Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Gift of Perseverance

The Gift of a Long
Faithful Religious Life

Sister Mary Theresa
of the Holy Family
nee McCaffrey

Sister of Saint Joseph
Brentwood, New York
1947 - 1961
Order of the Most Holy Redeemer
Esopus, New York
June, 1961 to the Present

Today we had the great joy of welcoming our Sr. Mary back into regular community life following her ten days of annual hermit retreat. But our joy was doubled because we also welcomed her to our celebration of the 60th jubilee of her first profession of vows, her solemn commitment to living the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. Sr. Mary spent the first ten years of her religious commitment in an active congregation dedicated to the education of children. In that mission she influenced the lives of many young boys, including nine who eventually became Redemptorist priests. In those good old days she taught 90 third grade boys in her very first year of teaching! She tells her own story on our website.

Sr. Mary is an anchor of prayer and faithfulness in our community. She is a great librarian. In the last few years she entered data for our 6,500 volume library collection to create our on-line catalogue. She is also a wonderful correspondent who has kind words for our benefactors and those who request our prayers for their intentions. She was a wise and generous mentor to me during my three years in first vows leading to solemn vows.

Sr. Mary gives us an example every day of perseverance in prayer and perseverance in spite of physical infirmity and pain. She is patient, gracious and ever willing to do whatever she can. She speaks frankly of her impatience with herself and the surrender required to accept assistance when it is necessary. Since all of us are growing older this is an important teaching for us all.

Sr. Mary is a gift to us. Her vocation and her perseverance in it are gift to her family, the Church and the world. We know that she is also a joy to her Spouse, of whom she strives every day to become that "living memory" which is the core of our Redemptoristine contemplative charism.

Dear Mary, Ad Multos Annos!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another "Little Christmas" Celebrating the Incarnation

Celebration of On-Going and Newly Created Ministry

A special element was added to our monthly A A A special element was added to the feast of "Little Christmas", the Redemptoristine tradition of honoring and remembering the great gift and mystery of the Incarnation on the 25th of each month. We honored Fr. Eugene Grohe on the occasion of his 85th birthday. We saluted his 70 years of Redemptorist life and his service, first as missionary in Brazil, later in parish work stateside and, for the last forty-one years, as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Esopus, NY. We also wanted to offer our thanks and blessing in sending off to new mission Fr. Ronald Bonneau, gifted Redemptorist missionary in Paraguay, pastor stateside, now heading for work among the Hispanic population in the Diocese of Metuchen, NJ. It is also our custom to renew our vows each 25th of the month and have the Prioress, Sr. Paula Schmidt, offer a little "ferverino" for encouragement for the journey. The following are her remarks on this occasion.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

And that is what we celebrate today: the variety of the gifts of the Spirit, the different forms of service of the same Lord, the different workings of God in each one of us. Different as we may be from one another, both as individuals and as communities, we in fact form one Body, in Christ.

Our Eucharist, our thanksgiving feast was offered precisely to celebrate that oneness, and that uniqueness.

Today we want to single out for special blessing and thanksgiving Fr. Gene on his 85th birthday and Fr. Ron, as he leaves to take up his Spanish ministry in Metuchen . Fr. Ron follows the directive of the Lord Jesus who appointed disciples to go ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.

Surely that sums up the Redemptorist vocation which all Redemptorists share, which Fr. Gene has lived for 70 of his 85 years, and which they continue to fulfill daily. We wish you God’s special blessing, and many a year more!

And you, Fr. Ron, who embark on your new work tomorrow with Fr. Jim (James Gilmore), we know that Jesus missions you—and we do too.

The Gospel story I spoke of also speaks to us, your Sisters: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” We do ask, and will continue to ask that you may always have the helpers you need to do God’s work, to reap that harvest for God.

Another occasion we want to mark is the arrival of the Missionary Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to form part of the community here at Mount St. Alphonsus. The spread of the Gospel is their work and their joy too. I know the Redemptorists feel very blessed by their presence.

Today being the 25th of the month, in our Alphonsian-Celestian tradition, we gratefully celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. It is our custom to renew our vows as a community on this day each month, renewing the gift of our lives in gratitude to the God who has given Himself so totally to us. Today we will use a very simple formula for this renewal, hoping that we can say it together thus cementing our relationship with God and our unity with one another in the ongoing work of Redemption.

