Nashville Dominican, Physician

While I ordinarily would discourage people from reading the National Catholic Reporter, which has been a notorious instrument of dissent for decades, I just came across this Catholic News Service story at their website and encourage our readers to check it out.

The story is about Dominican Sister Mary Diana Dreger, a primary care physician at St. Thomas Family Health Center South in Nashville. Sister Mary Diana continues the legacy of Catholic health care that has been firmly rooted in Middle Tennessee since the Daughters of Charity founded St. Thomas Hospital in 1898.

In addition to working at the St. Thomas clinic since 2007, Sister runs a Saturday clinic at the Dominican motherhouse, and naturally serves as the primary-care physician for about 75 Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

Sister Mary Diana strives to put her patients at ease, providing a solidly Catholic witness while dispensing sound health care, not lectures on morality. Even though she is the only sister in Nashville who is also a medical doctor, “I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how welcome I’ve been wearing a habit,” she said.

Contrary to what some may believe, she has found that wearing a habit inspires more trust than skepticism among patients. “Patients are comfortable talking about just about anything with me,” she said.

New Canadian Monk

Here’s an uplifting story from The B.C. Catholic, the publication of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, on a young man who just made his perpetual vows as a Benedictine at Westminster Abbey in Mission, British Columbia.

John Marple (now known as Frater Caesarius) was the fourth of eight children, who began homeschooling when he was in second grade.

“[Our parents] pulled us out of school because they wanted to bring us up in our faith,” said Frater Caesarius. “They taught us solid doctrine.”
The family went to Mass every morning. “We actually went to the Pastoral Center at the 8 o’clock Mass for quite a number of years.” On weekends the family attended Mass at their home parish. Frater Caesarius was homeschooled untill Grade 9 and completed high school at Austin O’Brien Catholic School.
The road to discovering his vocation was not an easy one, but thank God for his parents, who obviously made his formation in the faith a priority.

More Changes for Regnum Christi

Catholic News Agency reports that Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, the Pontifical Delegate to the Legion of Christ (Legionaries), in a letter published Oct. 17th, provided the results of an investigation into the life of consecrated lay people in Regnum Christi–the lay branch of the Legionaries–which calls for further reform of the troubled community.

A consecrated lay person is somebody who, while not in holy orders, has committed to a life of apostolic poverty, chastity and obedience.

Cardinal De Paolis said that the archbishop’s review had found that “at a personal level the consecrated members are grateful for their vocation” and live it “according to the evangelical counsels with joy,” rendering “a valuable service to the Church with their self-giving.”

However, he also said there “issues regarding personal and community life” in Regnum Christi that are “many and challenging.”

An Associated Press story last week went into greater detail on this latest turn of events, characterizing the Legion’s treatment of its consecrated lay members as “abusive” and “cult-like.”

Cardinal De Paolis’ report indicated that the ongoing reforms of the community must include a greater autonomy for the members, including the right under canon law to choose their own confessor and spiritual director.

Ireland’s “Vocations App”

Answering the “call” is getting a little easier these days, and in a surprising place. Those who want more information on joining the Catholic priesthood in Ireland need look no further than their smart phone.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference is eagerly promoting its new “Vocations App.”

The app was launched Monday by Down and Connor Auxiliary Bishop Donal McKeown, chair of the episcopal conference’s Vocations Commission. The first in the world, this new app is available for download free of charge from the Apple app store.

The purpose of the app is to “assist current and future generations seeking to investigate and find information on vocations to the diocesan priesthood in Ireland,” announced the bishops’ conference in a press release.

The app was developed by a Dublin company, Magic Time Apps, and designed by Father Paddy Rushe of the Archdiocese of Armagh.

The launch of the app also heralded the official handoff of the position of National Coordinator for Diocesan Vocations from Father Rushe to Father Willie Purcell of the Diocese of Ossory.

