lou osbDid you know that Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Chinese Republic, and his successor, Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, were Christians? And that a Foreign and Prime Minister of China, Lu (Lou) Tseng-tsiang, became a Benedictine monk under the name of Dom Pierre-Célestin? We think of China as a non-Christian country but there are illustrious men and women who carried the banner for Jesus Christ. Lu himself was a reformer who tried to simply the bureaucracy and institute fairness into government.

Lu was born a Protestant in Shanghai in 1871. Due to the influence of his father, he developed a love for the Bible and good literature. In 1892, he was sent to Russia as part of the Chinese delegation where he served for 14 years. An impressive man that he worked for old him:

“The strength of Europe is not to be found in her armaments; it is not to be found in her science; it is to be found in her religion. In the course of your diplomatic career you will have occasion to study the Christian religion….Take the most ancient branch of that religion, that which goes back most nearly to its origins. Enter into it. Study its doctrine, practice its commandments, closely follow all its works. And later on, when you have ended your career, perhaps you will have the opportunity to go still farther. In this most ancient branch, choose the most ancient society. If you can do so, enter into it also. Make yourself its follower, and study the interior life, which must be the secret of it. When you have understood and won the secret of that life, when you have grasped the heart and strength of the religion of Christ, bring them and give them to China.”

lou osb2It was in St. Petersburg that Lu met his Belgian-born wife, Berthe Bovy, and they were married in 1899. The same priest who presided at their wedding would receive him into the Church in 1912. After the war, Lu became involved in famine relief work but when his wife became ill, they moved to Europe where he became China’s ambassador to Switzerland. After her death, he surprised everyone by becoming a Benedictine monk at the abbey of Abbey of Saint-André-lez-Bruges in Flanders. He was ordained a priest in 1935 in his 64th year! He died on January 15, 1949 at the abbey, never to return to China. His prayers for his country must now be entrusted to Our Lady of China.

 

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St.Teresa’s Walking Stick

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

st teresa of avila tourThe original walking stick used by St Teresa of Avila during her many journeys across 16th century Spain is on the move in honor of the 500th anniversary of her birth. St. Teresa was born on March 28, 1515, and died on October 4, 1582.

The walking stick, which began its journey on October 15, 2014, St. Teresa’s feast day, is on pilgrimage around the world to commemorate this great event. By the time the journey has ended, it will have traveled to 5 continents, 30 countries and traversed 117,000 miles. The places selected are some of sites most important to the Discalced Carmelites as well as the missions in Africa. Already it has been to the United States, Mexico, South America and the Far East. Now it is in Kenya and will travel to many more African countries before it heads back to Europe and the countries of Croatia, Italy, France (Lisieux of course!), the Czech Republic, Portugal and back to Spain.

The worldwide pilgrimage is called the Way of Light (Camino de Luz). The generosity of the Carmelite Fathers in Spain  allowed this eventful pilgrimage to take place. The walking stick is in a special container and is symbolic of St. Teresa’s own spiritual journey. Pilgrims are invited during this special year to imitate her longing for God which took her to many heights and places.

The Superior General of the Carmelites, Fr. Saverio Cansitra, says that her mission is “to remind the Church and human beings of all times that the center of man is God and the center of God is man…. Teresa shares with everyone, with anyone in any place in the world whose journey is lost on an aimless path, what she found: a dwelling and a way.

 stickSt. Teresa herself said, “If they lose their Guide, our good Jesus, they cannot find the way… Our Lord Himself tells us that He is ‘the Way'; He also says that He is ‘the Light’ (John 14,6); that no man cometh to the Father but by Him; and that ‘He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also.’ Such persons tell us that these words have some other meaning; I know of no other meaning but this, which my soul has ever recognized as the true one and which has always suited me right well.”

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Bl. Junipero Serra to be Canonized

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

serraToday came the exciting news that Pope Francis will canonize Bl. Junípero Serra during his visit to the US this Fall. Father Serra (1713-1784) is the founder of the California missions and the great evangelizer. He was born on the island of Majorca, Spain, where he became a Franciscan friar. He came to the New World in 1749. In 1769, he arrived in San Diego where he established his first mission.

