Sioux City Carmelites Celebrate 50 years

On March 25, 2012, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Sioux City, IA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of their monastery of  Our Lady of the Incarnation. Mother Joseph said the seven sisters “pray for priests. We’re here for the world and for people. There are so many people needing prayers for various hardships, whether it’s unemployment or sickness, addictions, all sorts of things. We’re just here for God’s children and we offer our lives in prayer and sacrifice, but mainly it’s a thing of love.”

She also explained the significance of the religious habit: “We think this is Our Lady’s scapular. It’s a witness to the world set apart for God, I believe. We’re not following the fashions. We’re the people that are chosen as the brides of Christ.”

Click here for the full story. May they be blessed with plentiful vocations to continue their mission in the Church.

Father Ciszek’s Cause moves Forward

The cause of Rev. Walter Ciszek, S.J. has taken a “major step forward,” with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints issuing a declaration that the investigation is valid, the National Catholic Register reports.

Father Ciszek was born in 1904 in Shenandoah, PA, entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1928 and was ordained in 1937. Since he had a burning desire to serve the people in Communist Russia he was trained to say the Mass in the Russian Rite. After 2 years in Poland, he entered the Soviet Union so that he could minister to Christians who lived under communist persecution but was arrested as a “spy” in 1941. He endured torture, months and months of solitary confinement and years of hard labor near the Arctic Circle. His prayer to serve Catholics in Russia was answered but not in the way he expected. He found peace in knowing that he was serving where God wanted him, in his weakness and imprisonment and desolation. His parishioners became his fellow prisoners and fellow exiles in Siberia.

I highly recommend his two books: He Leadeth Me and With God in Russia. The first book is a classic that I have read many times. Two gentlemen I gave it to last year both independently said: I raced through it the first time to find out what happened and read it through the second time to savor it.

Father Ciszek died at Fordham University in New York on Dec. 8, 1984.

Archbishop Lori and Vocations

On March 20, 2012, Archbishop William E. Lori was appointed to be the next archbishop of Baltimore. Since 2001, he has been the bishop of Bridgeport, CT.

In a CNS News Service story Archbishop Lori said that he expects that religious vocations will be one of his priorities in Baltimore. Vocations was certainly was one of his priorities in his last assignment. During his tenure in Bridgeport from 2001 to the present, 35 priests were ordained and 39 seminarians are currently in formation. Eight orders of women religious and a new religious institute were welcomed into the Diocese including the Missionaries of Charity; the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; the Institute of the Servants of the Lord and Virgin of Matára; and a new religious institute, the Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of the Springs of Bridgeport.

May God bless the new Archbishop and may vocations continue to flourish under his guiding hand with the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the faithful.

Highlights of the Holy Father’s Mexico Trip

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will visit Mexico and Cuba from March 23-29, 2012.  In an interesting article in the National Catholic Register, Mary Hansen describes some of the lesser known but incredibly beautiful Catholic images that the Holy Father will see in Mexico.

Included on the itinerary is a visit to site of the huge statue, Cristo Rey (Christ the King), described by their former President as a “rebuke to the repressors of religious freedom.” Another one of his stops will be the city of Guanajuato where he will see a statue of Our Lady that is believed to date from the 7th century.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said, “I think the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in Mexico is seen by the great majority of people in this country as a profound sign of hope,” he told Vatican Radio. “The Mexican people are a very religious people, with a deep experience of God, a deep experience of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, a deep experience also of what it means to be members of the Church.”

Let us pray for a safe journey for our Holy Father and for all who will pray with him, in person and in spirit. May he strengthen the faith of the people and encourage young men and women to heed the call of the Lord to: “Follow me!”

IRL 2012 National Meeting – Enroll Now!

The Institute on Religious Life will hold its 2012 National Meeting on April 13-15, 2012, at The University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. The theme of the meeting is: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts: The Sacred Liturgy as a Foretaste of Heaven.

The banquet honoree is Very Rev. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B. who established a new Benedictine Community (founded in 1998) at the birthplace of St. Benedict and his twin sister, Saint Scholastica. As of the Autumn of 2011, the community had eight monks in Solemn Vows, four in Simple Vows, four novices, one postulant and one observer.

Other speakers are: Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Dr. Scott Hahn, Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz, Rt. Rev. Marcel Rooney, O.S.B., Rev. Douglas Martis, Dr. Denis McNamara,  and Sr. Maria Stella Whittier, C.J.D.

Details on registration can be found at our website or call 847-573-8975. The IRL 2012 National Meeting is open to all clergy, religious and laity! Check out the free Saturday program for young people ages 13-25. Advance registration required. Hope to meet you there!

“Hippies, Self-Sacrifice and the Disappearance of Nuns”

How many brothers do you know who priests today? There are probably quite a few but how many of them are twins!?! Fr. Joel and Fr. Benjamin who studied next door to the IRL at Mundelein Seminary and are converts to the faith, are at least one example!

On their blog,, they have an interesting commentary on the disappearance of religious sisters and cloistered nuns from the landscape of our country. They describe the exodus as driven by the need for self-fulfillment versus self-sacrificing. I also look at it as filling myself up with me as opposed to letting myself be emptied so as to fill up with God.

