Sisters of Life live up to their name

Sister of Life during opening processional Aug. 6. (Photo by Carol Zimmermann)

Sister of Life during opening processional Aug. 6. (Photo by Carol Zimmermann)

The liturgy — and celebration afterward — for the six women who professed final vows as Sisters of Life Aug. 6 truly lived up to the order’s name.

The nearly three-hour-liturgy  in a tightly-packed Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut, was filled with friends, relatives, sisters from other religious orders, people who have volunteered with the sisters and many women who have been helped by them with their babies or young children in tow.

“You have been called to special heroic work in a world that has lost its soul,” Auxiliary Bishop John J. O’Hara of New York told the sisters in his homily, adding that in their pro-life ministry they would bring life where there is death, joy where there is sorrow and love where there is hate.

That love, joy and life was on full display Aug. 6. It was clear these women loved God, the work they felt called to and each other. After the six women professed vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and to protect and enhance the sanctity of human life, they were hugged by each member of their order. Then after Mass, the hugging (and picture taking) continued from those who came from near and far to witness this occasion.

The liturgy included special recognition of the parents of these new sisters who joined their daughters in the offertory procession. It also paid tribute to the order’s founder, the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor of New York. His chalice was used in the Mass and his sister was in the congregation.

The order’s superior general, Mother Agnes Donovan, spoke at the end of the of liturgy and specifically thanked everyone who had played a role in making the day special. She also thanked the six new sisters for their “faithfulness to grace.”

Sister Francesca, left, one of the first members of the Missionaries of Charity, poses with her niece, Sister Grace Dominic, a new Sister of Life. (Photo by Carol Zimmermann)

Sister Francesca, left, one of the first members of the Missionaries of Charity, poses with her niece, Sister Grace Dominic, a new Sister of Life. (Photo by Carol Zimmermann)

“Your bless us with your lives,” she added.

She then invited the entire congregation to join them for a celebration at their nearby retreat center where they fed, visited and took more pictures with hundreds of guests.

The ongoing celebration under white tents on the grounds of the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center seemed a fitting way to close the day.

As Bishop O’Hara said in his closing remarks: “After a lot of prayer, there needs to be a good party.”

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, Aug. 7, 2016

"They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar." -- Hebrews 11:13

“They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” — Hebrews 11:13

 

August 7, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Wisdom 18:6-9

      Psalm 33:1, 12, 18-22

      2) Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 or Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12

      Gospel: Luke 12:32-48 or Luke 12:35-40

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

I make very few promises in my life. I do my best to never say the word “promise” unless I know I can deliver on it.

However, when I was a youth minister, there was one promise I would routinely make. I would start off every new confirmation class saying, “Confirmation is a time to seriously consider your relationship with the Lord.”

I would go on to explain that if they came every week, listened to the teachings, participated in the group discussions and were at the very least open to growing in faith, I could promise that they would leave at the end of the year changed people. I was never wrong.

This was an easy promise to make, mainly because I was not the one keeping the promise. I know that all God needs to transform a person is a heart that is open. So my job was to create an atmosphere that would help these young people open their hearts to the possibility that an unseen God loves them enough to die for them. Once the heart was open, the promise would begin to bloom.

God is a promise-keeper, even when we cannot see to completion the promise kept. This week’s reading from Hebrews tells the story of Abraham and Sarah, and the promise that God made to them that they would be the parents of a nation as numerous as the stars in the sky. But they died with a modest family, nothing close to the size of a village, let alone a nation.

Hebrews says, “They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” I really like that verse because it speaks of hope and the power of faith. Earlier in the same reading we hear that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

Life may not always turn out the way we plan, and we cannot always see past our circumstances to the promise of God, but if we lean on our faith and hold on to hope, we can get a glimpse of what remains unseen.

QUESTIONS:

What promise from God have you seen come to pass in your life? What promises are you still waiting to come to fruition?

A WYD Q&A with Cardinal Tagle

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A #YoungCaritas group selfie with Cardinal Tagle in Krakow. (Photo: Caritas Poland)

KRAKOW, Poland — Michelle Hough, communications officer for Caritas Internationalis, shared her interview with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, president of the international Caritas network.

Q: The pope gave you a big hug when he saw you on the stage after he arrived at WYD. What’s the pope like as a hugger?

