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When we talk about creating community online, I have to admit that the tagline to an ad from an internet financial services and information company comes to mind: “Turn to the Nerds.”
Now, I have many friends who would proudly declare themselves nerds of one form or another, so I am familiar with the idea of online community. They meet people in online games or in Facebook communities. They talk to their online team as they play a game, or comment about a topic that interests them which leads to a deeper discussion. Friendships form between people who have never met in person.
That can seem strange to those who are used to relationships formed in person. However, to those in these communities, these relationships are real and strong, and we can learn from them.
During the past several months, I participated in an online faith-sharing group that we hosted here at RENEW. Aside from Sister Terry, president of RENEW, there were two people in the group whom I knew in person. Yet, after our weeks of sharing, I feel connected to the other members of the group.
Each week we would log in a bit early and chat beforehand. I learned that one member’s wife and I went to the same college and, in fact, knew several people in common. We discovered common interests, learned about each other’s families, and, most importantly, grew in faith together.
The very definition of the word internet is: “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks.” It is all about connections. Using this medium to help our parishioners form connections with each other and with our Church is a natural progression. While the message of the Church is eternal, the way we communicate that message must evolve as our communication forms evolve.
While creating community through online forums may be new to many of us, it is old hat to many and if we take our cue from them, we can continue to strengthen the bonds of community in our parishes, even in this time of social distancing.
Jennifer Bober is manager of marketing at RENEW International.

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St_Ann_Soup_Kitchen“Have a good day,” “Have a good day,” echoed throughout the hall as each guest was handed a dinner tray by a bright eyed happy little girl of about ten years of age. It was a holiday, and schools were closed. Tina was planning to go to the soup kitchen at St. Ann’s Church in Newark, New Jersey, to volunteer; since the kids were off, she asked if they’d like to join her. In the car on the way to St. Ann’s she talked with them about what it would be like, what they might see and experience, and how they could do something nice for some very vulnerable people.
The four girls jumped right in. They loved donning their matching aprons, hats, and gloves. They deliberated over who would collect tickets and who would dish out the food, pour drinks, and serve trays. Their excitement, engaging smiles, and chorus of “Have a good day” greeted each guest that came to the window for a dinner tray.


Getting instructions from the chief chef, John.

Many of the guests smiled back, thanked the girls, and bantered with them.
Others, in their own worlds, anxious, and distracted, said nothing. When all had been served, these four young girls fixed their own plates and joined the guests for dinner.
As I observed this scene, I noticed how once in a while one of the girls would check something out with Mom who was patient with their questions and affirming with her answers.
I also saw how many guests responded gratefully to their youth and their upbeat attitudes.
Most of all I saw how happy these young people were to be of service though unaware of what a profound difference they were making in the lives of the guests as well as those of us who were volunteering with them.
Pope Francis often speaks about the critical need in the Church to form missionary disciples who will reach out to others with the Good News and let them know that they are loved by God and by others. Forming missionary disciples might sound like a daunting task. This Mom, Tina, was doing it, preparing her children to be aware of the needs of the poor and vulnerable and, with them, doing something about it.
I commented to the Mom as she and the girls prepared to leave the soup kitchen that the conversation in the car on the way home would be priceless. She agreed and added that it would be a conversation for beyond the car ride.
Who knows how this day off from school spent helping others and learning a little about the poor among us will impact and form these little disciples?
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director and Director of Development at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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StJohnGardenSt. Francis is credited with saying, “When you preach, use words only if necessary”—in more general terms, “Actions speak louder than words.’’
A year ago Pope Francis gave us his extraordinary letter Laudato Si’—Care of Creation. Three parishes that I know have taken that letter and creatively shared its spirit in extraordinary ways not only in their parishes, but beyond. One specific project they all have in common is that they use God’s gift of gardens to enrich parish life and help others.
These parish gardens provide fresh produce to soup kitchens in Rockland County, N.Y.; the South Bronx; and Bergen, and Union counties and East Brunswick, all in New Jersey.
The Catholic Community of St. John Neumann, in rural Califon, N.J., has had a parish community garden for 10 years and expanded it this year in response to Laudato Si’. The parish invited those who use the parish food pantry to claim a raised bed in the garden and learn to grow their own food. Not only has this garden filled a practical purpose, but also a more important spiritual one. Parishioners who had left the church have returned, and local Protestant churches have provided volunteer gardeners. A college ministry, youth groups, and passers-by have all gotten involved. “It has become an evangelization opportunity,” says Ann Geronimo, who heads the project.

