More than 1,000 young pilgrims will share their cultures, joys and struggles at a gathering of indigenous youth in a small town in Panama just before World Youth Day in January. The gathering will take place Jan. 17-21 in the Ngäbe territory of Soloy, in the Diocese of David, in western Panama.
They are likely to be joined by several thousand local indigenous people, who will make the journey on foot or horseback, carrying food with them and setting up camp at the gathering place as is the custom during traditional assemblies, said Father Joe Fitzgerald, a Vincentian missionary from Philadelphia who heads the Panamanian Church’s national indigenous ministry office.
“This will be an encounter with the Lord through our culture,” Emilda Santos, 20, who is Ngäbe and one of the event’s coordinators, told Catholic News Service.
The gathering will take place Jan. 17-21 in the Ngäbe territory of Soloy, in the Diocese of David, in western Panama. Fitzgerald, 48, has worked in the Soloy mission parish since 2007.
The participants also will take part in World Youth Day Jan. 22-27 in Panama City.
At the indigenous event, participants will reinforce their identity by sharing traditional music and dance and dramatizations of the struggles they have encountered, Santos said.
“We want to free ourselves from social exclusion and also from religious exclusion,” because in society and even in the Church, “indigenous people are often marginalized,” she said.
Mini-pilgrimages during the event will enable the young people to explore and share their indigenous heritage. One will take them to a traditional cemetery and ritual cave, another to a village, and a third to a plant nursery, where they will prepare 5,000 seedlings to be sown later, when the rainy season begins.
On May 26, two men presented themselves for the next step in their journey into service to the marginalized of our world in the context of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission.
They began their journeys because of the joy they observed in the lives of two Vincentians, Fr. Vince Finnerty and Alfonso Cabezas, Bishop emeritus of Villavicencio, Colombia. Our confrere Bishop ordained the men as deacons, imposing hands on them and handing to them the book of the Gospel they are to preach and serve.
“Here I am Lord,” one of the most popular hymns, Catholic or Protestant, in the English language, captures much of the meaning of the day. Based on Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3, it captures the age-old elements of the call and journey to service — fear and excitement, confusion and courage.
Leo, originally from Cholula Puebla, Mexico, a state in the highlands of south-central Mexico, spent most of his young life living in and working in Charlotte, NC. In 2014, he first encountered the Vincentians through Father Vincent Finnerty, CM, an active Vincentian priest at Tiburcio’s parish. Leo felt drawn to the work he witnessed Father Finnerty undertaking in the community and the happiness Father Finnerty exuded daily.
What he witnessed and experienced in his local parish was different from anything in his past. Every Sunday he felt struck by the Masses and a calm sense of peace remained inside of him. A friendship grew between Leo and Father Finnerty, who invited Leo on a retreat to meet the other Vincentians. Leo reflects on a time when Father Finnerty told him that God wanted something else from him. Soon after, in 2009, Leo decided to follow this calling and moved to New York to enter the seminary.
Leo admits he felt scared to leave behind the life he had always known in North Carolina but reminds others that even when you have fear, God will help us overcome those scary moments. “In the end, we find ourselves gaining something much more than we ever imagined.” Leo has found peace and happiness in the seminary, and, although fear creeps in, he finds excitement as he embarks on the next step of his vocation. He finds joy knowing he will be returning to Charlotte, NC, which will give him the chance to give back to a community from which he learned so much while growing up.
Luis Romero grew up in a small town in El Salvador, and from a young age knew the religious life was for him. As a boy, Luis would see the joy that overtook his community when priests visited and said Mass. When he saw this happiness he knew he wanted to bring that same joy to others throughout his life.
In 2007, his family moved to Uniondale, NY, where Luis met Bishop Cabezas, a Vincentian who currently resides on Long Island, and celebrated the Spanish Mass that Romero regularly attended. Luis, drawn to the Vincentian lifestyle, decided to enter the seminary in New York in 2018.
Currently, Luis is excited to bring God’s word to the poor and help bring people back to the Sacraments, specifically the Eucharist. He offers advice to other young men, “There will always be fear and doubt, but the most important thing to remember is to trust in God. If you are being called to the religious life, God will be by your side, working with you when times are difficult.”
If this journey of service interests you, we invite you to lend your time, talent or treasure the Congregation of the Mission Eastern Province by contacting this website.
I used to dread preaching on Trinity Sunday. Now I look forward to it.
I grew up in an age where the most famous theologian of the last century, Karl Rahner, wondered whether, if the Trinity were removed from our vocabulary, would anyone even notice?
