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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pope Benedict Addresses Bishops of Gabon, and Discusses Vocations

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2007 / 02:31 pm
From Catholic News Agency (CNA).-

Today the Holy Father received the bishops from the central African country of Gabon as they completed their "ad limina" visit. The Pope told the African bishops that they must be careful that their faithful do not “let themselves be attracted by the consumerist permissive society, paying less attention to the poorest people of their country.”

At the beginning of his address to them, the Pope noted how the people of Gabon "sometimes let themselves be attracted by the consumerist permissive society, paying less attention to the poorest people of their country. I encourage them to increase fraternal sentiment and solidarity. Furthermore, a certain relaxation has been noted in the lives of Christians, taken in by the attractions of the world. It is my hope that their conduct becomes ever more exemplary in terms of spiritual and moral values."

Benedict XVI identified one of the most vital tasks of the Church in Gabon as "transmitting the faith and acquiring a deeper knowledge of the Christian mystery. In order to meet the challenges they face, the faithful need a thorough formation that enables them to found their Christian life upon clear principles."

In this way "ecclesial communities will be more vibrant and the faithful will draw strength from the liturgy and from individual, family and community prayer, so that, in all fields of social life, they become witnesses of the Good News and workers for reconciliation, justice and peace in this world of ours which needs these things more than ever."

The Pope emphasized the need to pay particular attention to the youth of Gabon. In this context, he expressed the hope that the young may become "the first evangelizers of their peers. Many times, through friendship and sharing, people come to discover the person of Christ and to join themselves to Him."

After then dwelling on the bishop's concern over the low numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the Holy Father noted that "the seminary in Libreville must be watched over with particular care because the future of evangelization and of the Church are at stake." This, he said, " will not cease to be a stimulus so that, in each diocese, pastoral care of vocations develops and intensifies."

The Holy Father encouraged priests and religious, and their families, to "mobilize themselves through prayer, attention to the youngest and a concern for transmitting the call of Christ, so that the vocations your country needs may arise and spread." Nor can we forget," he continued, "the role of Catholic education, in which teachers and educators have the mission of the integral education of the young. This task requires witness to and transmission of the faith, as well as attention to vocations."

With reference to priests, the Pope stressed that, "living in constant intimacy with Christ, they will have a sharper awareness of the need to remain faithful to the commitments made before God and the Church, especially ... chastity and celibacy. In this way, they will experience their priestly ministry ever more as a service to the faithful."

"They will find spiritual support in the brotherhood of priests, comforted by you who are father and brother to them," he told the bishops. "Thus, together, you will be able to implement joint pastoral projects that give fresh impetus to the mission. I encourage each priest to seek ... the good of the Church and not personal advantage, conforming his life and mission to the gesture of the washing of the feet. From such love, lived as disinterested service, profound joy will arise."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Young Vocations and The Extraordinary Form of the Mass

A chapel full of students at the University of Notre Dame attend the first Mass in the Extraordinary Form post Summorum Pontificum. As you can see, the Chapel was full. Deo Gratias!


Having been a high school teacher prior to my change of occupation, it was becoming evident to me that the students who were more serious about their faith, their prayer life, and their catechetical and intellectual development, were increasingly drawn to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), or the Extraordinary Form as it is now known.

These were brilliant Catholic students and their interest in the TLM was not to go back to a time "long before they were born", but in most cases it was a reaction against the abuses and lack of reverence they saw at Masses. What the previous generations saw as "updating" the Mass, or making it more "relevant", was to these kids (the diehard Catholics of the future) actually making the Mass banal to the point of frustration. The things that older generations thought were hip and new - these kids simply think is ridiculous to the point of comedy (more along the lines of a tragedy). In the TLM they saw order, beauty, and reverence - and they were drawn to it. Whatever problems existed with the Mass before Vatican II, young people today are, in most cases, simply not aware of them. What they see today at a TLM are very devoted people , reverently attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And from these students are coming, and will increasingly come, the vocations of the future. People can fight it or try to ignore it, but they are coming - and they will be coming in ever larger numbers.

A presenter at the National Vocations Directors Conference labeled some of these kids as rigid, and their rigidity as a potential obstacle to vocations. I couldn't disagree more. Their "rigidity" is born out of a frustration with laxity, lukewarmness, and abusive liturgical innovations. In them is a profound love of our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Mother Mary, and the Saints. Their reverence for the Blessed Sacrament is tangible. These are not weak foundations for a vocation to be built on.

Rather than see these as obstacles, I can only see them as building blocks for holy vocations. Much preferred to the numerous "faithful" Catholic students who are involved in under age drinking, premarital sex, contraception, pornography, support gay marriage, and are openly pro-abortion. I see these as far larger obstacles to vocations than I do virtuous students that are adamantly opposed to rock bands playing at Mass.

Read the article below. Read the quotes from the young people attending the TLM, like this one: The Tridentine Mass "detaches me from the world and lifts my mind, heart and soul to heavenly things," said Michael Malain, 21, of Houston.

Those are not the words of a "reactionary traditionalist". Those are words that should not be seen as obstacles to a vocation. I assure you they aren't, and we will be hearing more of the same in the years to come. Those Diocese that embrace these young people and form them in a positive way will see a marked increase in vocations. Those that don't, well, they will probably continue to see a "vocations crisis".

Mass Appeal to Latin Tradition
From the Washington Times:

October 28, 2007
By Kristi Moore

Roman Catholic churches nationwide are rushing to accommodate a surge in demand for the traditional Latin Mass, which is drawing a surprising new crowd: young people.

Since July, when a decree from Pope Benedict XVI lifted decades-old restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass, seven churches in the Washington metropolitan area have added the liturgy to their weekly Sunday schedules.

"I love the Latin Mass," said Audrey Kunkel, 20, of Cincinnati. "It's amazing to think that I"m attending the same Mass that has formed saints throughout the centuries."

In contrast to the New Order Mass, which has been in use since the Second Vatican Council in 1969 and is typically celebrated in vernacular languages such as English, the Tridentine Mass is "contemplative, mysterious, sacred, transcendent, and [younger people are] drawn to it," said the Rev. Franklyn McAfee, pastor of St. John the Beloved in McLean. "Gregorian chant is the opposite of rap, and I believe this is a refreshing change for them."

Susan Gibbs, the director of communications from the Archdiocese of Washington, said the attraction demonstrated by the young adults is "very interesting."

Besides the liturgy"s rich historical content and spiritual significance, the younger generations show an interest in the old becoming new again, said Louis Tofari of the Society of St. Pius X, an order of clergy that opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

"People who never grew up with the traditional Mass are finding it on their own and falling in love with it."

The Tridentine Mass helps people in their 20s and 30s who have grown up in a culture that lacks stability and orthodoxy see something larger than themselves: the glory of God, said Geoffrey Coleman of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter"s Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary in Denton, Neb.

The Tridentine Mass "detaches me from the world and lifts my mind, heart and soul to heavenly things," said Michael Malain, 21, of Houston.

Kirk Rich, 21, of Oberlin, Ohio, remembers the first time he attended a Tridentine Mass and recalls thinking that a new religion had been invented.

"That"s certainly what it seems like when comparing the two forms of the Mass," Mr. Rich said.

The biggest difference between the two forms is that the Tridentine Mass is always celebrated in Latin, except for the homily. The priest also leads the parishioners facing east, the traditional direction of prayer. The New Order Mass can be celebrated in Latin, but usually is not. There are also differences in some of the prayers, hymns and vestments.

As a result, the overall feel of the Tridentine Mass is more solemn and serious.

"The coffee social is after the traditional Latin Mass, not in the middle of it," said Kenneth Wolfe, 34, of Alexandria. "No one can say, with a straight face, that the post-Vatican II liturgy and sacraments are more beautiful than the ones used for hundreds and hundreds of years."

Like the churchgoers now demanding the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, the priests learning the rite are usually younger as well.

The Society of St. Pius X trains priests in the liturgy of the Tridentine Mass and has received as many as 25 requests a week for instruction since July.

"The phone was ringing nonstop, and I was getting e-mail after e-mail,' Mr. Tofari said. "The response was absolutely incredible; most of the people who call are below the age of 30."

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter has collaborated with Una Voce America to host workshops for clergy in Denton, Neb. Una Voce America, which promotes the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, usually teaches the rite to 12 students a session. But in September, it increased that number to 22 to meet the increased demand for training.

Many priests think the changes approved by the pope will do more than bring young people into the church. They think the celebration of the Tridentine Mass will increase the faith of many followers.