In the classic suburban town Upper Saddle River, the Church of the Presentation has nurtured small faith-sharing groups for the past 30 years. Their garden at Presentation was created by the St. Francis Ministry as an educational and social-justice outreach. Garden teams are responsible for various crops and activities; the entire parish is invited to bring compost materials with them to Mass on Sundays and visit the garden. Children attending Bible Vacation Camp planted their own raised bed; in spring, when the plants are sprouting from seed, they are presented at Sunday Mass and blessed. In the fall when the harvest is plentiful, the crops are again presented at Mass.
Presentation_GardenThe garden provides for the parish’s own food pantry as well as ones in Newark; Rockland County, N.Y. and the South Bronx. Garden tours, educational classes, and connections and imagery in the Sunday homilies, all reinforce why and how to “Care for Creation.” The parish has also installed five bee hives and has a bee keeper to care for them.
In a busy commuter town, Holy Trinity Parish in Westfield, N.J., initiated small faith-sharing groups this past Lent and used Creation at the Crossroads, a RENEW International publication, as the resource. Over one hundred people met in small groups during Lent and reflected on the Scripture and the pope’s letter. As a result, each group came up with a project that was presented on a weekend to the entire parish at hospitality hour in the parish center. The parishioners voted using green stickers.
As a result, this October the groups will launch an Environmental Awareness and Action effort. The first priority is to work with Catholic Relief Services and raise awareness and funds for a water project in Ethiopia where water is scarce or non-existent, especially for those who are poor. Each Sunday in October, the groups will focus on involving young parishioners who are in the religious education program and youth ministry. They will install water fountains that allow parishioners to refill reusable water bottles (which the groups will sell as a fund raiser); develop a parish meditation garden; support the food pantry in new ways and have those who volunteer at the food pantry read and reflect on the section of Creation at the Crossroads that deals with food scarcity in the world.
When God had created the world, he said to the first human beings, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Gen 1:29-30). God made clear two things—that the food we harvest is for all people and that it provides nourishment. These parishes are cooperating in that work with their own gardens, making sure that even those people without food are fed, because they too are God’s beloved creatures, and that they are nourished by it. Even further, in these parishes both the harvesters and the reapers are enriched spiritually through giving and fellowship.
All three of these parishes are connecting faith with action, involving all generations, reaching out to the least among us, educating the next generation, and bringing it all to the Sunday Eucharist where we are given food for our life’s journey.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director and Director of Development at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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In 1995, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. One of the highlights of that trip was our visit to Mount Tabor. According to Christian tradition, Mount Tabor is the site of the Transfiguration of Christ, the feast we celebrate today. This is the site on which Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, Peter; James, son of Zebedee; and John the Apostle, and was seen conversing with Moses and Elijah ( Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).
Mount Tabor’s distinctly rounded shape rises more than 1,800 feet above the eastern end of the Jezreel Plain and about eleven miles west of the Sea of Galilee, making it easily recognizable. Getting to the top of that mountain is a feat in itself. We rode in taxis, albeit Mercedes, and I lost count of the number of twists and turns. It took the better part of a half hour and was well worth the ride. The Church of the Transfiguration is an impressive structure. A magnificent highlight consists of the upper and lower altars which are adorned with golden mosaics. The upper level commemorates the divine nature of Christ and the lower recalls different manifestations of his humanity. We celebrated Mass in the lower chapel, which has a remarkable ability to beautify and amplify sound due to its bell shape. We were blessed with some very talented singers in our group and it was a powerful experience to hear the voices reverberate in glory and praise of God.
What is the meaning of the Transfiguration for us today? In 2008, the first Iron Man movie was produced. It is based on a fictional character found in the Marvel Comic books. A billionaire and clever engineer Tony Stark suffers a severe injury during a kidnapping in which his captors want him to create a weapon of mass destruction. Instead he creates a powered suit of armor that in turn saves his life and enables him to escape his captors. This suit, when worn, empowers Stark as Iron Man to fight crime and terrorism. Iron Man needs to put on his suit of armor to become a better version of himself. We celebrate the Transfiguration today, a feast in which Jesus’ humanity is stripped away in order that we may see his true self—his glorified self. In our tradition, the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment, the point where human nature meets God. Three disciples were invited into Jesus’s life in an intimate way—to see him in his glory, his humanity stripped away and his divinity made visible to them. We are invited into this same intimacy with Jesus each time we celebrate the sacraments, enter into prayer, or reach out to a brother or sister in need. The question for me is do I prefer to build the tents as Peter wished to and keep this experience to myself, or do I allow the beauty of this transformation to stretch me to go where I might otherwise fear to go?
Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is a member of the Pastoral Services team at RENEW International and a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

