March 2017

"Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places like the first apostles who preached Christ and the good news of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages.This is not time to be ashamed of the Gospel.It is the time to be proud of the Gospel. It is time to preach it from the rooftops" (Pope John Paul, II; August 15, 1993)

“Do not be afraid!” (The Angel of Peace, Fatima, as he greeted the children, 1916)

For some time now, the Sisters and I have been concerned about the incessant attacks on the sanctity of marriage and the family.  These attacks are real, not imaginary, and we cannot ignore them.  The attacks are becoming more and more intrusive, and are being delivered in various and subtle ways through entertainment, magazines, television, music, books, politicians … too many and too numerous to list.  We must become ever more acutely aware of the ways being used to undermine marriage and the family structure because these methods are indeed affecting our children, our families and society.

Are we fearful to proclaim our love for Jesus in the public aspect of our lives? To embrace the foot of the Cross?  To preach from the rooftops, as exhorted by Pope John Paul II?  The message of Fatima, 100 years later, is just as relevant as it was at the time of the apparitions.  Our Lady’s message is to pray for the conversion of sinners, make reparation for the sacrileges by which He is already so much offended, and as Lucia exhorts us, to defend and protect the family.

Our Lady loves us, she dotes on us, as every mother does.  But a loving mother must also correct and teach her children.  Our Lady of Fatima taught us the need for penance, reparation, praying the rosary for the conversion of sinners and fulfilling Jesus’ requests for the First Saturdays.  Our Heavenly Mother has asked this of each of us in our everyday lives.  Perhaps to soften our hearts, Our Lady has chosen children to remind the world of God’s love for His Family and to call the world to conversion.

The Angel of Peace, in his last apparition at Fatima, came holding a chalice in his hands with a host above it.  Without a word, the Angel knelt with his forehead touching the ground, leaving the host and the chalice suspended in the air.  The Angel prayed, three times, “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which He Himself is offended.  And, through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”  Imitating the Angel, with their foreheads pressed to the ground, the children joined the Angel in reciting the prayer three times.  The Angel stood up and gave Lucia the Eucharistic Host. Then he gave the Chalice with the Most Precious Blood to Jacinta and Francisco, as he said, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men.  Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”  Once again, he prostrated on the ground before the raised chalice and Host, and repeated again the prayer three times, and then he disappeared.

Jesus gave us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to perpetuate Calvary, enabling us to participate in His work of redemption. Father Frederick Miller writes in his book, The Message of Our Lady of Fatima,The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, following Mary as model and guide, unites her self-sacrifice to Christ’s and becomes His co-worker in the world.” Standing beside Our Lady, we are collaborators in her Son’s redemption of the world.   In our participation at Holy Mass, Our Lady draws us to be with her at the foot of the cross and there we join our prayers and sacrifices with her Son’s sacrifice, for the salvation of the world.

The Angel of Peace came approximately one year before Our Lady presented herself to the children.  The children, forever changed, prayed the prayers taught to them by the Angel and prayed the Most Holy Rosary daily to make reparation.  They looked for ways to make sacrifices to console God.

Our own lives should be such.  Do we pray and work for the sacredness of marriage and the family?  Are we afraid of the truth and teachings of the Catholic Church?  Do we pray the rosary every day as Our Lady has requested?   Do we look to the Blesseds and the Saints for inspiration?  The three children of Fatima were brave little souls and suffered much from their families, the people around them, and the ruling authorities of their time, but they willingly and lovingly laid down their lives for God and the truth of the Catholic Church.

This Lent, during the Centennial year of Fatima, let us heed Our Lady of Fatima’s exhortation to do penance and make reparation.  We need to place ourselves under Our Lady’s mantle to receive her strength and grace as we pray for marriage and the family.  My Lenten reflection for you this year is to ponder in your own hearts what God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is telling you in these three simple words, “Be not afraid”.

May your Lenten journey be filled with penance, reparation and consoling Jesus at the foot of the cross with our Blessed Mother.   May you be filled with joy as you give public praise to the Triune God.  May you “be not afraid” as you defend marriage and the family.  May your response to our Blessed Mother’s request be extraordinary! May Mary’s Immaculate Heart triumph!

Shout it from the rooftops!

