Category Archives: Women’s Communities

Seeking God in Community: New IRL Affiliate the Missionary Benedictine Sisters

e120089c-fc2e-49a3-b5a6-01a0e559b75fThe IRL Executive Committee has approved the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Norfolk, Nebraska, as a new affiliate member. The main characteristic of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters’ way of life is to seek God in community. The sisters strive to fulfill their role as missionaries by leading “people to faith in Jesus Christ and communion with the Loving Father.”

Founded in Tutzing, Germany, in 1885, the sisters came to the United States to serve German immigrants. They initially worked in education, teaching at St. John Berchman’s School in Raeville, Nebraska, but quickly expanded their apostolates to include healthcare when they opened Sacred Heart Hospital in Lynch, Nebraska. During the Great Depression, the sisters made immense sacrifices as their apostolic work expanded offering religious education in parishes and a boarding school which provided a second home for Native Americans. The community continues to expand and adapt its ministries at the promptings of the Holy Spirit and in response to the changing times.

From youth and young adult pastoral work to outreach to Native American and Latinos, the Sisters currently have a wide array of ministries. The sisters host retreats and social events for youth and young adults while also attending rallies and conferences like the March for Life and FOCUS Conferences. They visit the elderly and one sister, Sr. Cecilia, has been making rose petal rosaries for the last seventeen years. Their Immaculata Monastery Spirituality Center allows for visitors to go on individual and group retreats or simply to make a chapel visit. All of the ministries which the sisters perform are done out of their belief that the Lord has sent them to be missionaries.

Prayer is an integral aspect of the lives of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters as they strive to bring Christ to all. Their daily schedule is arranged to punctuate the day with prayer. Praying both in community and in private, the sisters seek to live a life of unceasing prayer.

“For Love Alone” – New Film on Religious Life

Bishop Senior WebsiteOn August 15, 2015, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious will release a new film on religious life called For Love Alone. The 18-minute video was produced by Grassroots Films.

Mother Mary Clare Roufs, ACJ, and Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR, went on a two week blitz around the country previewing the film in locations ranging from College Station and the Aggies in Texas to seminaries and finally, appropriately enough, to Hollywood.

Here are some comments:

At the Wake Up the World rally in Toronto, Canada: “Many of us have not grown up or ever met nuns.  This film gave us the perfect exposure to what the consecrated life is like. What a beautiful insight!”

In West Palm Beach: “The comments from the Sisters and all those in the film are so honest.  You can tell they are speaking from a place of truth, and it just pierces through your heart.  It is a film that is not just for Catholics, anyone can watch this film and be captivated by the beauty of Religious Life.”

Texas 1From a seminarian in Denver: “Though this movie is about Religious Life, ultimately it is about ones encounter with the one we love -Christ Himself. For me, as I watched the film, it was as if my heart was being pierced with a longing for this intimacy with Christ. The film moved me deeply and made me want to go straight to the chapel and pray. He (Christ) is the reason I want to be a priest. Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful film!”

From an aspirant in Vancouver: “The film was exciting! I feel it was a good representation of the excitement I feel about my call to religious life. I would love for my parents to see this film!”

Click here to be notified when the film is released!

And thank you to the Hilton Foundation for making this project possible.

 

Sr. Nirmala, MC, RIP

mc2On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, the Missionaries of Charity announced the death of Sr. Nirmala Joshi, 81, who succeeded Bl. Teresa of Calcutta as superior general. She served the community in that capacity from 1997 to 2009.

Sr. Nirmala suffered from ill health over the past few years and was brought home from the hospital a few days before her death. Sister Nirmala did not have the high-profile of Mother Teresa but she quietly carried on the works of charity in the manner of a contemplative. Prior to her election, she was head of the contemplative branch of the order.

mc3Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta said that she was a great soul and that “she never talked about herself; she was more about how to support peace, to be helpful to the poor … she had a deep union with Jesus and she was a gentle apostle of peace until the end.”

