Thursday, October 27, 2016


Painting of Father Casimir

Amazing to see how many saints and future saints have been born in our lifetime.

SERVANT of GOD FATHER CASIMIR (MICHAEL) CYPHER was born in 1941, the 10th of 12 children from a farm family in Medford, Wisconsin. He attended St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Illinois and joined the Conventual Franciscans. He graduated from Loyola University in Chicago and was ordained a priest in 1968. As a student, novice and seminarian he was noted for his great kindness, humor, generous spirit and simple nature. 

Many of his contemporaries noted how reminiscent of St. Francis he was. He loved nature and all of God’s creation penning poems and whimsical stories that carry canticle like feel to them. After serving as a simple parish priest in Illinois and California, Father Casimir opted to go the missions in Honduras.

Father went to Honduras to serve the campesinos (peasants) with the sacraments, education, medical care, food and the Gospel. He served in one of the poorest regions of Honduras, which itself was one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Conditions and daily life were extremely difficult for thepeople. Where Father Casimir worked the roads  were unnavigable and seasonably unusable, there was  little or no medical care for families or education for children other than that provided by the missionaries. At that time, approximately half of the child born in Olancho died before age five, a troubling statistic that bears witness to the difficulties the people faced.
Father Casimir brought the love of  offering the sacraments, running the parish and school and serving the poorest people as best he could.
At this time political strife was emerging throughout the country. On June 25, 1975 five thousand poor and landless campesinos began a six day “Hunger March” from Olancho, Honduras to the nation’s capital demanding action on promised land reforms from the military-led government.
Para-military groups under the control of wealthy landowners and the Army moved to stop the marches, they attacked the campesinos, raided the residence of the Bishop (himself a Franciscan), attacked rectories, seminaries and civil institutions tied to the reform movement.

Father Casimir was not a revolutionary. He expressed no political views and did not participate in the marches. While driving a beaten down truck to a repair shop, shots rang out in the square near where Father Casimir was. He rushed in to help the injured and dying with Last rites, prayers and first aid attention. Soldiers and armed personnel carriers surrounded the square. There, Father Casimir was seized.
It is believed he was mistaken for another priest, who served as the head of a local institute. In the end, Father Casimir was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was innocent. Father Casimir was seized, stripped and beaten in the center of the square. Even as he was being humiliated by his captors he walked around the chaos at center of the plaza absolving the living and blessing the bodies of the slain.
Father Casimir, another priest and several women were arrested. That night they were taken to an abandoned farmhouse where they were judged guilty without trial, tortured and mutilated. That night several peasant prisoners were baked alive in a large communal oven on the grounds. And after numerous tortures, the priests were shot in the head. The priests’ bodies were thrown in a dry well with living victims. The well was dynamited and the area bulldozed to conceal the crime.
Several religious sisters and campesinos witnessed the crimes and reported what they had seen. An outcry arose throughout the land, and with pressure from the Conventual Franciscans, the Catholic Church in the US and Honduras, and the US State Department, an official investigation was launched, the well was discovered and the bodies exhumed.
Father Casimir’s body was taken to the Cathedral at Gualaco where his remains are buried today. Thousands of people from throughout Olancho province processed to the church and paid their respects to their “santito,” or little saint. He is fondly remembered by the people he served and his life’s witness is credited with inspiring new vocations in the diocese.

“Look for eternity in those who are near you right now. For your eternity begins today; it begins this moment. It begins right now…”

Monday, October 24, 2016


 A German priest known as the “ANGEL of DACHAU” was beatified as a martyr in Würzburg, Germany, on September 24. Like Alfred Delp, S.J. (Blog  6/3/16) he was imprisoned and murdered by the Nazis in WW II.

Icon- Lewis Williams, OFS

  was born in Greifendorf, Czechoslovakia in 1911.  He entered the Marianhill Missionaries and was ordained to the priesthood in 1939. Assigned to a parish in Austria, he spoke out on behalf of Jews in his sermons. Blessed Engelmar was imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp for the last four years of his life and voluntarily ministered to typhoid patients.

