Ann Arbor, Mich., Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - Though the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor are celebrating the completion of the construction of their Motherhouse, they are already near capacity, with 17 new sisters entering at the end of this week. The community has grown from four sisters to 99 in less than 13 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
The community of sisters, which has an average age of 26, was founded in 1997 by four Dominican sisters responding to John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization.
Though their primary apostolate is Christian education, they are open to other areas of evangelization as well, a fact evidenced by their new catechetical show on EWTN called “Truth in the Heart,” the multiple summer catechesis camps they host each year and their frequent vocation talks.
CNA recently spoke with the sisters’ vocations director, Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, who credited the community’s tremendous growth to “God’s goodness and mercy” in providing “spiritual mothers” for the world. She also pointed to the example of John Paul II who “embraced all the world” and gave witness to truth, joy and suffering.
Drawing Women to the Community
Spiritual motherhood is what drew Regina Rispoli, 23, to Ann Arbor, Michigan from her home in Florida. She described the sisters as not only caring for the physical needs of God’s children but their “spiritual well-being as well.”
Rispoli noted that the sisters strive to live out their spiritual maternity by nurturing them through prayer and love.
“Like any mother,” she said, “they look at you with a love that is both unconditional and expects much - they expect us to become, with God's help, saints!”
Rispoli related to CNA her experience of how she knew she was called to be a spiritual mother. While she was visiting the sisters, Rispoli passed a statue of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus and saw that beneath her mantle there were “children of all colors and in clothing from all over the world.”
When she saw Our Lady, she understood that the spiritual motherhood of the sisters is “to at once be one of the children under Mary's mantle, reaching up to Jesus, and to also offer that kind of hospitality to the 'children' God sends us, whatever age they may be.”
It was then that Rispoli knew her vocation. As she explained it, I “understood that I was being invited into that kind of motherhood.”
Another woman who will join the sisters this week is 21-year old Amanda Ayar who met the community in 2005 when she was invited to attend a final profession of vows. She recalled, “As soon as I saw the Sisters they all seemed to be glowing and filled with so much joy, and I think it was at that time that I knew in my heart that I would end up in this community one day."
Ayar noted that even though it hasn't been easy turning from the lifestyle the media offers, she had a longing for “something more than the world had to offer.”
“I'm so excited that it's finally happening. I'm finally becoming a Sister! I feel as though my longing to be with God and to serve Him always as His bride is finally coming to be and I'm very excited about that,” she exclaimed.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary consist of women from 32 states as well as Canada. Sr. Joseph Andrew explained that the sisters are drawn to the community because they are real, faithful and joyful. She added that women come because the sisters share a common, clear vision, place emphasis on the Eucharist and use Mary as the example for their spiritual motherhood. Finally, said Sr. Joseph Andrew, women are drawn because the sisters are “on Fire with the Love of Mother Church and all her children!”
Assisting with Discernment
To help the women learn more about the sisters, the vocations director explained that the community offers three 24-hour discernment retreats each year. Attracting over 400 participants from all over the U.S. and Canada, as well Australia and countries in Eastern Europe, she explained that the retreats teach them how to “open up before God in an all-night Eucharistic Adoration and then how to ‘unpack’ what He has been trying to say to them all along.”
Perhaps, Sister Joseph Andrew surmised, “it took the motherly love of the Sisters for them to trust God enough to begin to really listen to Him.”
When women express interest in the community, Sr. Joseph Andrew works hard to stay in touch with them to assist them during their time of discernment. “I walk with each one both prayerfully and through email,” she explains, saying that it helps the young women know that she cares.
On August, 29, one day after the 17 new women arrive to join the community, the sisters are planning to host an event celebrating the completion of construction on the final new additions to their Motherhouse.
The construction, which started last May, brought the total number of monastic cells to 100, explained Sr. Maria Guadalupe Hallee, OP, director of mission advancement. “If all 17 Aspirants enter, we will have 99 Sisters – again, we are at capacity.”
“In short,” she added, “we can hardly build fast enough to keep up with the growth of the community.”
To celebrate the completion of the latest phase of construction, the Bishop of Lansing, Michigan, Most Reverend Earl A. Boyea, will bestow a blessing on the Motherhouse. According to Sr. Maria Guadalupe, the celebration will consist of the Liturgy of the Word, a homily, the Litany of the Saints, and then the blessing of the people and of the building.