It’s well worth a read because the same tendency that has negatively impacted religious life is one that they astutely point out is affecting marriage. People leaving a good, faithful spouse to “find themselves.”

“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Mt 10:39)

Traverse City Carmelites Chapel Renovation

The Carmelite Nuns of Traverse City, Michigan, will soon have a renovated chapel, one that will be “more beautiful so the mind is lifted up to heaven.” For almost 50 years, the nuns have lived on their 60-acres of property worshiping and praying in a chapel  that “has some very beautiful elements, but we thought it would be difficult if not impossible to give it a more traditional and transcendent look due to its structure and small size.”

Then they were introduced to the work of architect Duncan Stroik whose recent commissions have included the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI, and the  Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA. A professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame, he authored the book Reconquering Sacred Space and is editor of the professional journal Sacred Architecture.

The Carmeltes small chapel would seem to be small potatoes for a man of his renown but he is excited about the project. “The sisters have a great love of beauty, of the liturgy and of tradition, and want to do something worthy of Christ. The fascinating part of the project is the sisters’ desire that the sanctuary be designed to be beautiful and inspiring from the nave as well as from their cloister chapel.”

Bishop Bernard Hebda of the Diocese of Gaylord is an enthusiastic supporter of the project. “My deepest hope is that these sisters may soon offer their praise and prayers in a setting that reflects the best of Catholic theology and the deep reverence and beauty of their personal faith,” he wrote. “At a moment when Pope Benedict has invited the Church in the English-speaking world to renew its appreciation for the Mass, and as we actively embrace a new Roman Missal which restores some of the richness of our traditions, the timing is perfect for construction of a new sanctuary within the Carmelite monastery chapel.”

For more information about the renovation project, contact

To be WOWed and I mean WOW by Duncan Stroik’s other works, visit his website.

Visitation Nuns 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage

Revolutions come and go, and today’s social milieu will change with the wind, but for four hundred years a group of nuns have born witness to the merciful heart of Jesus through their lives of gentleness and humility.

The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, founded in 1610 in France, has grown to a worldwide congregation of active and cloistered sisters, and today they can be found in nearly every country. The cloistered Visitation nuns from Toledo, Ohio, recently made a pilgrimage to Annecy, France, where the congregation was founded, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of their founding.

A new video made for the occasion captures the spirit of the Visitation and chronicles the happy excursions of the sisters in the areas once walked by their founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. The video opens with a beautiful panorama of the valley surrounding Annecy.

Delighted to See the Nuns

“We walked everywhere,” the sisters said. “Going to the basilica was always ‘up’ and a steep climb. It allowed us to meet the people who seem delighted to see this large group of nuns, and were all smiles.”

Join the sisters as they journey the next 400 years as they walk in the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. The video capturing the spirit of the pilgrimage was released on January 2, 2012, and has received more than 2,500 views.

Poor Clares – 800th Anniverary Celebration

Today, March 18, 2012, Poor Clares from all over the world are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the religious consecration of their Mother and Foundress, Saint Clare. On the night of Palm Sunday, 1212, Clare left her home and all of her belongings to follow Christ’s call to a life of prayer, penance and poverty.

Saint Clare was born in Assisi, Italy, in about 1194 into a family of knights and nobles. At the age of eighteen, Clare became the first female follower of Saint Francis and later the first woman in Church history to write a Rule.  Because she remained for 40 years “rooted” in one place, she liked to call herself the Little Plant of St. Francis.

Today, there are over 20,000 Poor Clares and Poor Clare Colettine Nuns around the world.

The Poor Clare Nuns of Belleville, Illinois, have put together a beautiful reflection on the life of Saint Clare as expressed by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. We thank God for the gift of the Poor Clares; lives hidden yet shining brightly for all the world.

Polish Sister Becomes US Citizen

The fight to maintain religious liberty in our country is not something a Polish immigrant sister takes for granted. On February 10, 2012, Sr. Joachim Celinska, OP, became a US citizen.  Born in Communist Poland, her parents nonetheless raised their children in the Catholic faith. Not surprisingly, Sister loved Pope John Paul II and prayed his vocation prayer every day not realizing that God was personally calling her to a life dedicated in His service.

She entered the Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in 1987 and came to America in 2000. Not knowing the language made it difficult for her at first but she found the people friendly and the land beautiful. She and another sister care for the sick, teach religion classes and help families in Mountain Home, Arkansas, which by Sister’s description sounds like a little bit of heaven on earth.

In the Arkansas Catholic newspaper, Sister Joachim said, “This year, I’m going to vote for the first time. America is a beautiful country. God really loves this country because he’s given freedom. We know what it’s like to live under oppression. I wish and pray for all American people to take advantage of that freedom and thank God for freedom of religion, so they can express their faith freely.”

The Order to which she belongs, the Dominican Sisters of the Immaculate Conception,  is an IRL Affiliate founded in by Mother Maria Kolumba in 19th century Poland. They engage in various ministries in three major areas: evangelization, education, and health care. In the last two years, 15 novices made their first profession in their congregation worldwide. Two of them were received here in the U.S., for the American Province. Besides Mountain Home, the sisters have convents in Illinois and Wisconsin.