After serving for nearly 21 years as abbot of the Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside California, Fr. Abbot Charles Wright has resigned from his office. Abbot Charles made his monastic profession over fifty years ago, serving twenty of those years as abbot of Prince of Peace Abbey during times of great change.
He will be succeeded by Abbot Sharbel Ewen, O.S.B. who was elected abbot of Prince of Peace Abbey on August 11th. Abbot Ewen professed vows as a monk in 1981 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1988.
Abbot Charles says that his “life as abbot has been a growing experience of what it means to be a father (abba) to a wide variety of personalities in these uncertain and changing times.”
Abbot Charles was born into a devout Catholic family that provided a nurturing environment for him to discern God’s call. He served in the army and while in Europe traveled to Lourdes on the one hundredth anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition, realizing that his life would never be his own. Abbot Charles also met with the newly elected Pope St. John XXIII in 1958 that was the highlight of his time in Europe and a nudge towards his vocation. Following his release from the army, Fr. Charles attended San Diego State University where he was directed to visit a small Benedictine monastery in Oceanside, CA, and where he has remained ever since.
Fr. Abbot Charles had no desire to become a priest upon his entrance, however, he was directed that way and was ordained in 1970. He was assigned various duties after ordination which supplied him with experiences that prepared him for the future. Abbot Charles was appointed prior in 1983 and then elected abbot in 1994. Throughout his time as a religious, Abbot Charles has seen great change and had to learn how to adapt while leading a religious community in the late twentieth century. He has seen the central part of his life, the celebration of the Eucharist, change following Vatican II as well as the Divine Office. He witnessed his monastery grow immensely which changed the dynamic of community life.
Please keep Fr. Abbot Charles, Abbot Ewen and all the monks at Prince of Peace Abbey in your prayers as they continue to lead lives of work and prayer in this time of transition.
One of the most memorable experiences that the IRL took away from the January Labouré Society boot camp was hearing the story of Sarah Meier. Sarah knew that she had a calling to a contemplative, cloistered community but could not enter because she had $250,000 in student loans to retire.
Sarah worked hard on her own to reduce what was owed but it was not enough. To the rescue came The Labouré Society whose mission is to help those who aspire to religious life but cannot do so due to college debt. Aspirants to religious communities are teamed with an accountability partner, meet weekly to discuss fundraising activities, and at the conclusion of the class are allocated funds based on effort, success and need.
Sarah knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nun but ended up with a doctorate in physical therapy. When her identical twin sister died tragically, Sarah found that she had grown closer to God as she worked through her grief.
She asked God to show her the way and the response she received back was: “Pray, pray for my people.” Her remembrance of a childhood desire to become a nun came flooding back to her. This led her to the Poor Clares of Barhamsville, VA.
The sisters’ monastery is new but in many ways of traditional design. There is a wonderful tour of the monastery inside and out on their website. They certainly need the room in their new location for there are now 20 Poor Clares in residence! Here are the guiding principles that guided the design process:
Christ in the center of each sister’s heart;
Christ at the center of our community life;
the church at the center of the monastery;
the tabernacle at the center of the church.
With the very existence of Christianity in the Middle East in peril, one religious order is responding to the cries of the persecuted as they have since the eleventh century. The Mercedarians, known formally as the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, have adopted the Archdiocese of Erbil, Iraq, an act in keeping with their charism of rescuing Christians whose faith is in danger.
The number of Christians in Iraq has drastically diminished the past ten years from 1.2 million to 300,000 due to persecutions which Pope Francis in a recent letter called, “unspeakable, inhuman and inexplicable.” Most Rev. Mashar Warda, Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, shed light on the appalling situation stating, “There is a real sale of Christian slaves, especially women and children, that they take to sell in markets.” He explained that Christians in Erbil face dire circumstances if they do not flee the region confronting forced conversion to Islam, a heavy tax or, in many cases, death.
The Mercedarians are seeking to relieve the pain and suffering of Christians in the land of Abraham. The Roman Province of the Mercedarians has officially adopted the Archdiocese of Erbil, quickly donating several thousand euros and offering prayers for the Archdiocese. The Mercedarians will also be sending a friar from each country that the Order is in to embark on a fact-finding mission to find other ways in which the Order may aid the persecuted. Archbishop Warda has specifically asked for assistance in establishing a Catholic university in an attempt to save what culture can still be salvaged.
The recent adoption of the Archdiocese of Erbil is in keeping with the charism of the Mercedarians who were founded by St. Peter Nolasco in 1218 to redeem Christian captives from their Muslim captors. Members of the Order take a unique fourth vow to give up their own selves for others whose faith is in danger. The need for this vow is as necessary today as it was eight hundred years ago with forces such as ISIS seeking to forcefully repress Christianity. By adopting the Archdiocese of Erbil and seeking to ease the pain of the persecuted, the Mercedarians are once again heroically fulfilling their motto: “my life for your freedom.”
Pregnant and on pilgrimage to the Abbey at Silos, Juanna of Aza dreamed of a dog springing forth from her womb with a torch in his mouth that seemed to set the world ablaze. The child whom Juanna carried at the time of her pilgrimage was St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers. The dream came be understood as St. Dominic and his order setting the world ablaze with the love of Christ, as the Order of Preachers was “established, from the beginning, for preaching and the salvation of souls.”
