If you are actively discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, Diaconate, Consecrated Life, or Marriage and you are looking for information to help in your discernment, BE SURE TO CHECK the section at the bottom of the right sidebar for the "labels" on all posts. By clicking on one of these labels it will take you to a page with all posts containing that subject. You will also find many links for suggested reading near the bottom of the right sidebar. Best wishes and be assured of my daily prayers for your discernment.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Religious Visitators, Round 2"

"Vatican Investigating American Women’s Religious Conference"
From The National Catholic Register
By Judith Roberts

ROME — The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to conduct an investigation of the 1,500-member Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Reportedly, the assessment involves concerns about three areas of doctrine: the ordination of priests, the centrality of salvation through Christ, and Church teaching on homosexuality.

LCWR officers met April 22 with Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The decision to investigate the LCWR comes on the heels of the decision of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life to conduct an apostolic visitation of women’s religious communities in the United States (see “Visitation Rights,” page 7).

The 53-year-old Leadership Conference consists of leaders of about 95% of the 68,000 women religious in the United States.

Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, who is to conduct the assessment, has declined to comment on it beyond saying in a statement that he has been in contact with the leadership of the conference and that he will be reviewing “the work of the LCWR in supporting its membership as communities of faith and witness to Christ in today’s Church.”

The Leadership Conference, which also is declining interviews, said in a statement that they are facing the process with confidence in the belief that “the conference has remained faithful to its mission of service to leaders of congregations of women religious.”

However, a letter to the Leadership Conference from Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican’s point man on doctrine, quoted in the National Catholic Reporter, cites a 2001 meeting with the congregation at which the conference was told to report on any initiatives it had undertaken or planned concerning reception of the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis about reserving priestly ordination for men; the 2000 document Dominus Jesus, which focused on Christ as humanity’s only savior; and “the problem of homosexuality.”

It went on to say that, given the tone and content of talks presented at the Leadership Conference’s annual assemblies, problems related to the 2001 request remain.

The Leadership Conference has a long history of inviting dissenting speakers who have sometimes questioned Church authority and teaching, according to Ann Carey, who spent six months researching the conference’s archives in writing the 1996 book Sisters in Crisis (Our Sunday Visitor).

As recently as 2006, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, an outspoken advocate of women’s ordination, gave the keynote address, and in 2007, she was presented the Leadership Conference’s outstanding leadership award.

In accepting the award, she said, “If we proclaim ourselves to be ecclesial women, we must ask if what we mean by that is that we will do what the men of the Church tell us to do or that we will do what the people of the Church need to have us do.”

Name Change

In the keynote address to the assembly in 2007, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink proposed several options for religious life, one of which called for “moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.” She included a disclaimer at the beginning of her talk saying her opinions did not reflect those of the Leadership Conference, the Church or her community.

Mercy Sister Doris Gottemoeller, a former Leadership Conference member who served as president of her community from 1991-99, said she thinks it is important to distinguish between what the conference says and what individual major superiors or members might say. “This is a service organization to its members,” she said. “It doesn’t oversee or have an opportunity to vet or censor what individual sisters, or even its members, say.”

However, the Leadership Conference’s own leaders have not been reticent about using the forum of the annual assemblies to question Church authority.

In the 2000 president’s address, for instance, Sister Nancy Sylvester of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary complained about Vatican officials who “see consecrated religious life as a more static life-form.”

“In their view,” Sister Nancy said, “members of religious congregations pursue holiness through the three vows, committing themselves to a corporate and institutional apostolate under the guidance of the hierarchy and in support of the magisterium. From this more static stance, religious are to hold a clear and unequivocal position in support of the authority of the hierarchy and its right to regulate religious life. To be sure, this understanding of authentic religious life does fit securely into the prevailing worldview operative in a patriarchal clerical culture. But we dare to say that we beg to differ with it.”

Sister Nancy also told of a meeting with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in which representatives of the Leadership Conference and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men attempted to share their “understanding of loyal dissent.”
“The meeting was difficult,” she said. “The major spokespersons for the congregation gave voice to their understanding of religious life as one in which both members and major superiors give unequivocal support to the directives of the Holy See speaking through the Vatican congregations.”

Carey said her research revealed that the relationship between the Leadership Conference and the Vatican has been a contentious one since the canonically recognized group, formerly known as the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Women’s Institutes, changed its name in 1971 without seeking permission. It was 1974, she added, before official approval of the change was granted.

According to Carey’s book, those supporting the name change felt that the former name communicated “militaristic and hierarchical connotations.”

‘Long-Term Agenda’

In a presentation last September to the Symposium on Apostolic Religious Life at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., Dominican Sister Elizabeth McDonough suggested that “liberal-feminist influences” co-opted the Leadership Conference at the time of the name change and that “Vatican officials noticed the difference, but failed to recognize or to address the political agenda and underlying methodology of its radical transformation.”

In turn, she said, the Leadership Conference was able to bring women’s religious communities under the control of progressive leaders, co-opting the entire course of renewal “with a liberal-feminist-ecological-social justice-oriented agenda.”

It has only been recently, Sister Elizabeth said, that more of the faithful, other religious and members of the hierarchy are recognizing “this long-term agenda is very much amiss and also harmful.”

In another presentation at the same symposium, Cardinal Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, made special mention of feminism in talking about the future of women’s religious communities in North America.

Although he said men and women religious have in common such problems as “the engineering of language, the slant toward relativism, the fading of a sense of the supernatural, in some cases doubt about the relevance and centrality of Christ,” he continued, “women religious especially need to engage critically a certain strain of feminism by now outmoded, but which still nevertheless continues to exert much influence in certain circles.”

The apostolic visitation of women’s religious communities was announced shortly after the symposium. Carey, who also spoke at the event, said Cardinal Rodé was asked during the conference about the possibility of apostolic visitations to women’s communities in the United States but gave no indication they would be forthcoming.

“I think his being there certainly had to have somewhat of an effect, although Rome doesn’t do anything fast,” she said. “There must have been some concern brewing, and maybe this was the little increase in heat that made the pot boil. I can’t say it was the impetus.”

