Meetings and farewells
Hello and welcome! Marking the 160th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Vianney, the patron saint of priests, the Holy Father wrote a beautiful letter to priests, reflecting on the life of the saint and the joys and challenges of priesthood. In it, he also speaks about the crisis and the suffering of so many people caused of the sexual abuse by priests. It’s a powerful letter, so I recently sent it to all the priests of the archdiocese to reflect upon, and I also want to encourage all of you to read it here. Thursday, I was visited by Bishop Antonisamy Francis of the Diocese of Kumbakonam, India. He has been visiting various communities of Indian Catholics and conducting mission appeals here in the U.S. He has some of his priests studying in Boston, so while he was in town, he came to greet me. He brought me the gift of this lovely shawl Also on Thursday, I celebrated the funeral of Father Frederick McGowan at St. James Church in Haverhill, where he had served for over 25 years in the course of his long ministry. He was ordained in 1949 and so had been celebrating 70 years of priesthood and was one of the oldest priests in the archdiocese. In recent years, he had been a resident of Regina Cleri. With us for the funeral was his classmate, Father Frank McGann; his sister, Dorothy; and many of his nieces and nephews. One of his nieces is from Hawaii, and there were many people who came from Hawaii to attend the funeral. They were very recognizable because they were wearing leis, which is a sign of affection and respect for the departed. It was a very beautiful send-off for a man who had served the archdiocese Saturday, Mother Maureen and Mother Alice Marie of The Little Sisters of the Poor came to greet me. We are so grateful for the wonderful care the Little Sisters provide for the elderly, including many of the parents of our priests, at their Jeanne Jugan Residence in Somerville. Sunday, the annual retreat for the bishops of the Boston Province began at the Franciscan Guest House in Kennebunkport, Maine. Unfortunately, this year I was unable to leave Boston, so I made my own private retreat. Bishop Daniel Flores of Detroit was the retreat master for the bishops. I have heard he did a wonderful job and the bishops were all very pleased with the retreat. I was sorry I was unable to join them, but I was happy to have my private retreat simultaneously. Thursday, was, of course, the Feast of the Assumption and I joined the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master for a Mass and dinner to celebrate the feast day. With us were Bishop Peter Uglietto and Father Bob Kickham. Some of the Sisters were celebrating the anniversary of their profession that day, so we were very happy to be with them on this beautiful Marian feast. Until next week, Cardinal Seán
Inside Mystery Cave, inside my life
Horizons - Following Christ, I am drawn into beauty beyond what I would ever imagine or could make for myself. This submission to the Great Mystery is counter-cultural, radical.
The Plan after Unplanned
I was no stranger to the Planned Parenthood controversy before entering the theater. I used to listen to Lila Rose podcasts, of her research and undercover investigations in the clinic. The post The Plan after Unplanned appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Making Room For Disability
We need to make room for people with disabilities In our lives, schools, and church communities. Society will continue to view disability as a disease to be eradicated unless we make room in our hearts to love the other. Yet so many times I’ve felt like an afterthought in so many parishes. Luckily for me, […] The post Making Room For Disability appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Happy Feast of the Assumption!
When I taught high school theology, it was one of many vocabulary words that students got confused: Assumption, Ascension, Annunciation. To help them remember, I offered a type of mnemonic device. Which vocabulary word is used to describe when Jesus bodily rises to heaven and which word refers to Mary’s rising? The word with […] The post Happy Feast of the Assumption! appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
We Need to Talk
No, I don’t want to break up with Jesus! The last thing I want is to be apart from Him, but our relationship needed work. It felt a little like we hit a plateau. The post We Need to Talk appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
The Feast of the Portiuncula
Hello and welcome! This past Friday was the Feast of St. Mary of the Angels of the Portiuncula, which was also the 35th anniversary of my episcopal ordination. I look back at that moment with great gratitude for having given me the opportunity to serve the wonderful Catholics of four extraordinary dioceses, and it all began in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Virgin Islands 35 years ago. I have very fond memories of the occasion, being surrounded by family and friends and feeling the support of the priests and people of the Virgin Islands. The founding bishop of the diocese, Bishop Edward Harper, who had been the provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers in Puerto Rico, was a wonderful mentor and an example for me. It was a missionary diocese, and there were many challenges and opportunities. One of the things that we did very early on (though, when I arrived, our archdiocesan budget was a grand total of $30,000) was to waste no time in establishing a television station and a diocesan newspaper. We established them in an effort to unify the diocese across the different islands, so the people could become more aware of what was happening in the other parishes and grow in their sense of unity and communion. One of my great helpers in this endeavor was Mary Conway, who came to us with a vast experience in Catholic journalism from the Catholic Standard in Washington. She very ably established our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Islander. With Mary on my ordination day I am very pleased to say that both the television station and the newspaper continue to this day. The Feast of the Portiuncula is a very important day for all the branches of the Franciscan family, which is why I chose it for my episcopal ordination. St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi was the third of three churches that St. Francis restored, and it was so dear to him that he gave the nickname of The Portiuncula, which means “The Little Portion,” and it became a sort of the motherhouse of the Franciscans. It is the place where the Franciscans held their first Chapters, where St. Clare made her vows and where St. Francis died in 1226. In his “Life of St. Francis,” St. Bonaventure describes the importance of the Portiuncula: The Portiuncula was an old church dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God which was abandoned. Francis had great devotion to the Queen of the world and when he saw that the church was deserted, he began to live there constantly in order to repair it. He heard that the Angels often visited it, so that it was called Saint Mary of the Angels, and he decided to stay there permanently out of reverence for the angels and love for the Mother of Christ. He loved this spot more than any other in the world. It was here he began his religious life in a very small way; it is here he came to a happy