Archive for the 'Men’s communities' Category

Franciscan Walk for The Year of Consecrated Life

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

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!

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Brother Paul O’Donnell, fbp – RIP

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

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.

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A Brother to All: Br. Thomas Frey, CSC

Monday, February 9th, 2015

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.”

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Conventual Franciscans Become First Martyrs of Peru

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Norbertine Vocation Story

Thursday, February 5th, 2015
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.

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The Life of St. Benedict for Children

Friday, January 30th, 2015

osb 1It is often difficult to find good, non-syrupy books about the lives of the saints. Therefore, it is a real joy to read a new book about the life of Saint Benedict that stays true to the biographical details known to us through the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Entitled The Life of Saint Benedict, the book was written by a son of Saint Benedict, Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B. Brother John is a monk from the Monastero di San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica. A native of Michigan, Brother John entered the Benedictines in Norcia in 2005 and made his solemn profession in 2009. He is currently studying theology in Rome.

The 48-page, hardcover book is charmingly illustrated by Mark Brown, a lay oblate of the monastery, with pictures that are engaging enough to enthrall a small child yet full of rich details to interest adults. What child doesn’t like a story with a dragon in it? Featured in the book is the close relationship between Benedict and Scholastica, the founding of the Benedictine family, the miracles attributed to Benedict, and his virtuous life, totally dedicated to God.

Brother John

Brother John

Brother John explained why he embarked upon this project: “The Life of Saint Benedict is filled with great imagery and authentic monastic wisdom. The Benedictine monastic life expands over 1,500 years of lived tradition and it has a home on all continents of the world! This book was simply put together so that families, most especially kids, can get a chance to understand the greatness and uniqueness of my holy founder, not to mention his twin sister Saint Scholastica, who also plays a central role in this book.”

The Life of St. Benedict can be purchased from Ignatius Press (1-800-651-1531, ignatiuspress.com). In this year dedicated to the Consecrated Life, this book is a great introduction to one of the giants of the Church whose way of life remains as attractive and vital today as it was 1,500 years ago.

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A Chinese Prime Minister Turned Benedictine Monk

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

lou osbDid you know that Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Chinese Republic, and his successor, Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, were Christians? And that a Foreign and Prime Minister of China, Lu (Lou) Tseng-tsiang, became a Benedictine monk under the name of Dom Pierre-Célestin? We think of China as a non-Christian country but there are illustrious men and women who carried the banner for Jesus Christ. Lu himself was a reformer who tried to simply the bureaucracy and institute fairness into government.

Lu was born a Protestant in Shanghai in 1871. Due to the influence of his father, he developed a love for the Bible and good literature. In 1892, he was sent to Russia as part of the Chinese delegation where he served for 14 years. An impressive man that he worked for old him:

“The strength of Europe is not to be found in her armaments; it is not to be found in her science; it is to be found in her religion. In the course of your diplomatic career you will have occasion to study the Christian religion….Take the most ancient branch of that religion, that which goes back most nearly to its origins. Enter into it. Study its doctrine, practice its commandments, closely follow all its works. And later on, when you have ended your career, perhaps you will have the opportunity to go still farther. In this most ancient branch, choose the most ancient society. If you can do so, enter into it also. Make yourself its follower, and study the interior life, which must be the secret of it. When you have understood and won the secret of that life, when you have grasped the heart and strength of the religion of Christ, bring them and give them to China.”

lou osb2It was in St. Petersburg that Lu met his Belgian-born wife, Berthe Bovy, and they were married in 1899. The same priest who presided at their wedding would receive him into the Church in 1912. After the war, Lu became involved in famine relief work but when his wife became ill, they moved to Europe where he became China’s ambassador to Switzerland. After her death, he surprised everyone by becoming a Benedictine monk at the abbey of Abbey of Saint-André-lez-Bruges in Flanders. He was ordained a priest in 1935 in his 64th year! He died on January 15, 1949 at the abbey, never to return to China. His prayers for his country must now be entrusted to Our Lady of China.

 

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Patriarch of Constantinople Meets With Conventual Franciscans

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

istanbul2On Sunday, January 4, 2015, the Conventual Franciscans at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Istanbul, Turkey, received a surprise visitor – His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. It’s rather like having Pope Francis suddenly pop over for an afternoon!

Patriarch Bartholomew is regarded as the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. He is the 270th Patriarch of the see of Byzantium (Constantinople), a see that traces its roots back to St. Andrew the Apostle.

The Patriarch came to St. Anthony Church to view the exhibit: “ENCOUNTERS OF LASTING LOVE”, which was set up in the courtyard of the church on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis. The exhibition was curated by Friar Martin Kmetec, a Conventual Franciscan from Slovenia, who made the news in 2006 when he was threatened with death by some Turkish Islamic youth but managed to thwart the attack.