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The Easter Triduum begins on Holy Thursday and concludes with the Eucharist of Easter Sunday. The Easter Vigil, celebrated on Holy Saturday, begins at night with the lighting of the new fire, ideally outdoors, a reminder that we are moving from death to new life! In the early Church it was indeed a vigil; the congregation slept over for the three days of the Triduum; they came in and out of the assembly, stopping to eat and sleep as needed. Traditionally on Holy Thursday, the catechumens—those who had spent the Lenten season fasting and in penance seeking to enter the community—gathered with the deacon at a source of living water, such as a lake, river, or sea. The catechumens would be stripped naked and submerged in the water and held down, symbolic of dying to a former way of life. As each rose up from the water, the deacon would ask, “Do you believe in God the Father?” The catechumen would answer yes and be dunked again. Then he or she would be asked, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son?” The catechumen would respond, “I do,” and be dunked a third time. Finally, the catechumen would be asked, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” After responding, “I do,” the catechumen would come out of the water and be wrapped in a white, towel-like garment (the white symbolizing peace; baptism removes all sin and gives us peace). Then the deacon and the newly baptized would process into the midst of the community gathered in prayer with the bishop. The bishop would anoint the catechumen with oil in front of the community, confirming in public what had been done in private at the water source. The newly baptized and confirmed would then join the community for the remainder of the Eucharist. Remember that in our time during Lent the catechumens leave Mass before the Gospel and do not participate in the Eucharist. The sacraments of initiation would be then completed.
The Liturgy of the Word at the vigil is long; there are many readings telling the entire story of our salvation history. It starts with Genesis from the Hebrew Scriptures and ends with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The gospel reading is the story of the resurrection.
Many churches celebrate the Easter Vigil in two or three languages to acknowledge the demographics of the community. We are one Church, one Body of Christ, no matter what our language.
The Easter Vigil is our most sacred liturgical feast and celebration. It celebrates God’s unconditional love and our long history of articulating that love in sign and symbol, word, and song. Knowing why these symbols are used encourages us to reflect on their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual meaning in our daily lives. May we truly rejoice this Easter!
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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“The Church is essentially human and divine,
visible but endowed with invisible realities…”
Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), 2

