Christ is risen – Alleluia!

Photo by Ian Beckley

Easter morning is full of images -- the empty tomb, the voice of angels, Mary's encounter with Jesus -- so rich, so full, and so basic to who we are as Christians.

Jesus is risen. Death could not hold him. And if it couldn't hold him, it can't hold us.

All that Jesus said about life and death wasn't really understood by his disciples, until it was made real in that empty tomb and encounter in the garden.

And every Easter, we get to share in it.

We share in the promises made to the Children of Israel and to the entire world through the Prophets. We share in the promises made to the disciples and to all who listened to Jesus as he walked towards his death upon a cross.

What is this Easter? It's God's promise of a new day. It's God's promise of a new life. It's God's promise of a new world coming to pass in our midst.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

This is an excerpt of a reflection written by Sister Therese Ann Rich in 2011.

God Cares

What are you hungry for? Really hungry for? Stop for a moment, right now, wherever you happen to be– reading these words, stop for just a moment and ask yourself this question: “What am I hungry for? And how hungry am I?”

Whatever your response to that question, God cares about your answer. God cares about your hunger, your desire. God cares about whatever it is you are longing for, hunting for, hoping for. If there’s one thing to be said for certain about today’s Gospel reading, it is surely this: God cares about your hunger.

Where is Jesus in all of this? And what does this story say? In John’s version, Jesus has been in Galilee healing the sick. The people have noticed the signs he’s been up to, so a crowd follows him to the place where he’s gone with his disciples. There are so many of them, and Jesus looks at Philip and says, “Where are we to buy bread for all these people? They’re hungry. So what are we going to do?” It’s telling that in John’s version Jesus asks the disciples, while in Matthew and Mark and Luke it’s the other way around. The disciples ask him. In this case, Jesus looks at his followers, looks at the likes of you and me and says, “So what are we gonna do here? How are we going to deal with this problem of hunger?”

It is clear that Philip reaches for the usual kinds of categories and expectations. He begins to calculate how much money they need to buy supper for all these folks. He begins to work on logistics. “Half a year’s paychecks won’t do the trick. Our budget just isn’t big enough. Our resources are just too few.” But Jesus knows that conventional answers aren’t what’s called for here. Aren’t what’s really needed.

At this point, Andrew walks up. “Well, there is someone here,” he says. “There’s this kid with some barley loaves and a couple of fish.” Andrew looks at who’s around. Who’s on hand? Looks at what’s available. And what’s available is the lunch of a boy who is clearly not a power broker, clearly not someone with rank. Because barley flour is the flour that poor folks used for their loaves, not what the rich folks used. It’s a little detail that only John mentions. Andrew sees that perhaps real needs aren’t necessarily filled by the folks that we’ve often looked to to meet them.

But Jesus is saying more than that. Jesus is saying that the hunger goes deeper. The way John tells the story, it’s clear that Jesus is the One who can end real hunger–of every sort, not just the kind that makes for growling stomachs an hour before lunchtime. Because John changes another detail in the story: He makes Jesus the host of this meal, the one who distributes the food. In the other gospels, it’s the disciples who take up the work, and those stories say important things too. But, here for John, there’s something else going on. Something else we’re to hear and see and know. In this version, it’s Jesus who hands out the food.

Because in John, it’s Jesus himself who will become the real food; Jesus who will say to us just a few verses later, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never hunger.” Here in John, as in the other gospels, the crowds eat till they are filled, till their hunger is gone. But in John, Jesus also adds, “Gather up the fragments, that nothing may be lost,” because Jesus’ real purpose is to keep things from being lost. To keep us from being lost. From perishing is what the word means. His real purpose is to provide sustenance that lasts, that keeps us truly alive, that won’t feed us one moment then leave us hungry the next.