Father Serra established nine missions himself, and twenty-one others were eventually established on the El Camino Real. It is always a thrill to be traveling in California and stumble across the roadway today. Here are the missions he founded:

serra21769 – San Diego de Alcalá; 1770 – San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo; 1771 – San Antonio de Padua; 1771 – San Gabriel Arcángel; 1772 – San Luís Obispo de Tolosa; 1776 – San Francisco de Asís; 1776 – San Juan Capistrano; 1777 – Santa Clara de Asís; 1782 – San Buenaventura

Father Serra died and is interred today at the mission in Carmel (San Carlos Borromeo). You can see the cell where he died and his tomb and an impressive cenotaph (monument). The cenotaph depicts a life-side bronze statue of Father Serra lying in death, with his bare feet resting on a grizzly bear, the symbol of California. Three other life-size bronze sculptures are nearby: Fr. Juan Crespí, who predeceased him; Fr. Fermin Lasuen, who succeeded him as the president of the missions of Baja and Alta California; and Fr. Julian Lopez, a friar at the Carmel Mission.

Pope John Paul II visited Carmel in 1987 and called Father Serra the Apostle of California. He went on to say: “’In Him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything’ (Phil. 4, 13). These words of the great missionary, Saint Paul, remind us that our strength is not our own. Even in the martyrs and saints, as the liturgy reminds us, it is ‘(God’s) power shining through our human weakness.’ It is the strength that inspired Father Serra’s motto: ‘Always forward, never back.'”

 

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Year of Consecrated Life Pilgrimage to Rome

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

rome-at-dusk-itineraryThe Year of Consecrated Life began on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, 2014, and ends on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, February 2, 2016.

At the end of this special year, the Vatican is holding an International Symposium (gathering/workshops/events) for Religious, Secular Institutes, and Consecrated Virgins in Rome. The dates specified by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) for the gathering of Consecrated Persons are as follows:

  • Symposium for Secular Institutes, and Ordo Virginum January 29-31, 2016
  • Symposium for Religious January 28-30, 2016
  • Vigil at St Peter’s Basilica January 30, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.
  • Audience with Holy Father February 1, 2016
  • Mass to conclude the Year of Consecrated Life with the Holy Father Feb 2, 2016

The ORP/Kairos (Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi ) which acts as the pilgrimage organizer for the Diocese of Rome has arranged for a pilgrimage package for Consecrated Virgins, Religious, and Secular Institute members interested in participating in this Symposium with an optional extension to the Holy Land. For those interested in seeing where hermits, religious, and the Ordo Virginum began, this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This pilgrimage package is available so that consecrated persons can attend the International Symposium, with lodgings, meals, transportation and other major details being arranged by the Vatican’s office of pilgrimage. Consecrated persons can relax, attend the Symposium, enjoy each other’s company, and prayerfully visit some of the sights in Rome and Italy that are of special significance to consecrated life.

A religious priest-chaplain is being provided who is familiar with the different forms of consecrated life. Guides to the sacred sites will be available in English, Spanish, French, and Italian, and the pilgrimage is open to religious, secular institute members, and consecrated virgins of all nationalities. If enough people from any country want a guide of their own, they will receive a guide speaking their own language.

They will be lodging as much as possible in places run by religious orders, not 5-star luxury accommodations. They are working towards getting donations and sponsors for people who cannot otherwise afford to attend. For more information, see the ORP/Kairos website.

 

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istanbul2On Sunday, January 4, 2015, the Conventual Franciscans at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul, Turkey, received a surprise visitor – His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. It’s rather like having Pope Francis suddenly pop over for an afternoon!

Patriarch Bartholomew is regarded as the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. He is the 270th Patriarch of the see of Byzantium (Constantinople), a see that traces its roots back to St. Andrew the Apostle.

The Patriarch came to St. Anthony Church to view the exhibit: “ENCOUNTERS OF LASTING LOVE”, which was set up in the courtyard of the church on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis. The exhibition was curated by Friar Martin Kmetec, a Conventual Franciscan from Slovenia, who made the news in 2006 when he was threatened with death by some Turkish Islamic youth but managed to thwart the attack.

When Pope John XXIII was Vatican Ambassador to Turkey, he preached at St. Anthony’s, the largest Church in Istanbul, for ten years. Amazingly, the Holy Father was fluent in Turkish and for this reason, he was known as the Turkish Pope!

ofm istanbul patriarchFriar Iulina Pişta and a few guests welcomed the Patriarch despite the short notice. The exhibit highlighted three ecumenical moments: the Jerusalem meetings between Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I, and later Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, as well as the recent meeting that Pope Francis and Bartholomew I had in Constantinople (Istanbul) in November of 2014.

