Archive for the 'Men’s communities' Category

Meet the Budding Conventual Franciscans

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Ted Cramer

Ted Cramer

We always keenly follow the events of the Conventual Franciscans at Marytown since we are located in the shadow of their monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. We are especially happy when we see young faces at the monastery, a sign of growth, vitality and the workings of the Holy Spirit. The following are pictures of six of the new postulants who are beginning their journey as Franciscans for the North American provinces.

Aaron Clark

Aaron Clark

As I read the brief write-ups of each young man, I was struck by some similarities in their vocation stories. One, they served the poor in some way. Two, their contact with a local Conventual Franciscan parish was a great influence, and three, God calls, no matter what the age – high school graduate to experienced businessman.

Aaron Clark (age 41, California), businessman, most recently worked on a spiritual care team at a hospital and tutoring immigrants.

Roberson Lubin

Roberson Lubin

Ted Cramer (age 33, Wyoming), managed construction for Habitat for Humanity and dedicated much time to the local Newman Center

Roberson Lubin (age 28, originally from Haiti), met the friars at a parish in Hermosa Beach in California, enjoyed volunteering at a medical center and parish.

Tim Blanchard

Tim Blanchard

Tim Blanchard (age 19, New York), working in kitchens, he helped provide meals for the poor. Met the Militia Immaculata Youth Group when he was volunteering at the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Franck Lino Sokpolie (age 19, originally from Togo), a freshman in college, after visiting many communities, he felt at home with the Conventuals.

Franck Lino Sokpolie

Franck Lino Sokpolie

Jaime Zaragoza (age 26, Texas), played college football, worked as a volunteer cook for a homeless shelter.

The Conventual Franciscans are one of the three branches of the First Order of St. Francis. The word Conventual is derived from the Latin convenire, “to come together.” Their Order includes about 4500 priests and brothers around the world.

In Assisi, their Friars care for the Basilica of St. Francis, which includes his tomb. In addition, the Conventuals are the Vatican confessors at St. Peter’s Basilica.

In an interesting bit of history, Friar Juan Perez, who pleaded Columbus’ case before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, is credited with celebrating the first Mass in the New World.

Jaime Zaragoza

Jaime Zaragoza

For a list of some vocation retreats, click here.

Francis said, “And the Lord gave me brothers.” And so we believe we can only experience humility and charity in relationship with one another as brothers. It is within the context of brotherhood that Conventual Franciscans strive to follow the poor and crucified Christ.





St. Sharbel, Saint for the World

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

sharbelSt. Sharbel (or Charbel) Makhluf was born in 1828 as Youssef Antoun Makhluf. His father died when he was only three, though his mother re-married to a man who later sought Holy Orders. The family’s piety sparked in Youssef a desire to learn about the Saints. He began to spend long hours in daily prayer, and, in 1851, Youssef left home to enter the Lebanese Maronite Order.

The Maronites still use Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic that Jesus Himself spoke, and take their name from the hermit-priest, Saint Maron, who died in 410 AD.They have never been in schism with Rome.

Youssef’s training began at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq, though he was later transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron. Here, Youssef received his religious habit and took the name “Sharbel,” which is the name of a second century martyr from Antioch.

 Although he was ordained a priest, he was also called to a hermetic life. Nevertheless, whenever a Superior requested his assistance outside of the hermitage, Sharbel would cheerfully obey. Many sought his counsel and admired his life. Sharbel never raised his eyes except to look up at Heaven in prayer. For this reason, those who saw him never were able to see his face.


In December of 1898, at age 70, Sharbel suffered a stroke and was born into eternal life. Even after his death, none beheld his eyes since they were shut. His eyes in death were as they had been in life: hidden.


The evening of his death brought severe, snowy weather. Many locals wanted desperately to see Sharbel (many were already calling him “saint”), and to receive one final blessing from him simply by attending his burial journey. The cold and howling wind at his high-elevation hermitage made the villagers understand the suffering Sharbel had endured for Christ. St. Sharbel interceded for his little flock, however, and the weather subsided so that the people were able to make the journey to see their “saint” one last time.