As a new priest, he said Masses for French prisoners of war, though this was strictly forbidden. After a move to Glockelberg, he came to the attention of Hitler's Youth, who were bothered by his actions and words. Their reports led to his imprisonment at the age 30.. He arrived in Dachau July of 1941 and became #26147. 3,000 clergy were gathered in priest barracks and forced to wear a red triangle on their clothes. 

Threats, terror, abuse, fear, and death were his companions, day after day, for almost 4 years. He endured 12 hour workdays on little food. He said Mass,  read the Bible and ministered the Eucharist to his fellow prisoners. His letters show he never succumbed to hate, forever trusting God’s will in his life.  He wrote from this hell of suffering: ‘Even behind the hardest sacrifices and worst suffering stands God with his Fatherly love, who is satisfied with the good will of his children and gives them and others happiness.’ 

He also  studied Russian in order to be able to help the prisoners from Eastern Europe

In December, 1944, a typhus epidemic broke out. The sick were gathered in specific barracks, and left to die alone. 20 clergy from the two priest barracks volunteered for what in reality was a death sentence. In that last month of his life he wrote to his sister: “Love doubles one’s strength,  it really ‘has not entered into the heart of any man what God has prepared for those that love him’, and “the Good is undying.” 

During his Angelus address on September 25, Pope Francis said, “Killed in hatred of the faith in the extermination camp of Dachau, he opposed hatred with love, and answered ferocity answered with meekness: may his example help us to be witnesses of charity and hope even in the midst of trials.”

Friday, October 21, 2016


VENERABLE FELIX VARELA was born in Havana, Cuba, then still part of New Spain, and grew up in St. Augustine, Florida, the grandson of Lieutenant Bartolomé Morales, the commander of military forces in Spanish Florida, who was stationed there and who helped to raise Felix after the death of his mother in childbirth. As a teenager, he refused his grandfather's offer to send him to a military academy in Spain, returning to Cuba, where he studied to become a priest at San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary in Havana, the only seminary in Cuba. He also studied at the University of Havana. At the age of 23 he was ordained in the Cathedral of Havana.
Joining the seminary faculty within a year of his ordination, he taught philosophy, physics and chemistry . In his position there, he taught many illustrious Cubans, including José Antonio Saco, Domingo del Monte, and José de la Luz y Caballero. Referring to Venerable Varela, De la Luz said: "As long as there is thought in Cuba, we will have to remember him, the one who taught us how to think". 
In 1821 Varela was chosen to represent Cuba in the Cortes Generales of Spain in Madrid, where he joined in a petition to the Crown for the independence of Latin America, and also published an essay which argued for the abolition of slavery in Cuba. For such ideas, after the French invasion of Spain in 1823 overthrew the liberal government of Spain and restored King Ferdinand VII who then brutally suppressed all opposition, he was sentenced to death by the government. Before he could be arrested, however, he fled, first to Gibraltar, then to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life, settling in New York City.
In New York he published many articles about human rights, as well as multiple essays on religious tolerance, cooperation between the English and Spanish-speaking communities, and the importance of education.
In 1837, Venerable Felix  was named Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, which then covered all of New York State and the northern half of New Jersey. In this post, he played a major role in the way the American Church dealt with the tremendous influx of Irish refugees, which was just beginning at the time. His desire to assist those in need coupled with his gift for languages allowed him to master the Irish language in order to communicate more efficiently with many of the recent Irish arrivals.

He served as a theological consultant to the committee of American bishops which drew up the famous Baltimore Catechism, which began a standard teaching tool for Catholic children in the nation until the mid-20th century. He was later awarded a doctorate of Theology by St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1848, worn out by his labors, Venerable Felix developed severe asthma, which led him to retire to St. Augustine, dying there five years later. Nearly sixty years after his death,  his body was dis-interred from Tolomato Cemetery and returned to Cuba to be laid to rest in the University of Havana's Aula Magna.
In 1997 the United States Postal Service honored him by issuing a 32-cent commemorative stamp. Because of his experiences, many in the Cuban American exile community identify with him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Robert Lentz
Our past few Blogs have dealt with people of color in the United States. The following traces his heritage back to the beginning of our country, and a  man whom we all treasure..  
BLACK ELK (Heȟáka Sápa)  was born  along the Little Powder River (at a site thought to be in the present-day state of Wyoming) in 1863. According to the Lakota way of measuring time (referred to as Winter counts), Black Elk was born "the Winter When the Four Crows Were Killed on Tongue River".