"Hopeful that vocations will start to recover"


THE Armagh archdiocese launched the 2009 vocations campaign with a new poster and a redesigned website.

The diocese currently has seven men studying for the priesthood and Rev Francis Coll from Armagh will be ordained a priest later this year, the first in the diocese since 2005.

Speaking at the launch of the 2009 campaign, the diocesan vocations director, Fr Paddy Rushe, from Redeemer Parish, said that he was hopeful that vocations to priesthood had started to recover.

He is currently working with half a dozen prospective candidates for next September, with new contacts made every few weeks.

The current financial climate is suggested as a reason why more men might be considering vocation, but Fr Paddy points out that priesthood still involves significant personal sacrifices and is not for everyone.

Among those considering priesthood now, may be men in their mid-thirties who, for one reason or another, have been working at other careers for several years, but for whom the idea of being a priest has always been at the back of their minds.

Having had the experience of life the

in world of business, construction, or management, they are ready to give priesthood a shot – and the best news, Fr Paddy says, is that they bring with them a wide variety of experience and interactions which can only help them be better priests in the future.

This year, the students in the seminary, at Maynooth are holding the first ever open day to coincide with Vocations Sunday.

Anyone who has ever thought about the priesthood or wondered what the seminary way of life would be like, are welcome to just turn up next Sunday in Maynooth – there is no need to book in advance.

The day begins at 2.30pm, and will include talks and a tour as well as Mass and evening meal.

For more information on vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Armagh, contact Fr Paddy Rushe, Diocesan Vocations Director Holy Redeemer Parochial House, Ard Easmuinn, Dundalk at 0429334259; email vocation@eircom.net or on the web at www.armaghvocations.org or www.vocations.ie.

"108-year-old monk dies at St. Meinrad"

From the Courier-Journal
By Peter Smith

The Rev. Theodore Heck, believed to be the world’s oldest Benedictine monk, died at age 108 today at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Southern Indiana.

Heck, who died a month before what would have been his 80th anniversary in the priesthood, was a former professor and rector at St. Meinrad’s college and seminary. The monastery said he was the oldest monk in the monastic orders following the tradition of St. Benedict.

In a monastery interview posted on YouTube, Heck said in 2006 he still enjoyed the monks five-times-a-day gatherings for prayer.

“As long as I can hear and I can pray, I’m glad to be with them,” he said.

“Everybody needs a family life of some kind,” he added. “Here we are kind of a spiritual family of young men and older men living together in harmony.”

A native of Chariton, Iowa, Heck was born on Jan. 16, 1901 and was later raised in Missouri and Indiana.

He enrolled in the high school seminary at St. Meinrad in 1918, professed his vows as a monk in 1923, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1929.

He earned a doctorate in education at Catholic University of America and taught for more than 50 years at both the high school and graduate seminaries at St. Meinrad. As rector, he oversaw the accreditation of St. Meinrad’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

The high school and college programs have since closed, but the graduate School of Theology continues to operate.

At age 70, a time when most people have wrapped up their careers, he began a 17-year term as pastor of St. John Chrysostom Parish in New Boston, Ind.
The funeral will be Saturday.

Benedictine monks make vows committing themselves to lives of prayer, obedience, celibacy and stability, or staying rooted in their community.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Religious Life in the Movies"

The following is the text from the Archdiocese of Washington blog, written by Msgr. Charles Pope about the above clip:

"This is a clip I posted at Gloria.tv from the 1958 Movie, “The Nun’s Story” starring Audrey Hepburn as a young woman named Gabriel Vandermal who becomes Sr. Luke of a fictional French Women’s Order. The movie, as you shall is stunningly beautiful and the liturgical scenes are carefully done. This movie is available for purchase at Amazon.com and I recommend it to your library. However the following should be noted. The movie presents a rather negative portrait of Religious Life by emphasizing its hardships and demands to the exclusion of its joys and benefits. It more than suggests that many aspects of Religious Life at that time were unreasonable and unnecessarily harsh. Perhaps they were at times. Some older Sisters I’ve talked with tell me that many aspects of this movie are accurate and things were tough in the old days. Still, the movie surely has a strong point of view that could have been more balanced. Further, Sr. Luke makes a decision in the movie that is problematic from the point of view of the vows she made. Nevertheless, with these cautions I strongly recommend the movie. It is beautiful, though controversial in some aspects. I post the clip here in the interest of seeing a brief look at Religious life in the wider culture and in the movies. Enjoy this beautiful video."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI's Address to the Franciscan Family

"Attract to Christ Men and Women of All Ages"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday at the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, in an audience with members of the Franciscan family participating in the "Chapter of Mats."

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Franciscan family!

With great joy I welcome you all at this happy and historic occasion that has gathered you all together: the eighth centenary of the approval of the "protoregola" [monastic rule] of St. Francis by Pope Innocent III. Eight hundred years have passed, and those dozen friars have become a multitude, scattered all over the world and now here, by you, worthily represented. In recent days you have gathered in Assisi for what you wanted to call the "Chapter of Mats" to recall your origins. And at the end of this extraordinary experience you have come together with the "Signor Papa" [Lord Pope], as your seraphic founder would say. I greet you all with affection: the Friars Minor of the three branches, guided by the respective Ministers General, among whom I thank Father José Rodriguez Carballo for his kind words, the members of the Third Order, with their Minister General; the Franciscan women religious and members of the Franciscan secular institutes, and knowing them spiritually present, the Poor Clares, which constitute the "second order."

I am pleased to welcome some Franciscan bishops, and in particular I greet the bishop of Assisi, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, who represents the Church of Assisi, the home of Francis and Clare, and spiritually, of all the Franciscans. We know how important it was for Francis, the link with the bishop of Assisi at the time, Guido, who acknowledged his charisma and supported it. It was Guido who presented Francis to Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, who then introduced him to the Pope and encouraged the adoption of the Rule. Charism and institution are always complementary for the edification of the Church.

