Sisters Escape Burning Building

card dolan fdcSomehow I missed this terrible story.

On October 12, 2013, three 19-year-old men set two fires in a Daughters of Divine Charity convent in Staten Island, New York, critically injuring one of the sisters. The three college students had spent the evening smoking marijuana and drinking before breaking into the convent, looking for something to steal. Upon leaving, one of the men set two fires: one in a first floor closet and anther in a 3rd floor bedroom.

The convent is located at St. Joseph Hill Academy on Staten Island. The fire destroyed their chapel, sacristy, archives and provincial offices.This follows on the heels of two other incidences of vandalism on the property. Fortunately, arrests have been made in this latest incident.

Thankfully, Sister Regina Gegic, F.D.C., 45, celebrating 25 years as a religious, was able to return home on Monday after a two-week stay in the hospital. Click here to see the video. Sister was injured when she jumped from a second floor window to escape the blaze, breaking three vertebrae in her back. Another sister escaped the fire unharmed.

Just one day after the fire, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was with the sisters, celebrating the mass in honor of 100 years of service in America. In addition to their education apostolate, the sisters run St. Mary’s Residence for young women in Manhattan. “Sisters, you were prolific from the very beginning,” he said. “The best is yet to come. I think our gratitude is even deeper in the shadows of what happened and it shows how fragile life is and how vulnerable we are.”

On November 7, a fundraiser will be held at Jimmy Max restaurants in the area to help raise funds to restore the convent. If you would like to make a donation, please visit their website.

May God protect them and those they serve.


Giving Their All To God

ocd oaklandA year ago, I wrote about a new cloistered Carmelite community that was being established in the Diocese of Oakland. A daughter house of the Carmel in Valparaiso, Nebraska, the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the only contemplative community in the Oakland diocese.

On October 1, the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of Oakland celebrated Mass with the nuns. He told them that their vocation is similar to the Beloved Disciple, Saint John, saying, “You are the ones who recline next to Christ at His breast at the table at the Last Supper, you are the ones who have that intimate place with Him, by giving your life to Him and coming into the walls of this monastery. You are the ones that people, priests and bishops come to.”

The bishop spoke from the heart for his association with the Carmelites goes way back.

When he was a little boy, his grandmother and aunts would take him to the Carmel of Cristo Rey (an IRL Affiliate community in San Francisco). There he noticed a bowl next to a statue of St. Teresa of Avila in which petitions were placed. Later, as a young man hoping to be accepted into the Jesuits, he wrote out his own petition. Twelve years later another prayer request went in, asking that his ordination to the priesthood be approved. Finally, as a chaplain going to Iraq, he asked the sisters to pray that he and his 3000 marines would be safe during the deployment. Not one of his men was killed.

In a beautiful article in The Catholic Voice, it states that the sisters normally have six lit candles on the altar during Mass. The seventh is lit when the bishop comes. What a beautiful tradition. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 79: “On or near the altar there are to be candlesticks with lighted candles, at least two but even four, six, or, if the bishop of the diocese celebrates, seven.”

The Carmelites, said the bishop, are looking for “land on which to build a new monastery or an existing building that could be converted.” They try to be self-sufficient and simple, growing their own vegetables and raising farm animals for milk and eggs. The sisters are vegetarians.

Mother Sylvia Gemma has welcomed their first postulant with another expected within the next few months. Said the bishop: “There are women, 500 years after St. Teresa of Avila, who are still giving their all to God.”


A Culture of Charity

moermanThe Daughters of St Mary of Providence, founded by St. Louis Guanella in Italy, are celebrating 100 years of the Guanellian presence in the United States.

In our day, when you read stories that are absolutely depressing not to mention discouraging and horrific regarding the sanctity of human life, it is so refreshing and encouraging to look at the lives of these sisters and the love they have for the most vulnerable in our society. They were founded by St. Louis to care for marginalized persons who were orphaned, sick,  handicapped or elderly.

On June 13th, the National Catholic Register had an article entitled: “Barbarians from the North: Child Euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands.” LifeSite News reported earlier this year that 90% of children with Down Syndrome are aborted. The Telegraph reported on the 20th that a Somali girl had been smuggled into Great Britain to have her organs harvested. In other words, killed so someone else might live.

