Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In It Together

The weekend before last, I had the exciting task of attending the “triduum” or three-day retreat and conference of the Holy Family Institute in Canfield, Ohio and giving a presentation to this marvelous crowd. This organization is one of the foundations of Blessed James Alberione, SSP, founder of the Pauline Family. It consists of married people, often couples, who sense the Pauline charism within themselves and aspire to live the Christ-life as Paul the Apostle understood and lived it, while modeling their family life on that of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience according to their married state and raise their children in Gospel values, yeast in the dough of this media generated culture.

It’s always a treat to connect with “Family,” especially this bunch, with their enthusiasm, love, humor, and prayerful spirit. We had the added bonus of Fr. Mike Harrington’s leadership. He’s the first U.S. member of the Institute of Jesus the Priest (another institute of the Pauline Family—this one for diocesan clergy). It just so happens he’s also one of the chaplains to our FSP community in Boston. A young man exploring the Gabrielites—you guessed it, yet another  institute, this one for single men—dropped in for a visit. Of course, the presence of our brothers in the Society of St. Paul, especially the intrepid Fr. Tom Fogarty, who has accompanied the HFIs for years, was an indispensable gift. All these Family connections give a multi-faceted meaning to the word “mission.”

Fr. Fogarty, and
Fr. Ed Riley of Boston

We Daughters of St. Paul often refer to “our mission.” That’s what it is, but just as often we remind ourselves that it’s not ultimately “ours.” It’s really the Church’s mission of evangelization in which we participate, doing our part to sow seeds of the Gospel within the culture of communications, usually with the media themselves.

Actually, though, even the Church can’t claim this mission as her own. It’s been entrusted to her by her Lord; in fact, it’s his. Blessed Timothy Giaccardo, SSP, first vicar general of the Society of St. Paul, wrote this very thing decades ago, saying that it’s Jesus who preaches, Jesus who teaches, Jesus who carries out the mission in and through us. Yet even Jesus pointed to Another as the source of his mission: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (Jn. 7:16). Anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is the ambassador, “the Apostle,” of the Father, the “one sent” (Heb. 3:1). Who we are and what we do go way beyond ourselves, and we are amazingly privileged to be part of it. It’s “an apostolate that the angels envy,” Alberione would say.

Teen sons and daughters of HFI members gather
around that all-important text message.
This is why none of us has a corner on mission and why we are meant to work together, regardless of what aspect of evangelization we individually or communally happen to be engaged in. One of the hardest challenges to overcome is self-sufficiency. It leads even communities to isolationism, the “Lone Ranger” syndrome. I’m not sure it ever worked, but in our social media generated world, such an approach to mission definitely gets us nowhere today. Instead, collaboration is boon to everyone, in spite of the challenges and difficulties it presents.

This was the principal message in the presentation I gave on the second day of the triduum. It was part two of a series on the “Apostolate of the Cinema in the History of the Pauline Family.” What a fascinating story! Do you want to know what Mussolini’s favorite Pauline film was? Do you know which SSP movie was the first color film in Italy? What textbook was made into not one, but fifty films? More amazing even than that were the miracles that God accomplished among and through the faith of such pioneers when they worked together to evangelize with this modern medium of communication. Click here for last year’s presentation. Click here for this year’s.

Sr. Helena Burns gave a one-hour PowerPoint presentation to help the parents and grandparents in the Holy Family Institute to harness media and the media culture to grow themselves and to share their values with their families. She made a great analogy between media literacy education and driver’s ed. Just as no parent there would ever toss the car keys to their teen and wish him or her well without preparation, so no parent should expose young people to the world of media without teaching them to navigate it. Nor would they try to prevent their teens from driving at all, knowing that someday they probably would get behind the wheel. Just so, parents and grandparents could do much better than throwing out the TV or shutting out the media world, aware that outside their home, those same young people are faced with a huge number of media messages that require considerable discernment skills. “Control is for the moment; communication is for a lifetime.” If you’d like a copy of Sr. Helena’s PowerPoint presentation, e-mail her at

Sr. Mary Peter Martin teamed up with Sr. Marie James Hunt (whose parents professed their vows perpetually that Sunday) to lead the Eucharistic visit on Friday and Saturday. Both were beautiful experiences. Fr. Mike was definitely in his element and seemed to be everywhere: preaching, presiding at Liturgy, celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation, receiving vows, and even joining Fr. Ed Riley, his classmate, in playing soccer with the kids and teens—in nearly 100 degree weather! Heroic.

You can see Fr. Jeff’s slide show of photos here. If you’d like more information about the Institute you can scroll down to my blog post of September 23, 2010. One of the members is beginning a blog for the Institute. Keep an eye on Pauline Faithways; once his blog is ready, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Photo credits: Fr. Jeffrey Mickler, SSP


  1. So that's how you spent your vacation! Always for our Good God. This is a beautiful post, giving us real insight to the interconnections within the Pauline Family. "May God who has begun this work bring to completion!"

  2. Well actually, Lisa, my vacation began the day after the triduum...and lasted about four days! But I'm not worried: I have nine days coming in October. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for the "Pauline" prayer. When you have a few minutes I hope you get to read the talks and then ask Sr. Helena for her fantastic PPT presentation.
    Sr. Margaret


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