Category Archives: News

Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God Turns 50

vocations_7On a rainy day in November, 1965, Mother Dolores and nine other nuns from the Carmelite Monastery of Carmel-by-the-Sea founded a new monastery in San Rafael, California. Mother Dolores, now 93, and the other nuns of the now Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God are joyously celebrating the 50th anniversary of this event throughout the month of November.

The now Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God has been striving to respond to Our Lady of Fatima’s message regarding praying for the conversion of sinners and Russian people since its foundation. Early on the sisters learned to sing the Byzantine Liturgy with hopes of one day founding a Carmel in Russia. Fr. Loius Bouier suggested that they first make a foundation in Finland.  Following the fall of communism, the sisters  opened a small foundation in Moscow. The venture proved to be impractical and the sisters sold the small monastery to the Divine Word Missionaries who used it to establish a St. Olga’s Catholic Parish which the Carmelites still prayerfully support.

The Carmelite Monastery of the Mother of God is a truly universal one with sisters from all over the world including sisters from four different continents. The sisters enjoy a peaceful setting with over 400 redwood trees on the monastery grounds creating a place conducive to prayer.  The Monastery has matured immensely since its initial foundation in 1965.

78 people attended the first of three Masses commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Monastery’s founding. The Mass was celebrated by Most Rev. John C. Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe on Nov 1st, All Saints Day. In his homily, Archbishop Wester emphasized the sisters’ Reliance on Divine Providence saying, “my dear sisters, you are living examples of this because you believe in a God who actively works in you in very beautiful ways. It’s not always been easy, but you take on our sufferings and make them your own.”

Apostleship of Prayer November Intentions

ApostleshipofPrayerSince the nineteenth century, popes have asked the Apostleship of Prayer to pray for specific intentions. The Apostleship of Prayer receives two prayer intentions each month from the Holy Father, pledging to pray for them every day. Pope Francis has given dialogue and pastors as the two intentions for the month of November.

The Universal intention for the month of November is dialogue. “That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.” In their reflection on this intention the Apostleship of Prayer spoke of a meeting where the Holy Father emphasized the importance of dialogue among individuals saying, “It is the only way for individuals, families, and societies to grow along with the culture of encounter, a culture in which all have something good to give and all can receive something good in return.”

 The evangelization intention  for this month is for pastors. “That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.” In their reflection the Apostleship of Prayer speaks about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. They said, “Pope Francis asks us to pray that the Church’s shepherds may follow the example of the Good Shepherd. They should not place themselves above people but should be close to them.”

The Apostleship of Prayer also sets forth a prayer for each month. The prayer for this month is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ Prayer for Peace:

Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters. Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation. In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman.

Dominican Eighth Centenary Jubilee Year Begins!

opOn November 7, 2015, the Dominican family began the celebration of the Eighth Centenary of their founding with a celebratory Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome. The ancient Basilica was built in the 5thC and was given to St. Dominic and the Dominicans in 1222. The cell where the saint lived is now a chapel though the dining room, used by St. Thomas Aquinas when visiting Rome, is still intact. As the Mother Church of the Dominican Order, it is the fitting place to inaugurate the jubilee year!

The presider for the Mass was the Master of the Order, Fr. Bruno Cadoré. The congregation consisted of representatives of the Dominican family, the Superior General of the Franciscans Friars Minor, and many friends of the Order of Preachers. The liturgy began with the opening of the ancient door of the Basilica. Father Bruno lit a candle in the doorway symbolic of Saint Dominic as the “Light of the Church.”

Their charism of preaching and their commitment to the mission to proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season is the light they bring to the nations. During the Offertory, Dominican nuns brought forth baskets of rosaries which were blessed by Father Bruno. These are the rosaries that will be used for the rosary pilgrimage in the 202 monasteries of the Order around the world during the year. Each monastery made 2 rosaries and sent them to be blessed. The rosaries sent back will be from another monastery!

The Mass did not end in the usual fashion: “The Mass is ended…” because the celebrations have just begun.

Check out local Dominican monasteries near you for special events!

