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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Sydney archdiocese sees increase in priestly vocations after World Youth Day"

From The Catholic Weekly (Australia)

THE OFT-STATED claim that young men nowadays don’t want to be priests is given the lie by the number of them in Sydney alone who are now in training for the priesthood – the 39
young men at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, 21 young men at the Redemptorist Mater
Seminary and countless numbers in formation with orders such as the Dominicans and the
Capuchin Friars.

The number of seminarians is increasing worldwide and this has been apparent in Sydney
for some time.

The past two years has seen the ordination of 10 young men in St Mary’s Cathedral, with further ordinations scheduled for May this year.

The Vocation Centre of the archdiocese of Sydney is hard at work offering confidential spiritual guidance and retreats for those discerning priestly and religious life.

This year it offers two discernment retreats for men considering the “You see, my role as
director of vocations is to help young people discern what God is really calling them to; there is never a question of trying to ‘recruit’ or influence someone who is not called.

“For instance, I have assisted some young men to see they are actually called to marriage.

“It is their vocation, their choice as to how they exercise their freedom and it’s also their responsibility to genuinely listen to what God is asking them.”

The Vocation Centre is also hard at work helping parishes to be supportive and caring places for young people discerning their vocation.

This month sees the launch of a Vocations Co-ordinators Resource Kit.

And today (Sunday, February 27) the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, in a
service at St Mary’s Cathedral, is commissioning the first group of lay volunteers who
will implement the kit in their parishes.

Elizabeth Arblaster of the Vocation Centre says: “The lay people who have volunteered to be parish vocations co-ordinators know that we need to support priests in this work so that our young people hear vocations stories, see positive examples of all vocations and have a prayerful and informed community that will support them as they listen to God’s call.

“In doing this work, these lay people are giving life to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s desire that young people need to be supported in their local churches and ‘feel the Priesthood (April 8-10 , September 23-25 ), two seminary inquiry days (May 29 and October 30) as well as monthly reflection days throughout 2011 called Silence and Solitude

There is also a retreat for women on prayer, discernment, marriage and consecrated life (March 11-13), as well as one later in the year for women considering consecrated life
(November 25-27).

On top of it all, the Vocation Centre is about the launch a new DVD on the priesthood as well as a weekly Vocations Show on the online Catholic radio station CRADIO, offering
in-depth interviews, testimonies and the chance to ask questions about vocations.

“These retreats, reflection and inquiry days for young men considering whether Christ is calling them to the priesthood is a time for these men to go deeper, ask questions, and
meet up with peers who are undertaking a similar journey” says the archdiocesan director of Vocations, Fr Michael de Stoop.

“The men take much spiritual enrichment, knowledge and support from these retreats.

“They know when they come along that there is no pressure and no strings attached.warmth of the whole community as they respond yes to God and the Church’.

“We want to hear from those lay people and we feel passionate about training and supporting them.”

For discernment resources, information about retreats, receiving confidential guidance, or
becoming a parish vocations co-ordinator, call the Vocation Centre on 9390 5970, email
vocations@sydneycatholic.org or visit www.vocationcentre.org.au

Pastoral letter calls for new deacons in the Archdiocese of Vancouver

New document highlights the role of permanent deacons in the Church

Painting: St. Peter consecrates Lawrence of Rome as a deacon in a fresco from 1447-49 by Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli. St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who was martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258 AD.

By Brent Mattson
The B.C. Catholic

VANCOUVER--Recently Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, announced a program to form permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Now the archbishop has released a pastoral letter (available on the Archiocese of Vancouver's website ) providing more detail.

"The permanent diaconate is meant to be a driving force for the Church's service toward the local Christian communities," he wrote in the letter, released Feb. 25.

"Because the deacon is a public and living icon of Christ the Servant within the Church, his ministry encourages all the baptized to commit themselves to service of the ecclesial community and the world," the archbishop said.

Quoting Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Miller wrote that the permanent deacon is a great gift of God to the Church.

The archbishop noted that the encouragement of recent Popes, as well as recommendations from the Archdiocesan Synod, Presbyteral Council, and Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, led him to the decision that it was time to call permanent deacons to serve the archdiocese.

"Increasingly we recognize that every baptized person has a calling to share the faith," he wrote.

Because men must be between the ages of 35 and 65 to enter the diaconate, the archbishop said they will bring experience from their secular careers and family lives that will help expand the presence of Church ministries in the various spheres of public life.

"Permanent deacons will add yet another dimension to our witness and service, while supporting the ministries that are already exercised in such fruitful ways," the archbishop wrote. "Deacons are ordained to proclaim the Gospel and preach the Word of God at the liturgy, as well as to be a herald of this Word to the faithful and the world."

