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Postings by Siobhan O'Neill Meluso

Hearing- and sight-impaired Redemptorist priest advocates for special-needs catechesis

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 14, June 2016 Categories: Sacraments,Clergy,Vocation and Discernment
Redemptorist Father Cyril Axelrod, who was born unable to hear and who lost his sight 16 years ago, travels the world to minister and advocate for catechesis "for all people of all ages and all abilities."

Originally from South Africa and a Jewish convert, Axelrod shares with Catholic News Service that he was called by God to spread the gospel to all and that his vocation as a Catholic priest "is to help deaf people open their hearts to see how powerful God is in their lives.” Through his ministry, he encourages parishes and parents of hearing-impaired children to learn advanced sign language so they can help kids grow and express their understanding of faith in a deeper way. He says that sign language, tactile sign language, and body language are "gifts of the Holy Spirit."

Read more here.

Cloistered Catholic nun receives Ph.D. in aerospace engineering

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 09, June 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

Holy Face cloistered nun Sister Benedicta was recently awarded a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from India’s Defence Institute of Advanced Technology.

She previously earned an undergraduate degree at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Pune University. It was during her doctoral studies that she heard her calling to religious life, according to Crux. 

Sister Benedicta joined the cloistered Carmelite convent in Pune in 2015. Sister Benedicta's graduation was the very first time she had stepped outside the convent since entering.

The Carmelite provincial, based in Bangalore, emailed Sister Benedicta and the entire Carmelite community, saying: “You have made the order proud,” and “God bless you!”

Read more here.

Film on Mother Teresa highlights religious communities

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 09, June 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment,Mary and the Saints

The Letters, a film about the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997), portrays an intimate struggle with hope and despair by one of the most famous religious humanitarians of the 20th century. The story follows Mother Teresa's life as told through her revealing letters to her spiritual director Father Celeste van Exem. The reviews of the film were mixed, but the movie interestingly delves into many aspects of religious life and different types of religious communities.  

The film begins with Mother Teresa's first congregation, Loreto Sisters of Dublin, who served in Darjeeling, India, as cloistered teachers of girls. After 15 years of service teaching geography and history, Mother Teresa experienced "a call within a call." She desired to work with the poor, sick, and dying on the streets of Calcutta.

The movie highlights the challenges she faced to establish a new religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, that was fully recognized by the Vatican. Despite her desire to give dignity to those most vulnerable, Mother Teresa experienced deep spiritual darkness at times, which is well-depicted.

The Letters is available on DVD and Netflix. Mother Teresa's canonization ceremony will be Sept. 4, 2016.

A dictionary for discerners is a great reference resource to help understand parts of the film.

61 cloistered nuns visit Chilean prison for Year of Mercy

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 02, June 2016 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Liturgy,Consecrated Life

In May, 61 cloistered nuns from six monasteries in Santiago, Chile, spent time with inmates at a local women's prison and attended Mass with them, as part of this Year of Mercy. Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who celebrated the Mass, shared with Catholic News Agency that the nuns requested the joint visit, “so the sisters who contemplate the face of God every day in prayer could contemplate him in the face of people who are suffering, going through a hard time in their lives.”

The nuns, who lead a traditional enclosed monastic life, sang a Chilean song and four even danced after they all celebrated Mass. "[It was] a grace to share with them, to really feel like a sister with them, to feel their sorrow, their joy and to become one with them,” said Sister Maria Rosa of the Discalced Carmelites from the San José monastery.

Read more here.

The Year of Mercy runs through November 2016.

Sisters credited with helping Vatican map the stars

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 26, May 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

Father Sabino Maffeo, S.J., assistant to the director of the Vatican Observatory, recently discovered the names of four Sisters of the Holy Child who helped map a section of the night sky that was assigned, as part of an international project, to the Vatican Observatory in 1887. Italian Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi, and Luigia Panceri helped catalog nearly half a million stars. Using photographic plates, the Vatican Observatory, along with 19 other countries, mapped the entire sky.

In 1920 Pope Benedict XV received the sisters in a private audience and gave them a gold chalice. Pope Pius XI also received the "measuring nuns" eight years later, awarding them a silver medal.

Read the full Catholic News Service story here and the Smithsonian Magazine article here.

"Friars on Foot" pilgrimage in U.S. to promote vocations

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 24, May 2016 Categories: Clergy,Vocation and Discernment

Inspired by the movie, "The Way," starring Martin Sheen, about a man who completes the 450-mile Camino de Santiago, the "Way of St. James," pilgrimage, Dominican Fathers Francis Orozco and Thomas Shaefgen decided to do their own "Friars on Foot" pilgrimage in the United States to promote vocations while commemorating the 800th anniversary of their congregation.

