The Eucharist Defines Us

Sr. Joseph Andrew with Pope Francis

This week, the National Catholic Register interviewed Sister Joseph Andrew, OP, Vocation Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Founded in 1997, the sisters have grown from 4 to 120 members. The sisters teach in schools in 8 states and the demand for the teaching sisters is stronger than they can fulfill. They have also outgrown the Motherhouse in Ann Arbor, MI.

When asked the secret to their success, Sr. Joseph Andrew gave the following reasons:

  • They are daughters of the Church, striving to follow their founding charism.
  • The community is truly a joy-filled family, where love prevails.
  • They have a future. They are youthful.
  • They have a strong prayer life. As Dominicans, they pray first, then teach.
  • They wear a habit which attracts others. People are hungry for God.
  • They have a daily Holy Hour. The Eucharist defines who they are.
2014 Pro-Life March Chicago
2014 Pro-Life March Chicago

As Catholic Schools Week draws to a close, let us pray with the sisters who invoked St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican theologian and Doctor of the Church:

O God, through the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, continue to bless their mission to bring a strong Catholic education and the witness of religious life to more children. Amen.

Men of Christ

menof christOn March 15, 2014, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will host a conference for men (and sons!) entitled Men of Christ. Open to men outside the archdiocese, I know personally from people who have attended the conference that it is an incredible event with inspiring speakers, fellowship, Mass, Confession and Eucharistic Adoration.

The purpose is to empower men to boldly live their Faith!

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Hying, an IRL Executive Board Member, will be the main celebrant for the 4:00 pm Mass. Other guests include:

  • Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee
  • Tom Peterson from Catholics Come Home
  • Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, who will speak on the message of Divine Mercy
  • Michael Coren – TV Host, Radio Personality, Speaker, Author
  • And others

The event will be held at the Milwaukee Theater and will begin at 9:00am (7:00 am Mass will be offered). For more details visit the website: www.Menof

A Picture of St. Dominic

St.-Dominic's-Face-786667What do the saints look like? We often have in our minds a specific image when we think of St. Peter, St. Francis, St. Ignatius, etc…

Well, thanks to Bl. Cecilia, one of the first Dominican nuns, we have a first-hand description of St. Dominic. Some Dominicans tended to discount her report but when St. Dominic’s remains were x-rayed in 1943, her observations were remarkably consistent with the report of modern science.

Here is what she said:

“This was St Dominic’s appearance. He was of middle height (the scientists said that he was 5’5 3.4″ tall) and slender figure, of handsome and somewhat ruddy countenance, his hair and beard of auburn, and with lustrous eyes. From out his forehead and between his eye brows a radiant light shone forth, which drew everyone to revere and love him. He was always joyous and cheerful, except when moved to compassion at anyone’s sorrows. His hands were beautiful and tapering; his voice was clear, noble, and musical; he was never bald, but kept his religious tonsure entire, mingled here and there with a few grey hairs.”

St. Dominic died at the Basilica of San Domenico in 1221 and was buried there. The bust shown in the picture (upper right) is said to closely resemble him. For more information about St. Dominic and Bl. Cecilia, visit the Summit Dominicans website!

Giving God the Whole Tree: An Image of Religious Life

marian srsAn interview with Mother Teresa Christe of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa is featured in the most recent issue of the The Catholic World Report. Recognized as an Association of the Faithful in 2012, the Marian Sisters were invited to the Diocese of Santa Rosa by Bishop Robert Vasa, the President of the IRL. The four sisters will welcome three new postulants on February 2, 2014.

In reading Mother’s testimony of their lives, you can truly see the hand of God at work for our time! What a model for evangelization! The ministries they are involved in, their impact on their students, the witness of their religious lives, all point to the value religious life has today in our broken culture. Their goal is to teach people the Catholic faith, emphasizing its beauty and goodness and eternal vision.

That’s one the problems, Mother says, about society today. “The culture previously had a greater sense of God’s presence, and saw life on earth as a temporary time before going to heaven. In the 1960s, …people thought they should get the most out of their lives here, and material goods increased in their importance.  Devastation followed, and many broken families have resulted.”

