Saturday, August 24, 2019

Come Rest by the Water

For the last few days there have been frequent posts about the last days of summer.  People are sad to see the hazy, hot days disappear yet are anticipating the cool, colorful days of fall.  Today I took a few hours to go over to the beach and sit by the water.  Someone posted on social media how the “beach is one place you can go and have your blood pressure drop even though there is salt.”  The beach is a place of beauty and calm for me.  I saw several butterflies, families enjoying time together, students worrying about their schedules, and those trying to stay out of the sun.  It was a beautiful day and a pure gift for me.  I was one of the first people to arrive and when I left the beach was mobbed with people.  It was so nice to be able to have some quiet time at the beach as it is one of my most favorite places to pray.  I find the image of the vast ocean a tremendous reminder of our God’s abundant love for each one of us.  At first the water looked like clear glass and the waves picked up later.  It was very relaxing and calm.  May these last lazy days of summer be filled with many blessings and much peace for all.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Queenship of Mary

Today we celebrate the memorial of the Queenship of Mary.  This memorial has its roots in Scripture for at the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive David’s throne and rule forever.  At her visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, Mary is called the “mother of my Lord.”  Her queenship is closely aligned to Jesus’ kingship.

Throughout history we have all sung songs in honor of Mary.  We have sung:  Hail Holy Queen, Lady of Knock, the Ave Maria and the Salve Regina, as well as many others.  Each of these hymns point to Mary’s place of honor in our lives.  Mary is the Mother of Jesus and is to be revered that way.  She is our advocate with Jesus in a very real way.  Mary has been called our Mediatrix with Jesus assuring us that she is always there for us.  May we take time today to spend some time with Mary, our Mother, who has always promised to be with us.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A Loving Invitation

A young man approached Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?"  He answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good.  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."  He asked him, "Which ones?"  And Jesus replied, "You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  The young man said to him, "All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me."  When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Matthew 16: 19 – 22

There are times when I find this Gospel passage very perplexing.  They young many rather innocently approaches Jesus and asks Him a question.  The answer he received was not the one I think he was expecting.  I think he expected Jesus to congratulate him on keeping the law and doing everything right.  But there was still more that Jesus was requiring.  I believe if Jesus were to come today and have this conversation with any of us I think He would ask us to put down our cell phones and listen with our hearts, put away our computers and focus on those we are with and to reach out and help those in need no matter who they are.  Jesus calls us to surrender all the things which block us from having a deeper relationship with Him.  In this deeper relationship all things will be taken care of.  The less we carry and cling to the easier it is to receive His invitation of unconditional love and grace.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Senseless Violence

In the last week we, as a nation, have heard the reports of 4 mass shootings.  The scenes were:

• El Paso, Texas

• Dayton, Ohio

• Southaven, Mississippi

• Gilroy, California

In these mass shootings some 34 people lost their lives and more than 50 were wounded.  These are men, women and children, our brothers and sisters who have been injured or murdered.  There is no common source other than the ability to purchase guns is too easy.  
A week bookended by violence has left residents shaken, frustrated and grieving.

These shootings took place at a festival in Northern California, a neighborhood Walmart in Mississippi, another Walmart on the border of Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, and a popular entertainment district in Dayton.  There have been 251 shootings this year alone.  Where will it end?  Innocent people are being killed or injured.

Pope Francis offered his condolences Sunday to the victims of the multiple mass shootings in the US.

At the Angelus noon prayer in Italy, Francis said the attacks affected “defenseless people,” and also extended his “spiritual closeness,” to the victims of the California attack that happened earlier this week.

I express my spiritual closeness to the victims of the episodes of violence that these days have bloodied Texas, California and Ohio, in the United States, affecting defenseless people,” he said. “I invite you to join in my prayer for those who have lost their lives, for the wounded and their families.”