The Catholic Church has traditionally relied upon symbols and sensual experience in order to convey the truths of its greatest mysteries including Christ’s Incarnation, his Crucifixion and Resurrection, the resurrection of the faithful at the end of time, the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine, the power of prayer, and the sacredness of all of creation.
The Lenten season and its liturgies provide us with ordinary elements and materials of life that point to deeper religious meanings.
Water—On the Third Sunday of Lent we hear the story of the Samaritan woman who is ultimately thirsting for new life but asks Jesus merely for a drink. He invites her to a new understanding of living water that goes beyond the literal, beyond what she can see and touch. We are reminded of the embryonic water of our mother’s womb, the baptismal water that made each of us a child of God and disciple of Christ, and the water in the font where we dip our hand as we enter the church and sign ourselves with the cross. Increase our thirst for you, O God.
Light and Darkness—On the Fourth Sunday of Lent we hear of the man born blind. There are many allusions to seeing and blindness in this reading, to choosing light or living in the dark. For many of us, judging by appearances is the primary obstacle to seeing the light. Sometimes clinging to our own partial piece of the truth and refusing to listen to God’s voice in another person highlights our blindness in everyday experiences. We need desperately to be healed of the blindness of our resistance, the prejudices that exclude others from our circles, our inability to see as God sees. Help us to see as you see, O God.
Bindings—The Fifth Sunday of Lent we meet Lazarus bound and already buried. In response to the request of his sisters, Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the grave to new life. For Christians, the cycle of dying and rising characterizes all of life. Each night we close our eyes and die to the day; each morning we rise to a new day of possibilities. Each spring we bury seeds in the ground only to see them burst forth as flowers and fruits, vegetables and grain. The risen life does not begin simply after we die. Eternal life breaks into time. There is so much more to life than we can see; there is so much more to love than we can hold; there is so much more to our intimate belonging to each other than we can contain. Symbols can help. When the eternity of God invades our mortal time-bound bodies, loosens our bindings, and sets us free, we begin to live as resurrected people. O God, set us free.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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“Lent” is an Old English word for springtime. It is an appropriate word because as the season of spring prepares the earth to break forth into new life the season of Lent is a time to prepare to break forth, spiritually, into new life. As a gardener I love this image. Removing rocks from the soil, pulling out weeds, nurturing the soil with supplements, planting something new — these all remind us that we are not perfect and are always in need of conversion, of and renewing again and again our commitment to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the purpose of the season of Lent.
Historically, Lent was a 40-day retreat for those adults who were choosing to become committed disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. In the early church, those who wanted to become members—the catechumens—gathered for a year or two with those who were already committed to Jesus Christ. The catechumens learned the stories, participated in the Liturgy of the Word, and learned the way of being Christian. At the Easter Vigil they would be formally and completely initiated into the community. In preparation for this reception at the Easter Vigil, catechumens would enter into a more intense 40-day time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — Lent. On the Thursday before Easter, the community would gather with the bishop in the place of worship. As they gathered and prayed, the catechumens and a deacon would go to a place of living water (a lake or river) where they would enter the water. The deacon would submerge each catechumen’s head in the water and as he assisted the person up, would ask, “Do you believe in God the Father?” He would repeat this submerging twice more asking, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?” The catechumens would then be wrapped in white garments and brought into the waiting assembly (baptism). Here the bishop as the leader of the community would generously pour blessed oil over the head of the newly baptized adult, (origin of the sacrament of confirmation), confirming in public what had been ritualized at the water. The bishop would then continue with the liturgy. At Communion the newly baptized and confirmed persons would receive the Eucharist for the first time, completing the sacraments of initiation.
Baptism and the sacraments of initiation for adults are best celebrated at the Easter Vigil where the whole story of salvation is told (seven readings from Hebrew and Christian Scriptures) and the already baptized Christians renew their baptismal promises.
Baptism of infants is best celebrated at Sunday Mass where the community gathers.
For your reflection:
1. What are the rocks and/or weeds that you need to remove from your life this Lent? How will you do this?
2. Rather than give up something this Lent, secretly do something for someone in need.
3. Find out who is receiving the sacraments of initiation in your parish this Easter and pray for them by name; maybe send them cards telling them this.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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This time of the year many of us make resolutions that we sincerely intend to keep but often put aside rather quickly. We believe that our prayers and intentions make a difference not only to ourselves but to our world. Our intentions, though sincere, are many times forgotten or put aside quickly for something more urgent or interesting on our calendar. Or maybe it is just too overwhelming and so we cave in. Yet each year with a sense of hope we do it again—we make resolutions for the new year.
As I was considering my resolutions for this year I heard the following and found it so engaging that I decided to pass it on.
The story goes that a young father, challenged with the care of his young daughter and her unbounded energy, decided to give her a jigsaw puzzle, hoping that it would keep her quiet and busy for a number of hours while he went about his chores. The puzzle was an illustration of the world, and the little girl was delighted with the challenge.
In no time at all she was back to her father with the world put together. Surprised, he asked, “How did you do that? You don’t know geography or the continents.” “It was simple,” she responded. “The puzzle was two-sided and the reverse side was a picture of a man. I just put the man together and the world became one.”
I see a profound lesson is this story, a lesson that could impact our world. Just imagine if each of us kept the resolution to work on ourselves this year, to put ourselves together, to become the best person each of us can become, to think of others first, to be concerned for the poor, to take responsibility to not lay blame. Just imagine! As the young girl said, ”It’s simple.” Our world could come together, and peace could reign.
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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I have just returned from a RENEW trip to Germany where I had the pleasure of bringing our Why Catholic? process to members of the Archdiocese for the Military Services—the Catholic people who serve our country on military bases all over the world.
This trip included visits to the bases of Wiesbaden, Kaiserslautern, Vilseck, and Grafenwoehr and then flying home from Munich. I learned from a friend that the concentration camp at Dachau is just 10 miles outside Munich. I have been to Germany many times but never have had the opportunity to visit one of these sites. I decided that it was now or never.
I took the train from Vilseck to Nuremberg and changed for Munich. The Munich HBF (main station) is huge, and I thought there must be a locker system for temporarily holding luggage. After asking a few questions, I found the lockers and, thanks be to God, both my big bag and my computer bag fit into one; so for 6 euros I was good to go for 24 hours.
I took a subway and then a bus, and about 45 minutes later I was dropped right at the entrance of the Dachau Memorial Site. Admission to the memorial is free of charge. The camp was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich.
Dachau was the first of the concentration camps set up in Germany—this was in March of 1933. I spent three amazing hours wandering through the museum, viewing the film that tells the history, and praying. I found myself praying for much of the time.
The original gate still stands, and a visitor must walk through it to get to the other buildings. The words “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which mean “Work Brings Freedom,” are formed in the rod iron of the gate itself. The camp is quite large—most of the original buildings have been knocked down. One barrack building is still there with the sleeping bunks filling the rooms. It is hard to fathom that over 200 men slept in a space designed for 50. I found myself thinking that not much sleep was had there; intimidation and fear were the guards’ most powerful weapons. The photos and displays are many, and those faces are etched now in my mind’s eye. So many – over 15,000 – lives just dispensed with—no honor, no dignity, no respect, no names, and no mercy. A resounding sense of solidarity rings through the whole place.
Over and over again, the reality of brother reaching out to brother, supporting, protecting, and, yes, even giving their lives for one another was evident and stands as the gift to me and to all who walk through those buildings and on that sacred ground.
At the far end of the camp is the crematorium. Unlike many camps, Dachau was not primarily designed for extermination but for forced labor. There was one gas chamber where the sign over the door reads “Brausebad,” which means “Shower Room”. Many at the camp died of typhoid fever, and the bodies were burned—there were six ovens in the largest room in this building.
In 1964, Bishop Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler founded the Carmelite Convent of the Precious Blood of Dachau, which is built adjacent to the far south wall of the camp. Its entrance is one of the guard towers – a visitor walks through the tower to enter. It was the founder’s intention to make this place, where there had been so much horror in the past, into a place of contemplation and prayer, and to establish there a living symbol of hope. Bishop Neuhäusler (1888-1973) was himself a prisoner in the camp from 1941-45.
My time at the camp was a vivid reminder of what so many people have endured just because of what they believed. Had I forgotten that and do I take for granted all the blessings in my life? I prayed for all the victims and I pray that we will never forget, in order that the horror of those camps will remain in the past forever.
Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is on the Pastoral Services team at RENEW International and a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