(Laughing) He’s a gentle hugger. The hug is a hug of a father, but also of a friend. When he hugged me on the stage during the opening ceremony he said, “Here he is!” – a hug of recognition – and then he said, “Ma questo ragazzo, you should be there (in the audience) with the young people and not here with the cardinals.”

WYD CARITAS SERVE TAGLE

Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila claps while speaking to World Youth Day pilgrims July 27 at St. Joseph Church in Krakow, Poland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Q: When you were introduced to Pope John Paul by Cardinal Ratzinger, referring to your youthful looks the future pope said, “Don’t worry, he’s made his first Communion.” How come you still look like a youth?

I think I don’t take myself seriously, I take the Savior seriously. There is such a great love in the one who died for us that just the thought of that should make us so joyful, energetic and hopeful.

Q: You sang the song “Where is love?” from the musical “Oliver!” following Caritas’s youth gathering the other day, do you know any other show tunes?

I grew up surrounded by music and every occasion reminds me of a song like when I saw #YoungCaritas the other day. I had no plans on referring to that song but when I saw all the young people it came back to me, “Where is love?”

When I was talking about opening ourselves to mercy to a crowd earlier this week and I thought about pride and how we sometimes say emphatically “I can do it my way,” Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” came to mind. It’s not Jesus’ way, I’ll do it MY way. The people in the crowd of my generation knew the lyrics and were dictating them to me…. These songs, the lyrics are good and they allow us to write our own words to continue the song and the melody.

Q: Have you cried yet at World Youth Day?

Yes – in every catechesis! (laughs). I don’t know, it’s not part of the script, it just comes. During the Stations of the Cross (with Pope Francis) there were moments where we just had to cry not only with, but for the many people who are crucified.

Q: What’s the hardest question you’ve received from a young person during the catecheses you’ve done over the past few days?

The questions of the youth are real questions. They’re about life and they can even be called metaphysical, but they’re framed using very simple and innocent terms. One of the most difficult questions was, “How do we forgive terrorists?” There I was confronted with the folly of the cross. We have to beg God for the grace to do this. We turn to stories, to Jesus who forgave not just terrorists from outside, but his own friends who betrayed him. Then you go to the story of John Paul II who even visited the man who tried to kill him … then you know it’s real, it’s not theoretical, you’re not talking about terrorism but coming face to face with a terrorist. That’s where the story begins.

Q: Horrific crimes against humanity took place (at Auschwitz) not far from where WYD is being held in Krakow. How do we forgive without forgetting?

I am a firm believer that you don’t need to forget in order to forgive. In fact remembering might help us forgive. Remembering first the horror of these crimes and that we make a commitment to never allow that to happen again and never to participate in any horrific action. We also remember, not only the victims but also the perpetrators who are also made of dust, like us. Like them, we are all sinners. So in the mystery of sin and failure, we are brothers and that’s why God can be forgiving because God always remembers we’re made of dust and we have to be picked up again and again. I think we need to condemn horrible acts of terror. In fact, we need to hate terrorism. We need that strong feeling. But at a certain point we need to hate hatred itself.

Q: What resources do Polish youth have to face the future?

I really admire the tenacity and strength of the Polish people. I think every generation of Polish people should cherish this legacy of love and country and of culture, love of the earth and of their identity. They should discover over and over again the secret of this strength and they should treasure it, make it grow and pass it on.

Q: How many selfies have been taken with you at World Youth Day?

(Laughs) I don’t know! I think for the young people it’s a way of being present with them. It’s their way of connecting with you.

Q: You have a very busy schedule. Do you ever want to just go home, put your feet up and have a cup of tea?

The one thing I miss terribly is just being by myself and being a regular person, but it’s becoming much more difficult to do that even at home. People think that I’m an extrovert and I know how to handle crowds but I’m really an introvert and very shy. But for me it’s a mission.

Q: One sentence on what it means to be young?

Being young is a grace, it is a gift, and it is a gift to be shared.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 31, 2016

"Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God." -- Luke 12:21

“Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” — Luke 12:21

 

July 31, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23

      Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17

      2) Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11

      Gospel: Luke 12:13-21

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

“All things are vanity!” we read in Ecclesiastes this week as our Scriptures warn us of the spiritual dangers of greed, possessions and worldly pleasures.

