Groups such as Life Teen are challenging our generation to radical generosity with God

Today’s world is filled with so many examples of infidelity. This is especially the case in marriage. The news outlets are constantly occupied with juicy stories of politicians, sports figures, and celebrities who are unfaithful to their vows and promises. The priesthood and the consecrated life is not faring much better. It is no wonder that many young people struggle to make life long commitments. The statistics and their real life experiences show that this is impossible or not worth it.
301550_10151606535662034_655092057_nWe are certainly in trying times, but as St Paul says, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20).” With the eyes of faith we can notice signs of the New Springtime of the Church. One of these signs is the work of Life Teen a lay missionary movement in the Church which focuses on evangelizing and strengthening the faith of today’s youth.
This summer Fr Ken and I had the opportunity to spend time at one of Life Teen’s missions, the Edge camp in Hiawassee, Georgia. This camp offers middle school students from Life Teen parishes the chance to have an experience of their faith which is steeped in the Sacraments, Scripture, and Church teaching, yet also really fun. The theme for this year’s camps was Fearless with the symbolism of climbing the mountain of faith.
Hiawassee Missionaries
Hiawassee Missionaries
What was most impressive to us as Religious friars about the Life Teen movement is the fearless commitment that its members are freely giving to be missionaries. These young adults, often in their 20’s, are offered the opportunity to become true missionaries for a few weeks, a summer, or even for several years. This commitment to living all the radicalness of a missionary is freely offered and must be freely accepted.
When reflecting on this “movement of the Spirit”, one is drawn to thank God and the missionaries for their sign of fidelity to something greater. In fact, this is what Pope Francis did July 28th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in an encounter with the volunteers at World Youth Day (another instrument of the Holy Spirit today). Pope Francis stated that “I could not return to Rome” without having thanked all the volunteers for their “countless” acts of loving service to the pilgrims in Rio. Fr Ken and I felt a similar gratitude for the dedication and countless hours of work and prayer which we experienced in the missionaries at Camp Hiawassee. What better words than the Pope’s to express the youthful enthusiasm shown in the service of the Gospel:
“With your smiles, your acts of kindness and your willingness to serve, you’ve shown it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Their example, he said, was in the model of St. John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord. “Every one of you,” he said, “was a means … to meet Jesus. And this is the most beautiful service we can give as missionary disciples, to prepare the way so that all might meet, know, and love the Lord.”
Fr Ken on the trampoline with the youth
Fr Ken on the trampoline with the youth
The Pope recognized in the commitments and service made at World Youth Day an opportunity to learn the virtues which promote fidelity to the higher calling of marriage, priesthood, and consecrated life. Francis challenged the volunteers to even greater generosity:
“God calls you to make definite choices … to respond to your vocation is to move towards personal fulfillment.” “God calls each of us to be holy … but he has a particular path for each of us.” Some, he said, “through family life in the sacrament of marriage.” He noted that many consider marriage “out of fashion,” and added that “in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many (say) it is not worth making a life-long commitment, a definitive decision, forever, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.”
“I ask you instead to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide. Yes, I am asking you to rebel! To rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary, and ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, of true love.”
He re-iterated, “have courage to swim against the tide, to be happy.”
How ironic that we find God and personal fulfillment only when we are able to give ourselves as a sincere gift to another or to all in consecration (Gaudium et Spes, 24)? Yet this has always been the truth, but it is today a revolutionary act. We need rebels who will step out in faith and make lifelong commitments trusting God’s grace. The culture has taught us to doubt. To doubt that God is faithful once and for all time. To doubt the grace of our baptism which calls to that same fidelity in our lives. Certainly fidelity is not intended to be easy, but it is the path which the Lord gives each individual to holiness.
Fr Ken working in small groups at camp.
Fr Ken working in small groups at camp.
Groups such as Life Teen International are signs that the Holy Spirit is at work giving young adults the tools that they need to make lifetime commitments. This is a process and God’s ways are mysterious. Yet, the witness of young adults giving one or more years of their lives to live as true missionaries is a huge step in trust in God and courage. After making this step, the individual missionary is fitted with all the necessary training and support to live the commitment. They learn the essentials of the faith and the Church’s teachings on mission. The missionaries study the life teen mission statutes and make certain promises to support Catholic community living. However, the most important support that they receive is from a prayerful Catholic community. The Life Teen community prays the liturgy of the hours in common each day. They also have Eucharistic Adoration with meditation and sharing on the Scriptures.
It is easy to see how this missionary apostolic movement is truly forming its members to live their baptismal call to holiness. Those who take part in the mission, whether through summer staff or service staff or full-time missionaries, are begin prepared to be those “revolutionaries” who can be witness of fidelity to their vocations in the world. Some will become married people who will raise children for the kingdom of God. Others will be ordained priest who will stand in the place of Christ in parishes throughout the world. Still others will feel a call to the even more radical life of the evangelical counsels, becoming witnesses of the life to come.
Whatever the call, we thank God for raising up movements such as Life Teen, which are preparing the soil for the New Springtime of the Church. Teaching the youth about the God who is always faithful. Then giving them the tools to step out and make lifetime commitments. To live our call to imitate God in His faithfulness and in the process truly find ourselves through our vocation.
Fr Joseph Eddy and Fr Ken Breen,
Order of Mercy
Youtube Video:

The Order’s mission in India continues to grow as 6 more are ordained.