The Rev. Paul Scalia, 37, has been celebrating the Tridentine Mass at St. Rita Church in Alexandria. He said the increase in young attendance is evidence that the Mass is something living and life-giving.

"The beauty is tremendous, as it draws us to God, who is beauty Himself," Father Scalia said.

Yes, Fr. Scalia, is the son of Supreme Court Justice Scalia.


What could these young people possibly be drawn to in this centuries old form of the Mass:

After only 40 years of Masses like this:

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fishers of Men Vocations Video Wins Award

From Independent Catholic News:Fishers of Men, the 18-minute DVD that is a major resource in a vocational recruitment project launched last year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will be honoured with a Gabriel Award, today in Hollywood, California.

More than 60,000 copies of the DVD have been distributed nationwide and beyond. Fishers of Men has been aired on TV stations, shown in schools, during parish Masses, seminaries and small group settings and played on individual computers.

Fishers of Men was produced by Grassroots Films of Brooklyn, New York, and is a fast-paced video which shows many of the facets of a priest's daily life. Several priests provide testimony to the importance they place on their own vocation. A dramatic re-enactment portrays how a priest can inspire a vocation through his service to someone in need of priestly ministry.

The Fishers of Men project is intended to renew priests' sense of fulfillment in their vocation and to encourage them to draw on that satisfaction to invite other men to pursue the priesthood. It is based on Christ's call to the first Apostles: "I will make you fishers of men" . The project was developed by the USCCB Committee on Vocations.

The Gabriel Awards are sponsored by the Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals to honor works of excellence in broadcasting. Other 2007 winners include Picturing Mary, an effort by the USCCB and Thirteen/WNET, the nation's flagship PBS station; and Disney's Little Einsteins: A Tall otem Tale, from the Disney Channel.

Joseph Campo, producer of Fishers of Men, said: "I speak for everyone on the Grassroots Films staff when I say that we have always had a positive view and appreciation of the Catholic priesthood throughout the world, and we are grateful for the opportunity to portray what it means to be a priest in the film, Fishers of Men." He finds the DVD's success heartening.
"Serious filmmakers always work to produce something of extraordinary artistic quality," Campo said. "When the work can serve a noble goal such as inviting men to the priesthood, it's doubly rewarding for the artists."

Msgr Edward J Burns, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, said: "This program has reached almost 50 percent of our dioceses and is now going international. 19 countries have contacted us regarding this program. It is not only a resource for the church in the United States but hopefully a resource for the church universal. The testimonies of young men who have watched this production have made it all worthwhile."
The Fishers of Men trailer can be viewed at: http://ccc.usccb.org/video/fishers_of_men1.wmv.
Source: USCCB© Independent Catholic News 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sisters of Life Discernment Meditation for October

Most High Gift of God

As we enter into the height of autumn here in New York, we are busy with a beautiful project the Lord has entrusted to us. At World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, the Sisters of Life, the Knights of Columbus and the JPII Institutes will be hosting a powerhouse of awesome events at The Love and Life Site. The site is specifically dedicated to inspiring young people to passionately proclaim the beauty and truth of Human Life and Human Love. Together we will respond with a resounding "yes" to the Lord’s gifts of Love and Life.

In preparation for WYD, Pope Benedict XVI has invited young people to "observe how the Holy Spirit is the highest gift of God to humankind, and therefore the supreme testimony of his love for us, a love that is specifically expressed as the "yes to life" that God wills for each of his creatures." What does it mean to say that the Holy Spirit is the Most High Gift of God?

God gives us His Life. God wills our existence, breathing His very Spirit into our bodies and souls. God gives us His Love. Through the Holy Spirit, God pours His Love into our hearts. In the Mystery of the Trinity the Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is God’s own self-giving Love.

The Holy Spirit is the very principle of self-giving. In receiving the Holy Spirit we receive God’s Love for us and at the same time we are receiving the capacity to love as God loves; "self-giving" love. The Holy Spirit is "self-giving" and in whomever He touches, the Spirit creates a dynamism that leads that person, in turn, to be self-giving gift to others. The Holy Sprit is the one who gives us the capacity to make a gift of our own life and live it as a "living sacrifice." (Cantalamessa - Come Creator Spirit)

A person "cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (GS. 24) This is one of the most well-known lines from the Vatican II Documents. Does it not resonate true in your heart? In the experience of giving of yourself in love to another person - in genuine self sacrificing love for a family member or a friend, in purity to a man you have dated, through generous person to person volunteer service, in the witness of your married friends who deeply live the sacrament of marriage - you become more fully alive, you discover wonder and meaning in life, even in suffering, and you know a deep joy.

This is at the heart of being created in the image and likeness of God: we have been created for self-giving love. The fundamental vocation of every human person is to love. Ask the Lord, how are you calling me to love Lord? Whom are you calling me to Love? Our ultimate destiny is to enter into the total, mutual self-giving love of the Trinity.

As Consecrated Religious we make this loving gift of ourselves to Christ. This is only possible after we first open ourselves to receive His radical gift of himself to us through the Holy Spirit, receiving at the same time the capacity for self giving love, enabling us to make a gift of ourselves to Him in return.

Self-giving love is life giving. The self-giving love of spouses brings forth new life in their children. The self-giving love of a religious woman and her Spouse, Jesus, brings forth new life in souls.

Ask God to pour His love into your heart, and the Holy Spirit WILL give you the power of His self-giving love.

If you would like to know more about the amazing Adventure of Grace at WYD 2008 in Sydney check out http://www.blogger.com/www.lovelifelink.org <http://www.lovelifelink.org/> Spread the Good News and tell everyone you know - friends, family, campus minister, pastors, youth group leaders - look for the Love Life Site Down Under. It’s Time to Live.

Interested in finding out more about a vocation to the Sisters of Life? Contact Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV at St. Frances de Chantal Convent, 198 Hollywood AveBronx, NY 10465 (sorry - no email)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Suggestions for Promoting Vocations

Fr. Schnippel, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, sent a letter to priests in the Archdiocese offering the following excellent suggestions for promoting vocations. He also posted them here.

Fr. Scnippel and I after Mass during the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors Convention.

A Traveling Crucifix or Chalice program
During at least one Sunday Mass each week, a family is commissioned to take from the Sunday Celebration a Crucifix or Chalice, or some type of religious icon, home with them to pray for vocations during the upcoming week. As part of this program, the family prays for vocations to the priesthood, religious life (male and female), permanent diaconate, married life, single life, and lay ministry. This heightens the awareness that all are called to spread the Good News of Christ to our world today. The focus is also to help the young people of the parish to pray for guidance that they may find their true calling from God and have the strength and courage to embrace it completely. Click here for a model program for the Archdiocese. Electronic versions of the document are available upon request from the Vocation Office. As a side note, I think it is important to do this at Sunday Mass, and not just let it be something that is picked up as people leave, as it helps to raise the awareness of the need for prayer by all of the faithful. Parishes that do not have this as part of Mass find that they have trouble filling the spots, because people don’t know it is happening in the parish!!!

Adoration for Vocations
One of the few items that Jesus specifically tells us to pray for is an increase of Vocations: “Beg the master of the harvest to send out laborers to gather his harvest.” (Matt 9:38) It continues to happen that young people begin to hear the call to serve as they are confronted in the silence of Eucharistic Adoration. It is also a place where all members of the parish can come forward before Jesus in the Eucharist to offer their own contribution for the needs of priests, and those who are being called. If you already have Adoration periods scheduled for your parish, please have Vocation Office materials available. We are also working on putting together a small booklet specifically for Holy Hours for Vocations. Please help to promote this when published, hopefully by the end of the year. I am convinced that I first heard the call to the priesthood while I spent time in the Adoration Chapel at my small country parish. This is where any vocation promotion effort should begin.

Weekly Petitions at Mass
Again, following the command of Our Lord to pray for Vocations, the Sunday Assembly is where the Community of Believers gathers most frequently. As they hear this on a weekly basis, it starts to penetrate the focus of the Community, raising the awareness of the need for response to God’s invitation. One critique is that the people may get tired of hearing the same petition over and over. To answer that, the Vocation Office will be sending out sample petitions that can be adapted to your parish’s needs, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent. Also, if you have a son or daughter from your parish currently in formation, please mention him or her in the petitions. This helps to raise awareness of the possibility of a vocation among the younger members of the parish. (“If she can do it, so can I.”)

