Pro Orantibus: Poor Clares Prepare for Pope Francis

pope-franciseucharistOne group of cloistered Poor Clare sisters are aiding in the preparation for Pope Francis’ visit in a vital way. The thirteen Poor Clare sisters of Langhorne, Pennsylvania have been asked to bake 100,000 hosts to be consecrated by Pope Francis at the Papal Mass in Philadelphia.

The Poor Clares of the Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare make roughly 150,000 hosts each month, however, they recently have had to increase production after receiving an order for the Papal Mass. The process of baking the hosts takes over two days to from start to finish and involves several stoves which they have named Raphael, Maddalena, Vincent & Benny. The Sisters provide hosts to be used at communion for Churches throughout the United States and Canada, however, they make little profit off of the sale of the hosts and rely mainly on donations.

IMG_0551-300x200The Poor Clares have been tasked with providing hosts for one of the largest Masses celebrated in the United States throughout history with 1-2 million people expected to be in attendance. They will be providing 20% of the total number of hosts which Pope Francis will consecrate at the Mass. The Mass will be particularly special for the Poor Clares as they have received permission from Archbishop Chaput’s office to attend. This will be a historic day for the sisters as they lead a cloistered life rarely leaving their monastery.

The Poor Clares of Langhorne view their apostolate of baking hosts as similar to how they lead their entire lives. Sister Anne says, “it’s a very humble way to participate, which is part of our lives, to sort of be hidden.”

Carmelites in San Rafael Celebrate 50th Jubilee

ocd rafaelThis year, the Carmelites in San Rafael, California, are celebrating the 50th year of their foundation. The Carmel of the Mother of God was founded on November 24, 1965, from the Carmelite Monastery at Carmel-by-the-Sea (a great place to visit for the scenery alone!).

It was Mother Miriam of the Trinity, OCD, the foundress, who received an interior call to found a Carmelite monastery specifically in response to Our Lady of Fatima’s request to pray for the conversion of sinners and for the Russian people. As part of this endeavor, the sisters studied the Russian language, liturgy, spirituality and history with help from priests from a Catholic Russian church. They still however observe the Latin rite and the regular Carmelite horarium.

Espoo Karmel
Espoo Carmelites

While the sisters were unable to establish a foundation behind the Iron Curtain, two of their sisters were able to start a new foundation in neighboring Finland in November of 1988. Today, this monastery in Espoo, Finland,  has ten cells and a chapel, with six sisters praying especially for the people of Finland. It is the only cloistered Catholic monastery in the entire country!

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the sisters purchased a small apartment in downtown Moscow for a tiny Carmel. The difficulties involved and the limited number of sisters for a new monastery caused the sale of this apartment to the Divine Word Missionaries who have established St. Olga’s Parish with the purchase of a nearby building. In that first apartment is still an Icon of the Infant Jesus painted by Mother Miriam which is now seen by the Russian faithful.

The community in San Rafael numbers seven with four American sisters, one sister from England, one sister from Africa, and one sister from the Philippines. To celebrate their jubilee, they have three masses scheduled during the month of November to be celebrated by Most Rev. John Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe (Nov. 1); Very Rev. Stephen Watson, O.C.D., Carmelite Provincial of the California/Arizona Province (Nov. 14); and Most Rev. Patrick McGrath, Bishop of San Jose (Nov. 24).

“… You will see that the majority of these houses have been founded not so much by man as by the mighty hand of God, and that, if we do not stand in His way, His Majesty loves to further the work He is doing.”        St. Teresa of Avila

 

The Call to Cuba

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Sixty-six foot statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the bay in Havana, Cuba.

One of the blessings of the opening of new doors to the Catholic Church in Cuba has been the development of new apostolates on the island. Since January 2011, four sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, based in Alton, Ill., have been working at the Havana seminary. A year-and-a-half ago, one of our Executive Committee members answered the Master’s call and said yes to her own General’s Superior’s call to begin a new mission in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Sr. Stephania Newell, F.S.G.M., a religious sister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, never dreamed or desired to become a missionary. “But through much prayer and preparation,’ she said, “I have come to see this as God’s plan and another step and means to bring His merciful love to the poor, sick, and spiritually needy.”

Sr. Stephania is on the right
Sr. Stephania is on the right

Sister was an orphan adopted from Vietnam into a US Air Force family. Her Father is a permanent deacon in the church. She met the FSGMs in college entered the community at their Provincial Convent in Alton, Illinois, in 1995.