When Pope John XXIII was Vatican Ambassador to Turkey, he preached at St. Anthony’s, the largest Church in Istanbul, for ten years. Amazingly, the Holy Father was fluent in Turkish and for this reason, he was known as the Turkish Pope!

ofm istanbul patriarchFriar Iulina Pişta and a few guests welcomed the Patriarch despite the short notice. The exhibit highlighted three ecumenical moments: the Jerusalem meetings between Pope Paul VI and Athenagoras I, and later Pope Francis and Bartholomew I, as well as the recent meeting that Pope Francis and Bartholomew I had in Constantinople (Istanbul) in November of 2014.

Later, Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Basilica of St. Anthony where a group of Filipinos welcomed him at the church door with Christmas carols. Inside the church, the Patriarch lit candles while Romanian clerics sang. As he visited the manger scene, he met and blessed Friar Giuseppe Robu’s sister and her family who were there for the baptism of their child. Patriarch Bartholomew then blessed an icon depicting Peter and Andrew and affixed his signature on the back. He then went down to the crypt to see the Byzantine style paintings.

The meeting symbolizes the importance that the Churches of the East and the West place on ecumenical dialogue. It also highlights the courage of the Christian community in an Islamic country where they are a very tiny minority.

During his visit to Turkey in November 2014, Pope Francis said, “We are already on the way, on the path towards full communion and already we can experience eloquent signs of an authentic, albeit incomplete union. This offers us reassurance and encourages us to continue on this journey. We are certain that along this journey we are helped by the intercession of the Apostle Andrew and his brother Peter, held by tradition to be the founders of the Churches of Constantinople and of Rome. We ask God for the great gift of full unity, and the ability to accept it in our lives. Let us never forget to pray for one another.”

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Norbertines Break Ground!

Friday, December 5th, 2014
Wilmington Sisters

Wilmington Sisters

Last July, earth moving equipment began to level the ground in Silverado Canyon in preparation for the construction of the new abbey for the Norbertines, replacing the old one which is really bursting at the seams with students and vocations.

This past August, the California abbey welcomed six young men who are studying to become Norbertine canons. Three young women as well became the first Americans to enter the Nobertine sisters from Slovakia (Sr. Adriana, Sr. Roberta & Sr. Benedicta)  who reside in a convent nearby Wilmington.

The new abbey will include a church, convent, welcome area/meeting rooms, monastery and cemetery chapel. These buildings will comprise only a small portion of the hundreds of acres of the original Holtz ranch thus preserving an important part of the rural California landscape.

The Norbertine also have a cloistered community of Norbertine Canonesses that is growing rapidly in Tehachapi. The Norbertine Sisters of Wilmington are one of the newest branches on the family tree of the Norbertine Order founded by St. Norbert (1080-1134). They were founded in 1902 in the Czech Republic by Fr. Vojtech Frejka, a Norbertine Father from the abbey of Strahov in Prague. The Slovakian Norbertines reside in SS. Peter and Paul Convent in Wilmington, CA, which was established in 2011.

“Our congregation of Norbertine sisters in Slovakia received an invitation from the Norbertine fathers in California to help them establish a new community of Norbertine sisters in the United States,” said Sr. Benedicta.

In Wilmington, they minister to needy families, teach religious education, and work in the Catholic book & gift store, and in the parish office. Like St. Norbert, they live a common life, “prepared for every good work,” centered daily on the Mass and chanting of the Divine Office.

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The Tattooed Monk

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

andreBrother Andre does not look like your typical Benedictine. But religious brothers have always swum against the cultural tide so it should come as no surprise to see such uniqueness in the halls of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.

The Statesman Journal tells his fascinating story from hippie biker to monk. Born with the name Bobby Love, he quit school in the 11th grade and joined the military. An artist at heart, like his mother, he got his hands and neck tattooed because in those days it was a “job stopper,’ ie, no one would hire you. He wanted to be an artist not a businessman like his father. He made a living as a tattoo artist and by exhibiting his pictures.

br andre iconDivorced and remarried three times, he says: “I had no clue what love was. I had no clue how to love or how to let other people love me and that’s why I was miserable.” His addictions to “drugs and booze” masked a spiritual bankruptcy. He decided to learn about his childhood Catholic faith, joined RCIA, wrote 25 pages in preparation for his confession and apologized to those he had hurt.

Six years ago he came to Mount Angel Abbey on a retreat. Now he has the name of Brother Andre, taken from the humble sainted doorkeeper who worked miracles in Quebec. On September 12, 2014, Br. Gregory, Br. Jesus Maria and Br. Andre Love professed solemn vows, permanently binding themselves to Mount Angel Abbey in their commitments to conversion, stability and obedience.

God draws straight with crooked lines.

For a look at Brother’s icons and religious art, click here!

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