I also remember being mystified by the question “Should I pray to Jesus, or to the Spirit, or to the Father?” When I first faced that question a half-century ago, I already had my head filled with the sophisticated theology one learns in the seminary. Now I was being asked a “heart” question. That question got me thinking. Who did I pray to?
But I have a new problem. My mind spins with so many things to say and my heart overflows with the realization that we are made in the image and likeness of a God who is revealed to us as a community.
There is so much I want to say. But let’s see what some popular writers have to say.
God for us, we call you “Father.”
God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”
God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”
Together, you are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
What an incredible gift. What an incredible responsibility. Just think of what that simple gesture of the sign of the cross means.
We touch our heads for the Father – the one whose mere idea, whose smallest thought, created us. This is where we began, in the mind of God.
We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the cross, and the one who taught us, as well, how to love through his own Sacred Heart.
We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, and who carries us on His shoulders — on His wings if you will – and who enables us to be God’s arms, working on earth.
Just these three sentences provide inspiration for at least three homilies. With the last sentence, think of Vincent asking us to love God with the strength of our arms.
When we make the sign of the cross and pray the sign of the cross with those words, we make of ourselves an offering and a prayer. We embody what the Trinity represents. And we seek to bring that with our lives and with our actions to all those we meet. We do it in the name of God – all that He is, all that He does.
And I haven’t even touched on the fact that we are made in the image of likeness of God – a God revealed as communion. The more we build community, the more we become the image and likeness of God! (Check out Fr. Tom McKenna’s reflection, “Come on in”!)
Something to think about
What if we were to live the mystery of Trinitarian communion rather than just puzzle about it?
Do we realize living the mystery of God as a communion of persons has the potential to change everything?
Our Superior General, Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM, acting in his capacity as President of the International Vincentian Family, inaugurates the “Here I am” initiative of the Vincentian Family. This initiative is close to the heart of our Central Association of the Miraculous Medal with its purpose of spreading devotion to Mary and supporting vocations.
“Here I Am”. Strengthening Vincentian Marian Youth and Founding New Associations around the World
Dear members of the Vincentian Family,
May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!
With hearts full of gratitude for last year’s 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism and as we begin its fifth century, we are very much encouraged that each member of the Vincentian Family, as well as the Family as a whole, becomes more and more engaged in the life of the Church and the world. One very clear sign of commitment and vitality is the different initiatives in which we are involved and in which we encourage others to take part.
The Vincentian Marian Youth Association (VMY), one of the branches of the Vincentian Family, is beginning 2018 with, among other things, the initiative, “Here I am,” to strengthen in every possible way the existing VMY groups around the world, as well as to become more active members within the Church and in the world.
This active involvement and engagement in the countries where the Vincentian Marian Youth is already present surely will encourage others – parishes, schools, youth in different areas of society –to form new VMY groups in the given country, as well as to found Vincentian Marian Youth groups in countries where the VMY is not yet present.
Dear members of the different women and men’s Congregations of the Vincentian Family around the world, I would like to invite and encourage you:
1. to found new groups of Vincentian Marian Youth in the countries where the VMY already exists; and
2. to found groups of Vincentian Marian Youth in countries where the VMY still is not present.
To Jesus through Mary: During the apparitions to Saint Catharine Labouré, Our Lady expressed this very clear wish, “I would like an Association of Youth founded!” This wonderful and extraordinary invitation and wish came from Jesus and Mary themselves.
For us, this invitation and wish become nothing less than a clear sign that we must do everything possible to make Jesus and Mary’s invitation and wish a reality in the places and countries where the VMY already exists by founding new groups and by introducing VMY into countries where it is not yet present and founding it there.
The International Secretariat of the Vincentian Marian Youth, which has its headquarters in Madrid, Spain, has prepared a project to help found new groups of Vincentian Marian Youth in as many countries as possible. The international team of the VMY Secretariat is available to any Congregation, school, parish, or young person in other parts of society who would like to know more about the VMY Association, receive materials, guidance, and help in founding and accompanying a new group. You can write its members there in many different languages.
The Director of the VMY International Secretariat, Father Irving Amaro, CM, will send you a letter shortly with the details of the project.
I would like to ask the Superiors General and through them the Visitatrices and Visitors of the different Congregations within the Vincentian Family, who decide to found a new group or groups of VMY in a given country, to name a sister, priest, or brother as coordinator. They then should inform the Director of the VMY International Secretariat in Madrid, Spain, so that he can help the newly appointed leaders to organize the new groups.
