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….”