Category Archives: Women’s Communities

Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna Beatified

S._Klara_Ludwika_SzczęsnaBack in Rome from his trip to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis addressed Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from Poland Tuesday. The sisters were in Rome to give thanks for the  recent beatification of the co-foundress, Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna.

The Holy Father addressed the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus following catechesis and explained how Bl. Klara is a great witness for all to emulate. He said, “By her life, the new Blessed taught us about giving oneself to God, humble service to neighbors, life according to the spirit of the Gospel, and sensitivity to the poor, to those in need and those who have lost their way in life. May her motto, ‘All for the Heart of Jesus,’ be a challenge for all of us, so that we may live according to God’s will.”

Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna was born on July 18, 1863 in Cieszki, Poland. She decided at a young age to dedicate herself to the Lord and entered with the Servants of Jesus, an underground religious congregation as religious orders were forbidden under Russian rule. Her superiors in the Servants of Jesus sent her to Krakow to aid servants there. She shared similar concerns for them that St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar had and became the co-foundress, first member and superior of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

While Bl. Klara Ludwika Szczesna died nearly one hundred years ago in 1916, her memory and extraordinary witness live on as a testament to her faith and great love for the Lord and His children.



Joyfully Embracing the Garment of Mourning

Sr. Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus receives the Passionist Habit

On the feast of the Assumption, Nora Wenke completed her year of postulancy and began her two years of novitiate which are an intense time of preparation for final vows with the Passionists Nuns of Whitesville, Kentucky. As she embarked on this new time of formation, Nora joyfully received a new name, Sr. Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, the veil of a bride and the Passionist habit.

Sr. Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus has been overwhelmed with gratitude to God for the grace to be clothed in the Holy Passionist habit as it is an outward sign of the gift of her vocation as a Passionist nun. She desires to faithfully, “answer His call-to love and follow Jesus Christ whole-heartedly in religious life.”

074By accepting a new name and the Passionist habit, Sr. Frances Marie is responding to the Lord’s call and Our Lady’s invitation to join her at the foot of the cross. The long black Passionist habit which she now wears is a ‘garment of mourning’ and testimony to her union with the Sorrowful Mother. It is also a symbol of Christ and a reminder of her call to follow Christ crucified.

The Passionists were founded by St. Paul of the Cross who, while returning from Mass one day, saw, “himself clothed in a rough woolen tunic; it was black, and over the heart he saw a white cross beneath which was the Holy Name of Jesus. At the same moment, an interior voice said: ‘This signifies how pure and spotless that heart should be which bears the Holy Name of Jesus engraved upon it'” Passionists like Sr. Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus continue to embrace their habit remembering the passion of Jesus and His great love.

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.

(Religious) Life After Soccer

srtreresa1During high school, Sr. Teresa Pandl was the captain of the girls soccer team and led a typical life full of friends and soccer. However, she felt a longing in her heart that God was calling her to more than a typical life, He was calling her to a life as a religious sister with the Sisters of St Francis of the Martyr of St. George.

Sr. Teresa Pandl was the toughest player on the girls soccer team in high school and was the best slide tackler in the history of the school according to her former coach. It was at the beginning of her high school career that she first had the desire to serve God by serving his people after going on a mission trip. She did not, however, think this service would be as a religious sister. The trip was her first encounter with extreme poverty and had a profound impact. The experience Sr. Teresa had on her mission trip stayed with her throughout high school and as she attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee her freshman year of college. She felt unsatisfied during her freshman year transferred to Franciscan University in Stuebenville in order to be surrounded by “faith-filled people.”

By transferring she was able to study Theology and Catechetics while also playing on the soccer team. She originally thought she would pursue a career as a youth minister, however, the connections she made with religious on campus made her notice the deep joy they had. Sr. Teresa had a strong indication that God was calling her to be a religious sister at Franciscan University. She spoke with several orders and decided to enter with the Sisters of St Francis of the Martyr of St. George after visiting their motherhouse in Alton, Illinois.

As the director of religious education at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland, Kansas, Sr. Teresa still leads an active life. She aids in sacramental preparation and oversees religious education for students of public schools. She sees her vocation as an adventure and says, “I don’t know where he will take me or who he is going to bring into my life. There have been many surprises already and I am sure there are many more ahead.”

Co-Foundress of Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to be Beatified

klaraOn September 27, 2015, the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus will be celebrating the beatification of the co-foundress of their order – Mother  Klara Szczesna. The beatification will take place in Krakow, Poland, with a Mass to be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Amata, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Mother Klara (Ludwika) was born in Poland in 1863. Her mother died was she was a young girl and she was pressured by her father to enter into an arranged marriage. But she left home secretly in 1886 and joined an underground religious community, since entering religious life was forbidden during the time of the Russian occupation.

