If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Blood of Martyrs...Seeds of Faith


21 Church workers killed for faith in 2007

Rome, Dec. 31, 2007 (CWNews.com) - At least 21 Catholic priests, deacons, religious, and seminarians died for the faith in 2007, the Fides news service reports.

Each year Fides, an arm of the Congregation for Evangelization, compiles a full list of the Church workers who are killed while serving the Gospel, particularly in missionary territories. The preliminary list includes 21 names-- not accounting for lay workers.

The largest toll of clerics and religious who died for the faith came in Asia, where 4 priests, 3 deacons, and 1 seminarian were killed this year.
UPDATE: See the list of names and how these individuals were martyred at Independent Catholic News.

More on Msgr. Heliodore Mejak - Well Worth the Read

Special thanks to a reader who let me know about this article from 2003 in the Archdiocese of Kansas paper The Leaven


Faith of our Fathers: He's ancient of days. He can't see very well. And he has been known to be slow to change. But at age 93 Msgr. Heliodore Mejak has no intention of calling it quits.

By Bethanne Scholl
Special to the Leaven

The joke goes something like this: Old priests don't retire, they just . . .

Having trouble filling in the blank?

Maybe it's because there is no punch line.

Out of a lifelong love of their priestly vocation and a concern for their parishes, many old priests just don't want to retire.

It is probably safe to say that Msgr. Heliodore Mejak, who will turn 94 on St. Patrick's Day, is one of the oldest active priests in the country, perhaps even in the world.

He is by far the oldest active priest in the archdiocese, celebrating Masses seven days a week for the 200 or so families of his Kansas City, Kan., parish of Holy Family.

At 93 and counting, Msgr. Mejak could be said to be stubborn, firmly set in his ways. He is a little shy and has been described as "not exactly gruff."

He does not mince words, but speaks his mind - a sharp, intelligent and driven man. He shepherds his flock with the love of a strict parent.

Holy Family is one of the few remaining "national" parishes in the archdiocese - that is, a parish founded, usually in the early 20th century, to meet the spiritual needs of a particular immigrant group. Holy Family was founded in 1907 to serve the influx of Slovenian immigrants to the Strawberry Hill area.

"They wanted another Slovenian priest to take over," said Msgr. Mejak, of his assignment to the parish. "So the bishop sent me here 68 years ago."

"I can understand Slovenian, but I can't talk a word of it," he said. "My mother was Bohemian; my father, Slovenian. But the official language in Yugoslavia at the time was German, so we spoke German in the house."

"I still hear Slovenian and Croatian confessions," said Msgr. Mejak, "but no more German. They're all gone now."

Msgr. Mejak's father died when he was nine, leaving him as the head of the house. He took on his new role willingly, using his quick mind and capable hands to help his seamstress mother take care of his two younger sisters.

"I've always been very handy," said Msgr. Mejak. "I remember wiring our house when I was 16 years old. I could figure out everything. I was the first one to build my own radio when they came out. I had the best one in town."

Msgr. Mejak's pride and joy are the five brass model trains he has built over the past 40 years. Each part was painstakingly handcrafted with steady hands and a keen eye.

"I loved working with my hands," he said.

But about 10 years ago, Msgr. Mejak was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, leaving him legally blind. He no longer works with his hands or drives a car. And he has never been able to master the latest technological advances of a computer - he simply can't see the screen.

"Father has always been self-sufficient," said a parishioner. "He has never asked for help. I can't remember if he ever did. He never wanted a secretary or a live-in housekeeper.

"If he ever got a tear in his clothes, he'd just get out his Singer sewing machine and fix it," she said. "See, he learned that from his mother. When she was sewing and cooking, Father was right there, learning it too."

"Slovenians are a very determined people," she added simply.

That character trait served Msgr. Mejak well when the deterioration of his eyesight made it harder and harder for him to celebrate Mass.

"He enlarges the readings," said one parishioner, "by wearing large (magnifying) goggles over his glasses. He just has to read slowly [relying primarily on his peripheral vision].

"Sometimes he loses his place and he has to refocus. Then we go on. He is very dedicated and very determined and doesn't want to give up."

"We take it day by day together," she said.

"I memorize the prayer and the Gospel the day before," said Msgr. Mejak. "The Gospel is no problem after all these years, but sometimes the prayers are difficult."

"I can't see the headlines in the newspaper. They're too big, and I can only see a part of those letters," he said. "I magnify everything only about a quarter of an inch.

"I work that Xerox machine to death."

Msgr. Mejak still types the weekly bulletin, despite his failing sight.

"He has always been an excellent typist," said a parishioner. "He does make errors. He'll say, 'Was it very bad?' And we'll tell him, 'No, Father, it wasn't that bad.' He wants to do it."

While lay lectors have been a part of most parishes since the Second Vatican Council changes were implemented in the '70s, it has only been in the last four or five years that Holy Family has seen them.

"We don't have the sign of peace, no eucharistic ministers. I call it a 'chapel' type of service," said a parishioner. "Father started letting the children from the school read a few years ago, and after a while we were quite sure Father was OK about lectors. It was time for him to say 'yes.'

"When he absolutely cannot do it anymore, he'll say 'yes.'"

Holy Family still has a Communion rail that is used daily as well as tabernacle veils - vestiges of a church many Catholics today have never even seen.

"Father takes care of ordering the candles and the missalettes," said a parishioner. "He sets up the vestments and takes care of the tabernacle veils. We have things at Holy Family that you'll never see in any other church anymore. But we've never heard a complaint, ever."

Msgr. Mejak makes no apologies for the way his parish is run.

"I am old and traditional," he said. "I believe in old-fashioned things. I must do something that attracts people here. People come here from six other counties that don't really belong here. People go where they feel comfortable. A lot of people feel at home here. We're down to earth, not snooty."

When asked about retirement, Msgr. Mejak is matter of fact.

"If I got sick and I had to retire, I think I'd die in six months - out of boredom," he said. "At the end of seminary, I was told I'd never be a preacher. That's true. I'm a lousy preacher, but I'm a good lover, so to speak. I love the people here in the parish, and I think they love me. That makes up for a lot of it."

"Because of the shortage of priests, they're not going to send another priest here," said Msgr. Mejak. "Maybe they'd combine this parish with another or just close it down. I've baptized and married three generations here."

"We all talk about [his retirement] and think about it," said a parishioner. "But Father doesn't make any definite comments. He isn't interested in retiring. He wouldn't have anything to do."

"I don't know what I could do if I retired," said Msgr. Mejak. "I've never taken a vacation in 25 years. All my buddies died, you see.

"I still have friends. A group of us priests get together at Bishop Forst's and play cards and have dinner - talking the bull. They demand that I make chili for them."

"I still have friends," he added, "but not buddies."

"I was ordained to serve the people," said Msgr. Mejak, "and I can do it. That's a beautiful thing."

"I'm very happy here," he concluded. "We're out of debt. We have money in the bank. I love this parish."

God's "Housewife"

From an article in the Archdiocese of Miami's "Floriday Catholic":
God's "Housewife"
Colombian native becomes first Miamian to enter cloistered order of
Discalced Carmelites
By ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO - HIALEAH

ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO FC
Sister Anita enters the chapel where she will profess temporary vows to the Discalced Carmelite Sisters, a contemplative order.


At a time when vocations to the religious life are rare, Ana Carolina Bernal felt called to the rarest — to become a cloistered nun.

From now on, Bernal will be known as Sister Anita del Corazón Misericordioso (Sister Anita of the Merciful Heart).

She will live with 8 other Discalced Carmelite Sisters in the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity on the grounds of Immaculate Conception Parish in Hialeah.

She will spend all of her days in prayer, leaving the convent only on rare occasions, and greeting visitors, including her family, through a grille.

“It is a life with God. It is a total surrender,” said the 28-year-old Colombia native, who is the first local vocation for the order.

If Bernal’s vocation is rare, it seems even more so considering her background. The youngest of three children, and the only girl, she came to the United States at age 9 and graduated from Coral Gables Senior High School before earning a psychology degree from Florida International University.

ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO FC
Behind the partition that separates the Discalced Carmelites from the world, Sister Anita professes temporal vows to her superior, Mother Alba Mery de Jesus.

While in college, she began attending prayer groups and taking courses with the Siervos de Cristo Vivo (Servants of the Living Christ), a lay association founded by the late Father Emiliano Tardif. Little by little, she became more and more involved in the life of the church.
“I was very attracted to the Blessed Sacrament, to the Eucharist,” Sister Anita said.

‘It is a life with God. It is a total surrender.’
Sister Anita del Corazón Misericordioso

Then she found out about the existence of the cloistered Carmelites and stopped by for a visit. She says she did not think much of them at first, but “a restlessness inside me urged me to return.”

ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO FC
Sister Anita reflects after receiving the symbols of her profession -- a crown of flowers symbolizing her espousal to Christ, a book containing the rules and constitution of the Discalced Carmelites, and a crucifix.

She started attending classes they offered every Saturday, and “felt God calling me more.”

In 2004, the Carmelites invited her to experience their lifestyle for three months.

“She stayed,” said her brother, Jose Bernal, a realtor in Raleigh, N.C., which is where their parents also live.

“I kind of suspected” she had a vocation, Bernal said, but like his parents, he was surprised his sister had been called to a life of prayer and contemplation.

“We were surprised because in this day and age it is so difficult for a young professional to enter a cloistered convent,” said Lucila Bernal, Sister Anita’s mom.

“She looks happy. No one has seen her bored yet,” said her aunt, Cecilia Aranzazu, who along with Sister Anita’s parents, brother and other relatives was present Dec. 12 for her profession of vows.

She already has spent one year as a postulant and two as a novice with the Discalced Carmelites. These first, or temporal, vows are for another three years, after which she can make her perpetual profession.

“I felt that I had to love God with all my heart. I had to be everything for him,” Sister Anita said of her vocation.

She compared the life of cloistered nuns to that of active religious by saying, “They dedicate themselves to the people. We dedicate ourselves exclusively to God. We’re like the housewives of God.”

ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO FC
Sister Anita stands behind the grille that now separates her from the world. She is committed to spending the rest of her life in constant prayer as a member of the contemplative order of Discalced Carmelites.



ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO FC
Separated by a grille, Sister Anita chats with relatives after her profession of vows.


FIND OUT MORE

The Discalced Carmelite Sisters arrived in Miami from their native Mexico in October 2001 at the invitation of Archbishop John C. Favalora.

He asked them to pray especially for the needs of the people of the archdiocese, for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and for the success of local pro-life efforts.

Currently housed at the former Mercy Convent on the grounds of Immaculate Conception Parish in Hialeah, the sisters are planning to move to a larger facility, the former Rader Memorial United Methodist Church in Miami Shores, as soon as it is refurbished to meet their needs — and as soon as they have raised the $2.5 million needed to pay for the refurbishing.

In addition to newly-professed Sister Anita del Corazón Misericordioso, the Discalced Carmelites have another young woman, a native of Nicaragua, entering as a postulant in January.

The group’s current superior, Mother Alba Mery de Jesús, attributes the vocations to “the mercy of the Lord. We do not promote ourselves, but somehow each one of us managed to get here.”

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The World's Longest-Serving Pastor of an Active Parish has Died--on Christmas day.


Active priest, 98, was devoted to parish
By KEVIN MURPHY and ALAN BAVLEY
The Kansas City Star

Mejak On Aug. 1, 1944, Heliodore Mejak said his first Mass at Holy Family Church in Kansas City, Kan. Sixty-three years later, the church is looking for a new priest.

Mejak, 98, died Christmas Day, ending perhaps the longest tenure of a priest at a U.S. parish. Monsignor Mejak may also have been the country’s oldest active priest, according to the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

“To be that old and to continue to function and to care for the community, that certainly shows his dedication and his love for his people,” said Thomas Tank, vicar general of the archdiocese. Mejak became a priest in 1935 and served under seven popes.

He will be remembered not only for his longevity but for his staunchly traditional Catholicism and his devotion to his parish, where he was also the church handyman, lawn cutter, financial manager and compiler of the weekly bulletin.

“He was a stellar priest,” said Mary Ann Grelinger, a former parishioner at Holy Family who wrote a 2006 biography on Mejak for a priests’ magazine called Homiletic & Pastoral Review. “He said Mass every day. He never took a day off or a vacation. Most priests do. He didn’t.”

Mejak celebrated Mass until about a week before he died, even though he had become progressively weaker, was losing his vision and used a walker.

“He couldn’t see,” said Kevin Fogarty, a Wyandotte County firefighter who has been attending Holy Family Church regularly for about 10 years. “He wore ‘welding goggles’ with huge magnifiers. When he said Mass, it was obvious he was reciting from memory. He couldn’t read it at all.”

Mejak may be best known for his resistance to changes in the church. Holy Family, a Slovenian parish, drew people who believed as he did. He was the last priest in the archdiocese to stop celebrating Mass in Latin in the wake of the Vatican II church reforms approved in the 1960s.

Mejak did not want laypeople to serve communion and said the host should only be served directly from a priest’s hand, rather than placing it in the hand of the recipient. He wanted people to kneel rather than stand for communion.

When Vatican II called on people to shake hands or hug as a sign of peace during Mass, Mejak ignored it.

“He said the presence of Jesus Christ on the alter should be the focus, not each other,” Grelinger said. “A sign of peace was something that distracted from the Eucharist.”

Kirk Kramer, an editor of the Digital Library of the Catholic Reformation in Virginia, attended Holy Family Church in the 1980s while a student at the University of Kansas. He recalled Mejak’s church as a refuge for Catholic traditionalists.

“His parish, his church was a haven of holiness,” Kramer said. “There was a sense of the sacred and the mysterious and the beautiful at a time when you had to look for that. When you went to Holy Family, you got the Mass of the church, authentic Catholic doctrine and not theological opinion.”

Charles Andalikiewicz, 77, had known Mejak since he was a boy growing up in the neighborhood of the church. Andalikiewicz is priest of Immaculate Conception Church in Louisburg, Kan.

“He was very humble, very loyal and a gentle man,” Andalikiewicz said. “He was also very scholarly.”

Mejak was a train buff who built electric trains in the church basement that he liked to show children, Grelinger recalled. He built the trains using old pictures and drawings as a guide.

Mejak graduated from what now is Bishop Ward High School in 1927. He went to St. Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., and Catholic University in Washington and became a priest in 1935.

He served several churches in Kansas before being assigned to the Holy Family, where he had to learn the Slovenian language.
-

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh Men in Black Vocations Basketball Game II (2008)

The second annual Diocese of Raleigh Office of Vocations Men in Black basketball game (MIB2) will be this coming Saturday, January 5, 2008, at 11:00am. The "Duel in Durham" as it's being called will be held at the Emily K Center in Durham. The game will feature the MIB (Priests, Seminarians, and members of the Priesthood Discernment Group) playing against high students from Cardinal Gibbons and St. Thomas More Academy.

Last year's game was a great deal of fun, with a huge turn out of enthusiastic fans. It was certainly the largest vocations event in the Diocese last year, if not the last ten years. Unfortunately the MIB were unable to prevail in a game that, among other things, served as an exercise in humility. True to my competitive nature, I hope this years results will differ!

The gym will open at 10:30am, the game will start at 11:00am. Again this year we will introduce the seminarians at halftime, and His Excellency, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge will help referee the game. Following the game the seminarians will lead everyone in praying the Rosary. There will be time after the game to speak with Bishop Burbidge, the Priests and Seminarians. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend, as this is a Diaconate formation weekend for me and my brother candidates - unless my boss can get me out of it!

One other point of interest - John D'Amelio designed the MIB2 shirts and they look great. They will be available at the game, for a donation that will go to support the Office of Vocations. See the shirts below:


For those of you that missed last year's game, check out the video below from the Diocese of Raleigh which shows Bishop Burbidge, our Priests, and Seminarians in action:




Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles


Fr. Richsteig highlighted the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles on a recent post and wrote that they were one of his favorite communities. I visited their websites and was certainly impressed! The community seems to be thriving, they are traditionally habited, and of course they look very joyful. If you get a chance take a look. I'll be adding their vocations link to my sidebar for women's religious.

Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles hompage.

Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles vocations homepage.

UPDATE: Someone posted a comment with a link to a slideshow of one of the sisters making final vows. Quite worth the time to watch. Check it out here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Beautiful Article in the Washington Post about Carmelite Nuns

Pictures are not from the article.


Walking With a Joyful Spirit

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the dark of the early morning, a Roman Catholic nun in a brown tunic and black veil stepped from her cabin and walked to a nearby bell tower.

She rang two bells, calling her sisters to Christmas Eve prayer. Across the complex, other nuns emerged from their hermitages in the woods and gathered in a small chapel. From there, the 10 women embarked on a procession along pathways lit by the full moon, singing as they walked:

Sisters, Arise! Away with your sadness,

With love your hearts adorn;

All the Earth is full of gladness

Slumber not this happy morn.

The celebration of Christmas at Charles County's historic Carmelite monastery early yesterday began in cloistered quiet, behind a tall plank fence off a back road, two miles from Crain Highway and the glitz and malls and madness of the outside world.

It was marked with boughs of evergreen and holly cut from the woods, and arranged in the prayer corners of the sisters' wooden dwellings. It was celebrated with the song of women who have given their lives to prayer and seclusion. And it was observed with a reverence for the central theme of Christianity: that with the birth of Jesus, God became man.

