Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reminder: R-1 Visa

As we shared with you last week, an important law that allows religious brothers, sisters and lay workers to become permanent residents expires on September 30 unless Congress acts.

If you wish to do something about this and you have not done so yet, click here to return to last week's post containing information about how to urge your elected officials to act on this.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why Are So Many Mexican Priests Being Killed?

Mexico, a country whose population is 81% Catholic, has seen its third murder of a Catholic priest in a week.  Further, since 1990, 52 priests have been killed in Mexico -- 40 of those just in the last 10 years.  So, we ask not only, "Why are so many Mexican priests being killed?" but also, "Why is there seemingly so much silence around the murder of so many Mexican priests?"   While prevailing wisdom is that the priests are murdered because of their solidarity with the poor, it seems that the government is attempting somewhat of a smear campaign against them.  We would do well to read several reports and opinions rather than rest on what we might read from one source.  One example is available in Christianity Today (here).  Another is the National Catholic Register (here).  Still another is the Catholic Herald (here).

Whatever the source of information, this much is true:  Priests who work with the poor -- in Mexico and elsewhere -- are being murdered.  Sisters who work with the poor all over the world are being murdered.

Please pray for these priests and sisters, their families, communities and countries.  Pray, too, for a conversion of heart for those who perpetrate these atrocities.

This Day Last Year: Pope Francis in Philadelphia

A year ago, Pope Francis was visiting the United States.  How quickly the year has gone by!  As we reported then, several Sisters of Christian Charity volunteered at and otherwise attended the World Meeting of Families and the Mass. Click here to read a reflection on last year's Mass on the Parkway with Pope Francis and here to see a few photos of our time there.  

Shortly after the Holy Father's departure from the United States, the universal Church began the commemoration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  During the year since the papal visit here and the almost 10 months since the opening of the Year of Mercy, how have we been doing?  Let's use today's anniversary to renew our hearts toward being merciful.  If we are unable to do this, the visit was nothing more than that of a head of state and the Jubilee of Mercy is nothing more than any other year in our lives.

SCCs meeting on the Parkway in Philadelphia last year.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Free Rice and Lazarus

The gospel for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time reminds us, among other things, to feed the hungry in this world. Is there a "Lazarus" lying at our door? What are his or her sores? How can we help? What have we done for the hungry lately? One very easy way to help the hungry -- as this blog has reminded us numerous times -- is to spend a few minutes each day on the website,  For each correct answer you give on this site, sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program to help end hunger.  In the amount of time it is taking you to read this message, you can answer questions on English vocabulary, art, science, history or several languages.  If you have previously visited but have stopped, now might be a good time to start again.  If you have never participated before, it is easy:  Click here!

Friday, September 23, 2016

R-1 Visas: Important Message

Our provincial leadership has asked that the following message (from RCRI via LCWR) be shared with our readers:

An important law that allows religious brothers, sisters, and lay workers to become permanent residents will expire September. 30 -- unless Congress acts!

We have until September 30, 2016 to convince Congress to extend the non-minister special immigrant religious worker visa provisions. It is this provision that permits non-ordained religious workers to become legal permitted residents of the United States. If this provision doesn't get extended, thousands of religious brothers and sisters and non-consecrated lay workers will be forced to leave the U.S when their R-1 visas expire.  As you know, non-minister religious workers play an important role in the life of the Church and in ministry to those in need.
The Immigration and Nationality Act allows qualified "special immigrants" to come to the United States and work in their religious ministries. The religious worker section of the law was originally enacted in 1990 and has been renewed multiple times, but has never been made a permanent law. Rather, the law has a "sunset provision" meaning it must be renewed every few years by Congress. In 2015, a permanent solution was proposed. Unfortunately, that version failed and a one-year extension was granted.
  • In 1990, Congress enacted a law allowing non-clergy religious workers to obtain permanent residence (green cards) to work in their religious ministries in the United States.
  • Instead of enacting a permanent solution, Congress has just extended the law each time it is due to expire.
  • Last year, the law was extended for one year and expires September 30, 2016.
  • After September 30, religious workers will no longer be able to get green cards and will be forced to leave the U.S. when their R-1 visas expire.

  • Sign a petition asking Congress to extend the law allowing non-clergy workers to get permanent residence and continue their ministry in the United States.
  • Send a letter to your members of Congress. Please edit the letter to make it as personal as possible.
  • Call your members of Congress-Representative and Senators
o    US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121
o    Suggested Message:  Here again please edit the message to make your call    as    specific to your congregation as possible.