I encourage and invite all of us, as members of the Vincentian Family, to do everything possible so that this initiative will bear much fruit and bring, God willing, many new vocations to the consecrated life.
Let us place this project in the hands of Divine Providence through the intercession of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
I know this is a Veteran’s Day story rather than a Memorial Day story. I know Memorial Day is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I know that Veterans Day is for all those who served and came home. But I can’t hold it in until next Veterans Day. So I will write a Memorial Day story about those who came home. Those who are still paying a price we can not imagine. A price that is almost worse than a life snuffed out. A living hell made worse because they were told not to talk about their experiences. Just “Move on with your life” they were told!
This weekend I was privileged to hear a 20 year veteran of surgical nursing in the military share the experience of the worst 13 months of his life. It has been almost ten years since that tour of duty at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. After much therapy, he is grateful that he can sleep 19-20 hours per week. Grateful because for many years he was only sleeping 10-11 hours per week. I am amazed he can function in his place of employment!
With great reverence, he shared slides, at times quite graphic. Some slides showed “wounds” (I am not sure that is the right word) that I had never imaged existed or that I would see. Some slides reminded him of the lives that couldn’t be saved. Other slides showed the pride of lives saved, even if not restored. With great reverence, he identified the pictures of the team that shared the experience of those 13 months. He told their stories also.
Memorial Day and Veterans Day will never be the same for me.
I must admit that, as so many people, I had come to think of Memorial Day as the beginning of summer. Not anymore!
I have never visited Walter Reed Hospital. But as I think of him and the untold thousands in VA hospitals I recall the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman
“You cannot quantify in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it, and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” General William Tecumseh Sherman Letter to the City of Atlanta (September 1864)
St. Vincent DePaul and War
All this reminded me of the glimpses Vincent had of the suffering of the poor in his time. Besides some brief and short-lived periods of peace, the century in which Vincent lived was a century of war: People, soldiers and non-combatants, suffered the consequences of the wars of religion and the upheavals of the civil wars which were often complicated by foreign wars and continual threats from the Muslim world.
We must also admit that our century is no better than the seventeenth century … in fact we have surpassed the horrors that were created by the Thirty Years War and the Fronde.
Vincent was neither an ideologue nor a theoretician. When speaking about war and peace he placed great value on the numerous eye-witness testimonies. He allowed himself to be touched by the accounts. We hear him say,
“…the misfortune of the war has distributed equal portions of misery everywhere…”
“…No tongue can express…”
There are Christians and disciples of Saint Vincent on both sides of every barrier, wall or “curtain”. Like Vincent, they participate in countless endeavors to alleviate the suffering that results from war. These individuals seek to discover the root causes of war and yet do not embrace a blind pacifism. They support other organizations that promote, on both a social and political level, peace and justice in the world.
The disciples of Saint Vincent always defend the poor and are also concerned about establishing peace because they realize that the poor are often the first victims in all of these various conflicts.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel pointedly reminds us “What experience and history teach us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
Respecting the untold stories of war
This surgical nurse is not the only one with so much of an untold story. One of the ways they are now being helped is through Prolonged Exposure Therapy. People with PTSD often try to avoid things that remind them of the trauma. This can help them feel better in the moment, but in the long term, it can keep them from recovering from PTSD.
“In PE, you expose yourself to the thoughts, feelings, and situations that you’ve been avoiding. It sounds scary, but facing things you’re afraid of in a safe way can help you learn that you don’t need to avoid reminders of the trauma. Your therapist will ask you to talk about your trauma over and over. This will help you get more control of your thoughts and feelings about the trauma so you don’t need to be afraid of your memories. She will also help you work up to doing the things you’ve been avoiding. For example, let’s say you avoid driving because it reminds you of an accident. At first, you might just sit in the car and practice staying calm with breathing exercises. Gradually, you’ll work towards driving without being upset by memories of your trauma. PTSD Guidelines
When the parades have passed by what we can do?
Do we recognize the existence of these untold stories in our midst?
Are we ready to listen if we sense a need to talk?
French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that the discovery and harnessing of fire was one of the great technological discoveries of human history. I was struck by how the Rev. Michael Curry spoke of fire in his homily at the royal wedding.
Fire to a great extent made human civilization possible.
Fire made it possible to cook food, and to provide sanitary ways of eating, which reduced the spread of disease in its time.
Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby marking human migration a possibility even into colder climates.
Fire made it possible — there was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire. …
Anybody get here in a car today? An Automobile? Nod your heads if you did, I know there were some carriages. Those of us who came in cars, the controlled-harnessed fire made that possible.