Fr Ken Breen, the Vicar of the United States, traveled to India after Easter to attend the Ordination of six Indian friars. Here he shares with us the joyful experience of those days:

IMG_0071This year, 2013, we had six of our Mercedarian religious ordained to the priesthood in India. They were ordained in two separate celebrations. One in the south of India for the three from that area called Chinneturai.  The other three were ordained in their home town district area called Kadapa in the South western state called Andhra Pradesh.  I arrived from USA on the day of the Ordination itself, April 8th at 3:30 am in the airport closest to the town of their Ordination and was so happy to see the bus load of my community coming for the celebration were already there awaiting my arrival!  The city of the airport is called Trivandrum. It was about an hour and a half from Chinneturai where the first Ordination of the three took place.  There was also one of our Mercedarian religious who was ordained to the Diaconate in the very same celebration. All the Ordinations begin with an elaborate prayer song where grade school girls lead the procession with a very reverent and spiritual form of dance.  In this Ordination celebration, the Bishop also sung many of the prayers and parts of the Ritual and Holy Mass. It was deeply profound and beautiful. We were delighted to stand with the Bishop and members of our family for a remembrance photo at the end of the Mass.

We spent a couple days in the area before going for the next Ordination.  Mainly it was to participate in the First Mass celebrations of these three newly ordained. Two Masses were done on the day after the Ordination, one in the church of Ordination in the morning and then the other one in the evening in the nearby church in the town called Poothurai.  Then there was the third one celebrated the following day in a town about an hour away called Poonthurai. The next day we all boarded the train to go to the next town called Kadapa for the next set of Ordinations.  In both places it was very hot, but what made it more difficult in the first place was the many times we were without electricity so you can imagine the burden of the 95F heat without a fan. Thankfully it was still cool enough at night to sleep.

IMG_0100The second group of three to be Ordained had their Ordination in a their hometown called Badvel which is in this Kadapa District.  The ordaining prelate has been a personal close friend and inspiration for our community and was in fact the one who encouraged us to take up the administration of the home in that area for the drop-out school children called Jeevadhara. Their Ordination was also a very beautiful and profound celebration as Bishop Prakasam encouraged us all the live up to our charism to release the captive and proclaim a year of favor from the Lord. The following days also after the Ordination were days in which we celebrated the the First Masses, also in the same way, two were done on the following day in the same place of the Ordination, and the third came in the day after in another town.

Our newly ordained are filled with abiding joy and ask your prayers for a very faithful and fruitful exercise of the religious and priestly ministry and they certainly what to assure all that they remember us all in their prayers as well.

In Jesus and Our Lady of Mercy, Fr. Ken

6 Thousand College Student Meet in Orlando to “FOCUS” on True Conversion

The Mercedarian Friars and Sisters joined thousands of University Students at the FOCUS conference in Orlando, Florida January 2nd-6th. Here is an explanation of this event and the important work of FOCUS:

Sr Ana prays before the Blessed Sacrament.

Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) is a flourishing new organization dedicated to re-evangelize America’s college campuses. Fourteen years ago, the movement began with the simple purpose of inviting college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship, and friendship in which they lead others to do the same.

Like the Early Church, the FOCUS movement seeks plant “the mustard seed” of faith throughout the United States. Beginning with our nation’s future leaders, FOCUS sends teams of young, trained missionaries to the college campus in order to reach students with the gospel. In partnership with the university parish and/or Newman Center, FOCUS missionaries host large group outreach events, weekly Bible studies and offer one-on-one mentoring with student leaders. These FOCUS missionaries are now found in 74 campuses throughout the United States

Every two years, FOCUS has a natural conference, which inspires thousands of youth through dynamic orthodox talks, fellowship, and a strong emphasis on the Sacraments. This year’s conference is called “SEEK”. Over 6 thousand Catholic College students travel thousands of miles to Orlando, Florida in search of that which is “true, beautiful, and good”. They were not disappointed as they came face to face with Christ through Catholic orthodox teaching, Eucharistic Adoration, and the Sacraments.

Sr Rosaria, SOLM with our display.
Sr Rosaria, SOLM with our display.

The Mercedarian Friars and Sisters attended the conference for the first time this January. They were edified by the enormous number of students and their openness to the Gospel message. This message included several talks on such counter-cultural topics as: chastity before marriage, Pro-life activism, combating relativism, respecting the dignity of women, and the deadly effects of sin on the soul.

The highlight of the weekend was on Friday night. On this evening, Fr. Michael Keating, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, confronted the students with the deadly effects of sin on the soul and the need for conversion. The students were encouraged to adore the Most Blessed Sacrament and make a complete examination of conscience. They then were given the opportunity to receive God’s Mercy through the Sacrament of Confession. There 125 priests available to hear the confessions of thousands of students. The power of God’s grace was present as over 5 thousand students went to confession and received the Lord’s unfathomable mercy. With joy, the priests heard confessions for over 4 hours into the early morning on Saturday!