“Chopped” Champion – Sr. Alicia Torres

choppedI only watch three shows on cable TV – Hogan’s Heroes, the Weather Channel and the Food Network’s “Chopped.” So it was a thrill to watch the special “Chopped” Thanksgiving special to see a member of one of our Affiliate Communities compete to win the $10,000 prize.

Sr. Alicia Torres of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago was one of four contestants selected from the many who serve the underprivileged in soup kitchens around the country. Some months ago, “Chopped” called our office asking for the names of potential “sister” cooks. Fr. Bob Lombardo, CFR, the superior of the community and IRL Board Member, also heard the word and was able to propose Sister Alicia.

chopped 2Sr. Alicia wowed the judges during every round.  Each show, the contestants are asked to open up a mystery basket of ingredients and transform them into an appetizer, then a main dish, and finally a dessert. During each round, one cook is eliminated. During this episode, each basket contained in various manifestations turkey, potatoes, cranberries and green beans. How she made the final dessert from that concoction of ingredients was truly imaginative!

The judges were amazed that someone with no formal cooking education could be so gifted. She has chosen to use those gifts for the greater glory of God. Her love for her Spouse, Jesus, and that love outpouring to others is what animates her and her cooking. “When I cook, I want to share that love, and I try to put care into everything that I make for every person that I serve,” she said in a WGN interview.

The $10,000 prize money won as the last “Chopped” cook standing will be used to restock their food pantry. For Christmas, she will be cooking for 1400 people in their west side neighborhood from their Mission of Our Lady of the Angels.

Congratulations Sister Alicia!


Celebrating the Feast and 500th Anniversary of St. Theresa of Avila

Todayecstasy-of-st-teresa-of-avila-by-bernini the Church celebrates the feast of St. Theresa of Avila, a Spanish mystic and the first female declared a doctor of the Church. The Church is also celebrating the 500th anniversary of her life as St. Theresa of Avila has left a great legacy through her witness, reform and writings.

The 500th anniversary is important because it commemorates the great gift that St. Theresa of Avila has been to the Church. Mother Mary John of the Cross, prioress of Monastery of Mary, Mother of Grace in Lafayette, Louisiana, said, “It is proof of the popularity of St. Teresa of Avila and her namesake, St. Theresa of Lisieux. Both have been named doctors of the church, recognition of their extraordinary influence through their doctrine which embraces all times and places.”

12The legacy of St. Theresa of Avila lives on through her reform of the Carmelites. Mother Mary John of the Cross is a member of the reformed Discalced Carmelites and said, “Her obedience to God’s inspiration, the depth of her love for the Church and all in the service of the Church, have convinced all who love her that she is close to the heart of God,” The nuns at the Monastery of Mary, Mother of Grace dedicate their life and mission to prayer leading contemplative lives that combine both silence and solitude with the familial spirit of Community life.

500 years after her life, St. Theresa of Avila is still admired by the faithful as a shinning example of responding courageously to the Lord. She faced great trials but was never discouraged because she knew, “those who walk closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”


Heralds of Holiness and the Traverse City Carmelites

Traverse girls savengerIn the midst of our National Meeting preparations last spring, a kind couple from Michigan came to the office to pick up our Heralds of Holiness exhibit, an 80-panel display showing the ancient roots of the consecrated life, as well as how it is still expressed in our many Affiliate communities today. They brought it to the Carmelite Monastery of the Infant of Prague in Traverse City, Michigan, where it was on display for an open house as part of the celebration for the Year of Consecrated Life.

traverse rearMore than 300 people visited the monastery to tour the nuns’ renovated chapel and to view the exhibit. About 30 young people squeezed into the monastery “speakroom” for a Question and Answer session with the nuns about their cloistered life.

Heralds of Holiness then went on the march, thanks to the efforts of the Carmelites who promoted it around the diocese. It began with a tour of Catholic schools in the diocese of Gaylord, and was viewed by 600 students at St. Francis High School, Traverse City; 55 students at St. Mary’s K-8 school in Kingsley; and by over 230 students and parents at St. Francis Xavier School and St. Michael the Archangel Regional Catholic Academy in Petoskey before the school year ended.