Sister was born into a Hindu family, though early-on educated in Christian schools. Inspired by Mother Teresa’s work, she was baptized and later became a sister. Her youngest sister became a Carmelite.

Here is a beautiful quote from Sister Nirmala about Mother Teresa  as quoted in L’Osservatore Romano (Aug 5, 1998):

“And then I think of her humility. I remember it always, it is always in my heart. I remember that Mother Teresa’s eyes looked beyond this world. Mother Teresa surrendered in an absolutely radical way to God’s will, and God used her as an instrument of His love.

This is the great mystery of God and it is also the mystery of our vocation. ‘I am thirsty.’ Jesus’ words on the Cross explain Mother Teresa’s life and our choice. We must quench the thirst Jesus continues to have for the poor. Jesus even called me from afar, from a family that was not Christian, to make me, with implacable gentleness, understand His thirst and to quench it”.

A Desert Nun’s Clothing Ceremony

dseet nunOn June 6th, Jennifer Meissonnier became Sr. Augusta Mary of Our Lady of Grace, becoming clothed in the habit of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration  in Tonopah, Arizona. They are commonly referred to as the “desert nuns.”

The image of the desert is appropriate because it was the underlying theme behind Sr. Marie Andre’s talk during the ceremony. As she rightly pointed out, many people misunderstand the call to the cloistered life, viewing it as “barren.” On the contrary, a life lived in response to the Lord’s call is always fruitful. “Our life here justifies the absence of an exterior apostolate/working out in the world,” said Sr. Marie Andre, “by drawing down from Heaven an abundance of divine grace to assist the evangelical workers (especially priests and active-order Sisters) in the field of their labors.”

As Jennifer began her journey into the desert, Sister Marie Andre quoted Fr. Robert Barron who said quite beautifully: “The desert represents a stripping away so as to make the fundamental things appear. In the desert there are no distractions or diversions or secondary matters. Everything is basic, necessary, simple. One survives or one doesn’t. One discovers in the desert strengths and weaknesses she didn’t know she had.

Sister Marie Andre asked the question posed by the Psalmist long ago: “”Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?’ (Psalm 78) And like the Israelites of old, we have to say YES!!!! Not only a table with the manna of old, but a Eucharistic Throne, and this happens because God does all!”

Here are some highlights from the clothing ceremony. God bless Sr. Augusta Mary of Our Lady of Grace!

 

 

 

A Neighborhood of Care – The Carmelites in Duarte

ocd duarteWe can only hope that when and if our time comes for nursing care in our golden years, that the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles in California will have expanded far enough east to accommodate all of those who seek a good Catholic home in their twilight years.

As described in Our Sunday Visitor (June 14, 2015), the sisters have opened a Neighborhood of Care at Santa Teresita, a Catholic assisted-living facility in Duarte, California. Nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains on 12 acres, the residence is the first of twelve cottages planned for the site. Once all of the nine planned cottages are built, they will truly form a neighborhood of love.

The first cottage is home to twenty senior residents who have individual rooms but share and plan the meals in common. Sixteen sisters are part of the staff. In the home-like setting, the sisters keep the residents active with activities such as gardening, fitness and computer classes, and outside speakers.

Mother Luisita founded the Carmelites in 1921 in revolutionary Mexico. However, they were forced to flee the country and in 1930, established Santa Teresita in Duarte as a home for women with suffering from tuberculosis. Today, there are 134 Carmelite sisters, eight of whom are novices.

The residents partake in the prayer life of the sisters and have opportunities for daily mass, the rosary, and confession. When a person is near death, the sisters are at the bedside along with family members. One man said, “I love it, We have our own chapel and chaplain, and when I have trouble walking over, they bring Communion to me.”

leanThe sisters were also featured in a Wall Street Journal article (May 27, 2015) which talked about their new album of song called “Lean Into the Wind.” Proceeds from the sales will help the building-expansion program under way at Santa Teresita. The writer of the article said, “To say “Lean Into the Wind” has moments of beauty is to understate its power. Some of the performances are manifestations of love in its purest form and glimpses into the tranquility found in a life dedicated to the service of others and of God.”