Guanella2I shudder to think of who or what entity is deciding on who lives and who dies in our world. Whose life is more valuable? Whose life is “less valuable” because they are paralyzed, infirm, mentally ill, disabled, old? Who is playing God?

And what does all this have to do with the Guanellian sisters? Well, their mission in part is to “help people with developmental disabilities meet life’s challenges and reach their highest potential in spiritual, emotional, mental and psychological growth, at the same time promoting their dignity as human beings.” Their founder, St. Louis, reminds us that “the handicapped, aged and orphans are God’s treasures.”

We are fortunate at the IRL to have in our midst the sisters’ Mount St. Joseph home, a residence for adult women with developmental disabilities. Located in Lake Zurich, Illinois, the sisters have been caring for these children of God since 1935 when the location, a farm, was purchased. Here each person is supported and challenged to live their life to the fullest extent possible while maintaining their dignity as human beings.

Cardinal Francis George, celebrating a 100th anniversary Mass with the sisters in May, said that they are a model of discipleship and it is through their service that they profess Jesus Christ. “It is the charity that they show in their lives that tells people that there is more to life than what is in front of us right now. That each of us has a personal dignity…we are related directly to a loving God who cares for us and therefore asks us to care for one another.”

Happy feast day of St. Louis Guanella to the communities that Louis founded: the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity (for men).




Cultivating Virtues for a Life of Holiness

courtesyWhat constitutes a virtuous life? Upon whose foundation should it be built? The world has many answers but the Church has one − Jesus Christ.

Standing on this foundation are many illustrious saints, none more vital for today than Saint Dominic. With the charism of preaching and teaching, the Dominicans have a lot to offer to the world today. So it is a great gift to those who hunger for the Truth to see that the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have announced the release of a new Christian curriculum based on the teachings of the great Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Called Disciple of Christ – Education in Virtue™, this curriculum provides an easy-to-understand and systematic structure for students to learn about the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Its purpose is to instruct students on the virtues they need to cultivate in order to live holy lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity), the Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance) and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Understanding, Knowledge, Wisdom, Fear of the Lord, Counsel, Piety, Fortitude) are presented in an integrated way in a language that children can understand and even adults can learn from.

The resources available include an educator’s guide, so they can fully understand the importance of living a Christian life of virtue, and a Virtue Chart Pack which describes, among other things, the meaning of each virtue, its opposing trait and ways to cultivate the virtue. Suggestions for different age groups are included.

You can also order cards that give real life examples of the virtues, such as “courtesy” as an expression of Justice. Holy cards with an image of a particular saint can be distributed as a reminder of a particular virtue to be cultivated. There are many resources for administrators, educators, families and individuals to compliment the instruction in the classroom or in the home.

The sisters wish to convey the truth that Christian discipleship is the way towards fruitfulness and joy. It was developed “in response to the call for a New Evangelization, firmly conveying the reality that happiness is found in a life of holiness.” It is the Universal Call to Holiness as called for by Lumen Gentium. This new resource gives parents and educators a tool for building holy Catholics for today and for the future.

With Forgiveness in Their Hearts

beatification_ceremony_spainOne of the amazing stories coming out of the beatification of the 522 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War on October 13 is the witness of Carmen Cubelle, age 76. Carmen’s aunt, Sr. Josefa Martinez, a Servant of Mary, was one of those beatified. Many family members of the martyrs attended the beatification but for Carmen, her aunt’s courage meant the difference between her own life and death.

Carmen’s father had been arrested and killed for attending night Eucharistic adoration. Her mother, pregnant with Carmen, and her aunt, Sr. Josefa, were arrested a month later. In their jail cell, Sr. Josefa prayed aloud that her sister and her unborn child might be spared, and offered herself as an offering on their behalf.

“Lord,” she prayed, “if this jailer is a father and has a wife, move him to compassion, that he will set my sister free. May the life of her child be saved; may the life of my sister be saved, and may they kill me. I want to die a martyr for her, for the faith, defending the lives of my sister and my nephew.”

Sr. Josefa’s prayer was answered. The sisters bade farewell to each other, saying they would meet in eternity, and Sr. Josefa was taken before a firing squad and shot.

