Thursday, October 31, 2013


SEPT. 28, the Holy Father beatified a young martyr with two more to follow in the coming weeks. They are from different countries and all were executed for their faith in the 20th Century.

BL. MIROSLAV BULESIC (1920-47) was a Croatian priest who died under Communist persecution in 1947. Born of Pius parents, he later studied in Rome at the Gregorian University. He became a priest (1943) during WW II. At the time in Istria  (area of Croatia) there were three armies - partisan, German and Italian. Bl. Miroslav devoted his life especially to the education of children and youth and to those who were in need. He gave himself to all people saying: "I am a Catholic priest and I divide the holy sacraments to all who request it - Croat, German, Italian .

"He received threats from all sides, and in his diary, wrote: "My life I give You completely for Your flock ... I die for Your glory and the salvation of their souls."

In 1946  he became a teacher  in the Seminary and High School in Pazin. He also fought for freedom of religion. In the spring of 1947 the Communist government presented the "Five-Year Plan", which promoted work on Sundays, a ban on religious education in schools and the removal of the Church from public life. Bl.Miroslav  was adamantly opposed, along with other priests.

Bl. Miroslav
 The Communists wanted to prevent Mass and confirmation, but failed. In August the Communists attacked Bl. Miroslava in the parish house and stabbed him in the throat. His blood filled the hallways of the rectory and he died of his wounds. At the time it was said:  The Communists have lost, they killd a young priest, who is now a martyr. He was beatified in his own country in Pula.

BL. ROLANDO RIVI was born in Reggio Emilia, Italy in 1931 to a farming family. He became a seminarian with a plan to become a missionary priest. He was abducted, abused and tortured for three days, and then murdered by Communist partisans for being a Christian, April 13, 1945 in a wooded area near Piani di Monchio, Modena, Italy. He was only 14 years of age. 

Rolando Rivi is the first Italian Blessed, who was in a junior seminary and the first among the 130 priests and seminarians who were killed during the Civil War with Italian Communists. He was be beatified October 5.

BL.  ISTVAN (STEPHEN) SANDOR  was born in 1914 in Szolnok, Hungary. He was a printer studying to become a Salesian working especially with youth.  

In 1950, the government banned the operation of religious orders which meant the dissolution of the Salesian order. Bl. Istvan found a job, but also continued, now underground, to work with youth  teaching catechism.


 Arrested in 1952 by the Hungarian Communist authorities in a crackdown during which all religious groups were outlawed, he received a show trial in October and was sentenced to death by hanging for being actively Christian. His beatification was October 19.

 The books on their lives are not yet in English, but they are no less BLESSED!


Sunday, October 27, 2013


Our Lady of the Congo

Several years ago, we had a wonderful young priest with us for a year- from the Congo. Before he came, people told us we would love him, as the people of this country are very cheerful, almost child-like. We found this to be true and loved Father Jean Pierre's homilies especially when he sang to us.

Having had Father here (he still returns to us for his annual retreat) we took an interest in his country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), and especially these days when the blood seems to run so frequent. Even  though Christianity is the majority religion (50% are Catholic)), one wonders what these people, at least their leaders, have been taught.

Sister Angelque
 Until 1960 we knew this country as the Belgian Congo. With over 215 different mother tongues, the DR Congo is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. This means that when two Congolese people meet at random, it is extremely unlikely they will speak the same native language. Could  this possibly contribute to the major problems of the day?

The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and is sometimes referred to as the "African world war" because it involved nine African nations and twenty armed groups. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continued in the east of the country in 2007. There, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence has been described as the worst in the world. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since the Chinese Civil War, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. More than 90% were not killed in combat, dying instead from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displaced populations living in unsanitary and over-crowded conditions that lacked access to shelter, water, food and medicine. Forty seven percent of those deaths were children under five. Until today the ongoing conflicts exacerbate the exhaustion of the country's great agricultural potential. Conflict for control of the mineral wealth is behind some of the most violent atrocities

On September 30th  of this year SISTER ANGELIQUE NAMAIKA (age 46) was presented with the Nansen Refugee Award Medal in Geneva for her extraordinary work in the DRC. Established in 1954, the Nansen Refugee Award is awarded annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to an individual, group, or organization in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees, displaced or stateless people.

