Achievement to Implementation

Achievement to Implementation

Fr. Tom Mckenna, in his biweekly reflection on, reflects on situations we have all experienced… feeling a pull to take the next step yet feeling helpless to actually take that step.

Certain stories might well be styled “echoing” because they reverberate with the inner story a person tells about herself. Gospel stories have a way of setting off this kind of echo, striking chords people recognize inside their own experience. “Oh yes, I’ve been there.”

An incident in John’s 20th chapter sounds such a note in many believers. And that is the pull to move forward but not being able to do so, the feel of an inner prod to take a further step and yet feeling helpless make it.

This is the predicament of the post Resurrection disciples who are locked behind doors for fear of what the authorities might do. Other believers have arrived with testimony that Jesus is alive, not just come back but radiant with a new kind of life. They recognize also that his teachings and actions have come out of the tomb with him and are indeed the truth and the life.  Hearing this, the disciples in the room still can’t unlock their locks and move out, can’t take that next step.

That’s their predicament when suddenly Jesus comes through the barred doors.  He wishes them peace, shows them his wounds, and then does the crucial thing – he breathes on them. This breath is his (God’s) own Spirit, the breath that blew over the waters of creation, that dried up the Red Sea, that brought vitality back to the dry bones on the desert floor. This is the new and overflowing life that streamed out from his side and that is now flooding into this room. It enables the disciples to move from what they know they ought to do to what they now can do — be sent out proclaiming that their Lord is alive and his Way is everlasting life.

You might say this is a story about people being strengthened to cross the gap between the achievement and its implementation.  Christ has died, Christ is risen: that’s the achievement. But living as if that Christ is alive and active in our world: this is the implementation, the enablement of what has already happened.

This is a story that echoes inside our own. It’s the initial plot line of recognizing the pull to step more out onto Jesus’ Way, but hesitating to venture beyond those locked doors. But there’s the second thread in the story, the one where a person felt the breath of Jesus’ Spirit blowing through a wavering heart and then moved forward. It’s that remembrance of crossing the gap between what I knew I should do and then doing it.

If you can bring up the memory of such a movement in yourself, you’re back in that fear-filled room on the first day of the week — but no longer imprisoned by your fear. You stepped out because you let the Lord breathe his Spirit into you and so carry you across that wide chasm between realization and follow-up, between the achievement already accomplished and the implementation needing to be done.

If there is a patron saint of implementation, it is our own St. Vincent. Always suspicious of pure ideas untethered to concrete effects, he looks to the world of action to validate the ideas and follow through on their possibilities. He not only experiences the breath of the Spirit blowing through but also moves with that inspiration to put flesh on the “achievement” of Risen Life. His story echoes what happened in that room, the story of people who have heard and then been empowered to bring the Good News to the world. Might this be our story too?

The Abuse Synod – A Tale of Two Meetings

A Tale of Two Meetings – World Youth Day, Abuse Synod

Two World Youth Days?

There was the first tale of the recent World Youth Day. This was the one that appeared in international media focusing mainly on what was said on hot button issues of their home country.
The other tale of World Youth Day took place in the minds and hearts of the people who were present and impacted by the experience. In a clear case of under-reporting, the stories from the participants themselves focused on the impact their experience had on them. These stories spoke of life-changing impacts.

Two Abuse Synods?

Let me say something up front. As I read the media reports of the recent meeting of the world’s Bishops  I was disappointed and frustrated. However, there was part of me that has wondered whether there were two Abuse Synods.

The reporting on the one synod features all the things that did not happen at the Synod. Perhaps these could come under the heading of first reactions. In what might be the beginning of a more considered analysis, we might have second thoughts or a view of the synod from within.

A recent edition of La Croix,  a highly respected and world-leading, independent Catholic daily, provides food for thought. (See below)

What happened in the minds and hearts of the participants and why

Here are some quotes from this series of articles.

Changing mindsets and Culture

  • In an achievement that would have been impossible just a few short years ago, Pope Francis has succeeded in his efforts to develop a much greater level of awareness among the world’s bishops, many of whom who were a long way from sharing his vision.
  • The pope is convinced that processes are more important than blunt decisions. And through patience he been able to change the collective state of mind in the space of a few short days
  • The bishops’ growing awareness of their common responsibility for abuse and its management should now enable the Church to make much more orderly progress both against abuse and cover ups.

