Rome, July 27, 2015

Greetings from Rome!  Since Sister Joanne is away I thought I would give you a brief update of what life has been like this month in Rome.  According to some reports, this July can set the record for being the hottest in 70 years.  We have had temperatures in the high 90’s most of the month.  And when you add the humidity, it is even hotter. At night in one Sister’s room on 4th floor it was 95°F. Needless to say, she moved to a lower level in order to get a good night’s sleep.

On July 1 I attended the lawn party sponsored by the Embassy of the US to the Holy See at the home of Ambassador and Mrs. Hackett to celebrate Independence Day.  It was a beautiful night and many, many people were in attendance.  Besides many of the American treasurers, I also met Fr. Gino Sylva and Fr. Elias Lorenzo, OSB.  The theme of the night followed from our Holy Father’s upcoming trip to the US, so we had Washington hamburgers, NY hot dogs and Philadelphia cheese-steaks.  I had a hamburger and it was delicious.  They also served potato salad, watermelon and brownies.

On July 4 itself we had a nice Mass in English in Chapel.  Sister Clarentia was on vacation, so I made hamburgers and coleslaw for dinner and macaroni salad for supper, at which we ate the remaining hamburgers, with watermelon for dessert.  Since it was so hot outside, we cooked and ate indoors.  Then on July 5 we commemorated Independence Day at our Santa Susanna Sunday liturgy.

One night one of our alarms went off.  It was one o’clock in the morning.  I didn’t hear it, so Sr. Angelika came knocking at my door.  Fortunately it was a false alarm.  But each night I ask St. Joseph to take care of us and to let us sleep without the alarm sounding.  So far he has fulfilled that wish.

There has been much coming and going here at Villa Paolina.  For one week we were only three Sisters.  For the past two+ weeks we have had mainly recited liturgies.  A group of Franciscan Sisters from Peru join us during the week for liturgy during the summer.  They live on Via Nomentana.  We are glad because they also help with the readings.  All of our Masses have been in Italian, with a reading sometimes in another language. 

In Paderborn the Libori festivities opened on July 25.  So we are celebrating here in Rome also.  On Saturday we had the soft pretzels and today we had our “Peacock Race.”  We see which of our peacocks can get from LeMans, France to Paderborn and back the fastest.  We have a CD with the Libori Tusch, so we played it both days.  We will play it again on Tuesday in honor of the relics being returned to their place in the crypt.

One thing nice about summers in Rome is that there is more room on the bus and one can usually find a parking place.  However, with the heat for so long, the leaves are already falling from the trees.  Our metro (subway) system is having a “slow down.”  Sometimes you have to wait a very long time for the next train to come.  The passengers went after one of the drivers the other day because he told everyone to get off the train because he wasn’t feeling well.  Sometimes they don’t put the air conditioning on, or drive with the doors open. 

As you have probably heard, there had been a fire in Terminal 3 of Fiumicino Airport in May.  Just this week that terminal opened again.  It had been chaos at the airport.  When Sister Angelika returned from Germany, her flight was changed to the other airport, Ciampino.  However, they did not have the facilities to handle all the extra traffic.  She had to wait 1 ½ hours for her luggage and then wait for the bus to fill before it departed.  She arrived at 12:30 and didn’t get home till 5.

Today we are expecting three Sisters from Germany.  They will spend the night with us and then tomorrow go on to Assisi.  Before returning to Germany, they will also spend the night here.

On Thursday I fly to the US and hope to see many of you during the “Big Days” in August.  Please pray for a safe flight.  And let us keep our world in our prayers!

With love and prayer, your

Sister DeSales

My Philippine Experience – Part 2

Before I begin my retreat this evening I want to share with you the rest of my Philippine experiences.

The patron saint of Margaretha Home for the Blind is Blessed Margaretha of Castello.  Her feastday is April 13, the day I travelled.  Sister Maria Dolores postponed the Mass to celebrate her feast to April 15.  A priest who is studying in the Philippines was the celebrant.  He did some research and reviewed with the residents the life of Blessed Margaretha.  I found it very interesting because I really did not know anything about her.  Let me share the basics with you.