December 2016

As I pen my letter,  it the final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King.  This great feast is a magnificent reminder to not only recognize Jesus Christ as King of the Universe, but also king of our hearts, our lives and our families. How wonderful this feast!  In today’s world God is ignored, overlooked and belittled.  We need to reclaim and proclaim His sovereignty over us!   In 1979, Pope John Paul II, a prophet for our times, wrote in Familiaris Consortio,

May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity and strength.  On the solemn day dedicated to His Kingship I beg of Him that every family may generously make its own contribution to the coming of His Kingdom in the World – “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace,” towards which history is journeying. (FC, 86)

The liturgy is a great teacher, for not only is this great solemnity the end of the liturgical year, but it also provides a fitting transition into the new liturgical year.  The liturgies of Advent help us prepare for the birth of the King.  I have been thinking about those days more than 2,000 years ago when Christ was born in Bethlehem.  Have you ever thought about how many events were coalescing and how God was bringing about the fullness of time?

God foresaw and used the Roman census to realize His plan; Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem and the Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled.  The Light of the Nations was born in a stable.

The pilgrimage of the Magi is another.  When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold the magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Even as an infant, perhaps even before He was born, the Divine Light of Jesus was guiding, drawing others to Himself.   The Magi were inspired to follow the star of the newborn King, to honor and pay homage to Him.  To cite the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI, “The Wise Men from the East mark a ‘new beginning’ … the journeying of humanity toward Christ.”  This journey is one that must never end in this life.

The Magi risked everything following this star into foreign lands!   Despite dangers and their critics, they had the conviction to follow the star.  We will never know what inspired them to do so, yet the fact remains that at great risk to themselves, they did.  They set out to follow that star…that light…and they were persistent throughout their journey.  Even when the star disappeared, they did not abandon their purpose, requesting a meeting with Herod who, surely, would know the location of the newborn King of the Jews.  King Herod, though, did not share the hopes or the natural faith of the Magi.

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him.  Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  “They said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for this it has been written…”  (Matthew 2:3-5)

King Herod’s role in these events also needs to be examined, as he is the first to persecute families because of the birth of the Christ Child.   Perhaps this is where the attack on the Christian family first began and this attack has continued ever since.   Herod’s malevolent atrocities in his attack on the innocent have carried forward from generation to generation.

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the child.  When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.’  After their audience with the king they set out.  And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  (Matthew 2: 7-11)

Advent is the perfect check point for us on our journey, a perfect time to reflect on these things, a perfect time to think about Herod, the Magi, and Pope Benedict XVI’s observation that this historical event marked the beginning of mankind’s journey toward Christ.  Are we truly proclaiming Christ as our King in our lives or are we to be counted among those about whom God spoke to Samuel, that is, those who reject God as king?

Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them.  He prayed to the Lord, however, who said in an answer.  “Grant the people’s every request.  It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.  As they have treated me constantly from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this day, deserting me and worshiping strange gods, so do they treat you too.” (1 Samuel 8:6-8)

My hope this Advent is that we all strive to be like the Magi, perhaps best echoed by Pope Francis when he said:

“We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: ‘Where is the child who has been born the King of Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage’ (Matthew 2:2).  We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will.  We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother.  Let us follow the light which God offers us – that tiny light.    The light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity.  And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts:  our freedom, our understanding and our love.  True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child.  It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up.  For here is the wellspring of the light which draws to itself every individual in the world and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.”   (Homily of Pope Francis on the Epiphany of the Lord)

Christ is the Light of the World; as Christians, we too are to bring light to the world.  Be the light in your homes, be the light in your families, be the light in your work place, be the light in your school, be the light in your cities, be the light in our country, be the light in the world.  Everyone you meet is longing for God, desires to love Him and be loved by Him.  May your light introduce them to Him anew.

May His star shine in our hearts and herald the way of truth, love and peace.  O come let us adore him

September 2016

With a heart full of gratitude to you and to God, greetings from our home to yours!

We have lived in new home now for eight months and not a day goes by that we do not whisper a prayer of gratitude for the blessing of our new convent.  For the first time, we are living in a home that was designed and built to help us express who we are and to aid us in departing to you and all of our visitors that same charism.  These months have been filled with untold and multitude blessings. 

Without realizing it, Father Raymund Snyder, OP, in just a few words summed up what I have been trying to articulate since we begged God’s blessing upon this building endeavor.  As a former student of our Sisters, Father Raymund graciously offered to celebrate Holy Mass for the Sisters while he was in Wichita following his ordination to the priesthood.  As I thanked him for coming, he simply said, “I wanted to be in the house the Memorares built.” 