Bulletin Announcements
As part of our efforts to help raise awareness and disseminate information regarding seminaries, houses of formation, religious orders, the Vocation Office will also be providing “Bulletin Blurbs” for use in weekly parish bulletins. These will highlight upcoming events, point to various vocation links around the web, and include some reading materials for discernment, priesthood and religious life. Examples can be found here. These would be in addition to the continuing “Vocation Views,” which are based on material from the National Religious Vocation Council.

Display of posters from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and the Vocation Office
These two permanent display items help to raise awareness that there are young men, just like those in your parish, who are committing themselves to a life of service in the priesthood. The Vocation Office poster is designed to attract attention and to drive our young people to explore the call that might already be present. Often in the pursuit of clarity, they become frozen and unable to respond as they wait for an unmistakable sign from God. The slogan is meant to engage this desire and move them along the path. To request more of the yellow “Trumpets” poster, please contact the Vocation Office at 513-421-3131; for more of the blue “Athenaeum” poster, please contact Mount St. Mary’s Seminary at 513-231-2223. If your diocese does not produce a poster of the current roster of seminarians, call your Vocation Director and INSIST that he does this! As young men see these faces that look just like their own, they can see themselves in the program. Also, they begin to realize that they are not the only ones feeling this call, others will walk the road along with them.

Personal Invitation
The annual Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate from Georgetown University report on the upcoming ordinandi routinely mentions how men being ordained first seriously considered the call after repeated invitations from a priest to consider the priesthood. Reports also show that 36% of young people today still consider the call to the priesthood or religious life, but many report that they do not respond because they do not feel encouraged or supported along this path. By naming that you see aspects of what would make for a good priest (or religious) in them, you are helping to nourish this call. One thing that always helps a young man discern a call to the diocesan priesthood is a visit to our seminary, either on an arranged visit or through participation in an event sponsored by the Vocation Office. In my experience, when someone is being called, they often do not understand what they are experiencing. By identifying the call for them, it gives them clarity and direction. For more information, see this blog post, written from the perspective of a young woman considering religious life.

Participation and Promotion of Vocation Awareness Week
Every year, following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Church sets aside a week of prayer for vocations. This past year, we generated the materials for Vocation Awareness Week in house, instead of state wide from the Diocese of Cleveland. With the new website, we wanted to help get the word out and to have a more consistent message. We will be publishing the materials in house again this year, with a targeted publishing date around November 1st. For this past year’s materials, please visit the Vocation Awareness Week page. This link is going to be changing shortly, as new material is published for this coming year.

Fishers of Men DVD
The most inspiring video in recent times regarding the priesthood, and recruiting for the priesthood is Fishers of Men, produced by Grassroots Films, at the request of the USCCB Secretariat for Vocations. I think that every young person, if not every Catholic, should see this video. Yes, it presents a very high ideal of the priesthood, but it resonates with young people of today. The Vocation Office has copies of the DVD available to the parishes of the Archdiocese. To request a copy, either call 513-421-3131, or email: vocations@catholiccincinnati.org. For other projects from Grassroots Films, see their website: http://www.grassrootsfilms.com/.

Group Tours of the Seminary Grounds
Questions of how one becomes a priest invariably turn to where men go to the seminary. By bringing student groups to visit Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, it can awaken the call to the vocation as they start to see themselves in the building. Many of the convents of nuns and sisters are very gracious in hosting visitors as well.

The following are projects that various parishes and groups within the Archdiocese have found successful:

Way of the Cross for Vocations
This particular Lenten devotion can have a specific focus on praying for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. For a model program, click here.

Vocation Fair
One weekend is set aside to help promote various ways that the call to priesthood and religious life is lived out. Religious orders are very interested in promoting their way of life, and are very giving of materials to help demonstrate how they live. Fairs could either be self standing events on a specific Sunday, or you could have literature and materials available during other parish wide events, such as picnics and festivals. This would also help increase the awareness of the need for vocations.

Rosary for Vocations
During the months of May and October, months where the Church consciously reflects on the role and patronage of Mary, offer the public recitation of the Rosary with a specific theme on vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Meditations for the Mysteries of the Rosary with a vocation theme can be found here.

Adopt a Seminarian
Our world is more and more about relationships. As a way of highlighting that there are highly qualified men who are pursuing the priesthood today, there is the option of ‘Adopting’ a seminarian. This relationship would involve praying for him as a parish, providing opportunities for him to share his story with the parish, and the possibility of him hosting groups to visit him at the seminary.

It is my hope that all of these programs together will help create a culture of vocations in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati; a culture which would not only foster calls to the priesthood and religious life, but would also nurture and support young people who are being called to the married or single life as well.

Please know that I pray for you, my brother priests, on a daily basis. We are trying to make the materials developed in the Vocation Office as user friendly as possible. If you have any comments or concerns, any thoughts you would like to share, please feel free to contact me. I am convinced that there are many people being called to the priesthood and religious life, they just need the support from you to help them realize what they are already experiencing is truly a call from God to serve Him in all the wonder and mystery which that entails.

Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. Kyle Schnippel - Vocation Director

Matthew 9:38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth labourers into his harvest.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Celibacy is NOT the Issue - Fidelity IS

Celibacy has been blamed for everything from the vocations "crisis" to the recent abuse scandal in the Church.

A few of my thoughts:
  • Other denominations are experiencing a "vocations" shortage, and in many cases worse shortages than the Roman Catholic Church. The Episcopalians are an example and they allow every type of person to live non-celibate "priesthoods". Women, married women, men, married men, homosexuals, and openly sexually active homosexuals. "Vocations" shortage just the same.
  • Other religious denominations are hurt by abuse scandals as well, they're just not reported on as heavily as those in the Catholic Church. This is not to diminish the outrage that the abuse scandal has been, and the damage it has done to the Roman Catholic Church as well as the dignity of the priesthood in the eyes of many. It is to say that celibacy had nothing to do with it. A lack of faithfulness had everything to do with it.
  • In regards to sexual misconduct and abuse specifically, the single largest group of pedophiles in the world, by a long shot, are married, or formerly married, men ("more than 70 percent of the males who molest children report themselves as heterosexual, and most are, or have been, married. "). The media simply ignores the plague that is sexual abuse in America. Best estimates are that between 50% and 66% of all adult women have been sexually molested or abused in some way, at some point in their life, with the overwhelming majority of those at the hands of men that supposedly loved them. Of those men, virtually ALL OF THEM are NOT "CELIBATE.
  • In education the numbers are terrible, and again none of the perpetrators are vowed celibates: From a CNS Story: A national survey of 2,064 students in 2000 showed that 9.6 percent of public school students from kindergarten through 11th grade reported unwanted sexual harassment or abuse by public school employees, mostly educators, said Shakeshaft, professor of educational policies at Hofstra University in Huntington, N.Y. The survey, done by the American Association of University Women, listed educators as responsible for 57 percent of the abuse with the rest done by other employees such as bus drivers and teachers' aides. Regarding victims, 56 percent of the reported abuses were against girls. Regarding offenders, students reported that 57 percent were males. If the survey were projected over the entire public school system, it would mean that 4.5 million students are subject to sexual abuse or harassment by [non-celibate] school employees, said Shakeshaft. Shakeshaft said a 1994 study she did on disciplinary action against 225 public school teachers who admitted sexually abusing children in New York state showed a lax policy. Only 15 percent were terminated and 25 percent received no disciplinary consequences, she said. Of the rest, 39 percent left the school district, many with a positive recommendation to teach elsewhere, and the rest were informally reprimanded, she said. Experts studying child sex abuse often refer to the sending of child-abusing teachers to other school districts as "passing the trash."
  • More on the subject of sexual misconduct in US Schools: AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools Hat tip to the Curt Jester for finding this article, and inciting me to make this post. In his usual comic sarcasm his post is entitled: "I had no idea that ...
    ... so many teachers must have taken a vow of celibacy."
As I said, celibacy is NOT the issue, FIDELITY IS. What we need in the Church today are not simply vocations (and definitely not non-celibate vocations to the priesthood), but holy vocations, and in the case of the priesthood we need virtuous, heroic men, like the overwhelming majority of priests are, and have been, throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

St. Charles Borromeo and the Renewal of Priestly Life

Fr. Finigan posted the follwing on his blog "The Hermeneutic of Continuity" ...

