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The following is a reflection by Gail Waterman on her friendship and faith journey with a fellow Third Order Dominican.

On the day of Mary Hickson’s funeral Mass, Tuesday, October 25, 2016, a small group of Third Order Dominicans, Mother of God chapter, gather at the funeral home to convey our condolences to Mary’s only child, Michael, and to bid farewell to our dear sister, Mary. Michael commented that his mother was truly a dedicated member of the Dominican order.

Mary and I had grand times traveling together back and forth to the Dominican Monastery in West Springfield to attend Mass and our chapter meetings on the third Sunday of the month. Our chats would last the distance we traveled to the monastery. We chatted about current events and chapter activities and reminisced about the “good old days” in the Third Order chapter life. Gossip was never part of our conversations. When we returned to her house, she would get out of the car, turn around and sweetly say, thank you and whisper “I love you.” She would then put her hand to her mouth and glow a kiss to me. I would quickly respond, as I drove away, “I love you more.” We would laugh wholeheartedly, she knew I wanted to have the last word. Outwardly, she was a quiet, gentle woman but inwardly she was a very strong, Irish, Catholic woman. Mary celebrated her 91st birthday on Oct. 10, 2016.

Every year, on the first Sunday of the October, the Dominican Nuns have a Blessed Roses Prayer Service at their Monastery of the Mother God on Riverdale Street. This year, on October 2, Dominican Father Jacob Restrick, a visiting Dominican priest and former religious assistant for our chapter, presided at the service with Benediction, followed by a short talk, and blessing of the roses. A blessed rose is given to all who are there.

At the service, I went to the sacristy to tell Father Jacob that my sister and I were going to visit Mary Hickson at the Mont Marie Health Care Center in Holyoke. I wanted to bring a blessed rose to her and asked Father Jacob to write a short not to her on the Blessed rose prayer leaflet. He was happy to do so.

When we arrived, Mary was in her bed looking very uncomfortable and in distress. But upon seeing the blessed rose and note from Father Jacob, those beautiful blue, Irish eyes started smiling when reading the note. Father Jacob mentioned the “postcard collection” that both he and Mary had initiated. I am sure it brought back the memory of the day she brought a cardboard shoe box to him that was filled with her treasured postcards that had pictures and images of holy and sacred places from all over the world. She did not know what to do with them and did not want to throw them away. Father Jacob suggested that she start a collection of postcards and get the chapter involved, make it a chapter apostolate. It is now one of our chapter’s treasures. This was only one example of the many thought and generous activities that Mary was involved in.

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On October 12, 2016, I received a phone call from Kevin McClain, a member of our chapter, who was devoted to Mary Hickson. He told me that Mary was not doing well and was receive meds and nutrition via IV. A short time later, she was taken to Holyoke Hospital.Later, I received a phone call from Pauline Bacon, another member of our chapter who lives a short distance from where Mary used to live in Holyoke. Pauline wanted to tell me that she visited Mary ad all signs indicated that she Mary was closer now to our Blessed Mother who would soon be taking her to Jesus. She sat beside her bed and prayed the rosary out loud. While praying, Pauline wondered if a priest had been called to anoint her. Pauline went to the nurses’ station and the nurse reassured her that Mary had received her final anointing from her parish priest.

On October, 18, 2016, Our Blessed Mother came to Mary and quietly took her by the hand to meet Jesus face-to-face. That was the same day I had eye surgery at the eye clinic in Holyoke. Not knowing that Mary had passed on to eternal life, the thought crossed my mind several times to stop at the hospital and visit her but the final decision was that it was best not to do so and I continued my journey home. I was at peace with that decision. Mary passed away at about the same time I was having the surgery.