Jesus is saying, “I am the real food. The most important food. Don’t spend your lives on food that spoils. Don’t stock the shelves of your life with perishables. Put me there instead. Make me your staple, the food that’s going to last. When you’re hungry,” says Jesus, “then reach first for me.” [Living Liturgy 2015]

It is strange food, this food called Jesus. We consume it, take it into ourselves like ordinary bread. We begin to digest it, till it becomes part of us. But then this bread of life does something else, something the ordinary bread doesn’t do. This bread, this food, this Jesus begins to consume us, begins to make us part of him. We are used to consuming our food, but now our food consumes us. And in that consumption, we ourselves become a non-perishable. We ourselves become food for the world — living loaves. Through our Gospel living we are chosen, blessed, broken and given for the world. Jesus says to us, “Give them yourself.”

Adapted from PrayerTime by Renew International

Corpus Christi: Chosen, Blessed, Broken, Given


Jesus’ actions in this Sunday’s Gospel – choosing, blessing, breaking and giving – foreshadows the total gift of self on the Cross, in the Eucharist. The fullest presence of the kingdom of God is revealed by the total gift of self. When we receive Jesus’ gift of self in the Eucharist and choose to be transformed into being that same gift for others, we are the visible presence of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God comes to fulfillment in every act of total self-giving. Jesus is the one who gave himself totally and continues to give himself to us in the Eucharist. In this gospel, Jesus not only fills the hungry with good things, he fills them to overflowing.

Human food leaves us hungry and desiring more. Jesus’ food leaves us satisfied. But the satisfaction comes from what the eating and drinking lead us to do: give ourselves over to others in self-surrender as Jesus did. The focus of this feast is not limited to the Eucharistic elements but leads to our pledge of self-giving.

When we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ we are transformed more perfectly into the presence of the risen Christ for others. This transformation is both a gift and a challenge. It is the challenge to spend ourselves for others, to give of ourselves.

The deepest mystery of this feast is that we, too, must give our very own body and blood to others so that they may be satisfied. And when the leftover fragments of ourselves are gathered up, we will find ourselves sharing in the everlasting abundance of the banquet! Such a mystery!

Adapted Renew International Year B

Oh What A Gift!

How often do we spend a great amount of time thinking about what gift to give a loved one for Christmas, birthday, or anniversary! How often is it not true that the only gift a loved one really desires is the gift of ourselves expressed in the giving of time, attention, and presence! Jesus’ gift of himself as “the bread of life” is a gift of eternal Life, boundless care, and abiding Presence.

In this gospel Jesus teaches us the mystery of who he is as “the bread of life.” He is the One who gives himself to us as a pledge of eternal Life, who draws us to himself, who gives himself so that we might live. The mystery of his being the “bread of life” goes beyond all human expectation because the mystery reveals a divine giving of a divine Self.

To receive God’s gift of Life—Jesus as living bread—is to pledge ourselves also to bring that Life of God to others. We are not “come down from heaven”; we have our feet planted firmly on this good earth, giving our own “flesh for the life of the world” through the good we do every day for others

We believe and live the mystery when we give ourselves for the life of others, such as giving time to those who are lonely, giving food to those who are hungry, giving forgiveness to those who have hurt us, giving attention to those who are discouraged, giving patience to those who annoy us. Believing and living the mystery of “the bread of life” means that we, like Jesus, give, give, give . . .

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels available at the RENEW International.


Teacher Of The Law

How To not be boringIn 1994, a previously unpublished document from the Dead Sea Scrolls saw the light of day. The Halakhic Scroll (4QMMT) discussed many points of the Law, including the purity of liquid streams, a rather esoteric subject, to say the least. However, this scroll forced many Christian scholars to reassess their view of Palestinian culture in the time of Jesus. Up to this point, that view was informed by Josephus, the Jewish historian to the Roman world in the first century AD. Josephus described Jewish life before the fall of Jerusalem in terms the Greco-Roman culture could understand. But, the minutia found in this Scroll and how that minutia divided the Essences from the Pharisees and the Sadducees forced many scholars to see different schools of thought in Palestine, not in the philosophic terms Josephus presented, but in terms of how the Torah was applied to everyday life. This shift to Torah application (Halakhic study) marked a new page in Gospel studies. The early Jesus movement (especially seen in Matthew’s gospel) marked their differences from Pharisee and Sadducee not only in a devotion to Jesus from Nazareth, but also in how the Law was applied to the community. Jesus was not only Lord and Savior, he was also the Teacher of the Law.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus exclaimed he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. As the note above stated, such fulfillment could be seen as either an example or as a scribe/interpreter. In the context of 5:19, Jesus meant both. He was the primary example of a moral life AND he was the primary teacher of the Law. He expected the leadership of the Christian community to follow in his footsteps as examples and teachers of the Law.