After this, the display traveled to St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord for viewing by the faithful gathered for the ordination of three transitional deacons and one priest on June 25th. In July, the exhibit went to the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods.

cross in the woodsI have to admit that I was not familiar with this incredible place of pilgrimage until Heralds of Holiness arrived there. The crucifix on the cross on the hill, at a weight of 7 tons and 28 feet in length, is the largest in the world! The sculptor gave the face of Jesus an expression of great peace and strength to offer everyone who comes to pray there encouragement in the face of their own struggles, a perfect place of pilgrimage for the upcoming Year of Mercy.

If you would like to visit the Carmelite monastery in Traverse City, the chapel is open for prayer and daily mass. Join them for the Triduum of Masses in honor of St. Therese, September 29, 30 and October 1. We pray that Heralds of Holiness awakens in young people a desire to learn more about religious life and result in holy and persevering vocations for the Carmelites as well!

Evangelizing the Peripheries: Pope Francis Canonizes St. Junipero Serra

pope-3-092315As part of his visit to the United States, Pope Francis has canonized the missionary of California, St. Junipero Serra. The canonization marks a new springtime for the new evangelization and an increased effort to proclaim the Gospel to the peripheries.

St. Junipero Serra was born in 1713 on the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain and joined a Franciscan community at a young age. He quickly garnered notoriety for his intelligence and rich spiritual life. He received the Duns Scotus Chair of philosophy at the prestigious Lullian University, however, he felt called to leave the comfort of his country and desired to go to the New World in order to spread the Gospel there. St. Junipero first worked in Mexico until he was fifty when he accepted an invitation to evangelize what is present-day California. He worked tirelessly to spread the Good News and established missions along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.

The missions themselves have caused St. Junipero Serra to be a controversial figure with some critics saying that he was an advocate to the oppression of thousands of Native Americans by colonials. Bishop Robert Barron, himself a great evangelist and current auxiliary bishop in California, addressed the controversy in a recent video saying, “What fired his (St. Junipero’s) heart above all was the prospect of announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who had never before heard it, and there is no question that his missions provided the institutional framework for that proclamation.” Bishop Barron emphasized that while St. Junipero was not blameless throughout his life, he was nevertheless a saint who desired to spread the Gospel to people living on the periphery.

During his homily at the Pontifical North American College in May, Pope Francis laid out three key aspects to the life of St. Junipero Serra: his missionary zeal, his Marian devotion and his witness to holiness. The Holy Father said that what motivated St. Junipero Serra to leave everything and journey to the New World was, “his desire to proclaim the gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ.”

By canonizing St. Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States, Pope Francis is challenging all Catholics to get out of their comfort zone and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all, even and especially to those on the peripheries. The Holy Father is also highlighting the vital role which religious men and women played and continue to play in proclaiming the Gospel in the Americas.

Pope Francis Celebrates Year of Consecrated Life with Young Religious

pope-francis-general-audience-610x343Pope Francis held a special audience Thursday morning when he welcomed young people in consecrated life who were in Rome for the International Congress for Young People in Consecrated Life which met within the context of the Year of Consecrated Life.
The Pope answered several questions posed by young consecrated men and women from throughout the world during the audience. While speaking particularly to religious women, the Holy Father said, “You have this desire to be on the front line: why? Because you are mothers – you have this maternal quality of the Church herself, which unites you.” Pope Francis emphasized the integral role which consecrated men and women play in spreading the Gospel saying, “The Church is the Bride of Christ, and religious sisters are brides of Christ – they draw their whole strength from there: before the sanctuary, before the Lord, in prayer with their Bridegroom, in order to carry His message.”
The Holy Father warned those in attendance of the dangers of “comfort” in religious life and how it can affect one’s ability to live out their vocation. He emphasized that the key is to have a, ” heart always open to that, which the Lord tells us, and to bring that, which the Lord tells us, to dialogue with our [religious] superior, with one’s spiritual maestro or maestro, with the Church, with the bishop.” He also caution about the dangers of gossip in religious life calling it the, “plague of community life.”
The questions also asked the Holy Father to reflect on his calling to religious life. When asked about his first memory of a vocation to religious life he said, “You asked me to share my memory – how it was – that first call on September 21st, 1953 – but I don’t know how it was: I know that, by chance, I walked into church, I saw a confessional, and I came out different.”