Child abuse at the Global level

Personal accounts of survivors impacted mindsets

  • Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg said, “I had to close my eyes, they were filled with tears,” adding, “it is absolutely necessary that we listen to these accounts.”
  • The President of Bishops of the European Union said that watching and listening to participants, he had witnessed a gradual evolution and improvement, thanks to the personal testimony given by survivors. “Bishops are changing. I can feel it in the way we are sharing and talking to one another,” he said.

Video statements by Bishops of the impact of victim testimonies

The Impact of Women

  • Women, though only few in number, also played a major part in what happened these last days in Rome.

There were only 9 major presentations to the entire assembly. Women gave three of them. Two of these women were mothers. One of the three represented women religious in Africa where there is a strong current of denial.

Each of these women offered serious challenges, See  also Crux Women who took star turns at Pope Francis’s recent summit

See more on each of the speakers

Significant actions to come.

In his post-meeting review Fr. Frederico Lombardi revealed some immediate actions  I expect these to have a powerful impact on turning around the ocean liner of clericalism.

  • A new Motu Proprio from the Pope “on the protection of minors and vulnerable persons”
  • A Vademecum to help bishops around the world clearly understand their duties and tasks
  • Creation of task forces of competent persons to help episcopal conferences and dioceses that find it difficult to confront the problems and produce initiatives for the protection of minors

My unofficial translation of the above

  • A motu proprio is usually when the pope wants to change or enact church rules
  • A vademecum is a guideook for getting things done.
  • Task forces presumably will aid in getting things done. (This process began on Monday, February 25!)

La Croix (subscription required)

In our continuing coverage of this historic event, La Croix‘s Rome correspondent Nicholas Senèze offers his analysis of the “abuse summit” and why it marks a monumental shift for the Church.

In another article, we explain how the four-day gathering inside the Synod Hall at the Vatican changed the hearts and minds of some of the more reticent bishops.

One of the major reasons for that was the testimony offered by abuse victims, both inside the hall and on the sidelines of the summit.

Another was the prophetic and powerful voice of women who, though only few in number, also played a major part in what happened these last days in Rome. We have reports on those aspects as well.

“Heart, Love & Soul” and the Vincentian Mission in Niagara Falls

 Before “Vincentian Family” and “collaboration” were Vincentian buzzwords, people in the city of Niagara Falls knew that collaboration was the only effective response. That response was “Heart, Love & Soul.”


A community-led, collaborative response to hunger and poverty that was begun 40 years ago by local lay leaders, and joined by area religious including Vincentian priests, brothers, seminarians, the Daughters of Charity and staff and students of Niagara University is moving to a new level of transformative service.

Watch as Fr. Joseph Levesque, CM President Emeritus of Niagara University makes the Vincentian Connection


A February 15 press conference announced the launch of a capital campaign to support Heart, Love & Soul (HLS) and its planned Daybreak program.

HLS’s “Daybreak” will build upon current HLS services – including a food pantry, daily meal service, case management, and care coordination – expanding the collaboration by providing additional basic services and dedicated space for partner agencies to deliver client services directly onsite.

“We are excited to move forward on this needed initiative that is the result of years of planning by many service agencies in the Niagara Falls community,” said Sr. Beth Brosmer, Executive Director of HLS. “By bringing a variety of services together in one accessible location, we can improve the effectiveness of our efforts and make a greater collective impact on our community and individuals in need.”

Niagara University Expands Its Mission in Vaughan Ontario

“Niagara seeks to inspire its students to serve all members of society, especially the poor and oppressed, in local communities and in the larger world.” Niagara University Mission Statement

Niagara University marks another milestone in its mission with the establishment of an additional location for its Niagara University in Ontario program in Vaughan, Ontario, a highly diverse community. The site is also the first-ever university to be established in the City of Vaughan and York Region and supports Niagara University’s commitment to becoming the premier bi-national university within the Province of Ontario.