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A reflection for Catechetical Sunday, September 15, 2013
It was a fun and inspiring visit last Saturday. Two children played on the floor creating funny videos of each other; the adults conversed about everything and anything as the children pretended not to be listening; there was music and TV in the background, and there was laughter, some chaos – and much joy in this well-lived in home. In the midst of it all the dog was vying for attention and a share of anyone’s snack. The entire scene spoke of people loving, valuing, and respecting one another.
Caroline, when I suggested you join us at the 5 p.m. Mass you responded, “These two don’t look like they are moving. I’d never get them dressed on time and, anyhow, Deirdre is at a birthday party.” I was reminded that including everyone in the family as you go to Sunday Eucharist is important and dressing appropriately teaches the children that Church is something special–it’s different from running track (they were still in track clothes from an earlier event) or hanging out. These are values that are “caught” more than they are taught.
Matt, when you said you hoped we got Fr. D because of his great homilies, you touched my heart and made me proud. That you are concerned that your family and especially the kids hear a good homily speaks of the value you place on nourishing your spirit for the week ahead. Not many young men and women your age even know what a homily is or how it can help them live the faith they profess in their lives the coming week. You are an exceptional Catholic couple and family. Your kids will “catch” this fire.
Caroline, when you spoke in front of your children about your desire to someday join a mission effort with the doctors and nurses with whom you work, you were teaching those children about connecting our faith with our lives. You may need to tell them more directly that this is what the Gospel asks of all of us, to share our gifts and talents with others. They get so many other messages from our culture that at times we need to be direct about our faith and maybe even ask them what they think of it.
We are all called to do that every day within our families, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces, but some of us are called, nudged, or invited to do that with the poor in our own country and in other lands. Whatever comes from that conversation, it is a teaching moment for your family. Being willing to talk about and learn more about our faith will continue to make it so. Sharing your faith with your family will give them ideas as well.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful “teaching moment” and moment of “New Evangelization” this September if in every home every parent had one conversation with his or her spouse and children about how they live their faith in everyday life? Just a conversation: no expectations and no right or wrong answers — just some faith-sharing!
Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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In 1958, when I took my first vows, I was given the religious name Sister Thomas Marie; my patron was St. Thomas Aquinas. All I really knew about St. Thomas was that he was a formidable theologian, author of the Summa Theologica, which I had great difficulty reading and even greater difficulty understanding. At that young age I believed that if I could not understand it then it must really be profound. How naïve!
In the 50 years since I first received that name, I have read and studied Dominican spirituality continuously. While dabbling in Dominican studies, I came to know a Thomas who is as much a mystic as he is theologian, teacher, and someone I can understand. Thomas speaks of a spirituality that is an expansion of the heart, a joy so full that it breaks forth externally from within. For Thomas, joy and happiness and the pursuit of legitimate pleasures are seen as tools provided by God to assist us in our search for authenticity and holiness. Thomas also loved creation, and his writings make it clear that he was on intimate terms with all of creation. A Dominican is a life-long student, and Thomas is the classic Dominican. For him study was not merely a job; it was his passion, a discipline designed to bring us to greater wisdom and to an understanding of God and creation. The better we understand creation, the better we know the Creator; therefore, for Thomas, study was elevated to a form of worship of God. The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena characterizes the holiness of Thomas with a striking phrase: Thomas saw God in his “mind’s eye.’’ For St. Thomas, as for many of the early Dominicans, thinking itself was a sacred activity. His mind was in love with God. Owing to his great intellectual genius, devotion to learning came to be regarded as a distinctive characteristic of Dominicans.
The story is told that Thomas in prayer was asked by Christ, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your efforts?” Thomas replied simply and spontaneously, “Nothing but you, O Lord.” In these words Thomas restates the passion of his heart. His entire life and his voluminous theological work are best represented by this simple yet exquisitely profound expression of desire for union with the Divine.

