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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tales of Old

Hat tip to Per Christum

"She asked him one question, 'What is your religion?'"

"You don't understand Mr. Bonniville, my Catholic faith is the greatest thing I have and I am not going to do anything in the world to weaken it."

Great video of an interview with Fr. William Bonniwell, O.P. - wonderful stories about some of the good things before Vatican II, which is only to say that as a post VII Catholic I only seem to hear the stories of how bad things were before the Second Vatican Council. Now obviously not everything was right before the Council, but then again the same can be said of things in the Church today - go figure it's still full of people.

Hope you enjoy the video as much as I did. A big thanks to the Friars at the Dominican House of Studies for putting it on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Great Vocations Ads?

All over Baltimore the US Marine Corps has purchased billboards with a very simple message: We don't accept applications, only commitments.

In an age where young people are crippled by their inability to commit to anything, let alone a vocation, this seems like a great message.

I've said it before, the Marines have one of the best "vocations" programs going. From their webiste to their posters to their billboards, they understand how to communicate a message to young men. Heck, a call to the priesthood involves sacrifice, but joining the Marine Corps has the potential for one to make the ultimate sacrifice, yet the Marines don't seem to be having trouble getting young men to sign up. Obviously the comparison is not perfect, but it's something to think about.

Check out the television commercial version of the billboard all over Baltimore...

Franciscans of Primitive Observance

One of the benefits of a vocatins conference is the ability to talk to so many people doing this work from around the country, especially people who are optimistic and excited about vocations work. Since this is our first year at the NCDVD we are spending a lot of time meeting people for the first time, while for others it is a time to get caught up. Actually it has been good for Fr. Shlesinger who has seen many of his classmates from the North American College in Rome. However, it seems that I actually know quite a few people here, and have had a chance to catch up with some people myself.

That was the case in the picture above. I had forgotten that the Franciscans of the Primitive Observence send their seminarians to Mount Saint Mary's, but was very happy to see them and find out that one friar in particular, Deacon Andrew, FPO was at the Mount. I met Br. Andrew several years ago at the March for Life and had some correspondence by mail with him. It was great to see him again, and to be able to congratulate him on his ordination to the Diaconate.

The FPO's if you've never heard of them, are a group that splintered off of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and are - well, they are really old school. They are probably about as close to living St. Francis' original rule as you might find. Just take a look at Br. Andrew's habit. It was pretty hot yesterday, and that habit it made of heavy wool. It's thick and unhemmed, and looks a whole lot like what I would imagine their seraphic father's habit to look like.
More posts on the FPO's

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Day Two at the NCDVD

Well day two is drawing to a close, and it has been a long one. Up early, we travelled from Baltimore to Emmitsburg, Maryland for Morning Prayer at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary. The drive was beautiful, as was the seminary and chapel. After morning prayer we were treated to a talk by Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR. For the most part Fr. Groeschel spoke abouth the errors that psychology has interjected into our faith, especially into our seminaries. I'll post my notes from his talk later, but the long and short of it was that striving to live a virtuous life was the answer, and that as vocations directors we should seek out men of virtue. The talk was very good, at times very funny, and as we've come to expect from Fr. Groeschel, brutally honest.

After the talk there was a holy hour in the chapel followed by Mass with Fr. Groeschel as homilist. After Mass I was able to get the picture above with Fr. Kyle Schnippel, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and moderator of the Called By Name blog, Fr. Groeschel, and me. What a blessing! I should add here that it has been a blessing to meet Fr. Schnippel after months of comments and posts back and forth on each others blogs. Unfortunately due to the schedule and going in different directions we haven't really had a chance to talk, but I hope to tomorrow. What I can say is that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is blessed to have Fr. Schnippel as their Director of Vocations.
Fr. Shlesinger and I had an opportunity to visit the National Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes behind the seminary. It was really beautiful, and I can only say it should be a pilgrimage site for those in the mid-atlantic states.

From the Seminary we headed up the street to the Minor Basilica for the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Truthfully I had know idea how impressive this Basilica was. This a pciture of the Sanctuary.

From the basilica we headed to Gettysburg. I'll spare you my interest in Civil War history. In short it was incredible to see the battlefield. It was strange to drive around a place were so many men gave their lives. Think about the fact that in three days 51,000 Americans were killed, wounded, captured or went missing! When I get back to Raleigh I'm going to watch Gettysburg again - it will certainly be different watching it now.
Tonight we went to an Orieles game at what has to be one of the nicest ballparks in the country. The game wasn't terrific, but then again when the weather is perfect, there's a full moon in the sky, you're at a baseball game, can it realy be bad?
More tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Update from the Vocations Directors Conference

I will try my best over the next couple of days to post updates from the conference. Fr. Shlesinger and I arrived last night, after a stop in DC to pray at the Basilica and to visit with two of our seminarians at Theological College, Deacon Mike Spurr and Juan Pablo Barrientos.

The conference started the best way possible with a Holy Hour. Below is a picture, not from a church, but from a room in the hotel that looks more like a church that some churches I've been in. It was beautiful, and a beautiful reminder of why we are here - Jesus Christ.

After the Holy Hour we said morning prayer together before moving up to a larger conference room. The key note speaker of the day was Cardinal McCarrick, who, as always, was an engaging speaker. The first part of his talk was to those involved in vocations work. Specifically addressing the priests he gave three key points - 1. Love your priesthood (love the priesthood), stressing that to love it you need to understand it as service. 2. Love your brother priests, highligting the fact that if your brother priests don't respect you they won't help you, and vocations directors can not do this alone - they must have the help of their brother priests. 3) Always rejoice - real joy, tinged with a healthy fear of the Lord, and pray without ceasing. Cardinal McCarrick also stressed the need to thank all those who help in the work of promoting and supporting vocations.