Fr Joseph hangs out with some hobbits at the Conference.
Fr Joseph hangs out with some hobbits at the Conference.

In these times when we can get discouraged with the increasing secularization of America, it is great to know that God is working powerfully through such groups as FOCUS. May the Lord continue to bless this organization, which seeks to evangelize the youth and bring them into an authentic relationship with their Savior Jesus Christ and His Body the Church!


St. Peter Paschal or Paschasius was born at Valencia, Spain. When he grew up in years he embraced the ecclesiastical state, which he adorned by his many virtues. St. Peter left his post in 1250 to join the Order of Mercy and he received the habit in the Valencia Cathedral at the hands of Arnaldo of Carcassonne.

St Peter was one of the first theologians to say Mary was Immaculately Conceived.

His learning and his piety pointed him out as a worthy successor to the Bishop of Jaen, who had a short time previously been called to receive the reward of his labours ; and from the first moment of his promotion to that see he became renowned for his zeal in the redemption of the Christian slaves who were captured by the Moors, and for the conversion of the infidels. So powerful were his words that many of the Mussul mans renounced their errors to embrace the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

The followers of Mahomet were filled with anger when they heard of these things, and while the Bishop was on a visit to Grenada they seized him and cast him into prison. The faithful of Jaen learning that their beloved pastor had been reduced to slavery by these wicked men, collected a considerable sum of money and sent it to the Bishop, that he might thus procure his deliverance. The Saint received their gift with gratitude, but instead of spending it for his own ransom he employed it to procure the freedom of many women and children, whose weakness gave him cause to fear that they might not remain steadfast in the profession of their Religion.

St. Peter continued, therefore, to be a prisoner, and was treated with great cruelty by the infidels because of their hatred for the Christian name. One privilege they, strange to say, granted him that of offering up daily the. Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

One morning during his long imprisonment, when he had made his preparation for saying Mass, during which he had used the discipline to mortify himself in order to obtain from God strength and perseverance for his poor Christian slaves who were so inhumanly treated, he was disappointed at finding no one present to serve it. He went towards the door which led into the prison, to see if there was anyone near who could come to assist him. At that moment Jesus Christ Himself appeared to him under the appearance of a little boy of four or five years of age, clad in the poor garments of a slave, and asked him of what he was in search. “My dear child” replied the Saint, “I am looking for someone who may be able to serve Mass.” “I will gladly do that, my Father, if you will only accept of me.” The Saint, who had never before seen the child, asked him who he was. “I will tell you who I am when you have finished Mass.”

St. Peter Paschal then offered up the Holy Sacrifice with a feeling of great devotion, such as he had never before experienced ; and when he had finished his prayers of thanksgiving he asked the little boy several questions concerning the truths of our holy Faith, to all of which the child gave answers so full of wisdom that the holy man gazed upon him in wonder. Finally he put to him this question : “Tell me, my child, who is Jesus Christ ?” The little boy answered : “I am Jesus Christ ; it is I Who was crucified for your salvation, and for that of the whole world ; look at My hands, and My feet, and My side, and you will recognize the wounds I received during My Passion. Because you have of your own choice remained prisoner, in order that you might procure the freedom of my captive children, and because, to obtain their freedom, you spent the money sent to you to procure your own, you have made Me your prisoner.” Having said these words, the little boy suddenly disappeared, leaving the Saint filled with exceeding great joy.

The Mahometans, revering the sanctity of their prisoner, resolved to grant him his liberty if only he would promise never to write or to say anything against the law of Mahomet. The Saint, desiring to obey God rather than man, refused to agree to this, and continued, as he had always done, to write and to preach against it. The Moors became exceedingly angry, and beheaded him as he knelt at the altar making his thanksgiving after Mass. This took place on the sixth day of January in theyear 1300. vies dcs Saints, Petits Boll., xii. 55

St. Peter with the Child Jesus.

 The catechism in examples (1908)

Author: Chisholm, D
Volume: 5
Subject: Vol. 5
Publisher: London : Burns Oates & Washbourne ltd
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Call number: AKD-5986
Digitizing sponsor: MSN
Book contributor: Regis – University of Toronto
Collection: regislibrary; toronto

St. Augustine: “A Journey to Oneness of Mind & Heart”

St. Augustine of Hippo is one of the Christian world’s most beloved and well-known saints. His life “represents every aspect of the human life experience with all of its problems, sorrows and failures.” (Pope Benedict XVI). Augustine’s feast this year on August 28th is particularly meaningful as his life is captured for the first time in a major motion picture Restless Heart: The Confessions of St. Augustine.

St. Augustine has a special significance to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy since we follow his rule of life. On August 10th 1218, Bishop Berenguer de Palou officially and solemnly constituted the Order and gave them the Rule of Saint Augustine as a norm for their life in common. This rule would shape the way that the friars live their life of prayer, penance, and witness for the next 794 years.