It hit me immediately!  Yes, this is what it is all about!  All of us, sons and daughters of the Immaculate Heart, want to be in Her house, in the house the Memorares built!  Not only that, but in doing so we want to venerate her and give her honor, we want to fulfill the requests she gave us at Fatima, live our consecration to her and flourish under her mantle of protection.  We know, as St. Louis de Montfort says, “She is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus, that whoever surrenders himself to her, body and soul without reserve, will belong entirely to Jesus.”

Our Blessed Mother makes the house a home, a suitable place for Her Son to dwell, and draws her children together under her loving gaze, assisting their approach and propelling them to her Eucharistic Son.  Our Chapel, the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, is very Marian, but Marian primarily in the sense that the center is Jesus.  How blessed we are to have a convent, a home, that expresses what we strive to live! 

This reality was brought to our attention forcefully when a young woman called and said that she watched our convent being built as she drove by to and from her brother’s home.  She was drawn by the building and wanted to visit, to see what was inside and to see how we lived.  Three other young women have submitted their applications for entrance; three young women, all from Kansas, have felt the call to be in Our Lady’s home, sensing that perhaps Jesus is calling them to be His brides.  Our Lady is showing them, and us, the way and we joyfully and with full confidence, entrust ourselves to her motherly care.

This is our lived experience and it is exemplified this summer by Sister Joseph Mary O’Brien’s Silver Jubilee (August 15, 2016), by Sister Mary Guadalupe Bergkamp and Sister Rose Marie Weber’s solemn consecration and perpetual profession (August 20, 2016), and the reception into the novitiate of Maggie Schaeffer in September.

You have helped us so much by “building our house with Memorares.”  Thank you for the thousands of Memorares you and all of Our Lady’s friends have showered upon her, all for the conversion of sinners, for the Sisters, and for your own needs.  Thank you for being an instrument of Our Lady. 

May Mary’s Heart Immaculate be forever praised, that Her Son may be glorified, now and forever.

December 2015

Just like clockwork… or was it by God’s Design that made “all things work together for the good of those who believe”.  The Sisters often marvel at the providence of God who gives us what we need when we need it, arranging our daily lives with such loving solicitude.  Things could not have worked out better.  Five days before Thanksgiving the Sisters with the help of family and friends moved in to their new home in time to prepare for our first holiday at the Novitiate House.  Our move coincided with the visit of Maggie Schaeffer who plans to enter in February.  She and her father joined in the fun of moving the Sisters and getting a first look at Maggie’s new home.  What a blessing for us and Maggie to have this shared memory.  Build and they will come proved true one week after Thanksgiving when the Sisters hosted their first group of young women for a Come and See weekend.  Six young women traveling from La Crosse spent time with the Sisters, praying, working and playing, experiencing the peaceful and beautiful atmosphere of the Novitiate House.  May this be only the beginning of discernment retreats for young women in search of God’s will and a good community!

Blessings abound as our prayer for strong, dedicated and persevering young women for our community is answered.  Anne Marie Laville from Leawood, Kansas and Samantha Ridder from Hutchinson became postulants in the Fall of this year, sharing with us the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our community.  Their joy, enthusiasm, hard work, and desire to do all for Jesus is an ever present reminder and confirmation of the need and  importance of building a Novitiate House to foster vocations to the Religious Life that we may continue to serve the Church through our prayers and apostolate of education.

Thank you for working and praying beside us these past several years.  Our hope in the Lord has never wavered knowing that He is always by our side.  Our prayers are offered for you unceasingly, and as long as there are Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, they always will be.

Unable to accommodate all our friends and families, the Blessing of our Chapel and the Novitiate was private.  We do plan to have several Open Houses after the first of the year for all of you.  Please stay tuned.

August 2015

“Who is She that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon,

bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array.”

~Antiphon of the Catena Legionis

It wasn’t fear that inspired the founders of the Legion of Mary, the Blue Army, and the Militia of the Immaculata to take their place in the service of the Queen.  Nor is it fear that moves us, as we consider the danger and the risks of entering the fray and engaging in the ensuing battle.  It is love that casts out fear and fills us with great joy and confidence in Our Lady who promised, In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.