Then the better part of His Emminence's talk had to do with a list of things every Bishop should do:

1. Mandate prayers for vocations in the prayers of the faithful. He highlighted the fact that it is important how they are worded. He clarified this by saying that we are blessed with many vocations to the permanent diaconate, and acknowledged that there was a great need to pray for holy vocations to matrimony, but that there is a critical need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Cardinal McCarrick stressed that he wasn't saying not to pray for vocations to the diaconate, lay consecrated life, or holy matrimony, but that they should be seperate intentions in order to not dilute the emphasis.

2. Every Bishop should write a prayer for vocations and publish it throughout the Diocese.

3. The Bishop should ALWAYS promote vocations where ever he goes.

4. The Bishop needs to go where the vocations are - high schools, COLLEGES and UNIVERSITIES, young adult ministries, etc. He mentioned Theology on Tap specifically and told an amusing story about going to one where the bar was so crowded the waitresses couldn't get to people, therefore couldn't sell beer, and the bar manager was mad because they didn't make any money.

5. The Bishop needs to "buttonhole" people (or at least I think that's what His Eminence said). Cardinal McCarrick spoke to need of personally inviting people - individually tell men they should become a priest. He said that many seminarians have come up to him saying that he once told them they should become priests, which of course he could not remember doing, but in the end it was an affirmation of the fact that we have to invite people.

Cardinal McCarrick went on to give quite a few more great ideas, but since it's been a long day already, those may have to wait for another post. Tomorrow we travel to Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg and hear a keynote address by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, followed by Mass with Fr. Groeschel. Hopefully I'll get some pictures, and tell you what he had to say.

I should add that lunch today started with the Angelus - from what I understand all of this is a very positive change from years past. Also, the lunch was sponsered by the Army Chaplains who rightly made a plea for the critical need for chaplains. Again, maybe I'll post more on this later. For now it's time to hit the rack.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

National Diocesan Vocations Directors Conference

We're off to the conference today. I'll try to post about the conference as I can.

We'll also be stopping to see our seminarians in DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two Very Good Vocations Posts

The Anchoress has two very good posts about the vocations crisis that many religious communities are NOT having.

A Flourishing of Novices, part I

A Flourishing of Novices, part II

Diocese of Raleigh Discernment Group Starts a New Year

Today marked the beginning of the new year for the Diocese of Raleigh Discernment Group, and the first meeting under the guidance of our new Director of Vocations Fr. Ned Shlesinger. What a blessing it was to have 12 men at the meeting as well as newly ordained Fr. Tony DeCandia.

We began the day with the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar in the Cathedral at 9:00AM. After Mass, we moved two doors down to the new Office of Vocations for coffee and pastries. We began the meeting with morning prayer followed by introductions. Fr. Shlesinger then led us into a really good discussion about discernment.

The great blessing of the morning was the surprise visit of our local successor to the Apostles, Bishop Burbidge! Seriously, how great is it that our Bishop takes the time to stop by, join the discussion, and lead us in daytime prayer? It is my sincere daily prayer of thanksgiving for the gift that he is to the Diocese of Raleigh. Having been the rector at St. Charles Borromeo, His Excellency was able to communicate some wonderful advice about the discernment process!

Please join me in praying for all those discerning God's call to a life of holiness through a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Pictures from September 14th

These are some of the other pictures I was able to take during the Mass last Friday night. Enjoy.

Monday, September 17, 2007


VATICAN CITY, SEP 15, 2007 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in audience the Poor Clares from the convent of the Immaculate Conception at Albano, which is located within the territory of the pontifical villas at Castelgandolfo.

Addressing the nuns, Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude "for your daily support through prayer, and for your intense spiritual participation in the mission of the Pastor of the Universal Church. In the silence of the cloister and in the total and exclusive giving of self to Christ in accordance with the Franciscan charism, you provide a valuable service to the Church."

"The Pope expects you to be burning torches of love, your hands joined in a vigil of incessant prayer, completely detached from the world in order to sustain the ministry of he whom Jesus has called to guide His Church."

"Not always," said the Pope, "is public opinion aware of the silent dedication of people who, like you, seek to put the Gospel into effect 'sine glossa' with simplicity and joy. Nonetheless, you may be sure that the contribution you make to the apostolic and missionary activity of the Church in the world is truly extraordinary, and God will continue to bless you with the gift of many vocations, as He has up to now."

"May St. Francis, St. Clare and the many male and female saints of your order help you to 'persevere faithfully unto the end' in your vocations," the Pope concluded. "May the Virgin of Sorrows grant you the gift of following her divine crucified Son and of embracing with serenity the difficulties and trials of daily life."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Reverence and Beauty of Order and Discipline

I was speaking with a couple of Priest friends on Friday, September 14th, before the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, about the questions that will almost certainly come from some Catholics (and non-Catholics) about the need for all the formality, order, and discipline of the Priests in celebrating the Mass in the Forma Extraordinaria, and it reminded me of the soldiers that guard the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington, VA. It reminded me of them because even as a child I remember it being a profound experience watching those soldiers march with such precision. I marvelled at their dedication and discipline. I remember the silence. I thougt it was fascinating that everything they did had a purpose, down to the number of steps they took. I especially thought it was amazing that they had been there every minute of every day since the first tomb was laid, and will continue on "forever".