Later, Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Basilica of St. Anthony where a group of Filipinos welcomed him at the church door with Christmas carols. Inside the church, the Patriarch lit candles while Romanian clerics sang. As he visited the manger scene, he met and blessed Friar Giuseppe Robu’s sister and her family who were there for the baptism of their child. Patriarch Bartholomew then blessed an icon depicting Peter and Andrew and affixed his signature on the back. He then went down to the crypt to see the Byzantine style paintings.

The meeting symbolizes the importance that the Churches of the East and the West place on ecumenical dialogue. It also highlights the courage of the Christian community in an Islamic country where they are a very tiny minority.

During his visit to Turkey in November 2014, Pope Francis said, “We are already on the way, on the path towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another.”

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New Book on Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

sheenA new book about Venerable Fulton J. Sheen came out in 2014, written by Monsignor Hilary C. Franco who for many years was the Archbishop’s closest friend and collaborator. Entitled Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Mentor and Friend, many of the stories in it are familiar for those of us who have read the Archbishop’s autobiography Treasure in Clay. However, this book has some additional gems in it, particularly in the second half of the book. In an interview format, Msgr. Franco reflects on the Bishop’s crucial contributions during the Second Vatican Council, the Archbishop’s prophetic view of the woes besieging the Church and the solutions, so strongly articulated in the same vein by Pope Francis today. Msgr Franco said, “Much like Pope Francis does, he chose to come to the people.”

The way to restore all things in Christ was simple: bring Christ back into catechetics! Current books, the Archbishop said, began with community, not with Christ. He said that people are following Marx not Mark. The Church in the U.S. needed not a renewal but a re-Christification. To do this, we must preach Jesus Christ, crucified.

The Church was looking more corporate than personal, locked up in itself, “not sufficiently concerned with the problems of the world and especially the evangelization of those outside the Church.” He said, “Only a Church wounded by poverty can convert a doubting world.”

While traveling on a bus in Rome with over 70 bishops on their way to a session during the second Vatican Council,  he said, “My dear Bishops, don’t you think it odd with so many bishops here on an historic  and profound mission, we don’t have a place in the hotel where we can reserve the Blessed Sacrament?” He then got Msgr. Franco to arrange it. The Archbishop himself made a Holy Hour every day of his priesthood. It was a major well-spring from which he drew his strength for the mission.

The Archbishop died early into the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II to whom he wrote: “Every night when silence gives vision scope, I pray to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for the Chief Shepherd of our souls, and the only moral authority left in the world.”

To order this inspirational book, please visit newhopepublications.org or call 270-325-3061.

 

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Four Emerging Communities

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Women's Communities | No comments yet.

The National Catholic Register, in a recent article (Jan 3), highlighted four new emerging communities, showing that in this Year of Consecrated Life, there is life anew in the Church in the USA. Late in 2014, I mentioned a new Franciscan community of women in Buffalo, NY, but here are four more….

sanilacSisters of Our Mother of Divine Grace

These sisters are Associate Members of the IRL who were previously part of a sedevacantist community of sisters in Spokane, WA. Two other sisters in Spokane founded the new community of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa in California. Four more sisters came to Port Sanilac, Michigan, where they were mentored by the Sisters of Mercy of Alma and were founded as a community by Bishop Joseph Cistone in 2010.

“We are revitalizing parishes through catechesis, perpetual adoration and Marian devotion,” Sister Mary Inviolata said. “We hope to expand to teaching. Ecumenism is part of our charism. We have a vacation Bible school with the Methodists and Lutherans. We have a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.”

Sister Mary Teresita says, “God in his loving providence has wonderfully blessed us in ways beyond our imagination. We strive to promote a greater unity in the truth of Christ.”

mother olgaDaughters of Mary of Nazareth

Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart is a convert to Catholicism from Assyrian Church of the East. She was born and raised in Iraq and came into the Church in 2005. As indicated by their name, the sisters take inspiration from the humble spirit of Mary and Joseph. Their primary apostolate is outreach through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the Boston Archdiocese. The community, founded in 2011, is attracting vocations, Mother says, because of their faithfulness “to the radical tradition of religious life according to the teaching of the Magisterium.” As someone active in campus ministry for ten years, she says, “Students want to be accepted as people. They hunger and thirst for truth.”

servitoreBrigittine Servitores

The Brigittines in Amity, Oregon, are IRL Affiliate community members and Sister Margarita Igiriczi-Negy, foundress and only member of the Brigittine Servitores in Tyler, Texas, has a close relationship with them. Brother Bernard Ner Suguitan, the prior, said, “Her prayers are priceless.”

