IRL Author Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Sr. Evelyn Ann Schumacher, OSF, a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity and a special friend of the Institute on Religious Life, is celebrating her 75th profession as a religious sister. As an 8th grader in 1933, Sister knew the convent was where she was meant to be. Her parents who “would not put an obstacle in the way if God were really calling her to religious life” ultimately agreed. Her father’s last words to her as he put her on the train were: “Do whatever they tell you.” As soon as she arrived at Holy Family Convent in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, she knew she was home.

Sister was a teacher until 1974, earning Masters degrees from Creighton and Marquette along the way. Then she began to conduct retreats and days of recollection as well as turning her talents to writing. She has authored 4 books for the IRL:

  • An Undivided Heart. Pope John Paul II on the Deeper Realities of the Consecrated Life
  • Holiness, The Heart of Renewal. The Lasting Legacy of Pope John Paul’s Message to Religious
  • Pray Always! The Contemplative Dimension of the Apostolic  Religious Life
  • Invitation to Intimacy. Christian Discipleship as Taught by Jesus in the Farewell Address of John’s Gospel

Sister Evelyn Ann is now retired and lives at St. Rita’s Health Care Center in Manitowoc. God bless her for her faithfulness.



Saint Clare Novena

The year 2012 marks the 800th anniversary of Saint Clare’s religious consecration and the founding of the Poor Clares. The Poor Clares of Belleville, Illinois, invite everyone to join them in their solemn novena in honor of Saint Clare, August 2 through August 10. Her feast day is Sunday, August 11th.

Pope John Paul II said that there was no concern, suffering, anguish or discouragement of others that  did not find an echo in the heart of this prayerful woman.

She is the:

  • Patroness of Television (declared so in 1958). When she was too sick to attend Mass, she was able to see it on a wall in her room. The origin of the word television comes from tele (far) and vision (sight). Mother Angelica, who founded EWTN,  is a Poor Clare nun.
  • Patroness of Seamstresses – preserved at the basilica of St. Clare in Assisi is a linen and lace alb she made for St. Francis
  • Intercessor for those with eye trouble – one of the first miracles after her death was the restoration of the sight of a blind man
  • Patroness of Good Weather – the traditional offering for a CLARE-sky day is one dozen eggs to the nearest Poor Clare Monastery
  • Helper in Childbirth – Her mother prayed before a crucifix shortly before the birth of St. Clare. The Lord said, Fear not, for you will bring forth a light that will greatly illumine the world.
  • Friend of Children in Need – People brought their children to the monastery confident that Saint Clare’s prayers would help them

The theme for this year’s novena is: Clare: Close to Us



Franciscan Martyrs Exhumed

On February 15, 1611, fourteen Franciscan brothers were murdered in their convent, Our Lady of the Snows, in Prague, the Czech Republic. One brother escaped. The beatification process was disrupted by the Communist occupation but will now take place on October 13, 2012, in Prague. According to the article in the Prague Monitor, the brothers were mainly foreigners sent to serve the Catholic minority who remained in the Protestant area. For giving up home and country, this was their fate. But while their killers are unknown today, their names will soon ring out for all to hear, 400 years after their deaths.

The bones were exhumed July 10th. By a happy coincidence, 14 Franciscans currently live at the monastery. May we always enjoy freedom of religion in this country and never have to see the sight of fourteen martyrs for the faith exhumed from our country.

12 Reasons Why Christianity is Unique

Peter Kreeft lists 12 reasons why Christianity is unique in an article on The Integrated Catholic Life website. Here is a quote that is absolutely true:

If you confess at a fashionable cocktail party that you are plotting to overthrow the government, or that you are a PLO terrorist or a KGB spy, or that you molest porcupines or bite bats’ heads off, you will soon attract a buzzing, fascinated, sympathetic circle of listeners. But if you confess that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, you will find yourself suddenly alone, with a distinct chill in the air.

His #1 discussion point is: “All religions are the same, deep down.” And it goes from there. Very meaty, interesting discussion of the topic.

Where Your Treasure Is…

The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Goonellabah, Australia, have a rich treasure that has bestowed many blessings on their community. Go to their website to see what it is. You won’t be sorry! (By the way, Goonellabah is an aboriginal word meaning “red flame tree.”)

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Mt 6:21).

Our Restless Hearts

I am writing about Saint Benedict at the moment and am intrigued by one of the three vows professed by Benedictines:  stability. Msgr. Charles Pope has an interesting article on the subject contrasting the Benedictine vow of stability with the instability of family and societal life today. As always, the saints are way ahead of us. Especially Saint Benedict who lived 1500 years ago.

The vow of stability means that a Benedictine will live out his or her life in one monastery. There’s no looking over the fence for where the grass is greener. It means that problems have to be worked out, difficult people have to be loved, selfish desires have to give way to the common good.

