Category Archives: Men’s communities

New Energy and Direction in Springfield

Rev. James Isaacson, SJC, Rev. Scott Thelander, SJC, and Rev. Kevin Mann, SJC outside Sacred Heart Church.

Three Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, Rev. James Isaacson, SJC, Rev. Scott Thelander, SJC, and Rev. Kevin Mann, SJC, will serve in Springfield, Illinois at the invitation of Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki and blessing of Fr. C. Frank Phillips, CR. The three priests will serve in St. Katharine Drexel Parish which is comprised of two churches, St. Patrick Church and Sacred Heart Church.

Bishop Paprocki knows the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius from his days as chancellor and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He personally witnessed their work at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago as he regularly offered 11 am Latin Mass there. He invited them to serve in Springfield because of the spiritual renaissance and physical restoration he saw occur within the parish. Bishop Paprocki is hopeful that the priests can bring about similar results within St. Katharine Drexel Parish saying that hey have the potential to inject, “new energy and new direction.”

Fr. Isaacson, Fr. Thelander and Fr. Mann will be able to share the charism of their young community within a culturally diverse parish. They will engage in parochial ministry and celebrate the Mass in both forms and in three languages: English, Latin and Spanish. They are prepared to aid the parish which has already seen progress with both churches having undergone recent restoration projects.

St. John Cantius Church in Chicago
St. John Cantius Church in Chicago

By moving to Springfield, Fr. Isaacson, Fr. Thelander and Fr. Mann hope to carry out the mission of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius within the context of parish ministry, which is, “to help Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art, sacred music, as well as instruction in Church heritage, catechetics, and Catholic culture.”

The Cistercians – Contemplation in Community

Genesse Community-Nov2012--1024x729In the eleventh century, three monks departed from Molesme Abbey in France to found the first Cistercian monastery, Citeaux Abbey. By founding the order as a community, St. Robert, St. Alberic and St. Stephen emphasized the importance of common life within the Cistercian Order.

The Cistercian Order quickly grew particularly when St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrate today, entered the monastery in 1112. The saint’s entrance alone displayed the importance of community as he convinced thirty friends and relatives to enter with him! St. Bernard is known as the spiritual father of the Cistercian Order which continues to thrive throughout the world today.

The Abbey of Genesse is one monastery in the United States which belongs to the legacy of the founding community. Located in western New York, the Abbey of Genesse is a community of contemplative monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.) commonly known as Trappists. The monks strive to seek God in a stable community they refer to as a “school of brotherly love.” Those at the Abbey try to maintain an environment conducive to contemplation as they pray for the World and Church in their apostolate of prayer. The monks observe silence, speaking only when necessary in order to create an environment of prayer. In addition to prayer and contemplation, the monks engage in various labors in community throughout the day such as farming, cooking, maintenance, hospitality, formation, care of the infirm and bake their famous Monks’ Bread.

The Diocese of Syracuse recently included the Abbey as a part of their summer pilgrimage webpage. The 3 minute video done by the Diocese gives a glimpse of what life is like for the community of monks and allows for insight into the legacy of Cistercians like St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., Receives Kolbe Award

Fr. McCurry, fourth from right
Fr. McCurry, fourth from right, and his fellow Conventual Franciscans at Marytown

On August 14th, the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv., received the annual Kolbe Award at Marytown in Libertyville, IL. The annual award is given to those who mirror St. Maximilian’s charisms of heroic charity and self-sacrifice. Father McCurry is the past president Militia Immaculata, Kolbean scholar and  Mariologist.

The first four awards were given to Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC, the family rosary priest; Fr. John Hardon, SJ, founder of the IRL; Mother Teresa, who needs no introduction; and Bishop Austin Vaughn who was imprisoned many times for his pro-life activities. Illustrious company!

Fr. McCurry did not set out to be the long-time promoter of the Militia Immaculata (MI), the organization founded by St. Maximilian in 1917 to encourage total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a means of spiritual renewal for individuals and society. This is how it happened at least in part…..

Fr. McCurry and Fr. John Grigus, Rector, Marytown Shrine

Father McCurry, during his funny yet profound remarks upon receiving the award, told of his encounter with Pope John Paul II at the canonization of St. Maximilian in 1982. He asked the Holy Father if he would pray that we might all be as consecrated to Mary as St. Maximilian was. The Pope did not hear him at first and said, “huh?” Speaking more loudly, the question then prompted a smile on the Holy Father’s face. He pointed to Father McCurry and said, “You do that!”

Taking this as a papal command, Father McCurry did do it as the long-time president of the Militia Immaculata. The MI’s mission is “To Lead Every Individual With Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Following in the footsteps of Father McCurry would be a good place to start. If you would like information about consecrating yourself to Mary in the Militia Immaculata, please visit Marytown’s website.

Prince of Peace Abbey Elects New Abbot


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.

Abbot Sharbel Ewen, O.S.B.

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.

Mercedarians Adopt Iraqi Archdiocese

Most Rev. Mashar Warda, second from right, speaks to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy members in Rome.
Most Rev. Mashar Warda, speaks to Mercidarian members in Rome.

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.

san_piedro_nolasco1The 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.”

Setting the World Ablaze: Preaching in the 21st Century

Saint Dominic and a dog with a lighted torch
Saint Dominic depicted beside a dog with a lighted torch

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.

Conventual Franciscans Celebrate Milestones

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.

pic2-invest-2015Two 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.


New Affiliate Community: Franciscan Brothers Minor

Franciscan Brothers Minor Group Bishop 1The 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.

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.

500th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Philip Neri

Toronto Oratory
Toronto Oratory

Oratorians around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip Neri. He was born in 1515 in Italy and founded the Congregation of the Oratory in 1575. The most famous Oratorian is Henry Cardinal Newman, convert and blessed. Our Sunday Visitor (July 12, 2015) has a nice article on St. Philip in the latest issue.

Oratorians live in community and under a Rule but are not religious, in that they do not profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live freely in a community but are free to leave at any time. This prompts the old saying that “true sons of St Philip are known at their burial.”

Tomb of St.Philip Neri - Chiesa Nuova, Rome
Tomb of St.Philip Neri – Chiesa Nuova, Rome

Each Oratory is independent,  observing the way of life outlined by St. Philip .  It was shortly before Pentecost, 1544, that Philip received the grace of his vocation as the founder of the Oratorians. The Holy Spirit filled his heart in so dramatic a fashion, while he was praying in the catacombs, that his rib cage was split around his heart. This was verified after his death.

St. Philip’s biography is a wonderful read because he did such unexpected things to bring people to God, using humor and the ridiculous to make his points.  One man asked is he could wear a hair shirt and Philip said, yes, but wear it on the outside! Philip once shaved half of his beard off before an important event. Laughter is good medicine for the soul!

The work of the apostolate is prayer, preaching and the sacraments. For a wonderful and thorough overview of an oratory including historical references, visit the Toronto Oratory website. It lists the ten characteristics of the classical Oratorian vocation:

  • Instituting a school of prayer
  • Promoting spiritual direction and sacramental confession
  • Extending the liturgical movement
  • Cultivating Eucharistic devotion
  • Fostering saving knowledge of the Holy Scriptures
  • Keeping alive the lore of the saints
  • Inculcating moral literacy
  • Elaborating an “historical orthodoxy”
  • Supporting cultural and intellectual endeavors
  • Encouraging a graced encounter between clerics and the laity
  • Assisting the revival of community and family life
  • Carrying out the New Evangelization

Sounds like a plan for life for all!

“The great thing is to become saints.” St. Philip Neri