St. Augustine was ahead of his time

The Rule of St Augustine is the shortest of all the major rules, but quite possibly the most profound in its understanding of the human person. Augustine was in many ways “ahead of his time” in his understanding of the psychology, spirituality, and philosophy of man. He was not afraid to combine Pre-Christian philosophy and his vast experiences to the teachings of Christianity. How did he get so much wisdom? Well, Augustine by God’s grace was able to unite his problems, sorrows and failures to the Cross of Christ. He knew that the limitless God can use “all things to work for the good of those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Augustine struggled so much in his life to overcome his own limitedness before he finally gave his restless heart to the God who has no limits. The Confessions reveal a man who gave himself passionately to whatever he did. Before he met the Creator, Augustine fell in love with the creation and the goodness that he found within it. His passion lead him to practice hedonism or the doctrine that pleasure is the goal of life and is man’s highest good. Augustine’s love of wisdom led him to philosophy and rhetoric. He practiced Manichaeism, or a form of dualism which denied the dignity of the body and personal responsibility for sin. After becoming disillusioned with this, Augustine went to Platonism or the belief that the Ideas alone give true knowledge as they are known by the mind. Augustine surrendered himself without limit to these things, but the restlessness continued.

Disinterested in Christianity

Despite the promptings and prayers of his mother, St. Monica, he remained disinterested with Christianity, which to him seemed simple and lacking in wisdom. Yet, one day the Lord spoke to his heart and he “took up and read” the Sacred Scriptures again. This time Augustine’s restless heart was opened to the wisdom of God, which to men appears to be foolishness. In his characteristic zeal, Augustine left everything to follow Christ. He longed to abandon the world to live in community with like-minded brothers studying Sacred Scripture and Philosophy. Yet, this was Augustine’s desire and not God’s. In the Lord’s providence, he was chosen to be bishop of Hippo. Here Augustine was forced to come face to face with so many of the errors or “isms” he had abandoned. In his diocese, were those who had forsaken Orthodox Christianity to follow Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. Augustine’s cross would be to face once again the errors and sins of his past, but this time as a shepherd of souls.

Dangers of the “-isms”


Monica prayed for Augustine for years until he finally responded to God’s grace.

In today’s society, there are modern forms of captivity which cause people to lose sight of the truth of the Gospel. These “-isms” plague people, as well as leave them in danger of losing their faith. The greatest of these errors is Modernism. It states that religion is essentially a matter of experience, personal and collective. There is no objective revelation from God to the human race, on which Christianity is finally based, nor any reasonable grounds for credibility in the Christian faith, based on miracles or the testimony of history. Essentially the modernist believes that faith is personal and comes from the emotions and not from doctrine or revelation. Modernism comes from the late 19th Century and has given birth to so many of the destructive thoughts of our time: Materialism, Radical Feminism, Individualism, Secularism, and Relativism. Ultimately, modernistic thought is based on the individual, not God or His revelation transmitted through the Church. The modernist is skeptical of all things. This thought pattern breeds narcissism and doubt. Not unlike Augustine’s time, these errors have penetrated to the depths of our society, the family, and even aspects of the Church.

As Christians, and particularly Mercedarians, we must combat the effects of Modernism in our society, family, and Church. How do we do this? Well, we can look to St. Augustine as a model of tireless defense of the Truth. He used faith, reason, and courage to shepherd his people who were in serious danger of denying their faith. Augustine challenged the Manicheans and Donatists to debates. He embraced philosophy and explained the reasonableness of the faith to the people of his time. All that is true, beautiful, and good can lead us to God.

Christianity is profoundly reasonable

Augustine was not afraid to debate and answer the questions of his opponents, because he knew that Christianity is profoundly reasonable. Amazingly, Augustine also used the media to promote the orthodox teaching of the Church. He used propaganda such as songs and pamphlets to catechize the people of his time. Augustine also used his sermons to teach the faith. He lived in a time where people turned to speakers for entertainment. Augustine appealed to his listener’s emotions and deepest desires by using clever “play on words.” Augustine faced much criticism for his strong defense of the orthodox faith. He was at times isolated and threatened. Yet, he courageously stood firm for the sake of those whose faith was in danger.

We too can learn from St Augustine to be clever, reasonable, and courageous in our defense of the faith. Ultimately, Modernism is a system that leads to self-destruction because it leads to individualism, narcissism, and doubt. Those who adhere to these beliefs are basing their belief in themselves and their own emotions or feelings.

We are saved with others

God is Trinity; a communion of divine persons. We who are created in His Image are called to that same communion. The human person is not meant to attain salvation alone. We are saved as a communion or Church. This is why St. Augustine wanted to go away with like-minded brothers to grow in the wisdom and understanding of God. The Rule he established for this life in common states that “all of you then live together in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring God in yourselves.”

It is destructive to follow modernism and focus only on my emotions or my personal beliefs. We are a part of a much greater Communion of Saints. In communion with them we follow the One, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which reveals to us the mysteries “hidden from time past (Col. 1:26).” We learn from each other and support one another on the journey to Oneness of Mind & Heart.