But isn't it silly that they do it? Isn't it unecessary? Why do they have to walk like that, and move like that? Couldn't they just casually walk back and forth? Better yet, couldn't they just sit in a chair? Why the need for all that formality.

What I also remember was people standing there for a long time in silence - in reverence. I remember barely hearing their quite footsteps. It was beautiful.

When I hear the soldier in the video below I can't help but think about the Priests celebrating the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (the Tridentine Mass). When asked "Do you ever ask yourself why are we doing all this?", he answered "not really, we're going to give them the best that we have, and that's what we're doing". How much more should we give the best that we have for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

Changing of the guard video...

What happens when some dope tries to walk out past the rails - guard yells "it is requested that all visitors remain behind the chains and rails" (hmmmm)...

Sentinel's Creed...

Discernment Meditation

Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV, Vocations Director for the Sisters of Life, sent me her discernment meditation for this month (below) as well as the above picture of their 12 new postulants including our son's Godmother, Stephanie (too bad they're not attracting any young women to their order - and the ones they did attract look so sad - it's a shame).

On the last World Day of Consecrated Life Pope Benedict XVI reminded those who follow Jesus in living the evangelical counsels that, "in choosing Christ we let ourselves by ‘conquered’ by Him without reserve…"

The word ‘conquer’ means "to take possession by force." We don’t tend to think of Jesus as ‘conquering’ because He comes as a Lamb and not as a wolf. We don’t tend to think of the Holy Spirit of Jesus as ‘possessing’ us because Jesus does not enslave us but sets us free. The force Jesus uses to conquer is the force of His love. Jesus desires that we allow His love to conquer and take possession of each of us - the whole of our person - that we might know and participate in His salvation; that we might be sons and daughters of the Most High God, able to love and forgive and live as He does.

The Scriptural passage we use in reference to vocations and to our charism is "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." But this isn’t the whole of the passage. As a whole, Jn 10:10 reads, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." When we allow Jesus to come into our hearts to give us abundant life, He must "break into" the personal and intimate dimensions of our lives. While a thief does such "only to steal and kill and destroy" Jesus does so to give us life and to give it to us abundantly. Jesus conquers with His Love. Nevertheless, with Jesus there is an experience of a "taking" from us, which can be uncomfortable, especially in the beginning when we only know the harshness of the world’s taking and do not yet know the peace and joy that come from "losing our lives" for the sake of Jesus. As the Lord leads us closer to Him, it isn’t unusual to experience moments of trepidation that demand new depths of trust in Him. But, as Pope Benedict reminded us at World Youth Day in Cologne: "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great… Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection …"

Since the Garden of Eden it’s been difficult to totally place ourselves in the hands of another, and of the Other. But our current culture teaches us, even subconsciously, to guard our ‘lives’ - read: our wants and will - with vengeance. We daily see and hear messages about the human person that smell of violation, through pornography or cruelty or both. The images and words that spur us to ‘take’ simultaneously nail down the fear that we will be ‘taken’. It’s a recipe for a cycle of unfulfilled unhappiness. This fear is wrapped around the contraceptive industry, the abortion industry, the euthanasia industry. Aspects of life designed to invite us into beautiful mutual vulnerability have become, for some, moments of rejection of the other for the sake of self. But the fear that propels such actions isn’t just felt by those entrenched in the culture of death. "The truth is we are all very much captive to powers that anonymously manipulate us!" So says Pope Benedict in his latest book, Jesus of Nazareth. The violation of our sacred dignity begins in the historical context in which we find ourselves. It’s as if a tea bag of violation has been plopped into the hot waters of our culture and there it steeps, and we all drink of it in varying degrees. Interestingly, the thesaurus gives as an antonym to "violation" the word "consecration."

And those who are consecrated, beginning with all the baptized and more radically with religious (so all of us), are to so allow Jesus and His Spirit to conquer us, to possess us, that we become contagious, living antonyms to the violation of the human person so present in our world. Letting the Lord conquer us means giving ourselves totally to Jesus, day in and day out, even and especially when fidelity to His love demands what is difficult for us. Such a consecrated life, a conquered life, has a powerful effect on the world. For the first thing Jesus takes away from us is sin: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…" (Eucharistic Prayer). He takes away our sins, "so vanquishing them as to rob them of any substance or reality…" (Pope Benedict XVI). And in place of our sins, He gives us Himself, His Holy Spirit. As His Spirit frees us, strengthens us, lifts us up, so His Spirit in us offers a whiff of fresh air to those otherwise choking in the smog of sin. The more deeply we live our consecration, whether baptismal or religious, the more powerful a purifier we become - the more our very presence (actually Jesus’ presence in us) can draw others and help others to experience restoration and renewal (new life) where sin and darkness have violated their dignity and sown death.

We pray and trust our consecrated religious lives as Sisters of Life has just such effect! And now we have a new city and country in which to let the Holy Spirit conquer through us! At the end of August, three of our Sisters, Sr. Antoniana Maria, Sr. Monica Faustina and Sr. Mary Clare, became pioneers in our community when they were missioned to our first International foundation in Toronto, Canada. As they departed from our hub here in New York, I was reminded of the millions of courageous and generous religious throughout the history of the Church (even until the middle of last century), who, when following a call from the Lord, left all that was familiar to them knowing that they would never see their friends and family again on earth. Many of these brave lovers of Christ went to meet their martyrdom. How so many of these, now in Heaven, must be cheering our Sisters on as they follow what is deepest in all of our hearts: to be missionaries of the Lord of Life and Love to the ends of the earth, giving everything to Jesus and not counting the cost! May each of us allow Jesus’ love to so conquer us that we joyfully offer our lives, in whatever way He calls us, for His glory, our joy and for the salvation of souls!

