Category Archives: General interest

Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Czestochowa

35202113Pilgrimage. A journey to a holy place. This past weekend, over 5,000 people (largely Polish) walked over 32 miles from Chicago to Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Merrillville, IN.. There were people older, younger, healthy, sick. Every person carried with them a hidden cross, intentions. The walk was not easy but we were blessed with decent weather. The sun was shining and it was hot and humid and some people began to get heat stroke and were getting weak from the heat but this didn’t stop pilgrims from the pilgrimage. Despite the sunburn, the dehydration, the blisters, and never ending asphalt, we were determined to offer every ounce of sacrifice for our intentions to the foot of the cross and to our Black Madonna. We offered everything up; our tears, our smiles, our pain, our singing. Some people walked in thanksgiving for healing of a child’s addiction, for blessing them with a child that they could not conceive for some time, or for conversion. Others offered up their sufferings for intentions like to overcome addiction or a loved one suffering from it, to find a spouse, or the health of a child. This suffering brought us closer to Jesus and gave us a sense of the pain He endured during His imperfect life in which He also offered up.

pilgrimage 2
Arriving at Merrillville, IN. to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The pilgrimage is a 300-year-old tradition that people in Poland walk to Our Lady of Czestochowa on Jasna Gora from all over Poland, sometimes taking days or even weeks to accomplish. There are over 1.5 million polish people living in the Chicago area, so we made our own American-Polish Czestochowa. The testimonies that people give are so inspiring. Every person has a completely different life than another but we pick each other up and march forward on different paths but in the same direction. We marched toward strength, truth, mercy, and God. Thousands of people walking, singing, and praying out loud in the streets through neighborhoods while people stand outside their homes to watch is a great witness. The joy or peace that we gained from this suffering is a victory over evil and the comforts of the world. We may not become saints after walking but God will always bless our efforts and suffering.

The Extraordinary Life of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Spiritual Son

Father Krolikowski with St. Maxymillian Kolbe in 1939.

Many have been inspired to imitate the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, however, Father Lucjan Krolikowski OFM Conv. is unique because he lived in community with the saint for several years as a Conventual Franciscan. The 96 year old priest has led an extraordinary life having lived in community with St. Maximilian, struggled to survive a Soviet gulag in Siberia during World War II, saved and became the foster father to 150 Polish orphans and broadcasted a Catholic radio program for 32 years in the United States.

Fr. Krolikowski entered the Conventual Franciscan friary of Niepokalanow in 1934 at the age of 15 due to his desire to become a priest like St. Maximilian Kolbe. At the time, Niepokalanow was the largest monastery in the world and St. Maximilian was the heart and soul of the community’s apostolate according to Fr. Krolikowski. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, he said, “I’ve met a few saintly people in my life, but Father Maximilian Kolbe was the most saintly, in my estimation. He had an impact on you; you wanted to imitate him.” The friars deeply loved St. Maximilian and many even volunteered their own lives for his release following his arrest.

Soviet troops arrested Fr. Krolikowski in 1940 and sent him to a labor camp in Siberia. At the camp, he cut down trees for 13 or 14 hours each day only occasionally receiving a piece of bread for sustenance. With the war incurring many causalities, soldiers were needed. As a result, Fr. Krolikowski entered training and went to the Middle East eventually becoming a priest in Beirut and spending time in East Africa.

5913110  In East Africa, Fr. Krolikowski met Polish children who had become orphaned after their parents had died in Soviet gulags. When the Communist government of Poland demanded their repatriation, Fr. Krolikowski heroically sought to aid them by emigrating with them to Canada. He recounted this trial in Stolen Children: A Saga of Polish War Children which he wrote with the hope that the book would, “draw attention to the parallel fate of the children of other races and nationalities who are ravaged by the uncontrolled passion for power, wealth, success and ill-understood independence.”

Once in the United States, Fr. Krolikowski continued to lead a life fashioned in imitation of St. Maximilian. He did this by broadcasting a Catholic radio program for 32 years and writing several books including his memoir, A Franciscan Odyssey. When reflecting on his life, Fr. Krolikowski says he would do it all over again because he chose the life of his spiritual father, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Support the Institute on Religious Life by Shopping!