When Fr. Joseph Pelczar (later bishop and saint) was looking for women to work with him among the servants of Krakow, the sisters sent him Ludwika. From this collaboration emerged the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, dedicated to the plight of servants, the poor and the sick. Mother died in 1916 at the Motherhouse in Krakow.

cressonThe sisters came to North America in 1959. Their provincial house is in Cresson, PA, and besides Pennsylvania, they also have sisters in Delaware and Jamaica. Their mission is to worship the Triune God in the Mystery of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to spread the Kingdom of Love of the Divine Heart by serving Christ particularly among girls, the poor and the sick. Their scapular is embroidered with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, their Shield and Protector.

All for the Heart of Jesus!


Poor Clares Prepare for Pope Francis in Vital Way

pope-franciseucharistOne group of cloistered Poor Clare sisters are aiding in the preparation for Pope Francis’ visit in a vital way. The thirteen Poor Clare sisters of Langhorne, Pennsylvania have been asked to bake 100,000 hosts to be consecrated by Pope Francis at the Papal Mass in Philadelphia.

The Poor Clares of the Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare make roughly 150,000 hosts each month, however, they recently have had to increase production after receiving an order for the Papal Mass. The process of baking the hosts takes over two days to from start to finish and involves several stoves which they have named Raphael, Maddalena, Vincent & Benny. The Sisters provide hosts to be used at communion for Churches throughout the United States and Canada, however, they make little profit off of the sale of the hosts and rely mainly on donations.

IMG_0551-300x200The Poor Clares have been tasked with providing hosts for one of the largest Masses celebrated in the United States throughout history with 1-2 million people expected to be in attendance. They will be providing 20% of the total number of hosts which Pope Francis will consecrate at the Mass. The Mass will be particularly special for the Poor Clares as they have received permission from Archbishop Chaput’s office to attend. This will be a historic day for the sisters as they lead a cloistered life rarely leaving their monastery.

The Poor Clares of Langhorne view their apostolate of baking hosts as similar to how they lead their entire lives. Sister Anne says, “it’s a very humble way to participate, which is part of our lives, to sort of be hidden.”

Carmelites in San Rafael Celebrate 50th Jubilee

ocd rafaelThis year, the Carmelites in San Rafael, California, are celebrating the 50th year of their foundation. The Carmel of the Mother of God was founded on November 24, 1965, from the Carmelite Monastery at Carmel-by-the-Sea (a great place to visit for the scenery alone!).

It was Mother Miriam of the Trinity, OCD, the foundress, who received an interior call to found a Carmelite monastery specifically in response to Our Lady of Fatima’s request to pray for the conversion of sinners and for the Russian people. As part of this endeavor, the sisters studied the Russian language, liturgy, spirituality and history with help from priests from a Catholic Russian church. They still however observe the Latin rite and the regular Carmelite horarium.

Espoo Karmel
Espoo Carmelites

While the sisters were unable to establish a foundation behind the Iron Curtain, two of their sisters were able to start a new foundation in neighboring Finland in November of 1988. Today, this monastery in Espoo, Finland,  has ten cells and a chapel, with six sisters praying especially for the people of Finland. It is the only cloistered Catholic monastery in the entire country!

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the sisters purchased a small apartment in downtown Moscow for a tiny Carmel. The difficulties involved and the limited number of sisters for a new monastery caused the sale of this apartment to the Divine Word Missionaries who have established St. Olga’s Parish with the purchase of a nearby building. In that first apartment is still an Icon of the Infant Jesus painted by Mother Miriam which is now seen by the Russian faithful.

The community in San Rafael numbers seven with four American sisters, one sister from England, one sister from Africa, and one sister from the Philippines. To celebrate their jubilee, they have three masses scheduled during the month of November to be celebrated by Most Rev. John Wester, Archbishop of Santa Fe (Nov. 1); Very Rev. Stephen Watson, O.C.D., Carmelite Provincial of the California/Arizona Province (Nov. 14); and Most Rev. Patrick McGrath, Bishop of San Jose (Nov. 24).

“… You will see that the majority of these houses have been founded not so much by man as by the mighty hand of God, and that, if we do not stand in His way, His Majesty loves to further the work He is doing.”        St. Teresa of Avila


The Call to Cuba

Sixty-six foot statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the bay in Havana, Cuba.

