St. Clare – A Family Affair

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in Cloistered life, Women's Communities | No comments yet.
St. Agnes of Assisi

St. Agnes of Assisi

I can’t remember where I read this but a bishop once asked a priest (I think Father Hardon, SJ) about vocation programs and asked, “What is the best way to attract priestly vocations?” The answer, “Become a saint, Your Excellency.”

Holiness is attractive and it reminds me of our saint for today, St. Clare of Assisi. The foundress of the Poor Clares, the 2nd Franciscans Order, Clare placed her life into the hands of St. Francis of Assisi in 1212 at the age of about seventeen. Sixteen days later, her younger sister Agnes secretly left the family home to join her sister. Emissaries, sent by their angry Father, dragged Agnes by her hair out of the monastery.They abandoned her in a field because she was so unexpectedly heavy, something viewed as Divine intervention. Their mother, Blessed Hortulana, and younger sister Beatrice, later joined them and their cousin Ruffino was an early companion of St. Francis.  Holiness attracts.

So on this feast day of St. Clare, as we pray for our relatives who may seem far from the faith, let us invoke St. Clare and St. Agnes and ask for their assistance in helping us to become saints, so we can inspire our nearest and dearest to draw closer to the Lord themselves.

O dearest, look on heaven that invites us, and bear the Cross and follow Christ who preceded us; indeed, after various and many tribulations we shall enter through Him into His glory.  Love with your whole heart God and Jesus, His son, crucified for our sins, and never let His memory escape your mind;  make yourself mediate continually on the mysteries of the Cross and the anguish of the mother standing beneath the Cross.

—St. Agnes of Assisi


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Who’s Who in the Catholic Church

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | 2 comments
St. Dominic and the Dominican Saints

St. Dominic and the Dominican Saints

This year the Church will begin the Year of Consecrated Life highlighting the lives of service to God’s people of monks, nuns, sisters, friars, and orders of priests as well as the men and women in secular institutes and societies of apostolic life. The Year for Consecrated Life officially begins on November 30, 2014, the first Sunday of Advent. Pope Francis has called for a special yearlong focus on consecrated life, asking the Church’s religious sisters, brothers and priests to “wake up the world” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope. It will end on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life.

The secular press freely tosses about terms like nun, sister, priest, monk without really knowing what they are specifically referring to. So, for the upcoming Year of Consecrated Life, here are some definitions which may serve as a helpful guide to distinguish the different forms of consecrated life:

Monk: a member of a community of men, usually contemplative, under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, living according to the Order’s Rule. Examples: Benedictines (including Cistercians, Trappists), Carthusians, and Camaldolese.

Nun: a woman under solemn vows (eg. poverty, chastity, obedience) living in a cloistered, contemplative religious community. Examples: Poor Clares, Carmelites, Benedictines, Passionists. See

Sister: a generic term for a religious woman whether cloistered or a member of  a congregation under simple vows. Sisters are part of a spiritual family, share possessions in common and live together in Christ-like charity. Examples: Franciscans, Little Sisters of the Poor, Olivetan Benedictines

Friar: from the Latin word frater (brother). Friars are members of the mendicant orders. Unlike monks, friars engage in work outside of the monastery. Examples: Dominicans (Friars Preachers), Franciscans (Friars Minor), Carmelites (White Friars).

Diocesan Priests: men ordained by a Catholic bishop to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments of the Church in a particular diocese. They make three promises at ordination: to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, to obey their bishop and to live a celibate lives.

Canons Regular: priests who have vowed themselves to the service of a particular parish or oratory along with other clergy, with whom they live a common, religious life of poverty, chastity, and obedience in a residence (eg. rectory, abbey) attached to a church under the authority of a superior. Distinct from monks, canons publicly pray the Liturgy of the Hours in common and administer the Sacraments in a particular church. Examples: Norbertines, Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, Canons Regular of St. John Cantius

Clerics Regular: religious institutes or orders whose members profess vows, live in community according to a rule approved by the Church, and engage in a variety of apostolic work. Unlike canons, they do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours in common to devote themselves more fully to apostolate work. Example: Jesuits, Camillians

Secular Institute: a society of consecrated life, clerical or lay, whose members profess the evangelical counsels. Its members are not bound to live a common life but strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within. Examples: Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, Schoenstatt Fathers & Sisters. See

Societies of Apostolic Life: its members, without religious vows, are dedicated to pursuit of an apostolic purpose, such as educational or missionary work, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life and strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions. Examples: Oratorians of St. Philip Neri, Daughters of Charity.