I know that the Bible says, and I believe it that Jesus walked on water, but I have to tell you I didn’t walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane got me here.
Fire makes it possible for us to text, and tweet, and email, and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other.
Fire makes that possible, and de Chardin said fire was one of the great discoveries in all of human history.
He (Teilhard de Chardin) went on to say if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captured the energies of love, it will be the second time in the history that will have discovered fire.
Dr. King was right. We must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.
My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you. And may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.
I could not help recall the Pope Francis’ dream of the transforming power of a “missionary option”
“I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything,
so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation… We must admit that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people,
to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented…
To make this missionary impulse ever more focused, generous and fruitful, I encourage each particular church to undertake a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform.” (Synthesis of Evangelii Gaudium 27-33)
I believe this is the dream in the heart of every missioner in whatever state of life.
If you have this fire we invite you to lend your time, talent or treasure the Congregation of the Mission Eastern Province through this webpage.
A snap quiz! Name the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It has probably been many years since your confirmation classes. Maybe your memory is rusty. So here, straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Forgotten truths about St. Vincent
In recent weeks I have been thinking a lot about some other forgotten truths… forgotten truths about Vincent.
The truth is that he was convinced that others shared his vision and would be generous in their response to needs. “The poor suffer less from a lack of generosity than from a lack of organization.”
The truth is that he was humble enough to ask others to help. He was not wedded to any messianic delusions, tendencies of thinking that he had to do it on his own.
The truth is that he was adept at involving others in what he saw needed to be done. He found his strength in accepting his limitations.
He was all about networking for the sake of the mission!
Now think about how he embodied the seven gifts of Holy Spirit
These seven gifts help us to respond to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to make good choices, and to serve God and others.
Wisdom is the gift of knowing the right choices to make to live a holy life. Understanding is the gift helps you be tolerant and sympathetic of others. It helps us sense when someone is hurting or in need of compassion. Right Judgment, or Counsel, is the gift of prudence or knowing what must be done Courage, or Fortitude, is the gift that helps overcome any obstacles in serving Knowledge is the gift of knowing what obstacles to avoid Reverence, or Piety, is the gift of confidence in God. This gift of reverence inspires us to joyfully want to serve God and others. Wonder and Awe, or Fear of the Lord is the gift of wonder and respect to see the other side of the coin
This, my dear confreres, shows us how highly God and the Church, inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, look upon charity practiced toward poor persons. O brothers, how fortunate we are to be in a Company that professes to run to the relief of the neighbor! (CCD:XI:331)
See his words below.
Praying for the Fire of Forgotten Truths
Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful – followers of Vincent and Louise.
Enkindle in us the fire of your love – a love especially for the least of our brothers and sisters
Send forth your spirit and they shall be created – so that love lights up our mortal frames until others catch the living flame.
Grant us in the same spirit to be truly wise – knowing that others share our vision and be humble enough to ask for their help so that together we may be set on fire.
And ever rejoice in his consolation through Christ Our Lord.
In the words of St. Vincent…
I lovingly invoke His Holy Spirit upon you so that, animated by it, you will be able to pour His light and fruits into souls deprived of the assistance priests owe to them. CCD:IV:118)
I ask the Holy Spirit, who is nothing if not love, and who is the sacred bond of the Father and the Soli, to be the soul of your leadership and the gentleness of your words and actions (CCD:VIII:318)
What means are to be employed and what dispositions are necessary in order to participate in the reception of the Holy Spirit.
The first one that occurred to me was that Our Lord told His Apostles that He had to leave them so, as to return to the Father and to send them the Holy Spirit. This taught me, that I must be completely detached from all creatures and even from the Divine Presence so that my soul may be empty of all obstacles and the Holy Spirit may fill it with His presence. and gilts which will draw me out of my lassitude by the power of His love and cause me to act by His strength. Therefore. it is not enough for You, O Lord, to have taught me the means for disposing myself for the coming of the Holy Spirit. I must also labor diligently, 0 my soul, to remove all obstacles and to act, or better, to let the grace, with which the Holy Spirit wills to’ fill all the powers of my being, act in me. This can only come about by the destruction of the evil habits which on diverse occasions, hinder His action in me. O Eternal Light, lift my blindness! 0 Perfect Unity, create in me simplicity of being! Humble my heart to receive Your graces. May the power to love which. You have placed in my soul no longer stop ‘at the disorder of my self-sufficiency which, in reality, is but powerlessness and an obstacle to the pure love which I must have as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Confusion then for myself because of my errors which have often attached me to falsehood and led me to abandon eternal truth. Consume all that, 0 Fire of Divine Love. although I do not merit this grace. (SWLM:818 [A.26])
Fr. Pat Griffin of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission offers insights into the in-between-time of our lives.
