Thursday, November 28, 2013


Mother Prioress making cheese
Many of you have heard of the Cheese Nun" and maybe even seen the PBS documentary about her. Mother Noella Marcellino, O.S.B is a Benedictine nun who earned a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Connecticut. Studying fungi in France on a Fulbright Scholarship, she concentrates on the positive effects of decay and putrefaction as well as the odors and flavors of cheese. She is at our Mother Abbey in Conn.

She was praised by Rémy Grappin, the late Director of Research at France's National Institute of Agricultural Research, who said that she had studied the biodiversity of raw-milk cheese fungi.

For her efforts, Mother Noella was inducted into the Grand Ordre Des Gourmandins and Gourmandines des Fromages d'Auvergne in 2002; was honored in 2003 by the French food industry with its first French Food Spirit Award for promoting an understanding of French cheeses and helping to preserve traditional ways of making them; and received the Grand Prix de la Science de l'Alimentation from the International Academy of Gastronomy in 2005.

Our own foundation here on Shaw  has had a cheese nun, who after a hiatus of 15 years, is back in the swing of things. Shaw Island’s Our Lady of the Rock (OLR) Monastery was the first certified raw milk dairy in the State of Washington.

Dairy barn & kitchen
In 1981, OLR received one of the first licenses in the state of Washington to produce cheese and raw milk, as a licensed Grade A Dairy. Mother Prioress says that their desire always was to produce cheese, with milk as a “side business” (which is not the case now; fluid milk is what we sell). At the time of licensing, we purchased cheese-making equipment (simple molds for the cheese curds, and testing equipment).

For awhile, we did make cheese. The cheese was a true farmstead cheese, with no added cultures, i.e., using only the native cultures found in and around the monastery. The cheese was sold at the Shaw store, the Orcas landing and at Frederick & Nelson department store in Seattle. It was a good time for Mother Prioress and the Monastery but this was in the days when most Americans only knew processed cheese so at the sight of a speck of mold, they fled.

Mother Dilecta feeds Jersey
But, life intervened, and the Community became very busy with other things – Mother Prioress, in particular. Fortunately, this year, the monastery is back in business working with one of our Oblates, Gigi, who is a professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Gigi has helped with milking cows, making cheese on her own, and giving Mother support and technical advice. She has also helped with the aging process, monitoring the molds, helping out with packaging and labels.

Last weekend, we had a cheese launch on Shaw. Only 10 couples were invited but we sold $265 of cheese, and received a donation of $600 for equipment..

This weekend, we’ll feature the cheeses at the Holiday Boutique on Shaw and at the Shaw Store.

At present to make this venture work  we need a large wine cooler which has controlled humidity and temperature.  Cost $1400.00

Mother Prioress teaches cheese making

We also need a new Jersey cow ($1,800)

Mother Prioress is our very own cheese nun- West coast Style!

Mother Prioress milking- Child watching

Monday, November 25, 2013


Since our Order is dedicated to the Contemplative life as well as to Farming, I found this recent article interesting!

At the end of the General audience in St. Peter's Square , Pope Francis recalled that November 21, is the date upon which we celebrate “Pro Orantibus Day” marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple.

The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders, and the Pope said “It's a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work".

"Let us give thanks to the Lord - he added – for their testimonies of cloistered life” and he urged the faithful to lend their spiritual and material support to these brothers and sisters of ours “so that they can carry out their important mission".

And the Pope went on to remind those present that November 22 is the date upon which the International Year of Family Farming will be inaugurated. The initiative promoted by the United Nations and other organizations aims to become a tool to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agricultural systems based farmer families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives and fishing families.

Commending the initiative, Pope Francis said that "it highlights the countless benefits that family farming contributes to economic growth, to social solidarity, to respect for creation and to the moral fiber of the entire community”.