Though they cannot celebrate Mass, deacons will have a liturgical role at Mass, as well as the ability to baptize, witness marriages, preside at funerals and burials, and conduct prayer services for the sick and dying.

The archbishop said that deacons are a sign of the Church's service to the world, and therefore must be dedicated to works of charity and justice.

"I will expect them to bring the poor to the Church and the Church to the poor, whether that poverty is material, spiritual, or cultural," he said.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Major Motion Picture: Of Gods and Men - Movie about the Trappist Monks in Algeria

"Cannes Film Festival grand-prize winner had 'monastic adviser' on set"

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- "Of Gods and Men," the Cannes Film Festival grand prize-winning feature now debuting across the country, had a "monastic adviser" on the set to help faithfully depict the lives of the French monks whose story is at the heart of the movie.

Henry Quinson, who lived for six years at a Cistercian monastery in France, knew two of the monks portrayed in the film.

The subject matter is not typical for a movie: the lives of seven Trappist monks in turmoil-ridden Algeria in the mid-1990s. All seven were kidnapped in 1996 and ultimately beheaded.

"It's very difficult for me to make a movie that would be cheap -- the kind of movie that would only be about blood," Quinson told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 18 telephone interview from Marseilles, France, where he lives. "It would be very far away from the spirit of the people I knew."

Xavier Beauvois, who directed and co-wrote "Of Gods and Men," approached Quinson after seeing his memoir on monastic life; Quinson had earlier translated into French an English-language book on the murdered monks.

Quinson said Beauvois e-mailed him asking, "I need someone to be with me on this movie. ... When it's written (in the script) 'the monks pray,' how are they dressed? What do they do? Do they sing? I need someone who knows the monastic life from the inside."

Quinson, who had been considering making a movie himself on the French Trappists, agreed to help Beauvois.

"My little job," Quinson said, "was to tell their story, ... be faithful to the brothers, and reach out to as many people as we can."

Quinson said Algeria in the mid-1990s was struggling through many of the same issues today roiling Muslim-majority nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

"The murder of the monks was a turning point in Algeria. That doesn't mean there's no violence in Algeria today. Things are shaking up in Algeria right now," he told CNS. "What is true is that no Christians were murdered after '96, and I think that Algerian people started to come to terms with the idea that violence is not going to beget any bright future and another way to solve the problems would not be terrorizing people, not only for their religious faith -- most people who were murdered in Algeria were Muslims themselves -- but questions were raised about who murders whom."

Quinson said, "For the two months when we shot the movie in Morocco, I was there every day. Beauvois would have me very close to him -- 'Henry, are you sure this is right?' -- to re-create the atmosphere of the monastery."

Then came the bombshell from Beauvois when it came to the chapel scenes: "Henry, for these parts you are the film director. I cannot direct something I know nothing about. What are they going to do? What are they going to think?"

"I found all the songs, and all the dialogue, which makes up about 15 percent of the movie. I rewrote one of the speeches about being a martyr, which was a very important part of the movie," Quinson told CNS. "We spent several days in a monastery" coaching the actors, working with Beauvois on the setting, and re-creating the monastery in Morocco for filming.

Quinson, the son of a banker, was born in New York City but has lived in Europe, primarily France and Belgium, since age 5.

"I'm not a real monk in the sense that I'm not a part of a monastic order. But I'm celibate, working within the church," said Quinson, who turns 50 March 8. "I worked as teacher here in Marseille. I managed to have part-time jobs so I would have a lot of time to help out the neighbors" in a Muslim enclave in Marseille with "a lot of educational help and now a lot of financial help. ... A lot of these kids were considered not very able to go far in their studies" for academic or financial reasons.

Quinson said that, before filming, he had gotten advice from "a big French film producer" he would not name that "this story with seven monks being killed is not going to sell." Cannes awards and international acclaim later, the producer's opinion is being debunked.

In his review of "Of Gods and Men," John Mulderig of CNS' Media Review Office called the movie "a restrained religious masterpiece and a memorable viewing experience."

The film received a classification of A-III -- adults -- for brief gory violence, some unsettling images and a single instance each of rough and crass language. But Mulderig said older teens could profit from seeing the movie.

Director Beauvois, according to Mulderig, "finds a path to the heart of the Gospel through simplicity, a compassionate sense of brotherhood and an atmosphere of prayer enriched by sacred music and potent silence."

Beyond the Silence - Carthusian Monks

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Discernment Program at San Benedetto in Norcia

Via New Liturgical Movement:

The Monastery of San Benedetto in Norcia will hold its 11th annual summer vocational discernment program in 2011 from July 4 – July 29.

The purpose of the program is to offer young men (usually age 18-30) a time to discern God’s will for their life in a more concentrated way than normal worldly circumstances permit. Attendees will be invited to participate in the life of the monks as a way to guide their decision.