The example-teacher who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets was part of the cultural landscape in the time of Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls identified a “Teacher of Righteousness,” one who would give the populace a true interpretation of the Law, as opposed to the “Wicked Priest” who directed illegitimate Temple worship. Much ink has been spilt over the identity of this figure, with much dispute among modern scholars over its identity. All we need to note is: 1) the notion of this figure who existed outside the ruling elite in Jerusalem (i.e., not a Sadducee) and 2) an alternate interpretation of the Law that had legitimacy (i.e, not from the Pharisees). It does not take a stretch of the imagination to see the early Jewish-Christian community assume Jesus stood in the cultural shadow of this “Teacher of Righteousness.”

As this Teacher figure, Jesus would be the touchstone for interpretation the Christian community would follow. Those who were faithful to his interpretation would be “great in the Kingdom,” while those who gave a loose interpretation would be “least in the Kingdom.” It is interesting to note that both the faithful and loose teacher were saved, while the Pharisees were implicitly not saved (“unless you have a righteousness greater than that of Pharisees…”) In other words, not only were the Jewish Christian to live by a higher moral standard than the Pharisees (i.e., example), he must have a better interpretation of the Law than the Pharisees (scribe/interpreter). Jesus implied that the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law was illegitimate.
So, how did Jesus interpret the Law? We can only answer that question in light of competing interpretations (as noted) and the context of interpretation at the time of Jesus. As noted in the introduction, past scholars read early Christianity through literary sources; these sources were culturally dependent. In other words, these sources were filtered through the philosophic world view of Greco-Roman culture. With the interest of Jewish scholars in the New Testament that has occurred in the past twenty years, there has been a reassessment of the world view Jesus lived in. Jesus’ world was affected by Greco-Roman culture, but was steeped in a real concern for the Torah and its purity. So, Jesus in Matthew’s gospel was concerned with following the Law, but a higher concern was interpreting the Law in its purest sense.

Jesus is not asking us to be perfect; he is asking us to pay attention to how we deal with one another and strive for a righteousness that surpasses what we need to do to get along with one another.

The righteousness that Jesus asks of us is not concerned with minimums but is concerned with caring for others as he did. It means loving as he did. Jesus lives the supreme act of love giving self totally. To follow Jesus daily, we must develop a daily habit of giving self to others. For a life habit of self-giving love is the only way we enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jerusalem, Behold Your King Comes

For most of us,  Holy Week unfolds like many other weeks: work, school, preparing meals, doing laundry. Palm Sunday begins an unusual week – a week – concentrated in a few days on the ultimate meaning of our lives. We are invited this week to reflect on these questions: Why are we here? What have we been called to do? What are we willing to die for?
palmsun3We have journeyed from Ash Wednesday to this day. This week, we will experience the last hours of the life of Jesus. We must slow down and make choices so that this week does not go by without our taking time to enter into its meaning.
In our Gospel today, even in the midst of great suffering, Jesus extends his compassion to others, so total, that he  willingly empties himself to the point of death. As we enter this week, let us pray that our self-emptying for the good of others will be so total.
We celebrate in the liturgies of this week what we live every day – all the dying to self that characterizes our faithful discipleship. The triumph of this week is in doing our tasks with joy, being kind to those around us [even those cranky folks], meeting setbacks as paths to learning. Then, with Jesus, we can commend ourselves into God’s hands.
Jerusalem, My Destiny by Gary Daigle, Rory Cooney & Theresa Donohoo

Golden Jubilee – 50 Years an Ursuline – Sr. Darla

Our Sister Darla Vogelsang is celebrating 50 years as a nun in the Ursulines of Youngstsown.  Sr. Darla entered the Ursulines in September 1960 after having graduated from Ursuline High School.  She entered the novitiate in August 1961, which is the date for which we mark Jubilee.


