Category Archives: News

Conception Abbey Abbot Elected Abbot Primate

abbot-gregpryOn September 10, 2016, Abbot Gregory Polan, O.S.B., of Conception Abbey, Conception, MO, was elected 10th Abbot Primate of Benedictine Confederation.  The election took place in Rome, Italy, at the Congress of Abbots, held every four years. He is the fourth American and the second abbot from Conception Abbey to be elected to the Office of Abbot Primate.

Abbot Gregory Polan was born on January 2, 1950 in Berwyn, IL, to Martha and Edward Polan. During his high school years, he was deeply involved in studies, sports, and extracurricular activities—all dedicated toward building a community. Attending college seminary is where he was drawn to the common life, where his love for the liturgy and music would be central. He visited Conception Seminary College and said it was “love at first sight.” He knew he would spend the rest of his life there. Abbot Gregory was professed in 1971 and ordained in 1977. While at Conception Abbey for some time, his faith and commitment to the Benedictine community grew and the monks of Conception elected him as their 9th abbot in November of 1996.

Abbot Gregory has led Conception Abbey for the past 20 years as its abbot, and as president-rector of Conception Seminary College for ten years. He is a scholar in Scripture and Theology and has contributed to the translations for the New American Bible and a complete translation of the Psalms which will be used in the liturgy. He will resign as abbot of Conception Abbey and accept this new position with great solicitude and honor from the Conception community.

The ministry of the Primas, according to the Proper Law which governs the Confederation of Congregations of Monasteries of the Order of Saint Benedict, is defined as “the office of the Abbot Primate whose function it is to represent the Confederation and to do all he can to foster co-operation between the confederated monasteries.”  As the head of the world’s 7,000 Benedictine monks, he will become the abbot of the monastery Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, where he will reside and serve as abbot primate of the Benedictine community as its liaison to the Vatican and civil authorities. He will also become head of Benedictine University in Rome.

“Abbot Gregory brings many years of leadership experience and spiritual wisdom to the role of Abbot Primate. We are happy that his gifts, which he has given so freely at Conception Abbey for many years, will now be shared with the entire order and Church,” Fr. Daniel Petsche, O.S.B., Prior of Conception Abbey said on Abbot Gregory’s election. “I believe his gifts will reach fulfillment in this new role.”

Apostleship of Prayer September Prayer Intentions

noahsdad
NoahsDad.com

Centrality of the Human Person: That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.

 

ignorance-of-Scripture-JeromeMission to Evangelize: That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.

Reflections on the Religious Habit and the Year of Consecrated Life

Mother Therese M. of Jesus Crucified, OCD, of the  Carmelite Monastery of Rochester in Pittsford, NY, sent us an article way back in April about her trip to Rome for the closing Mass of the Year of Consecrated Life. She came back with new insights into Founders of other contemplative orders, for as she says, ” I felt that I met each Founder of these contemplative Orders by being with their daughters who were present.” In addition, she received an understanding of the importance of the religious habit, as coming from the charismatic inspiration of the founder as well. Here is the article, long overdue!  (My fault, Mother!)

Roman Momentos by Mother M. Therese if Jesus Crucified, OCD

OCD Rochester Mother Therese M.It is a simple teaching of good manners that eavesdropping is impolite.  One should do everything possible to ignore what is unintentionally overheard, and should never repeat it.  When one is in a dense crowd of people on every side, it is not always easy to “ignore” what is being said by those right behind you and practically in your ear!  During my recent stay in Rome with thousands of other consecrated persons for the closing of the Year of Consecrated Life, I often found myself in a dense (almost suffocating) crowd of mostly nuns.  One occasion particularly stands out in my memory because it was accompanied by a profound insight – a kind of word from the Lord.  To me, sharing this occasion with other religious merits breaking the rules of good manners.  After reading this account you can be the judge of good or bad manners!

One of the most beautiful and unforgettable experiences that I had in Rome was to see hundreds of contemplative nuns – there were over 400 of us—brought together by the invitation of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  Of course, it was impossible to meet each one personally.  Yet, I felt that I met each Founder of these contemplative Orders by being with their daughters who were present.  Each nun and her religious family were identifiable by their distinctive religious habit.  For me, it was breathtaking to spot Benedictines, Dominicans, Cistercians, Poor Clares, Brigittines, Visitandines, Servites, Adorers of the Precious Blood, as well as over 100 of our beloved Carmelites!  A history of holiness was encountered by just seeing the beautiful sign of the religious habit.

