Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Christmastime in the Convent!

Monday I was talking with an acquaintance on the West Coast about how our Christmas celebrations, his and mine, had been. The holiday was fun for him, because his seven-year-old niece was still young enough to enjoy its magic. In the course of the conversation, Michael confessed that he hadn’t gone to church that day. “I haven’t been to church since I was about ten or eleven; my parents just stopped going. We observe the tradition: it’s something we’ve always done as a family, and it’s a good time for family to get together. But church just isn’t part of it.”

There was nothing hostile or defensive about Michael’s comments. He wasn’t avoiding religion and he didn’t rail against those of us who pray. It’s just that a relationship with God wasn’t on his toolbar.

It’s so hard to get through to the secular mindset these days, that many of us give up reaching out. Whether in Liturgy or school or family, we’re content to tell each other the story of Jesus, knowing it’ll receive a welcome there.

While it’s essential to remind one another of this Word and grow in our own friendship with God, we, the Church, are sent by this Word of God incarnate to proclaim him to those whose faith seems unresponsive. We need to find ways to reboot it, to click on the relationship with God that’s not absent from people’s toolbar—only hidden.

That’s the reason behind the photos below. I admitted to Michael that at Christmas, nuns go a little over the top spiritually, at least compared with most North Americans. But anyone who even glances in our direction can’t miss the authenticity of it all. It flows strong beneath the surface, so that both at prayer time and party time, it bubbles up clear and fresh. Not perfect, but life-giving, just the same.

Yes, it’s Christmastime in the convent—all 17 days of it this year. Flip through the album, offer a prayer for us, and pass both the album and a prayer on to the Michaels—or Michelles—in your world.

It's Christmastime in the Convent

Click here to view these pictures larger

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Honoring Christmas Traditions

Throughout the nearly hundred years of our existence, the Pauline Family has benefitted from the faith and generosity of others. According to various historical accounts, it’s clear that from the earliest days, these people knew they were doing more than simply helping a new foundation in need. They were carrying out a mission. This was due in no small part to the gift Founder Bl. James Alberione had of being able to explain and inspire, even as he turned to them for the special needs of “St. Paul” or simply “the house.” On his part, he promised his own prayers and those of the community. It’s a tradition we gratefully continue.

In his November/December 1952 letter to the Pauline Cooperators, who were among our first donors and benefactors, Fr. Alberione wrote of an ambitious project: to build a temple in honor of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Rome. This was the result of a vow he had made during the Second World War if she would keep every Pauline safe. Though money and materials were scarce, he kept his promise and lassoed friends and benefactors into the project with him. He wrote:
“Behold the Son of God who became man to save the human race.  We consider him as a gracious, beautiful baby in the crib. You are the Cooperators of this effable mission with prayer and good example, with the writing and the distribution of good books, with sacrifice, with your help, and with offerings to the Society of St Paul.

“Each year, in the name of this baby, Jesus, who begged a cave, a crib, and swaddling clothes, I come to ask charity and help from you.…the Cooperators and persons who will gather in this magnificent Temple to honor Jesus, the Master of humanity, and his and our Most Holy Mother, and to implore graces.

“See what great joy and value it is to give something to Jesus?…Jesus will say to you, dear and generous Cooperators: ‘I was naked and you covered me; I was thirsty and you offered me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in… Come therefore, O blessed, into the reign of my Father ….’ You have the wisdom of the Divine Spirit and the supernatural virtue of charity. Know that we have had many proofs of this in the past, in fact, every year.

“God willing, we will celebrate a special Mass for you on Christmas night.  Unite yourselves to us in spirit. I will make your intentions my own.

“Most fervent best wishes for the New Year: to you and your families, and for all the things which are close to your heart. Through your generosity we are opening a new house abroad, new vocations are coming, and new editions bring light and comfort to the human race.

“Let us always fix our gaze toward heaven. Children, society, and the interests of God have won you, who are courageous persons living their life of faith at home, in church, and in society.

“May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain always in you—in light and joy and in an increase of grace and merit, now and for eternity.
                                                                        Affectionately, Fr. Alberione"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Donors Share the Word With U.S. Bishops

Say “Sr. Sara Butler” to those who, like me, came of age shortly after Vatican II, and they’ll remember a very vocal and formidable proponent of women’s ordination. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, she made a 180 degree turn and is now an equally vocal and formidable opponent. More, in Women, Sex, and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching, a book recently published by Pauline Books & Media, she connects this exclusively insider topic to the global and controversial issues also covered. Any support for the fittingness of (different from the reason for) the Church’s tradition, she claims, must take into account that sexual complementarity is not “significant only for reproduction….Being a man or a woman is central, not simply incidental, to one’s identity and defines one’s capacity for relationships, that is, for ‘making a gift of self’.”

Editor Erika Bachiochi autographs a copy at the book
launch this Fall at Boston College.
This giftedness is at the heart of the contribution made by each of the book’s nine authors—all women except one, including the editor, Erika Bachiochi. Their readable insights can be easily grasped by anybody with a serious and lively interest in reproductive issues, or women’s role in the Church and public life, as well as the rapport between sexuality and social justice.

Don’t think Women, Sex, and the Church is “just for girls.” You know that e-reader you’re going to get for one of the men in your life this Christmas? For another $10, you can download the book, too. Parishioners, do you wonder what to buy for a priest? Look no further. Either our Web store or a Pauline Books & Media Center near you can help. Give someone this key that opens a door to the Church’s understanding of sexuality from the perspective of modern American women.

Insight into that perspective is what prompted us to send it for Christmas to each of the 424 bishops in the U. S. Most years, we send one of our new publications or productions to them, along with our thanks for their ministry in the Church and our promise of prayers. This year our gift was made possible by the donors on a direct mail list that’s managed by Sr. Anne Eileen Heffernan. They contributed the $6,360 we needed. As the bishops write us with their thanks, we’ll pass on some of their comments to you in future blog posts, since they’re really thanking our donors, too, for sharing the Word with them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Of Christmas Concerts and Pauline Cooperators

Staten Island Advance photo. Read all about it here!
Sad. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. If I could, that would mean I could sing and clap, dance and act. And that would mean I could have jumped up and joined my Pauline sisters on stage at our Choir’s Benefit Dinner Concert in Staten Island last Thursday. Or at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland the following night. Princeton or Piscataway, NJ? How about Philadelphia? Or Brooklyn, NY or Marshfield, MA?

Not that they needed my help. They wowed the crowd plenty all by themselves. Even more, in both word and song, they reminded us of the true meaning of Advent and Christmas. Even as we, the audience—600 in Staten Island and 450 in Cleveland—sang along or pondered the lyrics or enjoyed the teamwork that pulled such a spectacular together, the Spirit of God too danced within us, bringing God’s Son to birth in our hearts and lives, planting seeds of the kingdom to come.

We heard the result: “I come to this concert every year, and it says something to me each time.” “It always starts the season for me.” “It reminds me of what’s important.” In Cleveland, several friends and donors we visited afterward were disappointed that they somehow missed the promo announcements. They know several Daughters and remember the mission that the sisters carried out in the diocese for thirty years, following a twenty-year mission in Youngstown. Now we’re in the process of reconnecting personally with people there through these concerts, as well as through school book fairs, parish displays, donor visits, and, possibly, media literacy workshops.

Some of this will be carried out by the Pauline Cooperators, who will formally begin their 18-month formation process in the new year. Many of these men and women start out as volunteers, but their association with the Pauline Family goes deeper than their work with us. As they gradually discern the Pauline charism within themselves, they resolve to live an intensely Christian life in the spirit of the Apostle Paul and commit themselves to evangelize, or share the Good News, in their contacts, undertakings, and liturgical or private prayer, in whatever way the Spirit leads them. Most do this through some form of media, even in simple, unassuming ways, such as giving an inspirational or educational book, CD, or DVD as a Christmas gift, or connecting the parish ministry they’re involved in with the Pauline Family.

One of the things I admired about the Cleveland group is the unity they express in the variety of their interests, ethnic origins, ages, and professions, which testifies to the universality of the Church, regardless of which parish they come from. It was a little hard to leave, but they give me reason to look toward the future in hope.

So it seems as if I missed my chance at multi-entertaining audiences this year. But I enjoyed being part of the Church’s story there in my own way, even if for just a few days.

There again, I could aim for one of the concerts at our Boston convent this weekend….

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The World Wide Web of the New Evangelization

Cyber Monday. We never heard the name until five years ago. If you’re an Internet immigrant like me, you only recently learned that it’s the Black Friday of online retail. As if we needed another day of consumer hype before Christmas. Two companies are even extending it into “Cyber Week.”

Online sales this past Monday set a nationwide record: a 19.4 percent increase over last year. While one research firm projects a 4.5 percent increase in holiday retail sales in general, others predict an 11 percent increase in online sales. If sales “history” means much, it may happen. This week some online retailers already reported as much as a 51 percent gain over Cyber Monday 2009.

Then there’s the Pauline Books & Media (PBM) Web store.

On Monday it filled 25 orders with a total of 115 items. Such an inventory turnover could make a major outlet despair, but Sr. Patricia Cora Shaules, the Web store manager,  is enthusiastic. “Our sales are increasing, our customer base is increasing, and on the average we’re meeting our projections,” she reports. “The important thing is that we’re reaching people we couldn’t reach otherwise and we’re reaching them where they are.”

True. In fact, since September 2009 when it was launched, PBM Web has sent out almost 14,000 books, CDs, and DVDs in English and Spanish to people in all fifty states. In addition to filling orders, the store is often a conduit for other services that support the Church’s missionary efforts. Just two weeks ago, a priest in Thailand inquired about having a PBM title translated into Standard Thai. The store was able to help him begin the process. A Pauline Web presence in the “neighborhood” enables us to minister more effectively to those who shop PBM online. Getting to know the “neighbors” is an ongoing project, as the demographic continues to diversify.

Even though she’s optimistic about an effective online outreach, Sr. Patricia keeps an eye trained on the numbers. She changes highlighted products regularly and collaborates with PBM’s digital publishing, not only to make more of a splash, but to build and sustain the tide.

An entire Web site upgrade, scheduled for 2011, will give the store a facelift. This initiative, more than two years in the making, will enable both services to be even more user-friendly. Products will soon be inserted in more than one category, and whenever a title is highlighted, three other related titles will appear below it. Kinks in the credit card payment process have already been ironed out, and the system will be able to handle larger orders, growing the current capacity to fill requests for multiple copies of products.

For Sr. Patricia, the new Web site will be about both pre-evangelization and direct evangelization. “We’ll be accompanying people throughout their spiritual odyssey, including people who have not grown up with the faith.”

It has been difficult to budget for this, and the venture promises to be costly. For now, prayers are needed. As we have more details, we’ll keep you informed…and invite you to be part of it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Italian Connection IV

This is the last leg of the journey in our, and your, Pauline pilgrimage.
For any first time visitor of Rome the prospects of taking in as much as possible even in a basic tour package can be overwhelming. As the Scottish couple I was sitting next to at the papal audience said, scanning their map, “Where do you start?!”

The four major basilicas are a must-see, so that’s what we did: St. Mary Major, where we celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Wooden Crucifix;
Rome’s cathedral, which, by the way, is St. John Lateran, not St. Peter’s;
then St. Peter’s, with a tour of the Scavi, or excavations below, where Peter is reputedly buried;
and finally St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, where Paul the Apostle’s tomb was recently unearthed.

Because of the breathless pace of the visits, one Cooperator grieved, “I lost my prayer-life in Rome.” A common enough sentiment. In fact, as the saying goes, If you want to pray don’t go to Rome! On the other hand, her sister-in-law remarked on the sheer number of holy places: “I don’t have to go to church now for the next ten years!”

We stopped at the Church of the Holy Cross and the Church of the Holy Stairs, which some of our pilgrims climbed on their knees in honor of Christ’s Passion. Tour guide Tiziana, a native of the city, was a font of knowledge about all things Roman. Guessing our skepticism about the relics, she headed us off: “Don’t ask me if it’s true. I don’t know. What I do know is that today we can get on plane and in a matter of hours we can arrive here. But centuries ago people made great sacrifices to come. Their faith is the real miracle.”

Creation, Church of
Jesus Master
  The Pauline Family thread wove in and out from Alba down to Rome. Our visit included the Family churches of Jesus Master and of Mary, Queen of Apostles, plus our two International Pauline Multi-Media centers near the Vatican, Domus Dei, the Sister Disciples’ foundry and studios, the PBM center at St. Paul’s shrine of Three Fountains, and the generalates of both the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters. In fact, the sisters at our general house flung open their doors to both the Cooperators and the film crew, showed a PowerPoint presentation on the community, and followed it with cake and cappuccino. The film crew, in image and interview, captured even more than the rest of us did.

Sì, the food in Rome—as everywhere else—was ottimo! And of course, we couldn’t skip a little shopping in between, including Soprani’s, “the Walmart of religious articles,” as one of us dubbed it. We were even treated to the drama of a genuine Italian traffic altercation. No tour would be complete without one.

Fr. Fernando, from the Church of the
First Martyrs of Rome, has friended
several U.S. Daughters on Facebook.
 Only God knows how often we prayed for our friends and donors, especially for those of you who assisted us financially and materially, as well as those who offered prayers for our safety, committed time preparing what we needed before and during those days, encouraged and challenged us, and welcomed us at every turn. At each Mass Fr. Paul led us in praying “for all those who have been good to us on this trip” on both sides of the ocean. Join us on a virtual pilgrimage below and feel the prayers for you and yours.

Blessings on your Thanksgiving Day!

Italian pilgrimage

Click here to view these pictures larger

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Straight A's

  • an Announcement
  • an Apology
  • an Account

New Papal Document on the Word of God
Many thanks to Rae Stabosz, for posting news about Verbum Domini on the Association of Pauline Cooperators blog this week. Benedict XVI’s new apostolic exhortation is the fruit of the most recent Synod of Bishops, held in Rome the autumn before last. Two years is a long wait, but judging from the synopsis and initial reports, it seems well worth the wait. Pauline Books & Media has already begun the process of publishing it in book form. Due date: mid-December, if not before. Price: $6.95.

Reflections of both bishops and pope on the Word in relation to culture and the media will be especially interesting to me. Look for a reference here and there, either in future blog posts of mine or in the sidebar, “Weekly PauLine.”

So Sorry!
A kind reader pointed out to me that I’m not responding to people’s blog comments. No ill will there. I’m an apprentice in blog-craft and didn’t even realize that people are answering me. Thank you for your interest and help. Comment away!

Italian Connection Part III
Last week you and I toured Alba and environs, where the Pauline Family began. This time, we’ll pass a day and a night in Assisi.

One of Assisi's bronzes depicting episodes
from the Little Flowers of St. Francis
Yes, it was a bit of a blitz, but we managed to “consider it all joy,” setbacks and all, as Francis would have put it. Early Sunday, Oct. 24, our bus took us down the boot into the Umbria region. I prevailed upon most to pay their respects to Perugia as we passed, where I had studied Italian eight years ago. They humored me.

Once in Assisi, we parted company with the film crew. From Alba, despite heroic efforts, they had been unable to rent a vehicle large enough for their 14 pieces of equipment, one of which was about the size of a casket. So, Sr. Paola, our driver from the generalate in Rome, drove to Assisi in a van, scooped them and their belongings up, and spirited them away to Rome, where they were able to hire a chauffeured van to carry out their scheduled interviews.

That left us free to roam the stunning medieval city overlooking equally stunning hills and valleys. The Portiuncula, the Basilica of St. Clare, and the Basilica of St. Francis headed the list.

I had already visited St. Clare on previous pilgrimages. Had to, glad to. She’s my Confirmation patroness. So, since the group was in the able hands of Sr. Margaret Kerry, Patrizia, our Assisi guide, and Rosella, our tour guide, I headed for the Cathedral of San Rufino, that had recently been excavated and restored following the 1997 earthquake. Below the baroque church, still in use, I explored fragments of the medieval cathedral. There, 18-year-old Clare had heard Francis preach and on Palm Sunday night, slipped undetected from her home to join the friars, establishing the women’s community later known as the Poor Clares.

Marguerite Ashley
proclaims the Word.
Cooperator Margie Skeels,
U.N. staff member,
informs us that this day
is the U.N. International
Day of Peace.
I rejoined the group just in time for 5:30 evening Mass in the friary’s Peace Chapel, a very rare privilege. Fr. Paul Aveni, our chaplain, said it was for him a dream come true.

Additional touring, shopping, and dining ended the day for most of us, though a few of the more daring among us made their way to San Damiano and back in the pitch dark.

Why Assisi? A Pauline cannot understand Alberione without understanding Italy, and no one can understand Italy without entering into the heart of Francis and Clare.

Next week: Rome.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Enjoy the following four news items and stories.

Advent and Christmas in Song
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—again. Is it possible that an
entire year has slipped by since last Christmas? The Daughters of St. Paul Choir says it has, and the sisters are prepping for the Choir’s new season of East Coast concerts, with a foray into Cleveland at
Bishop Lennon’s invitation. Sr. Bridget Ellis, music director, has lined up nine performances that, as usual, promise to be both inspiring and fun.

The Staten Island event doubles as a fundraiser. Approximately two-thirds of the proceeds will benefit the Daughters of St. Paul Education Fund (see the next item below). That concert is now in its third decade and seems to be a tradition with many. Not even 9/11 cancelled it. In fact, the concert took on a healing aspect, as music powerfully does. One young woman recently expressed the sentiments of many, who find that these songs, whether in concert, on CD or online, “lift my spirit when I need a boost and remind me [of] the reason for life.”

For the complete concert schedule and for ticket prices—where applicable—see the Daughters of St. Paul Choir Facebook fan page. Or go to for a free preview of what awaits you at the 2010 Christmas Concerts!

Education Fund
As you may remember, our goal for the end of the year is $100,000, to match the exceptional offer of an anonymous donor. In the past month, we’ve received $1,000, bringing the total in hand to $30,000. Seeing as there are only six more weeks left to the year, we need to find other avenues for contributions.

We’re hoping that we will be able to apply approximately $35,000 from the Dec. 2 Staten Island Benefit Concert to this. Another friend in San Diego has pledged $5,000. If you know anyone who would rather give to charity this season than go Christmas shopping, would you consider suggesting the Daughters of St. Paul Education Fund? That’s not as unlikely as it sounds. I remember a few years ago in one of our California PBM Centers, a young woman gave us $60 to send a book and CD gift basket in her parents’ honor to a Franciscan food pantry. Though she could afford it, they didn’t want her buying them anything. They felt they had enough, and she was sure they would appreciate knowing she had reached out to others in their name.

To donate, click on, then on the “Donate Now” button, then on “Education.”

St. Louis Benefit Dinner

Judi Buncher, Sr. M. Joan Baldino
and Sr. Rebecca M. Hoffart (R)
 Some of the best things and best times happen over dinner.

On Oct. 3 our Benefit Dinner in St. Louis brought
together some longtime friends and some new ones. The event is almost entirely organized by our board, which annually honors some outstanding Catholic citizens, who contribute in scores of ways to the evangelization of their civic and social communities. (The board members are pretty outstanding themselves.)

This year 278 people attended; they recognized Judge Donald and Mrs. Susan Gunn as the St. Paul Man and Woman of the Year. Judi and Stan Buncher received the Mother Paula Gratitude Award, for their generosity toward the community. Bishop Robert Shaheen and auxiliary bishop Robert Hermann graced the gathering with their presence.

The Benefit Dinner supports both our sisters in St. Louis as well as number of evangelization projects throughout country. In the past, it has helped renovate our Boston infirmary and further the education of our sisters.

This year, the major project was a new roof over the St. Louis FSPs, which cost us $20,000, and “it’s all spent!” announced superior Sr. Assumpta.

She added that they had decided to try a “reverse raffle” for the first time ever. Well, in a city and a “Show Me” state that regards the new with healthy suspicion, at first it looked as though no one would bite. This worry of Pauline Cooperator Dr. Jeff Matthews blossomed into a near anxiety attack; the raffle had been his idea. Prayers to St. Paul. As it turned out, 120 people bought tickets at $100 a pop, making it the most successful fundraiser to date.

Italian Connection 
Milan businessmen
indulge in gelato outside La Scala
Opera House.
 While we’re on the topic of food, did somebody mention Italy? No? They should have. Our pilgrimage (See blog post of Nov. 3) brought us first to Milan, then to Turin, on our way to one of Europe’s gastronomical meccas—Alba, days before the National White Truffle Fair. We discovered that the white truffle is hunted in very old woodlands by dogs, sells for as much as $1,600 a pound, and is given as a token annually to a celebrity. Recipients have been as diverse as John F. Kennedy, Sophia Loren, and Alfred Hitchcock. Michaela, our Piedmontese guide, admitted, though, that she would never fork over that kind of money, no matter how good it tasted.

Of course, what took us to the Piedmont region was much more personal and spiritual than a fungus. After all, it’s where the Pauline Family was founded. But it didn’t hurt any that the food was fabulous. We explored and prayed in San Lorenzo Cathedral, where, freshly expelled from one seminary and then accepted into another—Alba’s—16-year-old James Alberione received the inspiration to one day begin the Pauline Family. We entered the church, where, 15 years later, he invited Teresa (later Thecla) Merlo to collaborate with him and eventually lead the Daughters of St. Paul. The Church of St. Paul, hand built by the first Paulines, and the Daughters’ Motherhouse were special sacred spots.

FSP Motherhouse: Still active bindery.
Demonstrating a vintage piece --
their 1st sewing machine.

The next day took us to the surrounding towns intimately linked with our history: Fossano, Alberione’s birthplace, Castagnito, Thecla Merlo’s home, Narzole, Bl. Timothy Giaccardo’s home, Cherasco and Bra, sites of Marian shrines dear to our communities. All the while, the film crew captured it for posterity.

Newark Airport:
Great Boze ad, Carol Kerry!
  While in Newark Airport, we had prayed together the ritual for the blessing on a pilgrimage…once the terminal’s fire alarm had been silenced. It had been wailing at maximum volume for almost ten minutes before quitting, to travelers’ applause and cheers. Sr. Anne pointed out that on that day 97 years before, Fr. Alberione had assumed direction of the Gazetta d’Alba, definitively catapulting us into publishing. In the first reading at Mass that day Paul outlined the mystery of God’s plan, “that the manifold wisdom of God might be known through the Church” (Eph. 3:10), the very text on the crest of the Pauline Family. The flavors of Alba’s kitchens were just one more sign that we had come home.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Italy Beckoned and Blessed

Danny & Rob, SpiritJuice
 During the last two weeks of October a group of four Daughters of St. Paul, eight Pauline Cooperators, two filmmakers, and one chaplain “pilgrimmed” in Italy. We ranged from Milan and Turin, to Alba—where we were founded—and its environs, to Assisi and Orvieto, and then to Rome. Two sisters and the filmmakers comprised a film crew that dedicated most of their waking hours to capturing the spirit of Bl. James Alberione on screen, by tracing the birth of the Pauline Family as well as its growth through some of the key faces and places of that Family today. They’ve put together two lightning charged music videos of their experience at and

We prayed for our friends and donors, especially at the shrine of the Madonna of Graces in Cherasco, our founder’s boyhood town in Piedmont. The story goes that one day young James was anxiously praying to pass a test. Hedging a refusal, he promised Mary he’d light a candle if he passed. Pass he did, then told his mother about the bargain. He had to; he had no money for the candle! She told him something he never forgot: Before you promise anything, make sure you can deliver. Then once you promise, be sure to keep it. With that she gave him what he needed, adding, “And light a big one.”

We lit a big one for you, too, in gratitude for all the promises you’ve made and kept toward us. Thanks to benefactors from years gone by, Sr. Paula Cordero, who established the Daughters of St. Paul in the U.S. in 1932, gave a major donation in their name to repair and maintain this shrine, not far from her own birthplace.

We had our own private Mass with our chaplain, Fr. Paul Aveni, in the Peace Chapel in Assisi on the U.N.’s World Day of Peace, as well as the following day in Orvieto in the Eucharistic chapel that houses the miraculous corporal, (a cloth used on the altar at Mass). For an account of the miracle see

Rome: At the Wednesday General Audience we couldn’t have been positioned better. Pope Benedict passed right behind us. As if that hadn’t been enough, he surprised us all by driving by a second time! The photo you see was taken by Drew and Taryn Moir from Glasgow. This enjoyable young couple was sitting next to me, and managed better snapshots than I did. The topic of Pope Benedict’s talk was St. Brigid of Sweden as an example of married holiness (“conjugal spirituality,” he called it) and dedication to the cultural and political/social milieu in which she and her family lived. A bonus was the Pope’s mention of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Brigid’s forerunner in women’s influence of the Church. It was easy for the Cooperators especially to connect the dots. You can access the entire audience at

And do we have pictures! The initial photos will be available online within the week.

In spite of difficulties here and there, the pilgrimage was blessed. You can read the reflections of Rae Stabosz at Maryann Toth commented, “When we first became Cooperators and studied the history of the Pauline Family, we didn’t even know who Alberione was. This pilgrimage has made it concrete.” Margie Skeels called discovering the Pauline Family’s roots “a rich heritage.  It was great to follow the footsteps of St. Paul and to see the bones of St. Peter in the scavi.  Lovely people, lovely churches, and, equally, great camaraderie. Celebrating All Saints and All Souls is very meaningful considering all those who have gone before us….”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FSP Formation Through a Wide-Angle Lens

One of the most exciting periods of a novice’s two-year formation as an up-and-coming Daughter of St. Paul is what we call her “apostolic experience.” It’s much like an internship. The timeframe for both our novices, Sr. Emily Marsh and Sr. Sywia Skonieczna, is five months, but the cities couldn’t be more different: Philadelphia and Warsaw.

A European assignment is not the usual, but seeing as Sylwia is on loan from Poland for her novitiate and is destined to return, it’s a must.

Novices Emily and Sylwia with Sr. Carmen
It requires a fair amount of soul-searching, both for each novice and their host communities. Can they live with each other? How do they grow together in the charism, that is, the way they are present to the Church and the world as Paulines? Does the mission flourish because of their collaboration? And especially for the novice, can she see herself faithfully living a life of consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience?

From what we’ve heard so far, both novices are settling in very quickly. No doubt you’ll get to check in with them now and then through this blog over the next months.

So what’s their director doing meanwhile? Sr. Carmen Christi Pompei has flown the Boston coop, too…with the postulant director, Sr. Rebecca Marie Hoffart, from St. Louis! But wait. No time off for these two. They’re attending an intense, two-month course in Rome for “formators.” Topics in their syllabus are related to modern youth culture, evangelization in a world of globalization, and our communications culture today. Conferences on our Founder’s writings connect the heart of Pauline spirituality with the formative journey. Finally, the experience will be capped by a pilgrimage and retreat. We won’t be able to live with them!

Jackie Gitonga, Laura Nolin, Cheryl Galema, Theresa Noble,
and Erin Nolan with Sr. Rebecca
Joy, awe, gratitude, and renewed commitment light up Sr. Carmen’s e-mails back to us, and Sr. Rebecca is intrigued with the international makeup of the group of 32 formation directors. Both of them look forward to sharing all they’ve gleaned with the postulants ( and novices, as well as with other young women exploring a religious vocation.

There are 185 young women in the first stages of initial formation with us around the world in a congregation that numbers 2,600. Seven of them live in the U.S. In addition, seven junior professed sisters with temporary vows continue their discernment in our communities in the U.S. and Toronto in preparation for their perpetual, or “final,” vows after six years. If you'd like to contribute financially to their formation, why not send your gift online to the Daughters of St. Paul Education Fund:

Now, our formation directors aren’t the only ones going to Rome. Today Sr. Margaret Kerry and I leave to accompany several Pauline Cooperators on a pilgrimage to Italy, especially to the sites of our foundation. We'll meet up with Sr. Carmen and Sr. Rebecca there. Look for my next blog post Nov. 3, after I return. Ciao!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Do Americans Give To?

It may be old news, but it’s still good news: Americans like to give, and to religious causes, at that.

By permission of the Non-Profit Times

     Am I presuming too much when I say, “like to”? No matter. The July 1, 2010 issue of the Non-Profit Times ran a special report on last year’s charitable giving in the U.S. While there were few surprises in the types of contributions made, the charities benefitted, and the sources of funding, the real surprise came in the amount donated—$303.75 billion. Despite the recession and the predicted plunge in donations, charitable giving declined only about 3%, it came mostly from individuals (75%), and it went primarily to religion and education (70%). Corporations kept their commitments, and bequests increased slightly. Charities had braced themselves for the worst as the year wound down, but philanthropy sprinted ahead the last two weeks of December, making the year far less bleak than expected.
     The full article can be accessed at:

    For both the Daughters of St. Paul and our Pauline Books & Media Centers in the U.S. and Toronto, 2009 was a year of making do with much less. Fortunately, a few years ago the PBM Centers began trimming inventory and adopting strategies that enabled us to weather the onslaught of recession. We still had to close three locations, downsize another, and relocate a fifth, but data indicated that due to a significant decrease in walk-in traffic, precipitated also by major global changes in the book trade, those decisions would have been reached recession or no. They just came sooner than we anticipated.
     Conversely, other aspects of our mission are blossoming, thanks to the creativity and energy of sisters and co-workers, as well as the generosity of our donors:
¨          The Web store ( is growing and is serving people all over the U.S., even where we have PBM Centers;
¨          the digital production arm of Pauline Books & Media was launched. It now offers music downloads from the Daughters of St. Paul Choir, and has produced two iPhone applications. Another app is in the wings, funded largely by a corporate grant;
¨          PBM publishing has incorporated new technology and has made 36 titles available on iReaders, like Kindle ( and iPad (;
¨          the J-Club school book fair and Web site were established and are in the process of providing children’s products and of developing into a highly interactive online learning experience for classes and families;
¨          sisters and Pauline laity throughout the US/ESC province are gradually being prepared to carry out media literacy projects for their local Churches;
¨          a long-range, collaborative mission between the Daughters of St. Paul in North and South America is in the planning stage.

     In the near future you’ll be able to access details about these projects on this blog. Clearly, funding is needed for them, and we’re grateful to those who've already recognized this, Americans or not, and who've made religion and education their priority for 2009 and 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fund Updates

In the blog post of Sept. 15, I reported that an anonymous donor had pledged $100,000 to the Education Fund for our novices and sisters, if we could raise a matching amount by Dec. 31. Now, three weeks later, the current totals are in: a few dollars shy of $29,000 given so far. However, that includes the income netted at the Afternoon Tea. That means that if contributions continue at this rate, we will reach only 53% of our goal by New Year’s Day.

Would you consider making a tax-deductible contribution, either by check to the Daughters of St. Paul at 50 St. Paul’s Ave. Boston, MA  02130, or on-line at by clicking the “Donate Now” button, then “Education”?

Here’s another idea. You have friends and relatives online, right? E-mail address books? Facebook friends? Twitter contacts? Why not try a little mobile giving, inviting them each to donate something affordable via their phones: “Teach a nun. Donate $5 to the Daughters of St. Paul Education Fund:”  Or if you prefer, you can invite them to “donate online like me” and give them the Web address. You and we will get to collaborate in sharing Jesus with a world desperately in need of Good News, by preparing some of his 21st century apostles for the task.

“Nowadays it seems that almost anyone can get up and speak on any subject; let us prepare ourselves so that we also can speak out….
And since we are people of our own time, let us make sure that women too are prepared for the new era.” 
Blessed James Alberione, SSP, Founder
From an essay written in 1911

A week later, I told you that I spent the day with the Holy Family Institute in Canfield, Ohio. We talked about the film apostolate in the history of the Pauline Family, as well as its future, and prayed together for the coming documentary on Bl. James Alberione. We interceded for those who are working on it, for those who will benefit from it, and for its donors. Last week Youngstown, Ohio’s, Catholic Exponent reported on the film project at

Interviewing Sr. Tiziana, PDDM
 HFI members banded together and gave $2,500 for its production and promotion. The film crew is aiming to finish its work by 2012, which means we need to finish financing it by the end of 2011—one year from now. So far, people have contributed $28,773.76, or just above a quarter of our $100,000 goal. And you’ve been giving for a year. Once the film crew returns from Italy, we will have spent it on their expenses and the interviews they’ve conducted since spring. That leaves a projected deficit of roughly $2,500. Happily, Sr. Helena has finished the first draft of the script, but funds will be needed to help her go ahead.

We’ve been able to secure some larger donations and are working with two HFI members to write grant proposals. However, we know we’ll need to expand the donor base.

What about you? Your family or friends? Have they seen the four-minute film preview? Why not send them this blog address and tell them they can do what you did— scroll down the right side of the page and watch it. If you want to, you can also tell them that the donate button is on the film’s Web site:

One HFI member asked if the film would be oriented toward encouraging priestly or religious vocations. Since Sr. Helena Burns, FSP, who’s writing the script, is also one of our regional vocationists, you can guess the answer to that. But it’s also meant to present Fr. Alberione as a role model for those who foster a media culture built on faith values and the dignity of the human person. The hope is that, by presenting this man and his mission as an antidote to polarization and fundamentalism, the Church will better connect with the world through the media.

Can you be part of that? Absolutely! Write to us or click on and donate now.

“We need to put down the scissors of censorship and pick up the camera, [because] the power of the cinema surpasses that of the school, the pulpit, and the press and always produces greater results.”
Blessed James Alberione, SSP, Founder
March 18, 1938

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Best Blog Day

Sr. Anne Flanagan, blogger of "nunblog" (see “My Blog List” at right) sent me an article that told us which times and days of the week are best to enter a blogpost…if we want a shot at having a popular one, that is: It says that Thursday posts made after lunch or work are most frequently read. Doesn’t that boost our faith in the conscientiousness of the workforce?
     So instead of mornings, as I had promised you, I am entering my posts in the evening. But I’m pulling away from the pack and staying with Wednesday. That’s the day that the Pauline Family remembers together how Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, imaged God’s care for them by providing for their needs. We say that if he did such a good job back then, he probably will do just as well by us. It appears he has teamed up with St. Paul the Apostle to meet our spiritual and mission based needs, but he seems to take charge of our prayers for our material needs and for our donors.
     So Wednesday it is. Make it popular by sharing it with a friend or two as you pray with Joseph for their needs:  

Read on….

