Contemplative nuns stitch stoles for confessors

“When World Youth Day pilgrims go to confession in Spain this August and kneel to kiss the stole of their confessor, they may come in contact with purple cloth hand-stitched in Brooklyn,” writes reporter Antonina Ziellinska of The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y.

(Photo from The Tablet/Courtesy of SSVM Sisters)

The stoles were created by the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. Theirs is a cloistered community, so none of the sisters will be attending the international Catholic gathering, taking place in Madrid Aug. 16-21. But they are already keeping the young pilgrims who will go in their prayers. The sisters’ contemplative Monastery of St. Edith Stein is in the Flatlands neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“We know this will be an opportunity for young people to come in close contact with God,” Mother Superior Maria Del Redentor told The Tablet. “Some may be inspired to give their life completely to God. So we pray that they may have the strength to hear their calling.”

Fishing retreats hook men into taking time to pray, experience God in nature

A few years ago Minnesota pastor Father LeRoy Scheierl came up with his idea for a fishing retreat as a way to get men to take a break from their responsibilities so they could fish, pray and experience God in the outdoors, and he never has trouble filling the spots for the outing, writes Dave Hrbacek in the July 8 issue of The Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn.

In addition , Father Scheierl also now has developed new program he calls Theology on the Lakes. Hrbacek writes about both in his column, “The Outdoors.”

Hrbacek not only writes but he is a staff photographer for The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Also check out his blog, “Faith Outdoors,” on a site called, a Minnesota-flavored Catholic blog.

St. Gregory’s University student calls being Miss Indian Oklahoma 2011 an ‘honor’

Devon Frazier, a sophomore at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla., says she “felt completely honored” when she heard her name called for the “prestigious title” of Miss Indian Oklahoma 2011 at the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women’s annual pageant in McAlester, Okla.

“My first reaction was to look at my mom – who made me stay up night after night to perfect and critique every little detail – and I knew I made her proud whether I had won or not,” Frazier said in a statement.

“We are very proud of Devon,” said Benedictine Father Nicholas Ast, St. Gregory’s vice president for mission and identity. “She is an exemplary young woman and represents St. Gregory’s University and the community well in all she does. We are pleased that she has this opportunity, and we support her fully.”

This spring Frazier was chosen for the title by a panel of judges based on her performance in several areas, including personal interview, essay, traditional dress, talent, platform and her answer to an impromptu question. The theme of  the 2011 pageant was “Honoring Our Mother’s Journey by Keeping Our Eyes on the Future and Our Hearts in the Past.”

According to the pageant’s custom, Frazier was presented with a silver crown and cedar box. Her reign will last one year. Continue reading

Media Notebook: Reissued ‘Sacrifice’ shows response to sin, fear, despair amid crisis

By John P. McCarthy

Catholic News Service

A remastered edition of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky’s final movie, “The Sacrifice,” has arrived on DVD from Kino International, a quarter-century after its theatrical release.

Tarkovsky defected from the Soviet Union two years before making the Swedish-language film, which was shot by one of Ingmar Bergman’s great collaborators, cinematographer Sven Nykvist. During the editing process, Tarkovsky was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he died within a year at age 54.

It’s difficult to imagine a more fitting swan song. A deeply personal yet universal work, both elegiac and forward-looking, “The Sacrifice” depicts a faith journey and, specifically, an intellectual’s response to sin, fear and despair.

Emblematic of Tarkovsky’s small but significant oeuvre, the parable also evokes Shakespeare, Chekhov and Bergman. In fact, on first encountering its slow, ritualistic pacing, you’re tempted to dismiss it as a parody of one of Bergman’s bleaker films.

Gradually, however, its tight structure and incisive hopefulness emerge. “The Sacrifice” has humor and heft, tension and tenderness. Farcical moments depressurize the atmosphere of existential terror while keeping self-seriousness and pretension at bay.

A sympathetic protagonist, subtly played by Bergman regular Erland Josephson, is essential to the drama’s success. Continue reading

It’s all part of the (priest’s) job

By Sharyn McCowen

So what DO priests do every week?

The vocation center for the Archdiocese of Sydney has produced a short video, “A Week in the Life of a Priest.” It features Father Michael de Stoop, diocesan vocations director and priest at St. Benedict’s, an inner-city parish.