On Tuesday, October 25, chapter members gathered at the funeral home to pay our last respects and convey our condolences to her her son, Michael. When it was time to leave,  we stood before the casket and said our final goodbyes — till we meet again. She was clad in a lovely, pale blue and green floral, silk dress. She wore her lay Dominican scapula and a small black and white Dominican cross was pinned to it. Her light blue crystal rosary beads were thoughtfully arranged over her dainty, little hands. AS we stood silently gazing upon Mary’s lifeless body, knowing she was very much alive in the spirit, we all sang the Salve Regina — Marian antiphon. This was the first time we ever did anything like that — it was spontaneous. The hymn is sung at the conclusion of our chapter meeting ant at the end of the Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Following the viewing at the funeral home, our delegation of Dominican laity went on ahead of the procession to be at Blessed Sacrament Church in Holyoke. It is our tradition to form a “Guard of Honor” as the casket enters and leaves the church. As the casket was carried into the church and place at the foot of the altar the choir sang Mary’s favorite psalm – the 23rd — “The Lord is my Shepherd, the is nothing I shall want.”

Blessed Sacrament Church is one of the first round churches built in the United States,circa, 1960. In the center of the church is the altar. Above the altar is a large crucifix that hangs from a strong rope that reaches the dome of the church.

When listening to the readings, certain words seemed to resonate her entire life: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4)

The pastor began his homily by telling everybody the story that all seminarians hear. The  story is that every parish has a very pious woman who always goes to Mass on Sunday and weekdays. She is always doing good things and always spends a good deal of time in church praying, particularly the rosary. HE paused and then said that the story describes Mary.

Wen it came time to relieve the Holy Eucharist, we processed by Mary’s casket and I couldn’t help but pat the casket with my hand and sadly whisper, “I love you, dear Mary.” When I returned to the pew and tried to reflect and meditate on the wonderful significance of the Eucharist, I could not help but think of Mary again and suddenly lifted my head. My eyes gravitated to the crucifix above the altar. My eyes were fixated on Jesus, nailed to the cross, and I “heard” these words emanating from the body of Jesus, “I love you more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of gardens at papal villa of Castel Gandolfo

By Peggy Weber

Recently, Pope Francis announced he was giving something up.

No, it is not a lenten resolution. Rather, it is just following the style of a man who wants to live a simple life.

News agencies reported that he formally gave up his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, and opened it as a museum. Previously, he opened the gardens to the public but now most of it can be seen as of Oct. 21.

There is a special train service from Rome and so it boosts the economy of the town which often relied on visitors when the pope was in residence in the summer.

Pope Francis has not spent a night in this beautiful place that the Vatican has owned for 400 years. It is a clear message from the pontiff that this kind of life does not fit with his message of mercy and smelling like sheep.

His decision got me thinking. What can I give up — not for lent or even advent but for good? What could I do without that would remind me every day that I am trying to be a better person.

REFUGEES PASS THROUGH HUNGARY

I could try coffee but that would make everyone around me miserable. I tried one lent and it did not work.

However, is there something — even small — that would keep me focused on what matters in life.

I know people who do not eat meat on all Fridays as a way of making a sacrifice. However, I did not eat meat this twice this past week and did not give it a thought.

I could vow to do something every day, but I really like the notion of sacrifice.

I also know myself and realize that I lose steam on some of my resolutions. So for the month of November, in honor of All Saints and All Souls, I will give up playing games on my Kindle and computer. It might sound silly to some but often I spend an hour just fiddling with “crushing candy” or popping something. I usually do it while watching TV but I know I can do without them.

So what can you give up for a month or forever?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Peggy Weber

The headlines are frantic and frequent. But they are not about two Mexican priests who were found murdered Monday, just hours after they were kidnapped from the low-income neighborhood where they served in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

Few are talking about how the priests were abducted from their church.

Instead, the world seems obsessed to discuss the impending divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

It is sad news for that family, but the press might want to focus more on a more important topic, like the deaths of these two men who were working to help the poor in an area that reportedly is controlled by drug cartels.

They are not alone.

Sister Margaret Held, 68, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, and Sister Paula Merrill, 68, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky, were found stabbed to death Aug. 25 in their Durant, Mississippi. They, too, were working to help the poor.

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And on Sept. 14, Father Jacques Hamel had his throat slit while celebrating Mass in a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen. He was killed by youths caliming allegiance to the Islamic State. Pope Francis has declared Father Hamel a martyr.

St. Pope John Paul II tried to draw attention to the continuation of Christian/Catholic martyrdom During  Jubilee Year 2000, he wrote, “the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs.” He established a Commission on New Martyrs to collect testimonies from around the world. It includes the names of more than thirteen thousand Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant witnesses of the faith.