Ecclesiastes, with its exclamation points, decries “things” as selfish desires that suck dry our time and energy and leave us with nothing of lasting value.

Jesus’ teaching in Luke’s Gospel is more direct: “One’s life does not consist of possessions,” he says, then tells a parable about a rich man spending his time eating, drinking, being merry and storing up earthly treasure. But Jesus emphasizes there’s no guarantee that treasure will be maintained after one dies.

Strangely, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” has become a popular catchphrase used to encourage people to avoid worrying about life beyond here and now. But it carries a significantly different message for those who believe in a deeper existence in relationship with God.

My friend Susan is one such believer whose radical rejection of material concerns showed me the greater joy that comes of a commitment to the things of God.

A single mother with a successful career as a professional editor, Susan had built a comfortable life for herself and her daughter. She owned a nice home on several acres of property.

I met her at a crucial time in her life. We were together on her first ever mission trip among the poor. I could see Susan following God’s urging as she daily searched for the meaning of this experience in her life.

A few years later, she joyfully told me her daughter was expecting a baby. Then everything changed for Susan.

Her grandchild had multiple disabilities that brought enormous challenges to the young family.

Susan didn’t think twice as she took early retirement so she could help care for her granddaughter. She managed the consequent financial pinch by selling her home and most of her furniture and accumulated possessions.

She misses none of them, because Susan was changed years earlier among the poor when she discovered the deeper, lasting things of God’s life.

Now she relishes the abiding pleasures of being an essential part of her daughter’s family and watching her granddaughter progress and thrive every day.

QUESTIONS:

What worldly possessions or selfish concerns take your time and energy away from your relationship with God? What things of eternal value are missing from your life?

Replay: Today’s papal visit to Auschwitz

Since many Americans were sleeping when Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz concentration camp earlier today, here is an easy-to-skim look at how the event unfolded via Twitter:




 




 

[Read our full story here:]

 

[Video:]

Poles can’t help comparing Pope Francis to their favorite son

Pope Francis prays in the chapel of the Black Madonna at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)

Pope Francis prays in the chapel of the Black Madonna at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)

By Jonathan Luxmoore

CZESTOCHOWA, Poland — Jurek Najgebauer attended Pope Francis’ Mass at the Jasna Gora national monastery. Although police said about 200,000 people attended the Mass, Najgebauer said there were far fewer than when St. John Paul II was there, when there was “no spare place anywhere.”

He said Poles would appreciate Pope Francis’ appeal to humility and simplicity, and against being “attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances.” However, he also said that some might be offended that the Argentine pope had chosen to stand, rather than kneel, before the fabled Black Madonna icon in Jasna Gora’s Lady Chapel July 28.

“We respect Pope Francis, but he’ll always be a guest here, and there can be no comparison with John Paul II, who was Polish in blood and bone and had a divine gift, as head of the church, in being able to speak directly to each of us.”

Grazyna Swierczewska, a Catholic from Warsaw, said she also believed Pope Francis was being well received in Poland and had chosen his words well “at a time when there’s so much division and aggressiveness, lack of love and faith.”

However, she added that reactions to the pope were a lot less enthusiastic than under his Polish predecessor, who had been able to “speak directly to the nation.”

Pope John Paul II prays in front of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland in this 1999 photo. (CNS photo courtesy Pope John Paul II Cultural Center)

Pope John Paul II prays in front of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland in this 1999 photo. (CNS photo courtesy Pope John Paul II Cultural Center)

“Of course, we’re listening and considering what he says in our own way — but when John Paul II preached, he caught us with every word,” said Swierczewska, who left the Polish capital at 4 a.m. to reach Jasna Gora.

“We’re still here, in this special place for Poles. But the atmosphere is clearly quite different now.”

A Catholic priest from Belarus, who was in Czestochowa during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit in May 2006, said he also thought the pontiff’s homily had been well received.

“The pope understands people here because he understands the church,” said Father Pawel Wikary, who came with a large group of Belarusian Catholics. “People in our region know what it means to be considered small and humble alongside the world’s big powers. So his carefully appeal to unity and identity will suit people well.”

However, recently retired Auxiliary Bishop Antoni Dlugosz of Czestochowa said he believed Francis had a “deep understanding of popular feelings,” as a Jesuit and former parish priest.