Showing that everything in our life is part of the tapestry of God’s plan for us, Sister said, “It came to me in prayer one day that just as the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Vietnam introduced my adopted Father and me to the Faith in a country where the Faith was suffering, God was now asking me to bring the Faith to a people in another foreign country.”

She adds: “I did not answer His call to the religious life to do my own will, but of Him who beckoned me. ‘A todo puedo hacerle frente, gracias a Cristo que me fortalece‘ – ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me'(Phil 4:13).”

To read Sr. Stephania’s complete testimonial and other fascinating stories, see the CMSWR’s newsletter from Spring 2015.

Pro Orantibus: Handmaids of the Precious Blood Move

Handmaids of the Precious Blood TN On the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16th, 2015, the Handmaids of the Precious Blood moved to their new property in New Market, Tennessee. The Sisters sold their property in Jemez Springs, New Mexico recently and have found a new home overlooking the Holston River.

The Handmaids of the Precious Blood found east Tennessee to be “stunningly beautiful” as they looked for property after theATVHPB sale of their New Mexico monastery. They embarked on an adventure to find their new home and even explored on a borrowed ATV! After much prayer and with the blessing of Bishop Stika, the Sisters signed the papers to make the move to the future site of Cor Jesu Monastery official.

The Sisters are extremely grateful for all who aided them in their move. Despite the long day of moving, they made sure to first set up the Oratory where they will have their Divine Office together and their Holy Hours of Eucharistic Adoration. They said “it was only right to expose Our Lord in the Monstrance, sing ‘O Salutaris Hostia’ and kneel before the Master of our new house in deep thanksgiving.”

Their beautiful new property in New Market is a 55 acre property overlooking the Holston River with the Smokey Mountains to the south and the Clinch Mountains to the north. You can view the property thanks to the work of Scott Maentz, their IT expert, who provided a bird’s eye view by filming it with his drone. Please keep the Sisters in your prayers as they transition to their new home.

Remembering Our Nation’s Martyrs

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Mass is celebrated at the future shrine for the Florida Martyrs.

Many know of the famous North American Martyrs, however, not many know of other martyrs in our nation’s history. This will hopefully no longer be the case as the cause for canonization of 82 martyrs from Florida will be opened on October 12, 2015. The martyrs, who will be known as Antonio Cuipa and 81 companions, were a diverse group of missionaries and Native Americans killed between 1549 and 1706 in Florida.

Antonio Cuipa was an Apalachee Indian from San Luis Mission (Tallahassee) converted by Franciscan missionaries. His studies suggest that he may have been preparing for the priesthood. His studies were cut short, however, when Creek Indians hired by an English governor from the Carolinas nailed him to a cross and set him on fire. Witnesses to the event claim that Antonio saw the Blessed Virgin Mary while dying on the cross.

There are many religious among the martyrs including Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries. The first Dominican martyr in the country, Fr. Luis Cancer, was killed near Tampa Bay. Fr. Pedro Martinez was the first Jesuit killed in the country and had been sent by St. Francis Borgia to Florida where he was killed by Native Americans when he refused to abandon his companions.

Attempts for the canonization of the martyrs has occurred in the past, however, they have been stalled by events such as World War II. The current campaign began ten years ago when three friends visited the site where several martyrs were killed and agreed to establish a shrine. After organizing a team to aid them, the cause to canonize the martyrs took on new life, though money is needed to proceed in both the construction of the shrine and canonization process.

Antonio Cuipa and 81 companions give insight into the history of the Church in America and displays how many suffered to spread the faith. With many people facing persecution around the world today, the heroic martyrs of Florida serve as inspiration and takes on special significance as the Church continues to  spread the Good News.

Fort Wayne Diocese Welcomes Consecrated Virgin

cv fort wayneOn the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2015, Jessica Hayes was consecrated to a life of virginity at a rite celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Many friends, priests and well-wishers joined the 38-year old high school teacher as she declared her resolution to persevere in holy virginity as a bride of Christ.