The Award
Sister Angelique's work includes assisting women and children in settling back into community life and teaching them how to sustain their own living after being abducted, abused and displaced by the Lord’s Resistance Army which has attacked and looted villages; killed, maimed, and kidnapped residents; and abducted children to serve as porters, sex slaves, and soldiers,

Having been displaced by the LRA herself, Sister Angelique knows what it is like to flee one’s home, and she thinks the best remedy is empowerment.

“We have to help women to become independent, to support themselves and their families without being obliged to depend on their husbands. That way they learn their true value”.

In the Center for Reintegration and Development, where Sister Angelique works, she individually counsels women and girls who have been traumatized, teaches them the national language, Lingala, and shows them how to sow and bake. There is no electricity, no running water, and no paved roads.

But she is inspired by the Bible and by a German nun who came to visit her chapel to help the sick when she was nine years old. “There was so much work to do, the nun did not have time to eat or rest. I told myself I will do everything I can to become like her and to help her, so that she may rest”.

“When I see children without parents it touches me, because I grew up in a loving home with my family all around me. So despite the poor conditions I do my best to help. I am not discouraged, even if resources are low...God is my strength”.

With Pope Francis

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The Infant in Prague
When I was a child in Catholic school, every classroom (at least at my school) had the INFANT of  PRAGUE. The Child had an entire wardrobe of brightly colored clothes (in those days made by the mothers who could sew (my non-Catholic mother could not). With major feasts His "dress" was changed to fit the feast, for example it would be purple all through Lent and Advent, red for martyrs, and white for very special feasts, with green throughout the "common" of the year- which meant everything else!

Devotion to the Infant King became particularly popular in the Middle Ages with great saints like  Bernard of Citeaux and Francis of Assisi. Their love for the Sacred Humanity of our Lord found expression in hymns, poems, songs, and sermons that attracted others to this devotion.

His wardrobe
I suppose it is one of those childhood memories one tucks back into the attic of the mind, so when I visited Prague in 1998 you can imagine my surprise when the first Mass I attended was at the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana where the original Infant lives.

The Church at first glimpse

The Infant Jesus of Prague is a 16th-century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of The Child Jesus holding an orb topped with the Cross which symbolizes Christ's (the cross) dominion over the world (the orb). It allegedly holds miraculous powers especially of healing which is how I came across it recently, looking for the patron of knee ailments (more on this later).

The statue's two fingers raised in a blessing gesture symbolizes the two natures of Jesus Christ (God and man)  and the three folded fingers represent the Holy Trinity.

The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a small 19 inch high sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand presently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain which was carved around the year 1340. Many other Infant Jesus sculptures were also carved by famous masters throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Often found in early medieval work, the significance of the bird symbolizes either a soul or the Holy Spirit.

The earliest history of our statue can be traced back to Prague in the year 1628 when the small, 19-inch  high, wooden and coated wax statue of the Infant Jesus was given by Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz (1566–1642) to the Discalced Carmelites, to whom she had become greatly attached.

Red for Martyrs
The princess had received the statue as a wedding gift  from her mother, María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza a Spanish noblewoman, to whom it had been a wedding gift in Spain (1555) and who had brought it to Bohemia. An old legend in the Lobkowicz family insists that Doña María had been given the statue by St Teresa of Avila herself.

Upon presenting it, the pious Princess Polyxena is said to have uttered a prophetic statement to the religious: "Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honor this image and you shall never want". The statue was placed in the oratory of the monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Prague, where special devotions to Jesus were offered before it twice a day.

In 1630, the Carmelite novitiate was transferred to Munich. With the transfer of novices, Prague lost its most ardent devotees of the Infant. Disturbances in Bohemia due to the Thirty Years War brought an end to the special devotions, and on November 15, 1631, the army of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took possession of Bohemia's capital city. The Carmelite friary was plundered and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the altar.