We also had the great joy to share a festive meal all together. In short, a day of great blessing to us all.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Retreating is Good for the Soul

It has been much too long since my last post. The summer has been a busy one. And that's the truth! All the more reason for me to look forward to six days of quiet personal hermit retreat within our monastery during last week. This is not to be attempted in the normal family home. I know. I tried it. Doesn't work. Sometimes it doesn't even work in a monastery where one's responsibilities may tend to lure one out of solitude. In the family home there are even more ways to be pulled back into the fray. At least here, the meals get prepared, everybody is with the program and does not break into spontaneous conversation upon meeting you in the hall. And there is nothing else that you have to do except to be alone with God. Even in a contemplative monastery the need to occasionally go apart is necessary.

Since our monastery has an almost park-like setting, with paths to walk and a road for strolling down to the river bank, communing with God in creation has great importance for all of us. However, hazy, hot and humid descended last week closing off outdoor meditation as an option. It could have felt like house arrest but it didn't. By the time the days of retreat arrived I felt that I was pretty short on energy and would not be bringing very much to the relationship. I began to mull over the image of spiritually preparing for the retreat as the construction of a humble hut in which to entertain the Lord and listen to whatever He might have to share with me. The weather conspired with the plan and so I spent much time in the humble hut, disposing myself to absorb grace from His presence. And so it was.

For guidance I chose a book I heartily recommend, Moment by Moment - A Retreat in Everyday Life, by Carol Ann Smith, SHCJ and Eugene F. Merz, SJ. (Ave Maria Press, 2000). I quote from the cover:

Drawing on the classic retreat model, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Moment by Moment offers a new and inviting way to find God in our often busy and complex lives. In a series of 32 "Moments," the text guides the reader with thought-provoking questions, practical suggestions, and excerpts carefully chosen from scripture and The Spiritual Exercises. Its simple format can be used by an individual or by groups in a number of ways: as a way of making The Spiritual Exercises in daily life, as a guide for daily prayer, as a companion for reflection, or as suggested themes for a retreat. Drawing upon their extensive experience as spiritual directors, the authors write in their introduction, "This book offers a way to reflect and sift through one's multiple life experiences and to discover in them the leading thread of God's longing and desire to make us a holy people who are given in service to others."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


for the



These have been busy times at our monastery. One sister was hospitalized for a while but is home and on the mend. Two sisters had the joy of visiting their families. And now we have a sister with us who is considering a transfer to our community. Just like any family we have our busy and our quieter periods and also times when everyone has to pitch in more than usual. And, as in any family, these times reveal the strength of our bonds with each other and with our God, for whom, in an ultimate sense, we do it all.

But my work as Vocation Director continues; answering requests for information via, mail, phone and internet; corresponding with and talking to those who are wending their way through the discernment process. Lately, a few have asked about what they might be reading to further inform themselves. My recommendations come from the point of view of contemplative monastic life. Yet these books also hold wisdom for the broad spectrum of vowed religious life and interested laity.

Thomas Merton
- The Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality
- New Seeds of Contemplation
- The Inner Experience
All of Merton's writing is powerful reading that withstands the test of time. He died in 1968. These three works speak not only a particular life style and its spirtuality but to the totality of the contemplative dimension and its call to live out of the true self.

Michael Casey, OCS
- Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of St. Benedict
- A Guide to Living in the Truth: St. Benedict's Teachings on Humilty
- Fully Human and Fully Divine (Christology)
- Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)
Michael Casey is a Trappist monk of Tarawarra Australia. His writing is total gift.

Barbara Fiand, SNDdeN
- Refocusing the Vision: Relgious Life into the Future
An experienced religious and writer of depth locating religious life in our time.

John Neafsey
- A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience
Wonderful comparatively new book concerned with the philosophy of discernment of vocation in general stressing the sacredness of personal call.

Sandra Schneiders, IHM
- Finding the Treasure: Locating Catholic Religious Life in a New Ecclesial and Cultural Context
- Selling All: Commitment, Consecrated Celibacy, and Community in Catholic Religious Life.
The third book in this series is eagerly awaited by those who read the first two. Sr. Sandra is a first class scholar whose writing makes demands on the reader. The first volume situates religious life in the context of its history and experience extending into our current time. The second volume concerns itself primarily with the vow of chastity. The third volume, yet to come, will focus on poverty and obedience.