Let us join in prayer for the victims of these shootings and help to make the changes necessary to stop the senseless violence.  Gun control is a Pro-Life issue. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

40 Years of Music

Today I had the privilege of attending the closing concert of the Songcatchers Choir Camp Concert.  It was a wonderful celebration of the past forty years.  Some 40 years ago, Sr. Beth Dowd, had a dream of having a week long experience for her then children’s choir.  She believed that if they could go away for an intense program of music, arts & crafts, drama, sports and swimming they would learn music that they could use all year long.  The choir began with 33 campers and a staff of 15, today the choir and staff number well over 100 people.  Many of the first campers are counselors today.  It is a tribute to a dream that began some 40 years ago.  Today’s performance included songs and plays from the past camps.  It was very cleverly done and the overarching theme was that music unites all people.  The mission of Songcatchers remains “reaching for peace through music.”  Today’s performance mirrored that reality.  These talented young people will continue to make the world a better place by their presence and love for one another.  May we take every opportunity to be a force for unity, kindness, concern and peace.  It is by living this way that we continue to touch hearts and minds.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Convocation 2019

Today we await the arrival of the participants in the North American Ursuline Convocation entitled, “Angela’s Family:  Celebrating, Converging, Expanding.”  Ursuline Sisters, Ursuline Associates, Members of the Company and Colleagues will gather to explore and celebrate the special way of life that St. Angela has given to us.  We all know that God has blessed each one of us through the life and works of our beloved foundress.  St. Angela promised to, “Remain in our midst and encourage us to steadfastly continue the work we have begun.”  Surely Angela will be with us in St. Louis.

As we gather these days we will look at:  What does Angela’s charism mean to you personally?  How do you see Angela’s charism spreading in the next 10 years?  What would our planning process look like if Angela were sitting at this table with us?  These questions will be explored over the course of the next 4 days. 

When Angela’s family gathers together it is very much like a big family reunion.  Each time we gather there are new faces and a certain sadness about those who can no longer be with us.  The faces may have changed but the reality is we are still family we are there for one another and look forward to catching up with one another.  May these days of Convocation be richly blessed and may Angela be in our midst lending aid to our prayer.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Martha and Mary

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me."   The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.   Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."  Matthew 10:  38 – 42

In today’s Gospel we meet up with Martha and Mary, the sisters of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. This story always reminds me of the virtue of hospitality.  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to every word He said.  Martha was busy with many things and was upset with her sister for not helping.  In this passage, Jesus tells Martha that Mary had chosen the better part.
As we live our daily lives how often do we take the stance of Mary?  How often do we respond like Martha?   

Living our lives calls for a certain balance between the reactions of Martha and the actions of Mary.  Our lives are often very busy and we need to take the time to respond like Mary.  We need to consciously set aside a certain amount of time to dedicate to our relationship with Jesus.  It is important to take time and allow Jesus to fill our hearts with His love.  Take time today to spend time with Jesus and have a conversation with Him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Being Childlike

At that time Jesus exclaimed: "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."  Matthew 11: 25 – 27

There is something very special in this Gospel that always catches my attention -- that Jesus revealed to the “childlike.”  Jesus didn’t reveal to the wise and learned yet did so the childlike not the childish.  When I heard this reading at Mass this morning I thought of all the children I have known over the years and for those who are special in my life today.  Children are wonderful and we can learn so much from them if we pay attention.  I was in awe at a video of my six year old nephew climbing a pole and then jumping off the platform for his ride on the high ropes course.  As I thought about this image I thought about the fact that he had to trust those who were guiding him, overcome his fear of climbing 35 feet up in the air, and muster the courage it took to step off the platform.  Are these not the things that our loving God asks of us – trust, overcoming fear and courage in our daily living?  If we allow ourselves to respond to God with this childlike simplicity we will open ourselves to great things. 