Participants should try to arrive a few days early to get over the jet lag. To apply, please write to the Novice Master at vocations@osbnorcia.org.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

News video about the Nashville Dominicans

"Number of priests growing worldwide, Vatican reports"

From Catholic News Agency
By Alan Holdren

Vatican City, Feb 11, 2011 / 05:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There are more than 5,000 more Catholic priests globally in 2009 than there were in 1999, according to official Church statistics.

The Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper anticipated the news from the soon-to-be released 2009 almanac prepared by the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics.

The statistics reveal that there were 410,593 priests in the world in 2009 compared to 405,009 in 1999. The number of diocesan priests among these increased by over 10,000 while the number of those belonging to religious orders fell by nearly 5,000.

In North America, as well as Europe and Oceania, the numbers decreased for both diocesan and religious priests. Africa and Asia, however, brought up the overall figures with a more than 30 percent increase on both continents.

Europe still has nearly half of the world’s priests, but the “old continent” is gradually losing weight on the world stage.

More seminarians are studying for the priesthood from Africa and Asia and fewer from Europe. But, there is also the issue of the number of deaths of priests in the different areas.

In Europe, the average age of priests is higher than in Africa and Asia. The number of European priests is falling as new ordinations do not surpass the numbers of those who die.

But in Asia and Africa the number of deaths was only one-third of the total new ordinations.

North and South America’s numbers combined show a positive trend over the decade since 1999, according to L’Osservatore Romano. In Oceania, the death-to-ordination ratio was equal.

The Vatican’s publishing house prints the volume of Church statistics annually. It includes names and biographies of major Catholic figures and offers a variety statistics on all those who work in apostolates and evangelization efforts the world over.

It also offer shorter term statistics. They report, for example, that between 2008 and 2009 the number of priests in the world increased by 809. According the Vatican newspaper, this is the highest jump since 1999 and a reason “to look to the future with renewed hope.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"World Catholic population growing; mixed results on priestly, religious vocations"

From Catholic Culture

The world’s Catholic population grew by 1.3% in 2009, reaching 1.181 billion, according to the latest Church statistics, published in the new Annuario Pontificio.

The Annuario is the pontifical yearbook, containing the latest available figures for the universal Church. This year’s edition of the Annuario-- which was formally presented to Pope Benedict XVI on February 19—includes statistics up to the end of 2009, the most recent year for which full figures are available.

Those figures show that nearly half of the world’s Catholics—49.4%-- live in the Americas. (The Vatican considers North and South America as a single continent for statistical purposes.) Europe, with a roughly similar overall population, accounts for only 24% of the world’s Catholics. And Asia, by far the most populous continent, with 60% of the world’s total population, is home to only 10.7% of the Catholics.

The number of Catholic priests serving worldwide has grown slightly, reaching 410,593 in 2009. But that growth is uneven, with a disproportionate number of new priests coming from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Europe the number of priests has fallen, while in North America it has held steady. The figures on young men training for the priesthood suggested that this trend will continue; the number of seminarians rose in Africa and Asia, fell in Europe, and held steady in the Americas primarily because of the higher figures from Latin America.

The year 2009 saw a noticeable drop in the number of female religious, from 739,067 to 729,371, despite a net increase in Africa and Asia. Again the figures show a shrinkage in Europe and North America.

Pope to Filipino Bishops: Urge more youth into priesthood

From the Inquirer Global Nation

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Saying that the Philippines needed more priests, Pope Benedict XVI has advised visiting bishops from Visayas and the Bicol region to persevere in their pastoral care for young Filipinos to encourage them to heed the call to priesthood.

He also encouraged them to carry on reminding the Filipino youth that "true friendship" with God, not the world's "glamour" will satiate their aspiration for happiness.

The Holy Father made the statement during the ad limina visit of bishops from Visayas and Bicol in Rome on Saturday. His statement was posted Monday on CBCP News, the official news service of the Church hierarchy.

In addressing the Filipino prelates, the Pope acknowledged that despite a rise in the number of Catholic priests around the world, "more dedicated servants of Christ" were still needed in the Philippines, a mainly Roman Catholic nation, to meet the needs of its growing Catholic population.

Based on official Church figures in 2009, the number of Catholic priests around the world grew by 5,000 since 1999.

"With you, I pray that young Filipinos who feel called to priesthood and the religious life will respond generously to the promptings of the Spirit," stated the Pope.

He also exhorted the Filipino prelates to offer these young vocations a "well-developed and carefully applied plan of integral formation" to advance their initial tendency towards priesthood and their faith to reach full spiritual and human maturity.

"I encourage you to continue to remind young people that the glamour of this world will not satisfy their natural desire for happiness," added the Pope.

