Category Archives: News

From Adoration to Evangelization

“In order to evangelize the world, we need experts in celebration, adoration, and contemplation of the Holy Eucharist” (Pope John Paul II).

“From Adoration to Evangelization” is the theme of a major International Conference on Eucharistic Adoration to take place June 20-24, 2011 in Rome.

Organized by the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist, a new community founded by Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon, France in 2007, Adoratio 2011 brings together a wide range of international speakers, including six prominent Cardinals, among them Cardinals Francis Arinze and Raymond Burke.

“We must regain the ability to adore Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist if we are to bring the men and women of the twenty-first century to faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of the key themes of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI,” Bishop Rey emphasized, “which is why we are taking this initiative.”

This event has particular significance for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, noted in a letter earlier this month to Bishop Rey that Eucharistic adoration is “an effective means toward promoting the sanctification of the clergy, reparation for sin, and vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.”

“With courage, we must ask the Lord to send forth new laborers into the harvest,” Cardinal Piacenza affirmed. He urged that “in every diocese there should be at least one church, chapel, or shrine set aside for perpetual adoration of the Eucharist, specifically for the intention of the promotion of new vocations and the sanctification of the clergy.”

Cardinal Piacenza expressed his hope to conference organizers that bishops, priests, and religious would consider attending the Eucharistic adoration conference.  “A renewed sense of devotion to Christ in the Eucharist,” he said, “can only enrich every aspect of the Church’s life and mission in the world.”

Go Make Disciples

The Institute on Religious Life cordially invites you to attend its annual regional conference this coming Saturday at the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence, Missouri. This year’s theme is “Go Make Disciples: The Consecrated Life and the New Evangelization.”

Pope John Paul II devoted the last twenty years of his pontificate calling for a “new evangelization,” a call now taken up by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, who has even made the “new evangelization” the subject of the next worldwide Synod of Bishops. 

Yet do we really understand what this “new evangelization” is all about?

The glossary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “evangelization” as “the proclamation of Christ and His Gospel by word and the testimony of life, in fulfillment of Christ’s demand.” In short, it involves putting people in touch with the person of Jesus Christ.

The new evangelization must not degenerate into mere activism, be it social or political. Rather, it must be rooted in our desire to allow Christ to transform us. Therefore, it requires learning once again to direct our gaze upon the face of Christ, the one Savior of the world.

This year’s regional meeting will offer reflections on Christ’s command to “Go Make Disciples,” with special emphasis on how it relates to the consecrated life. Everyone is welcome to attend this day of spiritual
renewal, reflection, and affirmation of the consecrated life. I will be there and look forward to seeing many of you!

Another Point of View

This evening at 6:30 p.m. eastern time, EWTN will premiere its much-anticipated new program called “The Catholic View for Women.”

The hosts for the new program will be Teresa Tomeo, Janet Morana, and Astrid Bennett Gutierrez.

Catholic News Agency reports that the show will address issues relevant to women from a Catholic perspective. The initial shows will focus on key issues such as vocations, spirituality, feminism, and the Church’s teaching on contraception, among others.

For EWTN’s programming schedule for this week, click here.

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men opened last week in several theaters across the United States. It’s a true story about a group of Trappist monks, stationed in an impoverished Algerian community under threat from fundamentalist terrorists, who must decide whether to stay or leave.

Catholic movie critic Stephen Greydanus  calls the French film “last year’s most profoundly and transcendently religious film—conspicuously not nominated [for an Academy award].” However, it has received other awards, including the grand prize at the Cannes film festival.

Of Gods and Men had a “monastic adviser” on the set to help the film makers realistically depict the hidden lives of the French monks who are at the main protagonists of the story. 

The film may be a little graphic and intense for children, but otherwise this beautiful, meditative film is highly recommended. Here are a couple reviews:

And here’s the official trailer: Of Gods and Men – official trailer HD

Newest Consecrated Virgin

Elizabeth Lam, photo courtesy of Jose Luis Aguirre/The Catholic Voice

Last week, my friend Elizabeth Lam became a consecrated virgin in and for the Diocese of Oakland. Bishop Salvatore Cordileone was the presider for the rite of consecration, which was performed in the context of a Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Elizabeth is not bound to a religious community, but rather lives in the world. Through her consecration, she has made a total gift of herself to the local Church under the leadership of her bishop. 

There are only about 200 consecrated virgins in the United States, but there is a revival of this ancient rite taking place. As Bishop Cordileone noted at the outset of  his homily, some of the most revered saints of Christian antiquity were consecrated virgins, like Sts. Cecilia, Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha.

For more information, check out the following links:

Priestly Vocations on the Rise

Last week the L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, released some statistical data on the Catholic priesthood as of the end of 2009. The complete report is expected any day.

The principal finding is that there were 410,593 priests worldwide in 2009, up over 5,000 from the previous decade, an overall increase of 1.4%.

The news isn’t bright on all fronts, however. For one thing, while the overall number is up, there are now 5,000 fewer religious order priests than a decade ago, representing a decrease of 3.5%. Fortunately, the number of diocesan priests grew by 10,000, representing an increase of 4%.

Also, here in the United States, there was a 7% decrease in diocesan priests and a 21% decrease in religious order priests over the past ten years The numbers were similar for Europe. As has been the case for some time, the growth has primarily taken place in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

For more information, click here.

Cardinal Rode Concerned About Secularization of Religious Communities

Cardinal Franc Rode

Religious orders face continued pressures to “secularize,” and this threatens their identities and their mission in the world. This is according to Cardinal Franc Rode, who is stepping down as head of the Vatican office on religious life (officially known as the “Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life“).