Each one of us is called to love as Jesus did.  We are seeking God’s revelation in our daily lives.  Every day we are invited to show the great love that Jesus modeled.  By following the example of the childlike in our midst we are invited to grow closer to our loving God and share His great love with others.  Today let us not be afraid to climb the pole, step off the platform and enjoy the ride with God.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Today we honor the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order. Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in northern Israel in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726, it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and often championed the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.
As I prayed today I recalled fondly the numerous Mt. Carmel feasts that we went to as children.  There were games, some rides, gold fish and great food including pastries and Italian Ices.  I remember we would go to Mass and then participate in the procession of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s statue through the neighborhood.  It was a wonderful time for all.  One of my favorite memories was as an adult one time going to the feast and winning a gold fish who we named Arthur as we won it on Arthur Avenue.  By some miracle the fish lived for about 5 years and outgrew several tanks.
Being on retreat these days has given me the opportunity to pray for others and for our world in a bit of a different setting than the original hermits.  I am on an island off Mystic Connecticut called Enders Island.  The island is surrounded by beautiful views of the water and incredible flowers.  I enjoy coming here for my own spiritual renewal – a great place to recharge one’s inner battery and live in the Lord’s love.  Sometimes I wonder if this is why the hermits went to Carmel in the first place to recharge.  If you have never made a retreat I highly recommend taking some time away to reflect and pray.  Our loving God knows what your body, mind and spirit need and retreat is a time to embrace God’s love in a quiet and gentle way.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Love and Mercy

Today’s Gospel is the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story that we have heard many times and yet it is one that is filled with tremendous meaning.  When I listen to this story I try to reflect on what am I doing to treat others with respect, how have I come to the aid of a neighbor, do I build people up or tear them down, and what more can I do to help others?  In our lives we have met people who have hurt us and we are at times hesitant to help or trust.  This is exactly what we are being called to do.  We have to be willing to bandage wounds of others, welcome the stranger in our midst and do all that we can to help meet the needs of others.  In our world today there are many who are suffering, who are marginalized and we need to be willing to put their needs in front of our own and do what we can.  Each of us is called to be Christ for one another.  In doing so we reach out as Jesus would and become that source of hope for others.  He will always lead us in the right way of doing things.  Are we willing to humble ourselves enough before Jesus to ask for divine assistance?  Are our hearts open enough to feel Jesus’ presence walking with and guiding us?  Let us make today the day where we open our hearts to extend love and mercy to others.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Team USA!

On Sunday, July 7, 2019, the United States Women’s Soccer Team pulled off an amazing feat, they defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup Final.  There had been tremendous hype going into the game and some questioned if they would be able to rise above the mounting pressure.  Added to this was the fact that the men also had their final game at the same time.  The women went in with the attitude of we have worked hard for this and will do our best.  It wasn’t until 2/3rd of the way through the match that the women scored and did so a few minutes later.  With a 2 – 0 lead it seemed that the women’s dream would come true.  This game was not won by a single individual but rather an all-out team effort.  The women had trained together and used their skill to win.  They played as a team, celebrated as a team and are now modeling what it means to be a team.  I believe that there is a message in this unique story.  These women had come together to show their pride in one another and more importantly their country.  Tomorrow they will have a parade in the Canyon of Heroes in NYC.   There will be a great celebration for a well-deserved effort.  May we celebrate with them and applaud their determination to work together and work together for a fabulous win.  Thank you ladies for making us proud!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Take Courage

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, "My daughter has just died.  But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."  Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.  A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.  She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."  Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter!  Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured.

When Jesus arrived at the official's house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping."  And they ridiculed him.  When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose.  And news of this spread throughout all that land.  Matthew 9: 18 – 26

Today’s Gospel shows us the importance of faith, trust and perseverance.  When Jesus receives the official he does so with compassion and concern.  As Jesus rose to go with the official a woman risks all to touch the tassel of His cloak.  Ultimately she does succeed and is cured.  Jesus tells her that her faith has saved her and that her courage has cured her.  Arriving at the official’s house, Jesus sees the commotion and tells everyone to “go away!”  He came in and took her small had and she arose.  Two cures in one short passage.  Neither one of these cures would have happened without the faith and courage displayed by the woman and the official.  Perhaps when we feel we have no more to give it is just Jesus inviting us to stretch ourselves a little more and trust that Jesus will be there to take care of everything. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

An Independence Day Prayer

I received this prayer in an email from Autom and thought it summed up what this day truly means so I share it with you.