What should I tell you, dear friends? First of all I would like to join you in giving thanks to God for the path that he has marked out for you, filling you with his benefits. And as Pastor of the Church, I want to thank him for the precious gift that you are for the entire Christian people. From the small stream that flowed from the foot of Mount Subasio, it has formed a great river, which has made a significant contribution to the universal spread of the Gospel. It all began from the conversion of Francis, who, following the example of Jesus "emptied himself" (cf. Phil 2:7) and, by marrying Lady Poverty, became a witness and herald of the Father who is in heaven. To the "Poverello" [little poor man], one can apply literally some expressions that the apostle Paul uses to refer to himself and which I like to remember in this Pauline Year: "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And this life, I live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20). And again: "From now on let no one bother me: for I wear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Gal 6:17).

Francis reflects perfectly the footsteps of Paul and in truth can say with him: "For me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21). He has experienced the power of divine grace and he is as one who has died and risen. All his previous wealth, any source of pride and security, everything becomes a "loss" from the moment of encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus (cf. Phil 3:7-11). The leaving of everything at that point becomes almost necessary to express the abundance of the gift received. A gift so great as to require a total detachment, which itself isn't enough; it requires a entire life lived "according to the form of the holy Gospel" (2 Tests, 14: the Franciscan Sources, 116).

And here we come to the point that surely lies at the heart of our meeting. I would summarize it as follows: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:" this is what Francis writes at the beginning of his Rule (Rb I, 1: FF, 75). He defined himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his charm. This is his enduring relevance. Thomas of Celano relates that the Poverello "always held himself in the heart of Jesus. Jesus on the lips, Jesus in his ears, Jesus is his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all the other members [...] In fact finding himself often traveling and meditating or singing about Jesus, he would forget he was traveling and would stop to invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF115). So the Poverello has become a living gospel, able to attract to Christ men and women of all ages, especially young people, who prefer radical idealism to half-measures. The Bishop of Assisi, Guido, and then Pope Innocent III recognized in the proposal of Francis and his companions the authenticity of the Gospel, and knew how to encourage their commitment for the good of the Church.

Here is a spontaneous reflection: Francis could have also not gone to the Pope. Many religious groups and movements were forming during that time, and some of them were opposed to the Church as an institution, or at least didn't seek the Churches' approval. Certainly a polemical attitude towards the hierarchy would have won Francis many followers. Instead, he immediately thought to put his journey and that of his companions into the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This fact reveals his true ecclesial spirit. The little "we" that had started with his first friars he conceived from the outset inside the context of the great "we" of the one and universal Church. And the Pope recognized and appreciated this. The Pope, in fact, on his part, could have not approved the project of the life of Francis. Indeed, we can well imagine that among the collaborators of Innocent III, some counseled him to that effect, perhaps fearing that his group of monks would end up resembling other heretical groups and pauperisms of the time. Instead the Roman Pontiff, well informed by the Bishop of Assisi and Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, was able to discern the initiative of the Holy Spirit and welcomed, blessed and encouraged the nascent community of "Friars Minor."

Dear brothers and sisters, eight centuries have passed, and now you have wanted to renew this gesture of your founder. You are all sons and heirs of those origins, of that "good seed" which was Francis, who was conformed to the "grain of wheat" which is the Lord Jesus, died and risen to bring forth much fruit (cf. Jn 12:24). The saints propose anew the fruitfulness of Christ. As Francis and Clare of Assisi, you also commit yourselves to follow the same logic: to lose your lives for Jesus and the Gospel, to save them and make them abundantly fruitful. While you praise and thank the Lord who has called you to be part of such a great and beautiful family, stay attentive to what the Spirit says to it today, in each of its components, to continue to proclaim with passion the Kingdom of God, the footsteps of your seraphic father. Every brother and every sister should keep always a contemplative mood, happy and simple; always begin from Christ, as Francis set out from the gaze of the Crucifix of San Damiano and from the meeting with the leper, to see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters who suffer and bring to all his peace. Be witnesses to the "beauty" of God, which Francis was able to sing contemplating the wonders of creation, and that made him exclaim to the Most High: "You are beauty!" (Praises of God Most High, 4.6: FF 261).

Dear friends, the last word I would like to leave with you is the same that the risen Jesus gave to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15). Go and continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. In recent days, the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region has severely damaged many churches, and you from Assisi know what this means. But there is another "ruin" that is far more serious: that of people and communities! Like Francis, always start with yourselves. We are the first house that God wants to restore. If you are always able to renew yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will continue to assist the pastors of the Church to make more and more beautiful the Church's face, that of the bride of Christ. The Pope, now the same as then, expects this of you. Thank you for coming! Now go and bring to all the peace and love of Christ the Savior. May Mary Immaculate, "Virgin made Church" (cf. Greetings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1 FF, 259), accompany you always. And may my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to all of you here present, and the entire Franciscan family, support you as well.

[Translation by Matthew Pollock]

[The Holy Father greeted the Franciscans in various languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome in a special way the Minister Generals gathered with the priests, Sisters and Brothers of the worldwide Franciscan community present at this audience. As you mark the Eight-hundredth anniversary of the approval of the Rule of Saint Francis, I pray that through the intercession of the Poverello, Franciscans everywhere will continue to offer themselves completely at the service of others, especially the poor. May the Lord bless you in your Apostolates and shower your communities with abundant vocations.

The Priesthood Ordination Class of 2009 CARA Survey

The Class of 2009:
Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood

A Report to the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Catechism on the Priesthood by St. John Vianney

Catechism on the Priesthood
by St. John Vianney
From “The Little Catechism of The Curé of Ars"

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God – a man who is invested with all the powers of God. “Go,” said Our Lord to the priest; “as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations…. He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me.” When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you.” At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body.”

