Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery, Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, U.S.A.
One misty November Sunday, we were astonished to see a pair of vandals in our cloister courtyard. Armed with a pack of Crayola chalk, aprons, and jackets, they braved the bitter chill and waning light just to leave their mark on our patio concrete. Perhaps such hooligans are commonplace on busy New York City streets, but in the Western Kentucky wilderness, it was a shock. So, we did the only sensible thing possible: we grabbed the camera!
Our budding “street artists”, Sr. Cecilia Maria and Sr. Frances Marie, were inspired by a poem featured in Vol. IV of the Breviary, a beautiful piece that speaks of the Passion of Jesus and His overwhelming love for us. It seemed especially appropriate as we enter these darker months and approach the season of Advent, a time of eager anticipation of the coming of Christ, our Light. Here’s the whole poem:
I Saw the Sun at Midnight, Rising Red
By Joseph Mary Plunkett
I saw the Sun at midnight, rising red,
Deep-hued yet glowing, heavy with the stain
Of blood-compassion, and I saw It gain
Swiftly in size and growing till It spread
Over the stars; the heavens bowed their head
As from Its heart slow dripped a crimson rain,
Then a great tremor shook It, as of pain—
The night fell, moaning, as It hung there dead.
O Sun, O Christ, O bleeding Heart of flame!
Thou giv’st Thine agony as our life’s worth,
And mak’st it infinite, lest we have dearth
Of nights wherewith to call upon thy Name;
Thou pawnest Heaven as a pledge for Earth,
And for our glory sufferest all shame.
In September, St. Joseph Monastery was blessed to host an international Assembly for English-speaking Passionist Nuns. This was a graced and fruitful time for the superiors and delegates from each monastery to gain a better understanding of the new juridical structure of communion we will soon be establishing. With the guidance and assistance of Mother Fernanda Barbiero, smsd, Fr. Floriano de Fabiis, CP, and Msgr. Michael Palud, CO all received a clearer picture of how we can move forward as sisters in Christ and daughters of St. Paul of the Cross to promote devotion to the Passion of Jesus in this world so desperately in need of His saving love.
While most of the community here did not attend the official meetings, all were able to enjoy meals and conversations with the visiting nuns, who hailed from around the US, the Philippines, and South Korea. On the last day of the Assembly, we had some after-meal entertainment with nearly everyone contributing something from their talents and unique cultures.
Mother Maria Theresa of the South Korean Passionist community performed a traditional Korean dance while Sr. Paulina and Sr. Marianna, OCD (our wonderful Korean translator for the week) sang.
Sr. Magdalena, from the Passionists in the Philippines, treated us to some recorder music, with Sr. Mary Angelica, OP (one of the Italian translators) assisting as a faithful, living music stand.
We rounded out the evening of international entertainment with something all Catholics know and love regardless of their native tongue: the Ave Maria. The three-part round was a fitting conclusion to our time of building sisterly communion, as we look to the patronage of Our Mother and Our Holy Founder to bring this important work to speedy fruition!
A thousand measures of gratitude go to all who so generously gave of their time, talent, and treasure to make the Assembly possible. We recognize especially Fr. Arthur Carrillo, CP who translated all the documents from Italian into English; our translators, Fr. Joseph Barbieri, CP, Fr. Brad Smith, CO, Sr. Mary Angelica, OP, and Sr. Marianna, OCD, volunteers Janet Nemec, and Kate Mims, and all our Passionist Oblates who helped us keep everyone well fed! Thanks to all who have supported us, and please keep up the prayers for the soon-to-be-established structure of communion.
Passionists throughout the world are preparing for the great Feast of St. Paul of the Cross. Our Holy Founder was a saint, not because he did extraordinary things (which he did indeed do!), but because he was radically in love with God and because he surrendered his life to God with great faith and generosity. He was a man of action BECAUSE he was a man of prayer. I write all this to introduce you to a blog post that would have pleased St. Paul very much.
Elizabeth Scalia over at Aleteia recently wrote a fantastic article on “dangerous prayers” – the kind of prayers that God can use to totally change our lives by drawing us near to Christ in both the suffering of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. She writes:
There is the old, true chestnut, of course, “Be careful what you pray for; you might get it.” How often do we hedge our prayers — we say the first “dangerous” prayer (“Thy will be done”), but we hope we can get the glory we seek without having to encounter the Cross. I know I do it all the time: “Dear God, please teach me how to be a better person. Thy will be done, but don’t do it some crazy way, that involves something tragic, okay? I can’t handle it.”
