Category Archives: Men’s communities

The Finest Work of Charity: Fr. Joseph Presley, IC

fr presleyA familiar face throughout the years at the annual IRL National Meeting has been Fr. Joseph Presley, IC, a member of the Institute on Charity, more commonly known as the Rosminians. Recently we and many others received a letter from Father that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about six years ago. Over the years, it has slowly limited his activities but until recently, he has always been able to celebrate the Mass with assistance. Now, he believes he should stop celebrating the Mass on Sundays because he does not know if he will always be able to finish. As he says, “That would mean that some people might not be able to fulfill their grave obligation to to hear Mass on Sunday.”

Father can only see the ground in front of him as he walks, perhaps, he says, emblematic of the imagery in Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s famous poem Lead Kindly Light.

“Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see, The distant scene—one step enough for me.

At the conclusion of the letter, he included an excerpt from a letter his brother had written to him a couple months ago. It is worth keeping as consolation to us all when faced with debilitating situations.

Father Joseph, I know that perhaps there is not much I can do for you now, but I know that (my wife) and I think of you often and offer many prayers for you in your ministry and for great strengthening in Faith, Hope and Charity. I recall as one of my finest memories, the Mass you said the day after your first Mass. It was at a nursing home next door to Rosmini House in Peoria and there were half a dozen or so aged nuns who participated in the celebration. I remember how physically broken down they were, some could not even hold their heads up…I remember your words of encouragement to them that after a lifetime of serving others and now finding themselves unable to serve any more and to require others to now serve their needs, it would be easy to become discouraged…but that now they were free to do their finest work of charity: to pray without ceasing for the conversion of sinners. I remind you of this as a way of encouragement and knowledge that your suffering is not in vain: that sinners are watching you and that your response to suffering is a powerful witness and impetus toward conversion.

Please pray for this dear, humble priest, a true reflection of the Fatherhood of Jesus.

“I dearly love each and every one of you,” wrote Father Joseph, “and my one desire for each of you is to see you in Heaven.”

 

 

Franciscans of Life and Project: Joseph

fl logo“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10)

This phrase from scripture inspires the daily life of a new Franciscan community called the Franciscans of Life. Founded in 2009 by Br. Jay Rivera, their mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Life through service to the voiceless, in particular the preborn child and his family, the terminally ill and the elderly, the immigrant poor who feels hopeless, and the person living with disabilities.

They are trying to replicate the brotherhood that grew up around Saint Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century, where there were friars, nuns, married men and women, diocesan priests, widows and single people who followed the Gospel according to the Rule of Penance written by Saint Francis.  Today, their fraternity is comprised of men only.  There are “regular” brothers who live the evangelical counsels in private vows and “secular” brothers who live the evangelical counsels as single or married men.

One of their most unique apostolates is Project: Joseph which provides education, counseling and assistance to fathers in crisis pregnancies. This may sound foreign to ears used to hearing about women and crisis fl3pregnancies. But like the unborn child who has no voice, the father is often left out of the equation when mothers are contemplating “choice.” Their fatherhood, established at conception, is undermined in so many ways.

Project: Joseph began when Brother Jay was praying at an abortion clinic. As he saw the fathers drop off mothers-to-be, he thought: “This is very much like Planned Parenthood and other ‘pro-choice’ organizations.  Pregnancy is a woman’s issue.” Through a dream and another miraculous occurrence, he entrusted the work to Saint Joseph. Today, they serve about 20 expectant fathers per week in the Archdiocese of Miami.

If you would like to know more about this beautiful fraternity, please visit their website.

The Benedictine Monks of Norcia Issue Marian Chant Album

Norcia_Benedicta_Cover_v18_1500px-1024x1024The Benedictine Monks of San Benedetto Monastery in Norcia, Italy, founded by Father Cassian Folsom, OSB, on the site of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica’s birthplace, are issuing their first international recording—a CD album of Marian chant. Called BENEDICTA: Marian Chant from Norcia, the selections focus on the seven mysteries or defining moments of Our Lady’s life.

When you purchase BENEDICTA: Marian Chant from Norcia directly from their web site, a significant amount of the proceeds will go directly to them. The funds will assist with the many needs of their growing community.