Amazon Smile edited adjusted2You can now support the gift of religious life by simply shopping online! The Institute on Religious Life recently registered with the AmazonSmile Foundation which will allow friends of the IRL to aid our mission when purchasing items through

Supporting the Institute on Religious Life through AmazonSmile is easy. When visiting the site, customers are prompted to select an eligible charitable organization. Simply select the Institute on Religious Life from this list and start shopping. The AmazonSmile Foundation will then donate a portion of the purchase price to the Institute on Religious Life.

It is important to note that this offer is only valid through and not Though the AmazonSmile Foundation was founded by Amazon, the Institute on Religious Life only receives donations from eligible purchases through AmazonSmile. Amazon does, however, pay all expenses of the AmazonSmile Foundation; which means that 100% of donation amounts generated by purchases on AmazonSmile go to the Institute on Religious Life. In other words, all donations generated from your purchases go directly towards promoting and supporting the gift of religious life, not the AmazonSmile Foundation.

As we conclude the Year of Consecrated Life and continue with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, please consider supporting the Institute on Religious Life as we strive to support and promote the gift of consecrated life. Thanks to the AmazonSmile Foundation, donating to the IRL has never been easier!

Apostleship of Prayer: January Intentions

ApostleshipofPrayerThe Holy Father’s prayer intentions for the month of January as well as reflections by Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer.


Interreligious Dialogue: That sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice. 

Since Pope Paul VI instituted it in 1967, every new year begins with the World Day of Peace. In a conversation with Japanese teachers and students, Pope Francis said: “It is impossible for peace to exist without dialogue. All the wars, all the strife, all the unsolved problems over which we clash are due to a lack of dialogue. When there is a problem, talk: this makes peace.”

But dialogue means more than talking at each other. It means listening. “And what is the deepest approach we should have in order to dialogue and not quarrel? Meekness, the ability to encounter people, to encounter cultures peacefully; the ability to ask intelligent questions. Listening to others and then speaking. All this is meekness.”

Jesus described his heart as meek and humble. As we ask him to make our hearts like his, we are asking to have the meekness that is the basis for encounter and dialogue—the way to peace.

When he visited Turkey, Pope Francis spoke of the “sacred character” of “human life, a gift of God the Creator.” He said: “Fanaticism and fundamentalism need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom.”

And he gave us the challenge that is behind our prayer this month: “The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.”

EVANGELIZATIstatic1.squarespace.comON INTENTION

Christian Unity: That by means of dialogue and fraternal charity and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians may overcome divisions.

The world wonders if peace is possible when the followers of the Prince of Peace are divided and have for centuries and into the present killed one another over their differences. Unbelievers will have a hard time accepting Christianity as long as its adherents are divided.

Every year from January 18-25 we celebrate a time of intense prayer for Christian unity. At the conclusion of the 2014 week of prayer, Pope Francis said that “we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world.”

He quoted also the words of Vatican II’s decree on ecumenism: “…division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.” And he added this comment: “We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to become a cause of scandal.”

“And so we are all journeying together,” the pope continued, “fraternally, on the road towards unity, bringing about unity even as we walk; that unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path of unity.”

It has been fifty years since the Second Vatican Council ended. Are we any closer to unity? Or are we further apart? The world urgently needs Christian witness which demonstrates that conflicts can be overcome through dialogue and charity. As we pray, we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s power that alone can bring about unity.

The Spiritual Exercises as the Path to Discernment


Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Basque knight who became a great saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Church faithful can be guided by the inspiration of this great saint, particularly through his illuminating insights into discernment.

The very life of St. Ignatius aids in seeking holiness and the peace of God’s will. Bedridden from an injury suffered in battle, Ignatius read books on the life of Christ and lives of the saints which led to him experience a great conversion. These books inspired him to abandon his old way of life and seek to live out God’s will.

In Manresa, Spain, Saint Ignatius formulated the Spiritual Exercises which explain how one should discern God’s will, as he strove to after his conversion. This led him to be proclaimed the patron of spiritual exercises by Pope Pius XI in 1922. St. Ignatius explained that the Spiritual Exercises are a way of “seeking and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

The four stages of the Spiritual Exercises allow one to discern God’s will which can be particularly helpful when discerning which vocation God is calling one to. Pope Francis, formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius within the Society of Jesus, said in discussing the Spiritual Exercises that they provoke several questions: “Is Christ the center of my life? Do I really put Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think that we are at the center.” The Holy Father is showing the importance of placing Christ at the center of one’s life in order to truly discern and follow His will for us.