In the midst of the announcement and preparation for this new mission, our community was blessed with the awesome gifts of still other members diving to deeper depths in their own response to Christ’s love. Only in the context of His love do we have the courage and joy to live radically for Him. In June, four new novices (Sr. Joan Marie, Sr. Maris Stella, Sr. Brigid Ancilla Marie and Sr. Mary Aquinas) were invested in the habit of the Sisters of Life. The more we allow the Holy Spirit, the Love of God, to quench our thirst, the more our thirst for Him increases until nothing can satisfy but Him alone. In the beginning of August, four of our Sisters professed perpetual vows (Sr. Rita Marie, Sr. Veronica Mary, Sr. Bridget of Jesus and Sr. Mary Gabriel) and two professed first vows (Sr. Bernadette Maria Pieta and Sr. Maria Emmanuel). And, just two weeks ago, 12 young women entered our community as postulants: Beth Burwell, Laura Dierschke, Therese Dorobek, Mary Germann, Sandra McIver, Maria Pereyra, Stephanie Ray, Kelly Schulz, Leslee Simms, Jennifer Swan, Jen Takach and Rachel Yates. How blessed we are by the love Jesus has poured into their hearts! May they become saints for Him, fountains of new life in the world. Please pray for them as they live their fiat. Following the Lord, loving the Lord, is awesome, but it is demanding. Jesus takes away our sins, but He also desires to take away whatever might keep us from loving Him alone and above all else. Do not be afraid to let Him into every corner of your being, to follow Him in your thoughts, words, actions and with your life. For, while a thief comes "only to steal and kill and destroy" Jesus comes "to give life and to give it abundantly." And what a Life He gives! May His Name be praised.

"… whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. 3: 7-11)

Please let us know if you would like to attend our next Come & See Retreat: Nov 8-11, 2007 at Villa Maria Guadalupe!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bella the movie

If you haven't heard about this movie yet, you need to find out more about it, and pass the word to everyone you know. Set for release on October 9th, availability will probably have a lot to do with demand. This PRO-LIFE movie has the potential for real success, if it gets out there. But unlike the Passion of the Christ it does not have the financial backing of someone like Mel Gibson. So this will really be a grassroots effort.

This film has support from all over the place. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Sisters of Life are very much behind it (Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR, Vocations Director for the Friars actually makes a brief appearance in the film!). Cardinal Rigali has written a letter in support of the film. The list goes on.

Bella is also receiving critical acclaim as well.

Could you ask for more in a movie released during Respect Life month?

Religious communities notice more young women open to religious life

Rachel and Stephanie who both entered the Sisters of Life this fall. Rachel's older sister is already in the Sisters of Life, and Stephanie is quoted in the article below. Picture was taken just before the Sisters of Life had professions of vows.

By Andrea Slivka
Catholic News ServiceWASHINGTON (CNS)

Girls often dream of saying "I do" at the altar to their future spouse.Katrina Gredona hopes she'll be saying those words to Jesus as a religious sister."When I look at a community of religious women, I see women who contribute fruitfully to the church and to the world in a very special way and in a very essential way, and I think that's exciting," said Gredona, a student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Ten years ago, Gredona's interest in religious life would have been unique in comparison with the majority of other Catholic girls, as reports indicated a decline in the number of religious sisters in the United States. But recently campus ministers and the vocations directors of some women's religious communities have been noticing a new trend of more young women looking into religious life.

Many vocation directors, in interviews with Catholic News Service and in responses to a survey by Vision Vocation Guide, reported a notable increase in the number of women contacting them for information. A small number of communities reported a stable increase in young entrants.At the same time, more campus ministries are helping young women learn about discernment and religious life.

The cloistered Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, N.J., is one community with a significant increase in interest in the order. Founded in 1919, the community has had 15 aspirants spend time with the sisters in the past three years to discern whether to enter the community.That number is much higher than in previous years, when the community would be lucky to have one aspirant each year, said Sister Mary Catharine of Jesus, novice mistress."

The Lord is giving these young women the grace to respond to him and he is so powerful and irresistible that they want to say yes to him," she said. "Given our culture, the fact that so many women are feeling that God is calling them to this life and that they want to respond is nothing short of a miracle."Of the 15 aspirants, more than half entered the Dominican or other communities and two continue to discern whether they are called to the Dominican community.

Sister Mary Scholastica Lee, vocations director for the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, said the change is more than just an increase in numbers -- she has noticed more commitment by young women to follow through on their initial interest in her community."

This year, the desire for religious life seems more deeply rooted," she said.In a recent survey sent to 165 communities' vocations directors, 71 percent said more people inquired about their community recently. Nineteen percent said they have had more candidates preparing to enter in the past three years than in previous years. However, 41 percent said they currently have no women in formation.

The survey was conducted by Vision Vocation Guide, a magazine for those discerning vocations to the religious life and priesthood, and 80 percent of respondents were for women's communities.

Secular news organizations have recently highlighted rapidly growing communities, such as the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville, Tenn., and the Sisters of Life in New York, that have up to 15 young women entering each year.

But other communities recently have had a steady inflow of three to seven young postulants, according to Michael Wick, executive director for the Institute on Religious Life in Libertyville, Ill.

Those communities include the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich., founded in 1970; the Sisters St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Illinois, founded in 1869; the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus, based in St. Louis and founded in 1891; and the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri, founded in 1874.

Sister Mary Gabriel, vocations director for the Sisters of Life, said the girls she talks with want more than what the society and culture have to offer and are drawn to the freedom they find in religious life through living the vocation to which they are called.