"Only true friendship with God will break the bonds of loneliness from which our fragile humanity suffers and will establish a true and lasting communion with others, a spiritual bond that will readily prompt within us the wish to serve the needs of those we love in Christ," he said.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Expanding to California

By Valerie Schmalz

(CNA).- One of the fastest growing orders of women religious in the United States is expanding to California where the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, took over administration of a Sacramento Catholic school this school year.

Perhaps more significantly, the Dominican Sisters have outgrown the motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Mich., and are planning to build two new houses of formation in California and in Texas. Each would hold about 100. The order’s lifestyle intrigued Oprah Winfrey, who featured the sisters twice on her show in 2010. As a result they have been nicknamed the “Oprah nuns.”

“We had 22 young women enter in August, and we have had between 10 and 20 new vocations per year for the past five years,” said Sister Thomas Augustine, director of California Mission Advancement. “It has happened to us before that by the time we finished adding onto the motherhouse in Ann Arbor we were already out of room! This time we are hoping to stay ahead of things so we are planning for two new houses of formation.”

Founded in 1997 by four Dominicans from the Nashville Dominicans, just 31 of the 110 Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have made final vows so far. The remaining religious are in various stages of formation or education and discernment, said Sister Thomas Augustine.

“We’re not turning anyone away. We’ll sleep on the floor. We’ll live in kitchenettes, closets and landings. We have in the past,” Sister Thomas Augustine said.

The land in Loomis near Sacramento was purchased by Fred and Joan Cordova, a couple who received a direct-mail piece and called in 2005 to say they wanted the order to come to California and would buy the sisters land.

There are now eight sisters in the Sacramento diocese. Four are teaching at Presentation School, an elementary school that saw its enrollment jump by 44 students to 196 when the sisters took over in the 2010-11 school year, said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for Bishop Jaime Soto. “This is the first increase in enrollment in five years,” Eckery said.

Under the city of Loomis’ planning and building regulations, the sisters expect their application to be approved Jan. 18 and after negotiating details and meeting regulatory requirements to be able to build by 2012, Sister Thomas Augustine said. Funding for construction still needs to be raised, she said.

The religious’ primary apostolate is teaching. Sisters are sent out in small groups. They are teaching and administering Catholic schools in California, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, and Michigan. A new mission will open next year in Columbus, Ohio, Sister Thomas Augustine said. Fifteen sisters are obtaining their teaching credentials this year and will go out to teach next year.

“We deliver a Catholic education because we are in the business of saving souls,” she said.

The order is part of a worldwide resurgence among religious orders who embrace the traditional religious life as part of Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization, Sister Thomas Augustine said.

“The thing to note is what we all have in common: the habit, living a common life, devotion to the Eucharist and Our Lady, absolute fidelity to the Church’s teachings and the influence of John Paul II,” said Sister Augustine, who was a New York lawyer before she joined.

Find more information at http://www.sistersofmary.org/ or contact Sister Thomas Augustine at

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Polish Priest Murdered in Tunisia

Roman Catholic Salesian missionary Father Marek Rybinski was found dead with his throat cut in Tunis on Friday. The Tunisian interior ministry says it believes he was murdered by “fascist terrorists”.

The ministry in the Tunisian capital “strongly condemned” the murder, adding that the perpetrators would be “severely punished”.

Father Rybinski, who was 34 years old, went missing on Thursday morning and after a search of the Salesian school in the Manouba district, police found his body in a storage room, his throat cut.

"Given the manner of his murder [we believe] that a group of fascist terrorists are behind the crime," the ministry said in a statement.

Rybinski’s family has been notified.

Police say that the priest is the second Christian religious figure to be killed during the social unrest which led up to and followed the ousting of President Ben Ali in January.

On 31 January, the Salesian missionary’s web site says the order in Tunis received death threats in an unsigned letter.

Father Rybinski worked in Tunisia for three years and had been a priest for five after being ordained in Lodz, central Poland. He served in the Salesian missionary centre in Warsaw and also worked for a year in the Olsztyn Salesian institution, where he prepared educational and volunteer mission trips.

The Salesian Society mission is the third largest Christian missionary organisation in the world.

New president/rector named for Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Ohio

From the Catholic Telegraph

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr has appointed Father Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh the 35th president/rector of the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary.

The new appointment, announced Feb. 14, takes effect July 1.

The archbishop also created the position of vice rector and appointed Father Anthony R. Brausch, an instructor of philosophy, to fill the post.

Archbishop Schnurr said he is asking Father O’Cinnsealaigh “to give special attention to recruiting more dioceses to send their seminarians here, while continuing the spiritual, human and liturgical formation of our seminarians and growing the Athenaeum’s role in the diocese as a center of education and training both for the work of the lay ecclesial ministry and for outreach and evangelization to teachers and families.”

