July 5, 2022

Apostolic Expedition to Florida!

This June, Sister Marie Therese, Sister Mary Faustina and Sister Rose Marie journeyed once again to Southern Florida! They went to spend a couple weeks with FOCUS missionaries and staff during their summer training at Ave Maria University. FOCUS invites many priests and religious to be present at training, to accompany and help guide the missionaries during these weeks. The summer training provides extensive formation on the spiritual, theological and human levels.

One continual theme in conversations this year, was the missionaries’ surprise at the ways Christ used them to reach others. It wasn’t when they were perfectly prepared and had everything together that students responded most. It was when the missionaries led by example, striving to grow and learn, to live the faith when it’s hard, and to find answers when they have questions. Perhaps that’s one of the most impactful parts of these missionaries’ work, to live as a witness to the joy that is born of the struggle to grow in virtue, in prayer, in living the Christian life.

During training, the Sisters joined the missionaries for classes, small-group discussions, meals, frisbee, prayer, one-on-one meetings, and fun activities like gator watching. It was a joy to be able to teach a little bit about what life as a Religious Sister is like, and to build relationships that we hope will last for years!

On the Feast of Pentecost, the Sisters organized for a group to chant Morning Prayer together, and then head out for a canoe trip. The group was able to canoe on a river that flows into the Gulf, and Manatees had even been seen there that day. It was a great time to build the friendships that are so important for encouraging each other in the spiritual life and apostolic work!

Throughout the year, we hope to continue to support the missionaries by hosting young adult retreats here at Casa Maria, and by collaborating with them on campus. May God continue to bless their work!

June 20, 2022

Opening of the Eucharistic Revival

Reflection by Sister Rita Marie, SsEW    

 The USCCB has asked for a nation-wide Eucharistic Revival to educate about Our Lord’s Eucharistic Presence, and to foster greater devotion. Please look to see what your diocese is planning, how you can participate, and most of all to pray for this intention!

All Pictures are from the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama‘s Facebook page

Yesterday, our Community was prevented – by a bout of COVID – from being present at the Forty Hours Devotions at our Cathedral of Saint Paul, that marked the beginning of the three years’ Eucharistic Revival in our diocese, so I was only able to be present in spirit. 

Thanks to the live-streaming, I was able to see the devotions as they were taking place and even revisit them after they were posted. It has been such a blessing for me to see the love for Our Lord expressed by the beautiful altar, ceremonies, adoration, liturgy, music, procession, and the sincere devotion of those who had the good fortune to participate! The blessing of witnessing Our Lord being loved was joy for my soul and I can only imagine what it must have been for all who were actually present. 

Moments like this should be cherished because it does the soul good to see Our Lord loved like this! It renews our belief that Our Lord Jesus, truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, is the source and summit of our faith! His love for us, particularly in this sacrament, never fails. He is truly with us! 

Our diocese celebrated and rejoiced in Our Lord’s presence among us, and shared that joy with those in the city of Birmingham. We processed with Him in the streets witnessing to all, to see “Him whom our hearts love”! We brought Jesus to others so they too could experience His love. What a great beginning! 

For all who were involved in this Eucharistic Revival beginning, you have no idea what the Lord has prepared “for those who love Him” so much! I can hardly wait for what is coming next. 

May 23, 2022

Sisters, St. James, and Fr. Leonard

We should have known that inviting Fr. Leonard to come to school for a day would involve his making a video! Fr. Leonard is in charge of the Friars’ media posts for their community and is always posting something new. He kept us laughing all day long as he got quick shots of everything that was happening.

Our Sisters have been teaching Catechesis at St. James once a week for several years. Besides classes, the Sisters take care of preparations for the weekly Mass, train altar servers and sacristans, and try to assist in any other way they can. Being at the school has been a great blessing for us. There is nothing like the faith and openness of children!

When Father Leonard joined us, he stayed for the entire school day, and all the students loved having him. He visited classrooms, offered Mass, heard Confessions, and ended the day with Benediction. He was able to visit a few classrooms too, to teach the students about the Franciscan life. Who knows – maybe there’s a future Franciscan in the school!

Thank you Father Leonard, for all the ways you serve the Church!