Consecrated Virgins & Widows: one of the ancient forms of consecrated life whose roots are found in the New Testament. These are women who, with the Church’s approval, live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.” Consecrated virgins are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite (Consecratio Virginum), are betrothed mystically to Christ and “are dedicated to the service of the Church” ( Consecrated Widows are experiencing a resurgence and groups are forming to assist in the resurrection of this form of consecrated life.

Hermits/Anchorites/Eremites: those dedicated to God in a consecrated life, professing the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop, and observing his or her own plan of life under the bishop’s direction and approval.

Comments and corrections and clarifications welcome!!

(The image is from the monastery of the Dominican Nuns at Estavayer le Lac, Switzerland, founded in 1280. The Dominican nuns have continually praised God in that location for almost 750 years.)




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The Fastest Nun in the West

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

Blandina SegaleThe Archdiocese of Santa Fe recently announced that it had opened the sainthood cause for Sister Blandina Segale, SC, the first Catholic in the history of New Mexico to receive such an honor. Sr. Blandina was born in Cicagna, Liguria, Italy, in 1850 and died in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1941. Her family immigrated to Ohio when she was 4 years old.

A member of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati since 1866, Sister came to Colorado in 1870′s where she taught poor children and later transferred to Santa Fe where she co-founded schools and helped the disadvantaged, sick, immigrants and and Native Americans.

Her life is also the stuff of legend (see Crisis magazine article). She personally knew Billy the Kid and her efforts to save a man from a lynch mob became an episode on the old Western show, Death Valley Days (“The Fastest Nun in the West”). Letters she wrote to her sister resulted in a book called:  At the End of the Santa Fe Trail.

It is believed that she talked Billy the Kid out of scalping four doctors who refused to treat one of his companions. She was also in a covered wagon that Billy intended to rob. When he saw that Sister Blandina was inside, “He just tipped his hat and left,” said Archbishop Michael Sheehan.

“There are other holy people who have worked here,” said Allen Sanchez, president and CEO for CHI St. Joseph’s Children in Albuquerque, a social service agency Segale founded. “But this would be a saint (who) started institutions in New Mexico that are still in operation.”


Friar and Filmmaker – Friar John Clote

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

cloteLooking for a good DVD to while away the summer evenings? Check out Friar John Clote’s documentaries on a wide array of fascinating Catholic topics.

I first met John when I went to a preview of his film, “Ocean of Mercy,” the story of Pope John Paul II, St. Faustina, St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., and Divine Mercy. Amazingly, as John points out in the documentary, the three lived in Poland at the same time yet did not know each other.

Friar John is a Conventual Franciscan friar who is studying to become a priest. He has taken a circuitous route to the priesthood having been in the mainstream television news world and Catholic radio. His latest work is called: “Purgatory: The Forgotten Church” (released in 2013 by Lightbridge, a ministry of the Conventual Franciscans of Saint Bonaventure). Others subjects he has beautifully illuminated include such notables as Pope St. John Paul II, Ven. Solanus Casey, Bl. Francis X. Seelos and St. Maria Goretti.

He began his media career at NBC news and laments the negative perception that the media has of Catholicism. “They have a kind of a rabid hatred of the church, and it’s rather disturbing, to be honest,” he said. “You have to wonder where all that comes from. I think it comes from (the fact that) the church is the only public institution that consistently has said that there is such thing as sexual morality, there is such thing as abortion and pro-life, their stance on assisted suicide, on accountability – all of those things.”

As a child, John chose the confirmation name “Francis,” and here he is many years later preparing to be a Franciscan priest! He is currently assigned to the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee. God willing, John will be ordained to the priesthood in May 2016.

a solemnly professed friar assigned to the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee – See more at:

Check out the complete story in the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

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An Observer From the Vatican

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

Guy-Consolmagno-Vatican-ObservatoryJesuit brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, was recently awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for “outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist” by the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences. According to the Vatican Observatory website, he is the curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo. “His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.”

Brother Guy received his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona in 1978. After leaving MIT, he joined the Peace Corps for two years. In 1993, he joined the Vatican Observatory.

“I once caused a stir in a church in Hawaii by announcing that I was ‘an observer from the Vatican,’” Said Brother Guy. “Indeed, I am. As it happens, I was in Hawaii to use the telescopes there, just as I also observe with the Vatican’s own telescope in Arizona. That is my job with the Vatican Observatory.”

