“What we consecrated persons are called to live radically by vows, every Christian is called to live radically according to their discerned state in life, as virtues and lasting values of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Let us not be afraid to ask Jesus how.”
Recently, Fr. Mark Wendling and Sr. Mary Elizabeth Albers led a group of young people to serve in Belize for almost two weeks. Below is a short write-up from one of the missionaries, Jack Kessler.
High: Attending Mass Sunday night I was struck by the deep sense of community present in the parish. The people were clearly excited by the return of Father Mark and the sense of anticipation was infectious. Celebrating the liturgy in Spanish was invigorating both because it reminded me of the universality of our faith and because it challenged me to be present without falling back on familiar routine. I am excited to celebrate the source and summit our faith with the community of Benque again.
God moment: Today I was blessed to celebrate adoration with the rest of the group up here at Chapel Hill. Watching the Blessed Sacrament I was reminded of a, possibly apocryphal, quote from the Cure of Ars Where he described Adoration as “I watch Him and He watches me” That is what we did. We watched God and felt His presence with us. It was very relaxing and helped remind me of the goal of this mission i.e. to serve Him.
New experience: I had traveled to Mexico before so the actual process of traveling to Belize was not particularly new. However, once we reached Benque proper I was astonished to discover that Father Mark is for all intents and purposes a major celebrity to the people there. Driving through the town it felt like he stopped to chat with every person there. The friendliness and courtesy displayed by the Belizeans was disarming in its simplicity. It felt almost like we were all returning to visit old friends, transforming a “foreign” place into a familiar shelter.
Other thoughts: Visiting Belize, I have been fascinated by the many different people I have met and the work that SOLT is doing here. This is mainly because it is such important work with a clear and visible impact but also because I have a personal connection to SOLT’s mission in Belize. My aunt spent several years as a missionary here and growing up I would always hear her talk about how much being here had meant to her. Coming here meant I could in part see what had excited her so much about this country and its people. What I could not foresee is that this would lead to me being constantly introduced to people as her nephew. In that sense I am very much in her shadow. I just hope I do not embarrass her too much.
Every life has a beautiful destiny placed upon it by God. That destiny includes a vocation and a unique mission or purpose which not only bring the person to complete fulfillment but which also participates in a personal way in the drama of God’s saving plan in human history.
The calling to give oneself completely to Christ as a Brother or Sister is a vocation, which is irreplaceable and essential to the holiness of the Church. “The call…is an initiative coming wholly from the Father who asks those whom He has chosen to respond with complete and exclusive devotion. The experience of this gracious love of God is so powerful that the person senses the need to respond by unconditionally dedicating his or her life to God, consecrating to Him all things present and future, and placing them in His hands…through a complete self-offering.” (Vita Consecrata, 17)
This self-offering is made through the profession of the vows (a vow is a solemn promise) of poverty, chastity and obedience, a new and special consecration of the whole person which manifests in the Church a marriage effected by God, and a sign of the future life. This also explains why profession of vows is not a sacrament. ‘When God bypasses, so to speak, the sacramental economy, He is acting in a way in which He would have acted had man not fallen into sin, that is, by Himself directly infusing into the soul the graces that are needed.’ (see C. Schleck on Aquinas) This self-offering, therefore, “is an anticipation of the direct union with Christ in heaven when sacraments (and sin) shall be no more.” (Thomas Dubay, SM)
Through the gift of the profession of vows, Brothers and Sisters are graced to begin to live this future life and make it visible to the people of God even here and now. They do this through a universal love for all of mankind which reflects the way in which the Trinity loves each human being created in His image and likeness and which will be the way we love each other in eternity.
We thank God for this beautiful vocation and rejoice to celebrate:
- The First Profession of Brothers Uriel Lopez and David Snow on Sunday, July 9th, at Our Lady of Corpus Christi (OLCC), 1200 Lantana St., Corpus Christi
- The Perpetual Profession of Br. Ryan Avery on Monday, July 10th at 5pm at OLCC.
- The Perpetual Profession of Sr. Mary of Divine Love, Sr. Maria Stella Maris, Sr. Maria Lucina of the Lamb of God, Sr. Maria Mater Dei, Sr. Mary Joseph of Divine Mercy, Sr. Maria Hostia, Sr. Mary Joy of Our Father, and Sr. Maria Solanus Casey on Tuesday, July 11 at 5pm at St. Theresa’s Church, 1302 Lantana St., Corpus Christi.