Sister Honora is the Assistant Director at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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“On October 11, 1992, Pope John Paul II published his apostolic constitution The Deposit of Faith, promulgating the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). He chose the publication date to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.”
We celebrated the opening of the Year of Faith this past October to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In this Year of Faith, we are all challenged to awaken, deepen, and renew our faith and our relationship with Jesus.
One way to do this is to deepen your understanding of the teachings of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has four pillars, the first of which is the Creed. “When we pray or recite the Creed, we can be reminded that Catholicism is a revealed religion. God is the author of our faith. All that we are expected to believe is summed up in the revelation of Jesus Christ. God has spoken all that is necessary for our Salvation in Jesus, the Word made flesh. God also gives us the gift of faith that enables us to respond, accept, and live out the implications of Divine Revelation.” Within the first pillar lies an understanding of Apostolic Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium—that is, the teaching authority of the Church.
Apostolic Tradition
“Graced by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles did what Jesus commanded them. They did this orally, in writing, and by the heroic sanctity of their lives,” to ensure “that there would be successors for this mission.” Paul tells the Corinthians, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you” (1 Cor 11:2). He commands the Thessalonians, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter” (2 Thess 2:15). To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the Apostles, Paul told Timothy, “…and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Tim 2:2). In this passage Paul refers to the first four generations of apostolic succession—his own generation, Timothy’s generation, the generation Timothy will teach, and that generation in turn will teach. The early Church Fathers, who were links in that chain of succession, recognized the necessity of the traditions that had been handed down from the Apostles and guarded them well.
Sacred Scripture
“Sacred Scripture is inspired by God and is the Word of God. Therefore, God is the author of Sacred Scripture, which means he inspired the human authors, acting in and through them. Thus, God ensured that the authors taught, without error, those truths necessary for our salvation. Inspiration is the word used for the divine assistance given to the human authors.’’ “When interpreting Scripture, we should be attentive to what God wanted to reveal through the authors for our salvation. We need to see Scripture as a unified whole with Jesus Christ at the center. We must also read Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church, so that we may come to grasp a true interpretation of the Scriptures.’’
“The pope and bishops in union with him are successors of the Apostles and inherit the responsibility of authoritative teaching from them.’’ This teaching office is called the Magisterium. “The task of giving an authoritative interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone” (CCC, 85).
Taken in part from United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, pp. xv, xx, 24, 25, 26-27.
Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is on the Pastoral Services team at RENEW International and a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