"It's not a kickback to the '50s. It's so different. Young women have seen it all," she said.In answer to questions sent to them by CNS, young women shared the reasons they're open to and discerning religious life."

I think it's my responsibility as a faithful young person to seriously discern whether or not God is calling me into direct service of the church through religious life," said Lindsay Wilcox, a student at Boston College.

"I am considering religious life because God has placed that inclination on my heart -- to totally give my life back to him, who laid down his life for me," said Stephanie Ray, who is preparing to enter the Sisters of Life. (OK this is pretty cool, my former student, dear friend, and Godmother to our son is quoted in this article!)

The late Pope John Paul II plays a large role in the new trend, according to several vocation directors and campus ministers interviewed by CNS.

At World Youth Days, the pope challenged young people to live their Catholic faith in a radical way and to not be afraid to seek out God's will for their lives, said Sister Mary Emily Knapp, vocations director for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville. Many of the sisters have told her they first started thinking about vocations at a World Youth Day.

The congregation has 228 sisters, the highest number in its history. In early August, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, cited the community as an example of the vitality of the Catholic Church in the United States. The cardinal was in Nashville to attend the Knights of Columbus annual national convention.

Another reason for the increase in the interest in religious life, according to vocation directors and young sisters, is more campus ministries nurturing and promoting vocations.Sister Mary Gabriel said not long ago it was a "rarity and oddity" to be a college student discerning a vocation. But now she sees girls coming from campus ministries, particularly at public schools, that have eucharistic adoration, Scripture study and daily Mass.

"If you put these together, it's a recipe for falling in love with the Lord," she said.At the University of Illinois, campus minister Sister Sarah Roy, a young Sister of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, said religious vocations weren't talked about much when she attended the university. Now the campus ministry makes the option more visible, and she sees how the students themselves are more willing to consider it.

Likewise, a discernment group at Boston University provides young women with the opportunity to discuss religious life, visit nearby communities and participate in retreats at the end of each semester.Sister Olga Yaqob, an Iraqi who is a member of the Missionaries of the Virgin Mary who leads the group, said the overall purpose is to help the girls become familiar with the will of God and prepare them to respond with a "yes" to whichever vocation they are called by God.

Other contributing factors to the increase, according to those interviewed, include:

-- Web sites making information on discernment and religious communities easily accessible.

-- Dioceses working with religious communities to promote vocations.

-- More general interest in spirituality among a growing number of young adults.

It's uncertain still whether the current increase in interest will lead to a significant increase in the number of those entering, according to Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, an organization in Chicago serving vocation directors.

"It's still too soon to say; however, this is very good news," he said.

Friday, September 14, 2007

1 Parish, 15 Seminarians

From National Catholic Register July 1-7, 2007 Issue

Register Correspondent

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Occasionally, one hears of a parish that has a man in seminary — but 15 from one parish?

Priestly and religious vocations have become commonplace at Christ the King in Ann Arbor, Mich., since its inception 25 years ago. Father Ed Fride, pastor, estimated that 15-20 men from the parish have become priests — men who either grew up in the parish, became members while attending the University of Michigan, or who were affiliated with the church when they discerned their call.

Six of 23 seminarians this year studying for the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., were from Christ the King. Of the other five seminarians from the parish, two are in the neighboring diocese of Saginaw, Mich., one in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and two in religious orders.

Christ the King also is the home of the 15 sisters who make up the Servants of God’s Love, half of whom came from the parish. Six other women from Christ the King have joined religious life in the past five years, two with the Servants of God’s Love, and four with other orders. The parish also has five permanent deacons, three candidates and several more in formation.
Why such a number of vocations from a parish of 830 families? Father Fride has his theories.
“The spirituality of the parish, in which a personal relationship with Jesus is continually stressed, is key,” he said. “We began as, and still are, part of the charismatic renewal, again where a living, active relationship with Jesus is encouraged.

“In addition, since beginning perpetual adoration five years ago when we finished our church building, almost all of the present seminarians, and those to begin this fall, have heard the call to seminary,” Father Fride said. “Jesus has a plan for everyone, whether to marriage, religious life or celibacy, and I address that, but it is proximity to the Lord Jesus during adoration that helps people hear the call.

“Also, we can’t overlook the influence of John Paul the Great,” he continued. “We constantly reference him, his teachings and the example of his life. He was the only pope that these kids knew, and they want to be like him. They want to participate in the New Evangelization, and becoming a priest is a great way to do that.

Said Father Fride: “When you preach orthodoxy, the Eucharist and the centrality of Jesus, vocations result. It seems natural to me to have so many young people who love Jesus and want to serve him become priests. I’m surprised there aren’t more vocations, both here and elsewhere.”

Large Families
Christine Brinkman, whose son, Andrew, is at St. John Vianney in St. Paul, Minn., notes that Father Fride’s love for the priesthood, along with that of other young priests Andrew met, especially at World Youth Day in Toronto, was influential in his decision to go to seminary. “At one point, he was avoiding seminary, but joyful priests impacted him,” she said.
Sister Mary Ann Foggin, a member of the Servants of God’s Love, and director of vocation services for the Diocese of Lansing, talks with many high school students about vocations. When she mentions that she is from Christ the King, they say, “Oh, that’s the parish with all the children,” or “that’s the parish with all the vocations.”

Sometimes people realize there is a connection between those two statements, Sister Mary Ann said.

She is another believer in the effect of Eucharistic adoration upon vocations.

