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.”

The singing Ursuline sister: “I have a gift to give”

ROME — Pope Francis’ call for the church to “get out onto the streets” and evangelize helped inspire 25-year-old Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia to hit the stage and sing before millions of viewers last week.

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Screengrab of Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia, 25, who appeared March 19 on the singing competition TV show, The Voice of Italy.

“I have a gift and I’m giving it to you,” she told judges and her audience after she floored them with her March 19 appearance on the singing competition TV show: The Voice of Italy belting out Alicia Keys’ “No one.”

Sister Cristina actually found her religious vocation thanks to her love for music and the stage.

As a teenager, Cristina had no place for God in her life.

“After Confirmation, I distanced myself from the church and I was angry with God,” she told the Italian religious weekly magazine, Credere.it in July 2013. Even making the sign of the cross before family meals was something she rebelled against, she said.

Singing, voice lessons and doing local festivals and wedding gigs with her band were all she cared about, she said. She had a boyfriend, worked at a call center, went to college and auditioned — unsuccessfully — for spots on two Italian TV talent shows.

Cristina was always on the move, constantly looking for “something that I wasn’t finding in my life, running nonstop without getting the answers I was hoping for,” she told Credere.it.

She said her mother told her about an upcoming musical production of the life of Sister Rosa Roccuzzo, the foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, and Cristina landed the lead part of Sister Rosa.

“I had shown up in order to be able to sing and dance; but the challenges Sister Rosa had launched a century ago, about the gift of one’s existence, always kept ringing inside me.”

Torn between pursuing music or become a nun, she said she quickly found her way to God, “saying, ‘Here I am,’ like Samuel.”

She spent a year and a half in Rome as a postulant and then did her novitiate in Brazil working with children and young adults on the street in the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

“Music helped me make contact with them and I rediscovered singing as a way to praise the Lord, as something my soul needed, and as an instrument for touching people’s hearts,” she said.

She certainly touched people’s hearts as her performance went viral around the world on YouTube:

The back-and-forth banter between Sister Cristina and the four “coaches” is interesting and revealing. Here’s an English translation of some of what was said during the episode, starting after Sister Cristina explains that she’s from Sicily:

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Screengrab of Italian singer Raffaela Carra’, who is one of the four “coaches” on The Voice.

Raffaella Carrà: Listen Sister Cristina, are you a real nun or…?

Sister Cristina: I’m truly a real nun!

R.C.: It’s not possible. But how did it ever cross your mind to come be on The Voice?

Sr.C.: Well, I have a gift and I’m giving it to you, right? That’s the way it is!

R.C.: Honestly, I would be curious to know, but I won’t conduct an in-depth interview to learn about your decision to become a nun, certainly you had your reasons, however, to be able to sing like this…I’m at a total loss, you know, dear sister?!

Sr.C.: Rather, I can imagine.

R.C.: Well, ok. Also, J-Ax was the first to turn around [to show a vote of approval for her “Blind Audition” tryout].

Sr. C.: J-Ax! He’s the best! It’s so wonderful!

… [back and forth about how she has to choose which coach to join forces with]

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Screengrab of Italian rapper J-Ax, the judge Sr. Cristina chose to be her coach on The Voice.

J-Ax: Hello sister! I am–

Sr. C.: Awesome! [gives thumbs up]

J-Ax: You’re the sister, I’m the “uncle” [dude]. Listen, I’m not sure, but do you sing in church on Sundays?

Sr. C.: Yes, absolutely!

J-Ax: I don’t know, but if you sing in church on Sundays, with the donations, we all can get out of paying ‘IMU’ [taxes] for sure.

Sr. C.: [continues in jest] Perhaps I can suggest it to the parish priest.

J-Ax: If I had found you when I was a child when I used to go to Mass, I’d be pope right now! I would have kept going [to church]!

Sr. C.: Very good! You’ve found it now!

J-Ax: You know how music operates a lot off of a play [a mix of opposites]: sweet-salty, right? The caress-the slap…You and I are unbeatable, you know why? We are the devil and holy water! You have to come on my team!

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Screengrab of Italian blues singer Noemi, who is one of the four “coaches” on The Voice.

Noemi: [About how she couldn’t believe her eyes when she turned around and saw a nun singing like that and choosing such a modern song…] No! I beg you. I am holy water like you, we’ll be an impeccable [sinless] duo. Don’t choose the devils!

J-Ax: But we’re just little devils.

R.C.: Well, I’m not a devil, hmpf!

Noemi: Choose holy water!

R.C.: What do you think the Vatican is saying about you appearing on The Voice?

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Sr. C.: Hmm, look, I don’t know, I’ll wait for the phone call from Pope Francis, for sure. Because he invites us to go out, to evangelize, to tell people God doesn’t take anything away [from you], rather he gives us even more! I’m came here for this!

R.C.: Brava! Brava

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Screengrab of Italian rapper J-Ax, the judge Sr. Cristina chose to be her coach on The Voice.

Noemi: He’s starting to cry. [referring to J-Ax who is tearing up even more]

——–

What did you think of Sister Cristina’s performance and its effect on the judges, the audience?

Can this be a positive form of evangelization, as she says?

Ain’t no mountain high enough for U.S. priest

VATICAN CITY — When the Vatican press hall announces papal appointments, we’re usually presented with a rather dry encyclopedic biography of the new appointees: where they went to school, what they studied, ordination date, and teaching and ministry positions held over the years.

But thanks to Catholic radio host Lino Rulli (aka The Catholic Guy), we have a really fun and insightful look at the man who will be the new auxiliary bishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis —  Father Andrew Cozzens.

The now 45-year-old priest from Stamford, Conn., took Lino (a Minnesota native) rock climbing a few years ago.

Somebody filmed the escapade and, aside from seeing Lino freak out, we see Father Andrew use rock climbing as a way to talk about faith:

“This is the beauty about rock climbing, it teaches trust. Trust is such an important thing in our relationship with God.”

Check out this leap of faith:

 

New video highlights work of priests, in their own words

Our friends at Salt + Light Television, Canada’s premier Catholic media ministry, sent along this video they produced for Toronto’s annual “Ordinandi Dinner” for seminarians who will be ordained this year. (Here’s a story posted today by another longtime CNS friend, The Catholic Register in Toronto, on this week’s dinner.)

In the fast-paced video, about a dozen priests (they’ll come at you so quickly you’ll lose count) give their testimonies to what their priesthood means to them. It’s a celebration of ordained life. Take a look:

Healing and teaching go hand-in-hand for Sister Diana

Religious orders of women are known far and wide for two important apostolates, education and healing. Teaching and nursing sisters and brothers are legendary around the world. Take a moment to meet a Dominican sister who unexpectedly found herself the lone medical practitioner in a community of teachers.

Vanderbilt Medicine, the alumni publication of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, this issue profiles an alumna, Dominican Sister Mary Diana Dreger, a Long Island, N.Y., native who entered Cornell University as a pre-med student. After taking a year off and falling in love with teaching, she became a high school math and science teacher. Then she had a serendipitous encounter in Virginia with some Dominican sisters from Nashville, Tenn. The next thing she knew she was in the novitiate in the motherhouse of the Dominicans’ St. Cecilia Congregation.

A few years later, after Sister Diana took her final vows and was still teaching, the prioress general said, “I’m thinking of sending you to medical school.”

“Teach. Pray. Heal.” by Kathy Whitney is a great story of faith, commitment, trust and a bit of the unexpected from the hand of God and Mother Superior.

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