Sister Darla has had a variety of ministries during her 50 years as an Ursuline:  as a teacher at St. Patrick, Youngstown and teacher and principal at Immaculate Conception elementary schools in Youngstown, as a parish minister at Immaculate Conception and Sacred Heart in Youngstown, St. Paul, Canton, and St. Patrick, Hubbard, in service to the Ursulines of Youngstown as a member of the Leadership Team, on the Liturgy Committee and the Retreat Committee.


Most recently Sr. Darla was certified as a Catholic Chaplain.  It is a kind of “encore career.”  She now serves as chaplain for HMHP at St. Elizabeth, Boardman and St.Joseph, Warren.


Sister Darla says that “a 50th anniversary for anyone is a hallmark year.  It is also an opportunity in prayer, gratitude and celebration to look back at the people and the opportunities that have formed me in religious life.  And it’s a celebration of the Ursuline Sisters as well, an opportunity for the community to celebrate the gift of Religious Life in the church.”


Congratulations Sister Darla!  Ad multos annos.


Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown Mark a Milestone and Plan For the Future

By Michele Ristich Gatts

Angela Merici was a courageous woman. She was also fortunate. She was educated. She had strong faith. But what Angela witnessed in her community saddened her so greatly that she was moved to action.

“She saw that there were needs – young women who were being sexually abused by soldiers,” reflects Sister Mary McCormick, a member of the leadership team for the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown. “She believed they could have a life of service, a safe life, rather than a life on the streets.”

And so, says Sister Mary, Angela employed perhaps her greatest gift. “She was somebody who networked. She gathered together people to help her from various backgrounds. She had businessmen of the day who were advisors to her, she had widows who had some affluence, plus, she had a close group of advisors in the church.”

The movement that Angela – St. Angela Merici of Italy – began in the 16th century not only improved the lives of people in her community, the ripple effects of her faith, strength, caring and good works continue to this day, changing and improving the world.

St. Angela was the founder of the Ursuline Order of nuns, who are celebrating 475 years of serving others.  “The struggles and the fears and the needs of people – St. Angela was able to be there and be with them in a pastoral, supportive way,” says Sister Norma Raupple, also a member of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown leadership team. “I see her as a great model for us in our time.”

The Sisters marked the anniversary of their order’s founding Nov. 25 with mass and a celebratory brunch at the Motherhouse. A video of Sister Mary’s reflection presented at the occasion can be viewed elsewhere on this site.

For 136 years, the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown have ministered in education, hospitals and health care facilities and in parish and outreach programs for the poor and disadvantaged.

Like their founder, the Ursuline Sisters build bridges between the more fortunate members of our community and those at risk of becoming lost.

“We can provide for that networking so people in need – women, immigrants, HIV positive people or families of those with autism – find the resources so they have a future that’s hopeful instead of a life on the streets,” explains Sister Mary, who’s also an associate professor of systematic theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in the Diocese of Cleveland.

Some of the Sisters’ past and present good works locally are the founding of and continuing educational endeavors at Ursuline High School, Youngstown Community School and Millcreek Children’s Center, Youngstown, and The Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten, Canfield. Some of the sisters teach other schools and in higher education. They founded Beatitude House, with locations in Youngstown and Warren, which aids women and children who are often fleeing abusive situations. Its educational arm, The Potter’s Wheel, Youngstown, helps disadvantaged women succeed in educational and employment opportunities.

The Sisters also offer HIV/AIDS and Prayer Shawl ministries, work in Social Work and as Chaplains in area healthcare, rehabilitation and nursing-home facilities, and offer Spiritual Direction. The Sisters’ Ursuline Center hosts numerous activities and classes; swimming and water-aerobics classes are offered at the Ursuline Pool. Both facilities adjoin the Motherhouse.

But as much as the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown minister to the needs of others, they are currently struggling with a need of their own. The Sisters are aging, with their membership declining to fewer than 60. If their good and vital works in our community are to continue, the Ursuline Sisters need new members to build on their heritage.

“I think the challenge is for young people or middle-aged people to just know us,” Sister Norma posits, “to come and volunteer with us in our huge variety of ministries, or to come and pray with us.”