Of course, the religious habit needs to be kept in proper perspective remembering the old adage: “The habit does not make the monk” (or the nun)!  St. Teresa of Jesus wisely makes the same point: “We seem to think that everything is done when we willingly take and wear the religious habit…” (Int. Cast. III, 1, n. 8)  By no means!  The habit is not an end in itself, but it is a powerful witness!  It is an outward sign of an inward grace.  Just as in baptism we “put on Christ”, we are clothed “as new men”, to use the expressions of St. Paul, and this is beautifully signified by the white garment worn by the newly baptized, so consecrated religious are clothed in the garb of their religious family as a sign of their share in the grace of the Founder’s charism and of their identity as members of the family.  The Lord made this sign hit home even more wonderfully by another unexpected encounter.

My Carmelite companion, Sr. Gabriela, and I arrived around 3:00pm at the area of the Colonnade of St. Peter’s in what we thought was plenty of time for the 5:30pm Mass of the Holy Father on Feb. 2nd the Feast of the Presentation.  We got on the end of the line to go through security.  After a few minutes we realized that the beginning of the line was clear across the other side of the Colonnade!  We had a long wait and a long line of people, mainly religious, moved very slowly.  By about 4:30 we were three-quarters of the way closer to the security booths.  It was then I noticed a rather tall Sister, in a white and blue habit, not in line with the rest of us but standing several feet away and chatting with a seminarian.  It was Mother Agnes Mary Donovan of the Sisters of Life from New York.  I never personally met Mother Agnes, but I heard much about her.  Our Community met several of the Sisters of Life last year when they visited our Carmel in Rochester.

When Mother finished her conversation with the seminarian, I called her and she happily came over to Sr. Gabriela and I.  We introduced ourselves to her and warmly met each other as if we were old friends.  With a very Irish twinkle in her eyes she asked, “Can I slip into the line with you?”  We were delighted that she joined us.  As the line inched forward, we enjoyed such a pleasant conversation with her about our days in Rome.  She was very interested in the meetings among the contemplative nuns.  For herself, she was in Rome with the other members of the Board of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.  Mother Agnes chairs the Council and they decided to hold their annual Board meeting in Rome to celebrate together the closing of the Year of Consecrated Life.  After a lively 15 or 20 minute exchange with Mother, she noticed other nuns in the line whom she knew and began chatting with them as well.  As the line moved under the Colonnade it became narrower and soon Mother Agnes was behind us speaking with two Colletine Poor Clares also from the US.  My eavesdropping began shortly thereafter!

At the outset I did not hear anything of Mother Agnes’ conversation with the two Poor Clares, though at one point I heard this American sisterly trio praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  A few moments later, it was as if someone put a speaker at my ear.  One of the Poor Clares said to Mother Agnes: “That really is a lovely habit you have.”  “Yes, it is” she answered and then began to recount the story of how the habit of the Sisters of Life originated.  In the early days of the foundation, the first Sisters of Life wore a habit that did not at all satisfy their founding Father, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York.  He told them: “We need to think about this” but the Sisters assured him that the habit they had was good enough.  He did not want to press the matter, so he let it go.  A while later, he again said to the Sisters that he thought the habit should be something else and needed rethinking.  Again, the Sisters expressed that they were satisfied with what they were already wearing.  Again, he let it go.  Another time the Cardinal approached the Sisters again about the habit and he said: “We really need to rethink this.”  Then it occurred to Mother Agnes that this is the Founder and if he is saying such a thing he must have an inspiration about what the habit should look like.  So the habit was redone according to that inspired idea.  At that moment, it was as if the speaker at my ear was turned off, and I heard no more of the conversation.

was left in total wonderment and wanted to stop everything and relish what I just heard.  I thought to myself: “This is amazing!  This isn’t an anecdote from some yellow parchment of the Middle Ages, this is contemporary, from our own time and in our own American homeland!”  I was impressed in a new way with the realization that even the religious habit comes from the charismatic inspiration of the Founder.  Our Holy Mother St. Teresa came to mind.  Certainly, the habit of Carmel was refashioned by her charismatic inspiration.  It was simplified according to her inspired idea for the renewed way of life of the Discalced and this was spelled out in her Constitutions.  Then along with our Holy Mother a whole procession of Founders came before my mind all with their distinctive religious habits which are so expressive of the particular way of life they established in the Church under God’s inspiration: St. Benedict, St. Robert of Solesmes, St. Bruno, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Bridget, the first Hermits of Mount Carmel, St. Francis de Sales with St. Jeanne Frances de Chantal, St. Paul of the Cross, soon-to-be St. Teresa of Calcutta and Cardinal John O’Connor with his Sisters of Life.