Monastery Farm
Monastery Herb Garden
Monastery Harvest

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Beatification Day
BL. GIUSEPPE "PINO" PUGLISI (1937- 1993) was a priest in the rough Palermo neighborhood of Brancaccio (Sicily). He openly challenged the Mafia who controlled the neighborhood, and was killed by them on his 56th birthday.

Dom Pino was born in Brancaccio, a working-class neighborhood in a family of modest means. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a dressmaker. He entered the seminary at age sixteen. 

Following ordination, he worked in various parishes, including a country parish afflicted by a bloody vendetta. He was ordained as a priest in 1960 by Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini from Palermo. Ruffini regarded Communism as a greater threat than the Mafia. He once questioned the Mafia's very existence. To a journalist's question of "What is the Mafia?" he responded: "So far as I know, it could be a brand of detergent."

This denial persuaded Dom Pino of the need to challenge church authorities. "We can, we must criticize the church when we feel it doesn't respond to our expectations, because it's absolutely right to seek to improve it," he said. With his trademark humor, he added: "But we should always criticize it like a mother, never a mother-in-law!"
Dom Pino with Youth
In 1990, Dom Pino returned to his old neighborhood becoming the priest of San Gaetano's Parish. He spoke out against the Mafia who controlled the area and opened a shelter for underprivileged children. He was offered other parishes by the local curia, in less troublesome Palermo neighborhoods, but he opted for San Gaetano.

With little support from the Palermo archdiocese, he tried to change his parishioners' mentality, which was conditioned by fear, passivity and omerta (imposed silence). In his sermons, he pleaded to give leads to authorities about the Mafia's illicit activities in the area, even if they could not actually name names. He refused their money when offered for the traditional feast day celebrations, and would not allow the Mafia "men of honor" to march at the head of religious processions.

He tried to discourage the children from dropping out of school, robbing, drug dealing and selling contraband cigarettes. He ignored a series of warnings. Those parishioners that made attempts to reform matters were sent strong messages. A small group who organized for social improvement found the doors of their houses torched, their phones receiving threats, and their families put on notice that worse things lay in store.

On September 15, 1993 he was killed in front of his parish church by a single bullet shot at point-blank range. The murder was ordered by the local Mafia bosses, the brothers Filippo and Giuseppe Graviano. One of the hit men who killed Puglisi, Salvatore Grigoli, later confessed and revealed the priest’s last words as his killers approached: "I've been expecting you".

During his visit to Sicily in November 1994, Pope John Paul II praised  Bl. Giuseppe as a "courageous exponent of the Gospel." He urged Sicilians not to allow the priest’s death to have been in vain and warned that silence and passivity about the Mafia was tantamount to complicity.

To underscore this anti-Mafia conviction, Dom Pino composed a parody of the Our Father in the Sicilian dialect:

"O Godfather to me and my family, You are a man of honor and worth. Your name must be respected. Everyone must obey You. Everyone must do what You say for this is the law of those who do not wish to die. You give us bread, work; who wrongs You, pays. Do not pardon; it is an infamy. Those who speak are spies. I put my trust in You, Godfather. Free me from the police and the law."

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Our next lay saint to be is  VENERABLE SILVIA CARDOSO FERREIRO da SILVA better known as "Dona Sylvia".

One of the problems with little known holy people is there is nothing about them in English and I am at the mercy of Google translator-  which is at times almost un-intelligable. But this is what I could glean from several sources.

Silvia was born in 1882 in Portugal the oldest of  four children of Umbelino Manuel Ferreira da Silva and Joaquina da Conceição Cardoso Emilia. Following the death of her fiance, Silvia devoted herself to the care of poor children, founded homes for the abandoned, organized retreats for laity, and set an example by her love of Christ.

In 1918 she became sick with the flu that killed so many thousands in Europe. After this her apostolate became tireless.

She always carried a kind of bag where everything fit: rosaries and devotional medals and brochures, and clothing for the poor. The poor were part of her life. She was a woman of strong and deep piety, faith and hope, always caring for others. She not only cared for their bodies but also their souls.

