Sisters of Life Head West

slThe Sisters of Life are one of the fastest growing religious communities in the United States with 26 young women entering in just the past two years. Thanks to this rapid growth, the Sisters of Life have expanded by opening their tenth convent in Denver from which they hope to evangelize and promote a culture of life on college campuses.

On September 16th, the Denver Mission Team of Sr. Mary Louise Concepta, Sr. Maris Stella, Sr. Maria Anne Michela, and Sr. Fiat Marie joyfully celebrated the opening of St. Mary Magdalene Convent in Denver. They were joined by His Excellency Archbishop Samuel Aquila who celebrated Mass and blessed the convent.

denver3The Sisters of Life plan to evangelize on several college campuses near their new home in Denver. They will be teaming up with chaplains and FOCUS missionaries to provide a ministry of presence and prayer. Their new college outreach program is crucial to their mission as college-aged women are the most likely to pursue an abortion in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. The Sisters have had great success in promoting life, however, having served over 6,000 women since 2002 with over 90% choosing life for their child.

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the order and recipient of the 2015 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award, said, “It was from this city in 1993 that St. John Paul II exhorted those gathered for World Youth Day to defend the sacredness of human life. Our sisters look forward to strengthening the Denver lay faithful committed to building a culture of life.” The Sisters of Life hope to continue to faithfully respond to the Holy Father’s charge and promote the sacredness of life in their new home.

A Blossoming Community in Boston

20151003Investiture_0106“O Lord, my God, have done many wondrous deeds! and in Your plans for us there is none to equal You. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount.” These words from the psalmist come to mind for Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart when reflecting on all that the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth have experienced recently.

One of the major events which the community is celebrating is their recent move to a new convent in the Archdiocese of Boston. The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth moved to Quincy, Massachusetts where they are now blessed to be part of Saint John the Baptist Parish on Saturday, September 19. They signed a five-year lease with the option to renew allowing for growth and development of the young community.

20151003Investiture_0167The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth also joyously welcomed two new aspirants and celebrated the Novitiate Investiture Ceremony of four new Novices. The community along with the families of the new Sisters, friends of the Community, as well as, priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese of Boston were joined by Cardinal Seán O’Malley who was the main celebrant during the ceremonies.

Mother Olga founded the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in 2011. Their ministry is focused on loving God and our neighbors through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The spirituality of the community is guided by Blessed Charles de Foucauld’s spirituality as he lived his life imitating the example of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. Their charism is inspired by Pope St. John Paul II call for a new evangelization and is to be Ambassadors of Christ through word and deed.

Dominican Nuns of Marbury Vocation Letters

marburyThe Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have issued a series of letters between a woman (fictional) discerning a vocation and a Dominican nun. The names may have been changed to protect the innocent (as they said in the old Dragnet series) but the letters do accurately depict Dominican monastic life as it is typically lived at Marbury. The sisters wish to keep their day-to-day life veiled behind the enclosure but you get a good glimpse of Dominican life behind the walls as you read on!

“Melanie” writes to the Novice Mistress “Magistra” which is Latin for “lady teacher.” Melanie also writes to her sister “Clare” who is curious about her “Come & See” visit to the monastery. After she enters the monastery, she writes to her family. Here are some excerpts:

It seems to be a common misconception that “extroverts should be active, introverts should be contemplative.  However our community history does not bear that out…. God calls people of all temperaments to live for Him in the contemplative life…. From Sr. Mary Magistra

It is a great motive for fidelity and joy in living our cloistered, contemplative life, to know that we are living it on behalf of and in union marbury1with our brethren the Dominican friars (and the other members of the Dominican family) in their consecration to God and in their preaching for the salvation of souls. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When Mom and Dad experience first-hand the peace to be found here, and see for themselves the joy of the nuns, they understand much better why such a life could be attractive and fulfilling for their own child. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When is the best time to enter religious life? Without delay. From Sr. Mary Magistra

(Melanie, writing to her family after entering) Since this was my first time being here in the monastery for the Paschal Triduum, I had to use of lot of energy just following everything and trying to turn the page at the right time, but I am so looking forward to having these ceremonies grow into a part of me over the years….  It is truly the liturgy that gives direction and movement to our lives, drawing us ever deeper each year into union with the Mysteries of Christ, “whom we desire to love solely.”

The letters are accompanied by charming pictures. As a visitor to Marbury last spring, I can vouch for the accuracy of the images!