Blessed Margaret of Castello (1287–1320) is the patron of the poor, crippled, and the unwanted. She was born blind, lame, deformed, hunchbacked and a dwarf, into a family of nobles in the castle of Metola, southeast of Florence. Her parents tried to keep her hidden.  After nearly being discovered, her father had a room without a door built onto the side of the parish church.  Here she lived for 13 years, though she could attend Mass and receive the sacraments. When she was about 16 her parents took her to a shrine in Castello, where miracles were reportedly being wrought, to pray for a cure for her birth defects. When no miracle happened, they abandoned her. The poor of the city took her in as one of their own. She eventually sought shelter with some Dominican nuns and lived in prayer and charity, helping the poor and prisoners. When she died at the age of 33, crowds at her funeral demanded she be buried inside the church. After a crippled girl was miraculously cured at the funeral, the priest allowed Margaretha's burial inside.

In 1558, Margaretha's remains were transferred because her coffin was rotten. Her clothes were also rotten, but her body was preserved. She was beatified on October 19, 1609 by Pope Paul V.

Shortly after we returned from Baguio City, we had a simple celebration for the feast of Mother Pauline, one of the highlights of my visit.  It reminded me so much of how Mother Pauline often celebrated special days with her blind Sister invited our Lay Associates for Mass and dinner, but the celebration with many invited guests was postponed until Sr. Theresia returned.  But our simple celebration included a day full of activities.  . Our day began with the three of us Sisters praying Morning Prayer together in honor of Mother Pauline. At 10:30 a.m. we had Holy Mass with the residents and staff of Margaretha Home for the Blind (MHB) and our Lay Associates who could come.  The music for every Mass at MHB is always well done.  Our blind teacher, Joanne, who is a graduate of MHB, plays the keyboard and many of the blind accompany her with percussion instruments.  They all sing with such enthusiasm.  One of the blind did the first reading and another one sang the entire Responsorial Psalm from memory.  The celebrant gave a very meaningful homily.  He researched the life of Mother Pauline.  This was followed by a short program prepared by the blind and then dinner in the lanay (screened in gathering space)  In the afternoon we had recreation with the blind, during which we did the Hokie Pokie and played some games.  This was followed by a specially prepared banana merienda.  In the early evening we prayed Evening Prayer with the residents and staff.  (They are familiar with praying Evening Prayer because when the go “camping” at the convent, they pray each day with the Sisters.)  Sister Maria Dolores, Sister Clementina and I then returned to the convent for our supper – pizza and beer or Coke and then watched a movie.  It was truly a nice day of celebration.

Since I was in the Philippines during their summer vacation, I was able to see and/or learn about the activities that the Sisters and staff had planned for the residents.  Each day there was some activity.  Some days they had exercises and on other days they could go swimming in the above-ground pool in the garden.  But they also had some educational activities.  One that amazed me was their cooking class.  Sister Clementia taught them how to make some Chinese food.  They helped cut the vegetables, roll the dough, and make Chinese dumplings.  On another day after the dough was first pan-fried and then cut into strips.  Every resident had the opportunity to help in some way – some, of course, with the help of the staff.  But I never ceased to be amazed at what the blind could do.

Part of my cultural experience was to enjoy a variety of different foods – both Chinese and Filipino.  I never had an idea that there are so many different types of egg rolls – Chinese, Filipino, with bamboo, with meat and vegetables, etc.  I also learned about “ube” which is similar to a sweet potato but purple. One evening we celebrated Sister Maria Dolores’ brother Ray’s birthday at a Chinese restaurant.  We were 10 seated at a round table.  There was a large “Lazy-Susan” in the center of the table.  Her sister had ordered 7 – 10 different dishes.  One at a time each was brought and placed on the Lazy-Susan.  As each person took what he/she wanted, the Lazy-Susan was turned so that the dish went to the next person.  Many times you do not know what you are eating, but all was good. 