More and more names are added each day.

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Noted reporter John Allen wrote that between 2006 and 2010 “Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the center calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.”

If you google the topic “modern Christian martyrs” a staggering number of “hits” appear. One contains a list of hundreds of priests and nuns who have been murdered.

And everyone might think about what it might mean to be a martyr in this day in age. It was reported that the man who stabbed nine people at a Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota asked one person if he were a Muslim. What would you have answered if you knew your life would be spared? Would you be willing to join the list of martyrs?

The trend is real and something that needs attention – more attention than a Hollywood divorce.

 

 

 

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The following is the homily given by Springfield Bishop Emeritus Timothy A. McDonnell at the Chalice of Salvation Mass held at the Big E on Sept. 18. 

While there are 50 States in the Union, there are far more than 50 State Fairs for some States have more than one.  The most unusual, however, has to be right here at the Eastern States Exposition, the Big E, for it is not simply one State but six that call this

fair their own.  All the States of New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts) are part of this one hundred year old exhibition and extravaganza.  And we come together this Sunday morning here under the tent, and through the wonder of television, to thank God for the blessings of the past 100 years, and to pause in gratitude for all that the Big E is and has been.  For it has been a respite from the pressures of everyday life, a chance to get away from the underbelly of shoddiness about which the prophet Amos warns in the first reading or the craftiness of the self-seeker Jesus describes in the Gospel.

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The Big E has been a chance for families and individuals to take to heart the call to “come apart and rest awhile.”  And while its acreage may be tough on the feet, the Big E has proven to be balm for the spirit over the years.

In 1916 it started, like so many State Fairs, as an agricultural event, a National Dairy Show, and to this day it has stayed true to its roots as a visit to the various farm exhibits will show. But so much more has been added over the years from the regional highlights of the individual State buildings to the Big Name entertainment to the circus, the Mardi Gras, and all the vendors especially those providing those Big E food specialties that can be found nowhere else.  I urge you to visit the Young building here on the Exposition grounds for an exhibit on the past one hundred years of the Big E.  It’s titled “A Century of Greatness” and, like just about everything here at the Big E, it exceeds expectations.

Think of all that the Big E stands for.  It is and always has been an opportunity to rest and relax, to enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere as we try to sample a worthy variety of the hundreds of attractions.  We know especially of the food for the stomach, there’s also been food for the soul.  For almost half its existence the Big E has arranged for the celebration of Mass every Sunday of its operation.  Twice each Sunday, an opportunity is provided so that Catholic exhibitors, volunteers, employees and guests can put God at the heart of their day.  And the tradition has arisen that on the first Sunday of the Fair, the Bishop of Springfield celebrates the Mass.  Today we’re expanding that tradition and substituting another bishop, yours truly, only because Bishop Rozanski cannot be in three places at once.  Don’t tell him, but I’m delighted I got to celebrate this Mass once again.

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For, like you, I come to the Big E each year with certain expectations.  I expect that there will be great exhibits, delicious food and outstanding attractions.  I come with a certain mindset, ready like you to enjoy myself– and each year I find expectations fully met and, more often than not, exceeded.

Today’s gospel is about expectations as well.  And it’s about expectations turned upside down. It’s not what we expect of God.

Our picture of God is influenced to some extent by our ordinary way of looking at things and that is why, as we listen to this gospel, we are tempted to react and wonder why Jesus seems to commend the dishonest steward.  For the dishonest steward, in order to gain an in with his master’s debtors, changed the IOU’s owed to his master, cheating the master of what he was rightfully due. Jesus tells us to be as astute in the things of God as the steward was in looking out for himself.  In other words, the Gospel today really challenges us to ask what it means to call ourselves Christian.  God entrusts each of us as stewards of his generosity, with unique gifts, unique opportunities, unique situations. The only request he makes is that we should each do our utmost to share his Good News with others before his return.