EWTN will be airing a special called “Behind the Scenes”, a behind the scenes look (as is evident by the title) at the recording process. Those air times are: June 2, 2015, 6:30pm ET & June 4, 2015, at 10:30pm ET. You can also watch the shows streaming live online at EWTN.com.

Alexian Brothers – New IRL Affiliate Community

Alexian Brothers throughout the ages with St. Alexius
Alexian Brothers throughout the ages with St. Alexius

The Alexian Brothers are one of the newest IRL Affiliates, welcomed into the IRL family in March 2015.

You may think that the Alexian Brothers were founded by St. Alexius who lived in the 5th century. They did adopt this saint who was devoted to the poor and sick as the patron for their first chapel but this was not until around the year 1400. Over time, they became known as the Alexian Brothers. They do not have a founder, per se, rather their congregation evolved and formed because of celibate men who lived in community and tended the sick, fed the hungry and buried the dead. The first written account of their activities stems from the year 1259.

In a time when people were afraid of the sick and dying, their selfless acts of charity were very counter-cultural. With the advent of the Black Plague in the 14th century, they remained true to their calling and stayed by the side of the contagious sick. In 1472, the Alexian Brothers were recognized as a religious community under the rule of St. Augustine.

After the decimation suffered as a result of the French Revolution, only three Brothers were left in Aachen, Germany, site of one of their earliest foundations. In 1854, Brother Dominic Brock rebuilt the decimated community and their numbers grew once again. In 1866, Br. Bonaventure Thelen came to the United States and established the first Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago. Today, the Alexian Brothers are located in Germany, Belgium, England, Ireland, the Philippines, Hungary, and the United States.

Their charism is, in discipleship with Jesus, to reach out to the poor, sick and dying, especially the marginalized and the powerless — “Whatever you do to the least of these brothers of Mine, you do it to Me” (Mt 25:40).

Sisters in Jesus the Lord in Russia

vlad-mission-communities-20For those of you who have read Fr. Walter Ciszek’s books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me, you will know of the struggles of Catholics in Far Eastern Russia. Father Ciszek endured many years of hard labor in prison camps in Siberia. Throughout his ordeal, beautifully and heart-renderingly portrayed in his books, he was always a priest. Nothing was dearer to him than the Russian people.

If you are interested in knowing about the revival of the Church in Eastern Russia, I suggest you receive the newsletter of the Mary Mother of God Mission Society. It documents the work of the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord in Russia. In 1992, after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, two priests from the Midwest, Fr. Myron Effing, CJD and Fr. Daniel Maurer, CJD, arrived in Vladivostok to help re-establish the Church in eastern Russia. Since then—and with the mission society’s help—they have founded or re-founded 11 Catholic parishes, have developed numerous charitable initiatives, have created a variety of catechetical programs, and done much more.

They have programs for alcoholics, college students, boy scouts, orphans, the elderly. They conduct pro-life work, bring sacred music to this once atheistic nation, rebuild churches, assign guardian angels (“grandmas”) to orphans, and provide food and medical assistance to needy families.

Our Lady of Vladivostok
Our Lady of Vladivostok

They are assisted by the Sisters in Jesus the Lord (Canonissae in Jesu Domino) who work in Russia with women, children and the elderly. They have woman’s support centers in several Russian cities: Lesozavodsk, Vladivostok, Artyom, Arsenyev, Nakhodka and on Russian Island.

The Sisters in Jesus the Lord is a new Public Association of the Faithful in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. Their ministries, at home and in Russia, include: pro-life work, music and liturgy, catechesis and evangelization, ministry to the sick and homebound, AVE media, and stewardship of the land.  Each year, they bring a busload of young men and women to the IRL’s National Meeting.

I ordered a cookbook from the Society called Abundant Blessings, a compilation of recipes from the many cultures and countries of their priests, seminarians, sisters and families. Proceeds go towards the seminarians’ education and the women’s centers. God willing, they will also build a Catholic Church in Nakhodka called Our Lady of the Pacific.