Our Holy Father recently spoke on the need for courage, like that of the Apostles and the first Christian community.  He said, this courage carried forward the work of evangelization, free of fear, of death and martyrdom. As we look back over the history of the Church we see the heroic courage of the saints in the face of great persecution and know we have the same call to such heroism for the sake of the Church, the Kingdom here on earth.

In these times, and in every time, the followers of Christ are called to live courageously, to be resolute in their faith and in seeking and doing God’s will with a magnanimous heart.  The Sisters and I know several vocations are just around the corner for us.  We need to pray for them, for their courage to do God’s will, and to be undaunted in their desire to do great things for God and for His Church.  Please join us in praying for strong, dedicated and persevering young women for our community.

December 2014

Our Lady bestowed her gifts to us on her birthday, September 8th, with the entrance of two beautiful young postulants.  This year is proving to be a year of promise as we look forward to the completion of our Novitiate House in 2015, the year Pope Francis designated the Year of Consecrated Life.  Our Lord arranges everything so delightfully, and with eyes of faith, we step back and marvel at His infinite love and faithfulness.

With young women entering our community and countless others visiting and inquiring “If one of us enters will you have room for us?” we run with joyful hearts to meet each day’s new responsibilities, discovering God’s will and preparing for the future.  In the spirit of faith and apostolic zeal we embrace our marching orders from Pope Francis who, speaking to Religious said:  “An authentic faith always involves a profound desire to change the world.  Here is the question we must ask ourselves: do we also have great vision and impetus?  Are we also daring?  Do our dreams fly high?  Does zeal consume us (cf. Ps 68:10)?  Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our “made in the lab” apostolic programs?”  I earnestly pray we can meet his challenge by living our charism of teaching and praying for the conversion of sinners with an enthusiasm, fervor and zeal, with a vitality that the urgency of our times makes absolutely necessary.

It is with a heart full of gratitude that I look back over the last 12 months and see the outpouring of God‘s love revealed in so many ways, most especially through your loving support of our community.  We know we couldn’t do what we do without you.  Your prayers … the more than million Memorares… your participation in all our events and your words of encouragement are all a consolation beyond measure.

Please keep us in your prayers, most especially our new postulants as they learn the way of life as a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

June 18, 2014

Children love their parents.  Children emulate the way their parents treat others, how they build up trust, the way they show reverence for the Lord.  They watch to see how parents love one another, and how eager they are to grow in their own knowledge and love of Christ.  They witness their parents’ gratitude for the gift of faith and their desire to pass it on.  It’s the way a family works.

In many ways, religious communities such as the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita are like families.  When a young woman enters our community as a postulant, she watches, observes and learns how to live religious life, how to be a Sister.  After a time, the postulant becomes a novice: watching, practicing, living our religious life, learning the Church’s teachings and how to balance her life of prayer and work.

It has been nearly forty years since teaching Sisters were abundant in the United States; essentially four decades of our children have never encountered a teaching Sister.  Providentially, our foundresses, Mother Joanne Brummel, Sister Eileen MacDonald and Sister Giovanni Oliveri, became a beacon of hope, a little spark if you will, for the growth and development of teaching Sisters in Kansas.  In an act of faith, in the year 1976, they came to Wichita to live authentic religious life, praying and teaching.

I was among the first group of young women in Wichita to discern a vocation to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, founded by these remarkable women.  As a postulant, I witnessed their love of the Church, their love of Jesus, the way they lived and taught, and, most importantly, the way they radiated joy in their lives … and ours.  Soon, many others followed.  We now number 22, our median age is 38, and we are establishing the first Motherhouse and Novitiate in the state of Kansas in over 100 years.  Nearly two years ago we purchased 80 beautiful acres in the Colwich area, and have built the necessary buildings to allow us to have an immediate presence…including a shrine for Our Lady of Fatima and a home that hopefully one day will house a resident priest.  We are beekeepers as well!

Our vocations will soar once the Novitiate is completed.  Why is this so?  What is it about a Novitiate that will make the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary more of an option for the many young women who are discerning a vocation to the religious life?  Why does not having a Novitiate make it harder for us to attract these young women?  The simple answer is that one of the most important qualities these young women are looking for is an authentic communal life in a setting where the Sisters attend Mass together every day, have Eucharistic adoration together, pray the Liturgy of the Hours together, enjoying meals together, just to be together as a religious family united in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

While we are most grateful for what we have, for years we have literally been bursting at the seams, living in 4 buildings in 3 different places.  Our Chapel is not large enough to hold all of us at one time, the classrooms and dining facilities we have are inadequate for our needs, and we have too few guestrooms to house the young women who visit us discerning a vocation.  Moreover, we do not have a place for communal recreation, or a place where we can retreat for quiet contemplation.  The young women can feel and sense this missing component … a Novitiate changes all of that, it becomes that welcoming beacon to the communal life they are looking for.

