Category Archives: Men’s communities

“Angel of Dachau” to Be Beatified

fr unz picOn September 24, 2016, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig will be beatified in Würzburg, Germany. Known as the “Angel of Dachau,” Father Engelmar died of typhoid fever, contracted while caring for the sick with this deadly disease in the infamous concentration camp. As it says in his short biography, “He volunteered to go to those doomed to death, thereby condemning himself to death.”

Father was born in 1911 in Czechoslovakia. Four of his six years as an ordained Mariannhill Missionary priest were spent in Dachau where he was imprisoned as a traitor for insisting that one must obey God more than man and for defending Jews. Dachau was known as the “largest monastery in the world” for there were 3000 clergyman detailed there, 95% of whom were Roman Catholic priests. Father was especially solicitous of the Russian prisoners, learning the language so he could he could bring them back to the Faith.

In late December of 1944, Father was one of 20 priests who volunteered to care for the victims of typhus who were dying at a rate of 100 per day. Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., who gave up his life to save a married man, Fr. Engelmar knew he was marching to certain death.

fr unz iconA fellow prisoner-priest said that the help he gave was a “fruit of his priestly love of neighbor. He gladly heard the confessions of his poor sheep and comforted them in his kind and quiet way in the misery of the camp…He offered them more than just his time and selfless concern. He gave them his whole priestly love. That was his goal while death reaped its terrible harvest.”

In his last letter to his sister, Father Engelmar wrote, “Love doubles one’s strength, makes one inventive, renders one inwardly free and happy. It really has not entered into the heart of any man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” He died on March 2, 1945. The camp was liberated just one month later.

Because he was so highly esteemed, a priest contrived to have his body cremated alone and thus they were able to retrieve his ashes and secretly deliver them in a sewn linen bag to the Mariannhillers in Würzburg. Fr. Engelmar was declared venerable by Benedict XVI in 2009, and in January 2016, Pope Francis pronounced Father Unzeitig a martyr, killed in hatred of the faith.

Father Engelmar Hubert Unzeitig? He was a very dear, precious man. He was love in person. More than that I cannot say. That he was: love!”

A Triumph For the Sacredness of Life – Friars of the Sick Poor

fsp groupThe Friars of the Sick Poor are a relatively new community of men in Los Angeles, founded by Bro. Richard A. Hirbe, fsp, on December 12, 2001. Their mission is to give themselves to God in the service of the sick poor and marginalized, whom they receive in God’s name.

Many of you are aware that California recently passed the so-called Death With Dignity Act. Hence, we were thankful to receive this message from Bro. Richard recently: “I am pleased to forward you this memo from our CEO … St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC) has taken the stance, that although no longer under the sponsorship of the Daughters of Charity… will not participate in the California Death with Dignity Act…. Another triumph for the sacredness of LIFE!”

With hope as their charism, they help people to find meaning in their suffering and sickness as being redemptive, inviting them to a fuller life within the Church.

Bro. Cesar John Paul
Bro. Cesar John Paul

One of the most inspiring vocation stories that we have featured in Religious Life magazine was of a Friar of the Sick Poor – Br. Cesar John Paul Galan. Cesar, a young man growing up in a challenging neighborhood, found his life changed forever when both he and his brother Hector were the victims of a shooting. One of the first people Cesar met at the St. Francis Medical Center where he was in the ICU was the chaplain – Bro. Richard Hirbe.

Brother Richard told him that Hector was on life support and unable to survive. He also had break the news that Cesar that was now paralyzed and would never walk again. Cesar remembers grabbing Brother’s habit and saying: “Brother…If I am never going to walk again, then teach me to fly.” He wanted to turn something ugly into beauty, just as Jesus did on the Cross.

Brother did;  first, as a post traumatic stress chaplain at that same hospital, SFMC, then as a Friar of the Sick Poor, clothed in the habit in 2010. He is now studying for the priesthood so he can return to  SFMC and offer people the sacraments “during the most critical time of their lives.”

Brother had the blessing, with Brother Richard, to meet Pope John  Paul II who told him: “Never be afraid my son.” He began in that moment to see his infirmity as a gift for others. “Ever being ready to tell them the reason for our hope” (1 Peter 3:15).

For more information about the Friars, please visit their website: friarsofthesickpoor.org.

 

 

Thunderstruck: The Conversion and Life of St. Norbert

St._Norbert_Today the Church celebrates the feast of the founder of the Norbertines, St. Norbert of Xanten. St. Norbert grew up enjoying worldly pleasures, however, after experiencing a dramatic conversion went on to bring the light of Christ into the world through his life as a religious priest and bishop.