When I talked to a Servant of Mary about the beatification, the main theme that ran through all of the proceedings was a spirit of forgiveness. The martyrs all died, said Bishop Jaume Pujol Balcells of Tarragona, “in imitation of the Lord, with words of forgiveness on their lips.”

Carmen said that her mother was asked if she wanted to press charges against the men who had killed her husband and sister. Her mother said that “she didn’t want to know anything about it because she had forgiven them.”

Read the complete story in the National Catholic Register.

All As God Wishes


The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, Indiana, are gearing up for the beatification of their foundress, Mother Maria Teresia of the Blessed Sacrament. Mother will be beatified on November 10, 2013, in Paderborn, Germany, the diocese where the Order was founded.

What a year it has been for the sisters! It is the 150th anniversary of their founding and they have had the largest incoming class of postulants in over 40 years! The six postulants, all from Indiana, entered the community on September 1, 2013 .

One of the young women named Anna said: “I really fell in love with our Eucharistic Lord. The Sisters’ commitment to Perpetual Adoration was one of the things that attracted me to this Community.”

New Postulants

Another postulant, Rachel, advises those discerning to be not afraid. “Trust that the Lord’s plans for your life are more perfect for you than you could ever make for yourself. The desires in your heart are placed there for a reason, so take a leap of faith.”

In addition, four sisters professed first vows, two professed perpetual vows and two were invested with the habit of the order. Angela is now Sister M. Regina and Patricia is now called Sister M. Joan.

If you want to see what is attracting all of these young women to this growing powerhouse of prayer and aposotolic works in NW Indiana, contact their vocation directress, Sr. M. Lois. They have a Young Adult Discernment Retreat October 25-27 and a Young Adult Come & See on January 2-5, 2014.

May you, dear Sisters, in donning the Franciscan habit be clothed also with his spirit, that as true daughters of Saint Francis, you may worthily wear his garb and thus bring joy and honor to our congregation.

– Blessed Mother Maria Theresia


Thank you Faithful Men and Women

Pope John Paul II on Mount Nebo
Pope John Paul II on Mount Nebo

Here’s a thought for the day, courtesy of Pope Francis — visit an elderly priest or religious!

At his daily Morning Mass (See Zenit for complete story) on October 18, Pope Francis called to mind three Biblical figures who endured the solitude and anguish of their older days.

First, there was Moses, “the courageous leader of the People of God” who led God’s people out of the slavery of Egypt into the Promised Land. But at the end of his life, he stands on Mount Nebo looking towards Jerusalem but he himself will not enter it.

Then, there was St. John the Baptist whose life “finished under the power of a weak, corrupt and drunken ruler who in turn was under the power of an adulteress’ jealousy and the capricious wishes of a dancer.”

Finally, there is Saint Paul who said in his second Letter to Timothy (read at Mass on Friday) (2 Tim 4:10-17)) that everyone had abandoned him yet, says the Holy Father, “the Lord was close to him and gave him the strength to complete his mission of announcing the Gospel.”

Remember the priests and religious whose active ministry might be complete but whose active prayer life and wisdom is a blessing for the world. It is also wonderful to give to the Retirement Fund for Religious appeal to help those who have insufficient funds for their care.

The Passionist Spirit

Sr. Mary Andrea, CP
Sr. Mary Andrea, CP

Tomorrow the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists. In a special way today, we offer up our prayers for Sr. Mary Andrea of the Incarnate Word who is making her Perpetual Consecration today to Jesus Crucified.

Sr. Mary Andrea is a Passionist nun in the community in Whitesville, Kentucky. These words of St. Paul of the Cross were recalled at her First Profession:

Proclaim the message of the Cross in the Sacred Wounds of our most lovable Redeemer opened more by His infinite love than by the hard nails, so that we may drink the saving waters of grace in these springs of eternal life.

We also want to thank God for her superior, Mother Catherine Marie, CP, who celebrated her Golden Jubilee as a Passionist nun on August 24, 2013. Here is what one of her sisters said to honor Mother on her special day:

Mother Catherine Marie, CP, and her mother!
Mother Catherine Marie, CP, and her mother!