end. When he was dying, he commended this spot above all others to the friars, because it was most dear to the Blessed Virgin. This was the place where Saint Francis founded his Order by divine inspiration and it was divine providence which led him to repair three churches before he founded the Order and began to preach the Gospel. This meant that he progressed from material things to more spiritual achievements, from lesser to greater, in due order, and it gave a prophetic indication of what he would accomplish later. As he was living there by the church of Our Lady, Francis prayed to her who had conceived the Word, full of grace and truth, begging her insistently and with tears to become his advocate. Then he was granted the true spirit of the Gospel by the intercession of the Mother of mercy and he brought it to fruition. He embraced the Mother of Our Lord Jesus with indescribable love because, as he said, it was she who made the Lord of majesty our brother, and through her we found mercy. After Christ, he put all his trust in her and took her as his patroness for himself and his friars. On the feast, one can receive the Portiuncula Indulgence. St. Francis had a great devotion to the Holy Land and went there on pilgrimage himself. However, he realized that the vast majority of people would never be able to make the long and dangerous journey to the Holy Land. So, he asked the pope to grant a plenary indulgence to those who made a pilgrimage to the Portiuncula. The request was granted by Honorius III and later was extended to those who visited any Franciscan church or chapel on the feast day (in addition, of course, to fulfilling the usual conditions for an indulgence). The Portiuncula is housed inside the much larger Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, and you can still visit it today. I also always like to remind people that we have an exact replica of the Portiuncula much closer to home. Cardinal Cushing had it constructed in Hanover to be his final resting place. Saturday morning, I went to a Peace Breakfast at St. Monica-St. Augustine Parish in South Boston, which is part of their Good Samaritan Ministry. The Good Samaritan Ministry does a great deal of outreach to people who live in the nearby Mary Ellen McCormack Public Housing Community and surrounding neighborhoods, as well as to homeless people who are facing the challenge of addiction or mental health problems. Deacon Paul Klein, Father Peter DeFazio and Father Joe White are very much involved in this ministry. The program has just an army of volunteers, and they get a great deal of support from the Boston Police Department, as well. This particular breakfast was an occasion to honor Bill McGonagle who recently retired after many years of service leading the Boston Housing Authority and who has been a great supporter of that ministry. He was instrumental in getting it off the ground and has been a steadfast supporter ever since. It was a pleasure to be able to honor Bill and to recognize him for all that he has done. Sunday morning, I celebrated the Spanish Mass with the community at the cathedral. I was particularly impressed by the wonderful attendance for a Sunday in August, and think that it was at least in part due to the home visitations that they have been conducting in the Cathedral Parish. In fact, at that time of year when you would think mass attendance would be down, it was actually way up. At the Mass, we prayed for the victims of the terrible shootings that took place over the weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. The following day I issued this statement on the shootings that I want to share with you here: The mass murder of 31 innocent people in a 24 hour period, fueled by hate and disregard for human life, is unacceptable in any society. We offer our prayers and support for the communities of El Paso and Dayton in the midst of this time of immense pain. Our nation was founded on the principle that all people are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We implore our elected leaders to rise above ideological differences and work together to address the serious issues facing our country by enacting meaningful and effective policies to end the violence. This includes keeping firearms, particularly assault weapons, out of the hands of those who would use them to inflict devastating harm on our communities. We must address inadequate mental health care in this country. Finally, we must work towards a more civil and just society that rejects all forms of violence and hatred in our country. The fabric of our national conscience is at risk. Today we give thanks for the bravery of the first responders who selflessly rush to the aid of the victims and pray for the healing of those injured in the shootings. We call upon the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, for the protection of our loved ones, friends and neighbors as we entrust to our Lord’s mercy those lost to this violence. Together let us strengthen our commitment to do what is necessary to stop these horrendous attacks. This week, was the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though I always look forward to the Supreme Convention, unfortunately this year I was unable to attend. However, I was very happy that our Vicar General, Bishop Peter Uglietto, was there and we always have a very fine group of Knights from the Massachusetts State Council at the convention. Though I couldn’t be present, I was so encouraged to hear of the many great works of the Knights through Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s annual report. I was particularly encouraged to learn about their efforts to support Christians in the Middle East and the Knight’s new “Adopt-a-parish” program through which councils can directly support a church in Iraq. It was also very good to hear about their initiative to reach out to the native peoples of the U.S. and Canada and their plan to build a new shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We also learned through the report that the Knights gave $185 million in charitable donations and dedicated 76 million volunteer hours. It is always very edifying to hear of the dedication, fidelity and resources that are put forth for the mission of the Church by the Knights of Columbus. We are so grateful to the Knights for all the good they do and particularly to our local councils for all they do in our own archdiocese. Until next week, Cardinal Seán
The roots of happiness