Dressed in a wedding gown, Jessica was accompanied by two attendants. As part of the ceremony, she said to the bishop: “Father, receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God’s help, I here profess before you and God’s holy people.” To signify the spousal relationship between Jessica and the Lord, the Bishop gave the newly consecrated virgin a veil (“Receive this veil, by which you are to show that you have been chosen from other women to be dedicated to the service of Christ and of His Body, which is the Church.”) and a ring (“Receive the ring that marks you as a bride of Christ. Keep unstained your fidelity to your Bridegroom, that you may one day be admitted to the wedding feast of everlasting joy.”) She also received a Liturgy of the Hours, showing that she is praying the Church’s official prayers along with other consecrated individuals.

Jessica told the diocese’s Catholic newspaper that she felt a “deep gratitude for the Church and for being Catholic, knowing whatever desire is placed upon our hearts by God, the Church has a place for us. And this is my place.”

The model and mirror for a life of virginity is the Blessed Mother of Jesus. As the bishop said in his homily, “It is God who gives the grace of virginity. He gave this grace to the young woman of Nazareth, to Mary, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to choose the life of virginity. Mary made a personal decision in faith to remain a virgin, to offer her heart to the Lord. She wanted to be His faithful bride.”

“Thus, Mary became the model for all those who have chosen to serve the Lord with an undivided heart in virginity.It seems most appropriate that Jessica gives herself totally to Jesus, is consecrated to a life of virginity, on a feast of Our Lady, who gave herself totally to God as the virgin handmaid of the Lord.”

Jessica is the only consecrated virgin in the diocese and will continue her work as a high school theology teacher at a local high school.

To read a reflection by Jessica and the bishop’s homily and to see all the beautiful pictures, click here!

The Cistercians – Contemplation in Community

Genesse Community-Nov2012--1024x729In the eleventh century, three monks departed from Molesme Abbey in France to found the first Cistercian monastery, Citeaux Abbey. By founding the order as a community, St. Robert, St. Alberic and St. Stephen emphasized the importance of common life within the Cistercian Order.

The Cistercian Order quickly grew particularly when St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrate today, entered the monastery in 1112. The saint’s entrance alone displayed the importance of community as he convinced thirty friends and relatives to enter with him! St. Bernard is known as the spiritual father of the Cistercian Order which continues to thrive throughout the world today.

The Abbey of Genesse is one monastery in the United States which belongs to the legacy of the founding community. Located in western New York, the Abbey of Genesse is a community of contemplative monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.) commonly known as Trappists. The monks strive to seek God in a stable community they refer to as a “school of brotherly love.” Those at the Abbey try to maintain an environment conducive to contemplation as they pray for the World and Church in their apostolate of prayer. The monks observe silence, speaking only when necessary in order to create an environment of prayer. In addition to prayer and contemplation, the monks engage in various labors in community throughout the day such as farming, cooking, maintenance, hospitality, formation, care of the infirm and bake their famous Monks’ Bread.

The Diocese of Syracuse recently included the Abbey as a part of their summer pilgrimage webpage. The 3 minute video done by the Diocese gives a glimpse of what life is like for the community of monks and allows for insight into the legacy of Cistercians like St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., Receives Kolbe Award

Fr. McCurry, fourth from right
Fr. McCurry, fourth from right, and his fellow Conventual Franciscans at Marytown

On August 14th, the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., received the annual Kolbe Award at Marytown in Libertyville, IL. The annual award is given to those who mirror St. Maximilian’s charisms of heroic charity and self-sacrifice. Father McCurry is the past president Militia Immaculata, Kolbean scholar and  Mariologist.

The first four awards were given to Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, the family rosary priest; Fr. John Hardon, SJ, founder of the IRL; Mother Teresa, who needs no introduction; and Bishop Austin Vaughn who was imprisoned many times for his pro-life activities. Illustrious company!

Fr. McCurry did not set out to be the long-time promoter of the Militia Immaculata (MI), the organization founded by St. Maximilian in 1917 to encourage total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a means of spiritual renewal for individuals and society. This is how it happened at least in part…..

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Fr. McCurry and Fr. John Grigus, Rector, Marytown Shrine

Father McCurry, during his funny yet profound remarks upon receiving the award, told of his encounter with Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Maximilian in 1982. He asked the Holy Father if he would pray that we might all be as consecrated to Mary as St. Maximilian was. The Pope did not hear him at first and said, “huh?” Speaking more loudly, the question then prompted a smile on the Holy Father’s face. He pointed to Father McCurry and said, “You do that!”