 

Franciscan Walk for The Year of Consecrated Life

OSF1  The Year of Consecrated Life is being recognized and celebrated in so many beautiful ways!  In the month of March, one group of 10 Franciscans walked the ancient Via Flaminia from beautiful Assisi to stately Rome in just seven days.  Filled with joy and prayer, these 10 men endeavored to travel from the land of Saint Francis, “a man of peace, a man of prayer”, to the land of Pope Francis and his hallowed halls of Rome.

As Pope Francis attempts to carry on the great traditions of Saint Francis’ devotion to poverty and service to the poor, these Franciscans travelled to honor him in his second year as our Holy Father.  Along the way, the men stayed with religious communities, parishes, and families.  Bowled over by the warmth and hospitality of all they met, they brought from each OSF2stop prayer petitions to lay before the Holy Father.  Collecting grains of incense in these stops as well, they symbolically infused those prayers into the incense which they handed to the Most Reverend J. Rodriguez Carballo along with a letter to be presented to the Pope.  The burning of incense at a future papal celebration will lift all these prayers to heaven.

The Franciscans had many reasons to embark on this physical and spiritual journey this year.  Not only is it the Year of Consecrated Life, it has also been 800 years since the granting of the indulgence of the Portiuncula and 500 years since the events which signaled the division of the Order.  They reportedly enjoyed the experience to the utmost.  As one of them writes; “The beauty of walking together allowed us to get to know each other, to tell our stories, to grow in fraternity, to learn how to help each other and give each other the time needed to find common rhythms.”  Surely the beautiful springtime countryside didn’t hurt!

Brother Paul O’Donnell, fbp – RIP

fbpBr. Paul Joseph O’Donnell

December 15th 1959 – February 20th 2015

Beloved long time superior of the Franciscan Brothers of Peace of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Br. Paul Joseph O’Donnell, fbp, age 55, of St. Paul, formerly of Omaha, died February 20, 2015.

Br. Paul was a dedicated, nationally recognized leader within the right-to-life movement, advocating for the human rights and dignity of the unborn, handicapped, elderly, and a heart for serving the spiritually and bodily poor. He was a co-founder and president of Pro-Life Action Ministries, founding board member of Human Life Alliance and chairman of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. Deeply loved and survived by his religious community: Brothers, Joseph Katzmarek, Pio King, John Mary Kaspari, Conrad Richardson, James Voeller, Seraphim Wirth, Maximilian Connelly, Juniper Barlett, Benedict Gerard Kelley, Dominic Michael Hart, and Postulants Nicholas Listi and Ricardo Pagba, all of St. Paul.

Brother Paul and his fellow Franciscans were and are a familiar presence at our annual National Meetings, uplifting all by their gentle good humor and  kindliness. Brother Paul’s whole life was an offering of self for those on the fringes of society and suffering from profound neglect or in peril of death . He will be greatly missed. May his Franciscan brothers be inspired by his example to carry on this work of the Lord with the same courage and dedication.

A Brother to All: Br. Thomas Frey, CSC

thomas freyIn the next issue of Religious Life, Br. Thomas Frey, CSC, will tell his vocation story about his life as a brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Earlier this year, an article appeared about him in the Hilltop Views, a student newspaper from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX.

After many years as a teacher, Brother Thomas retired to Brother Vincent Pieau Residence which is on the campus of St. Edward’s. But that does not mean that he really is retired. Brother Thomas is a sacristan and brings Communion to brothers who are in rehabilitation and to a 104-year-old woman in a nursing home. He also leads a rosary at the Grotto.

Brother Thomas often accompanies a brother at the moment of death. He guesses that he has been with 30 brothers as they have journeyed from this life. He said that when they come to this moment, “they’re looking forward to heaven, I mean that’s it. It’s not like, oh my gosh – I’m going to die it’s all over. No, no, it’s just beginning.”

When Brother Thomas was in formation, there were 90 other men studying to be brothers. In the past twenty years, only five men have entered religious life as a Holy Cross brother. It is a shame because the vocation of a brother is unique. A brother is a brother to all, a friend to all. The brothers who are saints have demonstrated a love for humanity that makes them approachable and close to us. Look at St. (Brother) Andre Bessette, C.S.C, a humble doorkeeper who had a million people process by his casket in 1937. And St. Francis of Assisi, the little poor one, who was and is a great friend of the poor.