According to Catholic News Service, the 478-mile pilgrimage will begin May 29 in New Orleans and end on June 29 in Memphis. Orozco and Shaefgen will average 16 miles per day and encourage people to join them on the walk for an hour or two that roughly follows Highway 51 north to Memphis.

"We will not carry any money and we will sort of beg. We hope people will provide us with apples and granola bars. We don't plan to use any money. We will carry ID cards and medical insurance cards in case that's needed. We've compromised with our superior that we will have somebody update the website every time we reach a destination," Father Orozco said.

The Dominicans plan to stay overnight with Catholic families and churches, celebrate Mass, and give vocation talks about the Order of Preachers, whose earliest members were itinerant.

Learn more about the Order of Preachers here.

Benedictine monks in Italy tap U.S. craft beer market

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 24, May 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

Over the centuries, there have been many monasteries that have made and sold wine and beer. In recent years, with craft breweries becoming all the rage in the United States, some beer-brewing monks are tapping into the trend, according to the Los Angeles Timesnamely the American monks who produce a beer line called Birra Nursia at the Monastero di San Benedetto in central Italy.

“I knew the difference between craft beer and run-of-the-mill factory beer,” says Father Benedict Nivakoff, originally from Connecticut, who is proud of Birra Nursia’s two beers, a blond ale and a Belgian strong ale that hit the U.S. market in April. “Our life is mostly centered around prayer,” he says, “so we get up at 3:30 in the morning, we pray seven times a day, we’re in and out of the church every hour—there isn’t a lot else we can do, besides the brewery.”

Another popular beer brewed by monks is Ovila Abbey Saison—this one in the United States. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. brews the Ovila Abbey Ales series in collaboration with the Trappist monks of Abbey of New Clairvaux. These Cistercian brothers harvest fruit for the beer from their orchards in Vina, California, where they also tend vineyards for wine-making.

Read more: "Raise a glass to the brewing monks!".

Portrait photos of Hawthorne Dominican Sisters featured in New York Times

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 19, May 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

Portrait photos of Hawthorne Dominican Sisters were recently featured in the New York Times, profiling those who serve the dying at Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York. Founder Mother Mary Alphonsa, born Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, daughter of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, said, "We cannot cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days and keep them comfortable and free of pain."

The photographer Gillian Laub learned of the sisters when her mother-in-law was suffering from terminal cancer and spent her final days with the sisters. Laub wanted to capture the tenderness and care in the eyes and faces of these Hawthorne Dominican Sisters in the 15 portraits of each woman.

View the slideshow of the portraits and original article here.

Discover more about Dominican Sisters (O.P.) here

Sisters of Life celebrate 25 years of ministry

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 12, May 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

Founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor, the Sisters of Life are an emotional and spiritual outreach to pregnant women in crisis in New York City. As a contemplative and active religious community, the sisters' charism is to “protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.” Pregnant women are welcome at the congregation's Visitation Mission and its Holy Respite residence at Sacred Heart Convent, and some are permitted to stay in the residence until their babies are one year old.

“One of the reasons for the joy in the community is we believe each person has some beautiful, unique goodness and we have the joy of discovering that in them and reflecting it back so she has the experience of her own dignity, goodness and strength,” Sister Mary Elizabeth said. “That person becomes a gift to us in our recognizing her for who she is. She reveals to us the splendor and beauty of God.”

The sisters do not advertise and rely on word-of-mouth from friends and former clients to share the mission of their community.

Read more from Catholic News Service here.

Monk's secret bread ingredient: prayer

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 05, May 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment
The role of Brother Pachomius Alvarado, O.S.B. at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, is to bake classic cinnamon raisin monk's bread—a recipe that has been passed down from many monks before him. “From the very beginning, the monks have baked bread,” Alvarado says. “Our life—the work that I do here—these things are not my will; they’re the will of our superior. It’s important in the community, in this moment, for me to do this; to bake this bread,” Crux reports.

Cuban-born Brother Alvarado had a career in marketing and public relations before entering the monastery. He did not know before about Ora et Labora, the Benedictine Latin motto "prayer and work," but now he fully embraces the Rule of St. Benedict and counts prayer as the secret ingredient in his popular bread.

Discover more about the Rule of St. Benedict and the life of another Benedictine monk in this article: My unlikely journey to brotherhood.