“I want to reiterate my commitment to Mount St. Mary’s and the Athenaeum, and to the stated goal of this institution to become one of the premier institutions in the church in the United States for the education and formation of priests and laity,” he added.

Since 2004, Father O’Cinnsealaigh has served as director of seminary formation at the Athenaeum of Ohio’s Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, which is the third-oldest Catholic seminary in the United States.

Achbishop Schnurr thanked outgoing president/rector Father Edward P. Smith for his almost seven years of service, citing many accomplishments during his tenure at the helm of the Athenaeum and its seminary.

“I feel very fortunate to have served at Mount St. Mary’s with Father Smith for the last 11 years,” said Father O’Cinnsealaigh. “He has been very effective in his ministry here and has been a kind and insightful mentor. I hope I can build on his work as he has built on the good work of those who went before him.”

During Father Smith’s watch, the Athenaeum conducted the most successful capital campaign in its 181-year history, recently raising more than $19 million — some 21 percent above the goal of $15.75 million.

Father Smith never left the classroom during his tenure, continuing to teach seminarians, deacons and lay ministers.

Archbishop Schnurr noted that the final phase of the expansion of seminarian housing from 46 to 70 suites came under Father Smith’s leadership and positions Mount St. Mary’s Seminary for future growth at a time when vocations to the Catholic priesthood are critically needed.

“The Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary’s Seminary has given me so much. For 15 years of my life — four as a seminarian and 11 on the faculty — I have lived and worked with many wonderful people,” Father Smith said. “My vocation was formed here, and in the past years it has been strengthened by the zeal and commitment of our current students and faculty. . . . My life, my vocation, and my ministry are better for having been here.”

Father O’Cinnsealaigh, 47, is a native of Dublin, Ireland, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1993, the same year he came to the United States. He holds a degree in humanities from All Hallows College, Dublin; a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome; and a licentiate in sacred theology and a doctorate in sacred theology from the International Marian Research Institute, Dayton.

Prior to being assigned to the Athenaeum in 2000, Father O’Cinnsealaigh was assistant pastor of Holy Angels Parish, Sidney, while also serving as head of the religion department and campus minister at Lehman Catholic High School. He earlier served as assistant pastor at St. Albert the Great Parish, Kettering.

He became a U.S. citizen in 2004, the same year he was named “Teacher of the Year” at the seminary. In addition to his role as director of seminary formation, he also has served as director of permanent diaconate formation and as assistant professor of theology since 2000. He holds the recently created Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk Chair in Systematic Theology.

“I feel somewhat anxious about taking on this new ministry, but being surrounded by so many good, faithful, and competent collaborators is encouraging and also exciting. The archbishop has a dynamic vision for the Athenaeum and the seminary, and the next few years should prove to be exciting and hopefully fruitful for the church,” Father O’Cinnsealaigh said.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"In Nairobi, cloistered Carmelites give themselves to God in prayer"

By Barb Fraze
Catholic News Service

Photo: Sister Bernadette is among 16 sisters in a contemplative community at Mount Carmel Convent in Nairobi. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- For several of the cloistered Carmelite Sisters at Mount Carmel Convent, their life of prayer began in their families, when they were children.

"My dad taught me to pray for others," said Sister Bernadette, one of the younger sisters. She said her father told her he knew sisters who prayed for everyone, and she asked if they could pray for her, too. She said she began corresponding with the sisters and was drawn to their life of prayer.

Sister Constanza, who professed her final vows in January, said she attended Mass each morning because she did not live far from the local church. Each evening, her family gathered to pray the rosary and other evening prayers.

"I decided to give myself to the Lord for myself and for the salvation of souls," and the best way seemed to be contemplative life, she said.

In an interview with Catholic News Service Feb. 16, several of the sisters talked about the path that led them to nearly continuous prayer each day.

"I never dreamed of becoming a nun," said Sister Monica, who now serves as novice mistress for the order. In college, she met some Catholic students who began praying the rosary together, then attending daily Mass. One of the students wanted to become a Franciscan priest, and as he talked more about the saints, her interest grew.

She said she was filled with "a desire to belong to Christ."

Sister Regina, a young nun who works with aspirants, said her family prayed the rosary and intercessions every day.

"I came from a praying family," she said with a smile. She said she felt called to pray, "especially for priests."

Not all of the sisters are from Kenya. Sister Agnes, from India, said a friend of her sister was becoming a Carmelite, and "somehow that mystique of Carmel drew me very strongly."

The cloister was founded by Carmelites from Dublin in the mid-20th century. When the archbishop of Nairobi visited Cleveland, he asked the Carmelites there for help, and seven nuns and three postulants flew to Kenya in 1951.

The three postulants -- Margaret, Jean and Annamae -- remain, now as some of the oldest members of the order.