It's "astonishing," one said. Why would God do that?

As the Washington region awoke yesterday to a final day of shopping, travel and preparation, the Carmelites rose before dawn to bring to a close the season of Advent, ending the period of joyful longing, as they put it.

Heaven's treasure let us crave, they sang as they walked through their 65-acre compound.

Him for whom our souls are yearning

Who comes all to bless and save.

The monastery, outside La Plata, traces its history to 1790. The sisters live in a fenced-in area within the complex. They often work alone in their small, one-story individual hermitages, which contain a bedroom, bathroom, workroom and back porch. They work as artists and seamstresses. One is a weaver. They make crafts for their gift shop, which has no clerk and runs on the honor system, and they also do clerical work to help support themselves.

The nuns gather as a group to eat and pray and rarely venture beyond the fence, let alone the compound. The goal is separation from the outside world.

The prioress, Mother Virginia Marie, 73, is the only one who regularly goes outside the enclosed area within the monastery. The grounds also have a public chapel and landscaped visitor area, just beyond the fence.

"It's wholly symbolic, our separation from the world," said Mother Virginia, who was Jane O'Connor of Tulsa before she joined the Carmelite order at age 17. "We've chosen this. We're not in prison."

The aim "is to do more intently what we have chosen to do," she said in an interview last week. "So that we don't have distractions. So we can pray better. So that we can concentrate on the Lord.


"It's a life totally dedicated to God," she said. "And we can do it best when we are free from many things. . . . Silence and solitude are very conducive to prayer, and prayer is what our life is all about."

The nuns come from many walks of life. One had been a Washington lawyer, Mother Virginia said. Another worked as a physical therapist, another a federal government employee.

"I had everything life could offer," said Sister Marie Bernardina, who grew up in Bowie and worked for the government before she came to the monastery 17 years ago. "I had money. I had friends. . . . I had a car. I had boyfriends. I just wasn't happy. I had a good job. I had no debts. I just was searching for more meaning in my life."

She is 42 now. Others in the monastery range in age from 27 to 80. There are 11 in all. They come from Japan, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and across the continental United States.

Their hands look slightly gnarled from work. And they are proud of their traditional clothing, or habits, which many nuns no longer wear.

They have a car, a TV -- which Mother Virginia said is seldom watched -- and a Web site.

And they celebrate a secluded and intense kind of Christmas.

"I don't think I could ever have Christmas out there again," said Sister Clare Joseph, 45, the former physical therapist from Missouri who came to the monastery eight years ago. "It's very solemn here. We kind of curtail our contact with people [prior to Christmas]. We don't write as much. We don't receive as much mail, phone calls.

"When we do have to go out, like for dentists or that sort of thing, I find it to be just a madhouse. And I can't wait to get back here," she said.

"I love Advent. It's a time to really deepen my relationship with God," she said last week as she sat behind the decorative metal bars in the monastery's reception room, clad in her habit and a gray cardigan.

Sister Marie Bernardina said: "Advent is really a time of longing. It's a longing for something more: What is our life all about? Where are we going as a human being when we die? What is the purpose of our life?

"All these things . . . float to the surface of our consciousness when we're preparing for Christmas," she said. "It awakens our longing for Christ. . . . It's a time of joyful waiting."

In the Christmas Eve procession, which Mother Virginia described yesterday, the group visited each nun's cabin. Each door was opened as a sign of welcome to Mary and Joseph, symbolized with small statues carried by the sisters. In the New Testament story, the traveling couple seek lodging in vain and Jesus is born in a stable.

"It might sound kind of goofy to people out there," said Sister Clare Joseph. "But it's symbolic of Christ coming to me. . . . It's a real beautiful thing."

The sisters visited other sites in the complex, singing as they went, then retuned to the chapel to pray. There would be more prayer and song as the day went on, and Mass scheduled for midnight.

Today, they said, they will gather for breakfast, exchange gifts and celebrate around their tree.

But all far removed from Christmas in the outside world.

"I feel we've gone way astray" on Christmas, Sister Clare Joseph said. "There's such consumerism in our society. Consumerism leads to . . . individualism, teaches our kids [to] demand and 'have to have this,' and 'I have to have this latest electronic,' and it's just a total rat race on where the thoughts are."

"I just want to tell people, 'Don't you realize God became a man? Do you realize how astonishing that is?' " she said. "I don't think people even think about that. . . . They're so intent on decorating their homes, and buying the latest, and giving more and better and prettier gifts, and then, on the flip side, wanting more and better and prettier gifts."

"And God became man!" she said. "Why? . . . Because He loves us so much. And I think that that is totally not in most people's purview at all . . . in our society."

Yesterday, as they ended their procession on the moonlit Christmas Eve morning, they sang:

Be with us in sleep and waking

Jesus, Mary, Joseph be

Ours in life and ours when dying

Ours for all eternity.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

House Cassocks of the Seminaries in Rome



J.P. Sonnen posted this picture on his blog, Orbis Catholicvs, along with the information that these are seminarians from the Urban College in Rome. While many of the other seminaries in Rome have abandoned their unique house cassocks, the Urban College has not, and requires them to wear it until they are ordained a deacon.

Too bad the North American College has, from what I understand (could be wrong) almost entirely abandoned the house cassock. Although some time ago, I read that some seminarians were trying to bring it back. A little google search and low and behold I found this photo of a seminarian at the North American College in his house cassock:


And then I found the post below on The Commonplace Book of Zadok the Roman giving an explanation and description of the house cassocks of different seminaries in Rome:

Let me explain - currently in Rome the normal black priest's cassock (or soutane) is the seminarian's most formal outfit. Whilst it is everyday dress for some of the congretations, in general the diocesan seminaries in Rome reserve the cassock for altar service or attendance at certain lituriges and for formal occasions. Depending on the stage of formation and the custom of the particular seminary the every-day dress of the seminarian is either the Roman collar or lay-clothes. The Roman diocesan regulations specify that clerical dress is only required of seminarians after they have gone through the ceremony of 'Admisssion to Candidacy' which normally occurs a few months before dicaconate ordination. An exception to this is the practise of the North American College which insists that all its seminarians go through 'Admission to Candidacy' before they arrive in Rome to begin their theological studies. This, it seems, is a throwback to the now-defunct Italian practice of performing 'Admission to Candidacy' early in seminary formation becuase this exempted Italian seminarians from compulsory military service.
However, until the 1970s, the cassock was not the formal wear of the seminarian, but his everyday uniform and unlike today, most of the older Roman Colleges had their own distinctive style of cassock. Now, alas, it seems that only the Scottish, the students at Propaganda Fide and (on special ceremonial occasions) Americans retain the older dress. Consulting the 1900 Handbook to Christian and Ecclesiatical Rome by Tuker and Malleson and an old edition of Georgina Masson's classic Companion Guide to Rome we find the following descriptions of the seminarian dress of yore:
Seminary of the Diocese of Rome Purple Cassock and soprana with pendant strings and no sash.
Pontificio Provincale Pio Black cassock, violet sash, a full cloak
Vatican Seminary Dark purple cassock with cromson bindings and buttons, one crimson string decorated with the papal arms, buckle shoes
Capranica College Black cassock, black soprana of shiny cloth, stings, no sash, shoes with silver buckles
Propaganda Fide Black double breasted cassock, red pipings and buttons, scarlet sash and strings (photo at left)

Germanic College Scarlet Cassock, black sash, scarlet soprana with pendant strings (Masson notes that they had the nickname 'gamberi cotti' or 'boiled lobsters' and that their distinctive dress was imposed due to their reputation for uproarious behaviour)
Greek College Blue cassock, red sash and pipings, blue soprana with strings - out of doors: a black soprana with wide sleeves
English College Black cassock and soprana, black strings and no sash

Scots College Purple cassock with crimson sash, buttons and pipings. Black soprana with pendant strings (photo at left)

Irish College Black cassock with red piping, no sash, black soprana and strings
French College The first college to abandon collegiate dress for the priest's cassock, no sash
Lombard College Black cassock, violet sash, soprana and strings
Seminary of SS. Peter and Paul Priest's dress with a black sash
Belgian College Priest's dress with a black sash edged with red
North American College Double-breasted black cassock, blue pipings and buttons, crimson sash, pendant strings
South American College Black cassock with blue edgings, blue sash, black soprana and strings
Maronite College Black cassock, soprana and strings
Bohemian College Black cassock, maroon sash edged with yellow
Armenian College Black cassock with red pipings, out of doors: black coat with wide sleeves
College of St Boniface Black cassock with yellow pipings, black soprana with black pendant srings lined with red
Polish College Black cassock and soprana with green sash
Spanish College Black cassock with blue sash, round black cape with vertical blue pipings
Candadian College Priest's dress and no sash
Ruthenian College Blue cassock, soprana with strings, orange sash

Note - the Soprana was a long sleeveless coat, often with two long strings or streamers hanging from the armholes to signify the state of tuition. The 'sash' is also known as the fascia or more colloquially the 'belly band'.