“Where they have it, kids are on fire with the Lord,” she says, “and then they run toward God’s call, which sometimes is a [religious] vocation. If kids are raised having a relationship with Jesus, as is the goal at Christ the King, they will not be afraid to give their life to him, and will trust him when they hear his call, regardless of what it is, because they know he loves them.”

Msgr. Edward Burns, the executive director of vocations and priestly formation for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, finds it amazing that Christ the King has more seminarians than some dioceses.

“That these men are willing to put all aside is reassuring,” he said. “It gives us hope that there are young men willing to answer the call. I think there are more out there. We should want to learn why Christ the King is such a fertile ground for vocations.”

Being a non-territorial parish has been an advantage to Christ the King, according to Father Mike Byrnes, vice-rector of Sacred Heart Seminary, and former member of the parish. He said that many faith-filled families came to Christ the King from all over because of the charismatic renewal; and through the ages, the seedbed of vocations has been faith-filled families and communities. Many vocations these days are coming out of renewal movements.”

An encounter with Christ during a Eucharistic procession led to Mark Rutherford’s decision to enter seminary.

“The priesthood was the farthest thing from my mind until then,” he said, “but that encounter allowed me to hear his call.”

Rutherford, beginning his third year at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, is one of 11 men studying for the priesthood from Christ the King Church. Four more are scheduled to enter college seminary at St. John Vianney this fall.

From his experience as rector at St. John Vianney, Father Bill Baer contends that vocations tend to come from two sources: Christian families that take the faith seriously, and youth who have had their faith renewed in high school, often through World Youth Day, Eucharistic adoration or the Life Teen program.

“Christ the King has both,” he says. “The seminarians from there are a tremendous bunch, a fine combination of Christian character development and excitement.”

Another close observer is Father Jerry Vincke, director of seminarians for the Lansing Diocese. He said that “even if only a small percentage of seminarians from Christ the King were to be ordained, it’s beautiful to see a parish that is open to God’s will and the leading of the Holy Spirit. That openness is what is needed for any calling in life.”

Jim Rolph is an example. He was beginning his senior year at the local Catholic high school, attending the weekly school Mass, when he felt God saying to him, that, like the priest, “I want you to bring the sacraments to my people.” Rolph has now finished his first year at St. John Vianney.

He said that “the parish’s involvement in the charismatic renewal helps foster a love for the Eucharist, which leads to vocations.”

Fellow seminarian Mark Rutherford added that “many people who attend or visit Christ the King say that the parish is unique, abnormal. But it shouldn’t be. Men and women who come to know Jesus desire to be partners with him. That partnership is often expressed in a vocation.”

Bob Horning writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

People in Pews Get Insiders’ Report

The following is from an article in the Diocese of Arlington Catholic Herald. The article tells of a "town hall meeting" where Bishop Loverde gave members of Diocese a status report on matters from finances to vocations. You can read the full article here. The Parts I posted below are Bishop Loverde's excellent remarks about supporting vocations, especially in the family.

People in Pews Get Insiders’ Report

By Gretchen R. Crowe
Herald Staff Writer (From the issue of 9/13/07)

It’s you, reader, who keeps this diocese running.That was the underlying current of the third Regional Parish Leadership meeting in two years at St. Veronica Church in Chantilly last week.

Accompanied by diocesan staff, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde assembled with priests and lay parish leaders to give updates on diocesan finances, to foster dialogue between the Chancery and community members and, specifically this year, to focus on vocations and each person’s individual responsibility to say “yes” to the call of Christ.


But the faithful are not only funding the diocese, they are feeding it spiritually by encouraging vocations, something of which Father Brian Bashista, diocesan director of vocations, said he hopes to see more. Families — the “soil” of vocations — play a large role in that encouragement, Bishop Loverde said. “I want to encourage you who form families in our diocese to make those families as best you can, filled with values that are rooted in Christ,” he added. “There’s no perfect family, but every family has the privilege and challenge of being more and more like the holy family. And within those families God is calling.”

The main thing, the bishop said, is to be open to saying “yes” to God’s call in the same way that Jesus Himself said “yes.”“Our ‘yes’ must echo His,” he said.In this way, the bishop added, the people in the pews serve the Church not only financially and by encouraging vocations, but by being witnesses to Jesus Christ to everyone they encounter in order to attract new followers.“We do that differently according to each one of our vocations,” he said. But in order to do this, those gathered also must continue to be evangelized.And no matter what, all initiatives, whether diocesan projects, encouraging vocations or witnessing to Christ, must be rooted in holiness, the bishop said.“Every one of us is called to be holy, to be Christ-like,” he said. “Therefore holiness isn’t reserved for priests, for religious, for deacons. Holiness is the call to each one of us.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pope Benedict Addresses Priests, Deacons, and Religious About Praying the Divine Office

Excerpts from Pope's Remarks to Heiligenkreuz; Meditation upon the Liturgy:

"...I wished to come to this place so rich in history in order to draw attention to the fundamental directive of Saint Benedict, according to whose Rule Cistercians also live. Quite simply, Benedict insisted that “nothing be put before the divine Office”.(1)


Monks are not the only ones who pray the officium; from the monastic tradition the Church has derived the obligation for all religious, and also for priests and deacons, to recite the Breviary. Here too, it is appropriate for men and women religious, priests and deacons – and naturally Bishops as well – to come before God in their daily “official” prayer with hymns and psalms, with thanksgiving and pure petition.

Dear brother priests and deacons, dear brothers and sisters in the consecrated life! I realize that discipline is needed, and sometimes great effort as well, in order to recite the Breviary faithfully; but through this officium we also receive many riches: how many times, in doing so, have we seen our weariness and despondency melt away! When God is faithfully praised and worshipped, his blessings are unfailing. In Austria, people rightly say: “Everything depends on God’s blessing!”.

