Mercedarians Welcome New Postulant

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Women's Communities | No comments yet.
odemparentsOn February 2, 2015, the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament officially welcomed Yvelyne Bernard as the newest member of their community. Originally from in New York, Yvelyne moved to Florida when she was teenager. After college, she moved to Louisiana and worked in campus ministry. On a Come & See weekend, she met the Mercedarian sisters in Baton Rouge and the rest is history.

The sisters say that right from the get-go, Yvelyne fit in like she had been there for years. So many times, religious have said upon visiting their future community for the first time—I knew I was home the minute I entered the building.

During the ceremony, held on the Feast of the Presentation (February 2), Yvelyne’s parents were able to be in attendance. The sisters said, “Normally, the ceremony is closed, but her parents had never visited odembefore, so this was a perfect opportunity for them to have peace of mind and heart, to know that she is safe and happy. It was a beautiful day. We are grateful to God for blessing us with vocations to our community. We humbly pray that vocations continue to come. We have a couple of women who are visiting and others who are interested or planning on visiting. Keep these women in your prayers. May they be docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”

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Daisy’s Thank You

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News, Women's Communities | No comments yet.

In this Year of Consecrated Life, I think it is time to post this thank you letter that we received from a young girl several years ago. I saved it because I loved it. I think you will feel the same…

Daisy - Dear Sisters

 

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A Brother to All: Br. Thomas Frey, CSC

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Men's communities | No comments yet.

thomas freyIn the next issue of Religious Life, Br. Thomas Frey, CSC, will tell his vocation story about his life as a brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross. Earlier this year, an article appeared about him in the Hilltop Views, a student newspaper from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX.

After many years as a teacher, Brother Thomas retired to Brother Vincent Pieau Residence which is on the campus of St. Edward’s. But that does not mean that he really is retired. Brother Thomas is a sacristan and brings Communion to brothers who are in rehabilitation and to a 104-year-old woman in a nursing home. He also leads a rosary at the Grotto.

Brother Thomas often accompanies a brother at the moment of death. He guesses that he has been with 30 brothers as they have journeyed from this life. He said that when they come to this moment, “they’re looking forward to heaven, I mean that’s it. It’s not like, oh my gosh – I’m going to die it’s all over. No, no, it’s just beginning.”

When Brother Thomas was in formation, there were 90 other men studying to be brothers. In the past twenty years, only five men have entered religious life as a Holy Cross brother. It is a shame because the vocation of a brother is unique. A brother is a brother to all, a friend to all. The brothers who are saints have demonstrated a love for humanity that makes them approachable and close to us. Look at St. (Brother) Andre Bessette, C.S.C, a humble doorkeeper who had a million people process by his casket in 1937. And St. Francis of Assisi, the little poor one, who was and is a great friend of the poor.

Brother Thomas says: “A case can be made for the truth that Saint Joseph by his very vocation to live poverty, chastity and obedience in the presence of Jesus and Mary all his life is the origin of the first brother.” Brother Thomas is that Joseph-like man by his dedication to his students and in his twilight years, still a beacon of light and encouragement to his fellow brothers of the Holy Cross.

“Living the religious life as a Brother of the Holy Cross from February 2, 1950, until the present day, January 2, 2015,” said Brother Thomas, “my experience has been truly wonderful.”

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peru martyrsMichal Tomaszek and Zbigniew Strzalkowski, two Conventual Franciscan Friars from Poland, had been in Peru for several years ministering to the poor and needy in the parish of Pariacoto, in the Diocese of Chimbote.  There, they were faithful to the difficult task of fulfilling the needs of the parish while at the same time making the rounds to several needy villages in the area.  Despite the difficulties of the conditions, the Friars never failed to leave behind their Franciscan brand of humility, poverty, and kindness; and their ability to see the good in every situation.

Unfortunately, their work was targeted by the terrorist group “the Shining Path,” who had vowed to escalate their violence against the Catholic Church.  In August of 1991, the group publicly announced that they would kill one priest every week in the Diocese of Chimbote.

While the first priest the guerrillas targeted escaped execution, Michal and Zbigniew were not so lucky.  On August 9th after the evening Eucharist celebration, they were taken from the church, led out of the village to the local cemetery, and killed.

Sixteen days later, the group targeted a third victim. Alessandro Dordiwas a diocesan priest from Italy, who was sent to Peru in 1980.  He was assigned to the northern boundary of the Diocese of Chimbote and had focused his ministry on the poor peasant farmers in the very rural areas of the Diocese.  It was because of his affiliation with these disadvantaged groups that Alessandro became the next target of the guerrillas.  As he drove from one town to another to celebrate the last Mass of the day, the guerrillas blocked the road with stones.  When he stepped out of his car, they executed him.

A nun who knew the Franciscans said, “They stayed there until the end. This is not something you improvise; it’s a gift. I saw Fr. Zbigniew a few days before his martyrdom, and I asked him if they were being threatened. He smiled and said, ‘We cannot abandon the people. One never knows, but if they kill us, bury us here.'”