After the blessing, a few sisters will make remarks, followed by tours of the public areas of Motherhouse.
For more information about the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, visit: http://www.sistersofmary.org.
Accra, Ghana, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - Philip Naameh, the Archbishop of Tamale, Ghana has asked Christians to help bring “the virtues of Christ” into the administration of the country and to fight the legalization of abortion there.
Addressing an audience of about 800 at the National Convention of the Knights of St. John International, the archbishop said it was un-Catholic to have abortions in Catholic societies, AllAfrica.com reports.
The archbishop said Catholics must practice sexual abstinence and desist from distributing condoms to the public. He also encouraged them to become involved in politics to ensure effective governance.
The Knights of St. John is a Catholic charitable society. Its convention met in the northern Ghanaian town of Nyankpala and brought together members from Ghana, the United States, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The convention aimed to equip the knights for evangelism and had as its theme “Evangelism through Knighthood.”
Moses Bukari Mabengba, the knights’ Deputy Northern Regional Minister, called on Christians to live upright lives. He added that they should emulate John the Baptist, who stood against vices and died championing the truth, AllAfrica.com reports.
Mabengba urged the knights to be examples of the Catholic community, saying that Christians should serve as the catalyst for the development of the country.
Noble Sister Justina Dazie, Supreme Subordinate in the Ladies Auxiliary of Knights of St. John International, challenged the knights to live exemplary lives and rekindle their prayer practices. She also exhorted the knights to be sensitive to the plight of others and to be loyal to the Church.
San Francisco, Calif., Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of San Francisco is hosting a Gabriel Project conference to train Catholics from across northern California how to support pregnant women in distress. San Francisco’s archbishop has encouraged all pastors and parochial vicars to consider promoting the effort in their parish.
The Gabriel Project uses signs, pamphlets, bumper stickers and a toll free hotline to alert pregnant mothers that help is available. Callers to the hotline are referred to the local Gabriel Project Coordinator, who connects them to a trained mentor.
The mentor, one of the parish’s “Gabriel Angels,” is responsible for ongoing contact with the mother throughout her pregnancy and somewhat beyond.
Through these mentors and the assistance of the parish community, mothers receive needed spiritual, material and emotional support during their pregnancy.
“Gabriel Project parishes embrace each pregnant woman who comes to them as their daughter, sister, friend,” the Archdiocese of San Franciso said in a flyer about the event.
The conference will take place at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco on Saturday, September 12. It will begin with a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m., while the program itself will last from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Cathy McConn, founder of the Gabriel Project in Houston, will train attendees in “every aspect” of the ministry and instruct them how to best implement it in their parishes, an announcement said.
In an August 24 letter to pastors and parochial vicars of the archdiocese, Archbishop George Niederauer said clergy and parishes must reach out to women in difficult pregnancies with “real, concrete help.”
He endorsed the Gabriel Project as a practical and effective means to fulfill that task, explaining that it was first introduced into the Bay Area in 1997 under Cardinal William Levada.
The archbishop also encouraged the clergy to consider the ministry for their parish and to send a small team of interested parishioners to the conference.
He noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities” says a parish pro-life committee should aim to develop a ministry to pregnant women and their children.
“The Gabriel Project answers this call. It embodies the practical support that the bishops promise pregnant women,” Archbishop Niederauer said.
Registration information about the conference is available from the San Francisco Archdiocesan Respect Life Program of the Office of Public Policy & Social Concerns, which is organizing the gathering.
Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal by the Diocese of Bridgeport to keep the personnel files of some of its employees sealed off from several major newspapers investigating the diocese’s handling of sexual abuse accusations. The diocese contends that the papers already had access to the files and that re-opening them would reveal private information not related to the abuse cases.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notified attorneys in the case of her decision on late Tuesday, the Hartford Courant reports.
The material includes 12,600 pages of depositions, exhibits and legal arguments involving 23 lawsuits against seven priests from the Diocese of Bridgeport. Most of the lawsuits were filed in the mid-1990s and were settled in 2001 for an undisclosed amount with the agreement that the settlements and the documents would remain sealed forever.