6 minute readWhat do middle school girls, young women just starting their independent lives, mothers and established professional women all have in common? A yearning for happiness: happiness that is uniquely found in the truth and beauty of Sacred Scripture. Walking with Purpose founder Lisa Brenninkmeyer draws on her Protestant roots, psychology degree, conversion experience and life as a mother of seven to develop a slew of Bible studies that seek to meet women where they are in various stages of life and lead hearts to Christ where he is found in Scripture. In an interview with Radiant, Lisa shared more about the vision, resources and goals of Walking with Purpose, as well as some of the spiritual and relational challenges facing women today. Radiant: What are some practical tips you can offer to not just parents, but also siblings and friends, to help the young people we love avoid leaving the faith in the first place? Lisa Brenninkmeyer: Be happy. I’m sure that seems like an odd response to your question, but I wholeheartedly agree with Blaise Pascal when he said, “Make good men wish it were true.” The “it” that he was talking about is the good news of the Gospel. We ought to be living in such a way that the watching world wants in. When there is nothing different in the way that we deal with stress, manage our emotions and adjust to circumstances that we hate, then why would anyone think that Jesus really makes that big a difference? When I say, “be happy,” I am not talking about the way that the world defines happiness. Most people think that being happy means having a steady stream of positive emotion and all our circumstances being the way we want them to be. True happiness goes deeper, and it is connected to believing that your life has purpose: that your identity is rooted in Christ — not what you do, what you look like or what other people say about you — and that suffering always has meaning. When we get it straight in our own minds and hearts on these three points, we can stay emotionally steady even when life deals us some blows that we don’t want. When other people observe us dealing with things differently than they would in their own strength (without God’s help), it’s pretty powerful. This isn’t to say that we need to be perfect — obviously we’ll fail if that’s our goal. But if there is nothing different about us besides the truth we believe — if it doesn’t translate into a life better lived — then we shouldn’t be surprised when people walk away. I believe that most people today aren’t searching for absolute truth — they don’t think that exists. They are searching for the key to happiness — for whatever will make their lives work better. Let’s show them the difference that Christ makes. Radiant: In our increasingly digital and impersonal society, how can young women connect with other young women who are also looking to grow in their faith and foster fulfilling faith-filled relationships with their peers? Brenninkmeyer: Put the phone down and start with just one connection. We know that the amount of time we spend on our screens is problematic, but until our behavior changes, our relationships are going to suffer. I think we are losing our ability to be human — to look people in the eye, to make small talk in an elevator, to ask questions that have more than a yes or no answer. When I think about how I met my husband — being his waitress and chatting with him as he waited for his food — I can’t help but think that I never would have met him today. We would have both been on our phones to avoid those awkward moments when we had nothing to do. I think countless opportunities for connection are passing us by while we scroll through social media feeds. We all know this. But are we actually doing anything about it, or are we just complaining that we don’t have meaningful friendships? It’s definitely vulnerable and awkward to be intentional about connection, but someone’s got to start. I would encourage you to find one person that you want to get to know better and ask if you can meet for coffee. Let her know when you sit down that you are longing for something more than superficial chit chat. If this clearly makes her terribly nervous, things are probably not going to get deeper. But if she agrees and says she’s looking for something deeper too, then I would take another risk and ask her some meaty questions. Ask her what’s she’s dreaming about. Ask her what she thinks is the best way to find true love. Ask her when she feels fully alive. Ask her what it means to her to be happy and live a good life. If you get along well, I’d consider setting up a time each week when you get together. Friendship is all about the investment of time and being vulnerable. If you do both of those things, you can find meaningful friendship in unlikely places. Radiant: Among the many Bible studies Walking With Purpose offers, you have several specifically for young women. What do you focus on in those studies that makes them especially relevant for younger women? Brenninkmeyer: I added some lessons, based on the things that I see young women facing. One of those is a lesson on identity and worth. So many young women are trying to answer the questions, “Who am I?” and “Do I matter?” I wanted to address both those questions head on, so I wrote some new material for that. But most of the content in the Walking with Purpose Bible studies applies to all women — regardless of age. I have no desire to dumb things down for young women who are smart and savvy and very able to dig in to applying Scripture to their lives. When I write, everything has to pass the “so what?” test. What I mean by that is if it isn’t relevant to our day-to-day lives, it doesn’t make it into the study. I also focus on bringing the heart into the discussion instead of just building up intellectual understanding. I think young women need and want that as much as older women. So a lot of the content remains the same. Radiant: How did your work at Walking With Purpose help prepare you for raising your own daughters as they entered their young adult years? Brenninkmeyer: The principles I was learning and writing about were almost all things that made their way into my parenting. What I was getting under my belt in terms of truth, I was passing on to them. In addition, I have learned a lot about how to balance mission and motherhood. It isn’t easy to be in full-time ministry (or working any full-time job) and also mothering. The principles I’ve learned — especially about priorities — have been invaluable as I have sought to model a happy, peace-filled life that is very busy and demanding. I try out my material on them before sending it out into the public, and they’ve been super helpful in refining the way I present things. My sons have helped me with this, too. Radiant: If you could go back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Brenninkmeyer: Hold on to your God-given identity and pay attention to the ways in which the enemy will try to offer you a counterfeit one. There is a war on your identity, and more than anything, the enemy of your soul wants you to root your identity in anything other than God. He’ll tempt you to define your worth by what you accomplish, or by what people think of you, or what you look like. If you don’t wake up to his tactics, you will spend decades performing when you could be resting, self-protecting when you could be loving, people-pleasing when you could be maturing, and numbing when you could be feeling joy. It all comes down to how you are going to answer the question, “Who am I?” Are you going to look to God for the answer, or to your feelings, or what others tell you, or to your accolades? What’s your true identity? You are a beloved daughter of God. You are chosen. You are beloved. You have purpose. You are forgiven. You are set free. The enemy will try to enslave you by offering you a counterfeit identity. Resist him, each and every time. Live for an audience of one — not your audience on Instagram but the one who made you and cherishes you. A former-editor of Radiant, Brittany Makely is a wife and mother in the charming South. A love of truth, goodness and beauty motivates her to seek out relationships and projects that strengthen her faith, as well as that of the world around her. The post The roots of happiness appeared first on RADIANT.