Elegant dress in European style
Here it lay forgotten, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 by a Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say, "Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide who go and honor the Holy Child. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous cures have been made by many who pray before the Infant Jesus.

Amazingly enough, after a month in Eastern Europe and the area, my last Mass was again at this Church, so I was able to say "sbohem, děkuje" (goodbye and thank you).

The Infant's patronage is especially sought for vocations, health, financial well-being, good family life, schools, the welfare of children, freedom and peace, the missions and safety in travel.
In this day and age, when young children are exposed to so much that is "scarey" for them, it would not be a bad idea to reintroduce this wonderful devotion of the Child who watches over them.

Inside the Church in Prague
As I look forward to my 2nd knee replacement  this week, I pray that my childhood "Friend" will give me patience, rapid healing and increase of love for Him.  An Island friend has set me up with a laptop so I will try to keep the blog going while in "rehab".  Blessings!


Sunday, October 13, 2013


The Roman Catholic Church has been an important part of early Canadian history. A French priest traditionally accompanied the great explorer Jacques Cartier who said the first ever recorded Holy Mass on Canadian soil on July 7, 1534, on the shores of the Gaspé Peninsula. It was followed by conversion of the First Nations into the fold of Catholicism. Soon after, more and more religious congregations set foot in Canada specially among French-speaking present-day Quebec.
Venerable Marie Elisabeth

At present on the roster of saints and saints to be  there are12 Saints, 13 Blesseds, 9 Venerables, and 26 Servants of God, with eight others having open causes awaiting approval. We will deal with some of these interesting Canadians in the future.

Today, October 13, another Canadian religious woman is on her way to sainthood as Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of SISTER MARIE ELISABETH TURGEON. The Quebec-born religious founded the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of St. Germain in Rimouski Quebec. She was born in 1840 and died in 1881 in Rimouski, Quebec.

The order dedicated itself to teaching and training other women to become teachers. The Congregation of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is still active today in Quebec, Labrador, the United States, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Another one to be added to the list of potential saints, and the first one to be named in Western Canada is  VENERABLE ANTHONY KOWALCZYK. He  was born June 4, 1866 in Dzierzanow, Poland of devout Catholic parents. After apprenticing in Poland, he traveled to Germany to pursue work as a blacksmith. It was here that he became acquainted with the work of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and joined them as a religious brother. Anxious to work in the missions he came to CANADA in 1896.

He was posted to Lac-la-Biche where he had a terrible accident at the mission saw mill. His hand was caught in a pulley so he had to withstand a 120 mile journey by horse and buggy to Edmonton, over terrible roads, to receive treatment. He endured the journey without complaint, but by the time he reached Edmonton, six days after the accident, gangrene had set in and the arm had to be amputated. The surgery took place without anesthetics. Brother Anthony meditated on his Oblate cross and gave no indication of being in pain.

After his convalescence at St. Albert, Brother Anthony moved to Saint Paul-of-the-Metis. Here he worked with the Indian and Metis, praying with them and helping them with their worldly needs.

Brother Anthony's longest posting was at St. John's College in Edmonton where he served from 1911 to 1947. To the students and staff, he was "Brother Ave", known for his devotion to the Blessed Mother. When students requested his prayers during examinations, he would remind them to say an "Ave". When the washing machine refused to work, he would drop to his knees, say an "Ave" and the machine would begin working. He spent long hours, after his many jobs as gardener and handy man at the College, in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Brother Anthony was beloved by all. He was a humble, devout and obedient brother, truly living his religious vows.

At one point he even became the pig-keeper. One year there was a  storm which destroyed part of the seed crop which was to supplement the food of the pigs.  Nearby was a turnip field, excellent food for animals, which was ready to be eaten. But to reach it, one had to pass through a field of oats that was not yet ripe enough to be cut. The superior told Brother Anthony to lead his pigs through the oats to the turnips.

“Be careful, he added, I don’t want to see your animals stop on the way to touch the oats.” “But, Father, it is impossible.” “Impossible? The word does not exist in French. Go!”   “Very well, my Father, you want, I take pigs.”

