I am praying for all of you in this time of darkness. We are not alone. God is at our side, loving us in these uncertain times.
Like many around the world, we are sheltering in place as I write to you from Long Beach, CA. In his extraordinary blessing, Pope Francis expressed, “We have realized that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time…all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”
Today, I want to offer a few stories of hope.
When we were still allowed to go to go outside (which now has changed), sidewalk chalk literally stopped me in my tracks! Under the big rainbow was an outline of two footprints with invitations that read, “Stop Here” and “Appreciate Life” 🙂 Sometimes the most simple reminders are the ones we most need to hear. How can we, in the context of where we are, stop and appreciate life? How can we find ways to cultivate gratitude for and within our families? I later learned that a little girl and her mom created that inspirational art together. The chalk has now faded, which gives my heart even more joy that many passed by and perhaps were drawn into gratitude.
Seeking beauty can also nourish our spirits. As I sat in our patio last week, an angry hummingbird kept circling me, despite my insistence that I was not a flower. Then, I saw her fly to her nest to feed her two babies! It was truly a blessing for my community to witness their process of growth. My heart was overcome with joy the day one of the babies spread its wings and flew! It was amazing to see such a fragile, new creature learning how to fly. It reminded me of the Beatle’s “Blackbird” song- “blackbird singing in the dead of night…take these broken wings and learn to fly.” I reflect on how we, as a society, can arise. I must continue believing that we can learn to fly again as a people. Through the grace of God, I believe it is possible and, perhaps in a more just and inclusive way.
Yesterday, I discovered the nest was now empty. The other baby learned to fly too! I was thrilled, but also a bit sad- our babies grew up so fast! I’m certain parents understand this feeling in a more profound way. God, however, continues to surprise me; instead of us going to the nest to quietly observe our little friends, we now have two noisy, little hummingbirds that fly over to check us out!
This little family of hummingbirds is a simple reminder that in the midst of this difficult moment, there is new life. And for that, I can be grateful.
Finally, after three years of monthly payments, my student loans have been paid off in full by The Labouré Society!
Again, thank you for your generous support in helping me to respond to my missionary call to religious life. As well, my friend Nick Martell was able to finally overcome his student loan barrier and enter the seminary in the Diocese of San Bernardino on August 22, 2019! Like every aspirant who “graduates,” the Labouré Society will make monthly payments for three years, as a safe-guard to all who generously donated, before his loans are paid off in full.
I believe we can all be story-tellers of hope. When we share what gives us hope, we build the kingdom of God.
What story of hope can you share with someone this week?
Peace and many blessings,
Sister Laryn Kovalik, VDMF
Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity
The Verbum Dei Missionaries and I want to support you in this time.
Below is more information about:
- Daily prayer podcasts
- An online prayer group
- Online Holy Week & Easter Retreat, April 3- April 12.
What? This year’s preparation for Easter is like none before and we would like to journey with you as a community through Holy Week into the great celebration of Easter.
- Starting on Friday April 3 in the afternoon, we will upload and send out two prayer reflections daily. The reflections will be available on our Facebook Page, SoundCloud, or via email if you sign up (see below).
- We invite you each day to set aside a time of silence and prayer after listening / watching the prayer reflections.
- You may want to journal or draw as a way to express your prayer experience.
- There are different ways you can participate:
- Listening or watching the reflections at your own pace and whenever you want to.
- Participating in a group sharing 2-3 times during the week (sign up required).
- Individual conversations with a missionary during the week (sign up required).
- The reflections will be available in English and Spanish.
I’m a nun and I’ve been social distancing for 29 years. Here are tips for staying home amid coronavirus fears.
By Sister Mary Catharine Perry, as told to Cassidy Grom
For the past 29 years, I’ve chosen to practice social distancing. Of course, I and the 17 other nuns I live with don’t call it that.
We are formally called cloistered sisters, meaning we never leave our walled-off monastery in Summit except for doctors’ visits or perhaps shopping for a specific item. We don’t go to parties or weddings or out to eat with friends. I often go months without leaving our 8-acre home.
Of course, this virus is not good. Sickness never is. And I understand that this sudden shift in our society is frightening. As someone who has lived a life of separation, I’d like to share from my experience how you can make the best of it.
First, you need to establish structure.