Taking this as a papal command, Father McCurry did do it as the long-time president of the Militia Immaculata. The MI’s mission is “To Lead Every Individual With Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Following in the footsteps of Father McCurry would be a good place to start. If you would like information about consecrating yourself to Mary in the Militia Immaculata, please visit Marytown’s website.

“The Ground Zero of Prayer” – The Carmelites of Wahpeton

wahpetonThe Carmelite monastery in Wahpeton, North Dakota, has been called the “Ground Zero of Prayer,” says Fr. Peter Andrel, the priest who regularly hears the confessions of the 8 cloistered nuns who live in the Carmel of Mary. According to Father Peter, there hasn’t been a bad harvest in the neighboring fields for 80 years, citing the intercessory prayers of the nuns as a blessing on the area.

Father adds that “very few people are aware of the graces that flow from the hallowed halls of this place. I honestly have never had a prayer request go unanswered here, and usually, very quickly. They’re amazing.”

The Prioress, Mother Madonna, is an Air Force veteran and astonished her parents back in Texas in 1989 when she told them that she was going to enter a small cloistered monastery in North Dakota. “That love for our Lord had been growing since I was very young and I knew if I wanted to serve Him totally I couldn’t do it as a teacher, as a nurse or even in a parish,” she explains. “In order to give myself fully, the cloister would be the only place I could do that.”

Most people are aware of the Discalced Carmelites who were founded by St. Teresa of Avila as a reform of the Carmelite Order. The Wahpeton sisters are Carmelites of the primitive observance and instead of O.C.D. after their name, you will see O.Carm. They are one of only four such monasteries of women in the U.S., the others being in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

The Carmel in Wahpeton was founded in the Marian Year of 1954. They observe strict Papal enclosure. They pray seven times a day and rise at midnight to pray “against the sins of darkness committed at night,” says Father. “That’s powerful.”

There were two articles online recently about the community. Click here to read the first on on Mother Madonna, the prioress, and click here! to read the second on the community in general.

On August 16, 2015, come join other pilgrims for the 59th annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Prairies at the monastery. There will be rosary, mass celebrated by Bishop John Folda, confession and a picnic. And a chance to meet the sisters!

ZELO ZELATUS SUM PRO DOMINO DEO EXERCITUUM
With zeal I am zealous for the Lord God of Hosts

Saints2

 

Assumption Little Known Facts

Mural done by artist Raul Berzosa for the Oratory of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Sorrows, Málaga, Spain.
Mural done by artist Raul Berzosa for the Oratory of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Sorrows, Málaga, Spain.

The Cistercian Nuns in Prairie du Sac, WI, in their summer 2014 newsletter, reminded us of the beautiful history behind the Feast of the Assumption.

According to Scripture and Church tradition, only three human beings have been taken up directly to Heaven: Enoch, Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Enoch was taken by God (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah was whisked into Heaven by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). The story of Enoch shows us the possibility of intimacy with God in a kind of interior Eden. Elijah’s intimacy with God was the source of his participation in divine power on earth and the cause of his triumph over death. Mary, full of grace, “participates more than any other in Christ’s reconciliation of man with God….The life of a contemplative nun, conceived in the self-gift exchanged between Mary and the Trinity, anticipates radically the life of heaven.”

Here are some interesting facts behind the the Assumption taken from the newsletter and other sources:

  • Mary’s death is dated 3-15 years after the Ascension.
  • St. Juvenal relates that Mary died in the presence of all of the Apostles but when her tomb in the Kedron Valley was opened, it was found to be empty. No one has ever claimed to possess first-class relics of the Blessed Virgin. Fr. William Most wrote: “Since the Church has never sought for bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin, nor exposed them for the veneration of the faithful, we have an argument which can be considered as ‘practically a proof by sensory experience.'”
  • A document from the 4th century is the earliest printed reference to Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.
  • The Feast of the Assumption was universally celebrated in the Church by the sixth century.
  • The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means “the falling asleep.” In Jerusalem, you can visit the Church of the Dormition of Mary on Mount Zion.
  • In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, universally held as part of Apostolic tradition.
  • In 1954, Pope Pius XII established the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.
  • All Cistercian houses are dedicated to Mary under the title of her Assumption.

Pope Pius XII wrote: “For she, by a completely singular privilege, conquered sin in her Immaculate Conception, and thus was not liable to that law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, nor did she have to wait for the end of time for the redemption of her body”

 

 

 

 

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