Before entering the pigsty, Brother Anthony knelt and recited his Ave. He got up, opened the gate: “Kiou, Kiou, Kiou! follow me, come to eat.” The pigs rushed out of the enclosure. There were approximately  150 of them moving towards the almost ripe oats field. “Kiou, Kiou! I forbid you to touch these oats. Let us go, we must go further; follow me.”

Then the superior, the Sisters and the Métis who watched this procession of famished pigs from a distance, witnessed a miracle. Brother Anthony turned into a narrow path between two rows of oats. For a moment, the pigs hesitated, as if consulting each other. Then one after the other they followed submissively behind their master. Not touching one stalk of oats, they all followed into the turnip field.

As an immigrant, Brother Anthony experienced loneliness, difficulty with language, alienation in a new culture. Brother Anthony died July 10, 1947 and is buried in St. Albert, not far from downtown Edmonton.

It is hoped that one day, Brother Anthony Kowalczyk will be named patron saint of immigrants throughout the world.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Bl. Jose on his mule Malacara

BLESSED JOSE GABRIEL del ROSARIO BROCHERO (1840-1914) of ARGENTINA  was just beatified by Pope Francis. The ceremony took place in the small town of Cordoba Villa Brochero on September 14th of 2013 with 200,000 faithful attending.

He was known by the people as the gaucho priest ( I love these "horseback priests", such as Father Kino of Arizona). Bl. Jose first served as a priest at the Cathedral in Cordova, then in 1869 left for the town of Villa del Transito.  The area, immense in size (4336 square kilometers) consisted of valleys and mountains (6,000'), untamed and almost deserted, infested with robbers and fugitives. Its 10,000 poor inhabitants were scattered, with no roads, no schools, and no conveniences.

 Here Bl. Jose gave his life for the needs of the people. With his hands he built churches, chapels and schools, and opened up roads between the mountains, dug canals and dams, encouraging people to join him.  He also established mail and telegraph services, opened a college for girls and brought nuns to educate.

[Brochero] is a man of flesh and bones. He says Mass, confession, helps people to die, baptizes, blesses marriages, etc... Yet he is an exception: he practices the Gospel. Are you missing a carpenter? He is a carpenter. He rolls up his cassock, takes the shovel or hoe and opens a public road in 15 days, aided by his parishioners. He's all! and does it all with a smile, for the glory of God and the good of men, and all goes well done because it is done thoroughly. He did everything with his own hands! Miracle? No. The thing is very simple. It's a matter of honesty and willingness. In other words: it's a matter of taking seriously the apostolate, as done by the Cure Brochero.
(Passage of a newspaper article, 1887 Cordoba, compiled by Ms. Liliana De Denaro)

Bl. Jose with leprosy
 In his old age Bl. Jose fell ill with leprosy as a result of living with patients. Before his death he became deaf and blind.

His canonization process began in the 1960s. He was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 2004. May 10, 2012, a medical board declared that the child's recovery from an automobile accident could not be explained. The child was near death with loss of bone of the skull and brain tissue. His father had asked Ven. Brochero to intercede for the life of his child Nicholas.

With his beloved mule and later horse (both"Malacara") he rode up and down the mountains and into the valleys, building and saving souls.
His spiritual achievements can not be measured in that stone desert place which now bears his name.


Saturday, October 5, 2013


Another North American added to the roster of "saints to be" this year is VENERABLE MOSES LIRA SERAFIN of MEXICO who was born in Tlatempa, municipality of Zacatlán Puebla on September 16, 1893 and died in Mexico City on June 25, 1950.

He is the founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate. When he was five his mother died, which would mark his life. His father was a teacher and traveled a lot, forcing the family to moved regularly as the job required it, which contributed to Moses' restlessness.

Moses studied at the Seminary of Puebla and later in 1912 he entered the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit being invited personally by the founder of the Congregation, where he became the first novice. He was ordained on May 14, 1922. He lived through part of the religious persecution in Mexico, which did not prevent his apostolic zeal from ministering to his people. He visited the sick in hospitals and in prisons he would bring the Eucharist. He was friend and protector of children and all those who were suffering. In all he did he was generous and courageous, risking imprisonment, banishment, and even death.