Brother Thomas says: “A case can be made for the truth that Saint Joseph by his very vocation to live poverty, chastity and obedience in the presence of Jesus and Mary all his life is the origin of the first brother.” Brother Thomas is that Joseph-like man by his dedication to his students and in his twilight years, still a beacon of light and encouragement to his fellow brothers of the Holy Cross.

“Living the religious life as a Brother of the Holy Cross from February 2, 1950, until the present day, January 2, 2015,” said Brother Thomas, “my experience has been truly wonderful.”

Conventual Franciscans Become First Martyrs of Peru

peru martyrsMichal Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, two Conventual Franciscan Friars from Poland, had been in Peru for several years ministering to the poor and needy in the parish of Pariacoto, in the Diocese of Chimbote.  There, they were faithful to the difficult task of fulfilling the needs of the parish while at the same time making the rounds to several needy villages in the area.  Despite the difficulties of the conditions, the Friars never failed to leave behind their Franciscan brand of humility, poverty, and kindness; and their ability to see the good in every situation.

Unfortunately, their work was targeted by the terrorist group “the Shining Path,” who had vowed to escalate their violence against the Catholic Church.  In August of 1991, the group publicly announced that they would kill one priest every week in the Diocese of Chimbote.

While the first priest the guerrillas targeted escaped execution, Michal and Zbigniew were not so lucky.  On August 9th after the evening Eucharist celebration, they were taken from the church, led out of the village to the local cemetery, and killed.

Sixteen days later, the group targeted a third victim. Alessandro Dordiwas a diocesan priest from Italy, who was sent to Peru in 1980.  He was assigned to the northern boundary of the Diocese of Chimbote and had focused his ministry on the poor peasant farmers in the very rural areas of the Diocese.  It was because of his affiliation with these disadvantaged groups that Alessandro became the next target of the guerrillas.  As he drove from one town to another to celebrate the last Mass of the day, the guerrillas blocked the road with stones.  When he stepped out of his car, they executed him.

A nun who knew the Franciscans said, “They stayed there until the end. This is not something you improvise; it’s a gift. I saw Fr. Zbigniew a few days before his martyrdom, and I asked him if they were being threatened. He smiled and said, ‘We cannot abandon the people. One never knows, but if they kill us, bury us here.'”

The deaths of these three men have been a reminder to Christians everywhere of our call to be faithful to the Gospel “even unto death.”  Their funerals were a testament to the love the people had for them, and their devotion to the native communities they served. While Peru has had saints and blessed before, this beloved priest and these two devoted Conventual Franciscan Friars have become the first Martyrs of Peru.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Norbertine Vocation Story

Fr. Claude (l) and a confrere at prayer
Fr. Claude (l) and a confrere at prayer

Our Sunday Visitor has a wonderful article about a young Norbertine priest who is part of the community of Norbertines at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. Fr. Claude Williams, O.Praem., articulates the beauty of Norbertine life extremely.

Father Claude grew up in New Orleans where he was talk by religious sisters. While attending Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Carmelite sister from Alhambra, California, suggested that he become acquainted with the Norbertines. He was very impressed with the liturgical life of the Norbertines and found that he “could not imagine spending my life anywhere else but the abbey.”

After entering the order, Claude found that he liked the regular monastic routine. For Norbertines, this begins with 5:30 a.m. morning prayer, 6:30 a.m. Mass, followed by prayers of thanksgiving. A 4:00 p.m. Holy Hour is followed by vespers. After dinner comes night prayer and lights out at 10:00 p.m. The Norbertine motto is: “Prepared for Every Good Work.” The first and foremost good work is the reverent celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Father Claude is assigned to a Norbertine parish in Costa Mesa, CA. Though Norbertines staff parishes, they are not diocesan priests. They are Canons Regular meaning that they live in community and share a common life. It is the life of the Apostles where everything was held in common and they prayed together several times a day.

Father professed solemn vows in 2009. In addition to poverty, chastity and obedience, Norbertines profess a fourth vow of Conversion of Ways. “The limits placed on us by the holy vows are formative,” he said. “They help you to be what you are supposed to be.” A fellow religious told him, “Today, you will make your vows. One day, the vows will make you.”

For more information on the Norbertines, visit their website.