The 10-minute video follows Father de Stoop as he administers the sacraments, visits schools and youth gatherings, spends time in prayer and formation, relaxes with family and friends, and even takes to the field for his weekly game of rugby with the Crusaders.

The video is also being shown in schools across Sydney.

Teacher Jessica Nohra, 22, described the reaction of her students after she showed them the DVD.

“When they saw Father playing footy (Australian football), they were amazed and kept asking, ‘Miss, is that still the priest’?”

Coming soon to a TV near you: ‘The Real Housewives of the Bible’

“The Real Housewives of the Bible,” a DVD series produced by web-based evangelist Ty Adams is set to be released later this month.

The two-part series is inspired by the hit Bravo reality TV show, “The Real Housewives,” which features women from different U.S. cities and their adventures in life, love and luxury shopping.

“I was frustrated with what I was seeing,” Adams told CNN. “A lot of society is looking toward programming to educate them on relationships and these shows haven’t effectively done that.”

Adams said she wanted to create something more wholesome that shows Christian teaching in everyday life and helps women in their relationships and marriages.

The six women in Adams’ series exhibit characteristics and are put in situations that will be familiar to audiences as women from the Bible.

If you were casting the show, what biblical characters would you like to see?

South Sudan’s jubilation a model for Africa

Father Christopher Townsend, a first-rate Catholic journalist and the secretary for communications of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was in Juba, the capital of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, for the independence ceremonies. It was an emotional time for him and for all Africans. He sent this dispatch this morning, sharing his thoughts about the new nation and a time when his own country had to come to terms with its past and walk brightly to a new future.

“On the eve of independence in South Sudan, I was sitting under trees with a small community of neighbours in an area called ‘High Jerusalem’ The afternoon leading to the evening had an atmosphere I can only describe as high point South African — the sort of feeling we had during our own transition in 1994 and the feeling of the World Cup 2010. I had even heard vuvuzelas. Flags everywhere.

“Sitting near the Nile, in the insect dark, we were celebrating a meal. The South Sudanese had decided on this night of liberation that there would be a type of passover seder. Stories of pain, oppression and slavery were followed by stories of hope. Bread was shared, songs and the new national anthem was sung, candles were lit and there was dancing — the quiet, eager dignity of a people set free.

“I couldn’t help thinking that this is what we should have done in 1994 — encouraging neighbours to take their time to share stories. But maybe we weren’t ready, with our apartheid living and apartheid minds. Maybe it is something that we can imitate though — a chance to tell stories and listen, not to public hearings, but the personal TRCs among neighbours.

“On the day, sitting under the shade reserved for the not quite VVIPs (thankfully so — we didn’t get as burnt as they did) with a press of bodies around us constantly streaming forward to see this new day, was an experience in humility. For while we were there as guests, friends, donors, supporters, this was not our day.

“The Jubilation of seeing the flag raised, the quiet confidence of a new constitution and country was only outdone, for me, by the ‘hand of god’ moment when the power failed before [President Omar] al Bashir could start speaking. When he eventually finished, the crowd gave him a very polite, almost English, clap and then spontaneously stood up and waved him off. Priceless. An unmistakable sign.

“Al Bashir and his policies of Islamicization and Arabification are the latest in the long timeline of the former Sudan’s struggle with identity and centralization. Even before the coup that bought this particular latest calculating genocidal barbarian to power (these words are carefully chosen and used), the dynamic in Sudan had been Khartoum directed. Almost all post-colonial leadership has come from four small ethnic groups — Arab, Islamic, northern.

“Powerfully, South Sudan has committed to reverse these tendencies of centralization, coercive religious compliance and a single Arab identity by publicly committing to a multicultural, diverse and secular state.

“The Republic of South Sudan has a long way to go — the lack of development and infrastructure is chronic. Many Southerners who were in the North have fled south to few schools and less opportunity.

“But arriving at the very little Airport of Juba, six months after departing after the referendum, clearly shows how great the energy is for explosive growth — South Sudan is a country of enormous potential.

“As the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, Paulinus Loro, said on welcoming his guests to a certain chaos before the celebrations, we have never been a country before.”

For more on the independence of South Sudan, check out the stories on the CNS homepage. Also read CNS Rome correspondent Cindy Wooden’s post earlier today about the visit of Pope John Paul 11 to Sudan in 1993.