Cardinal Rode made these remarks in an interview last week with Vatican Radio as reported by the Catholic News Agency/EWTN News. This is a recurring theme, as he has cited the influence of secularism as well as feminism as reasons for the recent apostolic visitation of U.S. religious sisters.

While affirming the “spiritual liveliness and missionary dynamism” of religious communities throughout the Church’s history, he candidly admitted the challenges they face in today’s world. “Religious life is in difficulty today and this must be recognized,” he noted.

He is especially concerned that works of charity have frequently degenerated into mere social work, which he said causes harm to the proclamation of the Gospel. When that happens, communities pursue “a society of well-being” here and now, rather than questions of eternity.

While there are signs of secularization everywhere, Cardinal Rode said that they are most prominent in the West.

At the same time, Cardinal Rode expressed his confidence in the new religious communities springing up in places such as France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Peru, and the U.S. which are “surging against the spirit of secularism.”

“These communities give great importance to prayer and to the fraternal life lived in community; they insist on poverty and obedience: all take the religious habit, a visible sign of their consecration,” he explained.

“[They] call man to his transcendent destiny and constitute a force of renewal, of which the Church has a great need.”

USA Today on Religious Vocations

In this article, the USA Today comments on the CARA report earlier this month on women religious who took their final vows in 2010. The article focuses on the disappointing statistic that more than half of the sisters were discouraged by a family member in pursuing their vocation.

In most families that I’ve encountered, the problem is that religious vocations are not adequately valued. Contraception, the natural but at times inordinate desire for grandchildren, lukewarm faith, poor formation, and secular values are but a few of the factors that come into play, along with the normal emotions that go with having a loved one more away, potentially forever.

Maybe in the cases in which the family isn’t on board with the decision, the young woman’s vocation may be a catalyst for the conversion of the family . . .

Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Last week, the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated later this spring. The entire message, entitled “Proposing Vocations in the Local Church,” may be accessed here.

Here is an inspiring excerpt from the Holy Father’s message:

“Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by ‘other voices’ and His invitation to follow Him by the gift of one’s own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations. It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable hem to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond ‘yes’ to God and the Church. . . .

“It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish and associations–as Jesus did with His disciples–to grow into a genuine and affectionate friendship with the Lord, cultivated through personal and liturgical prayer; to grow in familiarity with the sacred Scriptures and thus to listen attentively and fruitfully to the Word of God; to understand that entering into God’s will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves; and finally to be generous and fraternal in relationships with others, since it is only in being open to the love of God that we discover true joy and the fulfilment of our aspirations.”

2010 Profession Class, By the Numbers

What do we know about the women religious in the United States who made their final vows this past year?

Plenty!

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) released a report last week on the women who professed perpetual vows in 2010. This report, commissioned by the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), contains an overwhelming amount of statistics and demographic data.

Here, I will provide a “top ten” list of findings that I found most significant:

(1) 77% of the sisters have three or more siblings (the average was five), while only one sister reported being an only child.

Need I say any more about the critically important role of large Catholic families as fertile ground for religious vocations? The generosity of Catholic parents who are open to life speaks volumes to their children.

(2) Prayer matters.

74% had attended a retreat prior to entering the community, and two-thirds of them prayed the Rosary and participated in Eucharistic adoration on a regular basis before entering religious life. While this is a positive stat, I hope that the other one-third picked up these religious practices after they joined! 

(3) 52% reported that they were encouraged by other religious to consider religious life.

And nine out of ten reported that they were encouraged by someone in their life. This stat shows the importance of inviting others to “come and see,” and of supporting them in their discernment process. This is especially important in light of the next item.

(4) 66% reported that they were discouraged from considering a vocation by one or more persons.

Even more, 51% reported that they faced opposition within their own families! It makes one wonder how we can make families a more hospitable seedbed for vocations. Certainly a renewal of faith and sense of vocation among Catholic parents is crucial if we are to reverse this trend. 

(5) 78% had already completed some college, and 59% had already graduated from college at the time they entered the religious institute.

The new sisters are well-educated, not only for work in education or health care, but other fields as well. The one balancing factor is that this goes hand in hand with older vocations, as the median age of the sisters is 44.

(6) Kudos to Franciscan University!

Six percent reported that a youth conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville played a role in their religious vocation. Makes me proud to be an alumnus.

(7) World Youth Day.

A staggering 20% of the sisters reported that they participated at a World Youth Day prior to entering their religious community. Memo to pastors: Keep these pilgrimages in the budget!

(8) The median age at which the sisters began considering a possible vocation to religious life was 18.

The mean was 20, as some older vocations skewed the average. This points to the critical importance of college campus ministry and evangelization programs like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

(9) 51% attended Catholic elementary school and 25% attended Catholic high school.

This figure isn’t that impressive to me. Where did all the others go? At some point, it would be useful to distinguish between those who were homeschooled by Catholic parents versus those who attended public or non-sectarian private schools.

Still, the figures here are above the national averages for Catholics in the United States. Since Catholic schools continue to be such a significant source of religious vocations, the ongoing religious formation of Catholic school teachers must be a priority. Also, in light of (3), I think the more religious we have in the Catholic schools, the more likely it is that the school will foster religious vocations.

(10) 84% of superiors reported no new religious professions, and another 13% reported only one.

That means 311 of the communities that participated in the survey did not have anyone take final vows. Many of those communities are aging and have not had many vocations in recent years. While it’s a fact of Church life that some religious communities die out and others spring up, I found the numbers this year a bit sobering. So let’s get busy, people! All of us have the duty to pray for vocations to the religious life, and to support those who have already entered. 

Beyond all the numbers, though, the most important consideration is that we have all these beautiful sisters who have now consecrated their lives completely to Christ. What a blessing for them, and for the Church!