Your primary service to this world must therefore be your prayer and the celebration of the divine Office. The interior disposition of each priest, and of each consecrated person, must be that of “putting nothing before the divine Office”. The beauty of this inner attitude will find expression in the beauty of the liturgy, so that wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshipping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth. Truly it would not be presumptuous to say that, in a liturgy completely centred on God, we can see, in its rituals and chant, an image of eternity. Otherwise, how could our forefathers, hundreds of years ago, have built a sacred edifice as solemn as this? Here the architecture itself draws all our senses upwards, towards “what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined: what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). In all our efforts on behalf of the liturgy, the determining factor must always be our looking to God. We stand before God – he speaks to us and we speak to him. Whenever in our thinking we are only concerned about making the liturgy attractive, interesting and beautiful, the battle is already lost. Either it is Opus Dei, with God as its specific subject, or it is not. In the light of this, I ask you to celebrate the sacred liturgy with your gaze fixed on God within the communion of saints, the living Church of every time and place, so that it will truly be an expression of the sublime beauty of the God who has called men and women to be his friends.


... just as a liturgy which no longer looks to God is already in its death throes, so too a theology which no longer draws its life-breath from faith ceases to be theology; it ends up as a array of more or less loosely connected disciplines. But where theology is practised “on bent knee”, as Hans Urs von Balthasar (3) urged, it will prove fruitful for the Church in Austria and beyond."

Friday, September 7, 2007

His Excellency Bishop Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh on Summorum Pontificum

His Excellency Bishop Michael F. Burbidge in choir at Sacred Heart Church in Dunn, NC.
Fr. Parkerson, Pastor of Sacred Heart Church is the celebrant.

Fr. Zuhlsdorf over at What Does the Prayer Really Say has posted Bishop Burbidge's statement on the implemenation of Summorum Pontificum along with his (Fr. Z's) emphasis and comments. In short it says that His Excellency's statement on the implementation of Summorum Ponitficul is one of the best to date. Have I mentioned how blessed we are to have Bishop Burbidge in the Diocese of Raleigh?
Read the original document here.

Go to Fr. Zuhlsdorf's post with emphasis and comments here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Sisters are Doing it for the Sake of Others"

From the Sydney Morning Herald
Linda Morris Religious Affairs Writer September 5, 2007

WHAT do three religious sisters pack when they are sent to assist the largest religious gathering in Australian history? Answer: 600 rosary beads, personal prayer books, two guitars, mum's cookies and a frisbee.

Sister Mary Rachel, Sister Anna and Sister Mary Madeline are members of the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. They arrived three weeks ago, as volunteers for World Youth Day next July, at the invitation of the Australian event co-ordinator, Bishop Anthony Fisher, himself a Dominican.

They belong to a tight-knit and revered order of 200 nuns that is considered small by standards in the US but positively blessed in Australia, where vocations to religious life are in steady decline.

So it is understandable that their presence, at a time when many sisters have shed the habit, has been a source of public wonderment.

During a recent sightseeing tour of Taronga Zoo, a visiting party of school children bounced excitedly yelling, "nuns, nuns, nuns" as their teachers sought to hush them.

On their arrival at Sydney Airport, an Australian man quipped to them: "Three nuns, all in habits, all happy and young. It's the second miracle of Mary."

The sisters are the first of what is expected to be a flood of Catholic religious figures who will come to Sydney for the event.

Each woman came to religious life soon after graduating from high school, and each has attended world youth days before and can attest to their spiritual value and influence on their journey of faith.

Sister Anna went to World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 and left transformed. "There was this moment in the [overnight] vigil," she says. "We'd walked 20 kilometres, it was 1am and we were trying to get to sleep.

"I woke up and the Pope's address had been broadcast. He said, 'There are so many of you out there but I see you one by one and I say do not be afraid to follow Christ and live radically.'

"I heard it and I thought, he is speaking to me. It was a moment of grace given of courage."
Recent revelations that even Mother Teresa had expressed a fear of abandonment by God are evidence that no life can be perfectly fulfilled, Sister Mary Madeline said. It reinforced the Christian hope for a new Pentecost, a fresh kindling of the Holy Spirit in each Catholic.

"It's easy to say 'I love Jesus' in the midst of World Youth Day, but when it is over people return to their ordinary lives and there is darkness, but faith tells us we can't rely on ourselves.

"Maybe we don't feel God is with us but he gives us that faith."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Beautiful Portion of Pope Benedict's Address to Youth in Loreto

"What an amazing spectacle of young and engaged faith we are living tonight! Tonight Loreto has become, thanks to you, the spiritual capital of the youth - the center of convergence for the multitudes of young people who inhabit the five continents.

At this moment, we feel surrounded by the expectations and hopes of millions of young people of the whole world. Right now, some are staying up, some are sleeping, some are studying or working. Some are hopeful and others are desperate; some believe, and others cannot get themselves to believe; some love life while others are wasting it. I would like my words to reach everyone: the Pope is close to you, he shares your joys and your pains; above all, I share your most intimate hopes; and for each of you, I ask the Lord the gift of a full and happy life, a life that is rich in sense, a true life.

Unfortunately today, not unusually, a full and happy existence is seen by many young people as a difficult dream, and sometimes almost unrealizable. So many of your contemporaries look at the future with apprehension and ask themselves many questions.

They are concerned about how to fit themselves into a society marked by numerous and grave injustices and sufferings. How to react to the selfishness and violence which often seem to predominate. How to give a sense of fullness to life.