In a Tuesday statement the Diocese of Bridgeport said it was “disappointed” that Justice Ginsberg declined to issue a stay in the case, named as “Rosado v. Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. et al.”
“The Diocese intends to proceed with its announced determination to ask the full U.S. Supreme Court to review the important constitutional issues that this case presents,” the statement continued.
Several newspapers, including the Hartford Courant and the New York Times, have sought access to the personnel files to determine how the recently retired Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, handled sexual abuse cases while he was Bishop of Bridgeport.
In 2002 the Courant published stories reportedly based on the sealed court documents charging that Cardinal Eagan and other diocese officials ignored accusations of abuse or protected abusive priests.
The diocese has maintained that access to the files should not be granted because doing so would reveal personal information that is not relevant to the sex abuse cases.
Additionally, diocesan officials have said that the files related to sex abuse allegations were available prior to the 2001 settlement, after which the files were sealed by the deciding court.
In a July statement the diocese said that some of the material involves “long settled” cases dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, and that the attorneys and victims had access to the sealed documents in question previously. It also said that the names of accused priests were made public in 2002 by present bishop William E. Lori.
The Diocese of Bridgeport has also argued that First Amendment rights are at issue, claiming the freedom from state intervention in church matters is at risk.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has twice ruled against the diocese. An appeal to the full U.S. Supreme Court, which hears only a small number of petitions each year, is the diocese’s last resort.
Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their General Chapter in Rome this week, the Claretian Missionaries re-elected Father Jose Maria Abella as their superior general. He will serve another term until 2015.
Father Abella has spent the last 18 years serving the congregation at its international headquarters and has been Superior General since September 1, 2003.
Before their General Chapter, the Claretians went on retreat with Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who celebrated Mass for them.
In his homily, the cardinal recognized “the esteemed and precious apostolic work that the Claretian missionaries offer to the Church,” including their work in the “formation of future workers of the Gospel, whether in parishes or in the missions.”
He also called on the Claretians to seek a deeper personal experience of God, united with the Church and her pastors. This experience is necessary for anyone in evangelization and is need to confront the challenges of the evangelization of the culture, which is characterized by a relativism that “denies the heart the capability of recognizing the truth,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Dr. Miguel Diaz arrived in Rome with his family to begin serving in his new position as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. Ambassador-designate Diaz said that he and his family are looking forward to the coming weeks and that he hopes to "deepen and expand upon the special relationship" between the U.S. and the Vatican.
Dr. Miguel Humberto Diaz, arrived with his family this morning at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport. Prior to leaving the U.S. he was sworn in as ambassador on August 21 in Washington D.C., the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See said in a statement.
"I look forward to the coming weeks as my family and I put down new roots in Rome. I will be honored to serve President Obama and the American people in my new role, and it will be a unique honor to meet his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," Ambassador-designate Díaz said.
Since President Ronald Reagan established formal diplomatic ties with the Holy See in 1984, the two states have worked together on a host of shared priorities, including religious freedom, inter-faith dialogue, peace and security, trafficking in persons, the environment, human rights and global health.
"I welcome the opportunity to deepen and expand upon the special relationship that has evolved between the United States and the Vatican over the past 25 years of formal diplomatic ties," Ambassador-designate Díaz added.
According to diplomatic protocol, Diaz will not assume his full responsibilities until he presents his letter of credentials from President Barack Obama to Pope Benedict XVI on a mutually agreed upon date. Díaz will refrain from granting interviews or participating in official events until that point in time, the embassy noted.
Boston, Mass., Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - Sen. Edward Kennedy’s funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston. The senator, who died on Tuesday after a battle with brain cancer, had sought solace at the church during his illness and the illnesses of other family members.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, commonly known as Mission Church, was founded by the Redemptorists in 1871 and is under the care of the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorist order. Like all Redemptorist churches, a copy of the ancient icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help hangs in Mission Church.
“People come here because they don’t feel alone,” Redemptorist Father Philip Dabney, associate pastor of Mission Church, remarked. “There’s a certain presence here; some people call it the umbrella of comfort.”
Fr. Patrick Woods, provincial of the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province, said that Sen. Kennedy had prayed at the Basilica for other family members in their illnesses and for himself.
