Tuesday, March 19, 2019

St. Joseph

We do not have a great deal of information about the man whose feast we celebrate today.  St. Joseph, a humble carpenter, was betrothed to Mary, a Jewish maiden. During their betrothal it was discovered that Mary had conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When Joseph discovered this, he had two options first he could stand by her and taker her into his home as planned or he could have abandoned her and let her be stoned to death.  Joseph chose to continue with his betrothal and marry her, and then when the child Jesus was born Joseph raised him. Joseph followed God’s plan.  Joseph followed all that God had planned and sacrificed his will for the will of God.
Joseph died before Jesus started his public ministry.  He provided for Jesus as his earthly father and sacrificed himself for his love of God and his family.  Joseph never questioned or complained he just did as he was called to do.  In many ways he is the epitome of familial love and all that we should aspire to.  Joseph chose to love God, Mary and Jesus.  He shared in Jesus’ life and followed all that he was called to do.  Let us pray today for the grace to be as open as Joseph was and to follow God’s plan in all that we do.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pope Francis

In many ways it is hard to believe that six years ago today, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope.  So much has changed over these six years both in the Church and in our world.  He chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi and has modeled him in all that he does.  Pope Francis has done so much to move the Church forward at time when the Church is experiencing tremendous pain and suffering.  He has consistently challenged all people to be Christ for one another and has tried to do the same.  As we celebrate his anniversary today let us reflect on his statement, “We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love.  Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a wake-up call. It is the gateway to Lent. We have forty precious days to open ourselves up to God, to examine ourselves in the presence of the one who created us, knows us, and loves us. We have forty days to face ourselves and learn to not be afraid of our sinfulness. We are dust, and to dust we shall return, but with God’s grace we can learn to live this life more fully, embracing our sinfulness, allowing God to transform us.

Lent means “springtime” – coming to new life after winter.  It marks the forty days before Easter, commemorating Jesus’ forty days in the desert and the Israelites forty years in the desert wilderness.  Lent is meant to be an experience.  We are urged to pray, to do penance, and to sacrifice.  With Jesus we make the passage from death to life.  Lent can be a challenge for us; a time to invite Jesus into some area in our lives in need of growth.

This Lent let us look at things a little differently.  Instead of “What will I give up?”  Consider “What does God want to give to you?”  Before you think about what you are going to give up think about what God might be inviting you to.  God wants us to be happy, caring and compassionate toward ourselves and others.  We are meant to be free and not burdened down.

Let us embrace this Lent with a spirit of hope and be ready for big surprises!

Pat Schifini, OSU

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Seeing Clearly

Jesus told his disciples a parable, "Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?  No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.  Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?  How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.  "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.  A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."  Luke 6: 39 - 45

Today’s Gospel is one that is somewhat difficult to hear as it speaks to the heart of the Christian message.  It is so easy for us to find the faults in our brothers and sisters but it is near impossible for us to admit our own faults and shortcomings.  Jesus is rebuking hypocrisy in this message.  No one of us likes to view themselves in light of this Gospel.  It is so easy to hide our faults and short comings.  Perhaps the message of today’s Gospel is to take time to be open to others and reach out in kindness, compassion and mercy.  For if we do this we will be doing just what Jesus desires us to.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Celebrating World Day of Consecrated Life

Today we will celebrate World Day of Consecrated Life.  As we celebrate this day we remember St. Angela who had the vision to begin the Company of St. Ursula, now the Ursuline Community.  We share Sr. Brenda Buckley’s reflection from our St. Angela Feast Day Liturgy as we pray for all religious men and women throughout the world.

As we celebrate the Feast of St. Angela Merici today, and especially after listening to the scripture readings and St. Angela’s own words, I would like to comment on two sculptures of Angela that give us not just images of her in various ways, but perhaps even some insight into how she responded to God’s love in her life. While we honor St. Angela as the foundress of the Ursulines, we also celebrate her whole life’s journey and how this could be a model and inspiration for our own lives. Angela’s life witnesses to how one’s faith grows through commitment to prayer and loving service.

I think these images offer us some perspective on this faith journey.  To me they represent pivotal, important moments in Angela’s life that help us understand how her faithfulness to the actions and inspirations of the Holy Spirit shaped her life.  We know that Angela was part of a devout and loving family who listened to the stories of scripture and for whom faith was a central part of life. This made a great impression on Angela as a young child and helped her develop her relationship with God.  The statue of Angela with the basket of bread, perhaps bringing it to the workmen in the fields, shows that Angela was of service to and very much engaged in the daily life of her world and recalls for me a precious moment in Angela’s life.  Angela experienced tragedy and loss, and she mourned especially her sister and worried about the state of her sister’s soul. In the midst of her ordinary day, God granted Angela a tremendous gift of love and grace with the deep spiritual experience, that we call a vision, in which she was granted the knowledge that her beloved sister was safe with God. This intense prayer experience reflected the profound relationship that Angela had with God.

Angela was aware of the realities of her times, but she was not defeated by them.  Her world included political upheaval, economic disparity, poverty, exploitation of the most vulnerable, and loss of credibility of social institutions. We know that she chose to join the Third Order of St. Francis and was imbued with the Franciscan spirituality and its desire to serve others. Her deep spiritual life and holiness helped her guide and counsel others who were grieving, weighed down by cares and conflict, or seeking peace and consolation. As she continued her faith journey, she inspired by example, and she invited others to do the same.