Brother Guy, says the AAS, “occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief.”

Brother Guy himself says, “The God I believe in is not of the universe, but existed before the universe began; not a part of nature, but super-natural. If you believe in that kind of God, then there is room to ask how the rest of the world works, and room to wonder if it works by regular laws. We know from scripture that God is responsible for the universe, in a step-by- step manner. Genesis outlines a creation story that is fundamentally different from the Babylonian story in that rather than the physical universe being an accident, Genesis tells us that God deliberately willed it to exist.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God;
all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.



Little Sisters First Profession

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

profession2014On Saturday, July 19, three young women made their first profession of vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and hospitality as Little Sisters of the Poor at St. Ann’s Novitiate in Queens Village, NY.  Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh was the main celebrant and homilist.

Following is a brief introduction of the new Little Sisters:

Sr. Amy Catherine Joseph (Hagedorn), a native of Indiana, met the Little Sisters while a nursing student in Evansville. She received her first obedience for their Home in Philadelphia.

Sr. Elisabeth de l’Eucharistie (Dugré), from Québec, Canada, met the Little Sisters while working as a baker in Montréal. In addition to her culinary skills, Sister Elisabeth is an accomplished flutist. Her sister played the cello for the Profession ceremony, and her mom sang a beautiful meditation hymn in French! Sister Elisabeth was assigned to their Home in Dinan, France, the third home of the Congregation and the site where St. Jeanne Jugan worked with the Brothers of St. John of God to draft the original Constitutions of the congregation.

Sr. Maria Carmen Therese (Ozuna) was born in Mexico but then migrated to the United States, settling in the Philadelphia area. Sister Maria Carmen worked as a child care provider before entering their congregation. Her sister performed a beautiful meditation hymn in Spanish during the ceremony. Sister Maria Carmen Therese is headed to Jeanne Jugan Residence in Washington, D.C.

Click here to enjoy a slide show of the new Little Sisters!




St. Sharbel, Saint for the World

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

sharbelSt. Sharbel (or Charbel) Makhluf was born in 1828 as Youssef Antoun Makhluf. His father died when he was only three, though his mother re-married to a man who later sought Holy Orders. The family’s piety sparked in Youssef a desire to learn about the Saints. He began to spend long hours in daily prayer, and, in 1851, Youssef left home to enter the Lebanese Maronite Order.

The Maronites still use Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic that Jesus Himself spoke, and take their name from the hermit-priest, Saint Maron, who died in 410 AD.They have never been in schism with Rome.

Youssef’s training began at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq, though he was later transferred to the Monastery of St. Maron. Here, Youssef received his religious habit and took the name “Sharbel,” which is the name of a second century martyr from Antioch.

 Although he was ordained a priest, he was also called to a hermetic life. Nevertheless, whenever a Superior requested his assistance outside of the hermitage, Sharbel would cheerfully obey. Many sought his counsel and admired his life. Sharbel never raised his eyes except to look up at Heaven in prayer. For this reason, those who saw him never were able to see his face.


In December of 1898, at age 70, Sharbel suffered a stroke and was born into eternal life. Even after his death, none beheld his eyes since they were shut. His eyes in death were as they had been in life: hidden.


The evening of his death brought severe, snowy weather. Many locals wanted desperately to see Sharbel (many were already calling him “saint”), and to receive one final blessing from him simply by attending his burial journey. The cold and howling wind at his high-elevation hermitage made the villagers understand the suffering Sharbel had endured for Christ. St. Sharbel interceded for his little flock, however, and the weather subsided so that the people were able to make the journey to see their “saint” one last time.

 St. Sharbel is honored as a Saint in the Roman and Eastern Rite Churches. The veneration of St. Sharbel allows the Church to “breathe with both lungs,” as Pope St. John Paul II was known to say. Let us keep all of our monastic communities in our prayers today, and ask St. Sharbel to intercede for us!

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The New Brigittines

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

brigittine vowsToday we celebrate the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden who founded the Order of the Most Holy Savior in 1346 after her husband, Ulf, died. The holy couple had eight children, among them St. Catherine of Sweden.

The Order of the Most Holy Savior consisted of men and women, and are better known as the Brigittines. This order suffered much, particularly during the persecutions of Henry VIII. The King envied the Brigittines because of their wealth, which they freely gave to the poor. Ultimately, his greed drove him to seize all of the community’s property, including Syon Abbey, the only Brigittine house in England.