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Last week I attended a funeral that gave me more than the usual pause for thought. It celebrated the life of Florence Gilmartin from Maspeth, NY.

Florrie, as I called her, was 70 years old and had lived a full and joy-filled life as a person with Down Syndrome.

I grew up with Florrie. It was a unique experience that taught me, and the rest of the kids in my neighborhood, wonderful life lessons. Florrie was always invited to be part of what the other kids did. For example, when we went to school, so did she. Florrie was taught to travel on the bus and subway to go to school. Her older sister was charged with following her on the first day of Florrie’s first solo trip to be sure she made it safely. Florrie did fine; her sister got lost.

Always dressed to the nines, Florrie loved to go out to lunch. I recall once when she, her mom, my mother, and I went to a fancy restaurant on Long Island. Florrie graciously took the menu from the waiter and proceeded to read it. She then leaned over to my mother and whispered, “Katie, you know I can’t read, so tell me what I should order when the man asks me.” Florrie knew and worked with her limitations; they never stopped her from enjoying life.

Florrie’s family always appreciated the gift she was. They patiently advocated for her, secured all the help possible, and welcomed every opportunity to include her in gatherings, holiday celebrations, and even family reunions in other states. Providing a nurse to accompany her or making special transportation arrangements were always worth the effort. Having her in their midst was a blessing.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Florrie was her deep faith and love of God. She loved going to church, frequently participated in Eucharist, and prayed always. Even in her last days when she was not able to communicate, her face would light up when anyone said the Our Father or Hail Mary in her ear.

When parents are initially told their new baby has Down Syndrome, I am sure they cannot even imagine the graces and blessings that might also be theirs. Florrie Gilmartin and her family are a testimony to this – not easy but, oh, so worthwhile!

Death is always a grace, a moment to reflect on what life is all about and what is really important. Always included, always a part of the family, known and loved by many, Florrie will be missed. Please keep her and her brothers, Hugh and Brian, in your prayers.

Sister Honora is the Director of Pastoral Services at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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During my eight years presenting RENEW in many dioceses in Nigeria, I have enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the Poor Clares in Ijebu-Ode in the southwest part of the country. I remember clearly my first visit—the anxiety I felt as I had never visited, much less stayed overnight, in a cloistered monastery. After many hours of car travel on a hot, hot day we arrived at the closed gate that was part of a wall that surrounded the property. The driver began to honk the horn—a practice in Nigeria that always puts my nerves on edge—but one that every single driver I ever had the pleasure to meet engaged in. After a while, the guard appeared and opened the gate. As we drove into the compound, I was astonished to see lovely trees, well-tended flower beds, and many walking paths.