National Catholic Development Conference, Chicago

 The National Catholic Development Conference drew hundreds of Catholic fundraisers from all over the country to Chicago, Sept. 19-22. Apart from the unique opportunity it gave me to learn and network, I was able to attend for two practical reasons. Sr. Rose Pacatte, director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, was the featured speaker the last day, so the NCDC board generously invited me to participate gratis; and a couple from San Antonio offered to cover my airfare, because they intuited how I could serve my community with what I gleaned. I stayed with our sisters who have a PBM Center and convent four blocks from the hotel downtown. It couldn’t have been more ideal.

I didn’t starve either, as you can see. I skipped the evening galas, though—the intense days started with 7:30 A.M. Mass, so I was beat. Monday, however, was different, because music maestro Riccardo Muti had just arrived from Italy to assume the podium of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and he was holding a free concert in Millennium Park, a few blocks from our sisters. What a treat, made extra special since my sister, Sr. Frances, another Daughter of St. Paul, is recently assigned to Chicago. Police estimates had the lot of us at 25,000.

I ended my stay with a trip to Old Town, where I did my eight dollar share to support the city economy. St. Michael’s Church had been gutted by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, but the outer walls still stood. So it was reconstructed and is staffed by the Redemptorists. By the way, a few years ago Mrs. O'Leary and her cow were officially exon-erated from responsibility for the blaze.    
     Besides serving as a rich learning experience, the conference led me into new, mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations, as we plan to work more closely with our sisters in Latin America and bring our own facilities into more stable condition. It opened my eyes to the challenges we all face in Catholic development, as well as to the potential for working together for the good of our world.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

AlberioneFilm @ the Holy Family "Triduum"

Canfield, Ohio, near Youngstown is home to the priests and brothers of the Society of St. Paul. Every September, though, their bucolic, sprawling acreage is overrun by upwards of 250 members of the Holy Family Institute--and their offspring--for a triduum, or three-day retreat/conference/"fiesta." These married people, many of them couples, constitute one of the secular, or in this case, aggregated, institutes of the Pauline Family. That is, they are novices and professed lay people from all over the country, who make vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience in keeping with the purposes of their married life, growing in holiness and witnessing to the Gospel in their lives, often in or through the media.

The dates of their rendezvous this year were Sept. 17-19. A special feature was the visit of the crew preparing the new documentary on our--and-their--Founder, Bl. James Alberione, SSP. The videographers and Sr. Helena Burns, FSP, taped dozens of couples' testimonies about Alberione and the Holy Family Institute, along with interviews with several SSP members, two Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (yes, another Pauline congregation) and Fr. Michael Harrington, a recently professed member of the Institute of Jesus the Priest (you guessed it--another institute founded by Alberione, this one for diocesan clergy). Learn more:

Couples renewed their marriage vows, two women entered the novitiate, and others either renewed temporary vows as HFI's or pronounced perpetual vows. What an inspiring witness!

It was my first time with them in such a large group. I knew some from Louisiana and one from California, and it was great to reconnect and catch up a little on old "news." I know, Facebook would really help here. That's my next move. To link up with the film experience they were having, I gave a 40-minute presentation on the origins of the Pauline film apostolate. Of course, I showed the preview of the documentary. (To watch it, scroll down this page and click on the photo of James Alberione toward the right side of the page.) My presentation 
is available at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Afternoon Tea with the Daughters honors Dr. Mary Ann Glendon

The early autumn weather was perfect, the raffle baskets, enticing, and the antique table settings, exquisite. One glitch: In planning, we hadn't accounted for the New England Patriots' Home Opener the same day. That alone made the presence and jovial mood of our 110 friends even more impressive.
The members of our Boston community turned out en masse to park cars, register names, serve tables, sit with guests, and conduct tours of our chapel and publishing house afterward for those who could put in the extra 40 minutes.
    There was a dual purpose to the event. We honored Dr. Mary Ann Glendon with the first-ever Cordero Award, given to "Catholics who have striven to uplift the human spirit and to recognize the dignity of the person in or through the media." The award is named for M. Paula Cordero, who helped establish the Daughters of St. Paul in the U.S. in 1932. Dr. Glendon is the Learned Hand Law Professor at Harvard Law School and served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. Her teaching, whether at Harvard or in her books and articles, provided us with the incentive to honor her with the award. Wikipedia describes her as a "pro-life feminist."
     The event also launched the Education Fund for our sisters and novices. In proposing the idea for a fund raising event, Sr. Margaret Timothy, provincial superior, remarked, "I'm tired of having to choose between fixing the roof and educating our sisters!" She outlined  for our guests the purpose of our education: to meet the evangelization needs of a new generation using the modern means of communication. Today that means the digital world. So we work toward degrees in philosophy, theology, communications, administration, the arts, marketing, and languages. Scholarships accounted for, that requires about $75,000 anuually. And that's just to continue what we've been doing. How many more we could train if we had the resources!
 One man got the message. An anonymous donor pledged $100,000 if we could raise a matching amount by year's end. Well, seeing as we netted about $23,000 from the day, that leaves us with $77,000 to go. Cardinal Sean O'Malley wrote, "I am pleased to support this effort and encourage you all to do so." Here's how: Or contact me: We join our prayers for you to those he promised to offer for you , too.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010