Some of the highlights of the Vocations App include:

— contact details and statistics on the 26 dioceses of Ireland

— frequently asked questions to assist a person to discern his vocation, including questions such as “What does a priest do all day?” and “How long do you have to study?

— news feed running from the national vocations website

— “tests” to enable the user to reflect on vocation potential

Anticipated updates for the Vocations App include a “prayer counter” for those who want to pledge prayers for vocations, and an image gallery giving a window into the life of a seminarian.

Courtesy of Zenit.

Congress on St. Catherine of Siena

The Holy See Press Office reports that an international congress dedicated to St. Catherine, Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Europe will take place in Rome and Siena this week.

The congress has as its title “‘Virgo digna Coelo” (“Virgin worthy of Heaven).

Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, explained in a Vatican press conference that “the figure of St. Catherine extends far beyond her own earthly existence and takes on a powerful symbolic value” for the Church today.

In his Oct. 21 announcement, Fr. Ardura said the study of St. Catherine “serves to remind us of the unshakable faith which she possessed and which made her spiritual mother to so many Christians.”

Her example is especially important, he said, as the Church prepares for the 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” announced Oct. 16.

Fr. Ardura went on to explain that the forthcoming congress will be divided into four sessions “to facilitate a more profound examination of the life and influence of the saint” who, he said, “also enjoyed great recognition among theologians, to the point that on October 4, 1970, Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church, for her exalted theology and her influence in the renewal of that discipline.”

The first session of the congress will see a contribution from Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The second session will be dedicated to the cause of canonization of St. Catherine, including an examination of its documents and a review of models of female sanctity between 1300 and 1400. The third session will focus on the relationship between St. Catherine and the religious orders of her day. “In the fourth session,” Fr. Ardura continued, “we will see how it is possible to study and celebrate St. Catherine today, because her memory has remained alive among Christians and her influence has never ceased to enrich the Church, mainly though hagiographies and literary culture, and in particular thanks to her magnificent Letters.”

On its last day the congress will move to Siena for the inauguration of an exhibition entitled “Catherine of Siena and the process of canonization.” It will also hold its last session there, dedicated to “St. Catherine in art.” Professor Utro explained that the session will take place in the chapter house of the convent of St. Dominic in Siena, and will be presided by Paolo Nardi, prior general of the International St. Catherine Association and curator of the exhibition. Other art historians will also participate, including Diega Giunta, the leading specialist on artistic representations of St. Catherine.

Courtesy of the Vatican Press Office and Catholic News Agency.

Super Bowl of the Saints

Looking for ideas on how to celebrate Halloween/All Saints Day? Check out the School Sisters of Christ the King, based in the Diocese of Lincoln.

On Sunday afternoon, October 30th, the sisters are hosting at their motherhouse a “Super Bowl of the Saints” in honor of All Saints Day. (Locals are instructed to follow the red balloons to get there!)

Entire families are invited, as the festivities include activities for all ages. Children are encouraged (but not required) to wear their favorite saint costume, as everyone in attendance will be encouraged to learn from the saints how to respond to the Heart of Jesus.

This dynamic, relatively new (founded in 1976) community of sisters has a beautiful “apostolic mission”:

“Responding to the call of Christ and His Church, we, the School Sisters of Christ the King, strive to bring about the reign of Christ through the apostolate of Catholic education. As Brides of Christ, daughters of the Church and Mothers of Souls, we devote ourselves to reflect His love, teach His truth and form His image in souls in the schools of the Diocese of Lincoln.”

The Sisters belong “totally to the King,” as they reverence Christ as King in the Crib, on the Cross, in the Blessed Sacrament, and reigning in Heaven, and this wonderful charism has attracted many young women to this community. If you know someone who might be interested, the Sisters regularly offer “Come and See” retreats.

The Institute on Religious Life is proud to number the School Sisters of Christ the King among its affiliate communities.