Regarding communities with a more “liberal” perspective, Mother observes: “As Bishop Vasa has said, theirs is not a religious life but an apostolic one.  They don’t live in common, they have their own bank accounts…they have the elements of the single life rather than the religious one.”

The Marian Sisters begin their early day with an hour of Eucharistic adoration and the Divine Office.  They are a bridge between tradition and today, participating in the Mass celebrated in both forms of the Roman Rite. Mother says, “Ours is a structured religious life, which works for four or 400 sisters.  Our vision is to faithfully and lovingly live our lives.”

Here is her beautiful and vivid description of religious life:

I went on a high school retreat, and listened to a priest speaking on vocations.  He said that we were all like a tree, which bears fruit from the use of our time, talent, and treasure.  As we grow into adulthood, we give to God from that tree.

However, if you are called to religious life, you give God the whole tree.  He gets to plant it where he wants, and pick from it what he wants.  The whole tree belongs to him.  Some are called to give that whole tree. 

To see the entire interview, click here.


A Glimpse Behind the Walls

The Poor Clare Colettine Nuns in Rockford are featured in a new book called: Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns. A part of the Oxford Oral History Series, the author Abbie Reese was given permission to spend time over the course of 6 years with the nuns. She wanted to get a first hand glimpse into what goes on behind the mysterious walls.

51kVMJ6PEqL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_By the looks of the chapter headings, the story of individual nuns is told. From the excerpts I read, it is a fascinating and frank glimpse into the lives, past and present, of the nuns.

The Poor Clares are an IRL Affiliate Community founded in 1916. According to an article about the book in a Rockford newspaper, there are 22 nuns in the monastery (ranging from age 20 to 81), 50 Poor Clare monasteries in the U.S., and 1,221 monasteries worldwide with a total of 14,000 Poor Clare nuns. Pope John Paul II said that their life “appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on earth, a way which may be called divine.”

Mother Maria Dominica thought that this unprecedented access was “valuable because it gave flesh to the life.” She said, “We live a hidden life. We’re not used to publicity. But we’re human beings, like everyone else.”

The Heart of the Dominican Apostolate

sr opThe Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have just released a video in which Sister Mary Jordan, O.P. describes her vocation journey to the cloistered convent. The video was filmed through the grill by Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P., Vocation Director for the St. Joseph Province, who first met Sister when she was in a high school youth group in a Dominican parish in Cincinnati.

What makes the story interesting is that Sister loved teaching yet she fell in love with the monastic life through reading the book A Right to Be Merry by Mother Mary Francis, PCC. Why would God put this love of teaching into her heart of she could not “use” it in a cloistered convent? Watch the video to find out about her understanding and embracing of spiritual motherhood!

Sister took the name “Mary Jordan” in honor of Bl. Jordan of Saxony, the second Minister General of the Dominican Order. It is probably not well known that St. Dominic founded the women’s branch of the Order before the men’s branch, demonstrating how much the preaching of the Dominicans is and was dependent upon the prayers of the nuns. A shining example of the complimentary relationship between the friars and the nuns is seen in the correspondence between Bl. Jordan and Bl. Diana, who professed her vow of virginity at the hands of St. Dominic himself!

sr op2Sister Mary Jordan discovered that her prayerful way of life was in no way incompatible with her desire to teach. For what is teaching but imparting true knowledge to the world? The nuns are the heart of the Dominican preaching apostolate and their prayers, penances, sacrifices, joy and total availability to God are inexhaustible sources of fruitfulness for the Dominican friars, active sisters and third order members. A Dominican friar told the nuns that their presence was a deciding factor in his decision to become a Dominican.

One of the mottoes of the Dominicans is to “give to others the fruits of contemplation.” The silent contemplation of the Nuns bears fruit as their lives become more conformed to Christ, who gave Himself completely for the salvation of souls.

Click here to go to website and watch the video.

Mutual Relations Between Bishops and Religious

Pope Francis greets crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Church of the Gesu in RomeOne of the most important documents affecting religious issued by Pope John Paul II was Mutuae Relationes (Directives for the Mutual Relations Between Bishops and Religious in the Church).