See also:

Video trailer: Restless Heart: The Confessions of St. Augustine

The Rule of Saint Augustine

Love for the Unborn Leads One Man to Find a Greater Call to Free the Captives

Nicholas McLeod is preparing to enter the postulancy program in Philadelphia this Fall. Here is his story:

Nicholas McLeodWhen I was in grade two my teacher asked us to interview the person who you wanted to be when you grew up.  I interviewed my parish priest.  That I think was the first sign of my call to the priesthood.  I come from a family of six and I grew up near Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  I moved to Toronto, Ontario when I entered grade 9 and then moved up to Ottawa to attend University where I graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce in Accounting and Management of People and Organizations.

I had rejected my Catholic faith in High School, but when I saw a video of what abortion did to pre-born children I knew that I was pro-life.  So in University I co-founded the pro-life club on campus and who were my fellow members, but Catholics.  So in second year one of them asked me to go on a retreat with them.  I went, and it was there that for the first time I experienced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  I could not help but fall to my knees and I made my first real confession.  Once I had opened my heart back to God, his call once again reached my ears.  He wanted me to work for him.

I searched for orders but I was not satisfied with any of them, until I found the Mercedarians.  What first drew me to them was their progressive view of liturgy.  I loved that they celebrated the extraordinary form of the mass and offered the ordinary form so reverently.  When I heard the story of St. Peter Nolasco and the Saints of the order, I knew that this is where I belonged.

St. Raymond Nonnatus, Patron of the UnbornSt. Raymond Nonnatus in particular caught my attention.  As a full time pro-life activist in  Canada with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform I feel that God is really calling for me to minister to  the pre-born child, who is dehumanized, killed and experimented on both in United States and Canada.  St. Raymond–the patron saint of the pre-born–demonstrated the courage and self-sacrifice that every pro-lifer must have in order to save children from being decapitated, dismembered, and disembowled through abortion.  He continued to speak the Gospel of Christ, even when his lips were padlocked shut.  In the same way we have to speak the Gospel of life, even when we are silenced and persecuted for it.

If I could sum up the Mercedarian mission in one word it would be re-evangelization.  St.  Peter did not seek to ransom anyone, he sought out specifically Christians who were losing their faith because of their captivity.  I am excited to participate in that mission to give my life for the freedom of those enslaved by ignorance, despair and other captivities which are causing them to lose their faith. St. Raymond, Ora pro nobis.


The Province Begins to Work on Goals for the Next 3 Years

June 5, 2012 (Tuesday)
Memorial of St. Boniface. Bishop and Martyr

Day 4 – Intention: For the oppressed and the persecuted
After praying the Office of Readings, Lauds, and meditation, and after eating breakfast, we began the work of chapter at 8:45am.
After the ritual prayers to the Holy Spirit, the day began with the reading of several greetings and well wishes were communicated to the Chapter, followed by the approval of the minutes from the previous day.

Fr. Eugene, Fr Tim, and Fr Richard chat inbetween meetigns.

We then continued with the final to relations:
• India, Munnar – Fr. Peter Tajish Katancherry
• India, report of the representative of the non-capitulars – Fr. Francis Davidraja

Following the reports there was a period of questions, clarifications, and discussion. We then split into groups according to country to discuss several reflection questions proposed by the president of the chapter. After returning to discuss the results of the discussion groups, we then presented the instrumentum laboris, and split into groups comprised of members of each country in order to begin the work of editing the program for the triennium.

We ended the day’s work with the ritual prayers, then gathering for Vespers and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Once again, thank you for your prayers. May God continue bless you and bless all of us through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy.

The Roman Province begins it’s Provincial Chapter in Nemi, Italy

XXXI Provincial Chapter
Order of the BVM of Mercy
Roman Province
Nemi (Rome)

June 2, 2012

Day 1

We proceeded with the election of the Secretary of the Chapter, resulting in the election of Fr. Francesco Podda who accepted, asking for help from another religious to write the verbali. Immediately, Fr. Eugenio Caramia and Fr. Vincent Penella offered their assistance.

Master General Fr. Pablo Ordone

Fr. General designated Fr. Nunzio Masiello as Moderator of the Chapter due to his knowledge of the languages (Italian, English, and Spanish).

Fr. Samuele Salis and Fr. Francis Davidraja were elected as scrutinizers and accepted these duties.

Fr. Nicola Bocuzzo, Fr. Giovannino Fabiano, Fr. Antonio Pinna, and Fr. James Mayer were designated as the liturgical team.

Fr. Enrico Schirru and Fr. Matthew Phelan were asked to and accepted to be on the communications team.

The afternoon, the Jesuit Father Hugo Mesini presented a marvelous meditation on life in community and communal discernment, where God is everything and we are nothing.

After a period of reflection on the communal session, in a respectful climate of listening, we recounted our emotions and feelings of fear and hopes for this chapter.

At the end, Father Provincial Arcangelo Bonu presented his relation on the state of the province.

Father General Pablo Bernardo Ordoñe, in the homily of the opening of the chapter, said that as Mercedarians we must be experts in regards to captivity and communication. [Hopefully, this communication is a good start!]

Fr Enrico, who with Fr Matthew, is in charge of communications and photos 🙂

Good evening. Pray for us, that the Holy Spirit will illuminate our minds and that the Most Holy Trinity will grant us one heart and soul.

Also, check out this article about our house in Nemi and the work that has been done there.