Dear God our Father, we praise You for who You are – a God of love, who reveals to us that love is truth and freedom.  Thank You for our country, the United States of America, conceived in liberty, and for all those who have sacrificed that we might enjoy these freedoms.

Like a city on a mountaintop, help us to share our blessings with the world, and to allow the light of Your Holy Spirit within us to set others free in spirit, soul, and body.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

May this prayer instill in us what this day is truly about – truth and freedom.  As we celebrate this day let us remember the many who are not free and are not able to enjoy life, liberty and happiness.  May our loving God always bless the United States of America.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Serviam Concludes for Now

Yesterday was our last day of “work” with the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas.  For me this has been an incredible week of meeting those who have suffered so much to come to the United States for a better life.  Being at the CCHRC gave us the opportunity to meet many travelers, some of whom were there most of the week and some who were leaving that day.  These are the lucky ones who have been cleared from the detention centers and are going to family members who will welcome them for the next phase of their journey. 

Seeing the faces of so many infants, toddlers and young children will forever be engraved in my heart.  St. Angela said, “Have each one engraven in your heart, for this is how true love acts.”  This simple phrase came to me many times during this week as I gave our clothes for those in need.  Simple things such as shoelaces and belts were a precious commodity as they were taken by ICE at the detention centers.  It was so hard to tell the men we had no more.  Yesterday another young child had to be taken to the hospital for dehydration as he had to be ready to travel later in the day.  After a four-hour emergency room visit the child was cleared for travel and returned to the Center to be with his family.

A highlight of this time was having the opportunity to meet Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ. the Executive Director of CCRGV (Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.)  She is an incredible model of welcoming God’s people and lives the social mission of the Church. I had the opportunity to thank her for all she has done and for the example she is for all of us.

While our Serviam time has come to completion I know that this experience has taught me so much and will forever be in my heart.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Serviam Experience Day Three

Today we set out to our service site and were surprised when we did not see too many people in the reception area. When we entered the clothing area, we realized that everyone was just in the inner area.  We immediately got to work, preparing breakfast, distributing clothing and whatever else needed to be done.  Upon entering the clothing area, we realized that everything was totally mixed up and we needed to shut the station down for a few minutes to reorganize the clothing which was everywhere.  In less than 15 minutes we were all set to begin the work of welcoming our guest with a change of clothes and shoes if needed.  The kitchen crew did an amazing job feeding the many hungry guest and had the experience of not being sure if the promised lunch donation was really going to arrive.

What is amazing to see is the number of guests who volunteer their services to help cook, clean and distribute clothing.  One of our guests today was cleaning and tidying and when asked where her shoes were, she humbly responded, “No tengo zapatos.”   In a manner of minutes, she had shoes as one of our volunteers made sure that she had what she needed especially after she had been so helpful during the day.  Such simple actions cause one to be humbled by all that is happening.

After our group left for the day, we returned to our Basilica Hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes and we went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  It was a nice way to end the day.  After dinner we came back and had our reflection and sharing session.  During this time, we focused on where we saw/met Jesus today.  The responses were often in the faces of the men, women and children that we had encountered during our day.  Each one shared how they saw Jesus in the faces of those we served today and in the faces of many of the other volunteers.  Even though we are not able to take photos the faces I believe will forever be imprinted in our hearts and minds.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Friday, June 14, 2019

Flag Day 2019

Today we commemorate Flag Day.  On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of the Grand Union flag with a new design featuring 13 white stars in a circle on a field of blue and 13 red and white stripes – one for each state.
In June 1886 Bernard Cigrand made his first public proposal for the annual observance of the birth of the flag when he wrote an article titled “The Fourteenth of June” in the old Chicago Argus newspaper. Cigrand’s effort to ensure national observance of Flag Day finally came when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of the event on June 14, 1916. However, Flag Day did not become official until August 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the legislation and proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. In 1966, Congress also requested that the President issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as National Flag Week.