Before I even had the chance to get out of the car, the front door opened and out came Sr. Bonaventure (“Bona” for short) with a huge smile ready to greet me in a warm embrace. My biggest shock was that she was dressed in what I would call a tan, “modern” habit, and she was Irish! Sr. Bona is the vicaress, meaning second in authority. My nerves melted away as fast as most things do in the Nigerian sun. Both she and the abbess, Sr. Francesca (from Italy), had been working to firmly establish this young Nigerian community. Sr. Bona took me to my room, where I dropped off my bags, and then to the dining room for a cold drink and some supper. One of the traditions in a Poor Clare Monastery is that visitors and the sisters eat in a separate dining room. I spent several days there and was able to join in the prayer life of the sisters in the chapel. My meals, although taken in the visitor’s dining room, were always in the company of one of the sisters.

On my second visit, the sisters invited me into the cloistered area to share with them the work that RENEW was engaged in within the diocese. One of my surprises was to listen to these women who never went beyond “the wall” speak so knowledgeably about the realities affecting the people in the diocese—their struggles, their problems, and their great faith. It was truly inspiring! Another wonderful example of how I went to share and how I came away filled and humbled.

Since those visits to the monastery in Ijebu-Ode, I have had the honor of visiting several Poor Clare monasteries—in England, Italy, Ireland, and here in the United States. The gift for me has been that each one has its own unique flavor, always capturing the beauty and hospitality of Clare.
Clare speaks to us today as we remember her as a strong woman of the Church who founded her own community of “poor ladies” in the church of San Damiano. Clare was the first woman to write her own rule of life for religious women. This rule guaranteed her and her sisters the “privilege of poverty,” which is the right never to own anything of their own. She steadfastly clung to this principle and won papal approval for the rule, despite many misgivings from church authorities.
Clare’s life served as a model of feminine leadership. As abbess, she considered herself not above her sisters but an equal among them. She listened to them and included them in decision-making. She always maintained a calm demeanor and was a spiritual teacher, a healer, and a woman who was fearless in the face of external threats to Assisi and to her cloister.

My favorite quote of Clare from her Second Letter (11-14) to her sister Agnes inspires me as a Franciscan woman to continue to be steadfast in my call.

“What you hold, may you always hold,
What you do, may you always do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step,
unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir up no dust,
may you go forward
securely, joyfully, and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness,
not believing anything
that would dissuade you from this resolution
or that would place a stumbling block for you on the way,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in the pursuit of that perfection
to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.”

Happy Feast Day to all the Poor Clares around the world!

Sr. Maureen P. Colleary, FSP is on the Pastoral Services team at RENEW International and a Franciscan Sister of Peace.

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As a child, my image of God was “the policeman in the sky.” The vivid graphic in my third-grade Baltimore Catechism supported this concept. My God had a long white beard and looked rather scary. As I grew into adulthood and entered religious life this image changed, but the concept of a God who kept track of my every failure did not easily fade away. I knew that God is love and had heard it in the Scriptures at Mass, but for some reason that third-grade image hung on.
I was already in religious life, studying theology and experiencing a changing Church in the mid-sixties, when I met St. Irenaeus. I can’t recall how I first met him, but learning about him and the theology he taught changed my life.
St. Irenaeus lived in the second century and knew people who knew the original disciples. His education was in the liberal arts and included Greek philosophy. As one of the first great Christian theologians, he emphasized the best elements in the Church, especially the episcopate, Scripture, and tradition.
St. Irenaeus brought me to a new understanding of the Incarnation. God so loved us that he became one of us. He became human in all things but sin. To be human, with successes and failures, is part of it all. I came to realize that God often used my failures and shortcomings to bring me to my knees, to help me ask for forgiveness, and to teach me be less judgmental and more understanding of others.
Every time you see the crucifix, remember that God took on the form of humanity. St. Irenaeus saw this humanity as basically good and a conduit for God. By doing this, Jesus raised all of humanity to a new level and invited all into the Paschal Mystery. The Paschal Mystery is God fully alive in us.

Sister Honora is the Director of Pastoral Services at RENEW and a Dominican Sister of Amityville, NY.

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