(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!


Keeping Her Lamp Ready: Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus

Mother Mary Teresita and the Poor Clares in Palos Park with the late Francis Cardinal George
Mother Mary Teresita and the Poor Clares in Palos Park with the late Francis Cardinal George

Aspiring to attend college, get married and have many children, Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus’ plans changed dramatically when she chose to follow God’s call to become a Poor Clare.

Mother Abbess Mary Teresita of Jesus heard God calling her to impact the world by pursing a religious vocation. After reading Mother Mary Francis’ book A Right to be Merry, she knew that God was asking her to serve Him in a cloistered community. In 1963, Mother Mary Teresita entered the Poor Clare monastery in Roswell New Mexico, the same monastery which Mother Mary Francis belonged to. She has since relocated to Chicago re-establishing the Order there at the invitation of Cardinal George.

Mother Mary Teresita’s life as a Poor Clare is one primarily of prayer with day punctuated with prayer every three hours beginning at midnight. She says that rising to pray at night is like keeping her lamp ready as you do not know the hour when Christ will return. In between prayer Mother Teresita works, mainly in silence. All of the Poor Clares in community tend a garden, bake, mend clothes and make items to sell at their gift shop. They also keep a perpetual fast abstaining from meat and partaking in simple meals. Their breakfast is coffee and bread followed by lunch which is a vegetable, potato and a “third portion,” typically a cheese or eggs for protein, lastly, the sisters eat dinner which is comprised of bread and milk with cheese or nuts.

Mother Mary Teresita of Jesus and all the Poor Clares in Palos Park pray for the Church and the world. All benefit spiritually from the hidden lives of these dedicated religious women. For a better glimpse into their lives, read , the book which inspired Mother Mary Teresita to pursue a her vocation with a cloistered community, A Right to Be Merry by Mother Mary Francis.

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.

Remembering Our Nation’s Martyrs

Mass is celebrated at the future shrine for the Florida Martyrs.

Many know of the famous North American Martyrs, however, not many know of other martyrs in our nation’s history. This will hopefully no longer be the case as the cause for canonization of 82 martyrs from Florida will be opened on October 12, 2015. The martyrs, who will be known as Antonio Cuipa and 81 companions, were a diverse group of missionaries and Native Americans killed between 1549 and 1706 in Florida.

Antonio Cuipa was an Apalachee Indian from San Luis Mission (Tallahassee) converted by Franciscan missionaries. His studies suggest that he may have been preparing for the priesthood. His studies were cut short, however, when Creek Indians hired by an English governor from the Carolinas nailed him to a cross and set him on fire. Witnesses to the event claim that Antonio saw the Blessed Virgin Mary while dying on the cross.

There are many religious among the martyrs including Dominican, Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries. The first Dominican martyr in the country, Fr. Luis Cancer, was killed near Tampa Bay. Fr. Pedro Martinez was the first Jesuit killed in the country and had been sent by St. Francis Borgia to Florida where he was killed by Native Americans when he refused to abandon his companions.

Attempts for the canonization of the martyrs has occurred in the past, however, they have been stalled by events such as World War II. The current campaign began ten years ago when three friends visited the site where several martyrs were killed and agreed to establish a shrine. After organizing a team to aid them, the cause to canonize the martyrs took on new life, though money is needed to proceed in both the construction of the shrine and canonization process.

Antonio Cuipa and 81 companions give insight into the history of the Church in America and displays how many suffered to spread the faith. With many people facing persecution around the world today, the heroic martyrs of Florida serve as inspiration and takes on special significance as the Church continues to  spread the Good News.

Fort Wayne Diocese Welcomes Consecrated Virgin

cv fort wayneOn the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2015, Jessica Hayes was consecrated to a life of virginity at a rite celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Many friends, priests and well-wishers joined the 38-year old high school teacher as she declared her resolution to persevere in holy virginity as a bride of Christ.

Dressed in a wedding gown, Jessica was accompanied by two attendants. As part of the ceremony, she said to the bishop: “Father, receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God’s help, I here profess before you and God’s holy people.” To signify the spousal relationship between Jessica and the Lord, the Bishop gave the newly consecrated virgin a veil (“Receive this veil, by which you are to show that you have been chosen from other women to be dedicated to the service of Christ and of His Body, which is the Church.”) and a ring (“Receive the ring that marks you as a bride of Christ. Keep unstained your fidelity to your Bridegroom, that you may one day be admitted to the wedding feast of everlasting joy.”) She also received a Liturgy of the Hours, showing that she is praying the Church’s official prayers along with other consecrated individuals.

Jessica told the diocese’s Catholic newspaper that she felt a “deep gratitude for the Church and for being Catholic, knowing whatever desire is placed upon our hearts by God, the Church has a place for us. And this is my place.”

The model and mirror for a life of virginity is the Blessed Mother of Jesus. As the bishop said in his homily, “It is God who gives the grace of virginity. He gave this grace to the young woman of Nazareth, to Mary, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to choose the life of virginity. Mary made a personal decision in faith to remain a virgin, to offer her heart to the Lord. She wanted to be His faithful bride.”

“Thus, Mary became the model for all those who have chosen to serve the Lord with an undivided heart in virginity.It seems most appropriate that Jessica gives herself totally to Jesus, is consecrated to a life of virginity, on a feast of Our Lady, who gave herself totally to God as the virgin handmaid of the Lord.”

Jessica is the only consecrated virgin in the diocese and will continue her work as a high school theology teacher at a local high school.

To read a reflection by Jessica and the bishop’s homily and to see all the beautiful pictures, click here!

The Cistercians – Contemplation in Community

Genesse Community-Nov2012--1024x729In the eleventh century, three monks departed from Molesme Abbey in France to found the first Cistercian monastery, Citeaux Abbey. By founding the order as a community, St. Robert, St. Alberic and St. Stephen emphasized the importance of common life within the Cistercian Order.

The Cistercian Order quickly grew particularly when St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrate today, entered the monastery in 1112. The saint’s entrance alone displayed the importance of community as he convinced thirty friends and relatives to enter with him! St. Bernard is known as the spiritual father of the Cistercian Order which continues to thrive throughout the world today.

The Abbey of Genesse is one monastery in the United States which belongs to the legacy of the founding community. Located in western New York, the Abbey of Genesse is a community of contemplative monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.) commonly known as Trappists. The monks strive to seek God in a stable community they refer to as a “school of brotherly love.” Those at the Abbey try to maintain an environment conducive to contemplation as they pray for the World and Church in their apostolate of prayer. The monks observe silence, speaking only when necessary in order to create an environment of prayer. In addition to prayer and contemplation, the monks engage in various labors in community throughout the day such as farming, cooking, maintenance, hospitality, formation, care of the infirm and bake their famous Monks’ Bread.

The Diocese of Syracuse recently included the Abbey as a part of their summer pilgrimage webpage. The 3 minute video done by the Diocese gives a glimpse of what life is like for the community of monks and allows for insight into the legacy of Cistercians like St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

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