solicits donations from the businesses that sell their goods at the market.
She remembers the first time, in 1979, she was told to ask for the generosity of others. “To go out and be a beggar was the worst thing you could ever ask me to do,” she said. “I cried my heart out for two weeks.”
She is now a regular and rarely misses a trip to the market, where she has become a favorite. “It’s got a bad rap, it’s tough down here, it’s the Bronx,” said one of the marketing directors for D’Arrigo Brother’s Company of New York, “but she makes people rethink what kind of community it is. Everybody loves dealing with her.”
Donations from businesses, parishes, and foundations help to keep the Queen of Peace Residence going. The home shelters and feeds 85 low-income older adults and 19 nuns, who also live in the building serving the residents. It is one of 197 homes around the world run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order whose mission is to support the elderly poor.
Resident Winnie Valcancick, 78, moved in recently and is very grateful to have a safe and friendly environment to live in. “It’s very scary as you get older and you’re not financially equipped to pay the rents that New Yorkers have to pay,” she said.
As Sister Elisabeth Anne walks around the dining room, she smiles and says she has learned to love her role. “I’m the last on the ladder; I’m the lowest,” she said. “I’m the director of nothing except my life. Beggar. That’s my title.”
According to The Huffington Post, Pope Francis made his first visit to a synagogue and condemned violence in the name of religion on Sunday. The temple, Rome’s main synagogue, has now hosted three popes including Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
The visit marked the commemoration of improved relations between Catholics and Jews. The pope used this opportunity to call for improved relations between all religions and to discourage extremism that results in conflict and violence.
"The violence of man against man is in contradiction with any religion worthy of this name, in particular the three great monotheistic religions [Judaism, Christianity, and Islam]," he said. "Conflicts, wars, violence, and injustices open deep wounds in humanity that call on us to strengthen our commitment to peace and justice. Neither violence nor death will ever have the last word before God."
The pope was accompanied by Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, and Yahya Pallavicini, an Italian Islamic leader involved in coordinating interfaith dialogues.
There were also a handful of Italian Hollocaust survivors at the ceremony. Pope Francis rose to give them a standing ovation and said, "The Shoah teaches us that we need the maximum vigilance in order to intervene quickly in defense of human dignity and peace."
In closing, the Pope called for the "rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity" and repeated an appeal for Catholics to "say 'no' to every form of anti-Semitism. Jews and Christians must, therefore, feel like brothers united by the same God and by a rich common spiritual heritage."
Don't miss your chance to learn about the newest generation of Catholic sisters and why we need them now more than ever at one more upcoming gathering. Hear remarkable stories from these modern women who have answered the call, and learn how they perceive their mission.
The fourth and final "Today Catholic Sisters" symposium will be held on Jan. 23, 2016 from 9 am to noon at the Rose Hills Auditorium, on the Doheny Campus, Mount Saint Mary’s University, in Los Angeles, California.
The National Religious Vocation Conference organized the "Today's Catholic Sisters" events taking place across the country over the past 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 follows the main presentation, and refreshments are served.
All are invited to attend. RSVP here.
The Catholic Herald reports that Pope Francis made an unannounced visit to care centers for the elderly in Rome as part of his personal observation of the Holy Year of Mercy. The Vatican used #MercyFriday to announce the pope’s visit.
The pope plans to perform a work of mercy, personally and privately, on one Friday each month, although this began quite publically in December when he visited and celebrated Mass at a shelter. This time around, the Vatican chose to keep it a surprise and did not inform journalists nor the residents of the care centers ahead of time.
The Vatican statement said, “Pope Francis wanted to highlight—in opposition to the ‘throwaway culture’ —the great importance and preciousness of the elderly and grandparents as well as the value and dignity of life in every situation.”
According to ABC News, Sister Mary Mark of St. Paul, Minnesota, just celebrated her 105th birthday and has no intention of slowing down her ministry of sending letters to inmates in correctional facilities, which she has been doing for more than 20 years.
She said she enjoys writing the letters and explains, "They're in prison, but they're working. They hope to make it.”
Kathleen Conrad, the pastoral care coordinator of Carondelet Village in St. Paul, said, "I think at one point she was writing to about 50 prisoners. When she was 89 years old, she was called down to Oklahoma to testify on behalf of a prisoner on death row because she had been writing to him for such a long time."
Sister Mark offers love and encouragement to the inmates, letting them know that someone is thinking about them. Each of them sends her photos, which she hangs on her bulletin board. She has no plans to stop writing, saying, “As long as I can write, I’ll do it.”
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd Maria Droste Contemplative Community is one of six contemplative communities invited by the Archdiocese of St. Louis to open their doors as a pilgrimage site during the Year of Mercy.
Sister Elizabeth Garciano, the local leader for the Maria Droste Contemplative Community in St. Louis recently blogged about the official blessing by Bishop Edward M. Rice and the great opportunity and privilege it is for them to serve the community at large during this Jubilee Year.
Being a pilgrimage site near Ferguson, Missouri, "in the midst of racial tension" allows the sisters to continue to be an affirmation of missionary life as well as a witness to God's mercy and reconciliation, Garciano says. Additionally, she shares, being a pilgrimage site allows people to get closer to God through Mass, morning and evening prayer, Stations of the Cross, praying the Rosary, and eucharistic adoration.