Today’s gospel is also a reminder of how we can forget that we have no claim to this world’s goods over and above our brothers and sisters at home or elsewhere. Creation and life itself are God’s gifts, given for all equally. We are entrusted with true wealth. Talents and work opportunities are not entitlements for selfish ends but rather make one responsible for building a better world for all. No matter how small is the contribution we make to our neighbor’s welfare, our neighbor’s welfare is our responsibility as followers of Christ.

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Look at the outpouring of support for the victims of the recent flooding in Louisiana, and the killer earthquakes in Italy and Myramar.  There was a need; people responded to it.  There was no question of who did or didn’t deserve help; there was a heartfelt realization that people were in need.  And, so, everything that individuals and communities could do was undertaken.  People reached out to help other people.

The point Jesus makes with the parable is that God’s generosity to us is meant to be shown to others if we are truly to serve God. And it is to be shown without stinting, without cutting back, without short-changing the gifts that God has given us that we might use them for love of God and neighbor.  Now that gives us pause since realistically we know our generosity is often tempered and not ongoing like that of God.  We don’t intend to forget those in need, but our attention span is limited.   Being human, we can forget the necessity for ongoing response.   Paradoxically, then, I’m going to ask you to remember that we shouldn’t forget.  Our generosity, like that of God, needs to be ongoing.

The Gospel is a challenge to be as generous as God is.  Before the Almighty we all stand like beggars; we haven’t earned our salvation; Christ died for it. Everything we have is a free gift of God’s love and mercy. We cannot explain his generosity, but one thing is certain – God’s ways are not our ways.  Our challenge is to make our ways more like his.

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In a real sense, learn from your experience here at the Big E.  Enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the mood, note the way strangers are more at ease with one another, note the friendliness, note the pace of life where people saunter rather than scramble, and carry that lesson with you back to the everyday.  For it is a lesson that is truly in keeping with our challenge as Christians: to accept God’s generosity to ourselves and share it with our neighbor.

 

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By Father William Hamilton

Chaplain for  the Mass. State Police, Springfield Police Dept., Easthampton Police and Fire Depts., Agawam Fire Dept., and ATF, overseeing the New England Field Division

The morning started out like any other.  I was on retreat at Ender’s Island in Mystic, CT.  The air was crisp and clean.  The smell of the salt water permeated the air and the sky was a brilliant blue with no clouds in sight.

We were celebrating Mass in the Chapel when during the general intercessions, one of the workers came in and informed us that something was happening in New York; they thought a small private plane had hit one of the towers.  We immediately prayed for all involved not knowing how serious this event would become.

Upon completing Mass, we were invited into the retreat house to watch the news.  It was there that the full  scope of reality was laid upon us.  As we watched a second plane hit the towers.  Not private, they were commercial.  At that instant my pager for the Massachusetts State Police went off asking where I was and what my proximity to Headquarters was.  I was on my way home now to await further instructions.

Twin towers of New York's World Trade Center depicted in a stained-glass window at New York church

Fifteen years ago, we all watched in horror as what we knew of an American way of life, forever changed. Within the span of endless minutes, iconic towers tumbled to the ground planes crashed and the Pentagon attacked.  Thousands of lives were lost. A willed and hate- filled event by an ideology that has existed from the beginning of time stole the little innocence we had left.  A thought that somehow we cannot coexist together and share what is not ours has prevailed through the adverse actions of a few. However, there are still the masses of good people who would rather use, to the best of our abilities, what is for the common good.

Since that day, the moral fabric decayed, and unprecedented selfishness and entitlement have continued to grow in our land.  Hatred abounds, fear is copiously laid upon us and we are frequently reminded that we are no more secure or peaceful now, than we were on that bright September morning 15 years ago.

Fifteen years later, we gather once again, promising to remember and to never forget. The question before us is what are we remembering and what are we not forgetting?

Thousands died that day, who are still mourned and whose seats at the table are still empty.  Buildings were destroyed.  Planes were crashed.  Landscapes changed to burial grounds.  But now, they are a fleeting memory as where they once stood are quiet tranquil memorials and new testaments to humankind’s dauntless tenacity to rebuild bigger and stronger.

'TRIBUTE IN LIGHT' SEEN IN NEW YORK ANNIVERSARY OF TERRORIST ATTACKS

Sadly, much of our collective memory remembers the horror, the hatred, the clouds of debris, the wailing of sirens and the crushing sounds of torn, twisted and melted steel.