The deaths of these three men have been a reminder to Christians everywhere of our call to be faithful to the Gospel “even unto death.”  Their funerals were a testament to the love the people had for them, and their devotion to the native communities they served. While Peru has had saints and blessed before, this beloved priest and these two devoted Conventual Franciscan Friars have become the first Martyrs of Peru.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Norbertine Vocation Story

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Men's communities | No comments yet.
Fr. Claude (l) and a confrere at prayer

Fr. Claude (l) and a confrere at prayer

Our Sunday Visitor has a wonderful article about a young Norbertine priest who is part of the community of Norbertines at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California. Fr. Claude Williams, O.Praem., articulates the beauty of Norbertine life extremely.

Father Claude grew up in New Orleans where he was talk by religious sisters. While attending Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Carmelite sister from Alhambra, California, suggested that he become acquainted with the Norbertines. He was very impressed with the liturgical life of the Norbertines and found that he “could not imagine spending my life anywhere else but the abbey.”

After entering the order, Claude found that he liked the regular monastic routine. For Norbertines, this begins with 5:30 a.m. morning prayer, 6:30 a.m. Mass, followed by prayers of thanksgiving. A 4:00 p.m. Holy Hour is followed by vespers. After dinner comes night prayer and lights out at 10:00 p.m. The Norbertine motto is: “Prepared for Every Good Work.” The first and foremost good work is the reverent celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Father Claude is assigned to a Norbertine parish in Costa Mesa, CA. Though Norbertines staff parishes, they are not diocesan priests. They are Canons Regular meaning that they live in community and share a common life. It is the life of the Apostles where everything was held in common and they prayed together several times a day.

Father professed solemn vows in 2009. In addition to poverty, chastity and obedience, Norbertines profess a fourth vow of Conversion of Ways. “The limits placed on us by the holy vows are formative,” he said. “They help you to be what you are supposed to be.” A fellow religious told him, “Today, you will make your vows. One day, the vows will make you.”

For more information on the Norbertines, visit their website.

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Handmaids Sell New Mexico Monastery

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Cloistered life | No comments yet.

opbOn October 17, 2014, the Handmaids of the Precious Blood agreed to the sale of their former Motherhouse in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, to the sovereign nation of the Jemez Pueblo. Rev. Mother Marietta, H.P.B., and the Pueblo’s governor, Joshua Madalena, were the signers of the agreement, which had a closing date of December 31, 2014.

The New Mexico monastery of Cor Jesu, located in a rural area in the mountains between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, was home to the Handmaids of the Precious Blood for sixty-seven years. It was in 1947 that Father Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Handmaids to support the priesthood by their hidden lives of prayer and sacrifice, and daily Eucharistic Adoration. Father Gerald knew that “in strengthening the priest you strengthen the whole Church.” The sisters visibly display this charism by the wearing of a wine-red habit, symbolic of the Precious Blood of Christ, and the white veil, symbolizing the white Host of the Eucharist.

With the sale, the sisters will have completed the move to their temporary home (though they are still working out some business and legal details for the transfer to Tennessee) on the grounds of Christ Prince of Peace Retreat Center in the diocese of Knoxville under the paternal care of Bishop Richard F. Stika. With the arrival of the five sisters from New Mexico and the presence of their newest member and first native Tennessean, Sr. Christiana, the sisters had a very joyous family reunion.

Bishop Stika said, “Their prayers and many sacrifices as a silent proclamation of the Gospel are the very ‘soul and leaven’ of the Church’s evangelization efforts and works of mercy. Indeed, cloistered religious are truly indispensable co-workers in the mystery of redemption.”

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Candles & the Feast of the Presentation

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Liturgical Year | No comments yet.

Today, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple, is also the celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life. This day of prayer, 40 days after Christmas, was instituted in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. Also known as Candlemas Day, it is the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ, the light of the world. Consecrated men and women, by their profession of vows, are called to be this light of Christ in the world.

There was an article on the internet talking about the link between Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day. It is not as farfetched as it first appears.

Candlemas Day got its name about thousand years ago when people began bringing candles, their source of light, to be blessed. In the darkened church, the Canticle of Simeon was sung. Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah (Luke 2: 29-32). When he saw Jesus, he took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:

Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

One recalls the words of Isaiah as well: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined (Isaiah 9:2).

An ancient English poem, called Candlemas Day, reads in part:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

The Feast of the Presentation will be celebrated in the United States in parishes on Sunday, February 8, 2015. Let us pray for those who have consecrated their lives to God by the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, that they may live these vows with renewed fervor, open hearts and steadfastness for the sake of God’s people and their own salvation. May they be a light that ignites the hearts of all.