Dona Silvia loved children always seeing Christ in them. She started homes for girls and for boys, soup kitchens, retreat houses, farms centers where the poor could have some leisure time but also be educated.  When she sensed that a boy was called to the priesthood, she encouraged him and paid for his education.

She died in 1950.


Friday, November 15, 2013


Our new Holy Father has been very busy the past month giving us new saints and furthering others along the path to sainthood.  One example is VENERABLE ATTILIO GIORDANI, a layman and Salesian Cooperator born in Milan in 1913, who was elevated October 11 to Venerable.

Son of a railway worker, Attilio got to know of St. Don Bosco at the Salesian Oratory in the city.  From an early age he was outstanding for his love of the Oratory and, by eighteen, for his dedication to the young people who frequented it. For many decades, he was an ardent catechist finding the resources for a life of grace through the sacraments, and in prayer and spiritual direction.

In over 10 years of military service, including those of World War II, he witnessed to the faith among his comrades in arms. After the war, he founded the "Crusade of Goodness" to restore hope to young people.

He married Naomi Davanzo, and they had three children. As a husband and father he showed great serenity and kindness, choosing voluntary austerity and evangelical poverty, in order to help the needy. Every day he was faithful to his meditation, Eucharist and Rosary.

When grown, his three sons went to Brazil to spend a period as volunteer missionaries. Attilio and his wife Noemi decided to go to share in the vocation of their sons, as volunteers in Operation Mato Grosso. In Brazil, he continued to work as a catechist and leader.

In Brazil
On December 8 (the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady), 1972, at Campo Grande, during a reunion, he spoke enthusiastically and ardently of the duty to give one's life for others, when he suddenly felt weak. He had just time to say to his son: "Pier Giorgio, you carry on" when he died of a heart attack.

His remains were brought back to Italy and now repose in the Church of St. Ambrose in Milan. He is a model for our times of  lay holiness lived in joy. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I am always fascinated to see how lay people become saints as several more have made it onto the roster of new saints- or future saints. The first of whom is
 BL. ODOARDO FOCHERINI whose life was nothing less than
adventurous. A professional journalist during WWII he saved more than 100 Jews from the Holocaust by helping them cross the Italian border with false documents. After being detained by the Nazis, he died in a German concentration camp at Hersbruck, Germany in 1944 due to septicemia of the legs.

Bl. Odoardo  was born in Carpi, Italy in 1907. He lost his mother when he was 2 years old. His father remarried and his adoptive mother loved him as her own son, directing his attentions towards life in the parish where Odoardo was formed in his faith.

He was of a sociable and friendly character and had many interests - the theater, journalism, songs from the mountains, playing the harmonica, bike riding and skiing.  He also had a special love of the youth whom he constantly engaged in parish life, offering them spiritual formation.
In 1930 he married Maria Marchesi, and between 1931 and 1943 they had 7 children.  His eldest daughter, Olga, still has the letters her father sent from prison, which are now part of their family treasure.

Odoardo first started helping Jews flee the Nazi persecution in 1942, but his large-scale effort did not begin until Sept. 8, 1943, when he asked his wife’s permission to help provide false identity cards so that Jewish refugees could cross the Italian-Swiss border. She told him: we and our children are safe, the Jews are not: go and help them.

At work, Bl. Odoardo always spoke against discrimination. He worked for 'L'Avvenire d'Italia,' a daily newspaper which still runs to this day. Its current editor believes Odoardo, the first journalist to ever be beatified, can teach modern journalists a very valuable lesson.

Olga was thirteen when her father was killed. She remembers him as a loving father who always wanted to play with his kids. He was also an affectionate husband who knew how to share with his wife both Christian values, with their work in the 'Azione Cattolica' and civil values, when he had a chance to save persecuted Jews.