Your normal day-to-day lives have structure imposed on them from the outside; you have to catch the train at a certain time to go to work, you have school recess at the same time every day. These things give you a sense of consistency and rhythm.
Now that you are stuck at home, create a schedule for yourself and your family. At the monastery, we wake up at the same time every day and get fully dressed (no pajamas). We have planned time for prayer, worship, work, eating and fun. Our days usually have a peaceful rhythm. This might take some experimentation; each household is different and for many, it might be the first time they spend an extended period of time with roommates or family.
Second, be intentional and love others.
It is easy to get caught up in making sure you and your loved ones are safe and your needs are met. We are in uncharted territory and these reactions are understandable. However, we should fight against self-centered urges. Call older people in your neighborhood and ask how they are doing, if they need anything.
Give the gift of your time. Cook meals with your family and play games. It is interesting that a lot of people are frightened by this extended time at home because the core structure of society is the family unit. Maybe this is a good opportunity for all of us to strengthen those family bonds, and our efforts will have an effect on the wider community.
Don’t hide from roommates under the guise of needing to work; get to know them and learn to enjoy their company. At the monastery, the prayer bell rings and it forces me to stop working and to focus on why I’m really here. It reminds me to leave the project at hand (whether that is making candles or soap, operating our gift shop, gardening or working in the kitchen), and join my sisters. The projects that I am working on aren’t bad; they are good, but sometimes I can allow myself to be too busy.
Guidestar provides unbiased information to help donors and key stakeholders make educated decisions about nonprofits and the work they do.
Eagan, MN, USA (16 July 2019) — Labouré has been recognized as one of the most transparent organizations in the nonprofit sector.
As Labouré celebrates 16 years of helping aspiring priests, sisters, and brothers to fulfill their dream of answering God’s call, we are honored that Guidestar has recognized Labouré with the Platinum Seal of Transparency, Guidestar’s most prestigious award.
Every day, Labouré strives to make the world a better place by delivering more priests and religious to the Catholic Church. Nothing could be more rewarding than seeing a Labouré alum achieve ordination or profess final vows, but a little industry recognition now and then never hurts.
Guidestar’s mission is to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.
Labouré is a Catholic nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the vocation crisis. Founded in 2003, Labouré has assisted hundreds of priests, sisters, and brothers into formation through a proven and effective multi-dimensional fundraising model. In every region of the U.S., the poor are being cared for, the elderly are being ministered to, and the sacraments are being distributed by Labouré graduates. Labouré is a 501(c)3 and is listed in the Official Catholic Directory.
Bill LeMire: +1.612.295.2548, firstname.lastname@example.org
WICHITA, Kan. — Father Chad Arnold, vocations director in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, is hesitant to dole out advice about how a diocese can increase its priestly vocations.
He recognizes that he has been blessed.
At a time when bishops and vocations directors across the universal Church are wringing their hands about a dire shortage of priests, Wichita has ordained 10 men to the priesthood for the second year in a row, upping the priestly population there by about 20%.
“I wish there were an easy, A-B-C sort of answer, but, in reality, it’s so many things we are blessed with that I believe aid our vocations,” Father Arnold told CNA.
One of those things is a commitment to perpetual-adoration chapels in diocesan parishes.
“We have a high number of perpetual-adoration chapels throughout our diocese, so we have a lot of young men spending time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “That moment of silence is so critical to hear the Lord speaking to them, so that availability is there.”
The diocese has also been blessed with priests “who work hard and live their faith and take joy in their priesthood and provide tremendous examples and models for the young men in the parishes,” Father Arnold added, as well as good and faithful bishops who have directed the diocese well.
Six men who were ordained as priests of Wichita have since become bishops, including Bishop Shawn McKnight, who was installed in February as bishop of Jefferson City, Missouri. The diocese, which sits in the southeast corner of the state, covers 20,021 square miles across 25 counties and is home to 114,195 Catholics in 90 parishes. While most of these parishes are covered by one priest, the recent bumper crops of priestly ordinations mean that some larger parishes with hundreds of families are able to have two or even three priests.
“It’s extra camaraderie, working as a team to get together and assess certain situations and try to come up with a positive, spirit-filled response, rather than just one person himself mulling over a task or a challenge,” Father Jerome Spexarth, who just gained a new priest at his parish, told The Wichita Eagle.
“It’s been a great aspect of teamwork. Jesus does send out the apostles two by two,” he added.