- The First Profession of Sr. Mary Kelli Ann Lopez on Friday, July 14, at 11:30am at OLCC.
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His love endures forever!” (Ps 107)
Submitted by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
Father Vincent Albano, who has been serving the needs of the migrant farm workers for over four decades, recently shared information about his current mission. He is wrapping up his season of service in the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana with the assistance of three SOLT sisters. Since SOLT has been a part of the migrant ministry from its inception, the opportunity to look back into history presented itself with this story that was recounted in Father Albano’s own words. The historical passages were excerpted from The Original Communion, a collection of autobiographical accounts of original members of SOLT, and the final paragraph is Father Albano’s update.
Ministry to the migrant farm workers and their families was an apostolic work of SOLT from its very beginning. Called to serve the poorest of the poor and recognizing their great needs, our founder, Father James Flanagan, sent sister and lay members of SOLT to the migrant fields and camps in Rocky Ford, Colorado when the SOLT was still in New Mexico.
SOLT’s migrant ministry branched out to Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska by the time I was assigned to this ministry. Besides serving the migrant farm workers, we were asked to reach out to the many Spanish speaking local people who were residents in those areas and who were lacking pastoral care in their own language. They too benefited greatly from the migrant team’s presence and were helped to develop leadership skills and abilities to serve alongside the members of the migrant team.
The migrant worker team visited the migrants in the fields, ranches and local camps, taught catechesis, prepared children and young people for their First Holy Communion and Confirmation, baptized, married, prepared the Liturgy, celebrated the Eucharist and witnessed the presence of the Church among their brothers and sisters “on the move.” These experiences helped the local people as well as our migrant farm workers, recognizing that they too were given by God with gifts and talents to share with their brothers and sisters and are called to be the Church and to build up the Church in their parishes as well as keep the ministry to Hispanic and migrant people alive and growing with the migrant team was no longer there.
Presently, I am with three of our Sisters ( Srs Maria de Jesus, Maria Marta and Maria Asuncion) serving in Migrant Farmworker Ministry in the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana from August to September. We will have a Despedida (farewell) Mass for the families on September 24 with Bishop Timothy Doherty and some of the children and young people will receive their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. The local parish St Mary’s in Alexandria, hosts the Mass and provides a special fiesta meal afterwards for all the migrant workers who come. We bless the cars and the pick-up trucks that the families come in for their safe travels home to Texas, Florida or other places!
Sister Miriam James Heidland, known for her quirky sense of humor and her penchant for keeping abreast of Twitter happenings @onegroovynun, has tapped into a modern audience with some help from an anonymous celebrity sister.
“Sister Mary,” whose trademark gray veil is featured in the off-sided forefront in photos of various televised sporting events and activities accompanied by hilarious captions, was created to show that being a sister is nothing less than being a dedicated servant of God, but also can involve some silliness and good humor along the way.
“It gives a broader view to the whole world of what religious life is like,” Sister Miriam shared recently with a San Antonio online news outlet, “You get to know us on a different level […] nuns are people too.”
Back in February, Sister Miriam’s antics hit the national spotlight, being featured in a humor article by Huffington Post. Comedy Editor Andy McDonald wrote: “…she has hashtag blessed us all by bringing that work to us on the Internet, live-tweeting her and her sisters’ experience watching the biggest game of the year. It was really magical.”
Check out some of these tweets from Sister Miriam’s (and Sister Mary’s) fans:
— SOLT (@SOLT33) June 3, 2016
— Zerobase (@zerobase_tweets) February 8, 2016
A Memorial Mass for Father Flanagan was celebrated at the Our Lady of Corpus Christi Chapel on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The event had been planned to offer a liturgy in remembrance of Father Flangan for the more of the members of SOLT who were unable to attend the funeral and burial in New Mexico at the end of April.
Bishop Michael Mulvey presided over the liturgy, and Father Peter Marsalek, General Priest Servant delivered the homily that drew from the Gospel for the Mass. He noted that its Eucharistic theme was a fitting scripture to pair with the memory of Father Jim Flanagan.
“The Eucharist was truly at the center of Fr. Jim’s life – for Him, it truly was the best way to ‘walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.’ Indeed, living communion to communion for Fr. Jim was precisely a part of constantly seeking to live in the presence of the Lord.”
Members from the local SOLT community participated in the Memorial Mass. Sister Margaret Mary read the First Reading, and Sister AnnMarie Claire sang the Psalm. Mona Lisa Biberstein read the Second Reading, Deacon Paul Moore of the Diocese of Corpus Christi proclaimed the Gospel, and the Rizzio family brought up the gifts. B.J. Biberstein led the choir comprised of SOLT members and associates.
Father Rogel “Ogie” Rosalinas joined the choir on the guitar to play the recessional hymn. It was a hymn that had been composed by Father Flanagan Himself, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Its words and simple melody invoked the devotion so passionately taught and humbly lived out by the Founder of SOLT:
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity
Most Holy, Immaculate Virgin May.
You are the Mother of God Himself.
You are the Queen of all creation.
You are the keeper of heaven’s treasure.
You are our help and protection.
Grant us your intercession and may your favor never fail us.
Following the Mass, a reception was held in the Kolbe center, adjacent to the chapel. Bishop Emeritus Edmond Carmody gave the blessing before the meal, and the gathering continued with the palpable joy of lives dedicated to Trinitarian communion. As a thoughtful observer might have looked around the room filled with laughter and friendship, the final words of Father Peter’s homily that evening could have been recalled: “As we proceed to carry on the work of our founder Fr Flanagan, let us also affirm our ‘yes’ to the Most Holy Trinity, to serving in communion with Bishop Mulvey and to our commitment to make our community everything the Holy Spirit intended it to be!”
Areas of deepest apostolic need are not always visible to the naked eye. Spiritual needs can sometimes be difficult to realize for a missionary disciple. For Sister Marie Hesed, that need has been identified and remedied by a vision for the future in the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.
Before she joined SOLT, Sister Marie Hesed belonged to the Missionaries of Charity. Her work among the poorest of the poor led her to cultivate a shared garden where learning and working became intertwined with the practicality of providing food for the hungry. Of course, lessons about God’s abundant banquet of everlasting love complemented the work that was sustaining them physically. Sister Hesed’s little gardening project, and the inspiration that grew from it, provided a foundation for a big idea that was yet to bear fruit.
Sister Hesed has described the call that led to her entrance into SOLT in 2003 as a “call within a call.” Her commitment to this call brought her to Iowa where 31 acres of donated land brought the vision into clearer focus. Domus Trinitatis, or “Home of the Trinity” was envisioned with a strategic plan that would gain momentum in the following years.
Since 2012, local volunteers, inspired by Sister Hesed’s dream, have worked to fundraise, donate, pray, and support the efforts of SOLT through their dedication to this project. Because of their countless hours of work and admirable organization, the first phase of the building project, the convent, began this past spring.
The following excerpts are taken from the Domus Trinitatis website:
“Domus Trinitatis will be a place where missionaries can come between assignments to be renewed and learn about sustainable agriculture to take back on their missions, but it will also be a place for Priests, Sisters, couples, single people and families to come to spend time in creation, learn, and be renewed. Domus Trinitatis is unique because there will be no charge for retreats, thereby allowing anyone to attend. Just as from the start, we will sustain Domus Trinitatis by donations, cottage industries, God’s will, and the support of those who faithfully believe in giving everyone a place to find renewal.”
“There will eventually be hermitages (small houses for people attend a retreat to stay in), a stand-alone Chapel, a home for a SOLT Priest to live on site, a Rosary walk, coffee shop, orchards, gardens, greenhouses, a pond, barns, and more.”
With gratitude, we offer our prayers of thanksgiving for the efforts of the people of Iowa. Their spirit of service and sacrifice is humbling to witness. It is a call for all of us to respond to God’s work in our lives with generosity and joy. May God abundantly bless the efforts of all involved in the Domus Trinitatis project.
January in the Tropics; January in the Nation’s Capital
What a difference twelve months can make. Last year at this time I was serving in Benque Viejo, Belize, fully immersed in the joys and sorrows of our busy SOLT mission at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish. The sad anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, passed with hardly a ripple in that Caribbean/Central American country where the Culture of Death has only recently begun to make its inroads.
In April of 2014, however, I was reassigned back to the United States- to Kansas City, as it turns out. And so it was that when January 22nd rolled around this year I found myself participating in the 42nd annual March for Life protesting the Court’s heinous ruling. With about 200 fellow pilgrims from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, I marched to the steps of that same Court whose ruling has caused an estimated 50 million deaths through abortion. One speaker dubbed our peaceful protest (about 500,000 in all) “The largest civil rights march ever.”
Pro-Life: Sine qua Non for SOLT
If the opportunity to participate in the March for Life was a novelty for me, protesting Roe v. Wade in less dramatic ways was not. To be a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity by definition is to be pro-life, as longtime member Nikki Sullivan informed me back in 1985 when I applied to the community. In an informal interview over the phone, she gently asked where I stood on the issue. Upon hearing that I was pro-life, and had openly protested abortion, Nikki voiced her approval: this was one issue on which SOLT was unanimous, she informed me. Since becoming a member, I have prayed from time to time in front of the abortion mill in Corpus Christi, TX, like SOLT laity, priests, brothers and sisters.
March for Life 2015: Joy, Hope, Energy
Never having participated in a March for Life before, I hadn’t anticipated the joy, hope and energy of our protest, especially on the part of the youth. Truthfully, I was unprepared for the exuberance and steady confidence with which they proclaimed “We are the pro-fife generation!” and “We will end abortion in our time!” The kids I met made it easy to believe what one of our rally speakers proclaimed: that of all the age groups, young people are the most pro-life. Talking with teens like Paige and Naomi from Benedictine College (below), I was left with an unexpected gift of hope: Yes, I believe it. Yes, I think legalized abortion will end in our times – largely because of this rising generation!
Steps of the Supreme Court: March’s End, Intercession’s Beginning
Our three-hour long March for Life ended on the steps of the Supreme Court – the institution whose 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision resulted in the impeccably legal deaths of millions of babies in the womb. Once each group reached its destination it reversed direction, moving against the sea of packed humanity towards Union Station and home.
The Supreme Court in the background; pushing against the tide as I return to ordinary life. The more I think about it, the more fitting the symbolism appears – and not only, unfortunately, in terms of abortion.
On Friday, January 16, 2015 the Supreme Court announced its intention to rule on whether states can ban gay unions.* As I write, 36 of 50 states allow these pseudo-marriages. If the Court rules that states cannot forbid these unnatural arrangements (despite the frequent disapproval of the electorate), how will this country, and the world, change? What will it mean for our children and grandchildren to live in a world where marriage as instituted by God is seen as merely one possible living arrangement? Will gay couples be content to peacefully coexist with those who uphold the sanctity of marriage? St. John the Baptist, pray for us. (Mk. 6:18); St. Thomas More, pray for us; Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, pray for us.
Submitted by Sr. Mary Katherine Malmros, SOLT
*Marriage by definition is the permanent union of a man and a woman. Speaking of gay “marriage” creates a linguistic and hence cultural beachhead for its acceptance. In the war between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death, language is the first casualty.
Benedictine College students Paige( r) and Naomi, latest in a long line of Raven Pro-Lifers.
Bp. Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph said Mass for the pilgrims from his diocese and joined them in the March.
Sr. Mary Katherine Malmros, SOLT, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Never too young to work for the Culture of Life.
On Saturday, December 6, 2014, the Nuptial Mass of Natasha Josephine Hermann and Mark Christopher Baca was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Los Chavez, NM, (just north of Belen.). Fr. Dan Estes was the main celebrant, Fr. James Flanagan delivered the homily, and Fr. John McHugh concelebrated.
The wedding was attended by many members of both families, as well as many members of SOLT. One of the special moments came when both sets of parents prayed blessings over each of the newlyweds.
Natasha has been a long-standing member of SOLT since the time she served in Our Lady’s mission in Benque in 2001, and then again from 2005-2007. For the last several years she has lived in Bosque, NM serving with Our Lady’s community there.
We are rejoiced for Mark and Natasha and their new life together. And we ask the special blessing of the Most Holy Trinity and Our Lady upon them.
Pictured with Mark and Natasha are Natasha’s sister Katie, Fr. James Flanagan, SOLT Founder (seated) and Fr. John McHugh, SOLT Co-founder