St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The Priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest – always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, “Go in peace; I pardon you.” Oh, how great is the priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us with out the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! They can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is not longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, “Where are you going?” you might answer, “I am going to feed my soul.” If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, “What is that golden door?” “That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept.” “Who has the key? Who lays in provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?” “The priest.” “And what is the Food?” “The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord.” O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world….Someone said, “Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Curé of Ars?” Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, “There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.” At the sight of a church tower, you may say, “What is there in that place?” “The Body of Our Lord.” “Why is He there?” “Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass.”

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Study: Nearly half of new priests were discouraged against seminary"

From USA Today
By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Conversations around the kitchen table may be more responsible for the shortage of Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. than influences from American culture, a new study suggests.
Almost 45% of Catholic priests planning to be ordained this year said they were discouraged from considering the priesthood, according to a survey produced by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University for the U.S. bishops.

Of those, nearly 6 in 10 said a parent or family member was the source of the discouragement. Fifty-one percent said a friend or classmate had counseled them against the priesthood, and 15% said a priest or other clergy had. The percentages add up to more than 100 because respondents could select more than one category.

The number of Catholic priests in the U.S. has dropped steadily since the 1970s, a worrisome trend for church leaders. In 2000, there were 45,700 priests, compared to 40,600 in 2008. The U.S. church will ordain 465 priests in 2009; 310 responded to the CARA survey.

Hat tip to Argent by the Tiber

"Struggle, study, simplicity"

Years of hard work culminates in ordination of Jamie Utronkie
By Heather Kendall
Originally posted at Barry's Bay This Week.

Deacon Jamie Utronkie of Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township will be ordained in Ottawa on May 30 and will return to St. Casimir’s Catholic Church in Round Lake Centre on May 31 for his first mass as a priest.
Photo by Heather Kendall
Family and friends will gather at St. Casimir’s Catholic Church in Round Lake Centre on May 31 to attend Deacon Jamie Utronkie’s first mass as an ordained priest. With more than 50 first cousins on his father’s side alone, the church is sure to be packed.

Deacon Utronkie, his older brother and two sisters grew up on Mask Road (west of Simpson Pit Road) and they are the fourth generation to live there; his parents Jerome and Patsy Utronkie operate the Natural Waters Trout Farm.

He attended St. Casimir’s Catholic School and Madawaska Valley District High School before heading to Carleton University in 1998 to study commerce. While finishing his third year there, he became ill.

“I had a lot of abdominal pain,” he says. “I was bleeding, I was losing weight and I was tired. I didn’t know what was wrong and neither did the doctors.”

He says he grew desperate to discover what was causing his illness.

“I was ready to face whatever it was – good or bad,” he says. “I just had to know what was wrong.”

There were some mornings Deacon Utronkie couldn’t get out of bed and he began to wonder if he was dying. He turned to prayer and promised God he would surrender his life to Him, in whatever capacity He chose, if the cause of Deacon Utronkie’s illness was revealed.

“I kept seeing my life from the end,” he says. “I looked back to see if I had regrets. I didn’t, but I saw that glorifying God meant a lot to me. I thought I could help people along their faith journey – that’s when the possibility of the priesthood came to me.”

In January of 2002, he finally got a diagnosis: he had ulcerative colitis. He was put on powerful drugs and went into remission. He continued to lead a busy life – full time studies at Carleton, full-time work at a bank and a Catholic Outreach program at the university. He was setting himself up to burn out, he now says.

After the diagnosis, he wanted to keep his promise to God, but was not sure what path was the best to take.

“I was keeping all the doors open.”

During this time, Deacon Utronkie was attending Holy Rosary Parish in Ottawa, which is run by the Companions of the Cross. He found he was attracted to how they preached, their mission and their vision. He decided to visit with that community to see if it was right for him. He stayed for a week in April, 2002 and while there he went through the application process.

The Companions of the Cross believe in living simply, detached from material things; they are committed to cooperating with bishops of the dioceses. The community’s beginnings date back to 1984, when Fr. Robert Bedard, a seminarian, and two others planning to enter the seminary began to meet regularly to provide spiritual support to each other. By 1985, a vision for ministry had crystallized: participation in the renewal of the Church through an effective evangelization founded on looking to the Cross. There are currently five communities – Ottawa (the home base), Toronto, Halifax, Houston Texas and the Philippines.

Back at the bank, Utronkie came across a job posting for a full-time teller and decided to apply. When he didn’t get the job, he took it as a sign that he was not to pursue a career in commerce. However, his boss then recommended he be interviewed for a loan manager position.

“I did the interviews, but by this time I was leaning towards joining the Companions of the Cross community,” he says.

April 18, 2002 was a pivotal day. It was the anniversary of the death of his beloved grandmother and on that day he had two key telephone calls. The first was from Fr. Bedard, founder of Companions of the Cross, who informed him that he was accepted into the community. When he hung up the phone, there was a message waiting: his boss at the bank said he had great news.

“I called him back and asked if I could talk to him about the news the next day. I wanted to spend the evening reflecting on what I should do.”

The bank position would give him financial stability, job security and room for advancement, but he realized that these motives were materialistic. On the other side of the coin, life with the Companions of the Cross meant no financial security.

“My illness taught me that material things pass away,” he says. “Something about being disconnected from material things appealed to me. I didn’t want to be attached to ‘stuff.’ So I felt peaceful about joining the community.”

The following September, he and 17 others joined the Companions (only two of the 18 are left). The first two years – called the applicancy – are a period of discernment to “make sure this is what you want.” He spent four months at the Formation House in Combermere; in all he had a term of formation, two terms of philosophy and another term of formation. They were the most difficult two years – spiritually, physically and psychologically – of his life.

“I had a nasty relapse of colitis while in Combermere,” he says. “I began to wonder if I’d made a mistake.”

By Christmas, his weight was down to 100 pounds. His specialist ran tests and made an appointment for him early in the morning of Jan. 2, 2003. He was shown pictures of the colonoscopy test.

“A normal colon is pink,” he says. “Mine was black. The ulcers had ruptured. I didn’t want to hear that at age 23.”