Rev. James J. Maher, C.M, Niagara University president stated
“As the largest university in the region in terms of enrollment, and one of the largest employers in Niagara County, this collaboration with the City of Vaughan will enable us to look beyond Western New York to make a deliberate and focused economic impact on this bi-national region, positively impacting the lives of others.”
Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua said
“Having a post-secondary institution in an urban setting, within walking distance from homes, businesses, and amenities, connected by regionally integrated transit, will contribute to both the economy and the quality of life for residents of the City of Vaughan.Niagara University in Ontariois an unprecedented investment in our community and in the Vaughan Metropolitan Center.”
Classes started in Vaughan on Jan. 21 for Niagara University in Ontario’s Bachelor of Professional Studies in Education program, which is accredited by the Ontario College of Teachers, and the Master of Science in Education program. Both prepare aspiring professionals for careers in primary-junior and intermediate-senior teacher positions, among other education-related employment opportunities.
Multiethnic nature of the population
According to the 2016 Census, English is the mother tongue of 45.2% of the residents of Vaughan. Italian is the mother tongue for 12.3% of the population, followed by Russian (6.8%) and Spanish (2.4%). Each of Punjabi, Tagalog (Filipino), Hebrew, Persian, Mandarin, Urdu, Cantonese, and Vietnamese has a percentage ranging from 1.5% to 2.9%, signifying Vaughan’s high linguistic diversity.[1]
As of 2011, 60.62% of the city’s population adheres to Christianity, mostly Catholicism (46.23%). Those who practice non-Christian religions adhere to, in order of size, Judaism (15.28%), Islam (4.92%), Hinduism (4.50%), and Buddhism (2.52%). Those who do not have a religious affiliation account for 10.04% of the population.[28]


Our Universities and Our Mission in Action – Part 2

The second of two stories that show our Universities and our mission in action.

University Chaplain Opens His Heart to St. John’s Community

Fr. John Holliday, CM  knows from personal experience the journey of many of today’s students.

“I came back to the church and changed my life at a relatively late age. I hope that helps people to realize that things are not necessarily over when you enter the later stages of life.”

Born and raised in Wilmington, DE, Fr. Holliday said he grew up in the Catholic faith, attended Catholic schools, and considered becoming a priest when he was a teenager. But he “fell away from the Church” when he turned 18 and spent nearly 20 years managing restaurants and movie theaters. The death of his father at only 58 years old caused Fr. Holliday to reevaluate his life, and he soon returned to practicing his Catholic faith at his local parish, the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington.

Today Father John J. Holliday, C.M., is quick to name one of his favorite parts of his job as University Chaplain at St. John’s.
“It is working with young people,” said Fr. Holliday, who arrived on the Queens, NY, campus in August 2017, after spending his priesthood as pastor of several parishes in Emmitsburg, MD, and Philadelphia, PA.

“In parishes, the people who are 18 to 24 years old are either away at college or they are not going to church anymore, so you do not see many young adults,” he observed. “But here, we are surrounded by young people—we are in the middle of all of their energy, and they are at a transitional point in their personal and spiritual lives. They are full of excitement and optimism about beginning their careers and going out to change the world. That attitude is very contagious.”

Sharing his own journey

One of his main goals, he said, is to encourage students not to take their spirituality and their relationship to it for granted.

“They should also ask questions and know that Campus Ministry can help them figure things out instead of trying to do it on their own, the way I did.”

Several years later, he rekindled his interest in joining the priesthood and found his way to the Vincentian community after realizing he wanted to work primarily in service to the poor and marginalized. At 40, he was accepted into the formation program of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission and was sent to St. John’s to study philosophy. He graduated in 2000, and at 47, he was ordained into the Vincentian priesthood.

“I think it just turned out that God thought I would make a better priest at 47 instead of at 27,” Fr. Holliday said.