A conversion of heart and mind
Horizons - How is it that two people who know each other well can look at the same thing and have completely different experiences of it? Having good intentions to come to an agreement simply isn't enough.
Contemplating Eternity: Living for the Here and Now
As I sat in daily Mass after hearing the news, I held my sleeping little boy and watched my eldest going through motions of Mass that he had never done unprompted before. The post Contemplating Eternity: Living for the Here and Now appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Remembering Cardinal Ortega of Cuba
Hello and welcome! Last Thursday was a particularly full day, beginning in the morning with a visit by Capuchin Bishop Musie Ghebreghiorghis of Emdeber, Ethiopia. He had visited about 10 years ago, so we were happy to welcome him back to Boston. He was in town to visit the Ethiopian community at the cathedral. For several years now, we have had a Mass for the Ethiopian and Eritrean Catholics who belong to an Eastern rite of the Catholic Church called the Ge’ez Rite. He celebrated the Mass and had confirmations for them on Sunday. The Capuchin Friars have been very active in Ethiopia for many decades, so a number of our parishioners have relatives who are Capuchins, and some of them are even from the diocese of Emdeber. During his visit, he presented me the gift of a stole and a book on the traditional art of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia. Also, last week we were happy to host Msgr. Laurence Spiteri as our guest at the cathedral. Msgr. Spiteri is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is the official in charge of the legal office of the Vatican Library. Regular readers will remember that a couple of years ago he very graciously arranged a tour of the library for me and a number of priests from Boston. With Msgr. Spiteri and Dr. Luigina Orlandi at the Vatican Library in 2017 He has been involved in a number of very important initiatives at the Vatican Library, including the work to put many thousands of manuscripts online and making the library’s resources more accessible to scholars. He was passing through Boston on his way back to Rome, so we were happy to host him in Boston and show him the renovated cathedral. Then, after lunch, I met with members of the leadership of the Neocatechumenal Way at St. Patrick Parish in Lowell. They had recently completed one of the stages of their itinerary of adult formation, known as the Second Scrutiny, and they came to share their experiences with me and to speak with me about their desire to make a contribution to support the poor and the needy of the archdiocese. I was very happy to meet with them and hear about how their participation in the Neocatechumenal Way has touched their lives. In the evening, we were very happy to host le Choeur d’Enfants d’Île-de-France (The Children’s Choir of Greater Paris) for a concert at the cathedral. They were concluding a three-week tour in the United States, and we were so pleased that they could include the Cathedral of the Holy Cross as one of their stops. The people of the cathedral were so gratified to have this choir there for the first concert of musica sacra that we have had in the cathedral since its renovation. It was very well attended — and, of course, these types of summer concerts are far more enjoyable now that the cathedral has air conditioning! I know the cathedral parishioners and others who were in attendance were uplifted by the wonderful performance of these French youth. That night, I went to Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in East Boston to celebrate a liturgy for another group of members of the Neocatechumenal Way who were completing the stage I mentioned earlier, the Second Scrutiny. The Neocatechumenate is a years-long itinerary of adult formation, which proceeds in various stages, known as “steps,” each with a particular focus on an aspect of Christian life. Some of the major stages conclude with a liturgy that emphasizes the particular theme of that stage. The stage of the Second Scrutiny is very much focused on seeking happiness in God rather than in temporal pleasures. So, the concluding liturgy recalls the traditional rites of baptism, particularly the renunciation of Satan and the blessing of the salt, and also includes a reflection on the radical choice to seek God over pleasures of the world. Friday, after learning of the death of Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, I very quickly made arrangements to travel to Cuba for his funeral. Cardinal Ortega had been a friend of mine for 40 years. I was the visitator of his seminaries and, at one point, had spent a great deal of time in Cuba working with him. So, I was happy that, on very short notice, I was able to attend his funeral along with Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Archbishop Roberto Gonzales of Puerto Rico. I was also very pleased that Mario Paredes, a lifelong friend of Cardinal Ortega, was able to be with us. While in Havana, we stayed at the Casa Sacerdotal, which formerly had been a convent for cloistered Dominican Sisters that Cardinal Ortega had turned into a residence for priests. It is a beautiful facility with an interior patio that occupies an entire block in Havana. Particularly in the days after the Cuban Revolution, he wanted to have a place for priests to come where there would be food and where they would be safe. While they still have a section there where priests can come for retreats or their days off, as the situation has improved for the Church in Cuba, it is now being used as a retreat center. It is probably the largest facility the Church has in Cuba and is used for many important functions such as meetings of their bishops’ conference. Cardinal Ortega’s funeral was on Sunday, and the Cathedral of Havana was packed with people. Among them were representatives from the government, including First Vice President Salvador Mesa and the woman in charge of religious affairs for the Communist Party, Dr. Caridad Diego. And, although they were not present, there was a large wreath sent by the Cuban president, as well as one by Raul Castro himself. The Archbishop of Havana Juan Garcia Rodriguez, who assumed the archbishopric when Cardinal Ortega retired three years ago, gave a beautiful homily. They had an extraordinary choir. Cardinal Ortega was himself a great musician and always made sure that the cathedral had excellent liturgical music, which was certainly showcased at his funeral. At one point, they opened the Book of Gospels over the cardinal’s head, which is a practice I like to see at a bishop’s funeral because during the consecration of a bishop the Book of Gospels is held open over his head. Then, at the end of the Mass was something I had never seen before — they had the bishops carry the casket to the door of the church, which was met with great applause by the people. (I didn’t know whether they were applauding Cardinal Ortega or that the bishops were able to carry out this feat!) When they got to the door, priests took the casket, hoisted it onto their shoulders, and brought it to the