The Church can clearly see the fruits of these Exercises which place Christ at the center of one’s discernment by the testimonies of those who have performed them. Great saints, like those who inspired St. Ignatius’ conversion, have undertaken the exercises including St. Charles Borromeo, “to adopt a more perfect form of life”; St. Teresa of Avila, to become, “the mistress of lofty contemplation”; and St Francis de Sales, “to serve God with the greatest possible fidelity.” These saints are a testament to the power of the Exercises and inspire those in discernment to also learn from the patron of spiritual exercises.

Many within the Church today seek to learn from the Spiritual Exercises with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary being just one example. While performing the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of a Jesuit priest, their founder, Ven. Pio Bruno Lanteri, experienced the mercy of God and strove to become a witness to this mercy by preaching fidelity to the Church and Our Lady. The spirituality of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary flows from the Spiritual Exercises and aids them in becoming experts in spiritual direction. If you would like more information on the Oblates of the Virgin Mary or how you can practice the Spiritual Exercises with them please visit their website:

Prayer of Saint Ignatius
Dearest Jesus teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do Your Holy Will.

Children’s Book Explains Religious Life

bonosaIt is very hard, if not impossible, to find a children’s book that explains and explores the beauty of a religious vocation. Many children have never ever seen or spoken to a religious sister, brother or priest, and probably do not have the faintest idea what religious life is all about. How will vocations be sparked in young hearts if they are not introduced to this beautiful life of self-giving to God?

Therefore, a new book on religious life by M. Cristina Borges with illustrations by Michaela Harrison fills a big void. Entitled Of Bells and Cells, it explains that we are all called to a vocation in life but some are called in a special way. The book makes it clear that religious communities are families who pass on a way of living, praying and thinking about God from one generation to the next.

Terms like postulant and novice are explained, as well as what daily life in a monastery or convent is like. The ceremonies for new religious, the meaning of a habit and a new name show children that these individuals are entirely dedicated to God. There are wonderful pictures that show the typical habits of Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Poor Clares, Redemptorists, Carthusians, Missionaries of Charity and the Conceptionists (for trivia buffs the first congregation of women to come to the USA.).

One of the most effective areas of the book is the section on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, explained in a very appealing way. Religious, she says, who profess the vow of chastity “work to be as pure as the Virgin Mary, giving birth to Jesus in people’s hearts.”

The call to a cloistered or active life is delineated but “all religious imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, doing simple things very well for love of Jesus.” The concept that men who are religious can also be priests is explained in detail along with what a priest as an alter Christus means. Finally, the appendix gives the history behind the aforementioned religious orders as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor and a few religious saints.

The book can be ordered from St. Bonosa Books ( It is a beautiful way to ignite in the souls of young people a desire for this often hidden vocation in our secular world.

National Vocation Awareness Week (Nov 2-8)

381Next month we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week (November 2-8), a time for all to pray for a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. In other words, to pray for an environment in homes, schools, workplaces and souls where young men and women can hear God’s call to them.

“A culture of vocations is one that provides the necessary support for others to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “With God’s grace, we help build that culture through fervent prayer, the witness of our lives and the encouragement we extend to those discerning a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.”

It is especially important to pray for vocations from the Hispanic community which are 54% of the Catholics in the U.S. yet only 15% of the men in the seminary and many of these are foreign-born.

More information and resources for National Vocation Awareness Week, including a prayer card, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at the USCCB website.

Benedictines in the Holy Land

osb dormMany people are aware that the Franciscans are an ever-present presence in the Holy Land. The familiar Jerusalem cross above a door indicates that the Franciscans are the guardians of that particular (usually) holy site and all are welcome to come in.

But the Benedictines are also in the Holy Land at the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes on the Sea of Galilee (Tabgha Priory), and at Abu Ghosh, where the Ark of the Covenant rested for twenty years. Fittingly, the Church in Abu Gosh is called Notre Dame de l’Arche d’Alliance (Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant). Mary can be seen at the top holding the infant Jesus in her arms.

The National Catholic Register recently interviewed Fr. Mark Sheridan, a Benedictine monk at Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. He will celebrate 50 years in the priesthood in February 2015. In the lengthy interview, Fr. Sheridan describes the complex and fascinating life of a Benedictine in Israel.