"Yesterday evening I was over at the Holy Ghost Church in Balham to speak to the Seekers Meeting organised by Fr Stephen Langridge, our vocations director in the Archdiocese of Southwark. Fr Langridge has a variety of activities to promote vocations; the "Seekers Meetings" are for those who are definitely considering applying to the seminary. There are other events for those who are not yet at that stage.He left me free to choose a topic to speak on. I chose to talk about the life of St Charles Borromeo and its significance for the priesthood today. The saintly archbishop of Milan lived through a time when the Church was struggling to renew priestly life and ministry as an essential component of the renewal of the life of the Church as a whole in response to the Protestant reformation.There are many parallels with today when we look to revitalise the priesthood in response to the challenge of secularism. I spoke especially of Borromeo's encouragement of a solid rule of life for priests: prayer, the divine office, daily Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a solid asceticism and regular confession.I am filled with Gaudium et Spes when I meet both the seminarians and those who are considering applying for the seminary. They are serious young men who wish to live wholly for Christ and to learn whatever it takes to follow him wholeheartedly."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sr. Wendy Beckett

By Peter Stanford

Sister Wendy Beckett is feeling "a bit wobbly" when we meet in the marbled reception of a smart London hotel. Life at her convent starts at 1.30am and she is usually in bed by 6pm, so her body clock today is all over the place.

Sister Wendy: 'I would do another series if asked'
Taking my hand for support, the 77-year-old nun is exactly as she looks on TV, sporting the style of all-enveloping traditional garb that only the chorus line in The Sound of Music wear these days. She has long, strikingly white fingers, with very soft skin but a firm grip.
She is still holding on to me as we slowly make our way towards a quiet corner when a sun-tanned woman runs up to us at a rather alarming pace.

"I have to speak to this lady," she announces in a Scandinavian accent, grabbing Sr Wendy's free hand. "I'm Karen, and you have changed my life." She looks as if she is about to cry. "Watching your programmes has changed my life. I'm so grateful."

What she's referring to is the series of documentaries, mostly about the fine arts, that Sr Wendy made in her sixties. Her brief appearance in a TV arts slot in 1991 caught the commissioners' eyes and prompted a run of programmes that made her, alongside Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Maria von Trapp, the most instantly recognisable nun in the world. There was even a West End musical, Postcards from God, based on her life.

Of late, though, her public has had to make do with just the occasional talk – "the thing that I hate doing most in the world" – and books. She has agreed to travel up to town to talk about her latest paperback, Sister Wendy on Prayer. "I don't come out for pleasure. People ring and say 'Would you like to have lunch?' and it would be very nice but I have to say no.

"I come out of the convent very, very rarely. As rarely as possible, in fact. I hope that woman doesn't write to me. My time is for God. I've no time for gardening and letter?writing, the usual let-outs for those who are alone."

It comes out in her high, kindly voice, but there is an unmistakeable edge to the observation; not quite what you expect in a nun.

Sr Wendy has spent the past 37 years away from the world as a hermit and consecrated virgin, living in a caravan in a copse in the monastery garden of the enclosed Carmelite convent at Quidenham in Norfolk.

Before that, she was a teaching nun in her native South Africa with the Notre Dame de Namur order, but had to give up after a series of epileptic seizures, brought on by stress.

We are now manoeuvring into the lift, having been offered by bemused reception staff the use of a first floor boardroom for our interview. Sr Wendy looks surprisingly at home amid beige uniformity. The world, it soon becomes apparent, holds little excitement or mystery for her. She understands it perfectly well – as she shows when she gets up to turn down the air-conditioning unit – but is more content in the convent with her routine of prayer, contemplation and utter simplicity.

"I'm not an adventurous person. I am a dull, sit-at-home kind of person, which my life is beautifully adapted towards. I prefer not to talk. I don't speak to anybody all day apart from a few words to the sister who does the post."

It makes her parallel life as a television icon all the more extraordinary. Initially, at Quidenham, she spent her time translating medieval Latin texts (she had been awarded a Congratulatory First by Oxford in 1953), but by the 1980s had begun writing spiritual meditations on contemporary art.

Some were circulated among a small group of friends and came to the attention of Delia Smith, who, as well as her well-known enthusiasms for cooking and Norwich Football Club, is a connoisseur of fine religious writing. She persuaded newspapers to publish them, and soon after the documentary-makers came calling.

Sister Wendy has been absent from our screens now for a good few years. Has she renounced TV for good? "The whole idea," she begins, "was to make people think that I was loving it, but I never wanted to do it in the first place. If I'd known how much time it would take, I would never have started."

She adds, with a twinkle in her eye: "If I was asked, I would probably do another series. But I probably won't be. I would love to do one on something that is quite engrossing my attention at the moment – the eight pre?Iconoclastic images of the Mother of God that have survived.

Five in Rome, one in Mount Sinai, one in Kiev and one recently found in France. I think it would make really interesting television because it is like a detective series, tracking them down. But nobody is interested. The BBC didn't want it at all. I don't think they are keen on me any more."
She says it all without a hint of self-pity. But I can't help thinking I've just heard a gentle, persuasive pitch.

'Google-generation' seminarians

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An ocean away from family and friends, some U.S. seminarians at the Pontifical North American College in Rome are bridging the divide with online communities and digital means of communication such as Skype, instant messaging, Facebook, MySpace and more.

But while it may have begun as simple e-mails and Web log, or blog, entries meant to keep loved ones in touch, their notes from Rome to home have blossomed into a whole new way these students preparing for the priesthood can share their spiritual journey with the rest of the world.

"It's a great witness when we share our stories, our experiences in (the) seminary" that include "our hopes, our joys, our fears, our anxieties about" the journey toward the priesthood, said Johnny Burns, 27, of Milwaukee.

Burns, Jacob Bertrand of San Diego and Michael Bruno of Brooklyn, N.Y., took a break from their busy schedules as second-year theology students to speak with Catholic News Service about how some seminarians from today's so-called "Google generation" are helping other people find God and the church through the Internet.

"There's a lot of junk on the Internet and we have to fix it," said Bertrand, 23, who seems the savviest of the group with a blog, accounts on two social networking sites on the Web -- MySpace and Facebook -- and plans for broadcasting practice homilies on YouTube, a video-sharing Web site.

"We need to integrate ourselves into these online communities and in a sense baptize the way these things work," he said.

"Everyone's opinion gets expressed and published, but nobody's opinion necessarily has any truth to it," the California native said.-Well-formed Catholics and church leaders have a golden opportunity to move into the World Wide Web like any new mission territory and point people to the truth and to Christ, the seminarians said.

Bruno, 22, said one of the things he loves most about the networking power of Facebook is "I put down I am a Mets fan, that I follow Notre Dame football" as well as his favorite books and movies. Other young people may be drawn to his profile because they have a shared interest in the New York Mets baseball team or because they went to the same high school, but then they see that he is also a seminarian studying for the priesthood in Rome.

Very few people actually know a seminarian, and meeting one online and discovering he has many of the same interests as other young people can wipe away some preconceived notions about the kind of person who is drawn to a priestly or religious vocation, the three men said.

Being a presence in these online communities almost acts as a sort of accidental advertising for the Catholic Church.

On the one hand, some people may be drawn to vent their frustrations or anger about the church, but Burns said, "on the flip side it's also easier for a young man or young woman who's considering a vocation to the priestly or religious life to send a quick question or two or even enter into a relationship of counseling with a priest or a seminarian who can give some advice on the discernment process."

He said his answering questions and engaging people in reflection in these "electronic communities" have provided him with valuable opportunities to experience ministry work.

"We are ministering to these people in many ways, both in sharing our stories, in helping them along their way answering their questions, and providing them another avenue for their own personal faith exploration," the Milwaukee denizen said.

But while the three men see that they are helping people learn more about the church and Christ, they also see it helps strengthen their own love for God and priestly calling.

Bruno said often he is asked by curious online visitors what led to his decision to become a priest.

He tells them it wasn't something "abnormal like a lightning bolt coming down and throwing you on the floor" or a loud voice calling your name. The reasons, he said, were rooted in the people who raised, loved and taught him throughout life.

"The vocation to be a priest is one that is nourished first in the family, but also in all your relationships, your friends, teachers and parish priests," he said.

Bruno said relationships are crucial and are "the nourishment of one's vocation."

Now because of Facebook, instant messaging and Skype, he is able "to keep those relationships alive and vibrant" so that they continue to sustain him both as a person and as a future priest.

"So many people have the idea that the life of a priest is a lonely life, that it is without relationships. Well, that couldn't be farther from the truth," Bruno said.

On the one hand these young men are sent away from their families and friends to complete their studies and formation, but in the end, Bruno said, "we're also sent back to them to minister to them, to be a comfort, to be a guide, to be a priest to them."