For more information, visit the Marbury website.

marbury3

 

Pro Orantibus: Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary

122

The IRL is beginning a new series on Vocationblog.com featuring cloistered and monastic communities to raise awareness of the special gift to the Church which these religious men and women are and also to promote World Day of Cloistered Life. To find out more about the World Day of Cloistered Life which is now less than one month away click here. The first community featured in this series is the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. This young community strives to spread devotion to God and mercy for all through prayer, adoration and works of mercy.

The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary are a contemplative community of religious priests, sisters, brothers and lay members, that serve the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through contemplation, Eucharistic adoration, as well as, works of mercy and compassion. Founded in 1997 their charism is composed of three pillars: contemplation, Eucharistic Adoration and works of mercy.

With contemplation as a pillar of the community, the order is particularly dedicated to prayer. The majority of their day is dedicated to prayer, specifically contemplative prayer. Their life or prayer centers around the Eucharist by celebrating daily Mass and spending hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament which is the second pillar of their charism.

As they spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, the brothers and sisters are transformed by His Presence becoming carriers of His love and in turn pouring out this love on others. They accomplish this through the third pillar of the charism, works of mercy. Members of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary offer themselves joyfully and without reserve in order to envelop the whole world in God’s merciful love.

The Relics of St. Maria Goretti on Tour

Awaiting the body of St. Maria Goretti
Awaiting the body of St. Maria Goretti

Last Monday, October 12, the IRL sponsored a pilgrimage to St. John Cantius Church  in Chicago to see and venerate the relics of St. Maria Goretti (1890-1902), the well-beloved saint of purity and forgiveness. The relics are contained in a beautiful glass casket that all are encouraged to approach and kneel before, asking for Maria’s intercession. Along with the relics is a very interesting set of panels describing Maria’s short life and death. The crowds were large but it was so well-organized that it was a very prayerful experience.

This is the first time that Maria’s body has traveled to the United States and only the second time that she has left Italy. The tour began fittingly enough at Sing Sing Prison in New York. It will end on November 11, 2015, in Oklahoma. Click here for the schedule.

On December 8th, the Church will inaugurate the Jubilee Year of Mercy. There is no better embodiment of the spirit of mercy than St. Maria Goretti who on her deathbed forgave her attacker and murderer, Alessandro Serenelli. Not only forgave, she hoped to see him in heaven. While in prison, he experienced a conversion of heart after Maria appeared to him and handed him 14 white lilies, one for each of her stab wounds, and a sign of her forgiveness.

The glass Casket. Her skeletal remains are enclosed in the wax statue
The glass Casket. Her skeletal remains are enclosed in the wax statue

The crowds for Maria’s canonization in 1950 were so large that the Mass was held, for the first time ever, in St. Peter’s Square. Her mother, though frail, was able to attend. After Alessandro’s death, his spiritual testament was found in which he said: “Now I look serenely to the time in which I will be admitted to the vision of God, to embrace my dear ones once again, and to be close to my guardian angel, Maria Goretti, and her dear mother, Assunta.”

Alessandro became a model prisoner and after his early release, became a Capuchin Franciscan lay brother. He also visited Maria’s mother, who told him in essence: “Maria forgives you, God forgives you. How could I not forgive you?”

Forgiveness, as so powerfully witnessed by St. Maria in her final hours, does not mean that we fail to acknowledge the seriousness and all too often devastating effects of harm done to others.  Rather, forgiveness recognizes that, in our hearts, when we are unable to forgive, we make ourselves a victim of the darkness that encompasses hatred and revenge.  Through the intercession of St. Maria, may this pilgrimage open the hearts and minds of many people to Jesus’ life changing gifts of mercy and forgiveness.

–Cardinal Sean O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston

 

Celebrating the Feast and 500th Anniversary of St. Theresa of Avila

Todayecstasy-of-st-teresa-of-avila-by-bernini the Church celebrates the feast of St. Theresa of Avila, a Spanish mystic and the first female declared a doctor of the Church. The Church is also celebrating the 500th anniversary of her life as St. Theresa of Avila has left a great legacy through her witness, reform and writings.

The 500th anniversary is important because it commemorates the great gift that St. Theresa of Avila has been to the Church. Mother Mary John of the Cross, prioress of Monastery of Mary, Mother of Grace in Lafayette, Louisiana, said, “It is proof of the popularity of St. Teresa of Avila and her namesake, St. Theresa of Lisieux. Both have been named doctors of the church, recognition of their extraordinary influence through their doctrine which embraces all times and places.”