Irish sister killed in Ecuador quake remembered

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 21, April 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 17 has taken the lives of more than 400 people, including Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, age 33, and six others of the order.

According to Catholic News Agency, Sister Crockett, originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, once said she felt there was "no room for God" in the Catholic-Protestant tension and violence of her youth. At 18 she was an aspiring actress, but a free trip to Spain that turned out to be a 10-day pilgrimage, which she tried to get out of, changed her life. "It was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back home, back to her and her Son,” she said. “I was not a very happy camper. Nevertheless, it was on that pilgrimage that Our Lord gave me the grace to see how He had died for me on the Cross. After I had received that grace, I knew that I had to change." Sister Crockett entered the Servant Sisters in August 2001 and made her perpetual vows in 2011.

Spiritual director Father Roland Calhoun told BBC Radio Foyle (Belfast Telegraph) that Sister Crockett was "a young girl who gave her life to God and died for the gospel. She was a joyful girl, I've known her since she was a teenager. A beautiful person. I'll remember the joy that she brought to her youth group and the enthusiasm she showed for her vocation to religious life."

'Imagine a Sister's Life' with new app

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Friday 08, April 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The Sisters of Bon Secours have launched an amazing, eye-catching, heartstring-pulling app, Imagine a Sister's Life, to explore what religious life is all about and what it would be like to be a sister. The free app includes daily reflections, blogs, news and views, faith sharing, virtual retreats, upcoming events, and stories about how sisters were called and their passion for their vocation.

The sisters developed the app to create a place "where a busy young seeker of truth can pause to reflect on the meaning of life, pray in silence, and read articles and thought-provoking commentary on world conditions and social justice efforts."

What's more, "Young adults can share their thoughts online and share opportunities to get involved in helping those unable to help themselves. The application gives them a gentle reminder of the presence of God in their life and provides many areas of support and knowledge as they continue to grow through their life experiences. For those interested in learning more about religious life there are a variety of professional videos that give them a sense of what an active life in community and ministry looks like as a sister."

Check out this app with these download links: 

ImagineASistersLife APP on iPhone: 

ImagineASistersLife APP on android phone:

The sisters said, "Based on current world conditions, the millennials will be called upon over the course of their lifetime to make many serious moral and ethical decisions both in their own lives and in protecting the health and well-being of others globally. It is hoped that this application proves to be a strong support for young adults, creating an online community that enriches their journey of faith."

Benedictine Sisters of Chicago lead peace walk

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 07, April 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Prayer and Spirituality

The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago organized a peace walk in April to grieve the loss of the life of 18-year-old Antonio Robert Johnson, who was recently gunned down in front of their home, St. Scholastica Monastery. The sisters and their neighbors walked in solidarity against violence and injustice in their north side neighborhood of Chicago.  

The primary ministry of the Benedictine Sisters (O.S.B.) of Chicago is community: to minister in education, social services, pastoral ministry, spiritual development, and social justice, to name a few.

Sister Benita Coffey, O.S.B., who promotes social justice for the Benedictines, shared with the Chicago Tribune: "We've been on this property since 1906 and we are not getting up and leaving the neighborhood. We're going to support our neighbors in whatever ways we can."

'The Friar App' calls for prayer intentions

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 07, April 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Clergy

As part of their 800-year tradition, Franciscan friars pray for the intentions of those who ask and now continue to with the help of technology. The U.S. Franciscans have developed "The Friar App", available in both the Apple App and Google Play stores, for the faithful to send prayer intentions to Franciscan friars across the United States and for followers of the app to lift up those prayers as one community of faith.

Followers of the app can join in the prayers of others in addition to posting their own prayer requests. It's free to download and post and follow prayers, but for a small fee, you may have a real candle lit in a Franciscan church for a particular intention. 

Discover more about the many provinces of Franciscan Friars serving both domestic and foreign missions in a variety of ministries.

100 years of sisters' service in Harlem celebrated

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 31, March 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

According to the Amsterdam News, the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary are celebrating a century of service in Harlem, New York, with a gala at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan. One of only three orders of black nuns in the United States, they established one of the first preschool educational programs in New York in 1923 and feed more than 20,000 families annually at the St. Edward Food Pantry on Staten Island.

With six new sisters in formation and the opening of a new convent in Nigeria, the sisters believe, as shared by congregation minister Sister Gertrude Lilly Ihenacho, that “the mission of the order has not yet ended, and the spirit informed us to wake up and revive what is left before we die.”