A Mercedarian Journel From Rome

Deacon Scott Brentwood, O. de M. has been studying in Rome for the past two and a  half years. Recently, he was ordained a deacon. As he has in the past, Deacon Scott shares some of his reflections about his experiences in Italy:

Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria where Deacon Scott was ordained.

Happy Epiphany! (In Italy it is celebrated on the proper day…but this is in anticipation to Sunday for you in the USA)

Just a little update to let you know how things are going, and to wish you well in this Christmas Season. The academic year has gone well so far – my classes are rather interesting, and all is well. In Italy, the first semester runs from October until January, so I am currently on a break…but must finish the semester when we start back next week.

Aside from that there really is not much to say – I normally have 6 hrs of class every day…and that alone occupies the majority of my time. I still do manage to find some time for some reading, reflecting, and time to just relax (though not too much). I did, however, want to write a little of what I have been up to since my last update.

My Deaconate Ordination was December 10 at our Sanctuary of Bonaria in Cagliari, Sardinia – one of the oldest houses in the Order (since 1334). I had spent time before preparing, but nothing truly prepares you for the experience until you go through it yourself. Reading the rite, witnessing others perform it…does not really scratch the surface of the encounter one has during their own Ordination.

I arrived in Bonaria a couple days before the Ordination, but as everything had been prepared well in advance, there was nothing that needed to be done for the Ordination itself. The Formators Meeting was to begin the day before, so there were many friars there that I did not know – mostly from Spain – so I took the opportunity to get to know them.

The Ordination itself was at 7:30 pm, presided over by the Archbishop of Cagliari, Archbishop Giuseppe Mani. The entrance hymn was “O God Beyond All Praising,” sung in English (the rest of the Mass was in Italian), and there were many people in the Basilica. I remember it all felt overwhelming. The points that stick out though, are when I placed my hands in those of the Archbishop for the promises, the prostration during the litany, being vested, receiving the Book of the Gospels, and the offertory which had a Sardinian twist. A musician playing a traditional Sardinian instrument led the offertory procession…which included several youth dressed in traditional Sardinian attire.

Deacon Scott holds the Chalice during the doxology.

The whole experience was phenomenal, but to me the most rewarding part was being in one of our oldest Sanctuaries, surrounded by numerous priests/brothers of the community, knowing that those in the USA were ableto participate via internet; those who would have been there but could not had the ability to witness it…including my family, of which none were here in Italy for.

The next day – Sunday – I proclaimed the Gospel for the first time as a Deacon.

We returned to Rome where there was a week of classes left before the winter break. I was one of the Deacons for the Canon Law Faculty Mass for the end of the year, and the next day I left for Carpignano to celebrate Christmas with our community there. When I arrived, I was surprised to see that the Sanctuary itself was closed…for a renovation project to restore it to what it was before the earthquake of the 1980’s. The smaller side chapel had became the church for daily Masses, and the social hall across the street was now the church for Sundays and other celebrations. The work here should be done by May though.

While here I have done many things…such as going on a day retreat with the youth/choir, which ended with us seeing the Christmas lights at Salerno. The Christmas celebrations were beautiful (including Midnight Mass at Midnight), and the next day – Feast of St. Stephen – there was a baptism by yours truly. The choir performed a couple of concerts – all very well done – which included a couple Christmas carols in English. The pronunciation was a little off on a few words, but it was heart-warming to hear. I preached at all the Masses today (Epiphany), and the people gave many compliments. To top it off, it snowed today; I miss winters with snow, so today was a real treat.

I return to Rome on Monday, and will have a couple weeks of class before the second semester starts. I will say that being in Carpignano has been a very rewarding experience, and there is a part of me that is not too excited about heading back to the lectures and note-taking. Then again, the other part of me is looking forward to getting back to my normal routine!

Well, that is all I have for now. I wish you a Happy Epiphany, and I will be in touch!

In Christ,
– Rev. Bro. Scott, O. de M.

News from Around the United States Vicariate

The Vicariate in the United States is composed of six houses in the states of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Here is some news going on in several of these houses.

A Mercedarian takes part in the Extraordinary Form Mass on the Feast of St. Stephen, Cleveland, OH

Fr. Michael
Fr. Michael as Deacon.

A beautiful and successful Solemn Mass for the patronal feast of St. Stephen was celebrated at St. Stephen’s Church in Cleveland on Tuesday, December 27, 2011! Those who took part in the High Mass were Fr. Bede Kotlinski, OSB, Celebrant; Fr. Michael Donovan, O. de M., Deacon; and Mr. Albert Beltz, Sub-deacon. The St. Stephen schola  provided the wonderful sacred music during the liturgy.

Fr. Michael is a Mercedarian priest who is stationed at the Order’s parish, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, West Cleveland. He works as a parochial vicar at the parish. Fr. Michael has many duties at the parish including: teaching Catholic Doctrine at the school, teaching adult formation classes in Sacred Scripture, and coordinating the Mercedarian Third Order. He has been gifted with a beautiful voice and a love for the sacred liturgy. This has lead Fr. Michael to celebrate the Extraordinary form of the Mass on several occasions at the Order’s parish at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

See impressive photos of the Latin Mass at beautiful St. Stephen’s Church, Cleveland.