Like the tranquil setting of Memorial Park and the new Trade Tower in New York,, would it not strengthen our resolve to remember that hatred is quenched  by mercy, vengeance gives way to forgiveness and peoples of different races, creeds, and cultures can and do join hands in friendship?

Fifteen years later we are compelled by history and a dignity that only few in this world enjoy, to stand for what is right, good and just.  Not living in fear or hatred, we strive to build a more fertile world, where all God’s children might live in true harmony and concord.  This, like the Memorial Park and the new tower, the field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, will be the legacy we leave to our children and our children’s children.  That the memory of that fateful day did not cloud our vision, or lower us to a standard that is not ours, but challenged us to rise to an occasion that helped usher in a new world order of peace, justice, equality, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, seeking out the least in our midst and raising them to a new heights of dignity.

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Let us pray then today for all victims of violence and terrorism around the world, and for their families, that they may find comfort and peace.

That the Governments and religious institutions may continue to provide care and healing for all, especially those affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001.

That national leaders may work together to address the problems that provide fertile ground for the growth of terrorism, and work together for an end to hatred and revenge  and lead us in ways of mutual respect and dignity for all – with the ability to establish the ultimate gift of justice which is mercy.

And so we Pray:

God of faithfulness, we come before you today filled with both sorrow and hope. We are in need of your grace to redirect our hearts. We are in need of the fire of your love to rekindle and sustain our passion for justice. We are in need of your wisdom that we might recognize anew your presence dwelling within us, calling us to live as children of light and hope rather than of darkness and fear.

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Be with us in our prayer this day. Help us to truly believe, not only in your abiding presence within and among us, but in the power of our prayer to move mountains.

Receive graciously into your kingdom, our colleagues who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in protecting, serving and preserving our freedoms.  Send your comforting spirit upon all who mourn their passing and fill them with the hope of your infinite love.  Give them rest from their labors for their good deeds go before them.  Give us who remain the assurances of faith and the resolve to continue their legacy in preserving life and true liberty by establishing your kingdom of justice, love and peace here and now, that we may fully experience on the day to come

All this we ask in the name of Jesus our brother, who shares our lives and yours, in the unity of the Spirit, one God, Forever and ever.  Amen.

Priest blesses a 17-foot-tall cross formed by steel beams and recovered from rubble left by 9/11 terrorist attacks

 

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By Sister Constance Veit, l.s.p.
Director of Communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor
Grandparents Day is Sept. 11

For many young Catholics the defining moment of the summer took place in Poland, where Pope Francis joined over a million teens and young adults for World Youth Day. Although we Little Sisters of the Poor spend our lives in the service of the elderly rather than the young, we followed the festivities in Krakow with great interest. For us, the most exciting moment of the event came at the very end, when Pope Francis told young people that the best way to prepare for the next World Youth Day is to spend time talking to their grandparents!

WYD OPENING MASS POLAND

 

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has spoken to the young about the old. He did so at his first World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. “At this moment, you young people and you elderly people are condemned to the same destiny: exclusion. Don’t allow yourselves to be excluded … Make yourselves heard; take care of the two ends of the population: the elderly and the young; do not allow yourselves to be excluded and do not allow the elderly to be excluded,” he exclaimed in 2013.

Speaking in Rio on the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, Pope Francis continued with the same theme: “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family … Children and the elderly build the future of peoples: children because they lead history forward, the elderly because they transmit the experience and wisdom of their lives. This relationship and this dialogue between generations is a treasure to be preserved and strengthened!”

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Echoing these sentiments in Krakow, our Holy Father told the youth that if they want to be hope for the future they must talk to their grandparents because “a young person who cannot remember is not hope for the future.” As Little Sisters, we would like to offer young people some suggestions about how to talk to their grandparents and elders.

First, keep in mind that the elderly are not really very different from you. Although the means of communication and other technologies have changed since they were young, deep down your grandparents probably had interests very similar to your own when they were your age. Ask them about their greatest challenges in school, what they did in their free time, their memories of family life or, for those who are immigrants, what it was like adapting to a new culture.