One evening we went to the Mall of Asia to see the sun set over Manila Bay.  It was a beautiful sight.  This mall and the Mega Mall that we visited another day, if I understood correctly, are owned by a man who began with a one-floor shoe store.  The Mall of Asia is the largest by square footage of the malls in Asia.  In it, besides all the shops, you will find an ice-skating rink and 400 restaurants!  There is also an amusement park. The Mega Mall, which we visited on another day, has the distinction of having the most stores in Asia.  But what it also has is a very large chapel and a smaller adoration chapel.  We arrived in time for some adoration in the small chapel followed by Mass in the large chapel.  In most of the malls in the Philippines – at least in metro Manila – you will find a chapel.  The Church is bringing the sacraments to where the people are.  But even in our parish church, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, it is amazing to see how many people attend early morning Mass.  We usually went to the 6:30 Mass, but there was an earlier one also. 

The last experience of my visit was our pilgrimage to Antipolo.  Here is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (very appropriate on the day before I would travel back to Rome.).  We first visited shrine where we could touch the mantle of the statue of “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.” The statue was brought from Mexico to Manila in 1626.  Then we went to the Cathedral for Mass.  During the main pilgrimage season there is a Mass every day every hour from 5 a.m. to noon and then from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday the Masses begin at 4 a.m. with the last one at 7 p.m. For three centuries this shrine has been the object of religious pilgrimages from all over the Philippines.  In 1954 the church of Antipolo was declared as a national Shrine of the Philippines.

I think that now I will bring this letter to a close.  I will pray for all of your intentions during my retreat.  I ask that you also keep me in your prayers.

With love and prayer,

Sister DeSales

Rome, May 10, 2015

Now that I have returned from the Philippines where I was from April 14 to May 5, I would like to share some of my experiences with you.  My time in Quezon City moved rapidly.  There had been much activity, some of which, I would like to share with you now.  I will share more in another report.

I arrived at the new airport terminal in Manila on April 14 after flights which took me from Rome to Amsterdam to Taipei and then to Manila.  With the exception of some short turbulence, all the flights were smooth.  Sister Maria Dolores, Sister Clementia, SMIC and Joel were waiting for me. Since the traffic was very heavy on the way to the convent, the trip took us 1 ½ hours and we arrived after 8 p.m. After a little refreshment, I unpacked and went to bed – although I did sleep on the flights.

MHB residentsIt was a joy to greet the residents and staff of Margaretha Home the next morning.  There are 15 residents at present, many of whom I remember from my previous visits.  Jane will be leaving at the end of May to continue her studies at Isabella College.  It is summer vacation during April and May, so Sister Maria Dolores and the Staff had planned different activities for the blind.  Those who are able also make a home visit during this time – some for a few days and some for 1, 2 or 3 weeks.  They are excited when they know they are going home.

On the Friday after I arrived, I went with Sister Maria Dolores and Lanette (our social worker) to the annual meeting of Staff and Community Fund of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).  The staff of the bank supports the fund through voluntary payroll deductions and other fund-raising activities.  With the money collected they help many charities in the Metro Manila area, one of which is Margaretha Home for the Blind (MHB).  They give us money to buy rice, milk and other food for the residents.  They are very generous.  One woman who works at the bank also brings a cake to MHB for the birthday of each resident and member of the MHB staff.

It is interesting how Sister Maria Dolores gets donations.  She never asks for money but makes friends and invites them to see the work that is being done at MHB.  When they see the residents and how they are helped and how happy they are, they often give a nice donation.  They know their gift will be put to good use.  Some gave donations specifically for the summer program. Since Pope Francis’ visit Sister said the donations have increased.  The people are really heeding his message of caring for the poor.

One of the programs for the summer was a trip to Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines.  Baguio City is in theBaguio City - in front of house mountains and is much cooler than in Manila.  The blind had requested to go there.  They had often heard about it, but had never seen it. A benefactor allowed us the use of her home there; someone else provided the second car, and another, money for the trip.  Three of the women who work at ADB gave each of us a bag of snacks for the trip.  Many people wanted the blind to have a nice time.