Curious about Christianity, he began to watch and study. In 1885, he learned about Kateri Tekakwitha and signed the petition supporting the cause for her canonization. In 1904, he met a Jesuit priest who invited him to study Christianity at Holy Rosary Mission, near Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
 On the feast of St. Nicholas, December 6, he was baptized Nicholas William. St. Nicholas, appealed to him because he exhibited a model of Christian charity that resonated with his role as a traditional spiritual leader and his own generosity in service to the Native People.
Wife & daughter
Believing that Wakantanka, the Great Spirit, called him to greater service, he became a Christian and practiced his Lakota ways as well as the Catholic religion. He was comfortable praying with his pipe and his rosary and participated in Mass and Lakota ceremonies on a regular basis.

In 1907 the Jesuits appointed him a catechist because of his love of Christ, his enthusiasm and excellent memory for learning scripture and Church teachings. Like St. Paul, he traveled widely to various reservations; preaching, sharing stories and teaching the Catholic faith with his “Two Roads Model” of catechism. He is attributed to having over 400 native people baptized, and since then his books and model lifestyle have inspired countless others in their spiritual journeys.
He died in 1950 having lived an exemplary life of being faithful to Tunkasila (The Creator) and always wanting to serve the native people.
There are many Natives who are waiting to share the joy of the day when Nicholas Black Elk, Sr. will be counted among the company of saints by Holy Mother Church.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


With hurricanes descending upon Florida, I am reminded to pray to these new saints.  Also interesting to note, when a group is placed before us for sainthood, the leader of the band is not necessarily  the one whose name is chosen. The Church chooses the one who will represent a particular segment of society. Such is the case for the following. 

ANTONIO CUIPO was an Apalachee Indian from San Luis Mission, in present-day Tallahassee, who was converted by Franciscan missionaries. His martyred companions include Dominican, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries. Their killers were typically non-Christian Indians sometimes working in conjunction with English Protestants and French Huguenots (Protestants) making incursions into Spanish territory from the north. There were 67 laypersons (of whom 59 are Native Americans), eleven Franciscans, three Dominicans, and one Jesuit. 

Franciscan friars Juan de Parga Araujo and Tiburcio de Osorio were killed by Indians working with the English along with Antonio and other Indian converts.

Antonio Cuipa was a leader among the Apalachee people, a carpenter and a catechist for the Franciscan friars. He was slain in 1704 at the mission of La Concepcion de Ayubale by the English and Creek forces of English Col. James Moore.

While not a missionary, Antonio is significant because he and his fellow converts are the fruit of a 150-year effort to preach the Gospel to the natives in this part of the New World.

A second generation Catholic, Antonio was responsible for the upkeep of the common buildings of San Luis de Talimali, the largest and most important of the Apalachee Spanish Missions. He  was a husband and father, and played guitar. Having accompanied the Franciscans on visits to non-Christian villages, he began to imitate and adapt their practices of evangelism. Bringing maize cakes mixed with honey and reed pipes as gifts, he would then proclaim the faith in the very language of those he encountered.

An English governor in the Carolinas recruited a large number of Creek Indians and began a series of raids into La Florida, wiping out Catholic communities throughout what today is northern Florida.

On January 25th, 1704, Antonio participated in an attempt to defend the Catholic Mission of La Concepcion de Ayubale from a force of Carolina Colony soldiers and Creek warriors seeking to collect slaves and eradicate the faith from the land. He was tortured and killed, tied to a cross alongside two other Apalachee.

While encouraging his companions and admonishing their assailants, it was reported by eyewitnesses of the events that the Virgin Mary appeared to him, consoling him in his last moments. His last words were that his body was falling to the earth, but that his soul was going to God.

The killing was partly political to push the Spanish out of Florida, but also due to the hatred of the Catholic Faith.

The American martyrs quickly came to the attention of Rome. In 1704, Pope Clement XI directed that sworn testimony be taken regarding the Tallahassee martyrs. In 1743, King Philip V of Spain established Oct. 3 as a day to commemorate the Florida martyrs. Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit communities each instituted their own days of remembrance for the martyrs of their orders. In 1939, Bishop John Mark Gannon of Erie, Pennsylvania, initiated a cause for canonization of 106 North American martyrs, including some in Florida, but the effort was stalled by World War II.
It is only now that the cause of these early martyrs is being reconsidered.