hearse, which was taken then to the gates of the Colon Cemetery, the great cemetery of Havana. It was my first time seeing it, but it certainly was monumental with all its magnificent mausoleums, statuary and tombs. Colon Cemetery was, of course, once a Catholic cemetery, so over the gates are statues representing the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and in the center of it is a magnificent chapel. Behind that chapel is where the bishops of Havana are buried. The gates of the cemetery When they got to the gates of the cemetery, once again the priests carried the casket on their shoulders first to the chapel, where the prayers were said, and then to the place of entombment. It was very meaningful to me to be there because Cardinal Ortega had spoken to me so many times about that chapel in the cemetery. I remember particularly during my first trip to Cuba, when persecution was so strong against the Church and anyone under 70 years of age was told not to go to Mass, Cardinal Ortega told me how he made great use of it. He would make sure there was always a very good preacher there so that whoever took a relative to be buried would be able to encounter a priest who would pray with them and preach to them. For many of them, it was their only contact with the Church. In fact, very often, Cardinal Ortega would go himself to that chapel, to be there just waiting to see who would come to the cemetery so that he could accompany them in their moment of loss, proclaim the Good News to them and pray with them. Although the Church was not able to carry on any external ministry, this was one thing that was tolerated by the government. So he gave great importance to that ministry. Finally, each year, around the Feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, we hold a cookout for the priests in the archdiocese. It has traditionally been held at either St. John’s Seminary or Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, and this year we were very happy that Father Brian Kiely and the community at Pope St. John Seminary were able to host us once again. As always, we began with Vespers and benediction, followed by our cookout together. It is always a wonderful time for the priests to be together over the summer, and I know everyone looks forward to it. Until next week, Cardinal Seán
It’s time: Our wedding
After waiting 489 days from the moment we got engaged – and we had been dating since November 2015 – the actual wedding day felt quick. Before the wedding, there were so many hours spent on the tiny details – from how the table cards would be held up to what font to use on … More → The post It’s time: Our wedding appeared first on For Your Marriage.
Behold, a millennial nun responds
Horizons - I'm scrolling through Facebook when my eyes land on a fascinating headline: "Behold, the Millennial Nuns." I click, slightly apprehensive — because I am a millennial nun. What will the author have to say about us, apparently a breed to behold?
Of Note-August 2019
Of Note offers you the most worthy, relevant reads that will keep you informed and in-tune without wasting your precious time. The post Of Note-August 2019 appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Just How Good are Those Mud Pies?
I’ve splashed and played in the mud most of my life, eating my fill of my carefully crafted mud pies. I’ve felt the hunger that has never been satisfied. I’ve set my eyes on His promises, steadfastly marching forward, only to end up face first in the mud. The post Just How Good are Those Mud Pies? appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
The strength in my weakness
7 minute readI sat in the bathroom sobbing. There was an emptiness, a numbness that was consuming my heart and at times my marriage. It was a slow, engulfing despair that sought to eat away at my hope little by little. It seemed it wouldn’t stop. Every month, I ended up in the bathroom again, sobbing over another negative pregnancy test, the deafening thought echoing in my soul: “You will never be a mother. You are not worthy of becoming a mother.” I married Nicholas, the love of my life, on Jan. 9, 2016. On that day, we pledged to lovingly accept children from God. We were ready for children and would have been perfectly happy with a honeymoon baby. The morning of our wedding, Nicholas had given me a letter in which the last line read, “Let’s go get married; our children are waiting for us.” Nobody talks about infertility in marriage preparation. All the information on family planning focuses on avoiding children, and makes it sound incredibly easy to become pregnant. Since I had experienced issues with my cycle at sixteen and had been treated with progesterone therapy at that time, we knew that infertility was a possibility. But we also didn’t think it would be this much of a challenge. The first month after we were married, I was simply disappointed to find out I wasn’t pregnant. But that quickly turned into five months with no sign of pregnancy. I felt in my gut that something was wrong, and we began seeing Dr. Jason Mattingly, a family practice doctor specializing in Creighton’s Natural Reproductive Technology (NaPro). A hormone panel confirmed that I still had low progesterone and estrogen, so I began hormone treatment immediately. We hoped that would be the end of it, and that a baby would arrive soon after. Month after month, I went to get my blood drawn and have my hormone levels checked. Each month, I saw negative pregnancy tests. I sobbed. I screamed. I begged. I swore. I prayed. After a year of infertility, I underwent a hysterosalpingogram, or HSG, which uses an X-ray to check for blockages in the fallopian tubes. Our doctor then had us check for male factor infertility. After that I was put on medication to encourage ovulation. Finally, our doctor said that my symptoms pointed to endometriosis. Since endometriosis can only be diagnosed through surgery, he had us schedule a laparoscopic surgery to confirm and treat any endometriosis. During September 2017, we traveled to St. Louis to see Dr. Patrick Yeung, who scheduled surgery for me later that week. On Sept. 21, we went to St. Mary’s Hospital after first going to the Basilica to pray. I was nervous, excited and afraid. I hoped for answers. I will never forget Dr. Yeung’s prayer before my surgery. He asked Jesus to let the surgery prove fruitful and requested that Mary guide his hands to bring me healing. Pathology later confirmed the diagnosis of endometriosis. Upon returning home, Nicholas and I decided to focus on growing as a couple before committing to additional intensive fertility treatments. On Nov. 8, 2017, I was crying in the bathroom yet again. But the cries were different this time. I cried tears of joy, because after 22 months of infertility, our prayers had been answered. Just the month before we had driven to St. Louis for my surgery, and now I was pregnant. I ran out to Target, bought two baby hats, one pink and one blue, and put them in a gift bag on our bed. Nicholas sobbed when he came home and I showed him. He was so astonished when he saw them that actually asked, “Is this a joke?” Dealing with