All of them emphasized the aim of their online presence was not to point people to their site or to create a perfect or popular Christian community; it is to be a signpost of sorts to show people the way back to God and to a real physical community that involves human interaction, face to face.

Burns said online communities are "a helpful means of evangelization and can be a very successful tool for the church if, at the end of the day, it's bringing people to the sacraments and especially to the Mass."

"You cannot experience Jesus Christ on the Internet no matter what you do," Bertrand said; it has to be a "personal experience of Christ," and "they won't get that on the online community."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Isaac's Feast Day

Our not so old family tradition, is that everyone gets to choose their favorite meal and desert on their feast day. Today was Isaac's! It's usually a great day for the kids since their Godparent's often send gifts, cards, or call on the phone to wish them a happy feast day. Isaac's Godfather, Rev. Br. Gregory Plow, TOR has been very good to Isaac over the years getting him all kinds of great books, antique holy cards, third-class relics, and most of all an abundance of graces through his prayers. An excerpt from his email to Isaac today:

"Please tell Isaac I wish him a happy feast day today and that I led all the friars in prayer for him today at mass! Through the intercession of St. Isaac Jogues, may Isaac Watkins receive abundant blessings from God in all he does in his life!"

The same can be said for all our kid's Godparents, especially Therese Marie's Godmother Jean Plow (yes, mother of Deacon Gregory), who always sends wonderful things to Therese and Liliane on their feast days.

The day will end with stories about the saints. I'll spare Isaac for a few more years, some of incredible details of his patrons martyrdom (only for a few more years - as I love to tell people every graphic detail of his heroic sacrifice). For tonight we'll read a story out of Amy Wellborn's very good "Book of Saints". The saints are grouped into similar categories, and are extremely well done retellings their lives from the perspective of how it might pertain to a childs life. I can't recommend the book highly enough. Here is the beginning of the excerpt on St. Isaac Jogues (from the section "Saints are people who are brave"):

"Would you ever consider helping a person who would probably hurt you?

Would it ever even cross your mind?

Say there are some kids in your neighborhood who have been mean to you for a long time. They've decided that you and your friends don't deserve respect. When you pass them on the street or in school, they always make fun of you.

But suppose you've heard something about these kids. You've heard that some of them aren't doing well in school. In fact, they're coming close to flunking math, a subject you're really good at.

Would you got to those kids and offer to help them?

You could you know. It's not impossible. When you ask, God can give us strength to do anything, no matter how hard it is.

It takes a special, deep kind of courage to go where you're not wanted. It takes a lot of love to help people who've hurt you once and will probably hurt you again.

It's the kind of courage St. Isaac Jogues had. It's the kind of love - God's love - that absolutely nothing can defeat.

Isaac Jogues was born in France. When he was studying for the priesthood..."

Oh, and the kids get to stay up a bit later on their feast days. But it's about time to call it a night - chanting our bedtime prayers of course! Happy feast day Isaac! St. Isaac Jogues - Ora pro nobis!

Ice cream and cake for desert - complete with blue icing, hence the blue lips. And for those who have followed the blog for a while, yes, Liliane took her Lactaid before eating the ice cream. A different book of Saints is on the table, not the Amy Wellborn book.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Priesthood Sunday - NOVENA for Priests

From priestsforlife.org :

Priesthood Sunday, October 28, 2007, is a special day set aside to honor priesthood in the United States. It is a day to reflect upon and affirm the role of the priesthood in the life of the Church as a central one.

To observe this celebration, Priests for Life invites you to join our Novena for Priests, starting on Friday, October 19. You can say the special prayer below.

We also invite you to send us the names of priests you want us to remember in our prayer intentions, as well as your favorite priest stories. Who are the priests you want us to know about, and what are the things they have done to show the truth and compassion of Christ, the Good Shepherd?

Priesthood Sunday is coordinated by the USA Council of Serra International, an organization of lay men and women whose mission is to foster and affirm vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the USA.


Prayer for Priesthood Novena

You sent your Son Jesus Christ
To be our High Priest,
And you gave us the gift of the priesthood
To continue his saving work.

Bless our priests, and give us more of them.
Make them holy.
Strengthen them to proclaim the Gospel of Life,
And to defend the rights of all,
Especially the unborn.

Bring us, your priests and people
To the life that never ends.
We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I Do Like Stella Artois

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dear Priests: Please wear black vestments this All Souls day.

Shawn Tribe wrote the blog post below, over at New Liturgical Movement. I can't seem to link to just that post, so I've copied it here and link to their blog.

But I have to say something before you read his very well written piece. I couldn't agree more. In fact my standing request, it's even in my will, is that I would like the priest celebrating my Requiem Mass to wear black vestments. The chausable below would be outstanding, but a simple black fiddleback would be great. Memento mori. It's coming for us all. Repent and believe. And it won't hurt vocations either, real men like black, and this would more than make up for that other liturgical color worn in advent. Seriously what red blooded America boy wouldn't like this chausable?

A Modest Proposal to Modern Rite Parish Priests: Use Black Vestments this All Souls Day

By Shawn Tribe
originally posted on New Liturgical Movement (NLM)

It has been a tradition on the NLM these past couple of years to make a post around or on All Souls Day, making a case for the wider reclamation of black vestments in the modern Roman rite for funerals and All Souls Day.

This year, it has been on my mind earlier than usual and I felt it would be a good time to put it out there in the hopes of encouraging our reform of the reform priests (I specify them because in the classical use, it is still the prescribed colour of course) to use black this coming All Souls -- let alone for funerals. Perhaps the extra time will allow people to (kindly) approach their pastors to ask if they might consider it, or for our priestly readers to dig out those black vestments in the backs of their sacristy closets and prepare them for use.

We all know the reality of the past few decades. Black vestments have often been excluded, to the point that there are entire generations who will have never seen a black vestment worn in the course of the liturgy. This is a shame because I would propose that the use of black as a liturgical colour is representative of some fundamental Christian realities.

While Christians are indeed a people of hope who believe in the resurrection of the dead (an oft cited argument for those wishing to exclude black, as though it, so much a part of our tradition, were somehow inappropriate or misguided) this in no way can be understood as being inimical to the use of black as a liturgical colour. Moreover, while we are a people of hope, we are also called to be a people aware of the reality of sin, death and judgement. Our salvation, and that of our loved one's, while we hope for it, is not a foregone conclusion and pretending it is so does no good for anyone. Rather, we are, as St. Paul says, working out our salvation; we are not guaranteed it.

Neglecting to face these realities and presuming the heavenly bliss of the faithful departed is a presumption that is rather lacking in charity in point of fact -- like presuming a sick family member is not so sick as to need care and tending and therefore going merrily along our way without regard for them or their current state.

This presumption has another side effect for us: it potentially causes us to neglect the state of our own soul, for if we neglect the reality of sin and judgement by presuming salvation for the dead -- not facing any other reality or possibility, including the possibility of purgatory -- why should we think any differently for ourselves or strive to live more a life of greater holiness and with more perfect contrition and penance?

Witnessing the somber, reserved, even mournful tone of black vestments on All Souls or at funerals is a powerful reminder to us not only of the prayers we should offer for our dead (and the efficacy of those prayers -- Masses for the Dead in particular are not merely placebos of psychological comfort for the living, but have real supernatural merit in relation to genuine supernatural realities), but of our own need for repentance and conversion, in a way that purple, the colour of penance (but not mourning and death), and white, the colour of joy and celebration, perhaps cannot as readily communicate on both a theological and cultural level. (In a sense, this issue reminds me of that of versus populum and the prudential considerations we must bring to it. In that case, it is not as though a Mass offered versus populum is utterly and absolutely inimical to a proper disposition on the part of the priest and faithful as regards God and the liturgy; but it is an awful lot more difficult to maintain in that situation and it is more fraught with potential mixed messages. On the positive side, ad orientem communicates quite effectively the nature and fundamental purpose of the sacred liturgy while clearly avoiding any horizontalization. Similarly, I would propose that white or purple are also not utterly inimical, but they too may likewise not speak the message as well or as easily, and that message could further be misunderstood. By contrast, black can bear the burden of that message more readily for a variety of reasons. In both of these cases, they have the added benefit of being consonant with our tradition as well.)

The use of black as a liturgical colour in these events represents a kind of holy and prudent reserve. This reserve is not negative but is in fact spiritually healthy for the living, beneficial for the "suffering souls" (even though they are assured their heavenly bliss) and spiritually realistic given original sin and personal sin.