So often, my prayers take a line through Flannery O’ Connor: “Lord, I’ll never be a saint but I might be a martyr if they can kill me quickly!”
Access the full article here
It is well worth a read, and you might notice some familiar names and faces while you take in Elizabeth’s challenge to pray boldly…
Did you see?
The burning question of August: “Did you see the solar eclipse?” Yes, indeed we did!
We were not quite in the line of totality, but at 99%, we got to experience a remarkable dimming of the Sun’s light and a drop in temperature. The cicadas quieted down, the crickets rosined up their bows for a twilight serenade, the dappled light beneath our trees looked like thousands of crescents, and we even spotted a planet during the peak of the eclipse. Mother John Mary provided eclipse glasses for the whole community, so we were able to watch the Sun rather quickly be blotted out to a tiny crimson sliver, then gradually reappear to its full splendor. The whole event put us in awe of our Creator; how precisely our solar system was designed that such a wonder could happen at all!
The week of the eclipse, we happened to have a young woman on a live-in experience at the monastery – she saw the eclipse with us, but she must have seen something more, because the Lord drew her back to continue discerning with us!
On October 3rd, during Night Prayer, Emily received the little Passion Sign pin of an aspirant and began a new season of seeking the Lord’s designs for her. Please remember her in prayer, that this may be a time of grace and clarity in discernment, and continue asking the Lord to draw more young women to follow Him in Passionist life.
Our poor Sr. Cecilia Maria came down with a mysterious ailment. It started with a funny rash, bumpy and green. Then, we noticed a strange look in her eyes.
By the time we consulted the doctor, he confirmed our fears. Sister had contracted an acute case of cucumbitis! The cure? “Take a vinegar bath and call me in the morning.”
Recovered from her malady, Sister decided to deal with the root of the problem: a mountain of fresh cucumbers from our generous friends and neighbors! With the help of Sr. Marie Michael and Sr. Maria Faustina, she set to work.
They washed. They peeled. They sliced. Finally, they loaded everything into the dehydrator.
Ten hours later, and voila! Dried cucumber slices to be rehydrated as pickles throughout the year!
And thus did our heroic nuns vanquish the cucumbitis virus and transform the green mountain into a veritable molehill.
On another note:
One of you asked and some of you are probably wondering – “where’s Ruth?!” Since last fall, many of you saw her in our photos of work, play, and prayer. The initial stages of formation the monastery are still a time of discernment, and we thank you for your prayers that she would hear and follow God’s will. It seems our Lord has a different plan for her than life in a Passionist monastery. We miss her tremendously but there is peace and joy in knowing she is following the Lord’s call to be a light and a leaven back out in the world. Keep praying for all men and women who are discerning a priestly and religious vocation!
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a nun?
Want to learn more about discerning vocations?
Looking for an opportunity
to grow in love for the Lord Jesus?
Join us for a Vocation Discernment Retreat here
at St. Joseph Passionist Monastery!
Some highlights of this 3-day retreat:
Intrigued? We hope you’ll prayerfully consider attending. Here’s how:
When: October 13-15, 2017 – Register by Friday, October 6
Who: Single, Catholic women ages 17 – 30
*Must be of good physical and psychological health, and a citizen of the U.S.A.
How: Register HERE by filling out the form.
August 15th dawned bright and clear, almost as sunshiny as the joy radiating from the face of Sr. Frances Marie as she eagerly awaited the afternoon’s Mass and her consecration as the newest Bride of Jesus Crucified. We were joined for this blessed occasion by many of Sister’s family and friends from her hometown in upstate New York, along with her grandparents who trekked down from Michigan. Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, KY presided at the Holy Sacrifice and concelebrating were Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM, Conv. (whose homily we recently shared), Msgr. Bernard Powers, Fr. Joseph Mills, and Fr. Richard Powers.