See also Our Universities fulfilling the Vincentian Mission – Part 1

Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag Named President and CEO of CAMM

Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag Named President and CEO of CAMM;Introduces New Initiatives to Celebrate Vincentians’ 170 Years in Philadelphia

Germantown, Philadelphia, PA – January 14, 2019 – The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM) is pleased to announce that Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag has been named the Organization’s first President and CEO. Timlin-Hoag has served as CAMM’s Senior Executive Director since January 2018, bringing extensive corporate and non-profit experience to CAMM. During this time she has worked to centralize operations and expand the visibility of CAMM and the Miraculous Medal Shrine, Apostolates of the Vincentians’ Eastern Province. In 2018, she oversaw the merger of CAMM’s Communications Office with that of the Vincentians’ Eastern Province, creating an expanded Central Communications Office to increase awareness of the Vincentian’s message of devotion to the Blessed Mother through the Miraculous Medal, and their service to the poor and marginalized in the Philadelphia region and throughout the Eastern Province, which includes the whole East Coast of the United States as well as portions of Central America.

In 2019, Timlin-Hoag looks to the future to continue this Vincentian legacy in Philadelphia and around the Eastern Province with many initiatives to commemorate the 170th Anniversary of the Vincentian Priests and Brothers in the Philadelphia region. Plans for the year-long observance include a Gala celebration and other initiatives to mark the special anniversary year of these men who dedicate their lives to following in the footsteps of their founder, St. Vincent de Paul, bringing Christ’s mercy and hope to those in need.

The 170th Anniversary theme, “Hearts on Fire,” comes from St. Vincent de Paul’s writings:

“Our vocation is to go, not just to one parish, not just to one diocese, but all over the world; and 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.”

-St. Vincent de Paul, 30 May 1659

“The theme is fitting because St. Vincent de Paul is internationally known for his tender heart for the poor and the marginalized of society,” says Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag.  “What better symbol could there be to depict the selfless caring and dedication of those priests and brothers who follow his example?”

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Newest addition to the Eastern Province

Fr. Bindel Mary Ifeanyichukwu , CM  arrived from Nigeria October 5. He joins Fr. Joseph Ita Sam, also a Vincentian who arrived earlier in the summer. Both are serving in St. Vincent’s Parish in Germantown. I had the privilege of being touched by his simple enthusiasm. It is a long way from Nigeria to Philadelphia so I asked him to start at the beginning.

In a nutshell, he said… I was not the one in my family who supposed to be the priest. I did not want to be a priest. I wanted to be a lawyer for the poor. But an inner voice grew louder… and louder. I finally discovered, with Mary’s help the joy of being with the lowly.

Let me unpack what I heard.

A voice that surprised me

“I was not the one in my family of seven siblings who was supposed to be a priest. Everyone expected my younger brother to become a priest. But then in 1994, he was run over and killed by a priest! We all thought that was the end of anyone in the family becoming a priest.”

“I certainly did not want to become a priest. I saw my path clearly. It was the path of a lawyer who wanted to help the poor who are so often victims of fraud in my country. I had graduated from high school and was waiting for the prized acceptance into college and law school. While waiting I discovered the “Block Rosary”.

Neighborhood Rosary

In Nigeria, the Block rosary has blossomed into a Catholic lay organization promoting neighborhood prayer. Members of the Block Rosary believe there is no room for both the rosary and crime on the same street. The movement has its roots in the message of Fatima.

As he described it, it sounded very similar to the way associations of the Miraculous Medal function in most other countries of the world. Small groups committed to communal prayer centered around devotional images of Mary carried from one neighborhood to another. I also heard echos of Father Peyton’s Rosary Crusade.

He soon found himself as a mentor or guide to 18 of these groups of young people. Each week he visited and accompanied the 30 or so young some people in each of these centers or neighborhoods. He clearly loved this work and they loved him. (I think of Pope Francis’ frequent calls for a theology of accompaniment.)

At first, he paid little attention to their tendency to refer to him as “brother”, a title usually associated with someone in the seminary. It seems recognized his vocation well before he did.

A voice that grew louder

In a number of pivotal ways the call became clearer in his own soul. The inner voice became stronger when he participated via TV when Pope St. John Paul TV invited all Nigerians to join with him in praying the rosary. And even louder when he had occasion to meet face to face with his Archbishop AJV Obinna. He poured out his questions about a vocation. The responses of the Archbishop spoke to his heart.