He moved to Rome where he lived until 1928. On March 29, 1934 he founded the Congregation of Missionaries of Charity of Mary Immaculate, with the mission to help all men to live as beloved children of God: to serve the Church in the sick and the elders who were lacking Christian formation and education.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Saints Maria and Laura

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has been very busy since the first days of his election to the Papacy (March 13, 2013). Several weeks after, on March 27, he proclaimed Venerable, Moises Lira Serafin of Mexico and Antonio Kowalczyk of Canada.

April 7, he beatified Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero of Argentina.

This adds 5 more names to the heavenly roster for the AMERICAS.
These we will deal with in other blogs.

Two months later (May 12) he canonized his first saints:  LAURA MONTOYA UPEGUI (1874-1949) from COLUMBIA, its first saint- a nun who gave her life to the  indigenous people  of her country.

As a young woman, Laura became an elementary schoolteacher to help support her widowed mother. Having developed her spiritual life through devotion to the Eucharist and meditation of the Scriptures, Laura felt drawn to the religious life of the Discalced Carmelites. Yet her zeal also instilled in her a longing for an active, missionary apostolate, particularly to assist the Indian peoples of South America. Laura was determined to combat the anti-Indian bigotry in her society, and to give her own life to the Indians’ evangelization. Finally, at the age of forty, having resolved to “become an Indian with the Indians to win them all for Christ,” Laura journeyed to Dabeiba with four other women to begin a religious congregation devoted to the service of the Indians, the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and Saint Catherine of Siena. As mother superior, she imparted to the congregation a rule that combined contemplation with action. After having spent the last nine years of her life confined to a wheelchair, Mother Laura died on October 21, 1949.

The Holy Father held out St. Laura of St. Catherine as a source of inspiration to the country's peace process, attempted after decades-long conflict between rebels and government forces. Pope Francis prayed that "Colombia's beloved children continue to work for peace and just development of the country."  The first pope from the Jesuit order, which is known for its missionary zeal, praised the Colombian saint for "instilling hope" in the indigenous peoples. He said she taught them in a way that "respected their culture."


On the same day the Holy Father also canonized another Latin American woman, MARIA GUADALUPE GARCIA ZAVALA  (1878- 1963) of  MEXICO, who dedicated herself to nursing the sick and helped Catholics avoid persecution during a government crackdown on the faith in the 1920s. Also known as Mother Lupita, she hid the Guadalajara archbishop in an eye clinic for more than a year after fearful local Catholic families refused to shelter him. Pope Francis prayed that the new Mexican saint's intercession could help the nation "eradicate all the violence and insecurity," an apparent reference to years of bloodshed and other crime largely linked to powerful drug trafficking clans.

As a child, Maria Guadalupe of Zapopan, Mexico, would frequently visit the town’s Basilica. At the age of twenty-three, Maria suddenly changed her mind about plans to marry, sensing that she had a religious vocation. Upon learning of this, her spiritual director invited her to co-found with him a religious congregation for the care of hospital patients. In 1901 the “Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary and the Poor” was founded, with Maria as the congregation’s first mother superior.

She nursed the sick physically and spiritually, sustained by her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while leading a life of strict poverty, in accord with her maxim that she and her fellow sisters should be “poor with the poor.” During the worst years of the Mexican government’s persecution of the Catholic Church, Mother Maria risked her own life to shelter priests at her hospital. Her charity to those persecuting the Church prompted some of them to defend the hospital from attacks. Mother Maria died on June 24, 1963.

The pope also hailed the Mexican saint for renouncing a comfortable life to work with the sick and poor, even kneeling on the bare floor of the hospital before the patients to serve them with "tenderness and compassion."

Mother Lupita's example, said the Holy Father, should encourage people not to "get wrapped up in themselves, their own problems, their own ideas, their own interests, but to go out and meet those who need attention, comprehension, help" and other assistance.