The American flag, also nicknamed as “Old Glory” or “star-spangled banner”, has changed designs over the centuries. It consists of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars. Each of the 50 stars represents one of the 50 states in the United States and the 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies that became the first states in the Union.

As we honor Flag Day today let us pray for all those who have paid the ultimate price defending our flag and our nation.  May we always pause to reflect and celebrate our nation and the symbols that has represented it for the last 242 years!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Pentecost Sunday

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday! Since Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church, it is one of the most exciting days in our Christian Year. It is the time when the disciples no longer feared but were energized to proclaim the good news of God’s love through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.   The universal Church celebrates Pentecost, the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after Easter.  Jesus promised His apostles that He would send them the Holy Spirit to empower them to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:  "Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.  Father, they are your gift to me.  I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me.  I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."  John 17: 20 – 26

Today’s gospel truly portrays Jesus abundant love for us.  As He was preparing for His death he recognized each one of us as a gift given by God and He prayed that we would always be united with Him.  In revealing God’s abundant love for us Jesus invites us into a deep relationship with God.  This relationship comes with responsibility too.  We are called to mirror that love for one another.  In accepting this responsibility we also accept the call to be people who “act with justice, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.”  (Micah 6:9)  By living this way we respond to Jesus’ call to love and be people of love.  Jesus has always promised to always be with us until the end of time. May we always commit ourselves to live each day the way that Jesus has called us to.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

May Crowning 2019

Today, our Middle School students gathered in the Ursuline Province Center Chapel to crown the statue of Our Lady with flowers.  Traditionally the oldest student in the Middle School carries the crown.  I was very nice today that the three oldest members of the Middle School did the crowning.  One carried the crown and the other two were acolytes.

In our introduction we set the stage for our crowning prayer service with:  My dear and sisters:  We gather today to crown this image of the mother of Jesus.  As we acclaim Mary, the Mother of God, as our queen and as the Mother of the Church, let us imitate her example and be attentive to the Word of God. As we honor Mary, who is higher than the cherubim and yet like us, let us pray that through her intercession we may achieve holiness of life, and a deepened faith, hope, and love, as we seek to do the will of God in all things.
Almighty God and Father, you have given us the mother of your Son to be our mother and our queen. With the support of her prayers may we come to share the glory of your children in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

May this simple ceremony continue to remind each one of us that we are loved by God and that we are never alone.  Pat Schifini, OSU

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day 2019

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." John 15:13

Last evening, I had the opportunity to watch the Memorial Day Concert from our nation’s capital.  It was a most moving concert with many stories of veteran’s shared.  What most touched me was the stories of young men who were friends who promised to take care of the other or of their family if anything happened.  The performance began with a salute to all Gold Star families.  Since I live with a “Gold Star” family member this had very special significance.  Gold Star families are those families whose member paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not return from war alive.  There were Gold Star families present from each war that has been fought.  The tribute to those soldiers who have come home disabled was very moving.  As I watched the performance, I was struck by how important it is to celebrate this day and to pray for those who died so we can be free.  Let us pray this day for all who paid the ultimate sacrifice and for those who continue to defend our shores today. 