Bl. Odoardo’s body was never found, since in all likelihood he ended up in the furnaces of Hersbruck. The official relic is his wedding ring, which he managed to keep from the clutches of the Nazi’s, miraculously smuggling it out of prison and back to his wife.

From the prison camp he wrote to his beloved wife Maria: "we must give everything in generosity, we can accept the cross, even if it becomes heavier, with the serenest of souls, and carry on.”  He is the first Italian "Righteous Gentile".

  "Righteous Among the Nations" Awarded by Yad Veshem

Monday, November 4, 2013


While she never visited the USA in her lifetime, MOTHER MARIA THERESIA BONZEL, foundress of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, made foundations in this country.

There are four provinces in the U.S. and a mission in Brazil.

Mother Maria Theresia was born Aline Bonzel Sept. 17, ( the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis) 1830, in Olpe, a small town in the Sauerland area of Germany.  She was the daughter of wealthy citizens of Olpe. Her father died early, and her mother raised her with a strong faith. Aline believed she was called to religious life but her mother protested. Eventually she allowed Aline to enter religious life.

Many difficulties, including heart disease, stood in her way until age 29, when she joined with two of her friends to form a community, although not the Franciscan sisters for whom she would eventually become foundress. This new community experienced conflict with another community doing nursing in Olpe and friction among its own co-founders. Causing more tension was Sister Maria Theresia’s wish to use the Franciscan rule, which ran counter to the established Augustinian rule. The Church authorities stepped in to create two communities. Sister Maria Theresia became the superior of the new community in Olpe, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration came into existence in 1863.

Mother Theresia was resistant to founding this new group, the Poor Franciscans of Olpe, but did what was asked of her. She wrote the Constitutions after the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.  She also needed to form a way of life, a style of clothing and provide for the economic needs of the new congregation.

 She sought to combine the contemplative and active religious life through an unfailing commitment to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the works of mercy in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

Mother Theresia started schools of advanced education for girls, and they began to provide nursing outside Olpe. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), she sent sisters to nurse victims of war, and five sisters eventually died from the diseases contracted there. Mother Theresia and 20 of her sisters were awarded medals by the Emperor for their service.

Their ministries came to an abrupt halt with the beginning of Chancellor Bismarck’s attempt to control the Church. To evade having the young community’s property confiscated as “church property,” it became the property of Aline Bonzel, Mother Theresia’s maiden name. Soon new candidates could not be accepted. The community was at a standstill, forbidden to perform most of their ministries.

 At the invitation of Bishop Dwenger, Mother Maria Theresia sent seven sisters to Lafayette, Ind. in 1875. In the U.S. they could not only nurse freely, but were asked to become teachers to the children of German immigrants. Soon more sisters were needed for the work in Lafayette. Since the Kulturkampf forbade accepting any new members into the community, Mother Maria Theresia secretly invested three young women during the night and sent them in lay clothes to America. She even considered sending the entire community to the U.S.  But by 1850 the legislation of the Kulturkampf, still in effect, was no longer enforced. Growth came quickly in Germany.

In 1875, Mother Maria Theresia sent six members of the order to the United States, where they established hospitals, schools and other institutions. The nuns landed in New York Dec. 12, 1875, and continued on to Lafayette, Ind., where they established a hospital.

Today, the sisters operate 14 hospitals across the Midwest and  serve God’s people, the poor and vulnerable in Colorado, California,  and New Mexico.

The remainder of Mother Maria Theresia’s life was spent leading the community in Germany. At each election for the general superior she was overwhelmingly elected, despite her wish to leave that office.  In 1900 she was awarded the medal of the Order of the Red Cross by Emperor Wilhelm II in recognition of the great work of the congregation. In 1903 she was near death for weeks, but recovered. In 1904, despite her protestations and weakening health, she was reelected general superior. Mother Maria Theresia died Feb.6, 1905.

Her first miracle occurred with the sudden healing of a 4 year old boy living in Colorado Springs. She will be beatified Nov. 10 in Paderborn, Germany.