With renewed love, reverence and gratitude for our own Discalced Carmelite habit, I headed for the security booth.

Carmelite Monastery of Rochester / www.carmelitesofrochester.org  / ocdsecretary@gmail.com

 

 

Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi Celebrate 70 Years in U.S.

osf laconUnless we strive to offer and impart to them the basic and fundamental need to draw closer to God, we have given them very little.

With these beautiful hearts, the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi in Lacon, Illinois, continue on with their mission to serve the poor, sick and aged in their apostolates. On August 13, 2016, they will celebrate their 70th anniversary in the United States. There were founded in 1894 in in Budapest, Hungary, by Anna Brunner to serve the poor and the terminally ill, in the compassionate spirit of St. Francis. They came to this country in 1946 from Slovakia and settled in Illinois.

laconThey remain an international congregation serving in Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and the United States in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, and schools with the same spirit of compassion and the love of God that guided Mother Anna during the congregation’s early years. They seek to serve Christ in His poor, sick and aged brothers and sisters at their nursing home in Lacon, Illinois, and their hospital in Mountain View, Missouri. They are fortified by their union with Christ in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosary, meditation and personal prayer.

We pray that during this celebration year, that God may grant them the grace to fully live out their charism of poverty, humility and a loving union with God.

We will, therefore, so live our religious vocation as to convince all that through our consecration to God we do not become estranged from our fellow men, but that our union with them grows deeper in Christ’s love.

New Apostolic Constitution Released on Women’s Contemplative Life

rsz_mother_angelica_nuns_at_memorial_mass_march_29_2016_jeff_bruno_ewtn-650x495On July 22, 2016, the Holy See issued the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere (“Seeking the Face of God”) on women’s contemplative life.

In the document, the Holy Father called for reflection and discernment on twelve aspects of consecrated  life in general and the monastic tradition in particular:

  1. Formation – the “process aimed at configuration to the Lord Jesus and the assimilation of His mind and heart in the complete gift of self to the Father.” One startling thing was noted: “for initial formation and that following temporary profession, to the extent possible, ‘ample time must be reserved,’ no less than nine years and not more than twelve.”
  2. Prayer – must not be “self-absorption; it must enlarge your heart to embrace all humanity.” “By your prayers, you can heal the wounds of many.”
  3. The centrality of the world of God – “Lectio divina,” the prayerful reading of God’s word, bridging the gap between spirituality and everyday life. Lectio divina is “not concluded until it arrives at action (actio) which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.”
  4. The sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation – “The Eucharist is the heart of of the life of every baptized person and of the consecrated life itself.” Adoration is also praiseworthy. Reconciliation grants one the “grace and to become prophets and ministers of His mercy.”
  5. Fraternal Life in Community – Seeking to become “one heart and one soul” as modeled by the early Christian communities, “an eloquent witness to the Trinity,” a witness to a world marked by inequality and divisions.
  6. The autonomy of Monasteries – Autonomy favors stability of life ad internal unity but it should not mean independence or isolation, especially from other monasteries of the same family.
  7. Federations – Are important structures of communion between those sharing the same charism,  ensuring assistance in initial and continuous formation and practical needs. Federations are encouraged.
  8. The cloister – “A sign of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with her Lord.” It takes four forms: the one common to all, papal, constitutional and monastic.
  9. Work – Through labor you share in the work of God, and with those who live by the fruit of their toil and the poor. Ora et labora.
  10. Silence – Entails self-emptying to grow in receptivity. Mary Most Holy is the example.
  11. The communications media – Prudent discernment is necessary.
  12. Asceticism – Liberation from worldliness; stability is also a sign of fidelity, a witness to people who never sink down roots.