Chosen: The Hidden Life of the Poor Clare Colettines, Rockford

reeseDuring this year’s National Meeting at the seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, the IRL was blessed to host a photo exhibit on the lives of the Poor Clare Colettine nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, IL. Entitled Erased From the Landscape: The Hidden Lives of Cloistered Nuns, the 40-photo exhibit beautifully portrays the everyday, extraordinary life of these women who are hidden from the world but are at the heart of the Church’s mission.

During the National Meeting, Abbie Reese, artist, author and filmmaker who developed the exhibit, talked about her next project called Chosen: Custody of the Eyes. For this project, Abbie provided the cloistered nuns with camera equipment, allowing them to capture their life on their own, rather than have an intruder inside the walls.

Chosen follows the story of one of the newer members of the community, beginning with her discernment, entrance, clothing, and vows. The new sister, who uses the pseudonym Sister Amata to protect anonymity, reflects on her transition and life within the monastery. This was one of Abbie’s aims—to capture the internal journey of this mysterious road to the cloister.

reese3How did Abbie, a non-Catholic, get a foot in the door with this community? It began when she approached the nuns and asked if she could undertake an oral history storytelling project. After a period of prayer and discernment, the nuns opened their cloister to Abbie who conducted interviews with members of the Poor Clare Colettines, allowing their story to be told to the world. Reese relays the oral history of the community in her work Dedicated to God: An Oral History: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns (Oxford University Press, 2014). (See prior blog post on this fascinating book)

If you would like to help Abbie raise the $15,000 needed to finalize the film and send it to post-production, please consider supporting her work through her current crowdfunding campaign. Please visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/chosen-custody-of-the-eyes–2#/story to make a tax deductible donation. During this Year of Consecrated Life, please consider supporting the effort of Reese to bring the life of Corpus Christi Monastery to the world.

180 Years of Consecrated Life – in three sisters!

MotherMaryJohn
Mother Mary John, OCD

What some families give back to the Church in terms of children who enter religious life is often incredible and heroic. Witness the jubilee celebrations of Mother Mary John Billeauld, O.C.D., Sr. Theresa Anne Billeaud, C.D.P., and Sr. Anne Deelaus, O.C.D. Together they are celebrating 180 years of consecrated life!

On May 24, 2015, the three Sisters celebrated their triple jubilee during a Mass in front of a record breaking crowd of over 400 family members and friends. Concelebrating the Mass with Bishop Emeritus Sam Jacobs of Houma, Louisiana, was Msgr. Michael Jamail, V.G. of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, and several other priests.

Mother Mary John and Sister Theresa Anne are blood sisters.  They come from a family of nine girls, five of whom entered religious life. Three are Sisters of Divine Providence and two are Carmelites. Commenting on her vocation, Mother Mary John said, “I just knew that (Our Lord) wanted me to be a Carmelite nun and He filled me with a desire to respond to Him. When this conviction is so strong on one’s heart, there is no room for doubt.”

Sr. Anne, OCD
Sr. Anne, OCD

In this year celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, Mother said that one of the best experiences of living the life of a Discalced Carmelite nun at the monastery in Lafayette, Louisiana, is knowing that the legacy left to them by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross “can be fulfilled in our own lives today…”

Sr. Anne comes from a large family as well. Two of her sisters entered religious life as Carmelites in Rhode Island and New Orleans. After Vatican II, with all the changes sweeping through communities, Sr. Anne said that her superiors in Lafayette “strove to faithfully maintain the original Carmelite charism – prayer for the Church and world, and the necessary silence and solitude that would foster the growth of prayer and awareness of the needs of the time.”

What kept her going through the years? It was simple, she said. “I knew God wanted me here and I wanted to be here.” Difficulties experienced were lightened by her relationship with Jesus and His Mother and her sisters in Christ.