One such opportunity is Wednesday evenings during Advent, where all are invited to Evening Prayer with the Community at 6:30 p.m. in the Motherhouse Chapel, 4250 Shields Rd.

The Ursuline Sisters also are utilizing social media. They blog. They’re on Facebook and post videos  online. Soon, video profiles on this Web site will tell the stories of many of the Sisters and how each is answering her call to serve God.

In addition, a service group for young women in high school and college is in the works.

Sister Norma, who ministers with immigrant mothers, says she was drawn to life as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown because “they appeared to me to be happy and lead meaningful lives. I wanted to be part of something bigger and make a difference, put my life in with a group of other women.

“I wanted to build my life and continue to grow in my longing for God and my relationship with God. This way of life gives you the support that helps you to do that,” she continues.

Sister Mary agrees that her life has been enriched by being an Ursuline Sister. The vocation has helped her receive her education and introduced her to numerous people locally and nationally.

“Most of all, I’ve come to see so many things in my life as a great blessing, and I think that’s really rooted in prayer,” Sister Mary states. “That’s one of the blessings of community life — you get to see those blessings over and over and over again.”

Through outreach efforts, the Sisters hope women thinking about a religious vocation will consider life as an Ursuline Sister of Youngstown.

“If our lives have made a difference in our local church and local community,” Sister Mary says, “then we hope other people will join us to continue to make a difference.”

Sister Norma says the next generation of Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown could “build on history, build on our heritage, build on the vision of St. Angela, but then to create it and establish it for their time.”

Who Is First in Your Life?

The issue of financial manipulation at the expense of others is a rampant problem. We read of CEOs embezzling funds, individuals overspending and then declaring bankruptcy, businesses charging high interest rates on credit cards. The kind of manipulative behavior of the dishonest steward in our Gospel this Sunday is not so uncommon. What is perhaps uncommon is the behavior to which Jesus  calls us who are his disciples.

Daily, faithful disciples face issues dealing with self interest, trustworthiness, honesty. These issues force us to make choices revealing our real goals for life. The foundation for all our choices must be that God holds first place in our hearts.

When we choose to give God first place in our hearts, we live simpler lives, we experience serving others as serving God and we find being trustworthy and honest is its own reward. These ways of living show the kind of shrewdness Jesus praises and bring us to eternal happiness.

Choose Not the Higher Position

According to scripture, our social aspirations betray the placement of our hearts – with God, or with false idols. In a passage unique to Luke, Jesus, in our Gospel today,  insists that, contrary to everything society tells us, we should not try to “keep up with the Joneses.” Rather, we should keep “down” with those in need, “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” and rejoice when they cannot repay us, “for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”.

Jesus uses two familiar social situations – dining at table and guest invitation lists- to teach us about knowing our self in both our gifts and limitations. The first parable about wedding guests invites us to reflect on knowing ourselves in relation to others.  We are invited but it is God who invites. Our relationship with God is as those who are poor; we cannot buy our place in heaven. It is in God’s choosing us  that we share in divine riches and sharing in God’s life. If this is how God relates to us, then this is how we relate to others.

The second parable invites us to reflect on how we wish God to relate to us. No one is excluded from the banquet.  Neither should we exclude others from our attention and service. We are called to extend ourselves  to all others, regardless of social or economic class , religious affiliation or gender. We give ourselves over for the good of others.

Two Fish, Five Loaves of Bread and Five Thousand for Dinner

Recently, there was a news item of strawberry farmers destroying good plants rather than picking the strawberries for market. It was cheaper to let the berries go to waste than to pick them. There was a public outcry, and rightly so.

Weekly, I receive pamphlets of malnourished, starving citizens which demand a response from me.  I know there is food in abundance and that our starving sisters and brothers across the globe are victims of political action. And
I  know that world citizens are starving for more than just food.

Our readings today make it clear that we are to give of our very selves in feeding others. We are called to give the gift that keeps on giving-our very self for the life of others.  As Jesus is God’s nourishment through his self gift, we too, are to be God’s abundant nourishment for others. Perhaps what is amazing about this Gospel is that God willingly chooses us to make known his blessing.