Sisters Promote Vocations Online

Yesterday the National Catholic Register published an interesting article entitled “Sisters Go Online to Promote Vocations,” on how communities of women religious are relying more on the Internet and social media, with some orders report a sharp rise in inquiries.

“For many women discerning religious vocations and communities seeking new members today, the Internet serves as both matchmaker and meeting place. Whereas in the past, most young women learned about religious communities from sisters in schools and other Catholic institutions, the decline in numbers of religious women has caused communities to find different ways of reaching those whom God may be calling to vowed life.

“Chief among these new practices has been use of the Internet, where communities can easily connect with possible candidates. Many, if not most, communities today have some kind of Internet presence–at minimum, a website explaining their history and charisms. Others, like the Mercy sisters, have gone even further by adding chat rooms, blogs, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.”

While social networking alone isn’t enough to foster a “culture of vocations,” it’s increasingly becoming a significant part of the equation, according to a 2009 study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

St. Paul of the Cross

Today the Church in the United States celebrates the memorial of St. Paul of the Cross (194-1775), the founder of the Congregation of the Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, more commonly known as the “Passionists.” (For a concise explanation as to why it’s celebrated today, click here.) There are three Passionist communites for women in the United States that are affiliates of the Institute on Religious Life.

St. Paul was one of the greatest preachers of his age, and also was a renowned miracle worker and spiritual director.

In looking into St. Paul of the Cross’ remarkable life, I came across a documentary about him by actor Martin Sheen. It’s quite informative. Here is the first 13-min. installment, and here is the second 13-min. installment.

Speaking of Martin Sheen, check out this interview concerning The Way, an inspiring new movie written and directed by his son (Emilio, not Charlie!).

North American Martyrs

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. Today we remember and celebrate the planting of the Church in North America through the martyrdom of the Jesuit martyrs Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and companions. In honor of these true heroes of the faith, enjoy this short video with Fr. James Kobicki, S.J. of the Apostleship of Prayer.

May the courage of these martyrs, rooted in the love of God, inspire us to live wholeheartedly for Christ today, and to offer our own sufferings in union with Christ for the life of the world.

The “Firstborn” of St. Dominic

There was an interesting interview published in the National Catholic Register earlier this month with Sr. Mary Catharine Perry, O.P., the novice mistress of The Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey.

What struck me is the way she distinguished her community of contemplative nuns from the Dominican sisters that one more typically finds staffing Catholic schools:

Most of us know Dominican sisters as teachers. Maybe we had them in school. How do you fit into the whole Dominican picture?

The nuns are the “firstborn” of St. Dominic. In 1206 in Prouilhe, France, he gathered together nine women who had been converted from the Albigensian heresy, and they became the first monastery. You might say that they were “Dominican” before they were the Order of Preachers. It was 10 years before the friars came together.

From the very beginning, St. Dominic understood the nuns as integral to the preaching mission of the order. The nuns not only pray for the success of the holy preaching, but our life in community is itself a preaching because we witness to what the brethren preach . . . the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

The nuns ponder the Word, so that, as the prophet Isaiah says, “The word of God may not return empty but may still bear fruit.” Our role in the order is very feminine. We receive the Word, and the Word becomes mysteriously fruitful.

You’re a real, live nun. We usually call religious sisters “nuns” who really aren’t. Why is the distinction important to those of us on the outside of the convent?

Strictly speaking, nuns (moniales) are those who are cloistered. Sisters are those who are in the active life. Until the Code of Canon Law in 1917 only moniales were considered religious.

In the Order of Preachers–the Dominicans–the distinction is important because the nuns have both a spiritual and juridical bond with the friars, and together they are the Order of Preachers. There is no such thing as first and second order like with the Franciscans and Poor Clares. We profess obedience to the master of the order just as the friars do. The sisters, however, while belonging to the Dominican family, have a different relationship. It’s not that they are less Dominican; it’s just the relationship is different.

For more information on the Dominican nuns, or to help support their community, click here.