The results put him back in a state of turmoil and anger. The doctor recommended radical surgery to remove his colon and rectum. Deacon Utronkie was put on prednisone and had to wait nine months for the surgery. The drug put him in remission and he gained 60 pounds during the wait. In October, just after he’d entered his second year of applicancy, he had his operation. He was off school for seven weeks, but found the community was very supportive.

“It was a good place for me to be,” he said.

In April, 2004, he had a second surgery, with nine days in hospital and another 10 recuperating at home. He then did a retreat to decide if he would make the temporary commitment to the community.

“I had a lot of anger and confusion with regard to what I had in my mind about what seminary life would be like,” he said. “Why would God take me off track with the surgeries and recovery time? The sense I was getting in my prayer time was that my sickness was not a diversion, but was part of the journey I needed to do.”

He says his experience has given him more empathy for those who are ill.

“I understand the spiritual turmoil one goes through,” he says. “It’s hard to understand when you’re going through it, but when you look back, you understand God allowed it so you can grow.”

It’s been five years since the surgeries and his health has been good, he says. He studied theology for three years at Dominican University; last September he was ordained a deacon in Ottawa. He has been a part time student at St. Paul’s University, doing studies in canon law. As deacon, he can perform some sacraments (baptisms, weddings); he can also do funerals.

“A deacon is sort of the first stage of holy orders,” he says. “There are permanent and transitional deacons; I’m transitional, which means I intend to become a priest.”

He expects to be ordained in Ottawa May 30 and will hold his first mass (a mass of thanksgiving) as a priest on May 31 at St. Casimir’s.

His family is proud of him and supports his decision. He says it took his father a long time to adjust (“he always saw me as married with kids”), but his mother was immediately supportive. His sisters had mixed reactions at first and his brother, who he’d been living with while in university, was not surprised.

He is looking forward to full-time ministry and should learn where he will be posted before his ordination.

“The excitement hasn’t hit me yet,” he says. “But I’m content with my decision.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Pope Prays That Priests Be Men of Truth, Love and God"


Says Consecration Is Sacrifice and Immersion in Christ

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging priests to be holy by living the essence of their vocation, as reflected in the prayer of Christ, that his followers be consecrated in truth.

The Pope said this in the homily of today's Chrism Mass, which he concelebrated this morning with the cardinals, bishops and priests of Rome.

He told the ordained ministers, who renewed their priestly vows during the Mass, "The Lord asks for our sanctification, sanctification in truth."

The Pontiff recalled the words of Jesus in his prayer for the Apostles and all priests: "For their sake I consecrate myself."

"To consecrate something or someone," he explained, means "to give that thing or person to God as his property, to take it out of the context of what is ours and to insert it in his milieu, so that it no longer belongs to our affairs, but is totally of God."

He continued: "The thing or person no longer belongs to us, or even to itself, but is immersed in God. Such a giving up of something in order to give it over to God, we also call a sacrifice: this thing will no longer be my property, but his property."

In this way, the Holy Father said, the priest is "charged to represent others," and, "removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, […] he is available for others, for everyone."

In this sense, he added, the "consecration" of the priest also becomes his "sacrifice," mirroring "the priestly act by which Jesus -- the Man Jesus, who is one with the Son of God -- gives himself over to the Father for us."

Benedict XVI affirmed that the disciples are sanctified, "drawn deep within God," by "being immersed in the word of God."

He urged his listeners to also be "pervaded by the word of God," noting that for the Apostles this word is "the bath which purifies them, the creative power which transforms them into God’s own being."

Humility and obedience

The Pope noted the existence of a "destructive pride and a presumption that tear every community apart and result in violence," and thus he urged his listeners to "learn from Christ the correct humility which corresponds to the truth of our being, and the obedience which submits to truth, to the will of God."

He exhorted the ordained ministers to shape their criteria by Gospel values rather than popular opinion, and to "become ever anew disciples of that truth which is revealed in the word of God."

"Our being priests," affirmed the Pontiff, "is simply a new way of being united to Christ."

He continued: "Being united to Christ calls for renunciation. It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to him, however and wherever he wants to use us."

At our priestly ordination, the Holy Father said, "we made this fundamental renunciation of our desire to be independent, 'self-made.'"

He added: "But day by day this great 'yes' has to be lived out in the many little 'yeses' and small sacrifices. This 'yes' made up of tiny steps which together make up the great 'yes,' can be lived out without bitterness and self-pity only if Christ is truly the center of our lives."

"Then indeed we experience," he noted, "amid sacrifices which can at first be painful, the growing joy of friendship with him, and all the small and sometimes great signs of his love, which he is constantly showing us."


Benedict XVI noted that this friendship with Christ is cultivated in prayer, which is "a journey in personal communion with Christ, setting before him our daily life, our successes and failures, our struggles and our joys -- in a word, it is to stand in front of him."

He continued: "But if this is not to become a form of self-contemplation, it is important that we constantly learn to pray by praying with the Church. Celebrating the Eucharist means praying.

"We celebrate the Eucharist rightly if with our thoughts and our being we enter into the words which the Church sets before us. There we find the prayer of all generations, which accompany us along the way towards the Lord.

"As priests, in the Eucharistic celebration we are those who by their prayer blaze a trail for the prayer of today's Christians. If we are inwardly united to the words of prayer, if we let ourselves be guided and transformed by them, then the faithful will also enter into those words."

And then all of us will become truly “one body, one spirit” in Christ.

The Pope noted that being immersed in God's truth and holiness means "to acknowledge that the truth makes demands, to stand up, in matters great and small, to the lie which in so many different ways is present in the world; accepting the struggles associated with the truth, because its inmost joy is present within us."

He affirmed that it also means "being immersed in his goodness, in true love." He added: "True love does not come cheap, it can also prove quite costly. It resists evil in order to bring men true good."

The Pontiff affirmed that Christ prays for all priests, for the "true sanctification which transforms their being," and that it be "translated day by day in our lives."

He explained that priestly ordination means being immersed in Christ, in the Truth. He concluded, "Dear friends, in this hour of the renewal of promises, we want to pray to the Lord to make us men of truth, men of love, men of God."