Ironically, the building of our Novitiate rests in a special way with you, the primary educators of your children.  Just as your children witness the way you treat others, the way you love and trust one another, the reverence you show for the Lord and the way you practice your faith, they will also be keenly observant of what things in life are important to you.

We hope that religious life is important to you, and that in some small way, in some corner of your heart, you will embrace us in front of these children of yours that we are teaching … that you will make sure they know that part of your legacy will be your love and support of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

We also pray that you will support our Novitiate project with a financial gift, that you will help make it possible for us to grow, and grow, and grow … that someday we will have Sisters teaching in each and every Catholic school in the state of Kansas.  Unless you are over 100 years old, this will be your first opportunity to support the building of a Motherhouse and Novitiate in Kansas, the first time to demonstrate to your children and grandchildren and to all around you that this is an important part of the legacy you wish to leave behind.

It is my prayer and my hope that we are not alone in our quest – that you are there also, standing with us, together as one Body of Christ, helping and bearing each other’s burdens.

As Sister Giovanni would often say…  “Let’s be saints together”.

June 6, 2013

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary invite you to share in their mission of praying for the conversion of sinners.  As you know this mission is dear to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; when she revealed her Immaculate Heart to the three children at Fatima, she exhorted them to pray for the conversion of sinners, saying that so many of them have no one to pray for them. Additionally, we are asking her to help us in the building of our Novitiate/House of Formation.

Please join the IHM Sisters in praying Mother Teresa’s “quick novena” for these intentions.   The novena consists of nine Memorares in petition and one in thanksgiving and can be said throughout the day or all ten at once. We are hoping to shower Our Lady with millions of Memorares; you can help us by pledging a thousand Memorares for this intention.  We will be presenting these Memorares to Our Lady of Fatima at her newly built Shrine on our new property each year on May 13th and October 13th - the anniversary of her first and last apparition at Fatima in 1917.

When you complete your thousand Memorares, please send us the postcard (Default Millions of Memorares for Mary Postcard) with your name and address or submit the online form. We can then include it in the Memorare presentation to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13 /  October 13 at our Fatima Shrine.  Your name will be perpetually recorded as one who helped us fulfill our pledge of “Millions of Memorares for Mary.”

December 1, 2012

First Sunday of Advent

God is real!  Every moment of every day God is with us.  Faith makes it possible to know this.  Isn’t the Season of Advent an ideal time to “rediscover the joy of faith, in the knowledge that it is not something extraneous, detached from daily life but is its souls.”?  In His passion to speak to us and communicate His love, the Word became flesh that we might see his Face and know the fullness of joy.  The gift of faith allows us to see God, and to know God personally in a relationship of trust.  We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God”, born from a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ, loving Him, trusting Him, so that our whole life becomes involved.  Pope Benedict urges us in this Year of Faith to be conscious of God, recognizing Him throughout our day, in our joys and sorrows, in our successes and failures.  Faith is real!  Faith allows us to see reality in all its fullness.  It is in faith that I entrust myself freely to a God who is Father and who loves me; it is adherence to a “You” who gives me hope and trust.”  Let us spend this Advent Season reflecting on what is real: God’s loving presence in my life.  May we all come to know the fullness of joy when we see His Face, now and for all eternity.

September 18, 2012

Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

Statement regarding HHS

March 6, 2012

In union with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious joins with other citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, in calling upon our government to protect and defend the rights and freedoms upon which our nation was founded.  We believe that our first and most fundamental freedom, the right to religious liberty and freedom of conscience, is gravely violated by the ruling announced on January 20th by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The accommodation announced by President Obama on February 10th does not respect nor safeguard our rights or the rights of others.

We join our bishops, other religious leaders and concerned citizens in calling for the mandate to be rescinded and for the broadening of a religious exemption.  In love for our country, we continue to pray for a renewed zeal for truth and for the preservation of our God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are integral to our identity as a nation.  In His mysterious Providence, may God be at work in this critical moment in our history to "make all things new" (cf. Revelation 21:5).

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