And this is where the second sculpture fits in. We see Angela sitting on a bench facing an empty space, or rather a place for someone to join her. Her expression and position convey invitation, welcome and openness to listening and sharing. Angela’s delight in and respect for the unique relationship with Christ to which each is called empowered all who met her and who wanted to be part of her vision.  Angela’s vision and mission now centered on a very vulnerable and oppressed group of her day. Angela invited women, ordinary women, to join her to fill that space on the bench to form a new community, a new company who be called to be part of her faith journey.

The first members of the Company of St. Ursula came together and inspired by the Holy Spirit signed in a book their names or made their mark to express their commitment to live a life of consecration in the world. These women were part of something very new in Angela’s time. They were responding to an opportunity that had not been available to them: a chance to choose how they would their faith in their world and environment. It was empowerment for them and for those who would be the support of the new Company of Women. This is where we see the uniqueness of Angela’s mission. All levels of society would be empowered to transform and serve society. The more affluent faithful who were influential in the structures of the society would be called upon to be the guides and support for the new Company of St. Ursula. They also would be part of this unique faith journey. Their witness would be of service to the Company. This new and marvelous vision would be inclusive and would witness to the fact that one’s worth and relationship with God was not determined by one’s socio economic status, but by love and service.

It would be the task of the Company to announce that all are called to be the face of Christ for others and to see the face of Christ in others. It is what we are invited to live today and each day. We are invited to join Angela on that bench, to share faith, insights, hopes and dreams, and to learn from her wisdom gleaned from experience.  It is Angela’s gift to us and to the Church.

This is the truth that Angela speaks to us by her life and in her writings. It is what we must do as she invites us: to Act, move, strive, hope, cry out to God and believe that we will see marvelous things.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Feast of St. Angela and Catholic Schools Week

Today we celebrate two special events, the Feast of St. Angela and the beginning of Catholic Schools Week.

Since 1974, National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, which in 2019 is January 27 - February 2. The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2019 is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”  Through different events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation. 

As we celebrate the Feast of St. Angela Merici today let us remember that she promised to always be in our midst, lending aid to our prayers.  St. Angela Merici was born in Desenzano, Italy in 1470. She grew up on a small farm with her parents, brothers and one sister. Angela was orphaned at 10 years of age and was raised by relatives. 

A young woman of prayer and action, Angela saw the need for education among the poor and especially of girls. Angela believed in girls having an education since women are very influential in families. She and several companions began to teach girls in their homes. Eventually, they formed a company of women under the protection of Saint Ursula, patron of learning, students, and young women.

This small Company of Saint Ursula has grown and developed since its start in 1535 to be a world-wide order of religious women, known largely as the Ursuline Sisters. Working in Angela’s footsteps in the United States, Canada, Australia, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, the Ursuline Sisters continue to educate and serve others in the spirit of Angela. Through prayer and action, Ursuline sisters can be found in the service of all types of ministry so they can continue to meet the needs of today’s times.

Let us join now in prayer today to ask God to bless all those throughout the world who have been touched by the life of St. Angela, that they may live by her spirit, in unity, appreciating, helping and loving as she has loved and believing in God “with firm faith and lively hope”.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Life Well Lived

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of St. Angela on Sunday we pause today to remember and pray for Sr. Jeanne Brennan, OSU, a faithful daughter of Angela who has joined her in Heaven.  May we pray for her and all who dedicated their lives to serving God’s people.

Sr. Jeanne Brennan, a beloved member of the Ursuline Community, died peacefully January 21, 2019 at Andrus-on-Hudson, Hastings, New York.

Born Mary Louise to Ruth Provost and John Brennan in Stamford, CT in 1923, Sr. Jeanne entered the Ursulines in 1945, and was professed in 1948. Sr. Jeanne graduated from the College of New Rochelle in 1945 with a B.A. in History. She also earned an M.S. in Education from Fordham University and an M.S. in Pastoral Counseling from Iona College. In later years she was certified in Sacred Theology from the Institute of Spirituality and Worship at the Jesuit School at Berkeley, California, and in Spiritual Direction from the Center for Spirituality and Justice.

Sr. Jeanne began her ministry of over sixty years as a teacher at Blessed Sacrament, Grand Concourse Ursuline Academy, and the Academy of Mount St. Ursula. She went on to serve as a counselor at the College of New Rochelle and the Ursuline School. In the 1990s she became very active in spiritual direction, providing “Focusing” retreats and workshops to a wide range of groups, both locally and internationally. Sr. Jeanne’s leadership in the Ursuline community includes positions as Novice Mistress, Superior to the North Avenue and St. Teresa’s communities, as a trustee of the College of New Rochelle. Sr. Jeanne served as the liaison to the Ursuline School Mothers Spirituality Group, and to the Ursuline Associates at St. Teresa’s.

A wake will be held at the Ursuline Province Center, New Rochelle, NY, on Wednesday, January 23, 3:00 – 7:00pm, with a prayer service at 4:15 pm. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Province Center Chapel on Thursday, January 24 at 10:30am. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Ursuline Sisters Retirement Fund at the Ursuline Provincialate, 1338 North Avenue, New Rochelle, NY 10804.