"Base vocations on trust: Pope Benedict XVI"

From The Catholic Leader

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Embracing a religious vocation is not about feeling worthy or strong enough to be one of God's privileged ministers and witnesses, Pope Benedict XVI said.

It is about trusting God so much that one can answer God's divine call without hesitation, he said in his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

"What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction," he said.

The papal message for the day of prayer, which will be observed on May 3 in most countries, was released on March 31 at the Vatican. The 2009 theme is "Faith in the Divine Initiative – The Human Response".

In his message, Pope Benedict said it was God who chose some to follow his Son, Jesus, more closely and to put themselves fully at the service of the Church.

Answering God's call "is never patterned after the timid self-interest of the worthless servant who, out of fear, hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground", the Pope said, citing Matthew's Gospel parable of the talents.

Rather, it was a prompt and "ready adherence to the Lord's invitation", which was rooted in complete trust in God's plan, he said.

The Pope acknowledged the "worrisome shortage of priests" in some parts of the world as well as the difficulties and obstacles the Church can encounter.

However, God's children can find strength in their unshakeable faith that God was firmly guiding the Church toward the fullness of the kingdom and it was the Lord "who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow him according to the mysterious plans of his merciful love", he said.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Catholic charity head calls for ‘purified vision of priesthood’ during Year for Priests"

From Catholic News Agency

Rome, Italy, Apr 13, 2009 / 08:28 pm (CNA).- On Holy Thursday the head of the Catholic international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need wrote to Pope Benedict XVI to offer his support for the Year for Priests. He recalled that thousands of priests are “sharing the poverty of the poor” and are also being persecuted, threatened and deprived of their freedom on account of their Faith.

Pope Benedict had proclaimed the Year for Priests to begin on June 19, 2009, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Its theme is to be “Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests.”

Father Joaquín Alliende, president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), wrote to Pope Benedict that ACN wishes to support him and all the priests through their prayers, life and work.

He expressed hopes that the Year for Priests may be a year of "great gratitude“ for priests and their vocation and also hoped that the observance may help priests "rediscover the beauty of their vocation.”

Saying that the priest is “never alone,” Fr. Alliende said the priest lives in a “vital bond” with Christ, who shares “everything” with him. “All his treasures, but also his loneliness and his sacrifice for the redemption of the world.“

The pastoral ministry is “impossible” without the priest, he added, saying that in this sense the priest is “the most important man on earth, since as an alter Christus, [another Christ] he holds the life of the Church in his hands.“

Referring to the charism of ACN founder Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, Fr. Alliende said the charity is "profoundly imbued with the priestly character of the Church.“

Its founder had understood that ACN, as a pastoral charity, "can only truly ease human suffering if we work together with, and for priests."

The charity has prioritized spiritual formation for priests and financial support for the priestly ministry in over 150 countries.

Christ had taken a "great risk“ in "entrusting such a sacred and sensitive mission into human hands,“ Fr. Alliende’s Holy Thursday letter to Pope Benedict concluded, adding that recent "painful events“ have made the Year for Priests a call to "rediscover a purified vision of the priesthood.“

Learning Gregorian Chant in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) Seminary

Learning chant at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, Denton, NE.
Click HERE or on the picture above to see a slideshow about learning Gregorian Chant in seminary.

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Young nun-to-be must wipe out debt before joining order"

From STLToday.com
By Tim Townsend

Katie Press, front row, center, visits the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’ motherhouse in Connecticut in March 2008. Pictured with her are Sister Marialice Ackermann, front row, and, back row, left to right, Sister Mary Jane Paolella, Sister Colleen Smith, postulant Katherine Thornburg, Sister Mariette Moan and Sister Christine Kiley.

When Katie Press finished graduate school in December, like many young graduates, she entered the real world saddled with thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. But unlike a lot of young people entering the job market, Press' future employer has asked her to pay off that debt before she begins training for her new job.

So Press, a 25-year-old Georgia native who lives in St. Louis, went to work juggling three part-time jobs and holding fundraisers so that in August she can begin her formation with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — debt free.

"Katie's a wonderful woman and we're so happy she's entering the community," said Sister Susan Marie Krupp, a vocations director for the order. "But we are asking her as much as possible to eliminate her debt."

The Roman Catholic Church is hurting for clerical leadership. The shortage of priests and nuns is well known. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, there were 180,000 religious sisters in the United States in 1965. In 2008, there were 59,000 — a drop of 67 percent. Even since 2000, the number has dropped 26 percent.
That means orders of "women religious," as nuns are called in church lingo, are in an awkward position. They desperately need young, educated women to ensure the future of the order, but they can't afford to take on the debt those women bring with them.

In earlier decades, women entered religious communities straight from high school and without debt. But orders now encourage women to have some higher education or work experience before exploring the possibility of joining.

"Some women accrue debt along the way, whether that's a house, a car or educational loans," said Krupp. "To open our doors to any woman coming into community and opening up to that debt wouldn't be wise on our part."

None of this phased Press. She agrees with the women she hopes will become her sisters and whom she calls "an amazing group of women who are so vibrant and fun to be around."

"Absorbing the debt of incoming members is simply impractical for the sisters as they continue to found new missions, educate young sisters, and care for their own elderly," Press wrote on her blog.

Press graduated with a master of divinity from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in December, and owes $17,000 in student loans. She was accepted into the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — an international order of 1,400 sisters — about a month ago. She is working to pay off her debt before her training begins at the order's U.S. province headquarters in Hamden, Conn., in August.

Press is working three part-time jobs — as an administrative assistant at Aquinas, a nanny and a preschool teacher at Sacred Heart Villa on the Hill. Since January, she has paid down $2,500 of her total.

Last month, Press got creative. She created a blog, called Support Katie's Habit (http://supportkatieshabit.wordpress.com/) to help get the word out. She's also started a letter campaign for the less technically inclined.

On Friday, Press' supporters will put on a bingo night fundraiser in the basement of St. Margaret of Scotland in St. Louis' Shaw neighborhood (details are on Press' blog).