 St. Sharbel is honored as a Saint in the Roman and Eastern Rite Churches. The veneration of St. Sharbel allows the Church to “breathe with both lungs,” as Pope St. John Paul II was known to say. Let us keep all of our monastic communities in our prayers today, and ask St. Sharbel to intercede for us!

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The New Brigittines

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

brigittine vowsToday we celebrate the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden who founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior in 1346 after her husband, Ulf, died. The holy couple had eight children, among them St. Catherine of Sweden.

The Order of the Most Holy Savior consisted of men and women, and are better known as the Brigittines. This order suffered much, particularly during the persecutions of Henry VIII. The King envied the Brigittines because of their wealth, which they freely gave to the poor. Ultimately, his greed drove him to seize all of the community’s property, including Syon Abbey, the only Brigittine house in England.

Henry VIII also despised the Brigittines because they did not support his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Members of the Brigittines spoke openly against the King, though some sources suggest this was done only in the confessional.

St. Richard Reynolds

St. Richard Reynolds

Among the Catholic religious who were persecuted by Henry VIII, St. Richard Reynolds, the only Brigittine Monk honored with Canonization, particularly angered the King. Because of his loyalty to the Church, St. Richard was martyred on May 4, 1535 by drawing and quartering, a punishment reserved for the most treasonous criminals.

During the funeral procession of Henry’s body from London to Windsor for the burial, the King’s casket rested overnight at Syon, then a country home. According to claims and eye-witness accounts, people noticed a rotten stench coming from the casket. The casket seemed to have expanded and even opened and oozed blood in parts. When men came to reseal the casket, a dog was seen to lick up the king’s blood.

This strange and bizarre occurrence seemed to fulfill a prophecy made by a Franciscan friar years earlier, which foretold of the King’s disgraceful burial if the King continued to behave like Ahab. After King Ahab’s death, wild dogs had licked Ahab’s blood (cf. 1 Kings 22:38).

Due to the severe persecution of the order, the last succeeding Brigittine monk died in 1863. Few Brigittines remain throughout the world, and only one community of monks, founded in 1976, exists today. We would like to extend our warm wishes of a blessed feast day to our affiliate community, the Brigittine Monks in Amity, OR.

St. Bridget of Sweden, pray for us!

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The Only Vocation I Could Be Satisfied With

Monday, June 30th, 2014

fr walkerOn the night of June 11, 2014, Fr. Kenneth Walker, FSSP, age 28, was shot to death in an apparent robbery attempt in his own rectory at Mater Misericordiae Mission in Phoenix, Arizona. The pastor, Fr.  Joseph Terra, FSSP, was severely beaten but thanks be to God, survived the attack.

According to the Vicar General of the Phoenix diocese, Fr. Terra was able to administer the Last Rites to Father Walker. Father Walker’s sister Sasha said that her family is able to smile through their tears because “he had Last Rites, and it gives us so much peace knowing that he was able to have those special graces.”

Who was Father Walker? He was ordained just 2 years ago by His Excellency Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz. Parishoners described Father Walker as a “sweet, gentle man,” “a young bright face almost angelic disposition” with “complete faithfulness to the Church.” The two priests at the Mission were often seen sitting on either side of the altar chanting Latin prayers. They prayed outside abortion clinics every week.

Both Fr. Walker and Fr. Terra were “incredibly devout and focused on their mission as priests of the Church.”

Fr. Walker was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, one of 11 children.His family’s life changed when they came across a book entitled, The Incredible Catholic Mass, which introduced them for the first time to the Latin Mass. On his own initiative, Father taught himself Latin and became an altar server at an FSSP apostolate in Scranton, PA. He attended Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Ontario and then entered the FSSP seminary.

The Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, Very Rev. John Berg, said:

“In an age where we seem so centered upon ‘clerical stars’ and are constantly searching for the ‘newest approach to evangelization,’ the life of our confrere gave witness to one of the greatest priestly virtues, a quiet and consistent strength, which is a mark of the Good Shepherd who watches vigilantly over His flock in season and out of season.”

We should appropriately end with Father Walker’s own words, written on his FSSP application:

God, in His infinite love, desires all men to be saved and so achieve their true end. Along with the Church, then, I am deeply grieved by these errors concerning the nature and dignity of man accepted by so many people in the world, which deviate them from their supernatural end. In full view of the situation in the world, then, the only vocation that I could be satisfied with, as a work, would be one that would be dedicated to bringing people to salvation in whatever way God wills for me to do so.