A nice reflection by Ann Carey with comments from Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem., can be found here.

IRL Summer Intern Reflects on WYD and What Love Truly Means

wyd logoWorld Youth Day. A time where the Pope and millions of Catholic and Christian youth come together and learn about the love of God and how to spread that love into the world. WYD reminds us that we are not alone in this world. That no matter where we are or who we are …we all strive for this one greatness that this world needs more now than ever…WYD has a great impact on this mission.

This year, it is taking place in Krakow, Poland. More than two million youth are expected to attend, which is incredible. Despite the threats in the world, we are determined to do better at loving each other and not letting anything get in the way of that.

airplaneSt. John Paul II, a great patron of Poland, is a wonderful example of how love can  be shown no matter who or where you are. JPII traveled to more than 100 countries to express the message of love, faith, and peace. He played a major role in the fall of communism after WWII. Even after a murder attempt on his life in Vatican City, he forgave the man who tried to kill him. The devil tried but God won.

The same thing is happening in our world today. Another saint of Poland, Saint Faustina, is known for the messages of Divine Mercy that that she received from Jesus. This year of mercy comes at a time when forgiveness is difficult and scarce and judging others is profuse and an “expression of yourself.”  We all know someone who has issues with the Catholic Church or even with God. Unfortunately, and I very much hope that this changes very quickly, love is defined by whether you agree with what someone does, believes, and says…which is absurd. Since when did “I love you,” equal “I agree with you?’”Jesus never said “I agree with you,” to Mary Magdalene, so therefore He loved her. A parent doesn’t stop loving their child if they make the wrong decisions.

download (1)Many Catholics are portrayed in this way. When the media hears that the Pope still prohibits abortion, they automatically think he hates women.  Pro-life is actually pro-woman (pro-mother) and even pro-human. Pro-life is a belief and a way of life of love over evil. Life is universal and priceless and choosing who gets it and who doesn’t is pure discrimination on the most innocent and fragile of life.

But, disagreeing with someone’s stance on abortion (or anything) should NOT influence your amount of love. By giving unconditional love, mercy and compassion, amazing things happen and we overcome hatred. That is how God created it to work. As the world progresses, there are becoming more ways to hate and destroy, but we cannot forget that there are becoming even more ways to love. World Youth Day in Krakow could not have come at a better time when our youth are dealing with unfathomable misconceptions and direct violations on humanity. These youth are coming together for one thing: to learn love. There is no greater weapon.

An Adult Coloring Book on the Rosary

avemaria mitsuiOne of the hot items now is adult coloring books.  I have seen ones containing flowers, nature, animals and the like, all looking vaguely New-Age-y. My niece is using them as therapy as she sits at the bedside of a sick loved one. The coloring of the images is therapeutic and often results in an incredible picture!

Therefore, I was pleased to see that Daniel Mitsui has issued The Mysteries of the Rosary: An Adult Coloring Book (64 pages, 8.5 x 11, $9.95)  to draw people who are interested in this type of artistic endeavor into the mysteries of Christ’s life. Elizabeth Scalia, US Editor-in-Chief of Aleteia, writes in the Forward that she found that spending time working on Daniel’s images “brought me first into a place of deep focus, then into relaxation, and finally into the stillness that comes with prayerful adoration.”

front_coloringIf you are unfamiliar with Daniel’s work which is reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts, check out his website. To the right is sample artwork similar to what you would find in the Rosary Book. His work is incredible detailed and rich and theologically profound, using images that you often find depicted in ancient stained-glass windows. Yet it is wonderfully original and fresh for our modern eyes.

The coloring book is formatted to resemble one of the early devotional books dedicated to the Holy Rosary. Daniel took the mysteries from a series of large drawings he originally drew in ink on calfskin vellum. Many of the borders and ancillary pictures he took from other drawings. All the artwork came from his own hand.

This unique coloring book contains thirty illustrations— Fifteen full-page drawings of the Rosary; Twelve vignettes featuring prophets, evangelists and Church Fathers; and Three larger drawings with the artist’s commentary.

thumb_millefleur_resurrectionSince Daniel’s reception into the Church in 2004, he has focused on religious subjects. In 2011, the Vatican commissioned him to illustrate a new edition of the Roman Pontifical. In 2012, he established Millefleur Press, an imprint for publishing fine books and broadsides of his artwork and typography.