What IS this Passionist spirit? What is it that drives you and your community, Reverend Mother and all those who accompany you in this pilgrimage to and around the Cross of our Lord and our Sorrowful Mother? It is to be one with Jesus in that moment of His death and resurrection. You often quote to us that expression of Father F. X. Durwell who said: “Jesus Christ is fixated forever at that moment of His death and resurrection.” Passionists focus on the suffering and death of Jesus, all of which leads to the glorious resurrection of our Lord.

Fixed to the Cross of Christ

canonessesOn July 20, 2013, the Norbertine Canonesses’ new priory, the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph, in Tehachapi, California, was blessed in a ceremony presided over by Abbot Eugene Hayes, O.Praem., Abbot of St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. The Catholic World Report has a fine article on Norbertines in general and the sisters new priory in particular.

The monastery is needed for three reasons: to handle the influx of vocations, to give the sisters a permanent place to live and to allow them to be self-sufficient. The acreage, kitchen and work areas will allow them to work the land, raise animals, produce their artisan cheeses, sew priestly vestments, create their Christmas wreaths, etc. There were five founding sisters originally with the number of Norbertine nuns now up to 26. The monastery will be able to house 48 sisters.

A local TV station did a wonderful feature story on the sisters and their new home, giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their life. Interviews with the sisters, a tour, a picture of their cloistered life and thoughts from Mother Mary Augustine are all included. Well worth a look.

One of the precious items in the new chapter room is a crucifix that was spotted in 1967 in a dumpster behind a church by a man who rescued and restored it himself. Not an easy task as two arms were missing and a new cross was needed. After the man’s death in 1987, the crucifix found its way to an antique shop where a friend of the monastery purchased it for the sisters. I hope this man is able to look down from heaven and see how treasured is his gift of love.

He wants to be wholly fixed in your hearts
Who for your sake let Himself be fixed
to the Cross.
St. Augustine


The Dedication of “Tina Mae”

tina maeI first went into St. John Cantius Church almost 20 years ago when the church was in dire need of renovation. Seeing these old, beautiful churches in decay is heartbreaking but in the case of St. John Cantius, the story has a happy ending.

Founded by Polish immigrants and dedicated in 1898, St. John Cantius had at its peak about 23,000 parishioners, but as is so common with many inner city parishes, it went into decline. After Father Frank Phillips C.R. became pastor, he went about the task of renovating and preserving its architectural splendor. Equally important, he introduced reverent liturgies and sacred music as part of parish life. As young men became interested in this revival of traditional Catholic culture, he received approval in 1998 to found the Society of St. John Cantius, a community of religious brothers and priests who strive to restore the sacred in parochial life.

The interior restoration work in the Church was completed in 2012 but an important piece was yet to come – a top quality organ. It so happened that a Church on the south side of Chicago was closing and their organ needed a home. This wasn’t just any organ. It was built by the Casavant Freres Organ Company of Quebec, Canada, for St. James Methodist-Episcopal in 1926 under the guidance of Miss Tina Mae Haines, a concert organist. Dedicated to the memory of Gustavus F. Swift, founder of the Swift Meat-Processing Company, it was used not only for Church music but also became a premier concert organ for recitals in the city.

cantius picIn 2011, St. James was closing and the organ, perilously housed under a leaky roof, needed a home in a hurry. Stephen Schnurr of the Organ Historical Society and Jeff Weiler, of J.L. Weiler, Inc., a Chicago based Organ Restorer and Conservator, asked Saint John Cantius Church if they were interested in acquiring it. Thanks to the Patrons of Sacred Music who raised the funds and relying on the assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to see to the details, the organ restoration project was completed.

The organ, now named “Tina Mae” (Christina Mary), will be blessed and dedicated on October 20, 2013, the Solemn Feast of St. John Cantius (1962 Missale Romanum) by Cardinal Francis George, OMI. A Pontifical High Mass (Extraordinary Form) will be celebrated by Bishop Joseph Perry (All are welcome). There will also be a dinner at 6:00 p.m. and an organ recital at 7:00 p.m. in the Church (Tickets required).

To see some fascinating videos about the organ project and the history of the organ, click here. To order tickets for the dinner or recital, visit the St. John Cantius website.