12The legacy of St. Theresa of Avila lives on through her reform of the Carmelites. Mother Mary John of the Cross is a member of the reformed Discalced Carmelites and said, “Her obedience to God’s inspiration, the depth of her love for the Church and all in the service of the Church, have convinced all who love her that she is close to the heart of God,” The nuns at the Monastery of Mary, Mother of Grace dedicate their life and mission to prayer leading contemplative lives that combine both silence and solitude with the familial spirit of Community life.

500 years after her life, St. Theresa of Avila is still admired by the faithful as a shinning example of responding courageously to the Lord. She faced great trials but was never discouraged because she knew, “those who walk closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”

 

IRL Welcomes New Affiliate: The Sons of Our Mother of Peace

Sons of Our Mother of Peace

The Sons of Our Mother of Peace are the newest affiliate to join the IRL after being approved at the September board meeting. The latest member to join the IRL family is from Missouri and strives to combine an eremitical and contemplative structure of life with a direct spiritual apostolate lived in the context of material simplicity and evangelical poverty.

The Sons of Our Mother of Peace is the religious priest and brother branch of the Society of Our Mother of Peace which was founded in 1966 by Fr. Placid Guste, SMP. Originally established in Oklahoma, the Society moved to Missouri and have since expanded to the Philippines and Nigeria.

CaptureEach member of the community occupies a simple and austere hermitage on their heavily-wooded grounds in Missouri. Their daily schedule includes six hours of solitary prayer divided into three segments. Each day they also come together to celebrate the Eucharist and chant the Divine Office of Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer with the Office of Readings and Night Prayer prayed privately.

Six hours are likewise dedicated to the work of their apostolate which includes making available the Truths of the Catholic Faith primarily to the poor and to all who have not had the Catholic Faith presented to them. Their apostolate finds expression in a two-fold manner. First, by helping persons deepen their spiritual life through individual direction, private retreats, conferences on the spiritual life and associate membership. Secondly, through the full evangelization of non-Catholics and fallen-away Catholics through door-to-door presentation of the Catholic Faith.

Spiritual apostolates and material simplicity are essential elements of the life of the Sons of Our Mother of Peace. Their primary purpose in life, however, is to seek union with God through prayer and penance and the total gift of self.

From Cowboy to Contemplative

joachimJohn Green Hanning (d. 1908) was a headstrong, hot-tempered son of a farmer who became the humble and gentle son of the Mother of God as a Trappist brother at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky. His story was recounted in the best selling book The Man Who Got Even With God, which is available online from Amazon.com for 99 cents.

John Green Hanning was born in Kentucky in 1849. He wasn’t a bad boy but he had a temper and was stubborn as a mule. After a dispute with his father, he burned the family barn down with all the stored crops inside and ran away from home and headed southwest to be a cowboy. His parents were heartbroken. For nine years, they had no word from their son.

During this time he was far from God and the Church. When he finally came home, he was received with open arms. As the author, Fr. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O, said, “Love is so forgiving and so forgetful.” He eventually came back to the Church, got engaged but determined, much to everyone’s surprise, including himself, that he was called to religious life.

The story of the taming of this wild stallion into the gentle Br. Mary Joachim, O.C.S.O., will astonish and amaze you and finally bring you to tears. Find a used copy or download the kindle version. It’s a timeless story of love, forgiveness and transformation of a man into a gentle giant of faith.

The God of love is never beaten! Somehow, sometime, someplace or through some person He finds a way of stretching out His hand to the boldest, brazenest, blindest, most defiant.

He made a “saint” of John Green Hanning.

 

 

 

Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna Beatified

S._Klara_Ludwika_SzczęsnaBack in Rome from his trip to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis addressed Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from Poland Tuesday. The sisters were in Rome to give thanks for the  recent beatification of the co-foundress, Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna.

The Holy Father addressed the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus following catechesis and explained how Bl. Klara is a great witness for all to emulate. He said, “By her life, the new Blessed taught us about giving oneself to God, humble service to neighbors, life according to the spirit of the Gospel, and sensitivity to the poor, to those in need and those who have lost their way in life. May her motto, ‘All for the Heart of Jesus,’ be a challenge for all of us, so that we may live according to God’s will.”

Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna was born on July 18, 1863 in Cieszki, Poland. She decided at a young age to dedicate herself to the Lord and entered with the Servants of Jesus, an underground religious congregation as religious orders were forbidden under Russian rule. Her superiors in the Servants of Jesus sent her to Krakow to aid servants there. She shared similar concerns for them that St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar had and became the co-foundress, first member and superior of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

While Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna died nearly one hundred years ago in 1916, her memory and extraordinary witness live on as a testament to her faith and great love for the Lord and His children.