infertility requires a particular strength. Unlike other crosses involving loss, it cycles each month. Each month begins with both despair and hope. Despair, because the desire for a child is rooted so deeply and the answer is “no” yet again. Simultaneously each month was filled with the possibility of a child. Every month I had to choose to hope again instead of remaining in despair. My cycle became a microcosm of the stages of grief. Infertility is a loss that can’t be quantified; every month, there is mourning, and yet, there has been no concrete loss. The mourning is for what could have been. The mourning is for the answer of “not yet” that comes with a new cycle. But there is a choice: let go of the despair, choose hope, cling to Christ and risk crashing back down; or build an emotional wall and refuse to go through the cycle of grief all over again. I chose both, at different points. When I built the emotional wall, our marriage and my relationship with Christ suffered. When I chose vulnerability, it was then that I found strength. In my moments of deepest desolation, when I bared my soul to God, sobbing, I found comfort. I will never forget the deep peace that came after I wrote a letter to my future children through tears after my period came yet again. When I opened up to other women, suddenly I heard, “We struggled, too.” And when I allowed my husband to be my rock instead of simply a means to having a child, we found renewed intimacy, hope and strength as a couple. Infertility is particularly difficult because it has no definite end. Choosing to carry the cross of infertility means accepting that the answer may always be, “No, not yet.” Then, after 698 miles to travel to St. Louis for surgery, over 12 months of blood draws, over 12 months on progesterone and estrogen, nine months of Clomid, two months of Femara, two ultrasounds, one HSG, one laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, and one year, nine months, and 30 days, the answer was finally, “Yes.” Although pregnancy was not always easy, I was grateful for every moment of it. Infertility gave me a particular gratitude for the pains, the inconveniences and the unpleasant things that pregnancy brought about. In the end, the tears, blood tests and pregnancy pains were all worth it. Our daughter, Madeleine Immaculata, was born at 4:28 a.m., July 16, 2018, her due date and the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We experienced immeasurable joy at our daughter’s birth. But, once home, we were confronted with the reality of parenting. Madeleine frequently took over an hour to eat, stopping every few minutes to scream and fuss. It made me wonder what I was doing wrong, and I questioned my worth as a mother. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I felt like a stranger in my postpartum body. My hands, shoulders and back were constantly sore from holding Madeleine in place while feeding her. Sometimes my whole body was stiff and in pain. I brushed aside the aches and pains until one night, when Madeleine awoke for one of her night feeds, I could hardly get out of bed. Her cries grew louder and louder. When I finally got to her, I couldn’t pick her up out of her crib. I had to wake my husband and have him bring her to me in the rocking chair. Afterwards, he had to take her from me so I could get up. I cried as I held her and fed her, in physical pain as I did so. Something was alarmingly wrong, and it was affecting my ability to care for my daughter. In November, when Madeleine was just three and a half months old, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disorder that targets the joints. The doctor explained that it was very likely that my pregnancy followed by the rapid drop in hormones triggered the disease. Once again, I felt betrayed by my body, as I learned that my body was literally attacking itself. The fact that it was likely my pregnancy that triggered the disease added to my feelings of betrayal. When I learned of my RA, I had to mourn for a while. Even though medication allows for the management of many of my symptoms, it was still a vast change. I wondered how my motherhood would be different without RA. I cried when it was difficult to hold Madeleine for long periods of time, when I struggled to do things as simple as closing the snaps on her pajamas. I cried about being on immunosuppressants indefinitely. Future pregnancies would potentially have to be planned and coordinated with my rheumatologist and OB-GYN, and I cried about that too. I worried that all of this might mean we’d continue having trouble growing our family. I worried about potential long-term effects to my health. But, on the hardest days, when I sobbed, Madeleine would look at me and give me the biggest smiles. Suddenly, my daughter became one of my biggest sources of fortitude. Seeing her pure joy made me determined that my disease would not define me. I researched all I could about RA. I began eating a Paleo diet to help manage my inflammation. I set a goal of running a Spartan race this summer. I want my daughter to see that suffering and illness can be a source of strength. On days when my symptoms are more difficult, I need only look at Madeleine and see her joyfully playing, giggling and blowing raspberries, and it becomes easy for me to carry this cross. In the early days of my diagnosis, she was very aware when I was upset, and she gave me smiles and giggles at just the right moments. Motherhood has been more difficult than I ever could have anticipated, and being a mother with an autoimmune disease is something I never could have foreseen. Madeleine, however, has a contagious smile and playful personality that never fail to make me laugh. She loves dancing, making silly sounds, listening to big band music, exploring, reading books and spending time with her dad and me. There has been such a joy in mothering, a joy unlike any other, and it is in that joy that I am reminded of Christ’s love and know that I can carry on. Through infertility, through motherhood, and through my RA, Nicholas has been my rock. Every week, Nicholas is the one who administers my injections to manage my disease. When it is difficult to pray, the love and support I see in Nicholas reminds me of Christ’s love and gives me the fortitude I need to carry on in my faith and in daily life. When my hands are weak, Nicholas becomes my hands, lovingly carrying out any task I ask of him. And when I am weary of the struggles of motherhood, Nicholas reminds me of the great joys and helps me to refocus myself. Having fortitude is difficult, not because it requires superhuman strength or will to continue on, but because it requires admitting that you are not enough. Trying to carry our crosses alone inevitably results in failure. Christ gives fortitude in moments of vulnerability. I have found this in the way of consolation after tears, smiles and giggles from my daughter on the hardest days, and kind words of affirmation from my husband after sharing my struggles. I am grateful for the cross of infertility and, now, my RA. I have learned that with Christ, I am stronger than I ever could have known. I have become