Beyond this, black, with its association with mourning and somberness also acknowledges our own emotional response to the loss of a loved one and the sorrow of the death and toil that entered into the world with original sin. There is nothing wrong with this acknowledgement and mourning is a natural thing that even Christ himself did for his loved ones.

Culturally, black is still associated as a colour for mourning; while fashions and rules of etiquette may have indeed loosened, the powerful association is still there. We also associate black with night and sleep, both of which are metaphors for sin, the dead and for death itself. As a symbol then, it yet speaks strongly -- and a pertinent message at that.

There is, of course, also the argument from our tradition. Black has been used as a liturgical colour for sometime. When it was specifically introduced is not known so far as I can tell, but we do know there was a reference to the liturgical colour of black at least as early as the 1100's or 1200's -- which means that its use is no doubt older even than that:

"Benedict XIV (De Sacro Sacrificio Missæ I, VIII, n. 16) says that up to the fourth century white was the only liturgical colour in use. Other colours were introduced soon afterwards. Innocent III (d. 1216) is among the first to emphasize a distinction. He mentions four principal colours, white, red, green, black (De Sac. Alt. Mys., I, lxv)" (Source http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04134a.htm)

About the symbolic meaning of black, the same article says that "black [is] the universal emblem of mourning [and] signifies the sorrow of death and the sombreness of the tomb."

In this regard then, black seems a strong choice from the aspect of our tradition, from the aspect of cultural vocabulary and association, and for theological reasons as pertain to death, judgement, sin and purgatory.

The final issue that might arise is the pastoral issue. However, having heard from various priests who have implemented the use of black, I have yet to hear of any traumatic response to the use of black on the part of the ordinary faithful. Indeed, there will be a few individuals who will oppose it for ideological reasons, but that cannot be helped and becomes a teaching moment. For most, the matter will be received neutrally or as a point of genuine curiousity and become a moment when parish priests will be able to teach about and emphasize these sacred realities.

I therefore invite and encourage our priests who use the modern Roman liturgy to consider using black vestments this All Souls Day in particular, and for funeral liturgies as well. This too is a part of the reform of the reform.

[Priests: if you intend to use, or are considering using, black in the modern Roman liturgy this coming All Souls Day -- or for funerals -- I invite you to please share this with us in the comments of this post that others too might be encouraged.]

Blogger's Choice Awards

Thanks to my very good friend Dave Myers (and Godfather to our daughter Therese) this blog has been nominated for a blogger's choice award. Thank you Dave! And I believe romancatholicvocations already has 1 vote! While I have no worries about whether I'll win or not, it was nice to be recognized.

Cloistered Community to Relocate Near Front Royal, Virginia

From CatholicHerald.com

By Mary Frances McCarthy
Herald Staff Writer
(From the issue of 4/6/06)

Jim O’Brien, Arlington architect and parishioner at St. Agnes Parish, has never put so much work into building a home. But this project is more than just a home, it’s an entire community for the cloistered Dominican nuns of St. Dominic’s Monastery.Construction is scheduled to begin this month on the traditional monastery nestled in 200 acres of apple orchards straddling Warren and Fauquier Counties near Linden.The nine nuns of the La Crosse community were living at St. Dominic’s Monastery in Northwest D.C. until earlier this year when they moved to Massachusetts after selling their property. They will live there until the new monastery is habitable, hopefully 14 months after the groundbreaking. They will be the second cloistered order in the diocese. The Order of St. Clare has 14 nuns living at Mary, Mother of the Church Monastery in Alexandria.The Dominicans began looking for a new home in 2001. They began working with Greg Granitto of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld Attorneys to serve as their representative. With Granitto’s help, they searched out locations and architects. The Dominican sisters are living out a vocation of simply being with God through continual contemplative prayer.“The vocation of a nun is to give herself completely to God — to be a symbol to the Church of total commitment to God,” Sister Mary Paul Murphy, prioress, said. “We are set apart by the Church to perform this.“We really are happy to be bringing a classic contemplative life to the Diocese of Arlington and have been welcomed by Front Royal,” she said.By building a new monastery, Granitto said, the nuns are building new life for their community and reinforcing that the call to religious life is still being heard by young women. The new monastery will house up to 24 nuns.Friends in Front Royal let the nuns know of a tract of land for sale. “As soon as we saw it we knew this was it,” said Sister Mary Paul.Friends also suggested O’Brien to design the project. After interviewing him and others, they chose O’Brien because, “He had a concept and a commitment to what we wanted,” Sister Mary Paul said. “He really studied what a traditional monastery should be.”“The first step was undoing in my mind everything I thought about how people live their lives,” O’Brien said. With their entire adult lives being spent inside the structure of the monastery, O’Brien had to focus more on aspects he was not used to focusing on.“Usually, I put a lot of emphasis on entrance design,” he said. “The entrance doesn’t matter on this because you only go in one time.”However, he said, the courtyard holds a great amount of importance as does the orientation of the entire monastery on the east/west axis.“It’s really their design,” O’Brien said. “I’m really a tool for them.”In designing, O’Brien had to take into account the ergonomics of everyday tasks, such as washing dishes and passing in hallways.“If you’re going to live with 23 other women, you need some space so you can work together and not interfere with one another,” he said. O’Brien said this project has been very collaborative. The nuns are very aware of their order’s tradition and the history of monasteries and are not willing to compromise the integrity of their building for the sake of a smaller budget because “everything is the way it is for a reason,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine a better client. They have a really clear idea of what God plans for them and that’s crystal clear. Knowing what God has planned, they don’t have fear.”The community of nuns is not building only for themselves, but for future groups of their order. For this reason, they are using masonry for the bulk of the building.“Monasteries traditionally have been built of stone and we want it to last,” Sister Mary Paul said.Granitto said that their determination to build a lasting structure has made the nuns very patient. The monastery will be built in a phased approach — they will postpone what they can — instead of substituting quality materials for cheaper materials.The monastery will carry a mortgage. The new structure will be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of their previous monastery, judicious use of their resources and the support of small donations. “A lot of people are going to make this happen,” Granitto said. “They can have a part of this tradition.”The Ladies of St. John Parish in Front Royal are collecting donations for the Dominican Sisters. To help in their efforts call the parish at 540/635-3780 or Julie Cipriano Litterio at 540/631-9595.To contact the nuns write to St. Dominic’s Monastery, P.O. Box 539, West Springfield, Mass., 01090-0539March-Westin has been hired to build the monastery and will install a Web cam once building begins. Progress can be viewed at www.marchwestin.com/mw_projects.asp

Nomads No More - Cloistered Dominican Nuns Find a Home in Virginia

Link to Dominican Nuns website - I'll post another article soon about the design and construction of their convent.

Nomads No More
From LoudounTimes.com
By: Randall Ware

"We have never had a permanent home," says Prioress Sister Mary Paul. "That is what we are most excited about."

Eight hundred years ago, St. Dominic established a Catholic religious community, known as the Dominican Order, in Toulouse, France. In 1891, a group from the Order left France for the United States, settling in Union City, N.J.

For the last 100 years, the nuns have been on the move. In 1906, members of the group in New Jersey decided to make a new foundation in Baker City, Ore. In the Pacific Northwest, however, the nuns were under pressure from the local bishop to take up teaching or nursing. Rather than give up their life of seclusion, the nuns moved to La Crosse, Wis. After many decades, pastoral care of the community lessened at La Crosse and their numbers dwindled.

In 1984, the nuns came to Washington, D.C., where they took up residence in a house in the northwest section of the city on 16th Street. As their numbers once again began to swell, the nuns enlarged the house and added a chapel, as well as a dormitory wing. Even with such additions, by 2000 the Dominicans had outgrown their home.

"They didn't have much space," noted D.C. lawyer Greg Granitto, a friend and adviser since helping the nuns move into the D.C. dwelling. "The urban area had grown up around them. It wasn't quiet."

The rural site near Linden will certainly be a change from city living. The 200-acre property, which lies in Fauquier and Warren counties, had previously been part of a family-owned apple orchard.

Fortunately for the Dominican nuns, they do not expect to have to move again. They are building their monastery according to traditional methods in the hope that it will last hundreds of years, and they'll be the first to admit that it's far from a typical, modern-day, commercial housing unit.

"It's complicated," said building superintendent John McKay, the man in charge of the project for March-Westin Construction Co. "Because it is all masonry-bearing, as opposed to steel, or wood structure, or brick veneer."

The completed monastery will be a simple facility, designed along the lines of classical monastic architecture with two stories and a basement.