The diocesan Catholic school system, which includes 35 grade schools and four high schools, also helps to foster vocations, Father Arnold noted.
“I think people teaching the faith in those schools who take their faith seriously and earnestly and have a joyful, loving faith with Our Lord and are able to pass it on,” he said.
The culture of the Midwestern Plains state is also one of those “intangibles” that nonetheless is an important contributing factor that encourages vocations, Father Arnold noted.
The diocese is mostly made up of small, rural towns where churches are often the center of social life, big families aren’t an anomaly, and the idea of stewardship is embedded in the culture.
Sr. Mary Gianna is a graduate of the Labouré program. Through Labouré, Sister resolved her student loan debt and was able to pursue her dream of laying down her life for the Catholic Church. We know that you will enjoy her beautiful story:
Testimony by Sr. Mary Gianna, DLJC
REFLECT – When I was in the third grade, a classmate of mine asked me, “What are you?” She was Mormon and was asking me what faith background I was. I remember thinking, “I don’t know.” I did not even know exactly what this meant. I remember going home from school that day and asking my mother, “What are we?” I did not have an answer to that question until the Advent of 2000, at the most difficult point in my life, when God broke in and shattered my darkness with His light.
Advent is a special time for me because it reminds me of the coming of Jesus into my own life. I came to know His love for me and that I was a child of God. That is when it all began. I am grateful for all God has done for me and my prayer is that He will do the same for you! I pray that this Advent will be a life-changing time of grace for you, and that you also may come to know who you are in Christ Jesus and God’s great plans for you.
SHARE – You may know people who do not know God, as I did. Just as we give Christmas cards and presents, the best gift we can send is Jesus. Share this video with those who need to hear this message today and say a prayer for them to receive the greatest gift of all – the gift of Jesus.
By Melissa Enaje
“Yes, there is a vocation crisis, but we have to realize student loans are a substantial inhibitor to our vocations and the people wanting to give their lives,” said Norvilia Etienne, a college student in her final year of study at Queens College.
Last February, the parishioner from Holy Family, Fresh Meadows, petitioned to enter the religious community of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. After evaluation, she was accepted into the order. Except there was one catch – she must be free from any financial debt, including student loans, before she could enter as a candidate.
“I want people to know that it is a problem, first of all,” Etienne said. “It’s a problem and it’s affecting a lot of people who are wanting to become religious.”
A 2012 study by CARA for the National Religious Vocation Conference found that while most religious institutes have a written policy or accepted practice on educational debt, 70 percent of the religious communities where more than three candidates had educational debt reported turning someone away. In the same study, 80 percent of those communities asked potential candidates to delay their application because of debt.
Not all religious institutes have the capacity to take on the educational debt of candidates and according to the same study, some assume the debt and pay it off over time or ask candidates to defer their loans. A small number pay interest on the student loans until the member professes perpetual vows.
When Etienne graduates next spring, the unpaid debt from her undergraduate degree would pose a potential roadblock to joining religious life. So her Benedictine Sisters introduced her to The Laboure Society, a non-profit that helps people who want to join religious life or the priesthood by raising funds to pay off their loans.
Sitting inside a booth at a Fresh Meadows diner, the rising college senior displayed characteristics most students portray during summer break – easy-going, calm and hungry for adventure. Her laugh was infectious as she dived her fork into a vegetarian omelet as big as the hat on her head.
“It’s $60,000 dollars,” she said. “That’s what I’m gutting for. It would be great if I had one benefactor write me a $60,000 check and then it would be over! I can enter the convent!”
The price tag comes from a fundraising pool that averages the amount each candidate must strive to reach even if they owe more or less money. Etienne is one student in a class of 17 whom their diocese or religious community has accepted, but who lack the financial freedom to enter. With assistance from The Laboure Society, their donations will be doled out among the class and applied to students’ loans over a set time period.
In an email to The Tablet, Laboure’s Director of Admissions Maritza Sanchez stated that their organization assisted candidates from a variety of backgrounds including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, lawyers, teachers, therapists and even artists.
One wonders what goes through the mind of a college student who not only has her final year of studies to undergo, but on top of that, must raise thousands of dollars to join an order of singing, and Billboard chart-topping, Benedictine nuns?
It’s simple: hope.
“I just want to enter,” she said. “I just want to give my life to Him and whatever amount anyone could give would go a very long way.”