Sister Margaret, originally from Pittsburgh, said when she was a teenager, she had visited the Carmelites in Cleveland, and they invited her to go with them to Kenya. They "took a chance" and took her along, she said. Since then, she has only traveled home to be with her mother when she died.

She and Sister Agnes spoke of how much the area around the cloister has changed. Today, it has been built up and surrounded by affluent homes. When they arrived, they were the only building on the hill, and they could see Mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro in different directions. Now the city is too built up to see far, they said.

The two were there during the eight-year Mau Mau Uprising that started in 1952, and the Mau Mau, a tribal group, had a hideout in the valley. Sister Agnes said one of the local priests talked to the Mau Mau, who promised never to trouble the sisters, because they were holy.

Today, when young women apply to join the order, the sisters require that they finish high school and begin some other course work, Sister Monica said.

"It gives them time to mature a bit," she said.

Sister Regina, who works with the aspirants, said she checks to see if candidates are "determined to live the life."

"Does she feel called because she has other things she is afraid to face or does she feel called because God is calling her?" she said.

An aspirant will join the sisters for three months to see if a contemplative life is something she really wants. The day begins with the prayers of the morning office at 5:20 and ends around 10 or 10:30 p.m. Other than a couple of hours of recreation, the day is spent in prayer. While the sisters work -- sewing vestments and altar linens, printing greeting cards and making Communion hosts -- they meditate. Meals, cooked by the sisters, are eaten in silence while one nun reads -- to nourish the soul.

The sisters pray for their own intentions -- pregnant women and mothers, priests, events in the world -- as well as intentions of those who ask, including Muslims, Hindus and Protestants.

Sister Bernadette said they prayed for Americans before the 2008 elections "because we have our American sisters."

"It's not just like we are here for Kenya," added Sister Regina.

Friday, February 18, 2011

CARA Reports on Religious Life - Confirms Traditional Religious Life Attracting Vocations

From the Archdiocese of Washington website

By Msgr. Charles Pope

On February 2 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops released a report on Religious life. The study was conducted by the very reputable Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

The Bishops’ report is interesting and informative for what it says, but also has puzzling omissions in the topics covered, which seem to amount to ignoring the “elephant in the room.” The “elephant” is the rather obvious fact that religious communities that preserve traditional elements such as the habit, common prayer, communal life, focused apostolates and strong affirmation of Church teaching, are doing well in comparison to orders that do not. Indeed some are doing quite well.

That data regarding the strength of tradition is covered in an earlier 2009 CARA report commissioned by the The National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC). Strangely the bishop’s report did not seem to want to go near the topic of tradition. Hence I would like to look at some data from both the 2011 report and the 2009.

Let’s start with the 2011 Bishop’s Report. The Full report is HERE. The numbers are from CARA and refer to sisters who made their Solemn Vows in 2010. The comments are just my own.

1.Scope – 311 Superiors responded to the survey and this represents 63% of Religious Congregations in the USA

2.Most lay fallow – It is striking that the report indicates that 84% of Religious Communities had no one profess solemn vows in 2010. 13% had one woman profess solemn vows and only 3% had between 2 and 9 women profess solemn vows. While this is only a picture of one year it shows that a large number of communities are in very serious shape.

3.Missing Data? The report must have excluded some of the more fruitful congregations since I personally know of two communities that had more than 9 women enter.

4.Diversity – 62% of newly professed sisters are Caucasian, 19% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 10% are Hispanic. This suggests a lot of work needs to be done to reach the Hispanic (Latino) Catholic communities in the US which are very underrepresented in the numbers entering.

5.Older sisters less diverse – An astonishing 94% of sisters overall are Caucasian but this number is sure to drop a bit as the numbers in point four begin to shift forward in the years ahead.

6.Converts – 13% of newly professed sister in 2010 were converts.

7.Big Families Factor – A remarkable 64% came from families of 5 or more children. See pie chart at upper right. This confirms the long held notion that decreased family size is a significant factor in the decline of religious vocations.

8.School Connections – 51% of new professed sisters attended Catholic elementary school. For decades Catholic Schools had been an engine of vocations for sisters. That seems a wash today and is likely due to the fact that most schools have few if nay Sisters teaching.

9.Parish connections – 2/3 of the Sisters had participated in parish youth ministry programs and/or young adult ministry or Newman clubs.

10.Liturgical Connections – 57% had been involved in some sort of liturgical ministry.