The structure is being built in two phases, the first consisting of three sides of a quadrangle that will surround an inner courtyard. Historically, a monastery's courtyard is important because it provides a place to appreciate nature and God's presence.

On the outside of the quadrangle, there will be a library, a refectory, an infirmary, administrative offices, a common space and a temporary chapel. The floor above these areas will contain bedrooms, or cells, for up to 24 nuns.

Corridors, or cloisters, will separate these outer areas from the courtyard. Arched windows and doors will line both sides of the cloisters. In traditional monasteries, strict silence is observed in these pathways.

The fourth side of the quadrangle will be built during phase two of the project, which will include the construction of the monastic church, where the nuns will take daily communion. The church will face east, in orientation to the rising sun, and a side chapel for visitors and a resident chaplain's quarters will be built on this side of the quadrangle.

For monastery architect Jim O'Brien, the project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. "There are not many of these out there; it's a pretty unusual project," he says. "We have had to do a lot of unlearning about the way people live, because the nuns' life is very different from ours."

O'Brien has been working with the nuns on the design since 2003. "In a monastery, you have to take into consideration that many people are living and working together. Things must be the appropriate size."

The dishwashing room, for example, had to be designed so that two people have room to wash dishes by hand and not get in each other's way, said O'Brien.

O'Brien had never before drawn plans for a monastery. During a trip to Italy he visited the San Marco Dominican monastery in Florence. "It was powerful," he said. "Not much you could borrow from that, but it was a huge inspiration."

The nuns took an active role in making sure their new home would be suitable for their needs. "I was their planning tool," said O'Brien. "They were the critics. Like all good projects, they were heavily involved. Honestly, it's their design."

The finished building will have a brick exterior. Contractors will install stained-glass windows that were saved from the house on 16th Street. The interior of the monastery will be built with concrete masonry unit, commonly referred to as cinderblock. "It will be very austere," O'Brien said, "not inconsistent with their life."

This particular group of Dominicans is even more removed from society than most nuns because they are cloistered, meaning they spend their lives within the walls of the monastery. There is a reason for their seclusion.

"Cloistered nuns do not stand with their faces turned toward the world to teach or correct," explained Granitto. "Rather, they stand, faces upturned to God, speaking words of praise and adoration. They must be hidden and unavailable because they are engrossed in a work that is unseeable."

In other words, this group feels that their purpose is to intercede for the needs of the world. They believe they are a symbol to the Church of their total commitment to God, praying seven times a day between the hours of 3:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

"It is pretty radical...To live apart from the world," admitted Sister Mary Paul.

Sister Mary Paul said she grew up wanting to be a nun. After attending a Catholic high school in Rochester, N.Y., she joined the Sisters of Mercy, an active congregation. Most of the nuns in the Sisters of Mercy were teachers.

"I was an active sister for a while, but I decided I didn't want to teach," said Sister Mary Paul. She left the congregation and got a job in a bank and later, a job at a psychiatric hospital. She also entered into a relationship with a man. "But my desire to be a nun was always there."

When Sister Mary Paul was 25 years old she returned to religious life. At a monastery in Elmira, NY, she began the process of becoming a professed nun.

In order to do so, a woman spends about seven years in "formation," during which she orients herself with the members of the religious community and prepares to become a religious within that community. Afterwards, she takes her solemn vows.

According to Sister Mary Paul, most women choose to become nuns somewhere between the ages of 21 and 40. "After age 40, it is hard to adjust," she said.

Despite living in a cloistered monastery, the nuns will not be completely isolated. "We have visiting," Sister Mary Paul explained. "Especially the new sisters, they certainly have family come."

The Dominicans will also have a car and a telephone. One of the nuns, called an "extern sister" is not bound by the cloisters. She handles most of the communications with the outside world. If another nun has a need to leave the monastery, the extern sister does the driving.

The nuns will likely have a vegetable garden at their Linden home, and they hope to keep some apple trees from the orchard. A food service company, such as Sysco, will bring food to the monastery on a regular basis.

The estimated cost of the property and construction of the monastery is $6 million. These funds will come from the proceeds of the property in D.C. and private donations.

The monastery will carry a mortgage.Although the nuns operate under the mantle of the Dominican Order, they are a self-contained entity, meaning that they are financially responsible for themselves and do not receive funds from the Order or any diocese.

During their years in D.C., the nuns generated income in several ways. They did computer work for Catholic publishing organizations, as well as laundry (altar linens) for the Dominican House of Studies. Georgetown University hired them to do sewing for theater productions.

Sister Mary Paul does not know what kind of work they will find in Linden, as their circumstances limit ways they can earn money. "It is hard for a cloistered monastery to find productive labor," she said. "We don't go out. We are not teachers."

In spite of this, the Dominican sisters say that they have already made many friends and contacts in the area. The Catholic community in Front Royal was instrumental in helping the nuns find a tract of land for sale, and the ladies of St. John's Parish are collecting donations for the construction of the monastery.

Other area residents also seem to be quite happy to have the monastery in the neighborhood. "We think it's wonderful," said Liz Valiulis, who lives across the road.

Valiulis and her husband moved to a Warren County hilltop from Fairfax three years ago. "We were worried about the apple orchard," she said. "There were rumors that it would become a wild-animal park."Ralph Morris, who was the manager for the apple orchard for 46 years, is also pleased to have to nuns nearby. He helped them select a scenic site on which to put the monastery and frequently corresponds with the nuns, who are living in West Springfield, Mass. until the monastery is completed.

"Their property protects quite a bit of land," Morris said. Eighty-eight acres of the property are under easement in Warren County.

Sister Mary Paul and the nuns will be the second cloistered order in the Diocese of Arlington. The other cloistered monastery is the Order of St. Clare in Alexandria.

"To be out in a rural area will be wonderful," Sister Mary Paul anticipated. "We have always been in the city. We have fallen in love with the community in Front Royal. They have been so welcoming."It's hard not to be impressed by the nuns' determination to pursue their vocation and establish a place for future sisters. "When you consider the endeavor they have taken on with very limited resources," said O'Brien. "Their willingness to put everything in the hands of God....It is courageous."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Seminarian’s vocation rises from working at bakery in Poland

By Michael Wojcik9/13/2007
The Beacon (http://www.patersondiocese.org/)

EAST HANOVER, N.J. (The Beacon) - Years ago, Adam Muda made deliveries for his uncle’s bakery in northwestern Poland. The truck didn’t have a radio, so in the silence he decided to tune his mind and spirit into a frequency far stronger than AM or FM - the power of God.

Between deliveries, Muda, today a 27-year-old seminarian of the Paterson Diocese, would sit in the truck, praying. He also would read religious books he got from his mother, Genowefa, leader of their parish’s rosary society.

“I started thinking about God’s call to the priesthood as a boy and then again in high school. At 20 years old, I heard the call again, so I started to pray the rosary every day,” noted Muda, who served St. Rose of Lima Parish here this summer.

But at this time, Muda’s life seemed to be following a different wavelength. He had a serious girlfriend and was planning to train as a fire captain.

“Around Easter 2001, my vocation became stronger. I started going to confession twice a month. I was thinking, ‘vocation - it¹s not an impossible thought,’” said Muda, who was raised on a farm in the village of Goraj. “After more prayer, I decided, ‘This is it. I want to be a priest.’ My parents were surprised. They never thought I would go to seminary,” he said.

Priestly influences
Maybe his parents - Genowefa, a bookkeeper, and Andre, a public works director - shouldn¹t have been surprised. After all, the seminarian grew up around priests and religious. Many clergy served his parish of St. Bartholomew’s. His uncle, Jan, was a priest who lived with the family awhile.

“My uncle’s priest friends would come around,” said the personable Muda, a third-year theology student at St. Mary¹s Seminary, Baltimore.

Not only that, Muda learned about his faith at the knee of his grandfather, who would read the Bible to him as a youngster. His family, which includes two younger sisters and a younger brother, prayed together every night. He also was taught religious education in Polish public schools.

Muda decided to build on that strong Catholic background by pursuing his priestly studies at Lublin Catholic University. He completed two years of philosophy and a year of theology there. He also served various parishes, visited hospitals and aided the chaplain at a nursing home.
“The nursing home residents loved when the seminarians visited. We would talk to them and make parties for them. We would dance with them while they were in their wheelchairs,” Muda said.

Muda’s vocation got another boost in 2003, when he went to Rome to visit his uncle, Jan, and briefly met Poland’s favorite son, Pope John Paul II.

“I prepared something to say, but I was rushed along,” Muda said. “I knelt before him. He didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. He smiled and blessed me. It was beautiful.”