We sometimes refer to that period which is sandwiched between two events as an “in-between” time. The occurrences which flank this interval often provide its character and purpose. The unifying force of the interlude draws the two poles together in a manner which gives direction to the whole. “In-between” time enables one to reflect upon the meaning of one happening and prepare for the next. It reminds us that we are always on a journey. Attention to this interval confirms where we have been and primes us for what is to come. It is like the silence between notes of music, the break between words in poetry, the rest between exertions.
On occasion, I have been drawn to reflect upon some of the in-between times which the New Testament and the liturgical year offer to us. These are times about which we know little but which are defined by great events. Holy Saturday seems like one of those times for me. For the apostles, it is the time between death and Resurrection. One could also consider the time between the incarnation and the nativity; between the presentation and the beginning of the public ministry (with the story of the “finding in the Temple” offering a break); and so forth.
Right now, I am focusing on the ten days between the Ascension and Pentecost. For the forty days previous to the Ascension, the resurrected Lord had been appearing to the members of the early Christian community. We have been reading some of these stories, and are told that there were other encounters. Remember how Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles:
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:1-5)
This gift of the Holy Spirit would deepen the disciples understanding of Jesus and their ministry. The preparation for Pentecost was to give the community an opportunity to get themselves ready to change and be changed. I envision it as a time of quiet, openness and, perhaps, some eagerness.
I think that this period may have had some particular importance for our Founders. We know the circumstances surrounding the lumière, and how it influenced Louise’s later thinking.
Jesus Promised the Disciples the explosive power of “Dynamite”
When Alfred Nobel discovered an explosive element that was stronger than anything the world had known at the time, he asked a friend and Greek scholar for a word that conveyed the meaning of explosive power. The Greek word was dunamis, and Nobel named his invention “dynamite.”
Dunamis is the same word that Jesus used when He told His disciples, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In other words, “You shall receive explosive, dynamite power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (CF Greg Laurie)
Peter’s Powerful Transformation
Think about how this power transformed the first-century believers. Prior to Pentecost, Simon Peter couldn’t stand up for his faith when strangers asked him if he was a follower of Jesus. After the power of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, Peter stood up and boldly preached the gospel, resulting in 3,000 people being saved.
After Saul of Tarsus was struck blind on the Damascus Road, God led Ananias to go and pray for him. He was then filled with the Holy Spirit, and from that moment on, he went out and proclaimed Christ in the synagogues.
What is the Explosive Vincentians Hold in Their Hands
When sending forth his first missionaries, St. Vincent de Paul said “our vocation is to go, not just to one parish, not just to one diocese, but to all over the world, and to do what? To set people’s hearts on fire, to do what the Son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with his love.”
Two hundred years ago, thirteen bold missioners carried that Pentecost fire to the United States. Bishop David O’Connell CM, one of their successors, wrote of them…
… their fidelity was great, profound, inspiring, deeper, larger, more consequential than they ever imagined.
They set America “on fire” with Christ ‘s love; and the flame is still burning,
• burning for the poor and abandoned
• burning for those in formation for priestly ministry;
• burning for those in countless churches longing to hear God’s Word;
• burning in their confessionals, for those aching for God’s mercy;
• burning for those in schools and universities seeking knowledge and wisdom;
• burning in hospitals and prisons;
• burning for and with the Daughters of Charity and the wider Vincentian family;
• burning at home and in mission lands;
• burning for justice and peace and inclusion and wholeness and Christ’s love.
This has always been and remains our charism and our mission; our place and our role in the Church; our sermon in the pulpit and on the city’s streets.
Let love light up my mortal frame until other catch the living flame.
There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of us already associated with the mission of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission. Whether in vows or as lay collaborators, we share in the mission of Jesus bringing the explosive good news of God’s love in word and deed.
In the fifth century of the Vincentian Charism won’t you join us in sharing your time, talent or treasure?
Over fifty years ago I distributed a memorial card on the occasion of my ordination. I thought it was a saying of Vincent. I have since learned it was written by Cardinal John Henry Newman.
We believe in “community for mission”! Let us know if you are able to collaborate with us.
“Together let love light up our mortal frames until others catch the living flame.”