To order the Rosary book, please visit Ave Maria Press.

New Canadian Carmelite Monastic Foundation Forming

ChurchCroppedI always life to keep abreast of new beginnings in religious life so I thought I would let people know of a new Carmelite Monastic foundation that is being formed in southern Saskatchewan. Called the Monastery of the Transfiguration, Sr. Juana Benedicta of the Cross has received approval from the archdiocese to begin this work of evangelization though the apostolate of prayer.

These Carmelite Monastic Sisters are a family of solitaries living the eremitical life in a monastery, in the Teresian Carmelite tradition.  “For the style of life we aim to follow is not just that of nuns,” said St. Teresa of Avila, “but of hermits.” The contemplative sister assists the Church by giving witness that God is the only Absolute, enlarging “the Church by her hidden apostolic fruitfulness.”

The monastery is located on 60 acres of land on the Saskatchewan prairies. It includes a large chapel, dedicated to Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, that was recently renovated. The Rule is the Primitive Rule of St. Albert, written for Carmelites sometime between 1206 and 1214.

IMG_0003_200x132on200As Carmelite solitaries, the ideal of Elijah contemplating God on Mount Carmel becomes the ideal for a life dedicated to a personal encounter with the Eternal Father and the desire for transformation through the Holy Spirit by imitation of His Son Jesus.

A young woman interested in this way of life of silence, solitude, strong community and the spirit and joy of the Gospels, (between the ages of 18 and 35, in good health, a minimum of high school education and some work experience), can receive more information by contacting:

Carmelite Monastic Sisters Inc.
Monastery of the Transfiguration
Box 1896
Moose Jaw, SK S6H 7N6
Canada

Email: carmst@sasktel.net

Two Founders Canonized

Earlier this month, Pope Francis canonized two founders of religious congregations: Bl. Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad (1870-1957) of Sweden and Bl. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701) of Poland. If the names are unfamiliar, the communities probably aren’t because they are the founders of the Order of St. Bridget and the Marians of the Immaculate Conception respectively.

Bl. Elizabeth Hesselblad
Bl. Elizabeth Hesselblad

Bl. Elizabeth was born a Lutheran in Sweden but converted to Catholicism in 1902 in New York. Like her mother in spirit St. Bridget of Sweden, Elizabeth desired that all may be one in Christ (Ut omnes unum sint). After her conversion, Elizabeth was permitted to live in the convent in Rome once inhabited by St. Bridget herself. She re-founded the Bridgettines in 1911, which, after being founded by St. Bridget of Sweden in 1344, had been virtually extinguished by the Protestant Reformation. She was also able to re-found monasteries in Sweden: Djursholm in 1923 and Vadstena in 1935, the city where St. Bridget remains reside. In the U.S., they have a monastery in Darien, CT, where the sisters have a special mission in furthering ecumenical work.

brig nunThe Bridgettine sisters wear a distinctive Crown signifying the Five Holy Wounds for their order was founded to have a specific devotion to the Passion of Christ. By their Crown with its 5 red stones, they remember Christ’s suffering on the Cross and keep that awareness alive in our cold world. Because of Elizabeth’s own works of charity during World War II, she was cited among the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust center in Israel.

mic john
Bl. Stanislas

Bl. Stanislaus (John) Papczyński (1631-1701) was born in 1631 in Poland. He was ordained a Piarist Father but received the calling to found the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in 1670. Their mission is threefold: devotion to Mary Immaculate; offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead, especially those who were not prepared to die; and active service to the Church. In America, they are best known for their work promoting the message of Divine Mercy from Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

mic george
Bl. George

Like the Bridgettines, the MIC’s were almost wiped out. However, their “Renovator,” Lithuanian-born Bl. George Matulaitis, re-founded the MICs in 1910 which had been reduced to one member thanks to persecution by Russian authorities. Blessed George rewrote the Constitutions, attracted new members, and “unleashed the renovated Marian Congregation as a zealous army for Christ and the Church in the modern world” as it says on the MIC website!

mic
Fr. Seraphim

The IRL was blessed to honor Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, with its’ 2016 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award for his tireless work in spreading the message of and devotion to Divine Mercy as revealed to the world by Sr. Faustina. You can get a copy of his two talks by visiting the IRL website.

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.