Press explained that she and her friends wanted to get away from the St. Louis cliche of a trivia night fundraiser, so they went with "fun bingo," with beer and prizes, instead.

"This is not your grandparents' bingo," Press said.

Another article from

Young Woman Prepares To Enter Religious Order

The Georgia Bulletin:

By Stephen O'Kane
ATLANTA—Vocations to the religious life have fascinated Katie Press for years, even if she doesn’t exactly remember telling her mom she wanted to be a nun when she was in the fourth grade.

“I . . . am pretty sure I didn’t even know who/what a nun was at that age,” Press exclaimed after sharing that her mom still remembers that moment.

Some might say Press was in tune with God’s plan for her at that young age. Especially because now, over a decade later, she is preparing to enter a formation program with the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a group of religious whose motherhouse is in Hamden, Conn., with sisters in the United States, Italy and Brazil.

Her interest in religious life really surfaced when she was attending high school at St. Pius X in Atlanta. She discovered the vastness of the Internet, used it to research all sorts of religious sects, and found religious life to be exciting, even if for the wrong reasons, she said.

“There was an aura of intrigue and mystery,” Press said.

“And, best of all, I saw it as the ultimate escape. I pursued the idea of religious life in high school for all the wrong reasons. Instead of facing the world head on, attempting to find a place for me to flourish, I wanted to run away,” she said.

This led Press to consider entering a convent right after high school, but she said her parents could see right through her ruse and “politely demanded” that she attend college.

She ended up venturing to Indiana where she attended Saint Mary’s College and continued to study all things spiritual.

While pursuing theology, psychology and anthropology, Press showed a knack for strong relationships with people, as well as with God. This is something her friends realized right away.

“Katie’s kind demeanor, combined with such strong spirituality, always struck me as how I would hope a nun would be,” said friend Sarah Vabulas. The two met at Saint Mary’s when they shared several religion classes. Press was majoring in the subject while Vabulas was earning a minor.

Press described her vocation discernment during college as an “on again, off again” pursuit. Initially in college she attempted to ignore the idea and push it away. However, during her junior and senior years, Press said it stopped lurking and began nagging.

She visited a community of sisters nearby, but despite seeing the “beauty of the witness of their life,” she felt strongly that this was not the place for her.

“Still, while I didn’t know any of the particulars of how it would all work out, it just seemed to make sense to say that one day I would be a sister,” she said.

“But, you see, I’d told God my list of non-negotiables,” she continued. “My community had to have x, y and z. Unintentionally, I had painted God into a box. So every community that I visited, I crossed off my list prematurely. I had to expand my horizons and feel safe enough to let myself be led to the right community for me.”

In the meantime, Press began pursuing a master of divinity degree at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. There she met Sister Virginia, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who shared a class with Press. They spent nearly a year in class together before it dawned on Press that maybe she should look a little more closely at the sister’s community.

“And one day, truly out of the blue, I thought to just e-mail the vocation director (who happened to be living in St. Louis) and we met for coffee,” Press recalled. “She invited me to their motherhouse in Connecticut.”

What Press found when she visited the community was very encouraging.

“There were sisters of every age and they all seemed to know each other,” Press said. “They valued higher education and seemed to be pleased that I was pursuing a master’s. They told jokes. They seemed to really value both their ministry-apostolate and their time at prayer. Eventually, I realized that I could see myself there and happy, like for the rest of my life! I wanted to hang out with them all the time.”

So when Press returned to St. Louis after the visit, that’s exactly what she did.

“I was their groupie,” Press said jokingly.

Sister Susan Marie Krupp, vocation director, said she was happy that Press had such a personal experience when being introduced to the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She quickly found that Press had what the order was looking for.

“Katie is a very spiritual person,” Sister Susan said. “She has a desire to serve others and a desire to deepen her relationship with God.”

The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded by Clelia Merloni in Italy in 1894, strive “to attain a perfect love for God by making the Heart of Jesus known and loved, by living the law of charity among all people, and by embracing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.”

The order has a strong educational ministry, serving as teachers and administrators at all levels of education, from preschools to universities. They also participate in health, pastoral and social services ministries, where they care for the sick, the elderly and youth.

“I was very happy when I found out that Katie had decided to ask to enter the Apostles,” said Stephanie To, who has been friends with Press for about four years.

“Katie is a young woman who is deeply in love with Jesus and desires to share God’s love with the world,” she continued. “I believe her cheerful, down-to-earth attitude is one of the many reasons why she will draw many closer to the Lord. Katie is also wonderful with children and has much experience through baby-sitting and teaching Sunday school. I am very excited for Katie that she will be able to begin her formation with the Apostles, God willing, this fall.”

In order to learn more about the community, Press began to work in St. Louis at one of the order’s preschools, where she currently teaches. She is also involved with a monthly discernment group with the sisters, where they meet for prayer, dinner and discussions about religious life.

“I love every minute that I spend with the sisters and I can’t get enough of their stories—whether it’s about how they never imagined that they’d be a missionary in Taiwan, or about the sister who became famous for making pasta in her retirement, to celebrating with a sister at her third 100th birthday party, to meeting women my age in formation and asking them about having Facebook withdrawal,” Press said.

Emotional and spiritual support is something that many discerning a religious vocation say is necessary. For Press it was no exception. After becoming frustrated with God while struggling with finding that one community, Press needed the support of those close to her.

“I never would have made my way without the help of a spiritual director and the support of my friends,” she said. “My friends never judged me for wanting to visit convents on spring break or go on ‘nun dates’ (vocation retreats). They, like my family, wanted to see me happy.”

While a certain feeling of relief has rushed over Press after her initial acceptance into the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus formation program, she still has one significant obstacle to overcome.

“In my acceptance letter, the sisters have asked that I try to rid myself of as much of my debt, which is only academic in my case, as possible before I move there in August,” Press said. “Additionally, I have to have enough money saved up for my first year of room and board. Thereafter, the sisters will cover all of my expenses. So I have approximately $20,000 to raise by August—at least $5,000 will come from the jobs I have now.”