I'm a constituent and a Catholic sister.  I'm calling to ask Congress to enact a law allowing non-clergy religious workers to obtain permanent residence (green cards) to work in their religious ministry in the United States. We need a permanent solution-another extension is not enough.
After September 30, religious workers will no longer be able to obtain green cards and will be forced to leave the U.S. when their R-1 visas expire. This program has been of great benefit to our religious community and the vulnerable populations we serve. Without the Non-Minister Permanent Residence program, religious institutes like ours, will be unable to bring our own sisters to this country to staff our religious institutions and attend to the urgent needs of the people we serve.
Can I count on the Senator/Representative to support the enactment of a law allowing non-clergy religious workers to obtain permanent residence (green cards) to work in their religious ministries in the United States?
Remember, the deadline for the law is September 30, 2016, so time is of the essence.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Assumption College for Sisters Celebrates the International Day of Peace

Thanks to Sister Joseph Spring, president of Assumption College for Sisters, for sharing the following:

On September 21,  international resident students and several faculty of Assumption College for Sisters. Denville,  gathered in the convent chapel to pray a special Evening Prayer commemorating the International  Day of Peace.  The altar was surrounded by flags representing the countries of origin of the resident students. At the beginning of the prayer, ACS faculty member, Jean Wedemeier, explained and distributed mission rosaries that she herself made, reminding the students and those assembled, that only through prayer will world peace be attained.

Flags of the various countries represented by the students were depicted surrounding a globe placed in front of the altar.  Pictured here are the international resident students who have come to Assumption College for Sisters for the first time this year:  Sister Maria Lien Phung, LHC-NT,Sister Ana Leticia Castro Osorio, OMO, Guatemala; Sister Domitille Ndayisenga, BM, Burundi; Sister Cecilia Foleng, STT, Cameroon; Miss Angela Ionnone, Italy; Sister Anna Ngoc, LHC-NT, Vietnam; Sister Mary Elizabeth Pajoc Siney, OMO, El Salvador.

The International Day of Peace was created in 1981 when the United Nations resolved to observe September 21 each year for the purpose of fostering peace throughout the world through focusing on common goals, alleviating tensions and recognizing causes of conflict. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has used the International Day of Peace to call for a nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. UN member states have also been urged to commemorate the International Day of Peace with a global ceasefire in any sort of warfare that they are engaged in.  By creating the International Day of Peace, the UN devoted itself to worldwide peace and encouraged all of humankind to work in cooperation for this goal.

To inaugurate the day, the "Peace Bell" is rung at UN Headquarters. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents. It was given as a gift by the Diet of Japan, and is referred to as "a reminder of the human cost of war." The inscription on its side reads: "Long live absolute world peace."

Assumption College for Sisters is a two-year Sister Formation College sponsored by the Sisters of Christian Charity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Let Peace Fill Our World

We need a Day of Peace . . . perhaps now more than ever!  (Email subscribers, please click here if you do not see a video embedded below.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

International Day of Peace

How will you commemorate the International Day of Peace tomorrow?  Many resources are available.

Click here for coverage of the interreligious World Day of Prayer for Peace, which Pope Francis is attending today in Assisi.

Click here for prayer resources from the World Council of Churches.

Click here to learn more about -- and to pray -- the Universal Prayer of Peace (also known as the "World Peace Prayer"), which is:

Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe.

Send us photos of your Peace Day celebrations and we will post them here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September Stop Trafficking Newsletter

The September 2016 issue of the Stop Trafficking newsletter -- highlighting the complex issue of allowing a society to use prostituted women for profit -- is available here.

Monday, September 12, 2016

More "Saint News"

Just yesterday, we told you about the new book, Blessed Among Us, by Robert Ellsberg, featuring Mother Pauline on April 29.

Thanks to Sister Joseph, we were informed about another recent daily reflection book which contains a brief biography of Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt.  The book is 365 Days with the Saints: A Year of Wisdom from the Saints by Carol Kelly-Gangi, who is the sister of Barbara Kelly-Vergona, the Registrar of SCC-sponsored Assumption College for Sisters.  The Blessed Pauline entry can be found on April 30.

This is yet another way of making Blessed Pauline's life more widely known during this Year of Mercy and the year of preparation for her 200th birthday (June 3, 2017).