With love and conviction, I repeat to you, who are present here, and through you, to your contemporaries around the world: Do not be afraid! Christ can fulfill the most intimate aspirations of your heart. Are there are unreliable dreams when it is the Spirit of God who inspires and cultivates them in the heart? Is there anything that could dampen our enthusiasm if we are united with Christ? Nothing and no one, the Apostle Paul would say, can ever separate us from the love of God, in Jesus Christ, our Lord (cf Rom 8,35-39).

Allow me to repeat this to you tonight: if you stay one with Christ, each of you can do great things. That is why, dear friends, you should not be afraid to dream with open eyes about great plans for good, and you should not allow yourselves to be discouraged by difficulties.

Christ has confidence in you and he wants you to realize each of your noble dreams for authentic happiness. Nothing is impossible for whoever trusts in God and entrusts himself to him.Look at the young Mary! The Angel proposed to her something truly inconceivable: to participate in the most intimate way possible in God’s greatest plan, the salvation of humanity. Before such a proposal, Mary was troubled, aware of the smallness of her being compared to God’s omnipotence, and so she asked: How is it possible, why me? But she was willing to fulfill the divine will, and readily gave her Yes, which changed her life and the story of all mankind. Thanks to that Yes, we are here together tonight.

I ask myself and you: Can the requests that God makes of us - no matter how demanding they may seem to be - ever equal that which God asked of the young Mary? Dear boys and girls, let us learn from Mary to say Yes, because she knows what it means to answer generously to the requests of the Lord.

Dear young people, Mary knows your most noble and deepest aspirations. Above all, she knows your great desire for love, your need to love and be loved. Looking at her, following her obediently, you will discover the beauty of love - not a throwaway love, fleeting and deceptive, imprisoned in a selfish and materialistic mentality - but true and profound love."

Hat tip to The Curt Jester


Pope Benedict XVI's Address to Youth in Loreto

VATICAN CITY, SEP 1, 2007 (VIS) - Shortly after 4 p.m. today, the Pope departed by helicopter from the pontifical residence at Castelgandolfo bound for the Italian shrine of Loreto where he presided at a national meeting of young people concluding the first year of the "Agora" of Italian youth. The event is being promoted by the Italian Episcopal Conference.

At 5.15 p.m., the Pope's helicopter arrived at the John Paul II Center at Montorso near Loreto. From there the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the esplanade of Montorso where he joined 300,000 young people for a prayer vigil during which he replied to a number of questions that were put to him.

One question addressed "the disquiet shared by many young people from all parts of the world and all religions" concerning their place in history and their fear of being left on the margins. The Pope replied by indicating how "according to the divine plan, the world has no margins. ... For God we are all at the center, ... equally loved and called to undertake great deeds, ... each using his or her own talents."

"Dear young people," said the Pope, "in Jesus' name I repeat to you tonight: Go! Live! Love! In God's eyes each of you is important, You are important to your family and friends, ... to your country, to the entire world, to the Church and to Jesus Christ." The Holy Father also exhorted the young people not to feel marginalized "because no life is unimportant. ... You must realize that you are important protagonists, because you are at the center of God's love."

Benedict XVI then delivered a talk to the participants, whom he described as "the hope of the Church in Italy," and he invited them "to open their hearts and offer everything to Jesus" with the "interior strength and trusting abandonment" that was Mary's.

"What a stupendous exhibition of youthful and inspiring faith we are experiencing this evening!" he cried. "This evening, thanks to you, Loreto has become the spiritual capital of youth, the center towards which multitudes of young people on the five continents turn. ... The Pope is close to you, and for each of you he asks from the Lord the gift of a full and happy life, a life rich in meaning."

"Today, unfortunately, a full and happy life is not infrequently seen by many young people as a distant dream. ... Do not be afraid, Christ can fulfil the most intimate aspirations of your heart! ... Each one of you, if you remain united to Christ, can achieve great things. ... You should not be afraid to dream of great plans for goodness, and you should not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties. Christ has trust in you and wants you to realize all your most noble and exalted dreams of true happiness."

The Holy Father then recalled the Annunciation, when the angel told Mary "of her participation, in the most intimate possible way, in the greatest of God's plans: the salvation of humanity." The Pope emphasized how "her 'yes' changed her life and the history of humanity entire. ... And from Mary we learn to pronounce our own 'yes,' because she really knows what it means to respond generously to the requests of the Lord."

Mary, Benedict XVI continued, "knows of your great desire for love, your need to love and to be loved. Looking at her, ... you will discover the beauty of love. ... true and profound love." All young people starting out in life "cultivate the dream of a love that will give full meaning to their future. For many of them this is achieved in marriage and the creation of a family."

"I well know that today such a dream is becoming ever less easy to accomplish. How many failures of love do we see around us! ... The Mother of God, the community of believers and the Pope are near you and pray that the crisis affecting families in our time does not become irreversible," said the Holy Father, and he renewed his invitation to participants "not to be afraid," because "for those who trust in God nothing is impossible.

"This is true for people destined for married life," he added, "and even more so for those whom God has called to a life of complete detachment from the goods of the earth and of complete dedication to His Kingdom. Among you are those directed towards the priesthood, consecrated life, and others who aspire to be missionaries."

"Be certain that a life dedicated to God is never spent in vain," said the Holy Father. He then concluded his talk by reminding the young people of the celebrations for World Youth Day 2008, due to take place in Sydney, Australia. "Let us pray," he said, "that the Lord Who accomplishes all prodigies may enable many of you to be there."