closer to my spouse and become a better person because of both of these crosses. Infertility made me a better mother, a mother who views every struggle of motherhood with a particular type of gratitude. Dealing with RA has taught me that spiritual strength can be found in the midst of physical weakness and suffering. Through it all, I have been sustained by my faith and by the love and joy I share with my husband, and now, our beautiful daughter. Even in the darkest moments of suffering, there are still moments of joy. And it is that joy — the joy of a love letter from my spouse, seeing Madeleine giggle for the first time, quiet moments spent in prayer — that has sustained me and been my strength. Elizabeth Jobe is a high school English teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. She lives there with her husband, Nicholas; one year old daughter, Madeleine; and her golden retriever, Bosco. When she’s not planning literature lessons, teaching, or busy being a mom to energetic Madeleine, Elizabeth enjoys reading Jane Austen and writing at her blog “On Coffee and Shoelaces.” The post The strength in my weakness appeared first on RADIANT.
Running Changed My View on Confession
I don’t go to confession nearly as often as I’d like, but when I do, it's always this image of the vast towering cross and Jesus that is before me as I kneel and rest back on my feet, confessing my sins and reconciling my relationship with Him. The post Running Changed My View on Confession appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Anne Marie Warner of The GIVEN Institute
4 minute readAnne Marie Warner is passionate about inspiring young women to embrace the gift that they are and the gifts that they’ve been given so that they can share the gift that only they can give with the Church and the world. That passion brought her to The GIVEN Institute, where she now helps form women for mission and for life through leadership training, faith formation and dedicated mentoring. We are excited to introduce you to this CPA whose work with the March for Life Education & Defense Fund and formation with the Sisters of Life prepared her well for her current role as Director of Operations for The GIVEN Institute. Anne Marie, tell us about the stirrings of the Holy Spirit that led to the establishment of The GIVEN Institute. The GIVEN Institute has its origin in the 2016 GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, organized by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, Superior General of the Sisters of Life and an organizer of the event, said, “GIVEN was conceived in the hearts of women religious and remains a significant response on the part of the Church to encourage, inspire and mentor young women at a crucial moment in their lives. We want each of them to know they are loved, noticed and necessary.” The 2016 GIVEN Forum brought together nearly 300 young adult women from every state in the country for a weeklong immersion in faith formation, leadership training and networking. The participants connected with many lay and religious female Catholic leaders and each attendee developed a post-forum action plan that she implemented in a community of her choosing. The GIVEN Institute was formed to continue the inaugural forum’s mission of activating the gifts of young adult women for the Catholic Church and the world by providing leadership training, faith formation and mentoring. Why do women today need to hear and heed your beautifully empowering mission to help women “receive the gift that they are; realize the gifts they’ve been given; and respond with the gift that only they can give?” When women discover their invaluable dignity and worth, they are empowered to make a gift of themselves to others. It is so important for us as women to receive the healing and liberating truth of our inherent value and beauty, which comes from our identity as beloved daughters of God. We also need to recognize our specific gifts, and the unique circumstances that have shaped us, to truly know who we are and what we were created to do. From the experience of our intrinsic goodness and the knowledge of our God-given gifts, we can then discern the mission and vocation we are called to and move forward confidently in God’s plan for our life. Today, women often feel pressure to conform to standards that are set by the culture surrounding us. These standards teach women to measure themselves according to their academic success, job title, image, relationship status, etc. In my own life, I’ve had to learn how to discover and live out the truth of who I am as the person God created me to be, instead of striving to obtain the false promises that these external standards offer. I’ve also experienced the transforming power of relationships with formal and informal mentors who have helped me to see this truth and, by affirming my gifts, have empowered me to use them in responding to God’s call in my life. What are the keys to proper discernment for young women who are trying to make important decisions, whether about a particular vocation, state of life, career or any other situation? Discernment is a journey, one that is led by God. Paying attention to the desires that God has placed in our hearts, taking time for prayer and silence to listen for his voice and having conversations with trusted spiritual guides and mentors are all keys to discovering where God is leading us and how we are meant to respond. Authentic self-knowledge and an understanding of our strengths and weaknesses also contribute to important moments of decision-making. I’ve experienced that the Lord often speaks through a deep interior peace, even in the midst of external difficulties, that confirms his will and provides the strength needed to move forward in responding to his call. At this moment in history, particularly in light of the scandals rocking the Catholic Church here in America, what are the most important gifts we women can offer the Church? Women have many gifts to offer the Church, and we are each called to take our role within the Church seriously and live it out faithfully. The Church depends on the active participation of women within the many aspects of her life and mission. We need to bring our individual and distinctly feminine gifts to the areas of our involvement, whether that is in parish ministries, diocesan offices, family life, religious communities, etc. Women have a particular capacity to focus on the human person, and this gift can be intentionally developed and applied to the many roles and responsibilities that women hold, especially during this critical time in our Church. As Edith Stein said, “The world doesn’t need what women have, it needs what women are.” How can one get involved with The GIVEN Institute? Young adult women can apply to attend a GIVEN Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum, and established lay and religious female Catholic leaders can consider becoming part of GIVEN’s mentorship program. Visit GIVENInstitute.com or follow us on social media to learn more about these opportunities! The post Anne Marie Warner of The GIVEN Institute appeared first on RADIANT.