We gave thanks for these many years of fidelity to a call of the Spirit who has filled the hearts of our Sisters with His Living Flame of Love. With St. Teresa we can say: “The true love of God is as a fire!” This Fire has inflamed the hearts of our Sisters through these many years.

See the interview with two of the sisters in The Advertiser, Lafayette, LA and watch the video of the Mass on the Lafayette Carmel website.

The Trinitarians of Mary – New Religious Community

circleThe Trinitarians of Mary is the newest IRL Affiliate Community. Founded in just 1992, they have experienced wonderful growth. The name of the community was inspired by St. Louis de Montfort who described Mary as “the Sanctuary of the Divinity, the Throne, the City, and the World of God.” In other words, the first Trinitarian.

Their foundress is Mother Lillie who was born in San Diego and had a powerful spiritual experience in Fatima where she felt the calling to found a new order in the Catholic Church with the Eucharist at its center.  Through a life of prayer and penance the Trinitarians of Mary support the Catholic priesthood and the Church, opening their doors to all through monastic hospitality and retreats.

The community’s first monastery was a leaky old camper on a mountain in Tecate, Mexico. From this “Mount Tabor,” the sisters have helped thousands of needy families through the distribution of food, clothing, blankets, building supplies, medicine and religious education. They hope to build a conservatory for orphans and underprivileged girls in the near future. And many other plans are in the works.

Mother Lillie
Mother Lillie

One particular expression of their contemplative vocation is rooted in the practice of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. The hours each sister spends at Our Lord’s feet in solitary adoration before the Blessed Sacrament gives meaning to her religious consecration. By their filial devotion to Mary, members desire to bring about the triumph of her Immaculate Heart by seeking to make her known and loved by all who come in contact with them.

They engage in monastic apostolates within the grounds of their monasteries that are compatible with and stem from their prayer. They welcome people from all walks of life whose spiritual and material needs brings them to their monasteries (two in Mexico and three in the U.S. – San Diego, Los Angeles, Grand Rapids). Their pray the Divine Office in Latin.

Our particular expression of the contemplative vocation is rooted in the practice of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration and is our way of continuing in the Church the presence and work of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

We are called to love as she loved, by immersing our minds and hearts in God in a continual act of adoration, so that our entire lives  become “an expression of the love of the Son for the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit” (VC,21). 

Taking her as our model, we seek to be vessels of the indwelling Trinityas we fix our gaze on the Eucharistic face of Christ.

 

Ada Carmelites: Refugees and Foundresses of Many

adaIn 2016, the Carmelite Nuns in Ada, Michigan, will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their founding. In 1916,  sixteen Carmelite nuns (12 professed and four postulants) fled the terror and raging persecution in Mexico and came to the United States.

After traveling to Cuba, New Orleans and Saint Louis, they finally found a home in the Diocese of Grand Rapids under the paternal care of Bishop Henry Joseph Richter. Their monastery was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  From this sacrifice of family and country came bountiful blessings. New foundations bloomed from Grand Rapids back to Mexico in 1919, then Buffalo, Detroit, Littleton, Traverse City, Iron Mountain and Denmark (WI).

Their original frame house in Grand Rapids was expanded and added on to many times to accommodate growth. Finally, in 1984, they were given ten rural acres outside of town in which to build a permanent, quieter home. They moved to Ada (Parnell), Michigan, in 1991.

This year, the are celebrating the 500th anniversary of their foundress’ birth. Commenting on St. Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, Pope Francis said: “(Teresa) asked her sisters not to waste time discussing ‘matters of little importance’ with God while ‘the world is in flames.'”

Be rooted in prayer, in communion with Jesus. Pope Francis said: “The prayer of Teresa was not a prayer reserved solely to a space or time of day; it arose spontaneously on the most diverse occasions. … She was convinced of the value of continual, if not always perfect, prayer. … To renew consecrated life today, Teresa has left us a great heritage full of concrete suggestions, ways and methods of praying that, far from closing us in ourselves or leading us merely to inner balance, enable us always to start again from Jesus, and constitute a genuine school for growth in love for God and neighbor.”

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.