Article on Fr. Groeschel, CFR, in the NY Times


From a New York Times article:

A Circle of Faith Grows in Unexpected Ways


Forty-five years ago, the Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel had a small idea.

Then the chaplain at the Children’s Village for troubled youths in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County, he decided in December 1962 to take Christmas dinner, other food and a smattering of presents to the impoverished families of five children from the South Bronx and Harlem whom he worked with.

Those families mentioned others — nephews, cousins, friends who were also in need. He thought: Why not? So next year the circle widened a bit. Word spread in the neighborhood. A building superintendent or neighbor would mention other names. Each December the list continued to grow.

Before long, he realized he had begun something that couldn’t be stopped, a Christmas tradition with a regular cast of characters, a past as well as a present, one of those reminders that the more noble notions of Christmas can sometimes creep in amid the seasonal clutter of commerce, bustle and noise.

Pick your religion, the essence of the season is the enormous things that can flow from small ones — a birth among the poor in a humble stable, a day’s worth of oil that somehow burns for eight.

And so, when Father Groeschel and his crew of helpers went to the South Bronx for the 45th year on Saturday, this time with around 700 boxes of food and thousands of presents, the message was not just about the importance of service to the poor. It was also about the huge things that can come from tiny ones.

“As a psychologist, I have to say I have a Santa Claus complex,” Father Groeschel said on Friday, the calm day between the loading and delivering of the food and toys and their distribution. “But I never, ever anticipated that this would become anything like this.”

Actually, there’s a second reason why this Christmas is so special. It’s a miracle he has lived to see it. Father Groeschel, an author of religious books and a fixture on the Roman Catholic EWTN television network, was crossing a street in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 11, 2004, when he was hit by a car. He was near death three times in the next month, particularly on the night of the accident when he had no blood pressure, heartbeat or pulse for about 20 minutes. A few days later, he almost died from toxins that were overloading his system, then later from heart failure while on a respirator.

The accident left him without much use of his right arm and trouble walking, but he recovered to a degree almost no one expected.

“They said I would never live. I lived,” he said. “They said I would never think. I think. They said I would never walk. I walked. They said I would never dance, but I never danced anyway.”

Father Groeschel, a Franciscan friar who is the director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York’s office of spiritual development, which assists priests, now presides over an ad-hoc partnership of the faithful for the Christmas operation.

In addition to hundreds of donors, it includes Teresa Catullo, a local woman who spends the entire year buying up hundreds of off-price toys and gifts, which clutter her house until packed and shipped off; Cathy Hickey, who has worked with him since 1986; Jim Hogg, who runs a homeless shelter in Bethlehem, Pa., but comes in every year to help load trucks and deliver the food and toys; and two women, Doris Reeves and Anne Duffy, who for the second year flew in from California to help out as needed.

“If we believe what we say we do, then we should put our words into action,” Mr. Hogg said. “The Bible says, ‘If you do this unto these, the least of my brethren, you have done it for me.’”

Father Groeschel, who is 74, with a long white beard that’s more Merlin than Santa, is considered liberal on social justice issues like poverty and immigration, and extremely orthodox on church issues like abortion and homosexuality.

He figures Christmas has long been in a struggle between the sacred and the temporal, between charity and marketing, tensions that are particularly out of whack now. But then that’s true in our society overall, where the notion of service to the poor that is the focus of the order he helped start seems as quaint as friars in cassocks.

“I’m the only person in Larchmont who wishes he lived in the South Bronx,” Father Groeschel said, in his home and office in what used to be a garage at the archdiocese’s Trinity Retreat House, overlooking a bay off Long Island Sound.

Still, there are consolations. On a frigid Friday, it feels astoundingly peaceful. There’s no television with the overheated cavalcade of daily astonishments in the news and the commercials for luxury cars with bows on top. Priests and fellows and helpers of various stripes pad quietly to and fro. For a moment, in this quiet corner of Westchester all is calm, all is bright.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Interview with Msgr. Ganswein, Papal Secretary

Peter Seewald inteviewed Msgr. Ganswein for a paper in Munich. The interview is a rare glimpse into the Papacey via the Holy Father's personal secretary. The article was translated for Inside the Vatican magazine by Gerald Naus (Gerald Augustinus of The Cafeteria is Closed blog). I finally got around to reading it today and found it to be a fascinating read. I've posted the part of the interview which dealt with Msgr. Ganswein's vocation below:


PS: You wanted to become a stock broker.

MG: Inititally, I was, as the oldest, supposed to take over my father's agricultural appliances business but the happenings at the stock exchange interested me more. My idea was that there was a lot of money being made and that you had to be bright and fast. Later, a bit more mature, when I thought about it more intensively, I thought, ok if I can do all that and have money, what happens then ? Suddenly, existential questions took center stage. So I started to search and ended up, completely unplanned, coming across philosophy and theology.

PS: A long process.

MG: And a difficult one. At first, the world of theology drew me close very strongly, the priesthood was added as a second step. Of course celibacy was also a question. At some point I felt that I couldn't drive at half speed, either I'd do it completely or I'd quit. A little theology, that's not possible. So, step by step, I approached the priesthood.

PS: A quote from one of your homilies, on the occasion of some ordinations: "You are granted to know that you have a dignity that distinguishes you from all who aren't priests. You are allowed to have the consciousness that you are doing something great, that you are allowed to do something great." Pretty aloof.

MG: I'd say that again without ifs ands or buts.

PS: You take it seriously.

MG: Yes, I do.

PS: It also sounds a bit romantic.

MG: I don't think so. They are words that were made true by life, and life wasn't romantic. The sentences quoted by you may sound a bit ceremonious on paper but behind them there is a lot of personal experience and I did not want to keep it from the new priests that there is something grand ahead of him, that it costs something and that he has to be willing to pay that price.


The Rumors Were True - the Archdiocese of St. Louis to Expand Seminary

More evidence that the "vocations crisis" may have more to do with an "orthodoxy crisis" than an actual shortage of vocations. The article below is from the St. Louis Review Online:


Archbishop Announces Seminary Expansion

by Barbara Watkins, Review Staff Writer
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mark Kempf
KENRICK-GLENNON SEMINARY
Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has announced the start of a major renovation and expansion of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.

The seminary has 111 seminarians, an almost 50 percent increase in enrollment over last year. While the growth is welcomed by the archbishop and Msgr. Ted Wojcicki, president-rector of the seminary, it also prompted the need for maintenance work, renovation and expansion of the physical plant.

Msgr. Wojcicki explained, "As a 78-year-old body has more aches and pains, so our 78-year-old building needs some significant infrastructure attention. Many priests ordained from our seminary will remember the loud clanging of the heating pipes; they are still clanging._Also the requirements of modern technology make much greater demands on our electrical system._It will be safer and helpful to our mission to be able to address these needs."

He continued, "Because we are blessed with more seminarians recently, we have need for more student rooms. Temporarily we have even placed rows of beds, barracks style, in the West Dorm; this approach assists with some of our vocations promotions activities but is not a long-term solution."

Msgr. Wojcicki, at the request of the archbishop, initiated a study of seminary facility needs by Mackey Mitchell Architects.

That results of that study include the following work planned for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary:

The building’s electrical system, heating and ventilation system and the plumbing system will be renovated, in that order. Archbishop Burke called these renovations "essential to the safety and health of the residents of and visitors to Kenrick-Glennon Seminary."

The West Dorm (currently a multi-purpose space) will be renovated, creating approximately 17 individual rooms for seminarians.

The former student rooms on Third Floor West, currently faculty offices, will be returned to residential use, providing 15 individual rooms for seminarians.

Plans will be finalized for a new addition to provide a library and faculty offices (with the present library converted into classrooms and faculty offices) and expansion of the dining room to accommodate the increase in residents and provide a public area for guests.

Once the library and faculty office addition is complete, the faculty offices on the Third Floor on the north side of the building will be relocated, thus regaining three priest residences, two visitors bedrooms/ studies and a small chapel.

St Joseph Chapel will be renovated. In a Dec. 15 letter to priests, Archbishop Burke said plans for the chapel renovation have been in development for some time. "The renovation aims at increasing the beauty of the chapel, in particular, the sanctuary, as the heart of the seminary, and attaining its capacity," the archbishop wrote.

The archbishop made the announcement detailing the study results and immediate plans to the seminary community Dec. 14. He then wrote to the priests in the archdiocese, notifying them of the information.

The study was undertaken to address what Archbishop Burke called "three essential and urgent needs" — the safety and health of seminary residents and visitors; appropriate accommodations for the growing number of seminarians; and hospitality to guests, who include "prospective seminarians, directors of offices of vocations, sponsoring bishops, and the priests and other faithful of the archdiocese."