One of the blessings of the opening of new doors to the Catholic Church in Cuba has been the development of new apostolates on the island. Since January 2011, four sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, based in Alton, Ill., have been working at the Havana seminary. A year-and-a-half ago, one of our Executive Committee members answered the Master’s call and said yes to her own General’s Superior’s call to begin a new mission in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Sr. Stephania Newell, F.S.G.M., a religious sister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, never dreamed or desired to become a missionary. “But through much prayer and preparation,’ she said, “I have come to see this as God’s plan and another step and means to bring His merciful love to the poor, sick, and spiritually needy.”

Sr. Stephania is on the right
Sr. Stephania is on the right

Sister was an orphan adopted from Vietnam into a US Air Force family. Her Father is a permanent deacon in the church. She met the FSGMs in college entered the community at their Provincial Convent in Alton, Illinois, in 1995.

Showing that everything in our life is part of the tapestry of God’s plan for us, Sister said, “It came to me in prayer one day that just as the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Vietnam introduced my adopted Father and me to the Faith in a country where the Faith was suffering, God was now asking me to bring the Faith to a people in another foreign country.”

She adds: “I did not answer His call to the religious life to do my own will, but of Him who beckoned me. ‘A todo puedo hacerle frente, gracias a Cristo que me fortalece‘ – ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me'(Phil 4:13).”

To read Sr. Stephania’s complete testimonial and other fascinating stories, see the CMSWR’s newsletter from Spring 2015.

Handmaids on Rocky Top

Handmaids of the Precious Blood TN On the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16th, 2015, the Handmaids of the Precious Blood moved to their new property in New Market, Tennessee. The Sisters sold their property in Jemez Springs, New Mexico recently and have found a new home overlooking the Holston River.

The Handmaids of the Precious Blood found east Tennessee to be “stunningly beautiful” as they looked for property after theATVHPB sale of their New Mexico monastery. They embarked on an adventure to find their new home and even explored on a borrowed ATV! After much prayer and with the blessing of Bishop Stika, the Sisters signed the papers to make the move to the future site of Cor Jesu Monastery official.

The Sisters are extremely grateful for all who aided them in their move. Despite the long day of moving, they made sure to first set up the Oratory where they will have their Divine Office together and their Holy Hours of Eucharistic Adoration. They said “it was only right to expose Our Lord in the Monstrance, sing ‘O Salutaris Hostia’ and kneel before the Master of our new house in deep thanksgiving.”

Their beautiful new property in New Market is a 55 acre property overlooking the Holston River with the Smokey Mountains to the south and the Clinch Mountains to the north. You can view the property thanks to the work of Scott Maentz, their IT expert, who provided a bird’s eye view by filming it with his drone. Please keep the Sisters in your prayers as they transition to their new home.

“The Ground Zero of Prayer” – The Carmelites of Wahpeton

wahpetonThe Carmelite monastery in Wahpeton, North Dakota, has been called the “Ground Zero of Prayer,” says Fr. Peter Andrel, the priest who regularly hears the confessions of the 8 cloistered nuns who live in the Carmel of Mary. According to Father Peter, there hasn’t been a bad harvest in the neighboring fields for 80 years, citing the intercessory prayers of the nuns as a blessing on the area.

Father adds that “very few people are aware of the graces that flow from the hallowed halls of this place. I honestly have never had a prayer request go unanswered here, and usually, very quickly. They’re amazing.”

The Prioress, Mother Madonna, is an Air Force veteran and astonished her parents back in Texas in 1989 when she told them that she was going to enter a small cloistered monastery in North Dakota. “That love for our Lord had been growing since I was very young and I knew if I wanted to serve Him totally I couldn’t do it as a teacher, as a nurse or even in a parish,” she explains. “In order to give myself fully, the cloister would be the only place I could do that.”

Most people are aware of the Discalced Carmelites who were founded by St. Teresa of Avila as a reform of the Carmelite Order. The Wahpeton sisters are Carmelites of the primitive observance and instead of O.C.D. after their name, you will see O.Carm. They are one of only four such monasteries of women in the U.S., the others being in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

The Carmel in Wahpeton was founded in the Marian Year of 1954. They observe strict Papal enclosure. They pray seven times a day and rise at midnight to pray “against the sins of darkness committed at night,” says Father. “That’s powerful.”

There were two articles online recently about the community. Click here to read the first on on Mother Madonna, the prioress, and click here! to read the second on the community in general.

On August 16, 2015, come join other pilgrims for the 59th annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Prairies at the monastery. There will be rosary, mass celebrated by Bishop John Folda, confession and a picnic. And a chance to meet the sisters!

With zeal I am zealous for the Lord God of Hosts