Pat Schifini, OSU

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Jubilee Day 2019

Today the Ursuline Sisters celebrated our Province Jubilee Celebration, thirteen sisters will mark some 710 years of Religious Profession.  Each of these women responded to Jesus’ invitation to “Come and See.”  They responded not knowing fully where the journey would lead them.  With an eagerness of heart and a sense of awe they came and stayed.  Over the years they have been principals, educators, councilors, authors, pastoral care ministers, midwives, missionaries and working with the poor.  They have served in Province Leadership and International Leadership.  Each one brought her unique set of gifts with her and shared them unconditionally.  As we celebrate today we thank our loving God for the gift you have been to us.  Thank you Barbara, Beth, Brenda, Celestine, Claire, Fran, Julia, Mary, Mary Beth, Maryellen, Maureen, Pascal, and Pat for your loving fidelity to God and God's people. Ad multos annos!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Reaching Beyond Ourselves

Today two heroes were honored in New York.  One in Westchester County and one in New York City.  Both served in our military one a hero of World War II and the other killed while on duty with the National Guard.  The one in Westchester died in a nursing home and had no family.  A young woman who volunteered at the nursing home where he spent his final days made sure that he had the proper funeral with full military honors.  Her desire to honor his service and memory touched many people and his funeral was more than she could ever imagine.  Many people turned out to celebrate the life of a decorated veteran.  The most touching part was when the flag that draped his coffin was given to the young volunteer.  In the city the young father of three was celebrated with full military and fire department honors and will be laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery.  Each of these men served their country with honor and remind us of the importance of looking outside ourselves and reaching out to others.  Let us take time to embrace the call that is greater than ourselves and always try to “do unto others as you would want done to you.”  

Pat Schifini, OSU

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Jesus Christ is risen today!   Easter Sunday is the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead. is the beginning of the Easter season of the liturgical year.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion. His resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil, sin and death.  The tomb of Christ is empty, and all rejoice.   Jesus’ disciples are called to believe what they have witnessed with their eyes we are called to believe with the eyes of faith.   As we celebrate this Easter let us remember our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka as they mourn the loss of so many in the Church bombings that occurred there.  May there be an end to violence in all parts of our world.  May this Easter season be filled with faith, hope and love for all.

Pat Schifini, OSU

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday offers a quiet beauty as we move through the emptiness of the day.  On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord's tomb, meditating on his suffering and death. The altar is left bare, and the sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Only after the solemn Easter vigil during the night, held in anticipation of the resurrection, does the Easter celebration begin, with a spirit of joy that overflows into the following period of fifty days.  As we reflect this day let us trust in God’s promise of salvation that we too shall rise one day.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday

Good Friday is the day on which Catholics commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Catholics are joined by almost all other Christians in solemn commemoration on this day.  According to tradition, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot on the night of the Last Supper.  The morning following His arrest, Jesus is taken before the Jewish authorities who condemn Him, sent to Pontius Pilate who found no reason to condemn Him.  Pilate tried to release Jesus, but the Jewish leaders would not accept this.  He then appealed to King Herod who also found no guilt in Jesus.  Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed His hands to show that he wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  The crowds were enraged and to prevent a riot, Pilate reluctantly agreed to execute Jesus.  On this day of darkness, death and denial let us pray for the grace to overcome the darkness in our lives.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ.  On this night, Jesus had His Last Supper with His Disciples.  During this meal, Jesus predicts His final betrayal.  Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with His friends fulfilling His role as the Paschal Victim.   Jesus washed the feet of His Disciples and established the priesthood.   During the Passover meal, Jesus breaks bread and gives it to His Disciples, uttering the words, "This is my body, which is given for you." Subsequently, He passes a cup filled with wine. He then says, "This is my blood..." With this action the Eucharist – the celebration of the great thanksgiving is born.  As we receive the Eucharist this night let us remember the unity which we experience as part of Body of Christ.
Pat Schifini, OSU

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Annunciation

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation-that moment in which the history of the world would be changed. For this is the moment when Mary, a young Jewish maiden, probably not older than our juniors and seniors, said yes to God's call to become the mother of Jesus, the Messiah.  Did she really realize the import of that message? How could she?  Yet, in faith, she jumped in with both feet and the world was changed forever. For God reached out and through her gracious response, we have been redeemed.  Listen to the calls in your life and see what miracles will follow.  Have a great week.

KM Donohue

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.