Take a look at Father Leonard’s videos about life as a MFVA Friar: Inside/Outside the Friary

April 23, 2022

How the Sisters are Celebrating Easter

After the aridity of Lent, The lilies of Easter make the Chapel seem like a garden!

Blessed Easter, to all our family and friends!

Lent and the Sacred Triduum flew by, full of the Lord’s grace and a constant invitation to go deeper than ever before into these holy mysteries.

The Church continues to give us the joy of celebrating Easter, liturgically, for an entire octave. One day could not be sufficient to recognize the importance of what has just occurred! Liturgically speaking, each day of the Octave is Easter Day all over again. The Alleluia is constantly on our lips as we pray and sing, with continual reflections on the appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection, and the bold preaching of the Apostles.

That being the case, we must find innumerable ways to celebrate together! This Octave has been very full, thanks to lots of planning from various teams, hosting new fun each day.

On Easter Monday, we were blessed to make the trip out to Fort Payne, Alabama, where Sister Clare Marie’s brother, Fr. Rick, is pastor of Our Lady of the Valley. We were able to have Mass together, after which Father Rick and some of his staff members took us on a tour of Little River Canyon, which was beautiful.

On Tuesday, some Sisters worked to construct small shrines (to be given away), to honor Our Blessed Mother and create a place in the home for veneration, and writing prayer intentions. Wednesday brought an invitation to a wonderfully elegant evening Tea, organized by Sister Rita Marie.

The Novitiate has been providing entertainment each evening, with trivia from the book of the Lives of the Saints we read from each morning. Each correct answer counts for an egg in the basket (i.e. ticket in the raffle) on the eighth day of the Octave! What does the name Barnabas mean? (answer: Son of Encouragement)

This weekend we are hosting a retreat for young adults – please keep them in prayer during their retreat.

May the celebration of Our Lord’s triumph over sin and death continue to bring great light and joy to you all!

March 25, 2022

From the Mouths of Babes

Blessings on this great Feast of the Annunciation! This morning in the Divine Office, we chanted Iam Caeca Vis Mortalium, a 4th century hymn written as a poem by Prudentius. It is a beautiful reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation, in which the fifth and sixth verses read,

This is the day when life itself 

Leapt down to earth in secret guise, 

Becoming truly flesh and blood 

To rescue man, his love’s great price. 

What treasure, hidden and divine, 

Reposed in Mary’s virgin womb, 

The golden dawn of perfect day, 

New light dispelling sin and gloom.

In honor of Our Lord’s entrance into the world as a child, we thought we would share with you some of the many profound and humorous reflections we hear from the children we know.

From an eight-year old in a class that was having Q&A with visiting sisters,

Boy: “Sister, John the Baptist had his head cut off, right?”

Sister: “Yes, that’s right.”

Boy: ” So… is he in Heaven with his head, or without his head?”

From a kindergartener, learning that Jesus had both died and was Resurrected,

“Wait! That’s what Easter is all about, that Jesus came back to life?!”

From a non-Catholic 4th grader, receiving his first exposure to Eucharistic Theology by hearing a Eucharistic hymn,

Boy: “Wait, when you receive Holy Communion you receive God?!?”

Sister: “Yes, that’s right.”

Boy: “and when you receive Him, you become more like God?!?”

This boy has retained great attraction for the Catholic Faith, and even for the priesthood, ever since, though not yet a member of the Church.

From a 6 year-old, upon her Mother’s commenting that she’s not sure why she has a tradition of serving Lasagna on Palm Sunday,

“Mommy, I know why we have Lasagna! Because when Jesus came in the city, all the people yelled, ‘Lasagna! Lasagna!”

From a sixth grader, looking queasy on learning that King David had multiple wives,

“You mean… he married a lot of girls?”

From a kindergartner, during a lesson on Adam and Eve, Sister was teaching that in the Garden of Eden, the Devil told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed God, they would become like God. Eve listened to the Devil and disobeyed God.

Little Girl: “Then they became like God, right?”

Sister: “No, the Devil had lied to them.”

Little Girl: “Oh, that’s bad.”

And, a few photos to show what the Sisters have been doing lately: