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Postings by Jennifer Tomshack

Documentaries on "martyrs of charity" to be released on 25th anniversary of their deaths

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Monday 28, August 2017 Categories: Consecrated Life,Mission & Evangelization

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a vowed religious community of Catholic women, are preparing for the 25th memorial anniversary of the deaths of five of their American missionary sisters in Liberia. In October 1992, these "martyrs of charity" were killed by soldiers in the army of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor during a civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead. This coming October, the sisters are releasing two mini-documentaries about the martyrs.

Sisters Barbara Ann Muttra and Mary Joel Kolmer were killed as they drove the convent’s security guard home to a neighboring suburb. Three days later, soldiers shot and killed Sisters Kathleen McGuire, Agnes Mueller, and Shirley Kolmer in front of their convent.

“We remember them as fellow sisters radically committed to their ministry. Their lives and martyrdom have left an indelible mark on us,” the community said in a statement. One current Adorer, Sister Elizabeth Kolmer, had a biological sister and a cousin who were among the five. Another current Adorer, Sister Mary Ann Mueller, had a biological sister in the group.

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ were founded in 1834 as a teaching order by Saint Maria De Mattias in Italy. The Adorers strive to be Christ’s reconciling presence in the world by responding to the needs of individuals and society. Diverse in their ministries and singular in their mission to be a compassionate presence wherever they are, Adorers serve as educators, justice advocates, health care workers, pastoral ministers, spiritual directors, and more. Worldwide they are 2,000 women strong, including more than 200 in the United States.

Read bios of the martyrs of charity.

Watch the final letters of the martyrs read by their sisters.

Watch a Frontline news segment on the martyrs: “Who killed the nuns?”

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New leader to guide next phase for Maryknoll Lay Missioners

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Wednesday 13, July 2016 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Vocation and Discernment

Maryknoll Lay Missioners—a Catholic organization that supports laity living and working in poor communities in Africa, Asia, and North America—has named a new executive director, Matthew Boyle.

Boyle, who has been with the organization since 2014, says, “I am humbled by being selected to help lead this amazing organization into our next phase of growth and service in Christ’s image.”

Maryknoll Lay Missioners is an independent organization but works closely with Maryknoll fathers, brothers, sisters and affiliates in responding to basic needs of the poor and helping to create a more just and compassionate world.

“Pope Francis calls us all to come back to our missioner roots," Boyle says. "There are so many people in this beautiful world that God created for us, who need our assistance and love.”

Motivated by a profound tradition of Catholic Social Teachings and grounded in the history and spirit of the Maryknoll mission family, Maryknoll Lay Missioners recruits new missioners; helps potential missioners through a discernment process; trains new missioners with an intensive 10-week orientation; provides ongoing mission education, including language and cultural experiential learning; and helps match missioners’ talents with the needs of the population they will serve.

Learn more at

Learn more about Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and Maryknoll Sisters.



Biography of American priest martyred in Guatemala released

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 17, December 2015 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Church History,Mary and the Saints,Clergy

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” wrote American priest Father Stanley Rother in 1980 in his last Christmas letter to Catholics in his native Oklahoma. He remained true to his word and was martyred the following year in Guatemala.

The first biography of the late priest, The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma, by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, was released in November. The cause for beatification of Father Rother is now being considered by the Vatican.

Five years after his ordination, in 1968, Father Rother arrived in Guatemala and served as a parish priest to Tz’utujil Mayan Indians in the farming community of Santiago Atitlan. He learned their languages, cared for their needs, and prepared them for the sacraments. Even after the violence of the Guatemalan civil war reached their village and kidnappings and killings became routine, Father Rother continued his work of building a farmers’ co-op, a school, a hospital, and a Catholic radio station.

When his name was put on a death list, he returned to Oklahoma in 1981 for three months, but decided not to abandon his people in Guatemala. The 46-year-old priest was shot to death shortly upon his return. He was among 10 priests killed in the country that year.

Scaperlanda is an award-winning author and journalist, published in both the Catholic and secular press. The Oklahoma-based writer blogs at

The book is available on Amazon and Our Sunday Visitor.

Chicago churches named Year of Mercy pilgrimage sites

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Friday 04, December 2015 Categories: Prayer and Spirituality,Mary and the Saints

Parishes around the world are getting ready to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, declared by Pope Francis, to begin Dec. 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In Chicago, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich has designated 32 parishes and shrines in the city as Jubilee pilgrimage sites. By walking through the Holy Doors of these sites, the faithful may gain a plenary indulgence offered by Pope Francis.

One of those pilgrimage sites is Saint Ita Catholic Church, which houses an enshrined relic of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, O.L.M. (1905-1938), a Polish nun, mystic, and visionary, who is venerated as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, a devotion to the merciful love of God for all.

Bishop Francis J. Kane will bless the doors of Saint Ita Catholic Church, located at 5500 N. Broadway, on Dec. 13 at the 10:30 a.m. Mass. Starting in January, on the last Sunday of every month for the duration of the Year of Mercy, the church will offer Confession from 2-3 p.m., followed by recitation/chant of Divine Mercy from 3-3:30 p.m.

The Year of Mercy ends on Nov. 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.

A list of the Jubilee pilgrimage sites can be found at Information about obtaining a plenary indulgence can be found on the website of the Office for Divine Worship at

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Franciscans restoring Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo in Jordan

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Wednesday 11, November 2015 Categories: Church History,Scripture

“God keeps his promises,” Franciscan Father Fergus Clarke assured a group of Catholic reporters gathered for Mass in October at the friar’s small chapel atop Mount Nebo in Jordan—the very place a testament to his statement.

It was on Mount Nebo that Moses finally gazed upon the Promised Land. He died and was buried in the vicinity, according to Deuteronomy, but the exact place of his tomb is unknown.

Centuries later, according to 2 Maccabees, just before the Babylonian invasion of Israel, Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written) at Mount Nebo in a cave and sealed the entrance. The location of the lost Ark is, of course, a matter of great conjecture.

As part of the Franciscans' traditional ministry of caring for Christian sites in the Holy Land, the Franciscans maintain the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo. “By our very presence here, we proclaim that Jesus lives,” Father Clarke said.

The Ireland-born priest, formerly the guardian of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection), and two other friars reside on Mount Nebo and are overseeing the renovation of the remains of a Byzantine church at the summit.

The building has been closed to the public since 2007, although reporters were given a preview, as workers restore its stunning, sprawling mosaic floor, including one piece, in what was a shrine to the Blessed Virgin, that is an image of the Tabernacle in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The 4th-century church was discovered in 1933; it had been abandoned for more than 1,000 years. Several tombs have been found beneath the church, including one in the center of the cruciform.

Father Clarke said he hopes the building will reopen by early next year.

Anjara, Jordan: a haven for pilgrims, poor, and religious co-existence

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 05, November 2015 Categories: Ecumenism,Mission & Evangelization,Mary and the Saints,Consecrated Life

Jesus, his mother, and his disciples once passed through the ancient town of Anjara, located in Jordan in the hills east of the Jordan River Valley, and rested there in a cave, where now stands the Church of Our Lady of the Mount, a site of Christian pilgrimage and an example of community between Christians and Muslims in the area.

The pastor, Father Hugo Fabian, 46, is Argentinian but has lived in the Middle East for 18 years, including in Egypt and Syria. He is fluent in Arabic and has studied Islam. A priest of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word (IVE), he has worked in Anjara for the past decade.

“Thank God we are able to help many families in Anjara because so many of them need help,” Father Fabian said.

Anjara, population 20,000, is a particularly poor town, even for the poor country of Jordan. The parish’s weekly collection is about $50. The church and its school and mission are largely supported by Arab Christians in the United States and by donations from pilgrims who visit the shrine. And the parish has much to support.

There are about 220 students at the school, about half are Christian and half are Muslim. As part of the comprehensive curriculum, classes in Islam are taught to the Muslim students and catechism is taught to the Christian students. All are taught religious tolerance.

Of the king of Jordan, Abdullah II, Father Fabian said, “Thank God we have this open-minded man,” who promotes religious acceptance of the minority Christian population in this predominantly Muslim country.

The parish also runs a mission that takes in children of all ages and religions, who are in need of refuge for a variety of reasons including poverty and problems at home, providing them with food, clothing, shelter, and education. The mission regularly has about 30 kids in its care. Additionally, the church ministers to prisoners and prostitutes. And it wants to do more, including housing and other support for Syrian refugees.

In this place that is a sign that love and unity is possible among all people, a miracle occurred. On May 6, 2010, the statue of Our Lady of the Mount wept tears of human blood. Many believe the tears showed her sorrowful solidarity with the poor of Anjara. "The Virgin Mary cries with us and for us,” Father Fabian said.

There are 250 families in the parish, served by three priests and seven sisters, who belong to the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, founded in Argentina in 1984. The order has missionaries all over the world and began working in Jordan in 2004.

Family study finds key influences to Catholic vocations

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Monday 14, September 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment

A major study on the role of families in nurturing vocations found that recent entrants to religious life and diocesan priesthood come from families that go to Mass weekly, pray together often, have active faith lives, and encourage family members to be open to vocation options. The study, commissioned by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, also found that new entrants responding to the survey come from families who:

·       Give importance to private and public religious practices—in addition to Mass attendance—such as saying grace before meals and bedtime prayers, displaying religious art and objects, and actively participating in parish life and charitable services

·       Witness and talk about their faith in their daily lives

·       Attend Catholic schools or receive parish-based religious education

·       Regularly eat dinner together and gather as a family for games or discussions

·       Have Catholic periodicals and other media available in the household

·       Support the idea of a vocation to religious life and the priesthood

“The study confirmed what we’ve known instinctively: Families are the seedbed of vocations,” says NRVC Executive Director Brother Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C. “Our goal is to help Catholic parents understand their crucial role in the future of religious life and ordained ministry and encourage them to create a culture of vocations within their families.”

The new taboo? Catholics have a hard time talking to their parents about vocations. Although most entrants to religious life and diocesan priesthood come from families that are open to vocations, approximately half of the respondents found it difficult to start a discussion with their family about their vocation, though they usually found support once they broached the topic.

Among the few who were actually discouraged from entering religious life or the priesthood, family concerns included that the family member was: “wasting” his or her talents, rushing things, or forsaking a career or marriage. However, among those families responding to the survey, most report that they are not worried now about the future of their family member who entered religious life or the diocesan priesthood. “She is so happy being a religious sister,” said one mother, echoing the comments of others, “There is no need to worry.”

New community of sisters opens second U.S. convent in Wisconsin

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Sunday 23, August 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life

The Sisters of Mary Morning Star, a new contemplative, non-cloistered community, opened a second convent in the United States in August. The community announced that three sisters from its convent in Ghent, Minnesota—Sisters Mary Thomas, Eva Nelly, and Benjamin Elisabeth—moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to start the new convent there. Two more sisters from Spain—Sisters Mary Alix and Sarah Rose—are also relocating to the Madison convent.

The Sisters of Mary Morning Star was established in Spain in 2014. There are about 250 members in 10 countries.

According to Global Sisters Report, “Even though a new foundation, this community belongs to an ancient cenobitic form of religious practice, where members live a combination of solitary and communal life. Their uniqueness is the combining of Carmelite, Carthusian and Dominican spiritualities, but without enclosure to isolate the sisters from people of the community. … They attend parish and diocesan functions and also invite the local community into the convent to share prayer.”

New grant program pays college debt for 10 Catholic sisters-in-training

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 16, July 2015 Categories: Vocation and Discernment
Founded in 2014, NFCRV serves as a sign of hope in the future of consecrated life and is dedicated to increasing the number of women and men entering religious communities. The Fund hopes to accomplish this goal in numerous ways, including offering financial assistance to religious institutes so that they may accept candidates who have student loan obligations.

The National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations (NFCRV) awarded its first grants to religious communities to pay the educational debt of 10 candidates to religious life. The fund grew out of a 2012 Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life that found that student debt has become a serious obstacle for religious communities in being able to accept new candidates.

“It is notable that these first grants are being awarded during the Year of Consecrated Life, as established by Pope Francis,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M.,Cap., honorary chair of the NFCRV board. “This initiative will support the work of celebrating, renewing, and promoting the gift of consecrated life and help the people of God to gain a greater appreciation for this important vocation and ministry. We are grateful for the vision and initiative of the National Religious Vocation Conference and the financial support of the Conrad N. Hilton and GHR foundations.”

Brother Ronald Hingle, S.C, chair of the NFCRV board, says the Fund’s mission “is to support Catholic religious life by alleviating the financial strain educational debt poses for religious communities. We also want to assist communities in developing effective policies for candidates with student loan obligations.”

“There is no more satisfying ministry than to provide help to those in need,” says Mark J Teresi, CFRE, first director of the NFCRV. “The board and I are grateful to have the privilege to provide financial assistance to so many religious communities this year.”

“Our challenge and my goal,” says Teresi, “is to fully endow this fund, through soliciting major gifts, to solve this obstacle to vocations permanently for women’s and men’s religious institutes.”

The following women’s religious communities are the 2015 recipients of NFCRV grants:

Adrian Dominican Sisters
The Congregation of Divine Providence
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
Dominican Sisters of Peace
Felician Sisters of North America
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Conception
Sisters of the Humility of Mary
Sisters of Christian Charity

The funds awarded this year totaled $213,000. Payments will be made to grantees each year until the candidate with educational debt makes final vows and becomes a fully professed member of the community or the student loan is paid off, whichever comes first.

The Fund will send out grant applications to religious communities who are members of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC), the founding organization of the NFCRV, in January 2016 with the NFCRV Board approving the year’s recipients at their May board meeting. Grantees will be notified of their application status in June.

For more information on the terms of the grant, applying for a grant, or donating to the fund, please go to, or contact Mark J. Teresi, CFRE at 773-595-4028 or

Sister "sews hope" for girls in Uganda

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Monday 29, June 2015 Categories: Consecrated Life
Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has dedicated her life to helping more
than 2,000 girls, who were previously abducted by soldiers, by teaching them valuable trade skills.

It takes more than courage to defy a warlord and work to undo the damage of his 20-year reign of terror with nothing but a sewing machine. It takes an inspiring capacity for love and forgiveness—and good old-fashioned practical problem solving.

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has dedicated her life to helping more than 2,000 girls, who were abducted, raped, tortured, and forced to kill their own family members by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which waged bloody civil wars that decimated northern Uganda and southern Sudan.

As the keynote speaker at the 2015 Catholic Media Conference in Buffalo, New York, in June, she related to the Catholic press how she answered the call to serve these girls—who have been shunned and persecuted by their own communities for bearing their captors’ children—as the director of St. Monica Girls’ Tailoring Centre in Gulu, Uganda, since 2002. The school provides the girls with safe sanctuary and job training in tailoring and catering so they can become self-reliant.

A native of Uganda, she began serving the people of her country after joining her order in 1976. Currently, about 250 girls and 250 children live at St. Monica. Sister Rosemary also oversees a second school in Atiak, Uganda. In 2014, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Sister Rosemary's work is the subject of Sewing Hope, a documentary narrated by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker and a book of the same name (Dust Jacket Press, 2013). All proceeds from book sales go to help the girls at St. Monica. For more information, visit

Best of VISION ebook available on Amazon

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Thursday 13, November 2014 Categories: Consecrated Life,Vocation and Discernment

The best of VISION Vocation Guide has been published as an ebook, ‘Discover Your Path,’ available on Amazon at

“Discovering our vocation in life is absolutely impossible without coming to some awareness of our own life stories and a deep appreciation of the advice and support of friends,” writes Friar Douglas Adam Greer, O.P., in VISION 2002, “Getting to know what makes us tick, what energizes us, what vision of life gives us hope, pounded-out and pulled-together in the mortar and pestle of friendship, is the process through which we come to make an informed vocation choice.”

To that end, the articles collected in 'Discover Your Path' will help discerners pound out and pull together information and insights into where God might be calling them—a process often referred to as “vocation discernment.” May the readers of 'Discover Your Path' find it useful as they seek the vocations within themselves.


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