Active collaboration was common theme at Given forum

By Ana Franco-Guzman

Given conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Given conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Highlighted in what many of the speakers said at the Given forum held earlier this month in Washington is what St. John Paul II would call the importance of feminine values in society. When God made Eve, he did not make her inferior but the opposite — his “ezer,” which means a vital helper.

Women should “thank God for our sex,” Helen Alvare, a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law told the audience of more than 300 young women at the Given Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum. The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious hosted the gathering June 7-12 at The Catholic University of America.

“In the world today there is what one would call a resistance of the notion of two-ness,” Alvare said, when women’s differences with men call for an active collaboration and appreciation of our differences.

Among the other speakers was Kara Eschbach, co-founder, editor in chief and publisher of Verily, a digital fashion and lifestyle magazine for women that aims “to empower and inspire women to be the best versions of themselves.”

She said the qualities women have, like beauty, are a gift.

“To reject the importance of the physical world is to turn the whole human experience into a sort of utilitarian exercise away of the use of a thing only in so far as it contributes to our salvation which misses the full scope of our creation,” she said. “The human heart is drawn to and attracted to beauty. That’s the thing for women, women are just absolutely beautiful.”

Feminine values also are human values, said Sister Norma Pimentel, another conference speaker. A Missionary of Jesus, Sister Norma is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

Sister Norma Pimentel, Brownsville, at a White House event in April. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Sister Norma Pimentel is seen at a White House Easter breakfast in April. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande has been taking care of the needs of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, who have flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border into the Rio Grande Valley.

“We as women in the world and especially in the United States are called to open our hearts as women to welcome the stranger, the child that needs us. Just like Mary would … open her heart to welcome us.” she told Catholic News Service. “Only we as women can understand a mother’s love that is needed to give to these families that are hurting.”

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious described the Given forum as “a launchpad for what St. John Paul II called the feminine genius and a response to Pope Francis’ call to activate women’s gifts in the church.”

World Refugee Day: Pope Francis-style

refugees epa

Somali refugees in a tent in 2011 at the Ifo Extension refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.      (CNS photo/Dai Kurokawa, EPA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis marked today’s World Refugee Day with an appeal to assist and accompany refugees as well as remedy the injustices and conflicts that force people to flee.

Throughout his pontificate, he has repeatedly underlined the plight of people compelled to leave their home and the Gospel call to “welcome the stranger”:

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes …

— Pope Francis, World Message for Migrants & Refugees 2014

Too often you have not been welcomed. Forgive the closure and indifference of our societies, which fear the change of life and mentality that your presence requires. Treated as a burden, as problem, a cost, you are instead a gift. You offer witness of how our gracious and merciful our God knows how to transform the evil and injustice you suffer into a good for all.

— Pope Francis, Message to Jesuit “Astalli” refugee center in Rome 2016


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A displaced woman carries her sleeping child June 15 at a refugee camp near Mosul, Iraq. (CNS photo/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)

In an effort to give voice to some of the 60 million estimated refugees in the world, Jesuit Refugee Service interviewed a handful of the many people they help. They produced this video as part of their campaign, “Open minds, unlock potential,” which is promoting the need to offer education to and be receptive of new arrivals.

The International Catholic Migration Commission is also sharing stories of resettled refugees around the world as a way to encourage those still waiting for a place to call home and to call attention to the benefits refugees bring to host communities. It is using the #HandsOfMercy, #StoriesOfMercy and #WithRefugees to share or send personal stories or messages of hope on social media.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 19, 2016

"Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." -- Luke 9:24

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” — Luke 9:24


June 19, Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1

      Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9

      2) Galatians 3:26-29

      Gospel: Luke 9:18-24


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples acknowledge him as “the Christ of God,” the promised Messiah who will save the world.

He proceeds to tell them how this will happen: through his suffering, death and resurrection. Then he adds that whoever “wishes to come after me” would have to give up his former way of life and take on Jesus’ way, including the suffering that goes along with it.

No doubt if there had been a Galilean word for “yikes!” the disciples would have uttered it at that point. It’s one thing to know and accept who Jesus is. The harder part comes in facing what that means in one’s relationship with him and in choosing to spend one’s life following him.

As a catechist, I often sensed this struggle in teenagers preparing for confirmation. The young people came with a wide range of faith formation prior to entering the program. Some had attended parish formation classes since they were in kindergarten; others had received rigorous religious education in Catholic school; and still others had only minimal catechesis since receiving their first Communion as second-graders.

Each year, as the class progressed, I saw nearly all of the young people grow to an understanding and acceptance of who Jesus is. But not all seemed certain about their desire to be confirmed in the church.

Interestingly, the individuals most conflicted were those who had a personal, spiritual relationship with Jesus. Invariably, as the day for the sacrament approached, those young people would tell me, “I don’t think I’m ready.”

They didn’t take this step lightly. For them, coming into full participation in the church was a serious moment of truth. It meant making the decision to actively follow Jesus as a disciple with all the complications that entails.