The document, published in 1978, said that bishops are “entrusted with the duty of caring for religious charisms.” The specific charism requires from the religious institute “a continual examination regarding fidelity to the Lord; docility to His Spirit; intelligent attention to circumstances and an outlook cautiously directed to the signs of the times; the will to be part of the Church; the awareness of subordination to the sacred hierarchy; boldness of initiatives; constancy in the giving of self; humility in bearing with adversities.”

Pope Francis told Major Superiors in a meeting on November 29, 2013, that the document needs updating. As a Jesuit, Provincial, Archbishop and now Pope, the Holy Father knows “by experience the problems that can arise between a bishop and religious communities.” Religious communities may, without warning, abandon an apostolate in the diocese. Bishops “are not always acquainted with the charisms and works of religious.”

“Religious,” he said, “should be men and women who are able to wake the world up.”

At the conclusion of his lengthy remarks, he told the assembled that the year 2015 would be dedicated to the consecrated life.

“The involvement of religious communities in dioceses is important,” the Pope said. “Dialogue between the bishop and religious must be rescued so that, due to a lack of understanding of their charisms, bishops do not view religious simply as useful instruments.”



An American Canonization Cause Advances

langeLast year, an American cause for canonization took another step forward. In June of 2013, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange (c. 1794-1882), the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, was exhumed from her resting place (read a fascinating eye-witness account by a well-know forensic anthropologist) in a Baltimore cemetery and moved to the sisters’ Motherhouse to be interred in the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Providence.

“We have prayed fervently for this day to become a reality, and now God has  answered our prayers,” said Sister Mary Alexis Fisher, OSP, Superior General of  the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

Mother Mary, along with Sulpician Father James Nicholas Joubert, founded the first religious congregation of women of African descent in the United States. Mother’s cause was opened in 1991 and officially approved in 2004.

Though not an-American born citizen, this Cuban emigre was moved to help African American refugee children in the slave state of Maryland. She opened a school for children, many years before the Emancipation Proclamation. As one can readily imagine, poverty and racial injustice were her companions on the heroic road of sanctity.

Currently, the Order has 80 members serving in the U.S. and Costa Rica, committed to education of children and service to the poor. To see a moving video of the reinternment ceremony, click here.

Do You Honor the Mother of Jesus?

26 Martyrs Monument
26 Martyrs Monument

In 1854, Japan opened its doors to the West and soon thereafter, Catholic priests entered the country. Among those who came was the French priest, Fr. Bernard Petitjean (later Bishop of Nagasaki) of the Sociéte des Missions Étrangères. For ten years he labored with a fellow priest yet seemed to make no headway with the native people.

But in 1865, when Fr. Bernard Petitjean was praying in a chapel he had built in Nagasaki, Japan, some women approached him and asked him three questions:

Do you honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus?

Do you obey the Great Father in Rome?

Do you have a wife?

Father answered “yes” to the first two questions and “no” to the second and the  women went away. Sometime later, some men approached him and told him they were Catholics. Three hundred years ago, their ancestors had known Christians who were not Catholic and they wanted to know: are you Catholic, part of the universal Church? For 300 years they had secretly kept the faith and as Father was to discover later, so did an estimated 15,000 others.

When Catholicism was first brought to Japan by St. Francis Xavier on Assumption Day in 1549, conversions were plentiful. By 1614, there were an estimated 400,000 Catholics in Japan. However, persecutions were severe, many were martyred and in the 1630’s all Christians went into hiding. By 1640 not a priest or religious was left alive. An edict was issued that read: Let no Christian dare venture into Japan…They shall pay for it with their heads.

Oura NagasakiThese remarkable Japanese Catholics passed the down the Faith from generation to generation for 200+ years. No Mass, no Confession, no Anointing of the Sick in all those years. Pope Pius IX called this “The miracle of the Orient.”

The Oura Church in Nagasaki commemorates Fr. Petitjean’s first encounter with the women. Also known as the Church of the Twenty-Six Martyrs, it faces Nishizaka Hill where 26 martyrs were crucified in 1597. As you can see by the picture, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary greets visitors at the entrance of the church, a reminder of the first question posed by the Japanese women: Do you honor the Mother of Jesus?

(Most of the information in this article came from the October-December 2013 of Contact  magazine, published by the Confraternity of Christ the Priest in Australia, whose missionary priests seek to evangelize the 96% of the population who do not go to Mass.)