This feast celebrates the superabundance of God’s graciousness to us.  We are invited to share that superabundance. The challenge of our Gospel is for us to be Eucharist for one another, to be attentive to the needs of others. The challenge is to make visible that divine generosity.

Does Life in the Convent Ever Become Boring?

Welcome to our “Ask The Nun” series of informal videos. Today’s questioner wonders if life is ever boring for a nun. Sister Norma Raupple shares her answer.

I speak for myself in saying that I have never been bored with convent  life. Most of us have to decide how we are going to get everything done that we have planned to do. There is always something going on… something to do… somewhere  to go … someone to help…

I sometimes  decide to stay home and take  some quiet time for myself instead of filling up my week with activity.

Please submit your questions to [email protected]

To Be Tempted

It is said that certain items are “rust-proof.”  Other things are billed as either “dust-proof” or “spill-proof” or “bullet-proof” or “child-proof” or “scratch-proof.” But here’s something which no human being ever has been or ever will be: “temptation-proof.”

Temptations are luring. They present us with a seeming good we do not presently have but want. Without a lure, temptations do not exist. Temptations always lure us to a false good.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is faced with three perceived goods. And each temptation put to Jesus involved some misguided personal gain – power, prestige and possessions. By resisting the temptations, Jesus shows us that our true gain is not in satisfying ourselves but in something better – utter fidelity to God.

Temptations are not an indication of sin, rather, they are occasions for us to show that our lives are turned to God. In resisting temptations, we are choosing who we want to be – those who faithfully serve God by doing good for others.

Lent is a focused time to grow in holiness and transformation; it is a time to take the test of who we want to be.  We don’t have to go out to the desert to find temptation. But we do need God’s nearness to resist it. And that God has promised us.

Isn’t This Joseph’s Son?

One night, not so long ago, I was praying and asked to know where I was not one with God.  The next day, a knock at my door and for the next hour, I found out where I was not one with God!  Be careful of what you pray for!

We find it easy to speak to people when we have pleasant things to say and they are obviously glad to hear them.  On the other hand, we tend to shy away from delivering words of confrontation, criticism, challenge.  Neither do we ourselves like to hear such negative remarks. Yet at the same time, we realize that growth often results from what we really do not want to hear.

Our Gospel today challenges us to stand pat on the truth of God’s word even to stake our life on it.   While the Gospel is always Good News, it is not always comfortable, because it stretches us beyond where we are right now. Our response can be amazement or fury, welcoming Jesus or expelling him from our midst, growing in discipleship or stagnating in narrowness.

If the chatter at work grows uncharitable or coarse, do we have the courage to walk away?  If prejudice exists among our friends and acquaintances do we have the courage to extol the dignity of the minority? Do we have the courage to place Gospel values before any others and are we willing to stake our lives on them?

The real challenge comes when we are nudged to live the Gospel. What determines your response?

Baptized by the Holy Spirit and Fire

In preparing adults to be received into the Catholic Church, we spend a great deal of time talking about the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Several years ago, one of our catechumens asked, “What, really, is the Holy Spirit’s fire?”

I answered, ” We have several expressions that might give us a hint: a coach works with a team to get them all fired up, your boss tries to light a fire under your staff to undertake a new project; someone intent on a mission has a fire in the belly.” “All these expressions,” I said, “point to commitment, intensity, energy, a drive toward a goal. Our baptism is meant to instill in us all this commitment, this energy as well.”

Our Gospel today tells us who we are and how we have been gifted. Our Baptism transforms us and confers on us a mission. By Baptism, we are The Body of Christ entrusted with cooperating with the Holy Spirit in making present God’s love by which the world is saved and renewed. We are missioned to a Gospel way of life.

Taking our Baptism seriously means that the ritual is just the beginning of a lifetime of living for God and for God’s people.

Emmanuel-God With Us

Several years ago, I was leading the Children’s Liturgy of the Word on this feast of Christmas. As we were reflecting on this feast, one of the children asked me, “Sister, were the shepherds any different after they visited Jesus?”

For years, that question has stayed with me. It didn’t take much for the shepherds to abandon their sheep and follow up on a strange message of angels! They saw the infant for themselves and then “they returned glorifying and praising God.” To whom or to what did they return? And were they changed because of their encounter with Christ? Did they return to their sheep? To their former way of a shepherding life? Maybe to some shepherds who didn’t go with them?