Look how it is today: no one lives in their hometown, parents move to Florida, no one stays with one company for their entire life, people don’t seem to want to settle down and establish roots. This is especially true in marriage where 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Monsignor says, “Stability, though difficult to find in our times is very important to cultivate wherever possible and to the extent possible. In particular, the gift to seek is the kind of stability that is content with what God has given and is not always restlessly seeking a more ideal setting. For again, as we have noted: Ultimately there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion.”

Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.


An Olympian Goes For the Eternal Prize

The National Catholic Register has an article in the current issue (July 15-28, 2012) about a former Olympian who is now a Franciscan Sister of the Renewal. Sr. Catherine Holum was an American speed-skater at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Appropriately enough, she is stationed in England where the XXX Olympiad will kick off on July 27th.  Her mother Dianne has 4 Olympics medals.

When she was 16, Sr. Catherine had a profound experience of faith while on a pilgrimage to Fatima but fell away from her faith while she attained a degree in photography from the Art Institute in Chicago. However, she was always pro-life and encountering a group of pro-life young people who were on a walk across America changed her life. Here she witnessed joyous, zealous Catholics whose love for Jesus really made a difference in their lives. When she encountered the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal at World Youth Day in Toronto, she felt the same attraction in her heart that she had felt for these young people. She joined the community in 2003.

Heaven, she says, is eternal glory. Winning a gold meal is only brief glory.



Ten Misconceptions About Discernment & Religious Life

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita have a list on their website of the top ten misconceptions about discernment and religious life that was one of the most perceptive and at the same time the most obvious set of points I have ever read. They likened the discernment process that a young women goes through before marrying to the discernment process a young woman goes through before choosing a community.

For example, #1: You are called to a particular Community

If you are called to Religious Life, you are called to a particular Community.  When a young woman feels called to marriage, she doesn’t say, “I am called to get married.  Any man will do, as long as I follow my vocation.  I’ll marry the first one I meet.”  Just as in marriage God has a plan for your partner, He has a plan for the right Community for you.

Example #9:  How do you choose from so many Communities?

Some young women say, “But there are SOOO many religious Communities out there.  I give up before I even start because I don’t know where to start.”  Well, there are a lot more men in the world than religious communities.  Why hasn’t this stopped women from getting married?  Because it only takes ONE man, the RIGHT one.  When you meet him, you stop looking.  Take it one at a time and trust God to lead the right one to you, or to place him in front of you.  The same applies to Convents.

All of the examples cited on this Top Ten list are equally perceptive and instructive. It really takes the mystery out of the discernment process when you liken it to choosing a spouse. If God is calling you to religious life, then He will lead you to that right community where your vocation can blossom and be fruitful.

The IHM Sisters are an IRL Affiliate Community with a Carmelite spirituality and an emphasis on Eucharistic and Marian devotion. The sisters engage in the works of Catholic education on all levels, including spiritual retreats. In union with Mary, the sisters pray for the Church, especially for the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of priests.



You Are Mine!

Take a few moments to watch this beautiful YouTube video  of the investiture of a Poor Clare nun from December 11, 2011. Beautiful music and beautiful written reflections are used to bring us into the experience of this very special day for Sr. Marie Elise of Jesus Crucified from the Poor Clare Monastery in Barhamsville, VA.

Mother Abbess asked her repeatedly: will you be nervous or cry and the answer was always, no! Then came the moment of the cutting of the hair, like St. Clare, and the donning of the headcover and veil.  She saw herself in the heart of the Jesus with the doors to His heart closing until they were shut completely. Sr. Marie Elise heard Jesus say, “You are mine.”  Then she cried. She arose from her knees a new person, devoted to Christ alone.

The Poor Clares in Barhamsville are an IRL Affiliate Community. Visit their website for more information.


From Ocean to Ocean

Right now, Catholic and Orthodox pilgrims are traveling across Russia with a replica of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa on a pilgrimage called “From Ocean to Ocean International Campaign in Defense of Life.” If all goes as planned, the icon will travel across 8 time zones (11,000 miles and 24 countries) ending in Fatima, Portugal, and hopefully from there to America in the Spring of 2013 (boy, do we need her intervention!). The purpose of the pilgrimage in Russia is to invoke the intercession of Our Lady, Ark of the New Covenant, asking her to end the scourge of abortion which has been legal in Russia since 1920 and to restore a culture of life. They have the dubious honor of being the first country in the world to legalize abortion.

Fr. Peter West, of Human Life International, has a very interesting article on Zenit, documenting how Our Lady has helped the Church throughout the ages. Just as the Jews carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle, so we too should carry the Mother of God into battle to fight against the culture of death.The Ark contained the tablets of the law while Mary’s womb contained the Son of God, in Whom the prophets and the law found their fulfillment.

As the icon made its way up a river, one observer noted: “It is hard to describe the reactions of people in boats and ships passing by.  They waved to us  and in various ways showed their admiration and support.”

Go to the From Ocean to Ocean International Campaign in Defense of Life website to follow the progress in countries such as the Ukraine, Latvia, Croatia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Ireland, etc. Let us pray that the Mother of God will touch all hearts who see her image.