A New Deacon, Br. James Chia, in LeRoy, N.Y.

Br. James Chia
Br. James is from Malaysia.

The Order rejoices at yet another Ordination to the diaconate: Br. James Chia, M. will be ordained the Sacred Diaconate on January 7th at 4:30 pm at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, LeRoy, NY. The ordaining bishop will be Most Rev. Edward M. Grosz, D.D. from the Diocese of Buffalo.

Br. James come from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. He grew up in a devout Catholic family of 17 children! In December 1989, Br. James came to Philadelphia to study Electrical Engineering Technology at Temple. Eventually he decided to immigrate to United States in 2001 in search of the American Dream. After a time of seeking his own dreams, Br. James came to realize God was calling him to be a Mercedarian Friar. After seven years of formation, Br James is now preparing to be ordained a Transitional Deacon in the Church. We ask for your prayers for Brother as he makes his final preparations for this important step toward priestly ordination.

Read the article, “One Man’s Search for the American Dream Led Him to Become a Mercedarian Friar.

In St. Petersburg, FL, Fr. Ken helps a group of Catholics explore the rich heritage of our Catholic Faith

Fr. Ken
Fr. Ken in Sunny Florida

Fr. Ken Breen, O. de M. is the Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. Father has been teaching a Bible study series over the past few years at the Cathedral. These classes are held each Monday. Fr. Ken teaches two classes that day, morning and evening, to over 20 people a class.

Over the next several Mondays, the Bible study topic will be Fr. Barron’s Catholicism Series. Word on Fire Catholic Ministries offers a unique vision of the Catholic Faith with this brand new series. This program seeks to explore, through a global journey, the living culture of the Catholic Church. From the lands of the Bible, to the great shrines of Europe, to the shores and heartland of America, to the mysteries of Asia, to the rich landscapes of Latin America, to the beating heart of Africa. It is a ten-part DVD series that Fr. Ken calls “So powerful”! May this Bible study and all Fr. Ken’s work at the Cathedral lead to an increase in the love for the our beloved Catholic Faith!

Go to the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle.


The Amazing Story of Our Lady of Bonaria

Hidden on the shore of an Island west of Italy is one of the Church’s secret gems, the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. This Basilica has been staffed by the Mercedarian Friars for over 675 years. Here is the incredible story of this holy place:

The Shrine Church of Gothic-Catalan style

Due to the Catalan and Aragonese expansion in the Mediterranean, in 1324, Infante don Alfonso had a castle and a church built in Sardina. The church was located on the hill of Bonaria on the south-eastern part of the town of Cagliari. As king, in 1335, he donated the church to the Order of the BVM of Mercy with the obligation to send two religious immediately, then six more after the death of the rector of the church, Guillermo Jordán, who died in 1348. The Mercedarians accepted the donation and they established themselves there.

In March 25, 1370 a sailing-ship from Spain was caught in the middle of a violent storm. The crew jettisoned the entire cargo included a heavy chest into the ocean. As soon as the chest touched the water, the storm suddenly calmed down miraculously.

The chest was found at the port of Bonaria by the townspeople. However, no one was able to lift the chest out of the shallow water on the shore. The townspeople hurried up the hill to get the Mercedarian Friars to assist them. The friars easily lifted Chest out the waters and took it to their church. Upon opening the chest all were amazed because it contained a wonderful statue of the Madonna holding the infant Jesus in her left hand and a lit candlein her right one. The Child Jesus holds a ball in his left hand and reaches out to grasp a candle standing on a ship model held by his mother. It accurately records the wind’s direction though it is in a draftless room.

In the hall next to the sacristy is the chest which contained the statue.

Soon, devotion for the Madonna spread both in the island and in the world, particularly among sailors who invoked her to be their patroness. The “conquistadores” gave the name Buenos Aires to the capital of Argentina as a sign of their devotion to the Madonna of Bonaria which, in fact, means “good air”.

On September 13th 1907, Our Lady of Bonaria was proclaimed patroness of Sardinia by Pope Pius X, and the unfinished church was later raised to the rank of minor basilica by Pius XI. On April 24, 1970, Pope Paul VI visited this famous shrine and celebrated an open-air Mass addressing the pilgrims on the need of veneration of the Mother of God. Pope John Paul II came to Bonaria as a pilgrim on October 20th, 1985.

On Sept, 7th 2008, Pope Benedict XVI came to honor Our Lady of Bonaria for the celebration of the first Centenary of her proclamation as the highest Patron of Sardinia. Here is a news agencies account of the event:

A renewed society must come from young Christians, says Pope Benedict

Rome, Italy, Sep 8, 2008 / 10:22 am (CNA).- Shortly after arriving on the island of Sardinia on Sunday morning, Pope Benedict presided over Mass for 100,000 people at the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria. In his homily, the Pope challenged his listeners to help young people encounter Christ, and through this new generation of Christians, evangelize politics, the economy and the working world.

The Mass took place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Bonaria, the island’s patroness, a fact recognized by Pope Benedict.

He called on the faithful “to give thanks to Mary for her protection and to reiterate our faith in her, recognizing her as the ‘Star of the new evangelization’.”