How Social Media Helped my Pregnancy Announcement
Though I didn’t always manage to publicly announce each pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage on the blog account, I didn’t shy away from sharing on my private platforms (IG, FB). The post How Social Media Helped my Pregnancy Announcement appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
A reflection from our Superintendent of Schools
Hello and welcome! This month I have been happy to be able to give two of our newly ordained priests, Fathers Joe Almeida and Brain O’Hanlon, an opportunity to introduce themselves to you. Along those same lines, this week, I have asked our new Superintendent of Schools, Thomas Carroll, to introduce himself to you through my blog. Tom came to the archdiocese this spring and, now that he has had a chance to settle in, I’ve asked him to share with you a little bit about his background and his hopes and aspirations for our Catholic schools going forward. – Cardinal Seán One of the joys of my position as the new Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston is the many committed people I have met in our Catholic schools. I have learned much in just a few months, and the daze of my initial weeks has subsided. I still have many more schools to visit and look forward to meeting many more school leaders, parents, teachers and students. I came to the position having founded and led a highly successful network of urban schools in New York. I also ran two Catholic scholarship funds (one in New York City and one in Albany), and advocated with Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others for legislation in New York and D.C. to create a tax credit to encourage donations to benefit children attending Catholic and other private schools. My prior experiences plus what I have learned in Boston so far suggest that the task ahead is daunting but not impossible. In short, we are seeking to buck the longstanding national trend of declining Catholic school enrollment. In the early 1960s, national Catholic enrollment peaked at five million students, dropping to just 1.8 million in the latest data. Let me suggest a few broad ideas. If you think any of these are wrong-headed or you simply have better ideas, I welcome your input. 1. Improving the quality of school leadership. I have been in hundreds of Catholic, charter, and district schools. I have never seen a high-quality school that did not have a high-quality school leader. The biggest leverage for ensuring academic quality and financial sustainability is a quality school leader. That’s why we are dedicating substantial resources to training our school leaders. In a new partnership with the Lynch Leadership Academy at Boston College, we have jointly designed a leadership initiative in the coming year that will work with more than 20 of our school leaders to strengthen their capacity for leadership and vision as well as their ability to serve as true instructional leaders. I commend the principals who seized this opportunity to improve their craft. We also are continuing the Aspiring Leaders program, under which talented teachers are given the opportunity to be mentored as future school leaders. A meeting of Aspiring Leaders. 2. Go further with faith by improving the Catholic identity of our schools. A top priority is to ensure that all of our schools offer our students a rich exposure to our Catholic faith. This will include helping students make prayer a central part of their lives, affording frequent opportunities to experience the beauty of the Mass, expose them to sacred music, and learn more about the many contributions the Catholic Church has made to Western civilization, including in the areas of architecture, visual arts, music, law, and science. Students also should be exposed to the Church’s admirable and ongoing legacy of helping the needy and dispossessed across the globe. Lastly, we would like to expand the student opportunities for confession and adoration as well. We want to make sure that students understand Catholic moral teaching on issues such as life, suffering, chastity, care of the needy, the dignity of all people including those facing physical and mental challenges, and end-of-life issues. We also want students to explore the new moral challenges posed by technology, including human cloning and gene editing. Students from Cheverus School in Malden celebrating their First Communions this year. This summer, we are offering professional development classes for teachers of religion, for which we already have received an enthusiastic response. We also are exploring the possibility of offering teachers the opportunity to participate in “certificate” programs to further enhance their preparation as religion teachers. All of our offerings will include opportunities for us to gain teacher feedback as we refine our preparation initiatives. 3. Expanding early childhood education to give students an early start. Building on pioneering work funded by the Lynch Foundation, we are helping schools expand early childhood education. This includes training schools to apply for available state funding, guiding them as they think strategically about adding early childhood grades, assessing the capacity of schools to accommodate more students, and providing funding for any improvements needed to create inviting spaces for these young children. Cardinal Seán visits with pre-K students at Blessed Sacrament School in Walpole. 4. Helping schools building a foundation of strong enrollment, sound finances and operational vitality. The Catholic Schools Office is providing advice this summer to all schools on steps to increase enrollment, arranging for schools whose enrollment is rising to serve as mentors to schools in need of help turning around declining enrollment, targeting growing populations of Catholics (for example, Latino communities) for special initiatives, helping schools improve the quality of their financial planning, and giving assistance to help schools think more strategically about how to stand out amidst all the other educational offerings in their local community. We also are exploring how to expand the number of teachers and other school staff who are fluent in languages other than English to enable better communication with immigrant families. There is much to do – and hard decisions to make – but I am optimistic about the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Boston.