Henry VIII also despised the Brigittines because they did not support his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Members of the Brigittines spoke openly against the King, though some sources suggest this was done only in the confessional.

St. Richard Reynolds

St. Richard Reynolds

Among the Catholic religious who were persecuted by Henry VIII, St. Richard Reynolds, the only Brigittine Monk honored with Canonization, particularly angered the King. Because of his loyalty to the Church, St. Richard was martyred on May 4, 1535 by drawing and quartering, a punishment reserved for the most treasonous criminals.

During the funeral procession of Henry’s body from London to Windsor for the burial, the King’s casket rested overnight at Syon, then a country home. According to claims and eye-witness accounts, people noticed a rotten stench coming from the casket. The casket seemed to have expanded and even opened and oozed blood in parts. When men came to reseal the casket, a dog was seen to lick up the king’s blood.

This strange and bizarre occurrence seemed to fulfill a prophecy made by a Franciscan friar years earlier, which foretold of the King’s disgraceful burial if the King continued to behave like Ahab. After King Ahab’s death, wild dogs had licked Ahab’s blood (cf. 1 Kings 22:38).

Due to the severe persecution of the order, the last succeeding Brigittine monk died in 1863. Few Brigittines remain throughout the world, and only one community of monks, founded in 1976, exists today. We would like to extend our warm wishes of a blessed feast day to our affiliate community, the Brigittine Monks in Amity, OR.

St. Bridget of Sweden, pray for us!

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The Life and Death of a Communist

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By Anne Tschanz | Filed in News | No comments yet.

jarulzewskiThose of us who lived through the Cold War, taking place for all the world to see in particular in suffering Poland, cannot forget the name Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. He held various positions of power in the Communist government during the 1980′s including chief of state and president. He combated the pro-democracy movement Solidarity and declared martial law. Many people view him as a Polish traitor.

As a story in the National Catholic Register shows, even this man, who died in May and was reviled by his fellow countrymen, was not out of the reach of his Heavenly Father.

A little background….

In 1966, the General was such an ardent Communist that he refused to enter a Catholic Church to attend his own Mother’s funeral. Certainly, his great nemesis through these turbulent times was Pope St. John Paul II who believed that the Marist-educated General was deep down at least a nominal Catholic Pole not a atheistic puppet of Moscow.

Here is the ending. Just 13 days before the General’s death, he confessed his sins, received communion, and received the Last Rites of the Church. His funeral took place much to the surprise of the country in a Catholic Church.

Archbishop Jozef Michalik, past president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said, “It’s exceptionally difficult to evaluate this man. When a person crosses the threshold of eternity, we should remember only God knows the true state of his conscience.”

General Jarulzelski once said in a 1994 interview, “I am absolutely sure that the best opinion is expressed about anyone after his death. Because I am past 70, probably in the near future they will talk about me even better, when I will be in the cemetery.”

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My Life for Your Freedom

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

white scapularMy Life for Your Freedom. This phrase captures the spirit of the Mercedarian friars and sisters around the world.

Yesterday, our pastor blessed a whole basket of brown scapulars and offered them to the faithful in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It reminds me that the brown Carmelite scapular, while certainly the most popular, is by no means the only scapular around for the laity. There is also the beautiful white Mercedarian scapular.

The Scapular was originally the long, wide piece of cloth worn around the neck by religious as part of their habit. Today’s religious orders continue to wear such a Scapular but smaller versions are available to lay people.

The Mercedarian friars wear a white habit composed of a tunic, belt, scapular, capuche and shield. The white Mercedarian Scapular can be seen as a “smaller version” of the Order’s habit for laypeople.

The Mercedarian Scapular spiritually unites its wearer to the work of the worldwide Mercedarian Order in its work in ransoming Christians from various types of captivity. The Sodality of the Scapular is a spiritual organization of the laity who have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Mercy. They unite themselves spiritually to the work of the Mercedarian Friars in the ransoming of Christian Captives in danger of apostasy. Besides wearing the White Scapular, members offer daily prayers for the Order, the Holy Father, and suffering and persecuted members of the Church.

The wearer of the Scapular places himself under the loving protection of Mary.

For more information on the Sodality of the Scapular, visit the Mercedarians’ website. There is also a YouTube video of a Mercedarian Sodality Scapular Investiture. For information on the Mercedarian sisters, go to their site as well.

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