St. Bridget of Sweden founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior (aka Brigittines) in 1346. Sr. Margarita is a convert, having been raised Presbyterian in Hungary. Prayers, such as the Brigittine Divine Office, are said in Latin. She hopes to attract other women who love the traditional Latin liturgy. “At the present, the Brigittine Servitores is the only order of the Brigittine family that follows the Latin traditional liturgy,” she said. “Furthermore, it is contemplative in nature. Contemplative prayer is a strong source of graces, both for the individual and for the whole Church.” Sister Margarita teaches Latin at a local parish.

Fraternas

Lastly, Fraternas (Marian Community of Reconciliation) is a community of consecrated laywomen who live in community but work in the world. They were founded in Peru in 1991 and in the United States, are currently in California, Colorado, Connecticut and Texas. Patricia Pollack is with Fraternas in San Antonio, where she is involved in pro-life activities and ministry to the poor. “We meet Jesus in action,” said Patricia. “We are serving teenagers, the poor and families. We work directly with the parish. I see Jesus as a brother who walks that path before me.”

For more information on all four communities, please see the National Catholic Register article!

 

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An Army of Spiritual Mentors

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in College Campus News, News | No comments yet.

samaritan womenOne of the biggest requirements for men and women discerning religious life is a good spiritual director. But often, the parish priest is too busy, the diocese is focused on priestly vocations and others potentially available are not a good fit or equipped to provide good spiritual mentoring.

Therefore, it is with great joy and interest, that we promote this wonderful program called “Catholic Spiritual Mentorship: Forming You to Form Others in the Interior Life.”

Offered by the Apostles of the Interior Life in collaboration with the Holy Family School of Faith, Catholic Spiritual Mentorship is a two-year course of study combining eight distance learning courses with four one-week intensive sessions offered in-residence at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

According to their brochure:

  • The program is designed to form Spiritual Mentors to serve as guide and companion to others on their journey to holiness. We are looking for Catholics who have a desire to develop a deep prayer and sacramental life, a desire to increase their knowledge of the Catholic faith, a desire to grow in the virtues and a desire to help others do the same.
  • While many people in the program are from the greater Kansas City area, we have had participants from 15 different states and dioceses across the United States. This diverse group includes many lay people, permanent deacons,and religious sisters.

They are currently accepting applications for their next session. If you would like more information, please call (913) 310-0014 or email: SpiritualMentorship@SchoolofFaith.com.

The Apostles of the Interior Life were founded in 1990 by Fr. Salvatore Scorza who, as a young seminarian, envisioned a community of young consecrated people with philosophical and theological backgrounds that would seek out their brothers and sisters and guide them to meet God.

Their four pillars are: Prayer (four hours daily including the Mass, Adoration and the Divine Office); Community life; Intellectual formation (at least 5 years of study); and Apostolate (missionary, especially on college campuses, formation of spiritual mentors, retreats, etc).

They are present on the following US college campuses: the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL; the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS; the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI; and Texas A&M University in College Station, TX.  In 2009 a Provincial House was established in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS. In 2012, the first five brothers were ordained to the Priesthood.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS, says: “My dream … is to be able to awaken in the hearts of many a yearning for holiness. If we are able to succeed in this area, we will need an army of spiritual mentors who will be trained to help guide and assist others in developing a rich life of prayer.”

The icon for the Apostles of the Interior Life is of Jesus greeting the Samaritan women at the well. May these spiritual mentors draw many to the well of living water, to Jesus Christ.

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St. Therese and Two Prisoners’ Conversions

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Cloistered life | No comments yet.

st therseIn the The Story of a Soul, the Carmelite nun St. Therese of Lisieux recounts the conversion story of Henri Pranzini, a triple-murderer whom St. Therese feared would die impenitent. Calling Henri her “mon premier enfant” (my first child), she “wanted at all costs to keep him from falling into hell, and to succeed I employed all means imaginable, feeling that of myself I could do nothing. I offered to God all the infinite merits of Our Lord.”

