Category Archives: Women’s Communities

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.”

“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!


Sisters of Life Head West

slThe Sisters of Life are one of the fastest growing religious communities in the United States with 26 young women entering in just the past two years. Thanks to this rapid growth, the Sisters of Life have expanded by opening their tenth convent in Denver from which they hope to evangelize and promote a culture of life on college campuses.

On September 16th, the Denver Mission Team of Sr. Mary Louise Concepta, Sr. Maris Stella, Sr. Maria Anne Michela, and Sr. Fiat Marie joyfully celebrated the opening of St. Mary Magdalene Convent in Denver. They were joined by His Excellency Archbishop Samuel Aquila who celebrated Mass and blessed the convent.

denver3The Sisters of Life plan to evangelize on several college campuses near their new home in Denver. They will be teaming up with chaplains and FOCUS missionaries to provide a ministry of presence and prayer. Their new college outreach program is crucial to their mission as college-aged women are the most likely to pursue an abortion in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. The Sisters have had great success in promoting life, however, having served over 6,000 women since 2002 with over 90% choosing life for their child.

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the order and recipient of the 2015 Pro Fidelitate et Virtute Award, said, “It was from this city in 1993 that St. John Paul II exhorted those gathered for World Youth Day to defend the sacredness of human life. Our sisters look forward to strengthening the Denver lay faithful committed to building a culture of life.” The Sisters of Life hope to continue to faithfully respond to the Holy Father’s charge and promote the sacredness of life in their new home.

A Blossoming Community in Boston

20151003Investiture_0106“O Lord, my God, have done many wondrous deeds! and in Your plans for us there is none to equal You. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount.” These words from the psalmist come to mind for Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart when reflecting on all that the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth have experienced recently.

One of the major events which the community is celebrating is their recent move to a new convent in the Archdiocese of Boston. The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth moved to Quincy, Massachusetts where they are now blessed to be part of Saint John the Baptist Parish on Saturday, September 19. They signed a five-year lease with the option to renew allowing for growth and development of the young community.

20151003Investiture_0167The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth also joyously welcomed two new aspirants and celebrated the Novitiate Investiture Ceremony of four new Novices. The community along with the families of the new Sisters, friends of the Community, as well as, priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese of Boston were joined by Cardinal Seán O’Malley who was the main celebrant during the ceremonies.

Mother Olga founded the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in 2011. Their ministry is focused on loving God and our neighbors through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The spirituality of the community is guided by Blessed Charles de Foucauld’s spirituality as he lived his life imitating the example of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth. Their charism is inspired by Pope St. John Paul II call for a new evangelization and is to be Ambassadors of Christ through word and deed.

Dominican Nuns of Marbury Vocation Letters

marburyThe Dominican Nuns in Marbury, Alabama, have issued a series of letters between a woman (fictional) discerning a vocation and a Dominican nun. The names may have been changed to protect the innocent (as they said in the old Dragnet series) but the letters do accurately depict Dominican monastic life as it is typically lived at Marbury. The sisters wish to keep their day-to-day life veiled behind the enclosure but you get a good glimpse of Dominican life behind the walls as you read on!

“Melanie” writes to the Novice Mistress “Magistra” which is Latin for “lady teacher.” Melanie also writes to her sister “Clare” who is curious about her “Come & See” visit to the monastery. After she enters the monastery, she writes to her family. Here are some excerpts:

It seems to be a common misconception that “extroverts should be active, introverts should be contemplative.  However our community history does not bear that out…. God calls people of all temperaments to live for Him in the contemplative life…. From Sr. Mary Magistra

It is a great motive for fidelity and joy in living our cloistered, contemplative life, to know that we are living it on behalf of and in union marbury1with our brethren the Dominican friars (and the other members of the Dominican family) in their consecration to God and in their preaching for the salvation of souls. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When Mom and Dad experience first-hand the peace to be found here, and see for themselves the joy of the nuns, they understand much better why such a life could be attractive and fulfilling for their own child. From Sr. Mary Magistra

When is the best time to enter religious life? Without delay. From Sr. Mary Magistra

(Melanie, writing to her family after entering) Since this was my first time being here in the monastery for the Paschal Triduum, I had to use of lot of energy just following everything and trying to turn the page at the right time, but I am so looking forward to having these ceremonies grow into a part of me over the years….  It is truly the liturgy that gives direction and movement to our lives, drawing us ever deeper each year into union with the Mysteries of Christ, “whom we desire to love solely.”

The letters are accompanied by charming pictures. As a visitor to Marbury last spring, I can vouch for the accuracy of the images!

For more information, visit the Marbury website.



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!