What’s “UP” in Michigan?

The Diocese of Marquette, serving Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (“UP”), recently produced an outstanding 15-minute documentary on vocations, especially to diocesan priesthood, entitled “Answering the Lord’s Call.” This program aired at various times this past weekend on local television networks, and it may be viewed online.

Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette appears at the outset of the video, setting the tone for the entire program as he explains why the promotion of vocations to the priesthood must necessarily be a pastoral priority. Throughout the video, Bishop Sample and various young priests and seminarians share their compelling stories, which all show forth the beauty of a life given to the service of Christ and the Church.

For All the Saints

Servant of God and Army Chaplain, Fr. Emil Kapaun

Happy Memorial Day to all the friends and benefactors of the Institute on Religious Life!

As today we rightly remember the heroic men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country, let us also remember the heroic priests and religious who have given their lives in the service of Our Lord and King.

Let us thank the Lord, too, for the role they had in passing on the faith to us and to our children. May they now enjoy their eternal reward.

Thy name, Lord Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Angel of Bahia

Approximately 70,000 Brazilians–including President Dilma Rousseff–turned out last Sunday for the beatification of Sr. Dulce Lopes Pontes (1912-92), who served the poorest of the poor in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

Sr. Dulce (baptized Maria Rita) entered the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God at the age of 18.

One of the inspirations for her vocation was the life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. “I think I am like the little love of my small heart, that no matter how much love it has, it is little for such a great God,” wrote Sr. Dulce upon her entrance into religious life. “I think that the Child Jesus is pleased with all little acts of love no matter how small they are.”

She founded the Obras Sociais Irma Dulce, or in English, “The Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce,” as the umbrella-organization for her amazing outreaches to the poor and needy. She was absolutely beloved by the Brazilian people, who sometimes called her “the Angel of Bahia.” Toward the end of her life, she was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The presider at the beatification was Brazilian Cardinal Dom Geraldo Agnelo. Those unable to attend the event were able to watch the nationally televised ceremony from home.

The miracle for her beatification occurred in 2001, when Cláudia Cristiane Santos, now 42, survived an uncontrolled hemorrhage after giving birth. The bleeding continued despite three operations. Doctors lost all hope that she would survive, but when her family sought the intercession of Sr. Dulce, the bleeding stopped immediately.

Th miracle further confirmed Sr. Dulce’s virtuous life, centered on prayer and charity in little things. “Love overcomes all obstacles, all sacrifices,” she used to say.

For more news reports on the beatification of the “Angel of Bahia,” check out these articles from AFP, CathNews India, and The Pilot.

Dominican Sisters Head to San Francisco

The online edition of Catholic San Francisco published an edifying story this past week on the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who are sending four sisters this fall to Marin Catholic High School, located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The sisters will there not only to teach, but also to assist with the student clubs, campus ministry, and retreat program, thereby reinforcing the school’s Catholic identity, which includes daily Mass at 7:30 a.m. for the students.

This is the young community’s second foray into Northern California. Last fall they began teaching at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in the Diocese of Sacramento, at the invitation of Bishop Jaime Soto.

Time-Tested Ingredients of a Priestly Vocation

Phillip Owen, 26, says he has always felt the Blessed Mother watching over him. Born and raised in St. Luke Parish in River Forest, Owen is the eighth of 10 children in his family. The experience of growing up in a large family served him well, he said. “I learned at an early age what it meant to sacrifice, share with others, and be generous with my time,” he said. “My parents instilled in me the importance of sharing with others, being respectful of others, the importance of Sunday Mass, and the importance of daily prayer.”
He also learned the joy of assisting at liturgies when he was quite young, becoming an altar server after his first communion.
“As a young boy in grade school I enjoyed getting out of class to serve funerals on Tuesday mornings,” he recalled. “Looking back now, I believe that God blessed me with special graces for all the time I assisted at liturgy at a young age. My favorite thing to do was serve Benediction on Monday nights during the summer months. I believe that being surrounded by so much grace at a young age allowed me to say yes to the priesthood.” Continue reading Time-Tested Ingredients of a Priestly Vocation

New Vocation Survey Probes the Heart

A new survey aims to help single Catholic women sort out what is one of the most common questions about religious life: How do I know if I’m called?

The seven-question survey, developed by Kevin Banet in cooperation with the Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Justice, IL, plumbs one’s desires and interests to help a young woman discern whether she is called to become a sister.