Msgr. Wojcicki said, "These are changing times. When the seminary was built, it was more like a monastery, with few visitors; most staff was priests and religious. Now there are many visitors important to the mission of the seminary, including sponsoring bishops, vocations directors, parents, benefactors and alumni. Now with many lay staff and these welcome outside visitors who are essential to the mission of the seminary, there are many additional demands on the facilities, particularly office and meeting space."

Archbishop Burke said the study been carried out with attention to the archdiocese’s long tradition of seminary education and to the priestly formation requirements of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was also done with respect for the architecture of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and for the appropriate boundaries between public areas, offices and residential spaces.

Msgr. Wojcicki explained, "In addressing our facilities needs to fulfill our mission, it is important that we make the best use of the existing space by renovating wherever possible, returning spaces to their originally intended use, and keeping separated office, residential, and public spaces." Msgr. Wojcicki praised the archbishop for his leadership in providing for the needs of the seminary.

In his letter to priests, Archbishop Burke wrote, "In addition to the finalization of the plans of the renovation of the seminary and new addition to it, planning of the funding of the needed maintenance and improvements is in process."

The archbishop thanked Msgr. Wojcicki for his efforts and thanked the faculty and seminarians for the sacrifices that would be necessary to carry out the work on the seminary. He said that these planned changes are part of a long-range study for the seminary developed by Mackey Mitchell Architects as a result of the study.

"These steps address only the essential and most critical needs. It is hoped that, over time, the total plan may be realized," the archbishop wrote in his letter to priests.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bishop to Ordain 35 Permanent Deacons


From the "Catholic East Texas" Newspaper
By SUSAN DE MATTEO

(comments mine)

TYLER – Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, will ordain 35 men to the permanent diaconate at four Masses this month.

The group ordinations will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, Dec. 15 at St. Mary Church in Longview, Dec. 22 at Sacred Heart Church in Nacogdoches and Dec. 29 at Sacred Heart Church in Texarkana.

The men to be ordained represent 23 churches in the Diocese of Tyler and, after ordination, will bring the number of permanent deacons working in the diocese to 88.

Felix Ramos, slated for ordination Dec. 22, will be ordained for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. His archdiocese did not have a deacon formation program active at the time he wished to begin formation, so he was given permission to join the Diocese of Tyler’s program, according to Deacon Rubén Natera, vice chancellor for the Tyler Diocese.

Scheduled to be ordained Dec. 8 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception are:

Tyler – Shaun Black, Rufino Cortes, Steve Curry and Jack Rounds, cathedral; Remigio Alfaro and José Angel Tiscareno, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church;

Canton – Jonathan Ben Fadely and Alan Stehsel, St. Therese Church;

Crockett – Ramiro Romo, St. Francis of the Tejas Church.

Flint – Clarence Black, St. Mary Magdalene Church;

Gun Barrel City – Juan A. Cázares, St. Jude Church;

Lindale – Dennis King, Holy Family Church;

Mineola – Fidencio Ramos, St. Peter the Apostle Church;

Scheduled for ordination Dec. 15 in Longview are:

Gilmer – Ricky Yelverton, St. Francis of Assisi Church;

Hallsville – Robert William Rhodes and Gregorio Sanchez, Our Lady of Grace Church;

Kilgore – Lino Huerta and Isidro Sanchez, Christ the King Church;

Longview – Scott Daniel, Joel Gonzalez, Francisco Lopez and Nelson Petzold, St. Matthew Church; Vincent James Wilson, St. Mary Church;

Marshall – Magdaleno Aguirre and John Sargent, St. Joseph Church.

Through their ordination, deacons are configured expressly to Christ the servant and are called to be ministers of service and charity.

“The diaconal ministry is rooted in the Bible,” said Father Eduardo Nevares, assistant director of the vocations office. “In the Acts of the Apostles, because the apostles, the first bishops, were so overwhelmed with trying to administer their growing churches, they chose seven men from the community to care for the widows who were being neglected (Acts 6:1-7). So from the very beginning, the deacons were ordained to serve those in need in their communities.” (or actually assisting with the administration in general, allowing the Bishops to "minister to the Word")

Father Nevares said that particular charism manifests itself in the role and life of the deacon.

“Deacons are ordained clergy,” he said, “and, together with priests and bishops, they complete what the Patristic Fathers refer to as the ‘fullness of the church hierarchy,’ or the fullness of holy orders. They are not ‘substitute priests,’ but neither are they ‘glorified altar boys.’ They are ordained ministers, sharing in the Sacrament of Holy Orders with bishops and priests, but they have their own unique vocation, which neither priest nor bishop can or should fulfill.” (keep in mind that every Priest and every Bishop are ordained Deacons, so this statement, while well intended, is a bit erroneous. Every Priest and Bishop CAN and DOES fulfill the role of Christ the Servant. However, I believe I understand what Father Nevares is saying - the Diaconate is a vocation in and of itself, unique ministerially, and distinct as it relates to the presbyterate and the episcopate.)

Liturgically, deacons can perform weddings and baptisms and preside at funeral services outside of Mass. They can preach and teach and lead prayer services. They are, however, restricted from consecrating the Eucharist, anointing the sick or hearing confessions.

At Mass, deacons are ministers of the cup and of the word, proclaiming the Gospel and distributing the Blood of Christ (Deacons are Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, so they can also distribute the Body of Christ). Beyond the church, out in the world, deacons also are called to be ministers of the word, Father Nevares said, proclaiming the Gospel not in reading it, but in living it.

“The deacon is a witness,” Father Nevares said. “Through his marriage, through his family life, through his job, through his care and concern for the people around him, through what he does much more than what he says, the deacon is a witness to Christ the servant, Christ who brings comfort and compassion, Christ who cares for the poor and the suffering.

“Therefore,” Father Nevares said, “the deacon has the responsibility and the obligation to know his community, to know what problems and needs beset that community, and to know what resources are available in the community for people in need. Because the deacon comes out of a particular community, he knows that community with all its history, all its good and bad, as a priest probably never will ("As a Priest probably never will" - say what? I really must protest this idea that Priests live in an ivory tower and have no idea what is going on in the community, in the lives of the common folk. Priests today are very aware of what is going on in their communities, perhaps moreso than most Deacons). And he naturally(?) knows who in his community is most in need of the service of charity. The deacon must be the face of the church’s charity, which is Christ’s charity. It is the deacon who takes Christ’s charity into the world.”

Deacons serve many roles. In the Diocese of Tyler, deacons have long been active in prison and hospital ministry, and in such ministries as St. Vincent de Paul. At the chancery, Deacon Rubén Natera is vice chancellor, Deacon Rick Lawrence is director of discipleship, and Deacon Jerry Besze is co-director of family life with his wife Mary.

In the end, though, job titles and descriptions have nothing to do with the diaconate.

“The only real job description the deacon has is in the Bible,” Father Nevares said, “in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Whatever you did for the least among you, you have done for me.’ Take care of and love the people of God; that’s what a deacon does.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

“O Priest, who are you? You are not yourself..."

Hat tip to Crescat who gives a tip to Ecce Agnus Dei for this post:


“O Priest, who are you?
You are not yourself because you are God.
You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ.
You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church.
You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man.
You are not from yourself because you are nothing.
What then are you?
Nothing and everything.
O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you:
‘He saved others, himself he cannot save!’”

-St. Norbert, Founder of the Canons Regular of Premontre


Bishop to Ordain 35 Permanent Deacons

By SUSAN DE MATTEO

TYLER – Bishop Álvaro Corrada, SJ, will ordain 35 men to the permanent diaconate at four Masses this month.

The group ordinations will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, Dec. 15 at St. Mary Church in Longview, Dec. 22 at Sacred Heart Church in Nacogdoches and Dec. 29 at Sacred Heart Church in Texarkana.

The men to be ordained represent 23 churches in the Diocese of Tyler and, after ordination, will bring the number of permanent deacons working in the diocese to 88.

Felix Ramos, slated for ordination Dec. 22, will be ordained for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. His archdiocese did not have a deacon formation program active at the time he wished to begin formation, so he was given permission to join the Diocese of Tyler’s program, according to Deacon Rubén Natera, vice chancellor for the Tyler Diocese.

Scheduled to be ordained Dec. 8 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception are:

Tyler – Shaun Black, Rufino Cortes, Steve Curry and Jack Rounds, cathedral; Remigio Alfaro and José Angel Tiscareno, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church;

Canton – Jonathan Ben Fadely and Alan Stehsel, St. Therese Church;

Crockett – Ramiro Romo, St. Francis of the Tejas Church.