A MUST WATCH! See Brother Francis Mary, Brother Cornelius, and Brother Vincent Mary (three of our Labouré alumni) discuss the life-changing impact that our program had on their vocations. We have assisted six Dominican Vocations in the Eastern Province alone in the last three years. Thanks be to God for their vocations! “Laboure was a real blessing to me because it allows you to see people believe in your vocation and that’s a real affirmation…” -Brother Cornelius.
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press
She was a punishing fullback who saved teamates from blindside hits. Now, she saves people from sin.
Sister Rita Clare Yoches, formerly Anne Yoches, will make her final vows to Jesus Christ on June 30 in Toronto, Ohio.
Just over a decade ago, she was a punishing blocker for the Detroit Demolition, the now-defunct professional women’s football team that won championships in droves. Before that, she was a tough point guard at Detroit Mercy who liked to party.
Yoches’ religious journey can be considered unconventional. How many nuns can say they knocked someone out of a game with a perfectly placed block? Or won four consecutive national titles?
For years, Yoches sacrificed her body for the sake of her team. Then she sacrificed her old life for the sake of God, vowing to live in “chastity, poverty and obedience” for the rest of her life.
“I think (my football career) is foreign to most people,” said Yoches, who changed her name as part of her conversion. “(It’s) just like being a nun is foreign to a lot of people too.”
Yoches, 38, didn’t find her religious calling until later in life, but she always has been an elite athlete.
Growing up in Dearborn, Yoches earned a full basketball scholarship to Detroit Mercy and played there from 1997-2001.
Nikita Lowry Dawkins was her head coach at Detroit Mercy, and she remembers Yoches as a hard-nosed player who never got tired.
“I often wondered if she was human or not,” Dawkins said. “She was great. She was good for our team.”
Yoches stayed in loose contact with Dawkins after her career ended. Which is perhaps why Dawkins was blindsided when she ran into Yoches during a game at Ohio State on Jan. 4. Dawkins, then an assistant at Minnesota, took a look at her old player, clad in a habit and veil, and asked:
“What did I miss?”
The news was shocking. Yet the more Dawkins reflected upon it, the more it made sense.
Labouré Aspirant Robert Degre interviews on CatholicTV show Inter Nos with Bishop Robert Reed of the Archdiocese of Boston! Watch as they speak about Robby’s vocation story, the Labouré Society, and the impact of God working through others to write this next chapter in Robby’s life.
East Meets West In Sisters’ Viral Video Parody of Adele’s ‘Hello’ -Article from the National Catholic Register
Two religious communities in Ohio have collaborated to produce a video that parodies English singer/songwriter Adele’s “Hello” – showing that religious sisters can have a lot of fun while delivering an important message.
Adele’s Piano Ballad
Adele’s Grammy award-winning single “Hello” burst onto the charts in 2015, with her plaintive lyrics focused on nostalgia and regret. The song was an instant hit, reaching No. 1 in almost every country it charted in. In the United States, “Hello” debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, then held the top spot for 10 consecutive weeks. It stands as one of the best-selling singles of all time.
In interviews, Adele described the song as being about “all the relationships of her past,” including relationships with friends, family members and ex-partners. “I felt all of us were moving on,” she explained on The Radio 1 Breakfast Show. “…It’s not that we have fallen out, we’ve all got our lives going on and I needed to write that song so that they would all hear it, because I’m not in touch with them.”
Here’s the original video from Adele:
The Sisters’ Playful Version
And now, two Cleveland-area religious communities have borrowed and expanded upon Adele’s theme, coming together to produce a video parody that’s gone viral. The Mercedarian Sisters and the Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, a Byzantine Catholic women’s monastic community, have produced a YouTube video of their own which combines faith and fun, hope and humor. Only three minutes long, the sisters’ video gained 23,000 views in the first two weeks following its May 1 release.
Here’s their version:
The sisters’ video can be appreciated as just a silly song about a cookie – but on closer review, there’s something much deeper going on.
First, there’s the humorous “Oreo cookie” theme. In the Sisters’ video, an Oreo cookie with separate halves lies on a round table between the groups. The white and black of the cookie reflects the colors of the habits of the two communities. The sisters sing about how they should not be separated; and then symbolically, with just a few steps, they adopt the familiar Oreo pattern: Sisters in black habits on the outside, those wearing creamy white in the center.