Mater Misericordiae, Ora pro nobis

Requiescat in Pace, dear Father.



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Bl. Paul Giustiniani, Son of Romuald

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Remembering today the Camaldolese Monks of Monte Corona of Holy Family Hermitage in Bloomingdale, Ohio, on this Feast Day of St. Romuald. The Monte Corona monks were founded as a Camaldolese reform by Bl. Paul Giustiniani in 1520. The Camaldolese themselves were founded by St. Romuald in 1023. Pray for holy vocations for these dedicated men of God.

Bl. Paul and St. Romuald

Bl. Paul and St. Romuald

O God, Who chose St. Romuald to renew the eremitic life in Your Church, 

give us the strength to  deny ourselves in order to follow Christ in the way of the Cross

and to go up with Him into the glory of Your reign.

Through Jesus  Christ Your Son, Who is God and Who live and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.


The above picture can be purchased from the monks in Ohio.

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Only a Passionist Vocation WIll Do

Monday, June 16th, 2014

cp imageFr. Jude Mead, CP, was a noted author, teacher, retreat master and dear friend of the IRL. He suddenly in 1992 just as he was preparing to attend, once again as Dean, the IRL’s summer school for religious. When he celebrated his Golden Anniversary as a priest, he had these beautiful words to share about his vocation:

If I could be sixteen again I would do exactly as I have done all over again and still savour every moment of it. I always wanted to be a priest. Once I met the Passionists, only the Passionist vocation would do. So when I turn up my toes, still rejoicing in all I have received, I hope another young man will step into my battered sandals, able to enjoy, as I have relished, all the moments of these past fifty years. For what little I have given, for the much I have received, for whatever is to come, I thank the One and Only God. Fr. Jude Mead, CP (1919-1992)

The Passionsist were founded by St. Paul of the Cross in Italy in. The mission of the Passionist men and women is to keep alive in the world the love of Jesus Crucified. For more information, please visit one of their websites.

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D-Day Chaplain Remembered

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
fr ignatrius

Franciscan Friars Albert Scherer, left, and James McCurry unveil a memorial at Father Ignatius’ grave in Mater Dolorosa Cemetery.

Last week, on June 6th, the Western World remembered all of the soldiers who lost their lives on the D-Day beaches of Normandy, France, in 1944. On this 70th anniversary, one man was remembered in particular, Fr.Ignatius Maternowski, OFM Conv. Fr. Ignatius is believed to be the only Catholic chaplain who was killed on the day of the Allied landings.

Father parachuted in with members of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. Father landed safely near Guetteville and sought out a place where the injured could be treated. He then crossed enemy lines to seek out his German counterpart to see if he could set up a common hospital. Clearly displaying his red cross arm band and chaplain insignia, he was nonetheless shot in the back by a German sniper. He was 32 years old.

Father’s body lay where he was shot for 3 days until the Allies could move in. His body was buried in a cemetery near Utah Beach. Later, his  remains were exhumed and reburied in the Franciscans’ Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Father was a Holyoke native.

fr igantius“His quiet heroism is the stuff of legend,” said Conventual Franciscan Father James McCurry, minister provincial of Our Lady of Angels province. He exemplified “goodness and self-sacrifice above the call of duty.”

Fr. McCurry was present in Normandy during the ceremonies and told the people of Guetteville, “I stand here today on this hallowed ground, in my role as Father Ignatius’s next of kin – his Franciscan brother. Permit me to thank the good people of Guetteville and Picauville for the loving attention that you continue to show to his memory.”

The marker on his grave reads: “No Greater Love.”

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A Family Affair – The Ordinations at St. John Cantius

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

sjcOn May 27th, 2014, three young men of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius were ordained priests at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago. Fr. Joshua Caswell, Fr. Nathan Caswell, and Fr. Kevin Mann (read his vocation story) became priests of the Roman Catholic Church at the hands Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is a family story par exellence because the Caswells, Fr. Joshua and Fr. Nathan, are blood brothers, while their sister, Sr. Mary Judith, OP, is a member of the community of the Dominican sjcopSisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist! How proud their parents must be!!