11.Devotional Connection – 74% of the New Sisters had participated in Parish retreats, 65% prayed the rosary frequently, 64% participated regularly in Eucharistic Adoration. 57% had taken part in regular Bible Study programs. Hence parish life and traditional pious factors play and important role as does more more modern forms such as liturgical ministry and Bible Study.
12.Encouragements – 52% of new sisters report being encourged to enter religious life by another sister, 44% by a friend 39% by a parish priest.
13.Only 26% say their mother encouraged them on only 16% say their father encouraged them.
14.Discouragements! – An astonishing 51% say their parents or family members actively discouraged them from entering! This is quite an awful statistic actually. The very ones who should encourage are off message.
OK a lot of good information. But in the end the report seems to dodge the question as to why 84% of Religious Congregations had no one profess vows. I do not blame CARA for this since they likely received the scope of the survey from their patrons at the USCCB. The question remains though, why do some congregations show success and others not? What are the factors that most influence women to enter certain orders and not others?

Fortunately another CARA study mentioned above was commissioned by NRVC in 2009 and it does explore such questions. The full report is HERE and the findings are these:

1.Scope – The response rate in this survey was higher, about 80% of Religious in the US had their community respond to the survey. Most of the communities that did not respond were small larelgly contemplative communities.

2.The Survey includes both men and women.

3.How many in Formation – Three-fourths of institutes of men (78 percent) and two-thirds of institutes of women (66 percent) have at least one person currently in initial formation (candidate or postulant, novice, or temporary professed). However, almost half of the institutes that have someone in initial formation have no more than one or two. About 20% of the responding institutes currently have more than five people in initial formation.

4.Aging – Over all religious are an aging population. 75% of Men are over 60 and an astonishing 91% of women are over 60.

5.More diverse – Compared to men and women religious in the last century, those coming to religious life today are much more diverse in terms of their age, racial and ethnic background, and life experience. 21% are Hispanic/Latino, 14% are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 6% are African/African American. About 58% are Caucasian/white, compared to about 94% of older professed members. This show a significantly higher percentage of Latinos than the smaller 2010 survey above.

6.Critical Factors – Younger respondents are more likely than older respondents to say they were attracted to religious life by a desire to be more committed to the Church and to their particular institute by its fidelity to the Church. Many also report that their decision to enter their institute was influenced by its practice regarding a religious habit. Significant generational gaps, especially between the Millennial Generation (born in 1982 or later) and the Vatican II Generation (born between 1943 and 1960), are evident throughout the study on questions involving the Church and the habit. Differences between the two generations also extend to questions about community life as well as styles and types of prayer. Ah, so here is the elephant that the 2011 report chose to leave unexplored. The italics in this sixth point are a direct quote from the CARA report and it makes it clear that data confirms what we already know anecdotally. Tradition and the respect for it is an important factor for younger vocations, as is fidelity to the Church.

7.Generation Gap – Millennial Generation respondents are much more likely than other respondents – especially those from the Vatican II Generation – to say that daily Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, and other devotional prayers are “very” important to them. Pay attention Religious orders.

8.Communal life – When asked about their decision to enter their particular religious institute, new members cite the community life in the institute as the most influential factor in their decision (followed closely by the prayer life or prayer styles in the community). Most new members indicate that they want to live, work, and pray with other members of their religious institute, with the last being especially important to them. Responses to an open-ended question about what most attracted them to their religious institute reinforce the importance new members place on this aspect of religious life. When asked about various living arrangements, most new members prefer to live in a large (eight or more) or medium-sized (four to seven) community and to live only with other members of their institute. Younger respondents express even stronger preferences for living with members of their institute in large community settings. Findings from the survey of religious institutes suggest that that new membership is negatively correlated with the number of members living alone. That is, the higher the number of members who live alone, the less likely an institute is to have new members. Imagine wanting to live in community when you enter religious life. Here too we see that tradition is confirmed and the loose knit apartment style, dispersed living of many dying congregations is simply being rejected by younger people seeking religious life and to live, work and pray in community

9.The Habit – The responses to the open-ended question about what attracted them to their religious institute reveal that having a religious habit was an important factor for a significant number of new members.
Thus, the data of this earlier CARA report confirms what most Catholics already know: those who have vocations to religious life have a strong preference for the practices of tradition. A strong and enthusiastic love of Christ and his Church, fidelity to his teachings expressed through the magisterium, the wearing of the religious habit, vigorous common life and common prayer, a focused apostolate, joyful and faithful members of the community, all these are essential in attracting new vocations. Of course.

Death wish? This has been clear for some time now and why some religious communities do see the obvious and adapt is mystifying to say the least. The clear message of the Holy Spirit who inspires vocations, the clear admonition of Rome which has strongly requested the return to the habit and other reforms, and the obvious preference of the young people who vote with their feet, is a clarion call. Communities that follow these simple truths are growing, some are growing rapidly. Communities that refuse to follow these simple truths would appear to have a death wish.

Picture – My own parish convent is occupied by an order that does follow these truths and they are bursting at the seams. They have just out-grown our convent which housed over 25 of them. They have now moved to another larger convent and left four sisters behind here. I have no doubt that our convent will fill again soon for the Servant Sisters of the Lord are a growing order who obey well the Holy Spirit and thus attract many many vocations. Their picture solemn vows is posted above. God is faithful, he is also clear as to what it takes for a religious community to thrive.