St. Norbert was born in the latter half of the eleventh century in present-day Germany. He was the son of a count and enjoyed worldly pursuits during his youth. One day, however, St. Norbert was thrown from his horse when a sudden bolt of lightning caused his horse to buck him off his saddle during a terrible storm. This incident spurred a great conversion within the young man and he sought the guidance of a local abbot.

Following his conversion, St. Norbert pursued a priestly vocation and was ordained in Cologne. He quickly became a well-known itinerant preacher and gathered disciples who joined him in working for the salvation of souls. This group grew large and St. Norbert was unsure of what the Lord wanted them to do.

20160213_solemn_profession_8327This uncertainty ended when, according to Bl. Hugh of Fosses, St. Augustine appeared to St. Norbert and said, “I, whom you see, am Augustine, bishop of Hippo. Behold, you have the rule which I have written, under which, if your confreres, my sons, fight well, they will stand secure before Christ in the terror of the last judgment.” Following the apparition, St. Norbert and his first disciples made their religious profession on Christmas Day 1121.

The order quickly grew and now the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey continue the work of their founder. The Norbertine Fathers lead lives of communal prayer and care for souls in Southern California. Their primary mission is to consecrate the entire day to God but also have many apostolates including running a preparatory school for young men. Steeped in 900 years of tradition, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey continue to lead lives fashioned after their founder, St. Norbert of Xanten.

A Blessed May in Fort Wayne

FortWayneFriarsOne of the IRL’s youngest communities is quickly growing in northern Indiana. The Franciscan Brothers Minor of Fort Wayne, IN welcomed several men into their community this past month through profession of vows and are rapidly expanding after being founded just seven years ago.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor celebrated throughout the month of May with men in formation being invested with their habit and professing vows. They welcomed ten new novices when Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese Fort Wayne-South Bend, invested them with their habits on May 18th. The celebrations continued that evening when four friars professed temporary vows. The friars then concluded the month with the solemn profession of vows by three friars on May 31st.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor have grown quickly since their founding as they have tried to grow in holiness by imitating Our Lady through their Marian vow. They strive to observe the Gospel according to the Rule, Testament and the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is appropriate that this young community that honors Our Lady welcomed ten novices, four friars in temporary profession and three in solemn profession in May, the month of Mary.

Pope Francis Addresses Mercedarians

odemThe National Catholic Register has a story on this week on the Mercedarians, those men who profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but profess a fourth vow as well: to offer their lives in place of those who are in danger of losing their Faith.

A few years ago, this would seem to be a symbolic offering, that is,  they were men who offered their time and talent to help those who are struggling with modern forms of slavery such as pornography, addiction, imprisonment and greed. However, as the article points out, they are now collaborating with the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil to provide assistance to Iraqi Christians suffering persecution, slavery and death. The help includes prayer, fasting and sacrifice, as well as material support and public awareness.

“In the eighth centenary of the Order,” said Pope Francis in his address to the members of the General Chapter of the The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, “do not cease ‘to proclaim the Year of Favor of the Lord’ to all those to whom you are sent: to those held prisoner and persecuted because of their faith; to victims of trafficking; to the young people in your schools; to all those who are served by your works of mercy and to all the faithful you serve in the parishes and missions with which you have been entrusted by the Church.”

In 2018, the Mercedarians will celebrate the 800th anniversary of their founding in 1218 by St. Peter Nolasco. He founded the community to redeem Christian prisoners from their Muslim captors. May Christ our Redeemer assist the Mercedarians in their work of freeing people from whatever prevents them from serving Our Lord.

Pro Orantibus: The Order of the Most Holy Savior

CaptureThe IRL has begun 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 only a few weeks away click here.

The second community featured in this series is the Order of the Most Holy Savior, commonly known as the Brigittines. The monks of the Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation are affiliate members of the IRL and have a deep love of Christ, devotion to the fullness of liturgical worship, respect for learning and authentic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Bridget of Sweden founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior in 1370 upon direct revelation from God. After wars ravaged Europe, the Brigittine monks dispersed in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Then in 1976, Brother Benedict Kirby founded a new male branch with their monastery now holding the canonical status of priory.

g3The Brigittine monks lead monastic lives following the Rule of St. Augustine. They sing the Liturgy of the Hours in choir and have specified times of prayer with the Eucharist being the apex of their day. They follow the ancient Brigittine tradition of continual prayer for the souls in purgatory and the conversion of sinners. As part of their work and in order to support themselves, the monks make gourmet confections.

The Brigittine Monks in Amity, Oregon are the continuation of a long tradition of contemplative men and women that dates back to the time of St. Bridget of Sweden. Through their extraordinary lives, they wish to create an atmosphere in which one can know and understand the joy of living this life in Christ.

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.

 

 

 

New Energy and Direction in Springfield

springfield-priests-canons2
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.