Most of these conscientious ones chose to be confirmed. But a few decided to wait until they felt sure they could hold up their end of the bargain.

I’ve never worried for their souls. It was obvious they had a deep faith in Jesus as their guide and savior. Besides, the fact that they were stressing over whether they could serve him well enough revealed they already had taken up their crosses.


What makes the difference for you between knowing who Jesus is and taking up your cross to follow him?

Father Stephen Reid exhibit offers prayer through art

By Nicolette Paglioni

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is showcasing Benedictine Father Stephen Reid’s artwork in an exhibit that opened Feb. 15 and will close soon.

The small, quiet gallery located in the shrine’s Memorial Hall includes 14 wood carvings and two large oil paintings; while most pieces have no date listed, it is believed that Father Reid created most of his art between the 1950s and 1980s.

Born in 1912 to Methodist parents in the Shenandoah Mountains, Father Reid led an obscure early life. He attended the University of Virginia, possibly in the early 1930s, where he may have studied literature and French.

Memorial Hall at national shrine in Washington. (Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

The national’s shrine’s Memorial Hall. (Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

After moving to Washington for reasons unknown, he received instruction from a priest at Nativity Catholic Church. He then became a Catholic and shortly after joined St. Anselm’s Abbey. There, he took the name Stephen in 1941 and was ordained a priest in 1945. No one knows for sure what led to his conversion and entrance into St. Anselm’s, but Abbot James Wiseman, his contemporary, believes that the centrality of the liturgy, the Benedictine emphasis on service, and the close-knit community of Catholic men “striving to serve God,” might have attracted Father Reid to monastic life.

During his time at St. Anselm’s Abbey, Father Reid had many roles. He taught French, English and religion. He helped students use the typesetter to print their publications. He even founded the Priory Players theater troupe, and directed, costumed, and built the sets for their annual productions.

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

(Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

He became well known at St. Anselm’s for his artwork, which now adorns the halls of both the abbey and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Glen Burnie, Maryland, where he served as a parish priest for over a decade.

The sculptures and paintings on display at the national shrine have drawn attention for their abstract form and simple — but not simplistic — design. Contrary to the familiar, detailed elegance of most Catholic sculpture, Father Reid seeks to accentuate, not his own talent, but the subjects of his sculptures using attenuated figures and flowing woods. Similarly, Father Reid wanted to avoid rendering the saints of his paintings as objects rather than subjects.

Father Reid hoped to “disrupt habitual responses” to religious art with his unique style, according to Bruce Nixon, author of “A Communion of Saints: The Art of Fr. Stephen Reid, OSB.”

Today, his art serves to “disrupt” our busy lives by taking us by the nose to the heart of prayer with subtle grace.


Father Reid’s Madonna and Child. (Photo by Nicolette Paglioni)

According to the curator at the national shrine, Geraldine Rohling, one statue in particular has attracted many visitors — often more than once — to the gallery. Father Reid’s “Madonna and Child of the Woods” was discarded by the artist, and found 20 years later in the woods outside of the abbey. Now, with its prominent place at the front of the gallery, the piece has attracted a “phenomenal” amount of prayerful viewers.

Alongside his statues, Father Reid’s carved crucifixes have sparked significant interest for their apparent weightlessness; rather than sagging beneath the weight of the cross, Father Reid’s figures of Christ instead seem to hold up the cross by themselves, as Nixon notes. Their faces are largely disinterested in the agony of crucifixion, and their wounds, so often graphically rendered in most religious art, appear almost invisible.

Continuing his theme of humble simplicity, Father Reid’s paintings utilize large, rounded features and vibrant colors to tell the stories of the saints, of Jesus and of the church without distracting the viewer with obvious displays of the artist’s talent.

Indeed, the gallery as a whole seems to evoke a sense of prayer and thought that has nothing to do with Father Reid’s ability at all.

“St. Benedict is a name that means service,” said Abbot Wiseman. “Father Reid served people … by inspiring them and giving them a sense of heaven through his art.”

Father Reid’s art exhibit is on display in Memorial Hall North, on the crypt level of the national shrine, until June 19, and catalogs of his work are available in the bookstore.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 12, 2016

"I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me." -- Galatians 2:20

“I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” — Galatians 2:20


June 12, Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13

      Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11

      2) Galatians 2:16, 19-21

      Gospel: Luke 7:36-8:3 or Luke 7:36-50


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

This Wednesday, Bettina will spend two hours volunteering at her community’s free clinic, which offers a range of medical services for the working poor. She’s not a medical volunteer but goes to the clinic every Wednesday to greet and take information from clients and potential clients to determine or confirm their eligibility for services.

She’s aware that her tasks are minimal and that her annual monetary donation to the clinic is far more valuable than her service, but she has continued her weekly stint for years simply because she loves the free clinic for how it makes a significant difference in individuals’ lives — including hers.