Invoking the help of Our Lady of Bonaria, Benedict XVI underscored the need for the people of Sardinia to bring Christ “to families, small domestic Churches and cells of society.” Families “today more than ever need trust and support at both a spiritual and social level,” the Pontiff added.

If Sardinian society is to be renewed, it must come from young people who “by their nature are bearers of fresh energy,” he continued. Turning to Our Lady again, the Pope implored her help for the Sardinian church in developing new initiatives to reach the young, who “are often victims of a widespread nihilism.”

With Mary’s intercession, “May she help you evangelize the world of work, of the economy and of politics, which needs a new generation of committed lay Christians, capable of seeking solutions of sustainable development with competency and moral rigor,” the Pope prayed as he closed his homily.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, Benedict XVI performed an act of consecration to Mary which concluded with the gift of a golden rose to Our Lady of Bonaria.

The American Friars holding the actual statue the day the Pope came.

On Saturday December 10th @ 1pm (American Eastern Time) Br Scott Brentwood will be ordained to the Sacred Diaconate at this Holy Shrine. It can be viewed live on (on right side transmission button or Trasmissione in diretta Ss.Messe giorni festive Ore). Please keep Br Scott in your prayers as he prepares for this day.

One of the oldest houses in the Roman Province is getting a make-over

In the town of Nemi, located in the hills south of Rome, the Order of the BVM of Mercy has a large friary which was for many years was used as a formation house. This beautiful building is overlooking the volcanic Lago di Nemi.  The house is connected to a famous shrine chapel entitled Santissimo Crocifisso (most holy cross). The shrine and the friary have a long history.

Nemi Friary

The Santissimo Crocifisso shrine was built in 1637; the adjoining monastery housed a community of Franciscan monks before they were replaced by the Mercedarians. The shrine draws its name from the story of the crucifix that surmounts the building. That crucifix was crafted in 1673 by a Franciscan friar, Vincenzo da Bassiano. He reportedly was frustrated in his efforts to carve the face of Christ, and resigned himself to leave the task unfinished, going to sleep and planning another effort the next day. When he awoke, however, he found the image sculpted exactly as he had wanted it. This miraculous crucifix became a source of veneration for the people throughout Italy.

Santissimo Crocifisso (Most Holy Cross)

In the late 1800’s when then Master General and reformer Peter Armengol Valenzuela arrived in Rome, the Order only had two convents: Saint Adriano and Cagliari. On March 19, 1881, the Master General acquired Nemi, a former Franciscan convent put up for auction. For many years thereafter the house was used as a formation house for postulants and novices of the Order.

A recent event occurred at the friary in 2006 news agencies gave this report:

 Pope makes surprise personal pilgrimage August 23, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI quietly slipped out of Castel Gandolfo on August 22, to make a private pilgrimage to a shrine in the nearby town of Nemi.

The Holy Father made the unannounced trip on Tuesday afternoon, leaving his summer residence with small police escort and making the 10-mile trip by car to Nemi, where the Santissimo Crocifisso (Most Holy Cross) shrine is located.

The Pope was accompanied by his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, and a few members of his staff, the Media news agency reports. After praying before the Blessed Sacrament, they joined the Mercedarian priests who administer the shrine for Vespers.

Later the Pope visited the Mercedarian monastery. His stay in Nemi was about two hours.

From all indications, it appeared that the Pope had planned the visit so that his arrival would be unexpected. This was the second such pilgrimage of his summer stay at Castel Gandolfo.

Over the years this once famous site has fallen into disrepair. A large scale reconstruction was begun to bring this ancient building back to its original beauty. This project has taken several years of work. During the work the house was really in bad shape: The interior walls were missing with dust and debris everywhere.  The windows were still the original ones….many with broken glasses.

Recently the restoration is nearing completion. For the first time in years, a retreat for the friars in Italy took place at in Nemi. Br. Scott, an American studying in Italy had this to say:

“There have been MANY changes with renovations to Nemi: the outside has been repainted/repaired, new windows, and new floors in the 3nd (old Novitiate and Postulancy) and 4rd floors (rooms for visiting students during the summers).  The old Novitiate Chapel (later a makeshift library/storage) was redone with new flooring, windows, etc., and is now a small “meeting room.”  The old cells were too small, so interior walls were removed to enlarge the rooms….and private bathrooms were put in for every individual room.  The 3nd floor now has individual rooms for 20, with an additional 10 on the 4rd (which are larger than the ones on the 3rd floor, so each room on the 4th floor technically could hold two instead of one).  This is in addition to the rooms reserved for the community on the 2nd floor.  At night there are small, blue LED lights that illuminate the hallways so you don’t have to turn on the larger lights.  Also, air conditioning/heating was placed in every bedroom where previously there were neither.  We used the smaller refectory (the former novice/priests’ refectory) as opposed to the larger one used formerly for postulants and those coming for our school (work is still not finished there).”

A new chapter begins in the history of this ancient house. In the future, the Province hopes to hold retreats, Chapter meetings, and other large gathers. There overlooking Lago di Nemi we can remember our past and look forward to the future!!