“Redemptorist Fathers Raymond Collins, pastor of Mission Church, and Philip Dabney, approved the request to hold the funeral Mass at Mission and to offer pastoral support and comfort to the Kennedy family at this time in their lives. I am most grateful for the pastoral sensitivity of our confreres at Mission,” Fr. Woods said.
“May the Lord grant Sen. Kennedy eternal rest and peace, and may the Lord bring his gentle healing to all who mourn his passing,” he prayed.
The Mission Church website is at http://www.themissionchurchboston.com.
Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, said a meeting is being planned between the episcopates of Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia in order to find solutions to the tensions that exists between the three countries.
Speaking on local television, the bishop said, “The idea is to listen to each other, to offer alternatives and suggestions and to talk, with the hope for something to bring the three countries together (…) with a pro-active vision towards the future.”
“The theme will be, what can we do to unite our three presidents, countries and peoples…whatever the Church can do to facilitate dialogue,” he said.
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have reached an impasse in recent weeks, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatening to sever ties with Colombia over its agreement to allow U.S. troops to formally operate in the country. Chavez's ideological partner, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, has also expressed his disapproval of the move.
The meeting could take place in Bogota, but no site has been chosen as of yet.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The team of priests that assists at the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires’s Emergency Shelters has expressed its concern over a ruling yesterday by the country’s Supreme Court. The court acquitted five people of illegal marijuana use, saying that private use of the drug is protected by the Argentinean Constitution.
While the priests acknowledged “the good intentions of those who do not want addicts to be criminalized,” they warned that in the case of the most vulnerable people, legalization means “leaving the addict helpless and ignoring his right to help.”
“The very dynamic of addiction often leads a user to do anything to satisfy the urge to use drugs,” the priests pointed out, saying that the State could see an increase in the number of crimes if addiction is condoned.
They went on to recall that the Gospel invites us to be present at the fringes of society and human existence, “to enter into communion with the poorest of the poor and from there to reach out to all.” “Many children, teens and young adults in our neighborhoods do not live, they just survive, and they often are offered drugs before a happy and healthy environment in which to play, a decent school, a place to learn a trade, a decent school. Thus the probabilities of giving positive meaning to their lives are cut short,” the priests said.
“We ask ourselves: How are the kids of our neighborhoods supposed to decipher the statement that the possession and use of drugs is legal? By not having a policy of education and prevention that is intense, repeated and operative, the chances of falling into the use of substances that harm the body are increased,” they warned.
The priests said their experience of working with young people who are overcoming addiction indicates that “many who began smoking small quantities of marijuana soon find themselves using even more harmful drugs.” “Life becomes unmanageable,” they said.
“For this reason, from our point of view, drugs do not liberate, they enslave. The legalization of drugs will only lead people to think they do not cause that much harm, the priests stated.
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, called on the faithful of Venezuela to pray for the release of all people who have been kidnapped, especially German Garcia Mendoza, “who is from a family that is very supportive of the Church in Caracas.”
The press office of the Archdiocese of Caracas released a letter from the Garcia Mendoza family in which they lamented that “kidnapping has become one of the most popular criminal acts in Venezuela.”
“This inhumane action not only causes anguish to the family, friends and acquaintances of the victims, but also affects all of society, causing fear and stifling the country’s development, depriving it of valuable men and women who work to build it,” the family said.
German Garcia Mendoza was kidnapped on February 25, 2009, by a group of armed men who stopped him while he was on his way home.
The family immediately called the police upon learning of the incident but six months later “there is no sign of his whereabouts or his state of health, which causes us even greater concern.”
They called on the Venezuelan government to do everything possible to solve the case and return German to his home and family. “We prayed for the health and wellbeing of all the kidnapped,” the family said.
Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga, said this week, “Civil unions can be legalized it that’s what is wanted, but they cannot be made equivalent to marriage. This problem must be dealt with more slowly and with the involvement of society,” he said.
L’Osservatore Romano reported that the archbishop told Renascenca Radio about the opinion of the Portuguese bishops on a decree modifying the country’s law on civil unions, a decree that President Anibal Cavaco Silva has decided not to promulgate.
