August 16, 2022

Tu Es Sacerdos

There was great celebrating among the Sister Servants last week! We were blessed to attend the ordination of Father Dominic Lee, OSB, ordained Saturday August 6th. What increased the excitement was that Fr. Dominic is the first of Casa Maria’s Altar Servers to be ordained. He and his brothers served Sunday Masses at our convent for years before he entered St. Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, AL. His sister has also joined the Benedictine family, as a Benedictine Nun of St. Walburga’s Abbey in Colorado, and was able to come back to Alabama for the ordination.

Sister Marianna has been training Altar Servers for our Liturgies for many years. The reverence of these young men is always an inspiration to the congregation.

Father Dominic was so kind as to come to Casa Maria to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with our community just a few days after his ordination. We were very excited to celebrate Mass with him and the Lee family. We love every opportunity to sing Tu Es Sacerdos, (“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchezedek” – Hebrews 7:17), which is traditionally sung at ordinations. It is a piece that is always filled with joy and gratitude for God’s blessing of the priesthood!

We were also glad to also be able to receive Father Dominic’s First Blessing. A newly ordained priest may traditionally give his ‘First Blessing’ all through the first year of his priesthood. It is customary, after receiving a ‘First Blessing’, to kiss the newly ordained’s hands, which have been consecrated with chrism for the celebration of the Eucharist.

May God bless all families who generously give their children to the service of God and His Church!

July 18, 2022

A Very Special Day!

The Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel marked a very special day for our community – the 35th Anniversary of our founding! We had a lovely day together, recalling all the graces of these 35 years. God has blessed us greatly, and allowed us to be part of His marvelous work! In thanksgiving for Mother Mary Gabriel’s life, for her ‘fiat’ in founding our community, we gathered after Vespers to sing the Salve at her crypt.

The image you see below is of Our Lady of Las Lajas, an image that miraculously appeared on a cave wall in Columbia, in 1754. Kneeling before her, are Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. Understandably, we have a great love for this beautiful image!

Many of our Sisters celebrate an anniversary on July 16: entrance as a postulant, reception of the habit, or professing of first vows. Sister Rita Marie has the ‘Triple Crown’ of all three on this feast!

This year, Sister Madeline received the religious habit and her religious name. We are overjoyed to introduce her as Sister Mary Thomas, of the Open Heart of Christ.

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