If you are facing important decisions ask your grandparents’ advice. How did they discern what college to attend, or what career to pursue? How did they know that their future spouse was the right one for them? How did they navigate the ups and downs of married life, raising children and other important relationships? What advice can they offer you about getting a job, finding an apartment, or buying a car?

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Ask your grandparents about their joys, accomplishments and even their disappointments and failures. Invite them to share their values, their personal heroes, how they got through the tough times, and the role of faith in their lives. Confide to them your hopes and fears, your dreams and anxieties, and ask them to pray for you – the elderly are powerful intercessors!

Pope Francis seizes every possible opportunity to encourage young people to reach out to their grandparents because, as he says, “they have the wisdom of life and can tell you things that will stir your hearts.” He speaks from personal experience, often referring to the profound influence of his grandmother on his life. “I still carry with me, always, in my breviary, the words my grandmother consigned to me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination,” he confides. “I read them often and they do me good.”

As Little Sisters, we are happy to help youth connect with their grandparents and other elders by offering volunteer opportunities to individuals and groups. We are sure that, like our Holy Father, you will learn lessons that will last a lifetime!

 

 

 

By Peggy Weber

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I was blessed at age 27 to attend a press conference with Mother Teresa. You can see me in my mint green dress on the left. I have on a red ribbon and still wear my hair the same way. The photo is from Marquette’s archives and my daughter, Elizabeth, found it.

Soon-to-be St. Teresa was amazing.  I recalled the experience in an article for The Catholic Observer in 1985, when she was visiting the Diocese of Springfield.

I still cannot believe I asked her about her retirement plans. But I will always remember her kindness, her eyes and her smile.

Enjoy this article from the archives and enjoy my photos from a day long ago that I remember quite well.

FROM THE CATHOLIC OBSERVER

“Strong, clear, loving blue eyes. That’s what I think of and remember best from my meeting with Mother Teresa of India four years ago.

I was working for the Catholic Herald newspaper in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when it was announced the famous missionary would visit the Midwest and be given an award from Marquette University. I was assigned to cover the award’s Mass and attend the press conference.

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In preparation for the event,, I began reading all about the Yugoslavian girl who joined an Irish order, taught in India and then began her own order which serves the poor and dying. Her work and reputation were so impressive that I was not prepared to see a tiny, frail little woman walk into Mass.

But even in her ‘little way’ she radiated strength. All during Mass, people were taking pictures of her (me too) but she didn’t look around. She was there to pray and communicate with her Master. She did give one big smile though, when two young Indian children were part of the Offertory procession.

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Later she admitted that she didn’t like having her picture taken. She said she offered it up for the souls in purgatory. The with a grin she added, ‘I must have helped a lot of souls today.’

When laughter filled those incredible eyes, I thought to myself –now I know what it means to see Christ in another human being. She was magnificent. She was demure, aging and a foreigner, but she was witty, serene and strong. She held firm when reporters hounded her about her pro life stand and she said, ‘abortion is the greatest poverty a nation can experience.’

She showed so much love when she asked her listeners to discover that the poor and dying are somebody, too. She never wavered in her stands on church issues yet she also was so calm and forgiving.

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When it was my turn to ask a question I couldn’t think of anything ‘tough’ to ask her.  Most of the ‘good stuff’ had been used by the secular reporters but I wanted to speak with her. So I asked her about her future plans for herself and her order. (She was 70-years-old then). I can’t recall her answer exactly, but I do remember that she smiled at me and I looked  into her eyes and if at that moment she had asked me to come to India to work I would have said yes. There I was trying to be an objective reporter but she was so impressive. And the beauty in her magnificence is that she doesn’t really think it’s a big deal. After all, she is just doing what God asks of us, to love one another.”

 

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By Julie Beaulieu

Catholic Communications reporter

At almost age 3, my daughter, Viola, had not been to Six Flags New England yet. When I found out about Catholic Youth Day at Six Flags this summer, I thought it would be a great opportunity for her first experience.