Blessed Among Us: Blessed Pauline

If you are familiar with Give Us This Day, a monthly publication with daily prayers and readings, then you are familiar with the work of Robert Ellsberg, who has provided the daily  "Blessed Among Us" feature in that publication for the past five years.  In these daily inspirational excerpts, we read about the lives of those who are included in the official canon of saints and others who are also among the "great cloud of witnesses."

Last month, Liturgical Press released a compilation of Ellsberg's daily reflections.  Appropriately titled, Blessed Among Us: Day by Day with Saintly Witnesses, this book provides biographies of  two "saintly witnesses" per day.  What a great way to direct our lives toward acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with God!

Especially noteworthy to the Sisters of Christian Charity and those familiar with the community is April 29, where a brief biographical sketch of Pauline von Mallinckrodt is included.  How appropriate that this book includes the Founder of the Sisters of Christian Charity during the year in which we prepare to celebrate her 200th birthday.  It is wonderful that Mother Pauline will be more widely known through this publication.  Thank you, Robert Ellsberg and Liturgical Press!

Blessed Pauline, we pray to you:  Lead us to God!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Septembers Later

The History Channel has produced a show about 9/11 entitled  "15 Septembers Later."  It consists of interviews with political figures, photographers, first responders, and others.  Looking back at 9/11 from a "15-years-later" perspective, here's what some of them had to say:

"[9/11 was] . . . an extraordinary demonstration of compassion and generosity and volunteerism and the best of who we are as human beings. . . ."

"Fifteen years later, it's how we view that event -- that it's not simply looking back, but it's also looking forward. . . ."

"Courage and fellowship and honor and integrity can come from anywhere and everywhere.  It's inside all of us.  [We should not wait for] some moment or crisis in history to draw it out of us, but [we should] tap into it every day."

Today, as we pray in remembrance of that day and the lives that were lost, we also reflect on who and how we are now.  Do we daily tap into the courage, fellowship, honor and integrity that the world needs in 2016?  Do we look and pray forward in hope that the world we are forming and passing on to future generations will be one of peace?

"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!"

A clip of "Fifteen Septembers Later" is available below.  (Email subscribers: Please click here if you do not see a video embedded below.)  The entire show is available on the History Channel's site until October 11, 2016.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Prayers Before the Election

You will recall our suggestion in August that we add the intention of the Presidential Election of the United States to our prayer and fasting on the 11th of the month.  Click here to re-read that post and to receive suggested prayers and other resources for September 11.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In Our Son's Name - Screening and Discussion

You are invited to join the Peace Center at St. Joseph Shrine on the International Day of Peace, September 21, at 7 pm for a screening of the documentary, In Our Son's Name.  The screening and discussion will take place in the retreat room at the Shrine of St. Joseph, 1050 Long Hill Road, Stirling, NJ  07980.  According to Pax Christi New Jersey:  "This documentary is an intimate portrait of Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, whose son, Greg, dies with thousands of others in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011.  The bereaved parents choose reconciliation and nonviolence over vengeance and begin a transformative journey that both confirms and challenges their convictions.  They speak out against war in Iraq and Afghanistan, publicly oppose the death penalty of avowed 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and befriend his mother.  As their search for meaning evolves they speak out against anti-Muslim actions and find peace in working with prison inmates."

More information about the documentary is available here.

More information about the event at St. Joseph Shrine is available here.

Resources for Commemorating the Anniversary of 9/11

As we remember the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, liturgical and other resources are available here and the USCCB's "Liturgical Considerations" for September 11 are available here.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Haiti, Bolivia, US, Argentina, Yemen . . .

As we continue to celebrate the canonization of a woman religious this past weekend, we should remember those women religious who are being brutalized and murdered around the world:

  • On September 2, Sr. Isa Sola, RJM was shot and killed in a robbery in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
  • On August 30, an 81-year-old Bolivian nun was kidnapped and raped.
  • On August 25, Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held were stabbed to death in their home in Mississippi.
  • On August 24, a group of Missionaries of Charity was beaten and robbed in Argentina.
  • On March 4, four Missionaries of Charity were murdered in Yemen.
Should you wish more details, consult this article from Crux.