Sr. Frances Marie’s whole family assisted at Mass in various ways. Jude and Abram read the beautiful scriptures for the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption, Sam and Matthew were altar servers, and Br. Emmanuel, OFM, Conv. made an excellent Master of Ceremonies. Her parents and grandparents participated in the offertory procession, symbolically offering their beloved daughter and granddaughter to the Lord along with the bread and wine presented for the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Below are a number of photos from the Mass (all taken by our friend Larena Lawson – grazie mille!). Click on them to view the entire photo with captions.
After the Mass was a reception prepared by our devoted Passionist Oblates, and Sr Frances Marie with the community greeted many friends and family members in the parlor. Here are some snapshots of the festivities! (Most taken by Larena Lawson, a few taken by the nuns themselves)
Finally, two bonus pictures for you: the cake we served at dinner to honor Our Lady and the newly-professed, and our three junior professed Sisters. Please join us in praying for many young women to answer the call of the Crucified Bridegroom to follow Him in Passionist Life!
Our celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was made especially magnificent this year as Sr. Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus made her first profession of the five holy Passionist vows. There are many pictures yet to come, but first we’ll share with you the homily preached by Fr. Brad Milunski, OFM, Conv. at the Mass of Religious Profession.
Sr. Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, CP
First Profession of Vows
August 15, 2017
Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
Almost twenty-two years ago Matt and Mary and little Manny Wenke braved the colder temperatures of Western New York as they brought their new daughter and sister to church for Baptism and heard the questions put to them: “What name have you given your child?” And, “What do you ask of God’s Church for Nora Kathleen?” Who would have imagined that almost twenty-two years later, Matt and Mary would be at this altar surrounded by their family, friends, and a new Passionist family–not to mention some of their Franciscan family!–as Nora Kathleen is now Sister Frances Marie of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus?!
Enabled by divine grace, Sister Frances Marie now responds with her heart and soul to a beautiful vocation and in her own voice to similar questions whose answers are meant to lead to a profound deepening of her baptismal rebirth through the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, enclosure, and the Passionist vow to be steeped in and offer her own unique and powerful contemplative witness to the Passion of Jesus Christ.
The most life-changing responses of the graced human person are perhaps the shortest: I am… I do… Behold, I come… Fiat–let it be done to me…. The answers you offer today, Sister Frances Marie, will now be woven together into the rich tapestry of a vowed life lived in union with Jesus Christ. These responses, which must be given again every morning, will expand into your own living Magnificat as our merciful Lord takes hold of you more and more, until one day you share with your sisters and brothers, body and soul, in the glory of heaven.
Sometimes the shortest prayers we offer may also be the most life-altering ones. When I was a friar-priest beginning parish ministry, I was fortunate to have been stationed near a monastery of Poor Clare nuns in New Jersey who had known me since I entered the Conventual Franciscans as a postulant. At the time of my new assignment, the abbess became my spiritual director and shared with me one day that as of late her one prayer to God had become simply this: “Make me yours.” I must confess that I went back to the friary a bit frightened by that prayer. I was also a bit upset with myself that I couldn’t yet offer that same prayer without offering God my own list of footnotes. “Make me yours,” I could say, “but here are my suggestions, Lord, as to how you might go about that.” Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I suspect not. The abbess, I’m sure, knew well that those three words would keep echoing in my own heart for the rest of my life and keep slowly bringing to light any ideas, sins, and weaknesses that work to make me not his. To belong totally to Jesus, to be totally his–“make me yours”–is the powerful antidote, the daily medicine, that conquers the forces of sin and death upon which Our Lady places her feet in triumph.
To share in that triumph with our Blessed Mother, it is of course necessary to carry and to stand beneath the Cross. One of my favorite spiritual writers, an old and wise Discalced Carmelite nun named Ruth Burrows, has this to say about the Cross: “The Cross is the mysterious design of God for our glorification. We must not identify it with pain as such. Its significance lies, not in the physical and mental torment of him who hung upon it, but in his obedience, his passionate surrender to God; and it is these we must make our own.” (Essence of Prayer)
What is our gracious Lord, his Church, your Passionist community asking of you today, Sr. Frances Marie, but this obedience to the Father’s ever-merciful and loving will for you, and your passionate surrender to the One Who you know and believe has loved you from even before you were born?!
A large part of this standing beneath the Cross will involve being gathered there in that difficult place with your suffering brothers and sisters, many of whom will visit this monastery or write with their intentions and prayers. You know them well already: ask the Lord to give me work so I can support my family; help my son who is addicted to drugs and pornography; pray that my daughter will be healed of her cancer; pray for my family so they return to the practice of the faith; pray for peace and an end to terror and all forms of hatred; pray for my daughter who is thinking about a vocation to religious life. These sisters and brothers in Christ are hungering for you to share with them the fruits of your own intimacy with our Crucified and Risen Lord. They long to share in a world in which God’s mercy is tangible, the lowly are lifted up, and the hungry filled with good things. The Lord Jesus and his Blessed Mother give you bigger shoulders today to help carry your brothers and sisters to Him and so enable them to experience God’s promises and find healing and salvation.
Of course, Sr. Frances Marie, you do not respond to your call alone but always in the company of your Passionist brothers and sisters throughout the world, and most especially here in this Monastery of St. Joseph in the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky. It is certainly true that community life can bring you into the mystery of the Cross. St. Francis of Assisi, in his Spirit-filled way of looking at life and the world, used to say–if we could paraphrase him for today–that our true friends are all those who push our buttons. Why? Because when these friends of ours push our buttons, our reactions reveal to us how we still need God and His mercy. We will have eternal life because of such friends, St. Francis says. (I’m sure he had his brother friars in mind when he said that.) But we also know that in the rich monastic tradition we share as the Church, the cloister is also meant to be paradise. Why? Because here you have a group of sisters united, focused in the Lord. Even with all their shortcomings and weaknesses, you all are willing one thing–passionate surrender of yourselves to God.
The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus gathers us today around the altar of his ultimate sacrifice. And yet the way we celebrate Jesus Christ sacramentally is done in hidden, humble, ordinary signs that are filled with extraordinary power and grace because of Jesus’ total response to the Father’s will and His passionate surrender for the salvation of the world.
Sr. Frances Marie, may you always draw your daily strength from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and the remembrance of all of us, your sisters and brothers gathered here with you in praise and worship. May you carry and hold this memory until we are all one day taken up to be where the Mother of God is–sharing body and soul in the glory of heaven.
Stay tuned for more photos from the glorious day…including everyone’s favorite, the moment of the Great Veil Swap!
***Photos by Larena Lawson – thank you!
Okay, so six priests is not quite an invasion, but our Passionist monastery has seen a smattering of white habited friars this summer.
Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan, OP stopped in for an afternoon in June while on an assignment in Kentucky. He and our Sr. Cecilia Maria were friends and classmates at St. Olaf College. They had not seen each other in over seven years, since before entering the Dominicans and Passionists, respectively, so it was a welcome reunion.
Fr. Louis Bertrand was recently began ministering at the Louisville parish which shares his name, and he made a week’s retreat in our guest house – if you are interested in making your own solitude retreat, click here
If you’re thinking that doesn’t look like Kentucky, you’re right…This picture is from when Mother John Mary and Sr. Catherine Marie caught up with our home-grown Dominican at San Clemente in Rome. But a few weeks later, Fr. Austin Litke, OP was in the Whitesville area visiting Mom, Dad, and Granny, and graciously stopped in to offer Mass for us here at St. Joseph Monastery.
Fr. Ezra Sullivan, OP, who helped Sr. Maria Faustina connect with our community, was passing through the area with his confrere, Fr. Basil Cole, OP. We were delighted to see Fr. Ezra again, and to meet Fr. Basil whose work, Christian Totality, we use in our formation program. Fr. Basil shared some beautiful thought from his studies of St. Joseph, especially about the role of “The Guardian of the Redeemer” in preparing Jesus for His Passion.
On the way to preach the annual retreat of the Fathers of Mercy, Fr. Emmerich Vogt, OP took some time out to meet our community and give us a conference on growth in prayer and the Christian life. Many of the nuns have listened to his various conference recordings, but it was wonderful to meet Father and hear his wisdom in person – he is an excellent storyteller, with an anecdote to support every point. He had us in stitches over some of his jokes, but we’ll refrain from propagating the punchlines so as not to spoil the experience if you are blessed to hear Fr. Vogt’s talks, live or recorded. A sampling can be found at his 12-Step Review apostolate online.
Be on the look-out for photos from Sr. Frances Marie’s Profession day!
Perhaps the title for this post should read: Better Late Than Never! Enjoy this post about our Independence Day celebrations…
Perhaps some of our long-time blog followers will recall the rather wet day we had on the 4th of July last year, complete with damp charcoal briquettes that delayed our grilling efforts, and a rain-drenched hike in the afternoon. This year was not quite so drizzly, though we did have a misty rain all morning which drove Sr. Cecilia Maria and Christie under the carport to grill our traditional hotdogs and hamburgers. Sister Mary Andrea and Sr. Frances Marie, however, braved the weather to make a spectacular harvest of homegrown blackberries – over 5 cups from our little plot of brambles!
At noon, we were treated to a homemade peppermint ice cream cake, a real collaborative affair. One nun made the crust from chocolate mint cookies, another filled it up with vanilla ice cream, patriotic sprinkles, and crushed peppermints, and finally a third sister added the finishing touch – a peppermint rendition of Old Glory.
After such a cloudy morning, we were delighted to find the sky clear and the air breezy in the afternoon, perfect for some outdoor recreation.
We started with toasting some s’mores over the last embers of the morning’s grilling endeavors.
Then we dug out an ancient badminton net a tried very hard to keep the birdie bouncing back and forth, with mixed success.
After a while, Sr. Cecilia Maria decided it would be easier to conquer a giant slice of watermelon than to overcome our lackluster lawn game skills, and the rest of us gladly followed suit.
As we concluded our day of joy and of prayer for our nation, all the nuns joined in singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, with its rousing chorus of “glory, glory, hallelujah.” May God’s truth indeed march on in America, and may He continue to bless our country from His bountiful goodness!
...our spiritual home is the “cloister” of Calvary, where we dwell in the shadow of His wings – the outstretched arms of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. There, in union with Our Sorrowful Mother, we keep Him company in His Passion, we offer our lives with His in a loving sacrifice to the Eternal Father, and we strive to become channels of His grace, life, and love into our world.
March 10 - 12, 2017
June 9 - 11, 2017
October 13 - 15, 2017
Click on our Vocation Retreats button at the top for more details.
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Venerable Mother Mary Crucified of Jesus
First Superior of the Passionist Nuns Ora pro nobis!
Servant of God Mother Leonarda
Died in 1953Ora pro nobis!
Servant of God Sister Addolorata
Died in 1954Ora pro nobis!
Venerable Mother Maria Magdalena
Foundress of Passionist Nuns in Madrid Spain
Died in 1960 Ora pro nobis!
Saint Gabriel of our Lady of Sorrows
Feastday: February 27th Ora pro nobis!
Saint Vincent Strambi
Feastday: September 24th Ora pro nobis!
Saint Charles of Mt. Argus
Gift of Healing
Feastday: January 5th Ora pro nobis!
Saint Innocencio Canoura
Martyred in Asturias in 1934 with a group of Christian Brothers
Feastday: October 9th
Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Eugene Bossilkov
Bishop during the communist persecution in Bulgaria ~ Falsely accused, imprisoned, tortured and martyred in 1952
Feastday: November 13
Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Grimoaldo Santamaria
Passionist student died of acute meningitis in 1902
Feastday: November 18
Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God
Most known for receiving Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman into the Church
Feastday: August 26
Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Lawrence Salvi
Great devotion to the Child Jesus & an outstanding preacher
Feastday: June 12th
Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Nicephorus and 26 Companions
Martyred in Spain in 1936
Feastday: July 24 Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Isidore of St. Joseph
Passionist religious brother
Feastday: October 6 Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Pius Campidelli
Feastday: November 3
Ora pro nobis!
Blessed Bernard Mary Silvestrelli
Feastday: December 9th Ora pro nobis!
Venerable Galileo Nicolini
Died in 1897Ora pro nobis!
Servant of God Fr. Theodore Foley
Died in 1974Ora pro nobis!
Servant of God Fr. Ignatius Spencer
Convert from Anglican Clergy
Famous preacher & Apostle of England
Distant relative of Princess Diana RIP
Died in 1864Ora pro nobis!
Saint Gemma Galgani
Passionist lay woman
Feastday: May 16 Ora pro nobis!
Saint Maria Goretti
Martyr for purity
Prepared for First Holy Communion by a Passionist. The Passionist Congregation promoted her cause to sainthood.
Feastday: July 6 Ora pro nobis!