Habemus Generalis! Little Sisters of the Poor Elect New Superior General

latourWhile visiting France in the Fall of 1995, I had the good fortune to stay for a few days at the Little Sisters of the Poor Motherhouse in Brittany, France. What a blessing to be able to pray in the crypt of the church next to the tomb of their foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan. Most wonderful of all, was the warm welcome received by me from all of the sisters, particularly Sr. Marie-Pierre who looked after me like a mother. I should have expected this because the Little Sister’s fourth vow is hospitality.

The Little Sisters receive their formation at the motherhouse called La Tour Saint Joseph. What a joy to see sisters from all over the world gather together to form one family of faith dedicated to caring for God’s little ones on earth, the elderly poor.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Mother General, and also Mother Celine de la Visitation, who was kind enough to issue me the invitation to stay. I mention all of this because Mother Celine was elected Mother General the following year and served in that capacity for the next 19 years. On September 8th, it was announced that the Little Sisters had elected a new Superior General, Sister María del Monte Auxiliadora as their first Spanish superior general! It was accompanied by the singing of the Te Deum and a flurry of calls and emails back home.

Mother Celine with Sean Cardinal O'Malley
Mother Celine with Sean Cardinal O’Malley

Mother María was elected to the General Council in 2009 and is originally from Seville, Spain, where she was provincial superior and mistress of novices in the Spanish novitiate. Five other sisters were also elected to the General Council reflecting the international flavor of their Congregation: Sisters Nicole Emmanuel and Benoît de Ste. Bernadette from France; Sister Joseph Christine, from Scotland; Sister Patricia Ivonne del Espíritu Santo, from Chile and Sister Maria Clarette, from Sri Lanka. Mother Celine, originally from San Francisco, California, will remain in the General Council, assuming the role of Vicar General.

Please pray for the Little Sisters in this time of transition and as they continue their religious freedom legal battle, one that will greatly influence our own ability to uphold our Catholic faith in the public arena.

Keeping Her Lamp Ready: Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus

Mother Mary Teresita and the Poor Clares in Palos Park with the late Francis Cardinal George
Mother Mary Teresita and the Poor Clares in Palos Park with the late Francis Cardinal George

Aspiring to attend college, get married and have many children, Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus’ plans changed dramatically when she chose to follow God’s call to become a Poor Clare.

Mother Abbess Mary Teresita of Jesus heard God calling her to impact the world by pursing a religious vocation. After reading Mother Mary Francis’ book A Right to be Merry, she knew that God was asking her to serve Him in a cloistered community. In 1963, Mother Mary Teresita entered the Poor Clare monastery in Roswell New Mexico, the same monastery which Mother Mary Francis belonged to. She has since relocated to Chicago re-establishing the Order there at the invitation of Cardinal George.

Mother Mary Teresita’s life as a Poor Clare is one primarily of prayer with day punctuated with prayer every three hours beginning at midnight. She says that rising to pray at night is like keeping her lamp ready as you do not know the hour when Christ will return. In between prayer Mother Teresita works, mainly in silence. All of the Poor Clares in community tend a garden, bake, mend clothes and make items to sell at their gift shop. They also keep a perpetual fast abstaining from meat and partaking in simple meals. Their breakfast is coffee and bread followed by lunch which is a vegetable, potato and a “third portion,” typically a cheese or eggs for protein, lastly, the sisters eat dinner which is comprised of bread and milk with cheese or nuts.

Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus and all the Poor Clares in Palos Park pray for the Church and the world. All benefit spiritually from the hidden lives of these dedicated religious women. For a better glimpse into their lives, read , the book which inspired Mother Mary Teresita to pursue a her vocation with a cloistered community, A Right to Be Merry by Mother Mary Francis.