He added that prayers recited at the Mass for Poland, on the 1050th anniversary of its Christian conversion, had been “well expressed and welcomed.”

“Coming from Buenos Aires, he knows about wealth and poverty and is fearless in asserting the need for divine mercy, whatever the media may say,” Bishop Dlugosz said. “The pope’s words were concrete and challenging, and I think he’s been well prepared when it come to the situation in Poland and the rest of Europe.”

Why a poor rural Texas town captured the pope’s attention

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Catholic youth from towns near Peñitas, Texas cheer while kicking off World Youth Day July 26, 2016. Even though the pope is in Poland, he sent a video message specifically to the group gathered in Texas, even though many from the impoverished area can’t travel. (CNS photo by Amber Donaldson)

By Brenda Nettles Riojas

MISSION, Texas — As World Youth Day kicked off in Poland today, a group of Catholic youth in Texas, some without the money to travel to Poland and others without the legal papers to travel there, got the next best thing: Pope Francis came to them via video, with a message tailored for the community there.

Why did the rural area known as Pueblo de Palmas, near Peñitas get such an honor? Why would the Holy Father send a message to the people of a rural area that some consider “insignificant”?

Three missionary sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who have been living and helping in the area for 12 years will tell you that it’s because the people of God here have a deep faith that is not daunted by poverty or other hardships they may endure.

Father Michael Montoya, a Missionary of Jesus priest, is pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Peñitas, Texas and its three missionary churches. He said the idea of connecting the youth in the area to the more global event in such a personal way started off as an idea to help the young people in one of the poorest areas in the country see how they are connected with the church and other young people from around the world.

Given the poverty levels in the community and their immigration status, it is impossible for most to travel. For those in Peñitas, explains Father Montoya, traveling from their homes to church comes with risk. Some fear that if they are pulled over for something such as a minor traffic infraction, they could be deported. Father Montoya points to what he refers to as a “military presence” in the area. There is a no shortage of local police, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, U.S. border patrol agents and National Guard patrolling the area located just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s a constant reminder to the people that something is not right. We live so close to the wall that divides families, it affects self-identity. All the images we receive from the outside are negative. It’s always connected to the border, always connected to the things we cannot do,” said Father Montoya.

Add to this the poverty and lack of basic infrastructure in some neighborhoods that do not even have a sewage system or water lines.

“There are many circumstances,” said Father Montoya “that make it difficult for the people. They think they are forgotten.”

But they are not forgotten. Today they are celebrating the Holy Father who prepared a personal message for the youth of the diocese.

“The parish of St. Anne is beyond happy. Things like this don’t happen to a place like Peñitas,” said Father Montoya. “The pope is sending a message to us! I think that is proof enough, that the love of the church for our poor people is really palpable, it’s real.”

“God has certainly worked wonders,” said Sister Carolyn Kosub, one of the three missionary sisters who arrived in the area along with Sister Emily Jocson and Sister Fatima Santiago in 2004 to help rebuild the community after it was devastated by a tornado.

A project they started in an under-served area blossomed and eventually led to the building of St. Anne Catholic Church in 2009. They never dreamed it would become a mother church of a parish four years later, or that one day, on the feast of St. Anne, the Holy Father would send a personal message to the youth of that parish.

Father Montoya says when thinking of the honor the area has received, we need to be reminded that the infant Jesus chose to be born in the small town of Bethlehem and not a city center. So, a great event can happen in an “out of the way” place.

“Not everyone can travel to Poland for World Youth Day,” said Father Montoya, “but we believe that even in our area, a profound and meaningful encounter with the world’s youth can be organized.”

“It’s a reimagining,” said Father Montoya, “of who we are. We are not defined by the border, we are defined by our culture and by our faith.”

This is truly a testament that the mercy of God knows no limits. It should also serve as a reminder to each of us that no matter where God places us, no matter where we stand in the world, we each matter and must do what we can to foster a “culture of encounter,” as Pope Francis has often said.

Father Montoya said “the mercy of God knows no limits within a church that knows no borders,” and the encounter in the rural town in Texas shows that mercy and grace can reach “even the remotest part of the world. We don’t have to be in the center of power to be recognized by the church.”

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Nettles Riojas is the editor of The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.