"God has a plan for everyone, fifth graders told at Vocation Days"

From The Catholic Key

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

Photo: Sister Maria Damiana Lee, of the Sisters in Jesus, the Lord, explains the life of an avowed religious woman to fifth grade girls from several Catholic schools at the annual Fifth Grade Vocation Days Feb. 9.
KANSAS CITY — Prayer. There is no substitute.

That was the message that priests and avowed men and women religious gave to some 800 Catholic school and home-schooled fifth graders at the 15th annual Fifth Grade Vocation Days Feb. 9-10.

Gathered at Archbishop O’Hara High School, the fifth graders learned that God has a plan for their lives, and the only way to know that plan was to talk and listen to God in prayer.

Some of the priests and religious brothers and sisters who spoke to the fifth graders in both large and small groups told them that they had even pursued other calls until God’s call to religious life could not be ignored.

“I went to college, got a degree in mathematics and I taught math,” Father Joe Miller, director of vocations for the Society of the Most Precious Blood, told boys in small group sessions.

“I almost got married,” he said. “But I really felt the nudge of God calling me to be a priest.”

And it was a nudge heard only in prayer, Father Miller said. God sent him no loud, clear instructions.

“It wasn’t a bolt of lightning, or a burning bush like Moses,” he said. “God will call you similar to the way he called me. It will be a little nudge, a little pull inside.”

Franciscan Sister Mary Clare Eichman told the fifth graders that she also wanted to be married and have a family.

“Even though I had a job I liked, something was missing,” she said.

“I always thought that I just hadn’t found that perfect guy yet,” Sister Mary Clare said. “Then I found that perfect guy” — Jesus.

She recalled her sister, Pam, expecting her first child, telling her “This was what I was created to do.”

“I learned that God was calling me,” she said. “Only when I started living out religious life, I finally understood my sister’s words. This is what I was created to do. It’s brought me more joy and fulfillment than I could ever dream of.”

Diocesan vocations director Father Richard Rocha told the fifth graders that he was a football coach at both the college and the high school levels before he responded to his call to the priesthood.

He introduced seminarians Michael Leeper, who told the fifth graders he heard the call in the U.S. Navy, and Sean McCaffery, who said he had a Hollywood acting career going, including a part in a Hannah Montana video, when he responded to his call.

God may be calling any of the fifth graders to religious life, to married life, or to single life. But he is calling them to something, the priests and religious told the fifth graders.

“Don’t be afraid to listen to his dreams for you,” Sister Mary Clare said. “You’ll be amazed.”

The fifth graders got the message, as well as learning about the lives of priests, religious brothers and sisters.

“We learned what it is like to be a sister,” said Isabel Flores, of St. Peter School in Kansas City. “It means you are married to God.”

“Being a priest is fun, but sometimes it can be sad when people die,” said Xavier Lamros of Nativity of Mary School in Independence.

“We learned there is a difference between nuns and sisters,” said Madison Clark of Our Lady of the Presentation School in Lee’s Summit. “Sisters are more missionary, and more active in the community. Nuns are more cloistered and they pray a lot.”

“If you pray and listen to God,” said Emilie Connors of Presentation, “God will tell you your mission in life.”

Bishop Robert W. Finn, in his homily at Mass that ended each day, told the fifth graders, that it isn’t always easy to hear God’s voice through all the distractions and noise of living.

“We have to know which voices to follow, which paths to follow,” he said.

“We have to listen to him in our hearts. We have to listen to him in the Word of God. We have to listen to him in the teachings of the church, and we have to listen to him in our prayers,” the bishop said.

“Sometimes we just need to be quiet with God in prayer,” he said. “If we do that more and more, we can recognize God’s voice calling us.”

Bishop Finn said time spent in prayer will help a young person recognize the voice of God just as easily as they recognize their best friend’s voice or a parent’s voice immediately over a telephone.

“We learn to recognize the voices of people we care about and love immediately,” he said.

“We need to spend time with the Lord Jesus Christ so we can begin to recognize his voice,” Bishop Finn said. “This is the voice that really matters, the person who loves us and cares for us through and through. We have to learn to listen to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He will call you.”

Bishop Finn asked the fifth graders to pray for him, and he promised to pray for them as well.

“Jesus has a plan for you,” he said. “My prayer for you is that you will say, ‘Yes.’”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seminarian Philip Johnson

Seminarian Philip Johnson (Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh) gives a powerful talk to the student body of St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh, NC. If you are not aware of Philip's heroic witness, you can learn more at his blog: In Caritate Non Ficta

Seminarian Philip Johnson from Deacon Watkins on Vimeo.