Entering the park early, Viola was already in awe walking through and seeing all of the attractions. We both wore Mater Dolorosa T-shirts, since she will be starting preschool there in September. As we entered the picnic area for Mass, Viola felt right at home with our faith community. She recognized our crew from Catholic Communications, our parish family from St. Michael  Cathedral in Springfield, and Bishop Mitchell Rozanski. She said to me during Mass, “I want to see Bishop Mitch.” I took Viola to the middle aisle and said, “There he is with the pink hat (referring to his zuchetto).” Viola replied, “Oh, he looks so cute.”

In his Homily, Bishop Mitch discussed the importance of play, relaxation, and recreational time. He said how it was important for the kids present to have fun before beginning a new school year. And, he added that adults  need time to de-stress and relax as well. Viola enjoyed the music, and, even though we were not in a church building, she still was able to identify that we were, “in church.”

Viola said, “Mommy, I want to see Bishop Mitch,” and I replied, “We will, after Mass.” We waited in line with all of the children to shake the bishop’s hand and get our photo taken. Since I’ve known Bishop Mitch, he has been very kind and approachable to the youth of our diocese. This is very evident in events I have attended and events I have covered for Catholic Communications.

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Next, we were able to go on the rides. Viola was very excited. Because of her petite size, she was still one inch short for the height requirement; therefore, I needed to sit with her on the rides. I didn’t mind at all.

Happily I recalled how each year I went to Six Flags as a youth with my family. At the time it was called Riverside.  For more than 20 years, my father was a printer at Haino Business Forms in Springfield, and each year they had their summer picnic at Riverside. My older half-sister and I would look forward to that day all year.

Although it looks much different now, the Thunderbolt roller coaster still stands strong, and I recalled that the entrance to the picnic area was behind it. Each year, I sat with my mom for bingo, anxiously awaiting my twelfth birthday so I could play, while my dad had a beer and played horse shoes with his work buddies.

I remember the year I dropped my stuffed animal in a mud puddle in the parking lot and cried. And,  I recall when my mom got her toe sliced open in the fun house. It was a good lesson about not  wearing sandals to the park. Most of all, I remember when my dad won a giant poodle for me. Before I knew it, it was the summer of 1988, and my last trip to the shop picnic before turning 18.

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When I heard my daughter’s laugh and saw her smile, I recalled how that amusement park is a place where families make happy memories, and now, on Catholic Youth Day, it is also a place where God is present, and memories are also made with parishes, Catholic schools, Catholic youth groups, and our faith community.

 

 

 

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By Father Frank Lawlor

Administrator, St. Mary Parish, Westfield

The following reflection first appeared in St. Mary’s Parish bulletin.

This weekend I celebrate my 60th birthday!  I officially become an old man!  Unfortunately for the past year or two I have been feeling very old and this calendar marker has simply confirmed the obvious.  But this occasion has given me pause to look back a bit and to reflect on how I got to where I am.  One of the realities of my life these days is waking up on many mornings with a simple question or a prayer (depending on the day)…How did I get myself here?

The answer is unquestionably the Holy Spirit and I urge all of you to spend time in your prayer talking to this third person of the trinity, asking for guidance and strength.

A little more than 6 years ago I was sitting on the top floor of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Boston wondering why I wasn’t satisfied in my work.  I had two secretaries and a large staff and lived a life that I could have only dreamed of 20 years earlier.  I was in charge of hundreds of people who generated 30-40 million dollars a year….but I wasn’t happy.  I prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance and oh boy did I get it.  Be careful what you pray for.  This Holy Spirit has an incredible sense of humor and I am certain he was roaring with laughter as he sent me back to my beginnings.

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In late August of 1976 my parents dropped me off at a seminary in Baltimore, MD. It took me 38 years until I was finally ordained.  I must be a slow learner.  I have to have the Guinness Book of Records for the longest stay in a seminary.  During those years I lived and loved and grew.  The Holy Spirit was always at my elbow guiding me along a not so simple path.  Thank God he got me out of the seminary when he did and allowed me to experience life.  I would have been the most naïve, rule-book-toting priest that anyone had ever seen.  During my “year off” to “think about things” I experienced the joy of marriage, the awesomeness of a family, the challenges of a business career and all of the roller coaster of emotions that go with each.  I was present for the birth of my children, and sat next to my son while he successfully battled cancer.  I also sat through endless dance recitals and t-ball games.  I stayed up late waiting for my daughter to come home from dates and walked her down the aisle at her wedding. I have even visited my son’s office at the top of one of Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers. I have experienced the joys and tribulations of life in all of its vibrancy.