Our blog reported on these atrocities when each occurred.  However, when they are put together in a list like this, we are more deeply affected not only by what happened, but by how little these things are reported in the news.  Women religious around the world seem to be facing an increasing amount of violence, including murder. Are your local news outlets aware of this?  If they have not been reporting this news, perhaps it is time to make them aware.  

Let us continue to pray, pray, pray for those Sisters who have been attacked, for their attackers, and for the conversion of the hearts of those who would consider perpetrating these atrocities in the future.  

Happy Labor Day

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami has released this Labor Day 2016 statement.  According to the USCCB, "This statement draws attention to Pope Francis' recent address to the US Congress, in which he highlighted the connection between economic pressures and stresses on the family.  Archbishop Wenski in particular laments the struggles of those in communities with elevated rates of poverty, substance abuse, and the dissolution of the family.  'The Church weeps with all of these families, with these children, whose homes and worlds are broken,' Archbishop Wenski said."

This Labor Day, let us pray in the same way Archbishop Wenski chose to end his statement:

"Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!  (Psalm 90:14-17)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Comforting, Praying and Mother Teresa

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is being canonized today.  (The Mass began at 4:00 am EDT and is being replayed on EWTN if you missed it.)  During the past week, we have been reflecting on A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve, a newly-published book edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC and published by Image.  Because the book is based on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we end our reflections with "Comfort the Afflicted" and "Pray for the Living and the Dead."

p. 280 - "In England, Mother has started a small group, a listening group, and they go to these old people, ordinary old people's houses, and they just let them talk and talk and talk.  If only [they have] just that one person to listen, they go there.  Very old people love to have somebody to listen, even if they have to tell the story of thirty years ago, but it is good to listen, and I think it is a very beautiful thing. . . . Once you start visiting those places, these people, you will very soon find that maybe a little thing will please that person, and that little thing you can [do for them]. . . . You can find out what they need, go once and see, then you find out -- a book, a card, only that simple contact with them."

p. 308 - "To be able to love the unloved, to be able to give [love] in your heart to the unwanted, unloved, uncared for, [we need to begin to love] at home.  And how does it begin?  By praying together.  For the fruit of prayer is deepening of faith.  Then I believe that really whatever I do, I do it to God Himself, the deepening of faith.  And the fruit of faith is love, God loves me, I love my brother, my sister.  Doesn't matter [what] religion, doesn't matter [what] color, doesn't matter [what] place, my brother, my sister, created by God Himself -- same hand -- and then the fruit of love must be action, must be service, I do something. . . . Pray together, really have the courage to do something beautiful for God, and whatever you do to each other, you do it to God."

Today's reflection:  Am I afraid to get involved in other people's suffering and thus keep my distance?  Do I use the advice "not to get too involved or too personally affected" as an excuse not to help someone who is suffering deeply?  Can I "love until it hurts," forgoing something of my own comfort, convenience, and enjoyment in order to help someone in need?  How can I cultivate greater sensitivity to others' sufferings?  Can I look for someone in my community or family, among my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, who is afflicted in some way and offer a small gesture, a word of comfort or a smile that will make their day brighter?  Can I do it in a way that is discreet, respectful, and nonintrusive?  (p. 303)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Bearing Wrongs, Forgiving Offenses and Mother Teresa

In preparation for Mother Teresa's canonization on  Sunday, we consider the book, A Call to Mercy.  Today we reflect on excerpts from the chapters, "Bear Wrongs Patiently" and "Forgive Offenses Willingly."

p. 224 - "How very often very small misunderstandings -- repeated -- become a cause of so much suffering.  In the name of Jesus and for the love of Jesus, accept these little gifts from Him.  Look up at that little hurt and see the gift of Jesus only.  He . . . accepted so much suffering and humiliations because He loved you.  Will you not accept the little correction or hurt because you love Him?"

p. 252 - "To be able to pray we need to forgive.  Then our hearts will be free to pray.  And we must really pray and make many sacrifices to make peace in our own house first.  We cannot work for peace, nor give peace, if we do not have that peace in our own hearts.  That is why many things are made to destroy life; it is because peace is destroyed in [our] own hearts.  Just as we love in action, so we also have destruction in action."