In 2012, he founded Friends of the Benedictines to “provide financial support the religious, charitable and educational activities of the canonically established monastic communities following the Rule of St. Benedict in the Holy Land.” Their life in Israel is precarious. They rely on pilgrims to support their activities including special assistance to those in need. In unsettled times like today, they suffer.

tabghaIf you are fortunate to go to Israel and can get away on your own, I highly recommend checking out a stay at the Tabgha guesthouse on the Sea of Galilee. It is located in one of the quietest and most beautiful places in Israel. In the 1930’s, this site was excavated and lo and behold they discovered a 1000+ year old Byzantine Church. The ancient mosaics can still be seen in the new Church erected on the site. Also in Tabgha are the Benedictine Sisters from the Philippines from the Congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Eucharistic King. They care for the many Filipino workers in Israel.

In the Rule of St. Benedict it says that all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ (Chapter 53). The Benedictines in the Holy Land continue this practice, receiving pilgrims, Christian and non-Christian alike, showing them the door to Christ.

My Life for Your Freedom

white scapularMy Life for Your Freedom. This phrase captures the spirit of the Mercedarian friars and sisters around the world.

Yesterday, our pastor blessed a whole basket of brown scapulars and offered them to the faithful in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It reminds me that the brown Carmelite scapular, while certainly the most popular, is by no means the only scapular around for the laity. There is also the beautiful white Mercedarian scapular.

The Scapular was originally the long, wide piece of cloth worn around the neck by religious as part of their habit. Today’s religious orders continue to wear such a Scapular but smaller versions are available to lay people.

The Mercedarian friars wear a white habit composed of a tunic, belt, scapular, capuche and shield. The white Mercedarian Scapular can be seen as a “smaller version” of the Order’s habit for laypeople.

The Mercedarian Scapular spiritually unites its wearer to the work of the worldwide Mercedarian Order in its work in ransoming Christians from various types of captivity. The Sodality of the Scapular is a spiritual organization of the laity who have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Mercy. They unite themselves spiritually to the work of the Mercedarian Friars in the ransoming of Christian Captives in danger of apostasy. Besides wearing the White Scapular, members offer daily prayers for the Order, the Holy Father, and suffering and persecuted members of the Church.

The wearer of the Scapular places himself under the loving protection of Mary.

For more information on the Sodality of the Scapular, visit the Mercedarians’ website. There is also a YouTube video of a Mercedarian Sodality Scapular Investiture. For information on the Mercedarian sisters, go to their site as well.

Watch 2014 National Meeting Via Live Video Streaming

40thThrough the generosity of Corey and Katherine Huber of the Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations, we wish to extend a special invitation to all our IRL affiliates, especially cloistered and monastic communities, and IRL friends to participate in the 2014 IRL National Meeting by viewing all the scheduled chapel events online via video streaming.

To view select portions of the National Meeting on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can paste this link into your web browser:

Or you can go to the home page and click on the link there.

The link will direct you to a dedicated IRL YouTube channel.

Please note that the times given below are Central Daylight Time. Check the YouTube channel for the times for your particular time zone.


 Friday, April 25, 2014

4:00 pm        Pontifical High Mass (Extraordinary Form) celebrated by Most Rev. James Timlin

7:15 pm       Keynote Address: “Building the Civilization of Love through the Sacred Heart of Jesus,”   Dr.  Timothy O’Donnell

8:15 pm         Rosary & Benediction

 Saturday, April 26, 2014

1:30 pm       “Having Our Answers Ready: Combating the Cultural Climate of Confusion and Scorn,” Sheila Liaugminas

2:30 pm       “Our Shepherds Speak,” Panel Presentation featuring Most Rev. Robert F. Vasa  and Most Rev. James C. Timlin, moderated by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell

4:00 pm       Holy Mass, Main Chapel celebrated by Most Rev. Robert F. Vasa

 Sunday, April 27, 2014

9:00 am       “True Holiness, True Joy,” Mother M. Julie Saegaert, S.C.M.C.

10:00 am       Divine Mercy Chaplet & Relic Veneration

10:30 am       Holy Mass celebrated by Rev. Brian Mullady, O.P.

Please keep in your prayers the dear mother of Katherine Huber, Marjorie, who recently passed away. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace!