Thursday, May 23, 2019

Feast of St. Jeanne-Antide Thouret

Today, May 23, we celebrate the Feast of St. Jeanne-Antide Thouret, one of our Vincentian saints.

Jeanne was born on November 27, 1765. At age 22, she entered the Daughters of Charity in Paris just a few years before the onset of the French Revolution, an event which would profoundly affect her life. When the Community was dispersed by the government in 1793, Jeanne returned home, but continued what she had learned as a Daughter of Charity--to care for the sick, teach poor children, and help priests who were forced to hide.

She eventually fled to Switzerland and joined a different community, but it did not fulfill her desire to serve those who were poor. Returning to France alone under difficult circumstances and with no official papers, she risked her own life to continue the work God had called her to do.

In Besancon, she was requested to take in young girls and train them in the work in which she had been trained. In 1799, Jeanne opened a school, a dispensary and a soup kitchen for the poor. She founded a new community, now known as the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne-Antide. She was canonized by Pope Pius X in 1934. The sisters came to the United States in 1934 to minister to Italian immigrants in Milwaukee, WI. They continue to serve there today as well as in 27 different countries.

It seems that Jeanne did not forget her Vincentian roots. In addition to vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, St. Jeanne’s community also takes a vow of service of the poor.

What can we learn from the life of St. Jeanne-Antide? Perhaps that God's call persists deep in one's heart, despite the events that challenge it. She couldn't ignore what God was calling her to be and do even though it was vastly different from what she originally envisioned. May we be faithful to listening to God's call deep within, knowing that He will guide us along the path to Him.

Written by Sister Elyse Staab, D.C.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Integral Ecology and the Cries and Horizons of the Amazon at the United Nations

Pope Francis has said that Amazonian peoples are often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future because of the crisis in the Amazon forest. That crisis includes such issues as poaching on indigenous lands, pollution, the effects of hydroelectric dams and oil drilling, land grabbing, removal of ancient trees, and the murder of indigenous peoples who oppose exploitation of lands vital to themselves and the world.

The Pope further said we must stop viewing the Amazon as an "inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants."

It is fitting then, that representatives from the Amazon will be among participants in the 18th Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues taking place now through May 3 at the United Nations. The Vincentian Family has played a role in ensuring that Amazonian peoples have a voice in the Forum through facilitating their participation on at least three panels of speakers and engagement with several permanent missions (Brazil, Austria, Norway) and others involved in indigenous issues.


The Forum's theme is "Traditional Knowledge: Generation, Transmission, and Protection." Over two weeks, indigenous peoples, nations, and other stakeholders are evaluating progress, examining challenges, highlighting good practices, and identifying potential policies and programs which would better protect and promote indigenous peoples' rights to maintain, control, protect, and develop traditional knowledge.

The Forum appropriately opened on Monday April 22, which was Earth Day.  As the world faces so many environmental and climate-related issues, indigenous peoples have many answers and know the importance of preserving a delicate balance between human activity and nature.


Vincentian Family NGO Representatives from the Daughters of Charity, the Sisters of Charity Federation, and the Congregation of the Mission belong to the Justice Coalition of Religious and the NGO Mining Working Group, which is sponsoring panels of speakers during the Forum.   JCOR and the Mining Working Group co-sponsored an event entitled, “Wisdoms of the South and North: Land Rights and Healing” which took place on Tuesday, April 23.  The event featured indigenous speakers from Mexico, Canada, and Brazil.
Fr. Guillermo Campuzano, NGO Representative for the Congregation of the Mission, who was instrumental in organizing the events of this week, pointed out its concept note in saying, “Climate solutions for the future and wellbeing of all people are needed. Indigenous peoples are part of the solution to heal and restore Mother Earth. It is time to listen to the voices, wisdom and land-centered knowledge embedded in Indigenous languages. For this reason, a focus on Indigenous rights and responsibilities are key to the sustainability of Mother Earth.”
Since 2016, the Mining Working Group has created a partnership in supporting the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM), The Missionary Council of the Church in Brazil (CIMI) and the Interreligious group of Church and Mining.  Fr. Campuzano is currently the liaison between these groups and the Mining Working Group in New York.  He is also a member of the International Advocacy Committee of REPAM together with representatives in Washington and Geneva.
“For three years, we have promoted and provided infrastructure for the participation of Indigenous Peoples from the Amazon, other areas in Brazil, Chiapas in Mexico, and other regions in Meso-America so that they can bring their own voices to the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues,” Fr. Campuzano said.
“Many of the indigenous communities are at risk today due to the mega extractive projects of big companies exploiting the environment everywhere,” said Fr. Campuzano.  “The protection of the individual and communal rights of indigenous peoples is deeply connected for us with our responsibility to take care of our common home. “
The Daughters of Charity and the Congregation of the Mission together with other communities have assisted with the costs of ensuring that indigenous peoples from the Amazon can participate.
Speakers from the Amazon also participated in a second event entitled, “The Importance of Genocide Prevention in the Survival of Traditional Knowledge,” taking place at the UN Church Center. That panel presented some realities, including the impacts of attacks which ultimately destroy indigenous knowledge and territories, experienced by several indigenous groups in Brazil.  Bishop Roque, the president of Indigenous Missionary Council of Brazil gave a prophetic presentation that was followed by a moving testimony of Erileide Kayowa a young leader of the indigenous peoples in Brazil.
A third event co-sponsored by the Mining Working Group was scheduled for Friday, April 26, in collaboration with the Holy See and others.  It focused on the theme, “Toward an Integral Ecology: Responding to the Urgent Cries and Horizons of the Amazon.” Representatives from the Amazonian (Brazil and Ecuador) group spoke in this event. The church is attentive to the cries of life that come from the indigenous communities and the forest in the amazon territories!
There are many definitions of “traditional knowledge.” According to UNESCO, local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life. This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality.
It is hoped that the current Forum on Indigenous Issues will lead to considerably improved protection for indigenous peoples and their traditional knowledge, which is vital to culture and protection of Earth.
Unfortunately, indigenous peoples globally face serious challenges regarding traditional knowledge.  For some peoples, it may be the misappropriation of sacred knowledge. For others, it could be copyright or patent issues. Access to genetic resources is a further issue.
There are also consequences when non-traditional persons access or use traditional knowledge and resources. Many indigenous lands, such as the Amazon, are home to valued natural resources. The increased removal of fish, wildlife, trees, and plants is a threat to indigenous peoples who need them for subsistence. It is no secret that poachers have killed indigenous persons attempting to prevent the removal of timber and gold. Indigenous human rights defenders also have been killed.
Further, only a few speakers remain for some of the 6,000 to 7,000 languages in existence. Other languages will face extinction in coming years.
Written by Sister Margaret O'Dwyer, D.C. and originally published by CM Global.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

St. Louise de Marillac

Shall I start with disclaimers first?

Who am I to write about, much less introduce, our Foundress?
At first thought there are so many other historians, musicians, sculptors, writers, poets and biographers among us that have portrayed her so very well in sundry ways. (I still hold on to that thought of “Who am I?”!) It is only after entering the Daughters of Charity that I grew to love this Louse de Marillac of a mysterious family of origin, of early formative years, of an unknown extended family and of yearnings to follow her heart’s deepest desires. I could say “…late have I loved thee” for want of recognizing her during my own early days in the Daughters of Charity. But then the days and the months and the years exposed me to these wise women who model Louse de Marillac so very well…. these Daughters of Charity as formators, as Spiritual Directors, as wise women figures who teach more by example than any words could convey: as Louise probably did. Given these living examples of Louise, I’ve probably learned even more about her from Grant Writing, Advancement initiatives,  Case Studies, Project research, Proposal preparations and anything else to further efforts to support those whom we serve…….. Our Poorest!

I’ve learned that Louise could never ignore her innate unyielding call to give herself totally to God…...the whispers of her heart could not be ignored nor submerged. Given her own 16th century of birth this mystical little girl could have grown up uneducated, dependent upon her family’s situation, marry, have children and die. For Louise this could have been her life, but for her “Father’s” claiming her as his natural daughter but not his legal heir. His status allowed for her elite schooling among the nobility as she continued to listen to her heart’s yearnings.

Fast forward to 1635 and Louise is a widow! She meets Vincent de Paul (the rest is history!). So here’s where the Advancement initiatives come into play (what would Louise say?). Overwhelmed with orphans to feed, legend has it that Louise made and sold jam to cover the costs. As needs surfaced, Louise collaborated with others (Friend Raising and Fund Raising!). Legend also tells of Louise making wine out of untended grape fields (pretty creative!) as a new sources of income for growing expenses. Louise’s innate organizational skills with a keen sense of one’s talents were the catalyst in addressing her day’s challenges…so catalyzing that these skills continue for our today! And in the midst of all of this, Louise continued to be urged by the Charity of Christ Crucified in serving: our motto, our tag line for today’s Daughters of Charity.

So!  Lessons for us from Louise de Marillac for today………. Can you

1.    Listen to your heart?

2.    Seek out good advice?

3.    Use your God given talents?

4.    Follow those you serve as they show you what they need?

5.    Use your God given talents to make it happen?
6.    Listen to your heart?

Written by Sister Marge Clifford, D.C.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

St. Joseph the Worker

Today, May 1, is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Scriptures do not tell us much about Joseph, but references to Joseph provide profound yet simple reasons for reflection. We are told that Mary is betrothed to Jospeh, a righteous and just man. Since righteous means virtuous and sharing in God's own holiness, and being just speaks of truth, when Mary is found with child, Joseph does not wish to embarrass Mary. Rather, he seeks to protect her. Joseph is described as righteous, just, and a protector.

References to the Holy Family frame their settings and experiences as humble and simple. Joseph is a carpenter who teaches Jesus the trade of working with His hands. Perhaps the Scriptures seek to provide a simple and ordinary context for their family life as an example to which other families can relate and aspire. Simplicity and humility are critical attributes describing Joseph within his family structure.

When we reflect on humility, it is a virtue that seeks, recognizes, and acts on the truth. This enables us to maintain and grow in relationships to ourselves, God, and others. Joseph was a humble man who recognized his place in God's Divine Providence as well as his place in his relationships. His great trust in God enabled him to listen to his heart and the God within him. It allowed for his response to care for and protect Mary and Jesus as husband and foster father.

Joseph's great love and devotion guided him with a purity of intention. This freed him to love deeply as he listened interiorly within the silence and solitude of his family life, relationships, work, and ministry as a carpenter. He obviously possessed the wisdom and judgement to know what was being asked of him and the generous spirit and trust to respond with great care and love.

Love is wishing someone well and wanting the best for that person. Through the everydayness of his life and witness, Joseph demonstrated great love by being steady, faithful, dependable, and trustworthy. He put his love into practice and lived it. His deep faith enabled him to take his family and flee to Egypt when threatened by harm. His deep trust listened when Jesus responded that He must be about His Father's business, God's mission.

Many also invoke St. Joseph as a patron to intercede for them in praying for a happy death. In his openness, simplicity, humility, and quiet presence, his person and life reflect peace and steadfastness. Joseph's deep faith and trust enabled him to be faithful in loving deeply, teaching Jesus values in everyday life as well as the dignity and contributions of working with his hands in serving the community. St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, was known to have a great devotion to and be an advocate for St. Joseph.

Perhaps, as we approach this feast day, we might ask ourselves the following...

  • Do I set aside space and time for solitude and silence in quiet listening to the Spirit within me?
  • Do my everyday actions reflect the values I hold true?
  • Do my relationships with God, myself, and others resonate with my beliefs?
  • Do I recognize my own gifts as well as those of others?
  • Do I celebrate the dignity of work and my contributions to the local and global community?
St. Joseph, pray for us.

Written by Sister Mary Pat Lenahan, SCL

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Jesus, I Trust in You

In 2010, I had the very special privilege to travel to Poland while en route to our Motherhouse in Paris.

I spent time in Krakow with our sisters. I made my way to Oswiecim - the town there Auschwitz and Birkenau are located - paying homage to the many martyrs, particularly our Jewish brothers and sisters, who gave their lives in those dark, sacred places.

Image: FlorLarios Art
It was my devotion to St. Maximilian Kolbe that drew me to Poland and Auschwitz in the first place. It was St. Maximilian and the Father Kolbe Missionaries who first introduced me to the Miraculous Medal as a very young adult. I wanted to make a pilgrimage to thank him for the gift of my love for the Blessed Mother and for my vocation as a Daughter of Charity.

At my request, the sisters took me to Czestochowa. We journeyed to Jasna Góra with thousands of pilgrims and attended mass in the presence of the marvelous image of Our Lady of Czestochowa - the Black Madonna.

That afternoon, on our way back to Krakow, the sisters wanted to take me to a place that was very special to them. We went to the shrine and the site where St. Faustina received the message of Our Lord in the Divine Mercy.

It was a story I was aware of but did not have a deep devotion myself. That day, I experienced the great love that the sisters and people of Poland had for this special gift to the Church and to the world.

I saw St. Faustina's bedroom window. The sisters showed me many places at the shrine that were so meaningful to them. As that afternoon went on, I started having feelings for this merciful Christ that I had been in images all over the place with the words, "Jesus, I Trust in You."

Sometimes, that's how love works. We start to love things because those we love actually loved them first. We love a show or a sports team because someone we were close to first loved them. We can't help but to fall in love, too.

How can we help but to fall in love with Jesus' Divine Mercy? At any moment in time, we are so aware of how much the world is in need of Jesus' Mercy and Love. We don't have to look far to see situations and events that are in great need of Mercy, Love, Forgiveness, Peace, Generosity, and so much more of those Christ-like gifts.

What a treasure! I am so grateful for that Sunday in Krakow when our sisters shared with me their love - causing me to fall in love. Jesus, I Trust in You! Thank You for your Divine eternal Mercy!

Written by Sister Lisa Laguna, D.C.