After Henri’s execution in 1887, Therese learned of his last moments. “He turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him, and kissed the sacred wounds three times! Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Him who declares that in heaven there will be more joy over one sinner who does penance than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance!”

card_295_Jacques_Fesch2237-final-front-webI mention this because Crisis magazine recounts the conversion story of another infamous murderer, Jacques Fesch, who was executed for murder on the Feast Day of St. Therese, September 1, 1957. Calling his childhood “utter wretchedness,” he was robbing a store when things went horribly wrong. In prison, he confessed to the chaplain that he “had no faith.” But his lawyer was a devout Catholic, concerned for his client’s soul.

A book about Our Blessed Mother sparked the start of his conversion. Later, Jacques recalled: “At the end of my first year in prison, a powerful wave of emotion swept over me, causing deep and brutal suffering. Within the space of a few hours, I came into possession of faith, with absolute certainty. I believed … Grace came to me. A great joy flooded my soul, and above all a deep peace.”

The night before his execution, he wrote, “Suddenly the thought comes: no matter what I do, Paradise is not for me! Satan is behind this. He wants to discourage me. I throw myself at Mary’s feet…I am going to recite my rosary and the prayers for the dying, then I shall entrust my soul to God…. But, good Jesus, help me!”

On Tuesday, October 1, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Jacques made his last Confession, and received Holy Communion, offering his life for the conversion of his father, for those he loved, and for the man he had killed.

His last words, before he was guillotined, were to ask the priest for the crucifix which he kissed. In this moment, St. Therese was surely praying for his same intentions and for this child of God who returned to the Father who created him.

Jacques said he lived like a Carthusian monk while in prison. His prison cell was a monastic cell. We often get profoundly moving letters from prisoners who live like Jacques – repentant, expectant, and prayerful. We send them, free-of-charge, IRL  materials to help them on their journey. Most are grateful that a real person bothers to respond to their letters at all. They often feel invisible. Please pray for these “monks in blue” that they may experience God’s mercy and forgiveness, live truly holy lives and offer their prayers and sufferings for the good others, particularly those they have harmed.

Happy New Year to you all.

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Apostolic Visitation Report – Some Highlights

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.
Mother Agnes Mary(r) and Sister Sharon Holland (l)

Mother Agnes Mary(r) and Sister Sharon Holland (l)

On December 16, 2014, the final report of the apostolic visitation of U.S. women religious was released by the Vatican. The apostolic visitation’s purpose was “to look into the quality of the life of religious women in the United States” amid concerns about the rising median age of religious, lack of vocations and the rise of secularism in some communities.

Addressing the media were the current prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL), Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, and the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM. Also present were Mother Mary Clare Millea, ASCJ (Apostolic Visitator); Sr. Sharon Holland, IHM, of the LCWR; and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, of the CMSWR (who will receive the IRL’s 2015 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute award at this year’s National Meeting in April. Mother Mary Clare was the recipient of the 2013 award).

Despite some communities’ initial concerns regarding the purpose of the apostolic visitation, the general reaction from those involved was overwhelmingly positive.

Some highlights:

  • 341 religious institutes of both diocesan and pontifical right, encompassing approximately 50,000 women religious, were visited.
  • The median age of apostolic women religious is in the mid-to-late 70s. The number of religious has declined from 125,000 in the mid 1960’s to 50,000 today.
  • The majority of women religious have a strong sense of the history of their institute and the charism of their foundress/founder
  • The majority of the religious institutes work with lay collaborators. However, the essential difference between the vowed religious and these lay persons should be respected and celebrated.
  • Aspirants to religious life tend to be older, more educated, and more culturally diverse than in the past. They often have extensive professional backgrounds but less prior theological and spiritual formation. Many wish to be externally recognizable as consecrated women (ie. habits).
  • Caution is to be taken not to displace Christ from the center of creation and of our faith. Institutes should ensure that their spiritual practices and ministry are in harmony with Catholic teaching about God, creation, the Incarnation and the Redemption.

Our times need the credible and attractive witness of consecrated religious who demonstrate the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel. Convinced of the sublime dignity and beauty of consecrated life, may we all pray for and support our women religious and actively promote vocations to the religious life.

Click here to read Ann Carey’s (Sisters in Crisis) assessment of the document.

 

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