Reflection for today:  Do I make connections with the wrongs I bear and the wrongs Jesus bore for me on the Cross?  Do I consider the immense wrongs done to the poor, the humiliations and privations?  What are the wrongs done to me in comparison to the wrongs they suffer?  Am I aware that I might be doing something that can be an annoyance or a bother to others?   Do I realize that I might lack thoughtfulness toward others, that I might be trying to them (for example, having a loud conversation when someone is trying to work or study, being too noisy when someone is trying to rest)?  Am I so busy with myself that I cannot think about others' needs?  How do I react when others show a lack of thoughtfulness toward me?  What wrongs can I bear patiently, including those small offenses, which Saint Therese of Lisieux called "pinpricks," that do no more than produce personal discomfort or inconvenience for me?  Can I accept that I am being overlooked?  That I am not given due consideration? (p. 247)

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Doubtful, the Sinners and Mother Teresa

In preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa on Sunday, September 4, we continue providing excerpts from the recently-published A Call to Mercy.  Today's chapters focus on "Counsel the Doubtful" and "Admonish Sinners."

p. 168 - Mother Teresa had a notable gift to be able to set at peace a "restless and troubled mind."  Her method was simple:  first she would listen.  She would listen attentively to the account being related to her, but even more she would listen to the pain and confusion that accompanied it. . . . Constantly aware of her own weakness, especially her interior darkness, she assumed a humble and unpretentious attitude toward all.  This attitude helped many to be completely open with her and to experience her compassion.

p. 188 - "Hate the sin, love the sinner" was a principle much ingrained in Mother Teresa's manner of dealing with people.  She knew very well how to separate the sin from the sinner, the wrong from the person who did it, always respecting the person's dignity in spite of the fault committed.  This uncommon ability was at times misunderstood and taken as leniency or a lack of courage.  Yet she would not miss an opportunity to correct the wrong.  This she would do, though, without condemning the wrongdoer; rather, she would encourage the person, calling them to repentance and a change of life.  She was not correcting others because their wrongdoing was annoying or affecting her, but out of love for God and for the sinner himself.

Today's reflection:  Am I open enough to seek and accept the counsel of others when I am in doubt, in confusion, in darkness?  Do I act impulsively in a situation where I lack clarity, or do I seek the advice of others?  Am I humble enough to consider others' advice and to take it into account?  Am I willing to listen to others?  Do I take time to listen? Am I patient with others who are in doubt and in darkness?  Is the advice that I offer the fruit of my prayer, my reflection, and my intention to do the best for the person in need?  Is my advice mixed with my own agenda or does it reflect a lack of real concern? (p. 186)

An invitation:  You are welcome to attend a presentation on "Mother Teresa: A Saint of Mercy" at Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Parish in Andover, NJ on Sunday, September 4.  Click here for more information.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Suggesting that Christians add "care for our common home" to the traditional corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Pope Francis issued his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.  Click here to access the letter.  (Scroll down for English.)

The Dead, the Ignorant and Mother Teresa

We continue our journey through the beatitudes in preparation for the canonization of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, using A Call to Mercy: Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve, edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC, and published by Image Press.  Today's reflections come from chapters seven and eight, "Bury the Dead," and "Instruct the Ignorant."  (Click here for more information on the canonization and the book.)

p. 130: "There was a man dying, and he didn't want anything.  He said, 'Just hold my hand and with my hand in your hand, I am ready to go.' There he sat, lying there all cold, only his face with still bright, but that's all that he wanted.  He didn't want me to say anything or do anything, only to just sit on his bed and hold his hand, and he felt quite ready to go."

p. 150:  "In London, there are big boys and girls who have not made First Communion there, in the area where we are.  The sisters have been trying and trying to get the family together, the young people together to prepare them for First Communion.  Then one day the mother of one family said, 'Sister, why don't you teach me? I have a better opportunity when they come home in the evening together.  My children are there, my husband is there. I will teach them.' And so Sister taught her, and now even the husband comes . . . to be present at the lessons that the wife is giving to the children."

Reflection for today:  Are there areas of my life, especially my spiritual life, where I need to realize and recognize my ignorance and take steps to learn?  Am I obstinate in my attitude of superiority and unwillingness to learn and improve?  Do I have the courage to stand for what I know is right and true, in spite of contrary opinions around me? Is my stubbornness and unapproachability an impediment to spreading Gospel truths and values?  Do I teach not only with my words, but with my example, with the spirit of doing good to others? (p. 165)

AN INVITATION:  On Sunday, September 4, you are welcome to attend a presentation -- "Mother Teresa: A Saint of Mercy" at Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Parish in Andover, NJ.  Please click here for more information.