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Now at sixty I find myself at a new place with new challenges.  The road that began in the mid-seventies has now led me here to St. Mary’s, to a parish that I am both familiar with and learning about.  I am excited about the prospects for the future and determined to do what I can to get us there.  I am a lucky man.

The Holy Spirit and His sense of humor will continue to accompany me on this life journey.  I really have no idea what the next intersection will bring but I am certain that by trusting in that Spirit and surrendering to His guidance we will all be okay.  As I cross this “old-man” threshold I thank you for the trust and support that you have given to me and I ask that you pray for me and for each other so that we will all have the faith and courage to face the life that the Lord has planned for us.

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By Laura Suttenfield

I am a 20-year-old Catholic woman and I always thought I knew what that meant. Have you ever heard of “the feminine genius”? I definitely had. Have you always thought it sounded kind of mushy, and never bothered to find out what it meant? I definitely took no action towards enlightening myself. I didn’t want to be associated with anything gross. Little did I know that the feminine genius was about to rock my world when I encountered women who didn’t only know what it meant; they lived it, and encouraged me to do the same.

The GIVEN Forum, sponsored by a group of women’s religious orders, seeks to empower women through faith formation and networking to be leaders in their communities. it’s what I and Claire Nauman, both rising juniors in college, and both from Belchertown, were able to go to from June 7 – 12 in Washington, D.C. this past month. The theme that shaped that particular week was: Receive the gift that you are, realize the gifts you have been given, and respond with the gift that only you can give.

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The GIVEN Forum brings together 300 Catholic young women from every state in the country, all of whom possess skills, desires, and motivation to share their gifts and talents in the Church and in the world. Another hundred sisters from various religious communities joined us as mentors, small-group leaders, and facilitators. Every woman who was accepted received a complete scholarship to attend which covered all travel and meal costs, specifically intended to symbolize the Church’s encouragement of young women.  The sponsor was the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, or CMSWR, and funded through the generosity of, primarily, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

The GIVEN Forum was focused on action. In the world, there are a lot of calls to action that perhaps stem from good desires but are arrive at the wrong conclusions (pro-choice? Anti-immigration?). What better to counter that than action rooted in prayer and in the enormous velocity that women have for their own God-given ideas and inspirations – all in service to others, and out of love? The 300 women in business, academia, communications, and sciences, are not the future of the Church. These women are the Church, and the New Evangelization is right now. We were privileged to listen to several speakers each day – including none less than: Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at George Mason University; Dr. Carolyn Woo, the CEO of Catholic Relief Services; Sr. Maria Theotókos Adams, SSVM, a beautiful speaker and educator; and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, a founding member of the Sisters of Life and the chairperson of the CMSWR, who before entering religious life was a professor of psychology at Columbia University, and who inspired the vocation of a priest in our diocese.

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The GIVEN Forum was beyond inspiring, but the point of writing this article is not so you, my brother or sister in Christ, can leave vaguely thinking that something happened that a couple of young women really liked a month ago. What have you been given by God? Do you realize that you are a gift? How much time do you spend in dedicated prayer, with just you and the Lord? How much time do you spend thanking Him for these gifts? How have you put these gifts to the service of others?

I now know what the feminine genius really means, and it’s nothing less than the unique capacity of women to give of herself to others. Edith Stein got a lot of love at the conference as a saint and a scholar particularly interested in what it means to be a woman of God, and the quote on the cover of the 100+ page binder that was handed out to all of us as we checked in perhaps says it best. “A woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”

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I had the opportunity to go to confession during that week, and the priest called me to reflect on the Forum’s mission statement – to realize the gift that I am, the gifts that I have been given, and to respond with the gift that only I can give.

The priest asked me, “What is the gift only you can give?” I responded, “Myself.” He said, “Then start giving.”

Read more about Laura’s experience at:

http://www.iobserve.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=5444&cntnt01returnid=59

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