He now realized he wanted to serve the poor, not as a lawyer but as a priest. But another question arose. Am I called to the diocesan priesthood or in some group specially devoted to serving the poor?

Once again it seems God called. This time through the unwitting voice of his mother. She had a practice of periodically buying a book for the whole family to read. One of the books she bought for the family was a 1958 life of Vincent by Woodgate. He devoured it! He knew he had to respond to this call.

Family “hesitations”

“My vocation, however, was not my mother’s plan”. When he finally felt it was time to speak of his plans to his parents he surprisingly met strong disappointment from them. Seeing this, for a time, he stopped sharing his plans with them. He did, however, continue his exploration, a story in itself. As he shared all of this I sensed his confusion, anxiety, and determination at the time. He shared with me particularly poignant moments when, separately, his parents cried. From someplace deep within he found himself saying to his mother “God will replace me.”

Through all of this he said it was the “first voice”, that of the poor he learned to serve with joy, that kept him going.

The joy of his ordination

He was ordained Friday, July 13, 2018. “I cried through most of my ordination.” He knew that he had been called. But then came the surprise call within the call. He had volunteered to serve in some of the poorer missions served by his province. Out of the blue, he was asked to travel to Germantown, PA. He firmly believes it is not about his voice but what God has surprisingly called him to.

His is a story to be continued. For now, we rejoice that he has responded to that call. We assure him our prayers.

Young Adults Learning to Serve in Philadelphia

” It is not until you have had your own experience of helping someone in poverty that’s going to make a difference helping you to understand what its like to live in poverty.”

A new video shines a spotlight on young adults with a calling to serve people in need, and the educators and facilitators who help them reflect on their experiences. Produced by Joyful Films. Narrated by the leadership and staff at the St. Vincent de Paul Young Adult Center: Sr. Sharon Horace, D.C., Darcy O’Hara, and Teena Weisler.

For information on the Center, how to register a group, and more, visit their website.

WYD – What’s at stake for our confreres

WYD – What’s at stake for our confreres

Our confreres and the people they serve in Panama are not only preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ. They are also fully engaged in the last minute preparations for World Youth Day 2019. The event with global significance will begin January 22 and conclude January 27. It will be preceded by a historic meeting of indigenous youth January 17-21. The Eastern Province’s Joe Fitzgerald, CM is playing a leading role.

Fr. Joe Fitzgerald, CM and Panamanian Youth

A recent article in CRUX points out the significance this day.

Immigration, the environment and the role of women in the Catholic Church will be “central themes” at the 2019 World Youth Day, set to take place next month in Panama, which will be a primary testing ground for the principles laid out at the October summit of bishops on young people.


For a relatively small country, hosting poses its challenges. Just look at the numbers.

Over 47,000 young people from 155 countries have already registered to attend the event organizers said, and 168,000 are completing the application process. To this number add the 37,000 volunteers who have already signed up to help during the events. They come from all over the world, including Colombia, Brazil, France, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Poland.

There will be a significant variety of young people at the event with 243 coming from China and 450 from Cuba. Muslims will also be in attendance, hailing from Jordan and Palestine.

About 1,000 young people from indigenous populations are set to attend World Youth Day. This is of special significance for Fr. Joe Fitzgerald given the fact that he is the lead organizer.

Perspectives of Panama’s Archbishop Ulloa

Panama’s Archbishop Ulloa suggests this an opportunity to begin addressing the topics that will unfold in the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazonian region, at the forefront of the battle against climate change.

Not surprisingly he says beyond focusing on young people World Youth Day will place a special emphasis on Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, and the doctrine of the Church.

Nor will the political tensions that are unfolding in Latin American countries, especially Nicaragua and Venezuela, be forgotten. Francis will meet with the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) during his visit to Panama for the event as well as several representatives of South American states who have been

Finally, “the South American Church is a martyred Church,” the archbishop said, counting among them the now-Saint Oscar Romero and the many who died “to transform this region.” “These are necessary models for young people, whom they can imitate and follow now, not tomorrow,” he added.

Our prayers are with all the participants and those who have worked so hard to bring this to life.n May all these efforts bring forth much fruit.