“The survey offers probing, thought-provoking questions about the interests and desires of the heart,” notes Kevin Banet, a vocation promotion expert who serves religious communities. “It asks questions and then has answers, or affirmations as, ‘The zeal to live and share God’s love is something that won’t lie dormant within me,’ and ‘When I see a religious sister, I think about what it would be like for me to become a sister.’” Continue reading New Vocation Survey Probes the Heart

IRL on Facebook

Our readers are encouraged to visit the the new Facebook page of the Institute on Religious Life and, if you’re so inclined, click the “like” button.

Just last week, the Catholic News Agency published an article on the immense popularity of religion-themed pages on Facebook. These pages attract many people. In fact, a page about Jesus and the Bible received nearly 2.3 million interactions during the week of May 9-15, beating out pop icons like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

This trend is by no means limited to the English-speaking world. For example, coming in ninth place with 460,000 user interactions was the Spanish religion-themed page “Dios Es Bueno!

And now as the Catholic Church prepares for a worldwide Synod on the new evangelization, we can expect even more of an emphasis on Facebook and other social media sites in the months and years to come.

So please visit our Facebook page and give us feedback, so we can continually improve our outreach in the area of promoting religious life and vocations.

St. Bernardine of Siena

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bernardine of Siena. As a child in Southern California, I never heard about St. Bernardine, though the nearby city of San Bernardino (my brother called it “San Ber-doo”) was named after him. I only later learned that this 15th-century Franciscan priest was quite a dynamic evangelist and preacher.

He is perhaps best known for fostering devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His “MO” was to travel from city to city throughout all of Italy carrying a banner with the large letters “IHS” (more on that in a minute) encircled by twelve golden rays surmounted by a cross.

I’ve always been curious about the “IHS,” which is found (thanks in large part to St. Bernardine) in many Catholic churches and on many religious items. There has been a certain amount of confusion on this. Some say it signifies “In hoc Signo vinces” (“In this Sign you will conquer,” referring to Constantine’s famous vision, with the nails on the emblem forming the “v”), while others say it’s the first letters of Jesus Hominum Salvator (“Jesus, Savior of Mankind”).

The most plausible and widely accepted interpretation that I’ve encountered is that it’s simply an abbreviated form of the name of Jesus, as it appears in Greek, The earliest recorded use of this monogram appears to be the eighth century.

Aside from all the history behind it, the important thing is that “IHS” has come to be recognized as a familiar symbol of the Holy Name of Jesus, a symbol that has been popularized over the past 500 years by Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits. May we recognize, especially in our use of language, the holiness of the name before which “every knee shall bend” (Phil. 2:10).

Let’s close with the prayer of the Church:

You gave Saint Bernardine a special love
for the holy name of Jesus.
By the help of his prayers,
may we always be alive with the spirit of Your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

Marians of the Immaculate Conception

Check out this inspiring, new vocations video from the Marian Fathers, courtesy of Roman Catholic Vocations: For Christ and the Church: The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The video includes commentary from the community’s dynamic vocation director, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, whose dramatic conversion story has touched countless souls around the world. For more on the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, including their devotion to Mary and their promotion of the message of divine mercy, click here.

Bishop Finn’s Homily at 2011 IRL National Meeting


I was delighted to see that our friends at the Catholic Key Blog just posted Bishop Finn’s homily from last month’s national meeting of the Institute on Religious Life (IRL). Bishop Finn is not only the Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, but also the new president of the IRL. 

The entire homily was worth hearing for those of us who were blessed to be in attendance, and is now worth reading online.

As the conference took place the weekend of Pope John Paul II’s beatification, it was wonderful to hear Bishop Finn’s reflections as a “John Paul youth”:

“This is a particularly important Divine Mercy Sunday. Tomorrow Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, will proclaim Pope John Paul II ‘Blessed’–Blessed John Paul! We cannot fail to include in our reflection tonight, on the vigil of the beatification, some thoughts on this holy apostle who, as Pope, walked us through the door of the Third Christian Millennium. He announced the New Evangelization. He became the best known person in the world–in part because of the new media. He invited us again and again to contemplate the face of Christ. He charged us ‘Duc in Altum’: Put out into the Deep. He saw and helped us see the dawning of a New Springtime of Christianity. He echoed for us, as Christ’s own Vicar, the encouragement, ‘Do not be afraid.’

“These words, ‘Do not be afraid,’ were among the first I myself heard from the Pope’s mouth. I had the privilege as a student–then a young man recently ordained a deacon–to be under the window that night in St. Peter’s Square when Karol Wotyla was presented to the world. Instantly I became a ‘John Paul youth,’ and in some ways I still think of myself as a John Paul youth.”

So do I!