You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2012.

Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center

 Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center is a mission of the Sisters of Providence of Holyoke, MA. The mission of Genesis is to create an environment that will reveal the love of God for all creation and bring hope and healing to all who come. Sensitivity to the atmosphere, devotion to the land, and attention to program design invite everyone to experience God’s providential care. Genesis offers retreats, day, evening and weekend programs. The renovated 1889 Carriage House is a unique conference center, offering a peaceful setting for meetings, retreat days as well as space for prayer, reading and reflection. Consider bringing a friend or your group to Genesis or come for quiet time, for prayer and time away from the business of life.


Donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal assist Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center by providing funds for various programs throughout the year.  Donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal keep our retreat programs open to people who may not be able to handle the financial cost of a retreat.  Thank you for your continued support!



Journey to the Foot of the Cross

 Bishop Ricken Offers 10 Things to Remember For Lent


Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers “10 Things to Remember for Lent” as the Church prepares to begin the season with Ash Wednesday on February 22:

Bishop Ricken meets Pope Benedict XVI

1. Remember the formula. The Church does a good job capturing certain truths with easy-to-remember lists and formulas: 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 3 persons in the Trinity. For Lent, the Church gives us almost a slogan—Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving—as the three things we need to work on during the season.

2. It’s a time of prayer. Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we go on a journey, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.

3. It’s a time to fast. With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast. And maybe that’s why it gets all the attention. “What are you giving up for Lent? Hotdogs? Beer? Jelly beans?” It’s almost a game for some of us, but fasting is actually a form of penance, which helps us turn away from sin and toward Christ.

4. It’s a time to work on discipline. The 40 days of Lent are also a good, set time to work on personal discipline in general. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive. “I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to pray more. I’m going to be nicer to my family, friends and coworkers.

5. It’s about dying to yourself. The more serious side of Lenten discipline is that it’s about more than self-control – it’s about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them die. The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent, and we join in these mysteries by suffering, dying with Christ and being resurrected in a purified form.

6. Don’t do too much. It’s tempting to make Lent some ambitious period of personal reinvention, but it’s best to keep it simple and focused. There’s a reason the Church works on these mysteries year after year. We spend our entire lives growing closer to God. Don’t try to cram it all in one Lent. That’s a recipe for failure.

7. Lent reminds us of our weakness. Of course, even when we set simple goals for ourselves during Lent, we still have trouble keeping them. When we fast, we realize we’re all just one meal away from hunger. In both cases, Lent shows us our weakness. This can be painful, but recognizing how helpless we are makes us seek God’s help with renewed urgency and sincerity.

8. Be patient with yourself. When we’re confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated. “What a bad person I am!” But that’s the wrong lesson. God is calling us to be patient and to see ourselves as he does, with unconditional love.

9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of God’s unconditional love.

10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.

For more resources for Lent from USCCB,

Bethlehem House

From the Director’s Desk 

 As we enter into our seventh year of operation at Bethlehem House, the word “faith” comes to mind. Through much hard work on the part of all our benefactors and volunteers, Bethlehem House is thriving and fulfilling our mission to save babies from abortion. We are servicing much of Western Massachusetts. Some of the agencies that have requested our services are Holyoke Hospital, Mercy Family Life Center, Cooley Dickinson, Wesson Women’s, Providence Prenatal, and Mercy Care Center. We also service residents of Oak Street Shelter, individuals that may find us by our ad, referrals from Crusaders for Life, and clients who may walk in. We have been honored for the second consecutive year in 2011 an award from MSPCC for outstanding generosity and support. We also help DCF, CHD, Healthy Family, FRP, Holyoke Teen Center, Safe Passage, Fresh Start, River Valley Counseling, CMA, Grace House, and help students to stay in school at UMass, HCC, and Elms.

Our Baskets for Babies program has opened many doors and hearts. In 2011, we distributed around 200 baskets. We have given out 78 Pack-N-Plays, 2000 outfits, 876 sleepers, 672 baby bottles, and 612 packages of diapers, as well as many other needed items. We service the mom through her pregnancy and until the baby is two years old, taking the family out of their crisis situation. Besides the 500 rosaries and “How to Pray the Rosary” pamphlets given out this year, we now offer a certificate of perpetual prayer enrollment from the Association of Marian Helpers at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge.

The assistance that we receive through donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal is invaluable to our ministry. Without the support of the Appeal we would not be able to operate as we do. Our services are dependent on donations from individuals as well as the generosity of the Annual Catholic Appeal. Thank you to all who continue to support the Appeal! We feel throughout our ministry that we have saved many babies from abortion. We help all age groups, victims of rape and violence, people suffering from addictions, incarceration, loss of family support, babies with special needs, single dads. Right now, Bethlehem House has approximately 61 volunteers, all of whom are vital to our ministry. In 2011, we had a total of 1,700 volunteer hours logged, not counting the many hours put in by parishes, churches, women’s groups, community service centers, the Knights of Columbus, and rosary sodalities. School groups of all ages, individual children, and many priests have personally assisted in collecting baby items which are greatly needed. Those volunteer hours are incalculable. We have a continuous need for homemade newborn baby blankets, newborn knitted sweaters, baby clothes 0-3 months, 3-6 months and 2T as well as diapers, wipes, and other baby items. People looking to help Bethlehem House may make their own hours. We work around your schedule. The hours can consist of once a week, or once a month. Helping to make up baskets is just one special way of being a part of our personal needs program. What way do you think you can help? Please call us at 413-262-8517 to be a part of our Life Giving Ministry. Come and help make a difference for Life!

Step Forward Scholars

“I am happy to tell you that I received from Smith College the Springfield-Holyoke Scholarship which entitles me to full tuition for all four undergraduate years.  I intend to major in Engineering.  I know that I am among the fortunate scholars who successfully transitioned from this great program to a great college. I appreciate all the experiences that you provided for us.  This program has helped me to work hard and have the confidence to continue to be the “scholar” that I know I can be.”

The words above were written by a recent graduate of Step Forward/Quest, a program at Holyoke Community College for middle and high school students.  Step Forward/Quest is a year-round multi faceted program focusing on academics, fine arts, cultural appreciation and leadership development.  

Broadening their horizons through Quest

Step Forward/Quest fosters growth in students’ self-esteem, expands their expectations for achievement, and encourages them to see college as a vital part of their futures. The program design provides equal emphasis upon the acquisition of intellectual skills, fine arts, cultural experiences, leadership skills, and the skills of social etiquette.

Discovering new talents

Step Forward and Quest are unique programs for girls and boys.  There are no other year-round programs in the Valley that focus on academic enrichment, fine arts, cultural appreciation, and leadership development throughout students’ middle and high school years.  Our students are staying in school and doing well; report cards attest to their continuing academic improvement.  Our scholars are being nominated to Middle and High School National Honor Societies and have won numerous academic awards. 

Experimenting with art

They are serving as student leaders; they are being chosen for participation in special school programs, and their creative work has been published and nationally recognized.  Over the years, retention and program completion rates have increased.  Our greatest success is this:  100% of the scholars who have graduated from Step Forward/Quest have gone on to pursue a higher education degree.

Smiling scholars

Support from the Annual Catholic Appeal opens the opportunity for these scholars to participate in our programs.  We are able to provide program fee assistance to students who qualify for the program but whose families might not be able to bear the financial burden of enrolling.  “Thank you” seems inadequate to express our gratitude to those who support the Annual Catholic Appeal.  Without your generosity, these opportunities would be greatly reduced.