She loves seeing the staff and volunteer nurses, doctors, dentists and pharmacists treat the patients with respect and genuine concern. She loves observing the easy, familiar relationship that various clinic personnel have with patients who have depended on them for years. Bettina’s love of the clinic is personal.

Many years ago, she was a patient there. Struggling financially and psychologically while trying to put herself through college, she depended on the free clinic for her regular medication for depression. The clinic literally was her salvation for two years.

Our Scriptures for this weekend speak about God’s saving mercy. The Gospel tells how a person’s gratitude for being saved by Jesus’ mercy produces a deep and lasting love. A woman anointing Jesus’ feet after bathing them with her tears was lifted out of a life bound by sin. Now her love for him was sealed.

Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that a personal experience of love and mercy begets a greater response of love and mercy than a lesser relationship. Bettina’s love and commitment to the free clinic grew out of her experience of mercy. Once lost in the darkness of depression, she was lifted free to have a productive future. Her gratitude to God and the people at the free clinic who do God’s work of compassion and healing is boundless and is shown in her actions.

While many people appreciate the valuable contributions the clinic and its volunteers make in the community, Bettina and others who’ve experienced its saving graces firsthand respond with true abiding love.


When have you directly experienced Jesus’ mercy? How has that experience affected your relationship with him?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 5, 2016

"The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother." -- Luke 7:15

“The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” — Luke 7:15


June 5, Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) 1 Kings 17:17-24

      Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13

      2) Galatians 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19

      Gospel: Luke 7:11-17


By Jeff Hensley
Catholic News Service

Across the decades since I came into the church in 1974, I have seen many instances where God was at work in the world. I’ve seen healings and many more instances of God bringing about good results in situations for which there was no reasonable hope.

But there are abuses of the belief in miracles. The worst I ever heard about came through a friend who was teaching in East Texas. While there, she heard of the death of an infant for whom a Pentecostal church had prayed fervently. At the funeral, it was reported, the pastor lifted the lifeless infant in the air and declared, “This is lack of faith!”

That horrible moment must have caused some in the community to question their authentic faith in and love of God. The preacher’s arrogance and self-righteousness confused “faith” with human will as he suggested the people’s prayers weren’t good enough to save the infant.

Today’s readings hold the antidote to such flawed thinking by pointing out that God, not human strength, has miraculous power.

In the passage from Kings, the prophet Elijah cries out to God to restore life to the only son of the widow who was providing him shelter. Elijah, in service to God, pleaded the widow’s case and her son was saved — not by Elijah’s action, but by God’s.

When Elijah restored the child to his mother, she responded. “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God. The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is “moved with pity” when he witnesses a mother, also a widow, who has lost her son. He steps forward, touches the coffin and says, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” He is restored to life and to his mother.

The crowd, witnessing these events cries out, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”

God was glorified in action in the first case by the faith-filled holy man, Elijah, and in the second by the acts of Jesus, the God-man. The people were not looking to the strength of their prayers but to their faith that a loving God would act. God acted and love of him increased.


Have you ever witnessed what you believe was a miracle?

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, May 29, 2016

"Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people." -- Luke 9:13

“Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” — Luke 9:13


May 29, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Genesis 14:18-20

      Psalm 110:1-4

      2) 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

      Gospel: Luke 9:11b-17


By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

One day, just after starting my first job on a parish staff, I went searching for paper stock and wandered into the wrong supply closet, where I stumbled onto the church’s stash of sacramental wine.

I know it’s not really a “stash,” but to me, a recent convert at the time, it seemed like it. I stood staring at several stacks of common corrugated cardboard boxes that contained large bottles of wine — ordered from a wholesale distributor. But I knew the bottles’ secret.

My initial reaction was that I’d exposed them, opened the door on them before they became the blood of Christ. It was like unwittingly finding Superman’s Clark Kent clothes.

This week’s readings recall the covenant of Christ’s body and blood, transformed from ordinary bread and wine and given for our nourishment and salvation. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul recollects Jesus establishing that covenant at the Last Supper.

But the Gospel story of the multiplication of loaves and fish emphasizes the infinite supply of the Lord’s offering. We witness on the mountainside Jesus beginning with a small amount of bread and feeding thousands of his hungry followers. When all were satisfied, there was plenty available for whoever would come later.

The message is that an endless supply line will continue everywhere and forever, as long as people come seeking Jesus.

Since the Last Supper, Christians have provided bread and wine from sources in their own communities throughout the world and throughout the centuries — from vineyards and wheat fields to casks, jars and ovens to bottles and boxes to storehouses and closets.

From there, they are brought to altars, where they are consecrated as Jesus’ body and blood to nourish and save the faithful again and again.

I found one tiny store of ordinary wine in an appropriately unremarkable closet in a church office building. But as I received it in Communion the next Sunday, it was not the same, and neither was I.


What goes through your mind during Mass at the moment of the consecration? How do you relate the changed substance of bread and wine with a change in you?


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