Flint – Clarence Black, St. Mary Magdalene Church;

Gun Barrel City – Juan A. Cázares, St. Jude Church;

Lindale – Dennis King, Holy Family Church;

Mineola – Fidencio Ramos, St. Peter the Apostle Church;

Scheduled for ordination Dec. 15 in Longview are:

Gilmer – Ricky Yelverton, St. Francis of Assisi Church;

Hallsville – Robert William Rhodes and Gregorio Sanchez, Our Lady of Grace Church;

Kilgore – Lino Huerta and Isidro Sanchez, Christ the King Church;

Longview – Scott Daniel, Joel Gonzalez, Francisco Lopez and Nelson Petzold, St. Matthew Church; Vincent James Wilson, St. Mary Church;

Marshall – Magdaleno Aguirre and John Sargent, St. Joseph Church.

Through their ordination, deacons are configured expressly to Christ the servant and are called to be ministers of service and charity.

“The diaconal ministry is rooted in the Bible,” said Father Eduardo Nevares, assistant director of the vocations office. “In the Acts of the Apostles, because the apostles, the first bishops, were so overwhelmed with trying to administer their growing churches, they chose seven men from the community to care for the widows who were being neglected (Acts 6:1-7). So from the very beginning, the deacons were ordained to serve those in need in their communities.”

Father Nevares said that particular charism manifests itself in the role and life of the deacon.

“Deacons are ordained clergy,” he said, “and, together with priests and bishops, they complete what the Patristic Fathers refer to as the ‘fullness of the church hierarchy,’ or the fullness of holy orders. They are not ‘substitute priests,’ but neither are they ‘glorified altar boys.’ They are ordained ministers, sharing in the Sacrament of Holy Orders with bishops and priests, but they have their own unique vocation, which neither priest nor bishop can or should fulfill.”

Liturgically, deacons can perform weddings and baptisms and preside at funeral services outside of Mass. They can preach and teach and lead prayer services. They are, however, restricted from consecrating the Eucharist, anointing the sick or hearing confessions.

At Mass, deacons are ministers of the cup and of the word, proclaiming the Gospel and distributing the Blood of Christ. Beyond the church, out in the world, deacons also are called to be ministers of the word, Father Nevares said, proclaiming the Gospel not in reading it, but in living it.

“The deacon is a witness,” Father Nevares said. “Through his marriage, through his family life, through his job, through his care and concern for the people around him, through what he does much more than what he says, the deacon is a witness to Christ the servant, Christ who brings comfort and compassion, Christ who cares for the poor and the suffering.

“Therefore,” Father Nevares said, “the deacon has the responsibility and the obligation to know his community, to know what problems and needs beset that community, and to know what resources are available in the community for people in need. Because the deacon comes out of a particular community, he knows that community with all its history, all its good and bad, as a priest probably never will. And he naturally knows who in his community is most in need of the service of charity. The deacon must be the face of the church’s charity, which is Christ’s charity. It is the deacon who takes Christ’s charity into the world.”

Deacons serve many roles. In the Diocese of Tyler, deacons have long been active in prison and hospital ministry, and in such ministries as St. Vincent de Paul. At the chancery, Deacon Rubén Natera is vice chancellor, Deacon Rick Lawrence is director of discipleship, and Deacon Jerry Besze is co-director of family life with his wife Mary.

In the end, though, job titles and descriptions have nothing to do with the diaconate.

“The only real job description the deacon has is in the Bible,” Father Nevares said, “in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Whatever you did for the least among you, you have done for me.’ Take care of and love the people of God; that’s what a deacon does.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vocation of Teachers Key to Promoting Vocations

The post below is a ZENIT article.

"Teachers Lauded as Key to Promoting Vocations"
Considered Instrumental in Helping Youth Find Call to Priesthood

LONDON, DEC. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Teachers have a key role in helping youth discover a calling to the priesthood, but they need to first have a sense of their own mission as educators, concluded a group of vocations directors meeting in Spain.

The officials from England and Wales gathered last month at the annual conference of diocesan vocation directors from the United Kingdom at the Royal English College in Valladolid, Spain. One of the main conclusions of the conference was the need to "name and celebrate the 'vocation of teaching.'"

"The vocations directors recognized that teachers are often in a privileged position when it comes to helping young people to discern their future and to recognize the call of God in their lives," a summary statement reported. "To do this effectively, teachers need to recognize their own life-vocation as Christian educators."

Speaking on behalf of the vocation directors who attended the conference, Father Paul Embery from the National Office for Vocation said, "We need to place greater emphasis on naming and celebrating teaching as a vocation, so that teachers are affirmed in the great work they do in our schools. Only if they are positive about their own life-calling can they adequately convey a sense of vocation to those whom they educate."

The directors acknowledged the difficulty many schools have in finding teachers who are strong in their faith.
"They expressed a desire that those who train teachers would encourage their students to see the profession they are entering as a vocation and also as one that involves helping young people in their own vocational discernment," the statement said.

The directors expressed their satisfaction that more diocesan-level vocation discernment programs and initiatives are being implemented.

Diocese of Raleigh "Heroes of Sacrifice" Vocations Poster

Well I'm overdue in posting this, but better late than never right? This is the new poster of our seminarians from the Diocese of Raleigh Office of Vocations. This is one of my first big projects in my new position and I must say that I'm pretty excited about how it turned out. A huge expression of thanks goes to Bishop Burbidge and Fr. Shlesinger for trusting me on this one. While one of my undergraduate degrees is in graphic design, this is quite a shift aesthetically for our Diocese. The poster itself is quite large, 18 x 24 inches, and looks great framed. The title comes from the prayer for seminarians we have been using since the fall:

O Lord Jesus Christ, Great High Priest,
I pray that you call many worthy men to your holy priesthood.

Enlighten our Bishop in forming our candidates,
our Director of Vocations in guiding them
and their professors in teaching and training them.

Lead the seminarians in your unerring footsteps
so they may become priests who are models of purity,
possessors of wisdom and heroes of sacrifice.

May they be steeped in humility
and aflame with love for God and others.

Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us.
Amen


When I designed the prayer cards, I wanted to give everyone in the Diocese the names of our seminarians in order to pray for them - and thus began the campaign of "Pray for Our Seminarians by Name." This carried over onto the poster so that now people not only see our seminarians, but pray for them as well.

The poster was a team effort, but is largely the design of a good friend from my days at the College of Design at NC State University (Go Pack!). John D'Amelio is not only a great graphic designer, but a man of deep faith, a wonderful husband and father of six. It was a joy to work with him in designing this poster, and continuining to work with him as we begin to roll out monthly "Heroes of Sacrifice" ads for the NC Catholics Magazine.


In January we will begin working on the new Office of Vocations website. These are truly exciting times!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Carmelite Monks in Wyoming #3


Below is an article from the Billings Gazette about the Carmelite Monks is Wyoming

Clark monks release chant CD
By RUFFIN PREVOST
Gazette Wyoming Bureau

CLARK - In winter, the vast, scenic countryside around the tiny foothills community of Clark is serene and quiet. The frigid air and lingering snow cover seem to compress any sound before it is swept away on the Wyoming wind.

On a morning walk down one particular gravel road, one might hear the screech of a distant hawk, or perhaps the crunching sound of deer cautiously stepping through frozen brush.

A trip to the far end of the road might reward early risers with a surreal auditory delight: the medieval melody of Gregorian chant, borne on the wind from behind a high wooden fence.

For the past two years, the Carmelite monks of Clark have risen at 4 a.m. to begin each day in prayer, often performing the centuries-old chants in worship.

And now they've recorded a CD to share their chants with others in hopes of raising funds for a host of ambitious projects. "The Mystical Chants of Carmel" features 14 traditional prayers and hymns in Latin.

"We wanted to make a CD where people could listen to it and meditate or pray," said Father Daniel Mary. "Chant has that very peaceful, soothing quality."

Father Daniel - who was born Daniel Schneider, but like all monks in his order, has adopted Mary as his surname to honor the Blessed Virgin - smiles broadly as he discusses the transcendent power of chant.

"Some of the chants, like 'Audi Filia,' you can tell the soul that created it was totally inspired, totally immersed in God and prayer," he said.

Ancient music

Codified in the ninth century by St. Gregory, Gregorian chant was adopted from Jewish temples and developed over the centuries into a cornerstone of Roman Catholic Mass, Father Daniel said.

Father Daniel and the other six monks in his monastery spend up to eight hours a day in prayer, with much of that time devoted to chanting.

"Our prayer life is quite active," said Father Daniel. "All day long, you have times you come together in the chapel as part of that process.

"The chant CD is mostly the prayers we do from the Mass. All of our prayer in liturgy and Mass is chanted in Latin," he said.

Father Daniel, a native of Clark, founded the monastery two years ago with Michael Wright, who is now Brother Michael Mary.