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Children’s Book Explains Religious Life

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in General interest | No comments yet.

bonosaIt is very hard, if not impossible, to find a children’s book that explains and explores the beauty of a religious vocation. Many children have never ever seen or spoken to a religious sister, brother or priest, and probably do not have the faintest idea what religious life is all about. How will vocations be sparked in young hearts if they are not introduced to this beautiful life of self-giving to God?

Therefore, a new book on religious life by M. Cristina Borges with illustrations by Michaela Harrison fills a big void. Entitled Of Bells and Cells, it explains that we are all called to a vocation in life but some are called in a special way. The book makes it clear that religious communities are families who pass on a way of living, praying and thinking about God from one generation to the next.

Terms like postulant and novice are explained, as well as what daily life in a monastery or convent is like. The ceremonies for new religious, the meaning of a habit and a new name show children that these individuals are entirely dedicated to God. There are wonderful pictures that show the typical habits of Franciscans, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Poor Clares, Redemptorists, Carthusians, Missionaries of Charity and the Conceptionists (for trivia buffs the first congregation of women to come to the USA.).

One of the most effective areas of the book is the section on the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, explained in a very appealing way. Religious, she says, who profess the vow of chastity “work to be as pure as the Virgin Mary, giving birth to Jesus in people’s hearts.”

The call to a cloistered or active life is delineated but “all religious imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, doing simple things very well for love of Jesus.” The concept that men who are religious can also be priests is explained in detail along with what a priest as an alter Christus means. Finally, the appendix gives the history behind the aforementioned religious orders as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor and a few religious saints.

The book can be ordered from St. Bonosa Books (stbonosabooks.com). It is a beautiful way to ignite in the souls of young people a desire for this often hidden vocation in our secular world.

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The Life of St. Benedict for Children

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Men's communities | No comments yet.

osb 1It is often difficult to find good, non-syrupy books about the lives of the saints. Therefore, it is a real joy to read a new book about the life of Saint Benedict that stays true to the biographical details known to us through the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Entitled The Life of Saint Benedict, the book was written by a son of Saint Benedict, Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B. Brother John is a monk from the Monastero di San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and his twin sister, Scholastica. A native of Michigan, Brother John entered the Benedictines in Norcia in 2005 and made his solemn profession in 2009. He is currently studying theology in Rome.

The 48-page, hardcover book is charmingly illustrated by Mark Brown, a lay oblate of the monastery, with pictures that are engaging enough to enthrall a small child yet full of rich details to interest adults. What child doesn’t like a story with a dragon in it? Featured in the book is the close relationship between Benedict and Scholastica, the founding of the Benedictine family, the miracles attributed to Benedict, and his virtuous life, totally dedicated to God.

Brother John

Brother John

Brother John explained why he embarked upon this project: “The Life of Saint Benedict is filled with great imagery and authentic monastic wisdom. The Benedictine monastic life expands over 1,500 years of lived tradition and it has a home on all continents of the world! This book was simply put together so that families, most especially kids, can get a chance to understand the greatness and uniqueness of my holy founder, not to mention his twin sister Saint Scholastica, who also plays a central role in this book.”

The Life of St. Benedict can be purchased from Ignatius Press (1-800-651-1531, ignatiuspress.com). In this year dedicated to the Consecrated Life, this book is a great introduction to one of the giants of the Church whose way of life remains as attractive and vital today as it was 1,500 years ago.

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Poor Clares of Omaha Have a New Home!

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Cloistered life | No comments yet.

osc omahaThe Poor Clare Sisters of Omaha have a new home!

This Poor Clare community was the first one to be established in the United States. In 1875, Sr. Mary Magdalen and her blood sister, Constance Bentivoglio, departed from Italy for the United States. Attempts to establish a monastery in New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia failed but in 1878, Bishop James O’Connor of Omaha and philanthropist John Creighton (of Creighton University fame) welcomed them with open arms.

Their new monastery is on a leased parcel of land on the grounds of Mount Michael Abbey in Elkhorn, Nebraska. This peaceful setting will give them the quiet and space that is very suitable to the nine nuns life of prayer. There are rooms for 18 sisters in the new monastery.

Sr. Theresina Santiago, O.S.C.

Sr. Theresina Santiago, O.S.C.

In a newspaper article in 2011, Sr. Theresina said, “There is so much to pray for. Nothing can ever happen to us that is beyond God’s power to do something about.” According to one source, John Creighton asked the Poor Clares to pray for a friend of his who didn’t have children. Some time later, John Creighton received the word: “Twins arriving. Call off the Poor Clares!”

There is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the enclosure of the Poor Clares. The nuns are having an open house at the new monastery on Sunday, February 8th, 2015, from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at 22625 Edgewater Rd, Elkhorn, NE 68022. You will be able to tour the entire Monastery, beginning in the chapel, where Sister Theresina will explain the way of life of a Poor Clare Sister. This is the only time the contemplative area will be open to the public, so you won’t want to miss this exciting tour!

For more information, visit their website: omahapoorclare.org

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