Essence magazine editor-in-chief emerita and founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement Susan L. Taylor will present the Centennial Award to the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary at the gala, which Sister Ihenacho hopes will have a wonderful turnout as the proceeds benefit scholarships for children to attend St. Benedict Day Nursery with the next generation of FHM sisters.

New podcast launched for Jubilee of Mercy pilgrims to Rome

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 28, March 2016 Categories: Church History
According to Rome Reports, podcast Catholic Bytes is launching a new program, called Misericordia Media, in honor of the Jubilee of Mercy, for pilgrims traveling to Rome, giving them the opportunity to listen and reflect. 
The 7-minute podcast guides and prepares pilgrims historically and spiritually to walk through the Holy Door. Catholic Bytes hopes that the podcast and future YouTube series will help pilgrims to continue to "bear witness to the mercy they have received" on the pilgrimage and beyond.
Check out other Year of Mercy pilgrimage sites and events and other vocation opportunities on our events calendar here.

Trappist monk's calligraphy inspired Apple

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 15, March 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Prayer and Spirituality,Clergy

According to The New York Times, Father Robert Palladino, former Trappist monk and world-renowned master calligrapher, died on Feb. 26 at age 83 in Sandy, Oregon. Palladino is credited with influencing the onscreen fonts and overall physical design of the Apple computers that Steve Jobs would create after auditing Palladino's calligraphy class at Reed College in 1972, four years before founding the company. 

Palladino's vocation to religious life began in 1950 at age 17 when he joined the Trappist order in Pecos, New Mexico, where he first received his calligraphic training, in silence, and later became the principal scribe in 1955. When the monastery moved to the Willamette Valley in Oregon in 1958, Palladino was ordained a priest. However, the reforms of Vatican II led him to leave the monastery in 1968 and settle in Portland where he joined Reed College a year later and was able to continue his advance study in calligraphy. Ironically Palladino never used an Apple computer.

Learn more about Palladino's career and return to religious life as a diocesan priest in Portland here as well as the life of Trappists here

Third annual National Catholic Sisters Week celebrated

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 08, March 2016 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

During the third annual National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), women religious are being celebrated in a series of events at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and beyond. NCSW is a week-long chance to recognize, focus on, and honor the lives of women religious and the incredible example and difference they have made in the world in a variety of online and local events; check out the entire list here.

According to the Global Sisters Report, co-executive directors of NCSW Molly Hazelton and Dominican Sister Mary Soher said NCSW is an opportunity for the larger community to get to know about the sisters all around them.

"We have found again and again . . . young women—whether they consider themselves religious or not—they're just in awe of these sisters," said Christina Capecchi, a spokesperson for NCSW. "They're blogging about their relationships with them, they just admire the sisters so much. . . . Of course, their work with social justice, that really excites the young women we work with. To these girls, they're heroes."

Franciscan from the start to the finish line

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 03, March 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Consecrated Life

Brother Joseph Maria, of the South Bend, Indiana, Franciscan Brothers Minor, jogs around town in his brown woolen robe and sandals, sporting a beard and shaved head, according to the South Bend Tribune.

This friar, along with five others, are among the subgroup within the Franciscan order established by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades (Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend) six years ago. The brother friars are fully recognized by the church but are going through the steps to gain more jurisdiction over themselves. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, living simply to focus on service to the gospel, these brothers focus on prayer, work with a Mishawaka youth group, and religious education at a nearby parish.

Brother Joseph struggled with whether to continue jogging as a friar, but decided that running in his robe is an outward sign that the brothers continue the "walk" of Saint Francis. As they have no income, the brothers walk for transportation and beg for what goods and foods they need.

Learn more about the Franciscans Friars here

Contemplative nuns subject of Oscar-nominated short film

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 24, February 2016 Categories: Catholic culture,Ecumenism

"Ave Maria" is one of five live-action short films nominated for the Academy Award this year and is getting great reviews from religious sisters, as well as from Jewish and Palestinian Arab and Christian audiences, according to The Global Sisters Report. This 14-minute comedy of errors combines the unlikely encounter between contemplative Carmelite nuns who live a vow of silence and a family of Jewish settlers whose car breaks down in front of the convent in the Palestinian West Bank. The Jewish settlers are struggling to adhere to the Sabbath laws while the sisters are attempting to help repair the car with no verbal communication.

Palestinian-British director Basil Khalil wanted to highlight in the film that sometimes "strict rules can be broken for the common good. ... It won't be the end of the world when you reach out to help someone in need, even though you might have to break a rule or two."

Learn more about the Carmelite order here.



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