They had been living in a Minnesota monastery that was more hermetic and isolated, and wanted to establish an order in Wyoming rooted in the Carmelite tradition of an agrarian lifestyle.

The Clark monastery opened in October 2003, in a ceremony at which the bishop of the Archdiocese of Wyoming symbolically closed it off from the world of profane cares outside.

"When Bishop Ricken shut the gates, at that moment, there was this extraordinary peace and sense of God's presence," Father Daniel said. "And that's the way it remains - very much a peaceful environment."

Brother Michael said he felt freedom, rather than isolation. He said his life before he was cloistered was filled with worldly distractions.

"Then, all of a sudden, the doors were closed," he said, "and I had this freedom of my soul to just waste myself in prayer, with nothing holding me back."

Father Daniel acknowledges that the monks' presence in Clark has raised a few eyebrows.

"We're an exotic species here," he jokes, saying people often observe through binoculars as the monks hike to a cross at the top of a hill behind the monastery.

"We sometimes wear a hunting jacket to let them know we're human," he said.

Word of the Wyoming monks spread, and their numbers have grown from two to seven. One young member learned of the Clark monastery through Google, an Internet search engine.


"He just loves it here," Father Daniel said of 20-year-old Brother Simon, who hails from New York. "To him it's like a foretaste of Heaven.

"And for all the other brothers, it's the same thing," he said. "It's amazing how God calls them. It seems deeply rooted in their soul to give their life to God with prayer. That's why they come."

The monks accept prayer requests from nearby St. Barbara's Catholic Church in Powell, and from other sources across rural northwest Wyoming.

Some leave phone messages asking for prayers, while others - sometimes two or three people a day - trek to the remote monastery and ring a bell outside the walls to summon a monk.

"People realize monks are there to pray for the world," Father Daniel said. "We want to intercede before God, to be channels of grace for the world."

No distractions

The monks enter the monastery on a six-year journey culminating in a vow of lifelong commitment to the order, pledging poverty, chastity and obedience to the church.

The telephone is used mainly to accept calls requesting prayers. Radio, TV and Internet are forbidden as unwelcome distractions. Outsiders are not allowed within the confines of the cloister.

Monks typically leave the monastery only for special reasons, like a medical emergency or the death of a relative.

Next to the monastery fence is a tiny cottage, which visitors enter through an outside door while the monks enter from within the monastery. Father Daniel jokingly calls it "the neutral zone."

Food and other necessities are brought by outside "runners," much as it has been done for centuries.

Applicants to the monastery, who come from all backgrounds and walks of life, are carefully screened by Father Daniel, who must be sure they are well-suited to the monastic discipline before accepting them into the order.

He said he has heard from more than 100 serious, qualified applicants, and expects to add another seven or eight new members over the next year.

The converted summer home that serves as their monastery can host a maximum of 15 men, making plans for expansion a top priority and a chief reason for the CD fundraiser.

"We can't turn anybody down," Father Daniel said. "If they're meant for us, we have to take them in. That's why we're already thinking about where we're going to found the next monastery."

Big plans

Father Daniel said the monks have reached an agreement with a benefactor to acquire 110 acres near Heart Mountain. Their hopes for the land now rest on raising money for its purchase, which he says they're working to accomplish, and finding well water on it, a goal whose success will depend on God.

Father Daniel hopes to build a monastery there with room for 30 monks, along with a church big enough for 500 worshipers and a hermitage, where visitors can sample for a few days or weeks the cloistered life of the monks.

Beyond that, he and Brother Michael have discussed plans to establish a monastery in Montana, somewhere between Billings and the Wyoming state line, which is just a few miles north of Clark.

As Father Daniel pages through a coffee table book of photographs of European cathedrals - talking of his plans for a gothic church in rural Wyoming - he displays a quiet, steady confidence born from a life of singular purpose and unquestioned commitment.

"It might be five years down the road, but we're going to do it," he said. "We have some people that could really finance this whole thing already behind us. They want to see us do our part, but we have no doubt it's going to happen."

For now, Father Daniel and the Carmelite monks of Clark are focused on a few simple agrarian goals, such as acquiring livestock and perhaps some chickens.

While the monks don't eat meat, tending to the animals and gardening - along with other work like making their own sandals or woodworking - are a large part of the discipline of monastic life.

Manual labor is one of the four pillars of a monk's daily routine, Father Daniel said, along with recreation, scripture study and prayer.

In prayer, the monks will continue to chant, he said, because chant "has a power to it that is out of this world, and it draws souls into transcendence."

Details

The monks' CD can be ordered online at www.carmelitemonks.org/chant.html. CDs can also be ordered by sending $15 plus $3.95 shipping and handling to Carmelite Monastery, P.O. Box 2747, Cody, WY 82414

Carmelite Monks in Wyoming #2 VIDEO LINK


Salt Lake Tribune slideshow, with beautiful pictures, about the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming.

Carmelite Monks in Wyoming #1


The post below was written by Deal Hudson on September 25, 2007 and orginally posted on his personal blog.

The Last Carmelite Monks in America
By Deal W. Hudson

The last eight Carmelite monks in America, perhaps even the world, live in a four-bedroom rectory in the mountains of northwest Wyoming.

With 35 candidates in various stages of discernment, they hope to move 70 miles away to a 492-acre property near Carter Mountain once owned by "Buffalo Bill" Cody as his hunting preserve.

"Buffalo Bill's house is dilapidated, but the newer lodge on the property was meant to be a monastery," said Rev. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, the 40-year-old prior of the community.

"We are sleeping in all kinds of places all over the property -- one is sleeping in the library, one in the office -- we are going to have to be moving no matter what."

Father Daniel founded the community on October 15, 2003, when Bishop David Ricken of Cheyenne sealed their enclosure. For Father Daniel, it was a homecoming: His father, rancher Jerry Schneider, runs the Mt. Carmel Youth Ranch four miles up the road. The youth ranch, like the monastery, is starting to gain a national reputation. Parents who want help with troubled youngsters send them to Schneider.

Father Daniel exudes the same kind of can-do enthusiasm that animates his father, who is one of the most unforgettable characters you will ever meet -- a massive, soft-spoken cowboy with a deep devotion to the Mother of God. It's obvious to me where the son's determination comes from.

He left his life as a Carmelite hermit in Minnesota because they were losing their vocations. "Young men simply could not adjust to a solitary life; they needed a community -- that's why I asked for permission from the prior to start a monastic community."

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of Minneapolis gave Father Daniel permission to contact Bishop Ricken in Wyoming, who had let it be known that he was looking for Carmelites to live in his diocese. Archbishop Flynn said to me, "This is meant to be, this is of God." After the meeting with Flynn, Father Daniel called Bishop Ricken, who immediately invited him to Wyoming.

"I think we are the only community of Carmelite Monks in the world that live a cloistered life." The eight brothers live in a "constitutional enclosure," which they can leave only for medical reasons, not even for a death in the family.

They do, however, foster relationships with their families, who can stay at the guesthouse. The only contact the brothers have with people outside the community are the special visitors they invite to stay in the "speak room."

Though they don't meet with very many people outside the community, they do sell them coffee. On their Web site there is a tab for "Mystic Monk Coffee." Click the tab and you will find for sale an array of coffee beans "roasted solely by real monks who are passionate about coffee."

You will also be offered the doubled-handled "Mystic Monk Mug." Father Daniel explained, "It is a longstanding tradition that Carmelites drink coffee using both hands in thanksgiving for the fruits of the harvest."

Why coffee?, I asked him. "Out here in Wyoming there's not much you can do. I have a brother, Michael Mary, who worked in coffee shops all his life and really has a lot of knowledge about coffee, so we just went for the gusto and tried it." They started selling coffee in June of this year, and sales are already brisk. "It was just meant to be, I guess," says Father Daniel.

It was just meant to be. That phrase was used a number of times by Father Daniel when I interviewed him. He told me that Buffalo Bill died a Catholic, receiving last rites on his deathbed, and so the new monastery and retreat center "is meant to be."

By Christmas, Father Daniel and his fellow monks hope to be celebrating the Tridentine Latin Mass and singing Gregorian chant in the shadow of Carter Mountain.

I will stay in touch with Father Daniel and his "last Carmelite monks" and will let you know if the move to Buffalo Bill's property "was meant to be."

* * *

Father Daniel asked me to request your prayers and your support. To send a donation, or some books for their monastery library, write to:

Carmelite Monastery
P.O. Box 2747
Cody, WY 82414-2747

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Archdiocese of St. Louis to Expand Seminary?

The post below is from the "St. Louis Catholic" blog.


There are reliable indications that the Archbishop will soon announce a major expansion of the facilities of the Archdiocesan Seminary.

The seminary's enrollment increased this year by 50%, with all signs pointing to another increase in enrollment next year. The seminary has simply run out of room.