"It is significant that the passage of time has allowed us to discover that it was not only foreign missionaries who laid down their lives for Christ in La Florida. Rather, we now know the incredible stories of so many Native Americans who chose martyrdom rather than renounce the faith they had accepted. It is a meaningful sign that the faith was not simply imposed upon them, but rather they freely accepted the Catholic faith to the point that they understood that it was worth dying for." Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Karl Rahner wrote in 1955:

Herein lies the special task which the canonized Saints have to fulfill for the Church. They are the initiators and the creative models of the holiness which happens to be right for, and is the task of, their particular age. They create a new style; they prove that a certain form of life and activity is a really genuine possibility; they show experimentally that one can be a Christian even in ‘this’ way; they make such a type of person believable as a Christian type.

Such is the Argentinian “gaucho priest,” JOSE GABRIEL del ROSARIO  BROCHERO, (See Blog Oct. 2013) known for his ministry to the sick and the dying. He will be canonized October 16 , making him Argentina's first saint. 

Also being canonized is ELIZABETH of the TRINITY (see Blog  5/24/16) a French Carmelite nun.  Both saints lived at the same time, one dying young, the other old.

Monday, October 10, 2016


We present our third African-American woman who made a difference for their people, as well as others in their area.
An interesting woman who is being considered for sainthood, but not yet a Servant of God is MARY ANN WRIGHT (1921-2009), known as MOTHER WRIGHT.  She was a humanitarian activist who lived and worked in Oakland, California and fed East Bay residents for almost 3 decades. She fed more than 450 people a day on a budget of $137,000 a year. She also distributed huge quantities of food, clothing and toys each holiday season from her West Oakland warehouse. Mother Wright held a very active schedule into her 80's, usually arriving at the foundation at 6 a.m. and would tirelessly continue to move boxes herself! 
She was born into a Christian Catholic African-American family in New Orleans and raised in the small town of Darlington, Louisiana. She grew up poor, lost her mother when she was only 5 years old, and was raised by her father. She was married at 14 years old and had her first child at 15. In 1950 she fled an abusive husband and took her nine children and moved to California. As a single mother, she worked long hours picking cotton, walnuts and strawberries in Hayward, Walnut Creek, and around the state. For another stretch of time she worked two jobs to make ends meet as a domestic helper during the daytime shift and in a San Leandro cannery during nights. She later remarried and had three more children, one of which was adopted.   

In 1980 she says she was awakened by God in her sleep when she received a vision in a dream who told her to feed the hungry. "The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and told me what he wanted me to do, which was feed the hungry," she said.  She started out feeding the poor and homeless by serving one meal a week, on Saturdays, downtown at Jefferson Park in Oakland, supported by her $236 Social Security check.
With help from others, among them grocers, produce merchants, the leaders of local churches and community groups, and city officials, this effort grew to become the Mother Mary Ann Wright Foundation. Through the Mary Ann Wright Foundation, Wright, family members and numerous volunteers regularly collected food and clothing from various local businesses (i.e. Safeway) and other donors to distribute to the needy. The foundation's warehouse on San Pablo Avenue at 32nd Street has been her main distribution center. At the holidays, long lines always formed outside with Mother Wright often on the sidewalk, bullhorn in hand, leading a prayer as people picked up bags of boxed and canned food, toys and Christmas trees. Mother Wright spoke in a fiery brimstone preacher style voice, pleading her case well to all to HELP
As well as helping people in Oakland, her foundation has provided help to people in Russia and Vietnam, and founded a school in Kenya. Mother Wright, accepted no pay and was assisted primarily by her daughters.
In 2005, Mother Wright was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans, by the Caring Institute. She was invited to more than one presidential inauguration.
Mother Wright, who had been struggling with heart trouble for several years, died at age 87 in Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. She was survived by 10 children, 33 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren, and preceded in death by two sons.

”I’m a ship without a sail, and by God’s grace, I’ve come a long way. I don’t know what I would have done without the Lord.”