The archbishop said the new law on civil unions, which would include homosexual unions, is “inappropriate and hasty” and needs to be debated more widely by all citizens. “This rush is not the best path to take,” he said. “I am totally in agreement with president about the fact that it should be taken up later and that the Portuguese society should be involved,” the archbishop said.
Several days ago the president said making marriage and civil unions equivalent “could turn into a limitation of citizens’ freedom of choice.” He said there had not been enough debate on the measure, which could lead to “huge consequences for the lives of thousands of Portuguese citizens.”
Recently Portugal’s Supreme Court ruled against homosexual unions, reaffirming the constitutionality of marriage as a union between one and one woman.
Santiago, Chile, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, told priests this week, “God calls us to be the first on the path to holiness,” an attitude that was “essential” to Father Alberto Hurtado, the 20th century Jesuit priest from Chile who was raised to the altars by Pope John Paul II.
During adoration of the Eucharist before the tomb of the Chilean saint, Cardinal Errazuriz invited priests during this Year for Priests to seek a “deep encounter with Jesus Christ, who is the source of our vocation, of the mystery of the love of God for us.”
The cardinal recalled that priests have received “a truly free mystery, we do not deserve it. So many others could have been called before we were. We weren’t the brightest, the holiest, the best students, and yet Jesus fixed his gaze on us, with love, and he gave us grace.”
For this reason he called for a greater commitment from priests so that the faithful might see them as disciples of Jesus. “May the people notice that he who is preaching is a disciple of Jesus,” the cardinal said.
Kirkuk, Iraq, Aug 27, 2009 (CNA) - Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, has said that Iraqi Christians are facing “bad days” as “ineffective” security cannot prevent criminality and violence targeting Christian minorities. Many of the Christians who remain are in such fear that they too want to leave Iraq, he said.
The future of Christianity in Iraq, even in the short term, now “hangs in the balance,” Archbishop Sako said in a phone interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Christians lack the protection of militia and have become “easy targets” for criminals, he reported.
Violence and the lack of jobs and services have encouraged many Christians to leave. There are now only 300 Christian families in southern Iraq and less than 400,000 Christians in Iraq as a whole. Within the past decade, their numbers have declined by 750,000.
In the northern city of Mosul, a former Christian heartland, many Christian families are “too afraid to come back.”
At one point in the interview, Archbishop Sako warned of rising extremism.
“Iraq is going to a narrow form of Islam,” he commented.
“I feel more pessimistic now than ever before. We do not have the same hope that we had before,” he told ACN. “In fact I am not seeing any signs of hope for the future. Our whole future hangs in the balance.
“We are experiencing bad days. Every group involved in criminal activity seems to be active.”
Archbishop Sako called Iraq’s security system “ineffective” and “unprofessional.”
“The government and the police are doing their best but they are incapable of controlling the situation,” he reported, saying that Christians are generally being attacked not because they are Christian but because they are seen to be defenseless.
Even one crime, abduction or killing makes the whole community want to move, he reported.
The archbishop spoke from Kirkuk, ten days after a Christian father of three was shot dead and a doctor was abducted on his way home in the city.
The turmoil is not localized to one part of Iraq.
“Every day, there are explosions – in Baghdad, Mosul, so many different places,” he added.
In July, militants attacked seven churches in Baghdad, killing and injuring dozens. Last week nearly 100 were killed in a series of attacks.
“Living in this climate, the Christian people are afraid. They are really worried. Despite what we tell them, encouraging them to stay, they want to leave,” Archbishop Sako said.
He reported that the people have lost patience with the country’s politicians. The prelate also called on Western countries to pressure Iraqi political groups to reconcile and try to reduce conflict and restore law and order.
“There can be no proper security without a real reconciliation. The only people who seem to be benefiting from the situation at the moment are the criminals. This has got to change,” he explained.
Archbishop Sako noted the crucial importance of interfaith work for coexistence between Christians and Muslims. While the archbishop is involved in initiatives in Kirkuk, such as hosting a Ramadan dinner this weekend, they are generally not replicated elsewhere in the country.
The work is small scale and involves individuals rather than the large groups crucial for attitude changes.
Church leaders and Christian politicians are also not doing enough to cooperate to confront common problems, Archbishop Sako told ACN.