Moving stateside
By his second year at Lublin, Muda started looking to the United States, where he would arrive in 2004. He settled in Chicago, home to a large Polish population. Not knowing any English when he arrived, he joined a friend at Bishop Abramowicz Seminary there, where he studied for a year while taking an English-as-a-Second Language course.

But after a while in the Windy City, Muda realized that the Chicago Archdiocese was blessed with an abundance of priests. He desired to go somewhere that was in greater need of priests. He transferred to the Polish seminary of Sts. Cyril & Methodius in Orchard Lake, Mich., where he met with members of the diocesan Vocations Office.

He met Father Hernan Arias, former vocations director and pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Morristown, N.J., who persuaded the seminarian to come out to the diocese at Thanksgiving in 2005. He visited Holy Rosary Parish, a Polish faith community in Passaic, and a Sparta parish, he said.

“I was happy here,” said Muda, whom Bishop Arthur Serratelli accepted as a seminarian of the Paterson diocese last year.

A real ‘go-getter’
Also last year, Muda served his first summer assignment in the diocese at Our Lady of the Magnificat Parish in Kinnelon, where he honed his English skills through lectoring and taking lessons with a tutor. He also visited the sick with Msgr. Joseph Goode, then the parochial vicar at the parish.

At OLM, Muda noticed that “priests in the United States are open to the people. They are welcoming,” he said.

The welcoming Msgr. John Carroll, OLM’s pastor, expressed his admiration for Muda’s go-getter attitude – “Adam would see something that needed to get done, and he would do it.” Muda not only helped couples with marriage issues and taught summer school religious education, but he also helped the custodians and painted the rectory deck railing, the pastor said.

This summer, Muda went to St. Rose of Lima, where he visited hospitals, lectored and pursued more instruction in English. Father Owen Moran, St. Rose’s pastor, helped him with English by preparing for the readings with him.

“Adam will make a wonderful priest because he loves the Mass, interacts well with people and is able to draws gifts out of people,” Father Moran said. He brings out the joy of being a follower of Christ so much so that he already has inspired several of the parish’s young men to be open to the priesthood, the pastor said.

Seminary faces challenge of making space for new faces

More signs that the vocations "crisis" isn't universal, and that those places (Diocese, seminaries, religious orders) that are faithful to the Magisterium are experiencing real growth.

From St. Louis Review Online

by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer

A noticeable growth spurt at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary has caused administrators there to devise some creative ways of accommodating its seminarians and guests. This year, the seminary is housing 112 seminarians who are enrolled in the Kenrick School of Theology and pre-theology program and Cardinal Glennon College, according to president-rector Msgr. Ted L. Wojcicki. "That’s an increase of 50 percent over the the 75 seminarians enrolled last spring," he said. Because of the tight living arrangements, several modifications have been made to areas in the seminary used for living, eating and studying, he noted. Seminarians "have had no complaints about the situation," said Father Timothy P. Cronin, rector of Cardinal Glennon College. "There’s such a positive spirit, knowing that the number of seminarians and anticipated applicants for the future are growing." That growth is evident through a rise in new enrollments in recent years, according to Father Michael T. Butler, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations. Nineteen new seminarians for the Archdiocese of St. Louis were accepted into Kenrick-Glennon this year, he said. That number was the same as last year’s new enrollments; however, "about four years ago, it seemed like we were hitting a cap of 15 every year, and that’s where we were staying," said Father Butler. Of the total number of seminarians housed at the seminary, there are 82 theology and pre-theology students at Kenrick and 30 at Cardinal Glennon College. Because of the higher number of Kenrick seminarians, some of them have volunteered to move to living space that typically is reserved for Cardinal Glennon seminarians. "It actually works out pretty good," said Msgr. Wojcicki. "It promotes communication, as they normally wouldn’t see each other as much" because of different classloads. What also has garnered some attention is the move of several students into the convent building at the seminary. An attached wing of the main seminary building, the convent also is home to the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and the Carmelite Religious of Trivandrum, India, who work at the seminary. "There are nine students living in the convent — they’re on the third floor," said Msgr. Wojcicki. The third floor of the convent previously had been used for visiting family members of seminarians, he said. That has prompted administrators to closely look at how the seminary will be able to accommodate guests in the future. "We have so many seminarians that we’re not going to be able to have as many guest rooms available this year," he said. Similarly, the number of available student rooms — which are provided to those who are interested in visiting and perhaps applying to the seminary — are at a premium. Student rooms also are typically used for programs offered through the Office of Vocations, including Kenrick-Glennon Days and the annual Archbishop’s Retreat. Student rooms also have been used as part of a longstanding tradition of the Church to offer accommodations to seminarians who are passing through town or are coming to visit friends at the seminary, said Msgr. Wojcicki. "It’s just part of our tradition that we offer that kind of hospitality," he said. One possible solution for housing student guests is converting the West Dormitory into temporary living space, according to Father Butler. Located in one of the wings of the seminary, the dormitory was a barracks-like sleeping area for seminarians until the 1970s, said Father Butler. Beds were lined up in rows, with sinks and showers spaced along the walls. Today, the West Dormitory is used as meeting space for youth activities, such as Kenrick-Glennon Days and Christ Power retreats, Father Butler said. "We’re not sure what we’re going to do yet, but that we’re at least considering it shows that we’re pretty much booked," he said. Some adjustments also have been made to the seminary’s classrooms, Father Cronin said. For example, a conference room has been converted into a classroom for the college’s philosophy program. This is the first year in which philosophy courses are being taught on the grounds of the seminary. "We have some periods where virtually every classroom space is taken," said Msgr. Wojcicki. "We’re really operating three programs in one here — theology, pre-theology and philosophy. That’s a lot to juggle — six classrooms — in that amount of space." Even the seminary’s dining room is feeling the effects of growth. Four tables have been added to the area, said Father Cronin, and the period in which lunch is served has been extended so everyone has a chance to eat. The parking lot also was expanded last year to make way for 55 new spots, said Msgr. Wojcicki. The driveway was widened for the pull-in parking spots. The seminary has been making the adjustment for another good reason, too. Father Butler noted that 18 men already have received applications for next year. That’s an increase from this past year’s 12 applications. "I need to reiterate that an application isn’t a seminarian, and a seminarian isn’t a priest," he said. "But it’s a positive thing."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How In The World Did I Miss This One????

Pope John Paul II talks about his own vocation to the priesthood.

New Clergy and Religious Numbers from the Vatican

The number of bishops in the world increased by 57, to 4,841 on all continents. Increase in America (+31), and Asia, (+11) and Europe (+15) while in Africa and Oceania the situation remains the same as the previous year. Diocesan bishops are (3,650) (34 more than the previous year); Religious Bishops are 1,191 (increase of 23 ). The increase in diocesan bishops is registered on every continent: America (+18), Asia (+7), Europe (+11); with a slight decrease in Africa (- 1) and Oceania (- 1). The number of religious Bishops has increased slightly on every continent, especially America (+ 13) followed by Asia and Europe (+4); and Oceania (+ 1).

Priests and Permanent Deacons
The total number of priests in the world increased by 520, to 406,411. Increase registered in Africa (+1,111) and Asia (+1.831), but decreases on the other continents: America (-639); Europe (-1,699) and Oceania (-84). Diocesan priests increased by 929 , with an increase in Africa (+806), America (+370), Asia (+833) and a decrease in Europe (-1.002) and Oceania (-78) as in the previous year. Religious priests decreased by 409 to a total 136,649. Increases are registered as in the previous year in Asia (+998) and Africa (+305), where as a decrease is noted in America (-1009), Europe (-697) and Oceania (-6). Permanent deacons increased by 1,067 to 33,391, the highest increase is again this year in America (+655) and in Europe (+398), followed by Oceania (+15) and Africa (+6). A decrease is registered only in Asia (-7). Diocesan Permanent deacons 32,837, with increases on all continents (total increase 1,028 ). Religious permanent deacons total 554 , plus 39 compared with the previous year with increases in America (+6); Europe (+42); Oceania (+2) and a decrease in Africa (-1) and Asia (-10).

Men and Women Religious
The number of Brothers decreased by 322 to 54,708. Situation: increase in Africa (+157) and Asia (+138); and a decrease in America (-130); Europe (-368) and Oceania (- 119). An overall decrease in the number of women religious (­6,930) now 760,529 was registered by continent as follows: increase in Asia (+2,736) and Africa (+1,306) decrease in Europe (-6,903), America (­3,902) and Oceania (­167).