Press has begun her fundraising efforts, keeping friends and family informed of her progress through her blog, with the tongue-in-cheek title, “Support Katie’s Habit.” She has also planned a bingo fundraiser in St. Louis in hopes of reaching her goal.

The road ahead promises challenges and triumphs, but Press is ready to tackle it all head on.

“Looking back over the past year of my life, I never could have imagined that this is where I’d be today,” she said. “And I’m sure I can’t even begin to dream what my life will be like a year from now. But if it’s with the Apostles (and I pray that it will be), I know it will be joy-filled.”

“Katie has always inspired me with her faith and curiosity for the church and ways of knowing God,” said Vabulas. “I know Katie’s cheerful personality will be welcomed and enjoyed by all the sisters living in community together.”

New Vocations Website

"Archbishop wants 30 priests"

From the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian
By Vernon Khelawan

The Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago is in need of more than two dozen priests. Archbishop Edward Gilbert said, “I need 30 priests in the coming years.” And this “is realisable,” he added. He made the impassioned plea to a full church during his homily at the annual Chrismal Mass last week at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port-of-Spain. Because of the shortage of priests, several parishes in the Archdiocese are without resident parish priests and the congregations are forced to make do with abbreviated Communion services on weekends instead of the complete Holy Mass.

Making the situation even more difficult, is that many of the local priests are aged and a number are ill and the church is forced to depend on the assistance of many of the retired men of the cloth. Two decades ago the Catholic Church in T&T had close to 100 priests to satisfy the spiritual needs of 65 parishes throughout the country. Today that number has dwindled to just about 70, in spite of the addition of several from North America and India. The Archbishop told the congregation the laity had an important part to play in realising vocations, since these vocations to the priesthood or religious life had to come from families and such desires among the young must be encouraged.

A church source said T&T was not the only country suffering from lack of priests and that compounds the situation of the availability of priests. Even when the Archdiocese is lucky to get a foreign priest, the work permit is only valid for three years. Archbishop Gilbert, however, took the opportunity to thank all his priests, local, foreign and visiting—for their ministry, “especially those who are not well and/or ageing.”

Slideshow of Franciscan Friars of of the Renewal during Holy Week in Albuqurque

Click phot above or link below:

Wish I could post the article that goes with, but I don't have a subscription to the paper.

"Priest a wartime legend"

From The Windsor Star
By Marty Gervais

Rev. Mike Dalton celebrates mass with Canadian troops in Europe during the Second World War. Dalton, who died Monday at 106, used his army Jeep as an altar.

Photograph by: File photo, The Windsor Star

He was a soldier to the end. His threadbare army tunic hung on the wall, and his room was filled with religious icons, rosaries and holy pictures.

And when you spoke to him, his words were about the men he knew on the battlefields of France when he rigged up a makeshift altar on the hood of his jeep and said mass for them.

The photos from the Second World War show these anxious men kneeling, their heads bowed, silent in the muddy fields just hours before they were sent into battle.

And when age finally wore him down -- long after the war and years of serving parishes all over the London diocese including Windsor, Woodslee and Kingsville -- this old priest told me it wouldn't stop him from saying mass in his bed at the nursing home.

It would never stop him from being a priest. And there was no way he would ever lose his faith in his religion or people.

I'm speaking about an old friend, Rev. Mike Dalton, who passed away Monday afternoon at Sacred Heart Nursing Home in Courtland, Ont. He was 106, a month shy of his 107th birthday.

This son of a Goderich farmer is the most decorated padre who ever served in the Canadian Army. He marched at the front lines with his fellow soldiers, often carrying their weapons when they tired of battle.

Besides the Military Cross for bravery, Father Dalton was the first Catholic priest to receive the Member of the British Empire. The day King George VI pinned the decoration on his tunic at Buckingham Palace, he dug deep into his pockets and handed the monarch a Catholic religious medal.

When I met Father Dalton in the mid-1990s, this legendary padre with the Essex Scottish, who landed at Normandy in 1944, complained of sitting in a wheelchair. His legs had given out on him. He prayed for God to give him back his strength, so he could stand up again and say mass.


Deep down, he knew better. He told me so.

The day I met him, Father Dalton wore the Roman collar, and had a twinkle in those slate-grey eyes and a wit and a humour that bubbled out in the stories he spun for me. He loved to talk. He loved people. He loved life. He loved God. He loved being a soldier. He loved being a priest.

If there was anything he didn't like, it was losing those fathers and sons to war. He had sensed their inner fears. It didn't matter if the orders were to stay clear of the front lines -- he listened instead to his own heart, and drove his jeep to the brink of battle. And he would sit there in the open jeep -- its windshield festooned with flowers -- and hear the laboured, disturbed confessions of terrified soldiers.

Or sometimes he would join a soldier on a road to a battle and try to ease their woes and lift their spirits.

Somehow Father Dalton believed he was invincible. He said he feared nothing. He figured he had a purpose, a reason to be. He felt lucky. He felt destined and blessed for some higher purpose. How else, he asked, do you explain how twice his truck was hit with shrapnel, and men died all around him?

"I didn't have a scratch. I couldn't even get a cold," he said.

And sometimes he was so lost in the reverie of saying mass on the hood of his jeep that he would suddenly turn to give a blessing, "and there was no one there ... I was all alone. The soldiers had jumped for cover, and shrapnel was flying everywhere. I hadn't heard a thing."

Rev. Matthew George, a longtime friend of Father Dalton, in hearing of his death, said the biggest regret of this priest's life was discovering too late the botched Dieppe invasion. "He had been at a chaplain's meeting and when he found out, he wanted to be put ashore, but they wouldn't let him.

"He cared about those men -- and never forgot them," said George.

It reminded me of what Dalton told me years ago when I asked why he joined the army. He said that when he served at St. Alphonsus in downtown Windsor, he realized those same kids who had made their First Communion in that church were now running off to war.

"I had to go with them," he said.

Now with his passing, I'm speculating the old padre is catching up to them, once again.

Sunday, April 5, 2009