Dominicans continue to preach but the means in which they do so has changed dramatically, allowing them to reach a global audience by utilizing the latest technology. Dominicans are responding to Inter Mirifica which says, “media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men’s entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God.” They have taken this as a charge to utilize technology in a way that aids people on their journey to find the Lord.
One Dominican affiliate of the IRL which is leading the way in the utilization of modern media is the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Since appearing on Oprah, the Ann Arbor Dominicans have begun a new endeavor in an attempt to catechize through global network television by teaming up with EWTN. Their current show, Catechesis: Communion with Jesus Christ, aims to provide a basis for catechetical instruction. By appearing on television, the sisters are able to preach the truths of the Catholic Faith to an international audience.
The Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph are also following in the footsteps of their founder and seek new ways to preach the Gospel. One ministry which the Eastern Province has undertaken seeks to evangelize the culture through first-class productions of film and media. Blackfriars Media explores the drama and mystery of God and man in productions such as Empire of the Cross, a documentary which examines the artistic and architectural features of the famed Basilica of Saint Clement in Rome. The friars have produced many works and recently released an app for better accessibility which allows their message to reach an even larger audience.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph are preaching the Gospel in ways that reach millions of people starving for Truth. By utilizing innovative technology, the Dominicans are proclaiming the joy of the Gospel and setting the world ablaze with love of Christ today.
On July 22, five young men were welcomed into the Franciscan Friars Conventual. They received their San Damiano Crucifix and began their postulancy in Chicago.
On Thursday July 23, 2015, seven men expressed their desire to live for a year as Conventual Franciscan Novices and received the Franciscan habit. The investiture ceremony took place in the St. Francis of Assisi Novitiate Chapel in Mishawaka, Indiana.
Two days later, six young men took their vows as Franciscan Friars Conventual in Mishawaka, Indiana.
The IRL and the Conventual Franciscans have a special relationship. Being lodged at Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe and home to the Conventual Franciscan Friars, we regularly see the young friars. What a joy and blessing to witness these men embark on their journey in the footsteps of St. Francis. God bless them all.
After failing to pass examinations to enter the seminary, confronting conscription into military service and being besieged by attacks from the Devil, one man exhibited great perseverance in pursuit of his vocation to the priesthood. This humble man, St. John Vianney, through prayer and dedication to the will of God, is now celebrated as a great saint and model for all priests.
St. John Vianney faced many obstacles throughout his life including school where his difficulties in the classroom became apparent when he failed to pass the seminary entrance examination. After a second successful attempt, he encountered another impediment when he was drafted into Napoleon’s army. Throughout his life he also faced adversity when experiencing attacks from the Devil. He persevered through his tribulations and was ordained a priest in 1815.
St. John Vianney is known as the patron of priests due to the exceptional pastoral care he exhibited following his ordination. He was appointed parish priest in Ars where he quickly became known for his holiness. He worked to improve catechesis, spent between 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional and cultivated a rich interior life of prayer and mortification which aided him in his ministry.
Rather than allowing any obstacles to consume him, the humble saint utilized these times as opportunities to grow in holiness. Let us continue to pray for all priests throughout the world as they respond to the Lord’s call. Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, sP said, “The Priesthood is God’s greatest gift to man; its faithful fulfillment is man’s greatest gift to God.” Realizing the need priests have for prayers, Father Fitzgerald founded the Handmaids of the Precious Blood, a cloistered community that prays particularly for priests. Consider adopting a priest to pray for, and pray for all priests that, inspired by the witness of St. John Vianney and strengthened by the grace of God, they may faithfully live out their vocation to the “ministerial priesthood which is the means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His Church.”
The Franciscan Brothers Minor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, totally dedicate themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary by consecrating themselves to her and are one of the newest affiliate members of the Institute on Religious Life.
The Franciscan Brothers Minor are a Franciscan community which seeks to grow in holiness by emulating Our Lady. They take four vows including the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as, a vow of total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They see this fourth Marian vow as the first and crowning jewel of the four vows. Through this vow the community seeks to model their lives in imitation of Our Lady and, as a result, grow closer to Christ. They base their lives off the rich Capuchin-Franciscan tradition and strictly adhere to the Rule of 1523.
The friars lead austere lives as they seek to imitate the poverty of the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi. The community does not run its own parishes, schools, shrines or other centers for apostolic works in order to maintain their community. The poverty of the friars can be clearly seen as they go barefoot. Poverty allows the friars to uphold freedom as a mendicant community.
The Franciscan Brothers Minor enjoy a special relationship with Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades who initially established the community in the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA, on November 19, 2009. The friars moved to Indiana after Bishop Rhodes was transferred to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 2010. His Excellency officially erected the Franciscan Brothers Minor as a public association of the faithful on February 11, 2011.
All of the apostolic efforts which the Franciscan Brothers Minor undertake are done in service of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The friars work to promote life through pro-life ministries, serve the poor and host retreats. They also provide spiritual assistance to the Franciscan Sisters Minor, a Third Order Regular Community of Cloistered Franciscan women, though there is no juridical connection to the Franciscan Brothers Minor. This new community of Franciscan friars is quickly growing with nine friars having taken perpetual vows, eleven in temporary vows and six novices.