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd Year of Mercy pilgrimage site event is listed on the VISION Events Calendar. Join the sisters at the Maria Droste Contemplative Community for prayer and Mass during the following times throughout the Year of Mercy:
Weekly Sunday morning prayer 9 a.m.
Sunday Mass 9:30 a.m.
Daily Monday to Friday Mass 7 a.m.
Daily Monday to Friday morning prayer 7:30 a.m.
Bart Zavaletta teaches "Theology 12: Responding to the Call of Jesus Christ" at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska, and he learned about VISION Vocation Match, a tool that connects vocation discerners with religious communities that match their interests, through a simple Google search. He was looking for resources for a career connection project he assigned to his class of seniors. Vocation Match turned out to be a great tool for them to learn about religious life and discerning vocation.
Zavaletta had his students go through the VISION Vocation Match process in class so he could answer their questions about types of communities. Zavaletta had the students chose one of their matches and create a marketing poster for that community, which focused on its charism.
Check out some of VISION's other resources for teachers, youth ministers, and DREs here.
The Institute of Psychological Sciences (IPS) in Arlington, Virginia, announced that it is expanding its offerings this year with a new School of Counseling, which will offer doctorate and master’s degrees, and that the broader organization will be called Divine Mercy University. According to Catholic News Agency, the new school name is a celebration of the Holy Year of Mercy.
Jessie Tappel, director of communications for IPS, explained that Divine Mercy University is a “mission-centric name” because the school will have an outward focus on mercy.
“This has been a long-term project for the institute,” Tappel said. “It’s been really exciting to see the expansion that we have been able to have, based on demand, the needs in the field, and on the positive response we have received in our degree programs.”
The university is unique in that it grounds its psychological and mental health training in Catholic-Christian values and emphasizes the importance of coming up with holistic solutions for clients. Students spend their time learning psychology through the lenses of philosophy and theology, in addition to their rigorous academic and clinical work in order to become mental health professionals who can bring a strong sense of faith to those they serve.
The cloistered Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters of Philadelphia have worked in shifts to ensure nonstop prayer for more than 100 years, according to The Huffington Post, but now, with the numbers entering their order declining, the sisters have been reaching out to the community at large to recruit members for the next 100 years.
From banners outside the convent to interviews with news reporters to invitations to schools, the order is working to see growth in new, younger members. "We rarely reached out for vocation promotion before the centennial. But now we want young ladies to see how beautiful the life is and how truer the joy when it is without the trappings of material things," said Holy Spirit Adoration Sister Maria Clarissa.
The order began in Holland in 1896. In 1915, nine of the original sisters in Holland left the motherhouse to come to Philadelphia. Currently there are about 420 Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters living in 22 convents in 12 countries, including three convents in the United States: St. Louis, Missouri; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Lincoln, Nebraska. The sisters wear rose-colored habits, which are meant to call attention to the joy they feel honoring the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Sacrament, the focus of their perpetual adoration.
While they live a life of private prayer, the sisters also manage a hotline where people can call in for advice. It helps many on the other end to know that there are people praying for them and people who care, "no matter what their need may be."
Although they live a simple life, they do indulge a bit sometimes. "We try to be as simple as possible so we can focus on the Lord," explained Sister Mary Angelica. "We are simple in everything, even meals—though on special occasions, we have ice cream."
In December, former gang member Brother Cesar John Paul Galan made his perpetual profession of vows as a member of the Friars of the Sick Poor of Los Angeles at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California, surrounded by his proud family and friends, according to the Tidings. St. Francis Medical Center is also where, in 2001, his brother Hector died from gun violence and Galan himself was left a paraplegic.
Because of this tragedy, Galan experienced an 'aha' moment of realizing what God intended for him: consecrated life. A few months later during a journey to Lourdes, France, he asked people there, “Am I ever going to get out of this wheelchair? Am I going to go back home walking?” He started praying for that miracle to happen but received an unexpected blessing instead: forgiveness of the person who killed his brother and hurt him, and he left the gang life of his adolescence behind.
Brother Galan will continue studying to become a priest at St. John's Seminary and preparing to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Sister Ann Geever was profiled in the San Antonio Express-News for her work at San Antonio's Visitation House, a transitional home for kids that is run by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Sister Geever is a tutor, along with nine others including two other sisters, who work with the children almost every day to support their studies in school.
Sister Geever taught in Catholic schools around the country for more than 40 years and uses that experience while helping kids such as 10-year-old Andres Garcia, whom she calls “my darling.” Garcia is in fourth grade and has some difficulty reading. Sister Geever helps to improve his confidence as well as advocate for him to his teachers.
Sister Yolanda Tarango of the Sisters of Charity said that the “give-and-take” between tutors and students is so important to the improved academic performance of the Visitation House’s young residents. In its 30 years, the nonprofit has seen students such as Garcia become first-generation college students, thanks to tutors such as Sister Geever and many other volunteers.
According to National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis was awarded the European Charlemagne Prize for 2016 in recognition of his work toward global peace and cultural understanding. He is the second pontiff to receive the award, which is given by the German city of Aachen. The award, which dates back to 1950, honors “the most valuable contribution in the services of Western European understanding and work for the community.”
One of the reasons Pope Francis received this award was his address during his visit to France in November 2014. During this speech he called for “abandon[ing] the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values, and faith.”
While Pope Francis will be unable to travel to Germany to accept the award, the committee will send a representative to present the award in person to the pope. He joins the ranks of Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, and Pope John Paul II, who have also received this award.