In trying to answer that child’s question, I said they returned with a difference. Their encounter with this infant stirred in their hearts and changed their lives forever.

We,too, are changed by our encounters with this Savior born to us. We are changed when we recognize and respond to this divine encounter. We encounter the Savior in the sick and suffering to whom we extend a healing hand, in the child who needs moral guidance, in a parent who needs an encouraging word, in a lonesome youth who needs a friend. And their presence changes our lives.

Emmanuel not only came at a specific moment in history; Emmanuel is among us at all time. Even more, we are to make Emmanuel present.

Nun as Construction Site Coordinator

When Sister Betty Schuster went to college, she pursued a career in education.  After a decade in Catholic Schools , the school in Long Island where she was teaching closed in the early 1990s.  Betty then decided to spend a year in volunteer service in Youngstown, OH.  Part of her volunteer time was spent in Catholic schools.  But she also began to volunteer at Beatitude House, a program for homeless women and their dependent children.

One year of volunteer service turned into two years; and two years have turned into a lifetime.  She entered the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown in 1994 and made her perpetual profession of vows in 2000.

Not only did Sister Betty move from New York to Ohio, she changed careers, and in a dramatic way.  What had begun as a extra volunteer ministry has turned into a full time job.  Sister Betty currently serves the Assistant Director of Beatitude House.

One of her responsibilities as Assistant Director is to oversee the various sites where the families live.  The site in Warren OH has just completed a $1.5 million renovation.  Our Sister Betty served as the Construction Site Coordinator for the project.

“I never thought of myself as working in construction.  But I have always liked really getting involved in a project” said Sr. Betty.  This “really getting involved” has meant meeting weekly with the construction workers and architect, overseeing the progress of the building, and preparing the space for occupancy for seven new families. Imagine having to figure out the cost to level your house in Hoston and get a building back up before the end of the year!

Sr. Betty Schuster on Stilts Inspecting at the newly-renovated House of Blessing in Warren

These are families that have been homeless.  Now in this House of Blessing, the name given to each of the housing sites operated by Beatitude House,  mothers will get the education and support they need to help themselves move from homelessness to permanent housing, and children will live in a stable environment that will nurture their development.

By the way, the dedication of the new space is this Friday, September 25, 2009 at 2:30 p.m.  You can find it at 1370 Tod Ave, NW in Warren OH.  An Open House will continue until 5:00 p.m.

Do You Also Want to Leave?

The past four Sundays have focused our thoughts on the Bread of Life. Now today, we hear the conclusion to the discourse -Jesus is the Bread of Life who brings us eternal life. We might think everyone is open to this wondrous gift. But our Gospel today says otherwise! Many would return to their former lives and no longer accompany Jesus. Although the gift is freely given, there remains a choice to accept the gift or not.

Why would anyone not choose this wondrous gift? Why would many leave? Why? Because this simple gift has demands! The demand of the Gift is that we become like the Giver and give ourselves for the good of others. Self giving always leads to new life and this is why we are able to make the choice to stay.

The Bread From Heaven

Don and Annie were “empty nesters” as far as their children were concerned. However for twelve years Annie’s mother had been living with them. At first, she was a great help but as the years rolled by age was not kind to her and she began to diminish in energy and enthusiasm. Then she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She had only a short time to live and wanted to die in familiar surroundings. Annie and Don agreed to round the clock care. Annie and Don continued their loving care. Their heartaches were many – the pain, the constant demands, family obligations, work obligations. However the biggest heartache was expressed by Annie when she shared with me her longing for Eucharist. She had not been to Mass for so long because she didn’t want to leave her mother nor did she have the energy to get to Mass. Little did this overburdened daughter know that eucharistic acts are as common as bread and wine, as common as the self-sacrificing love we freely give to others.

In our Gospel today, Jesus’ self-giving is now made present in the Eucharist. Our eating this bread and drinking of this cup draws us into the mystery of self-giving. And in sharing in this bread and drinking of this cup, we become Eucharist for others. Annie and Don became Eucharist for their family.