Architectural plans have been submitted to His Grace for approval. A new residence hall is certainly needed, and perhaps a new library and other facilities are in the works.

This is great news, of course. But another reason to be grateful is the faithful, orthodox and pastoral care of the Archbishop that has led to the increase in the number of young men entering Kenrick-Glennon. As has been proven all over the world, when the Diocesan Ordinary teaches and defends the Catholic faith, Diocesan vocations increase. Dissent and ambiguity lead to dwindling numbers of priests. Where the fullness of faith is held, vocations to the priesthood and religious life flourish.

The seminary is out of room. As is the case with the ICRSS and the FSSP seminaries, St. Louis now has the best kind of vocation crisis.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Vocation Story and Serving Mass for the Pope at St. Peter's Basilica


By KAREN HERZOG
Bismarck Tribune

Matthew Wanner's mother, Gloria, said that in high school her son was just an all-American football player, "just a normal, regular high school kid."

Still, when in college he decided to change from electrical engineering to study for the priesthood, it wasn't a big shock.

"You kind of sense some things - all mothers do along the way," she said.

She said she and her husband, Tim, just asked their son, whose home parish is the Church of St.Joseph in Mandan, if he was sure, and told him they were behind him.

Matthew Wanner, now 22, has written about his journey to that decision from Rome, where he is studying for the fall semester and where he was one of 10 American seminarians chosen to serve for Pope Benedict XVI during Mass on Nov. 5.

"What a gift, what an opportunity," Gloria Wanner said. Her photo of her son receiving communion from the pope "does something to your heart," she said.

"For him (serving the pope), the magnitude of where you are, who's in front of you - the experience was awesome," she said.

From Rome, via e-mail, Matthew Wanner talked about his vocation story:

Ultimately, his reasons for joining the seminary came down to a heartfelt conviction that God was calling him to the priesthood, he said.

Wanner, a 2003 graduate of Mandan High School and the second-oldest of nine siblings, went to North Dakota State University to study electrical engineering.

"As a freshman in college, I was introduced to the usual temptations and lifestyles prevalent on virtually all college campuses," he said. "Growing up Catholic and wanting to continue my faith life in college, I found my way to St. Paul's Catholic Newman Center, which had a deep impact on my practice of the faith and integration of Catholic teachings in my daily life.

"After engaging the typical college scene and finding it unfulfilling, I was given a true gem in that faith community. This community fostered the seeds of my vocation by providing a subculture of Catholic living amidst the secular environment surrounding the college campus. I was drawn to the witness of Christian virtue amidst a culture of sarcasm, sexual promiscuity and intemperance."

Eventually, he said, he felt drawn to attending daily Mass. Wanting more time in silent prayer, he started reciting the rosary and attending Eucharistic adoration on a regular basis. By the end of his freshman year, he was asked to be a peer minister.

By the summer of 2005, Wanner was riding a beat-up bicycle to Mass in the afternoons and to Eucharistic adoration at the Cathedral of St. Mary in the evening. By the end of summer, thoughts of becoming a priest were constantly in the forefront of his mind, he said. After a July retreat, he knew he had to enter seminary, he said. It was then that he called the Rev. Thomas Richter, the Bismarck diocese's vocations director.

"Studying in Rome has opened my eyes in ways that can't be properly described," Wanner says. "On the first day, we walked to St. Peter's Square. Walking to school every day, I pass significant religious and historical sites. Amidst these colorful expressions of faith, an almost tangible dimension of the communion of saints is present in the city. Praying before the tombs of saints such as St. Catherine of Siena, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Sebastian brings a unique connection with the saint's intercession."

Each November, the pope celebrates Mass in the Vatican Basilica, along with members of the College of Cardinals, for the the cardinals and bishops who died during the year. The 10 American seminarians chosen to serve with him this year, including Wanner, were all from Saint John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

It is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Wanner says.

"If servers are needed from Rome, hundreds of seminarians from various countries are available for service. I am still not quite sure how we were chosen for this opportunity. The only contact we had was a single letter requesting that we serve sometime during the fall semester."

Before practice, seminaries were separated by height and briefed on their specific tasks, he said. Jared Johnson, a third-year seminarian from Williston, and Wanner, taller than most, were assigned to lead the procession. Johnson carried the crucifix and Wanner proceeded on his right with a candle.

"Before the Mass started, we all vested in the South Sacristy (of St. Peter's Basilica, Altar of the Chair). Twenty-three cardinals were piecing together their ruby-red vestments while we silently slid on our cream-colored surplices. Once the procession began, the colorful crowd, clouds of incense and the Chair of St. Peter in the background brought a sense of wonder and amazement. Interestingly, I wasn't nervous in the least. I (just) had to make sure that I kept my focus on the details that we had practiced twice before."

One of Wanner's most memorable experiences took place during communion, as he and Johnson, holding candlesticks, were positioned on either side of the pope.

"'What am I doing here?' kept reverberating through my head as I looked at Jared across from me straining to keep the heavy candleholder off the marble floor," he said.

"Receiving communion from the Holy Father was a moment we will never forget," he said. "Serving for the pope was far more meaningful than merely carrying a candle down an aisle in front of a famous figurehead. The experience strikes much deeper.

"As Catholics, we believe that the celebration of the Mass is a participation in the heavenly banquet. In a real sense, I was united in service with the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ."

Habits = Vocations (It's really not that simple, but habits are certainly a part of the equation)

The post below was written by Stephen Hand for his blog "The Bride and the Dragon".





Every Religious Order That Has Left Off the Habit is Dying; and Coversely...

This Could be Called 'Don't Kick the Habit' Week At This Site;
Following up on the previous post...

I never met a (real) nun I didn't feel inspired by, though (especially when young) I'm certain the feeling was not always mutual, but that would have been my fault, not theirs. I wish I could apologize to some nuns for some of my bratty behavior as a kid. We didn't mean anything by it; we were just, well, idiots, as the Sisters seemed to understand.

When I was young (and I am 'only' 55 today) nuns seemed to be everywhere, in the schools, in the hospitals, on the busses and trains... living works of mercy.

Doubtless we do not see more today because vocations are down in much of the intoxicated secular West, especially after the Council with all the irresponsible interpretations that followed in its wake, but isn't it also because many who are consecrated to Jesus Christ in religious Orders do not wear their religious habits anymore? I find this heartbreaking.

While not doubting their dedication and calling in many cases since they only followed the herd, it must also be said habitless Sisters blend into all crowds, if not the woodwork. And that's the problem; it's part of the reason that many Religious Orders began dying. Young women can hardly aspire to something they cannot see.

Now look at those Orders which are growing today and almost invariably we find these are nuns who have not abandoned the habit.

Visible signs. How the world needs them in our time. Visible signs of purity as an ideal as opposed to the fashions and vanities of this world. How we all need to be reminded this still exists in our day.

The Church, while encouraging modesty for all, has never insisted like Islam that all women "belong" in burqas. But we have seen so many girls and women exchange beauty---real beauty (Juiet beauty) which is always aligned to purity, simplicity and modesty---for crass, vile confomity, for--God save us-- "sexiness". Young women today have been degraded and violated by lust-filled money grubbers who take their purity and keep the money. They hardly know anymore that Christ, His Mother and the Saints offer a higher way. It's another reason we need visible signs: to inspire, to remind us all that this life is not all there is.

Many young women I have talked to confess there is something sublime in this visible sign of consecration. They are tired of feeling inadequate because they don't always want to appear "the fox," and they are tired of apologizing for wanting to be real. They miss the noble ideals of sweetness, purity, consecration, and the possibility of contemplating Something higher than themselves and endless media images.

But who will understand in today's world where women are encouraged to exhaust and degrade themselves to look "hot" like the anorexic "babes" on TV?

Nuns. Nuns should understand.

But what if these nuns can't be seen, and are thus unknown because they have unwittingly conformed to the awful sameness of the present age? Many young women in their deepest hearts would love to be brides of Christ but hardly know that such a transcendent alternative exists anymore.

Vatican II allowed an optional modification of the nun's habit and veil for health and climate's sake (the cloth maybe, the style a little, but certainly not a complete rupture with their Order's past, see pics here)---it never encouraged its abandonment.

Haven't we as the Church let young women down in thinking Sisters should become just more of the same? Everyone---all of us!--- need to see vocations and purity again! Especially men! Then, with such visible signs everywhere again, all women are more likely to be respected as they should be---and that should not surprise us. Every time we see a nun in the Habit we are reminded that this world is not all there is, that God is far from "dead" (what an oxymoron and nonsense!). God only "dies" in dead souls.

99% of all the stories about those mean, ugly, sexually frustrated crows we see dished out in Hollywood in our time are pure bunk, nasty vile propaganda perpetrated by the enemies of the Church (1). I know. I was there. Nuns are beautiful ---in the most sublime sense possible.