Visiting Chicago and sightseeing among the architectural wonders is a great thing to do but don’t miss out on the churches! One such gem is St. John Cantius, rescued from dilapidation and dedicated to St. John Cantius. (Also known as St. John of Kenty or Kanty or Kanti).

Pope John Paul II had a great devotion to this Polish saint (1390-1472) who was born 13 miles from his birthplace. Pope Clement XII  named St. John Cantius the patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737.

From the SJC website:

Designed by Adolphus Druiding and completed in 1898, St. John Cantius Church took five years to build and is one of the best examples of sacred architecture in the city. The unique baroque interior has remained intact for more than a century and is known for both its opulence and grand scale—reminiscent of the sumptuous art and architecture of 18th century Krakow. The imposing 130 ft. tower is readily seen from the nearby Kennedy Expressway. In 2012, St. John’s completed an ambitious restoration, returning the lavish interior to its original splendor.

Truly, it is a heavenly marvel bearing good fruits!

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Now I Begin Again

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Jeremy-Paulin4How many men have found their vocation in a McDonald’s? That’s not quite the way it happened for Fr. Jeremy Paulin, OMV, but it was a fortuitous meeting with a OMV seminarian in the fast-food emporium that prompted him to pay a visit to the Order in which he would find his home.

In a beautiful article in The Catholic World Report, Father talked about his vocation and the mission of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary (OMV).

Several points struck home with me.

First, his family upbringing. He was the eighth of ten children and his diligent Father threw out the family TV.  Funny how the more channels there are on television, the less there is to watch. His parents also took him out of the public school because they were concerned about what was being taught. Obviously, they were not concerned about winning a popularity contest at home! Strange how parents seem smarter the older we get!

Secondly, the OMVs. If you are looking to do the Spiritual Exercises, a must for any serious Catholic, go on an OMV retreat. Their founder, Ven. Bruno Lanteri, was taught the spiritual exercises by a Jesuit and concluded that doing the Spiritual Exercises is an excellent way for a nunc coepiperson to become a great saint.

A new biography of this holy man called called Begin Again by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, is now available. The Oblates’ founder had a favorite saying: Nunc Coepi, “Now I begin.” It is the perfect motto for a community that tries to bring people to understand God’s love for them and His mercy, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Finally, if you are a young man or know of one who is seriously discerning a vocation, direct him to the OMVs. They are a small order (200 men) but growing. They have 75 men in formation! They teach, offer parish missions and retreats, and spiritually support diocesan clergy.  They are also known for their orthodoxy and fidelity to the Holy Father and the Church.

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East Meets West on EWTN

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

abbott nick

We at the IRL were privileged to spend 2 days at The Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, a year or so ago. We were also blessed to have Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the 2013 National Meeting. He has some beautiful and profound insights into the gifts that the Eastern Church can offer the West. For me, the Byzantine awareness of this passing life and our approaching final judgement needs to be reawakened our hearts. There is a mysticism, a profound encounter with heavenly realities that is present in the Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy.

On April 9, Abbot Nicholas joined Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ, on EWTN to discuss the growth of his new community of Byzantine monks. And they are growing, thanks be to God.

Also, an article by Abbot Nicholas and Benjamin Mann recently appeared in The Catholic World Report. They have this to say about the New Evangelization: To re-evangelize the West, the Church must recover its mystical heritage – but this task requires contact with the living monastic tradition. Monasteries are thus essential to the New Evangelization.

And what is mysticism? Mysticism means relating to God on the deepest level of our being. It means knowing and loving him in a transcendent way, in keeping with His infinite and unfathomable nature. This profound communion with the Triune God is the reason for our existence, the true meaning of our lives.

By encountering our Eastern tradition, Western Christians can reconnect with their own mystical and monastic roots – as they must, in order to evangelize the spiritual seekers in their midst.

The monks welcome pilgrims and retreatants. One piece of advice: do not plug a hair dryer into the shaver outlet. You’ll blow the lights out of a good portion of the monastery!

To those who doubt the value of monasticism for the New Evangelization, we say: “Come and see!” (John 1:39). For the witness of our tradition cannot be conveyed by words alone.



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