Before the trip there was a meeting between the staff of MHB and the blind to decide what we would see while we were there.  On the day of our arrival – after a six hour drive – we wanted to go to the Lourdes Grotto to pray the rosary.  However, one of the cars broke down.  While the drivers took care of the car, we went to nearby St. Joseph the Worker Church and prayed the rosary.  Each morning we three Sisters went to 6:15 a.m. Mass there.  Wednesday began the novena to St. Joseph the Worker so they had a very nice liturgy with music.  Each day of the novena they prayed for a different group of workers:  farmers and those who work with the soil, those in business, etc.  At the end of the Mass, those from that group were invited to the front of the Church for a special blessing.  Arni, one of the residents of MHB, celebrated her birthday on April 22, so she asked if she could come along to Mass that day.  That she could come made her very happy.

There are many public parks in Baguio City.  On the morning of our first full day we visited Mines View Park.  Here, for 20 pesos (about 0.50) the blind were able to put on the costume of the native Igorots and have as many pictures taken as theyNative Costumes wished.  They all enjoyed that.  Each has her own money that she received for helping in the Workshop, so our next stop was to let them buy a key chain and T-shirts.  Each of the blind had a guide who took care of her money for her.  I was the guide for Karen.  But sometimes I felt that she was the guide for me.  She helped me up and down the stairs – most of which are not the same height – especially if there was no banister to hold on to.  Our next stop was to Wright Park and also The Mansion – the summer home of the President of the Philippines.  The latter is not open to the public, but at least The Mansionthe group had their picture taken with it in the background.  It was then home for lunch after which we went out again to visit – this time to the Botanical Gardens.  We wanted to go also to Burnham Park, but we had to postpone that because of the dark clouds overhead.  For merienda (afternoon snack) we stopped at Jollibee’s where we enjoyed a hamburger, fries and Sprite.  When we left Jollibee’s, the rain came – not just a gentle rain, but a torrential one.  We prayed hard that we would get home safely.

The excursion on the next day took us to La Presa.  This was very important for the blind because it is where “Forevermore” one of the TV programs they watch is filmed.  To get there we had to go up the mountain – with all the curves like we often have when we make a pilgrimage in Italy.  On the sides of the mountain they have terraced the land and farm there.  It is a beautiful site to see.  The blind were thrilled to be there.  On this site was a large pig (used in the show), so I asked to have my picture taken with it.  Then several others did also.  The pig was very SDS with pig - LaPresaaccommodating.  It is used to being photographed.

We packed a lunch that day and ate it in Burnham Park.  Then after lunch we had an hour during which the blind and staff took turns riding the bicycles.  Each bicycle had a two-seat side car.  For the first round the staff peddled the bike and the blind rode in the side car.  However, in the next turn, the blind peddled the bike, guided by a member of the staff.  It was so nice to Bicyclessee their sense of accomplishment.

This letter is getting long, so I will stop for now.  But first I want you to know that I also worked while I was there.  We worked on formatting the Journals, the inventory and the process of budgeting.

Till the next part of the report, I remain with love and prayer, your

Sister DeSales

Easter, 2015

As we begin this most Holy Week of the year, I want to wish you many graces and blessings as we remember God’s great love for us and to send you greetings for the magnificent feast of Easter.  You will be in my prayer in a more intense way during these days.  May this season bring you much joy, peace and hope – all graces we need especially during these troubled times.  Here in the Generalate we celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday as a community in our Chapel, but go to various churches for the other services, each to a service in the language of her preference.  I will be attending and ministering at the services with the Santa Susanna American community at the Church of San Camillo de Lellis.

Yes, Santa Susanna American Community at the Church of San Camillo de Lellis.  Since July 2013 we have not been able to use the Church of Santa Susanna because of some repairs that need to be done.  Since the Church is historical, this is a complicated process and requires cooperation and/or permission of several entities.  Please join us in praying that we may soon return to our own Church.  Right now we are having Masses in four different locations:  San Camillo, St. Patrick, Santa Maria degli Angeli e Martiri and Marymount International School.

During these past days I’m sure you have the victims in the Germanwings crash, their families and friends, and also those who are investigating and helping it in your prayers.  My heart goes out in a very sincere way to the parents and family of the co-pilot.  And our prayers are continually needed for all those who are suffering from all the violence throughout the world.  I am praying for the conversion of the terrorists so that we may all live in peace. 

Life here in Rome has kept me busy over the past months.  There were the end of the year reports, the preparation of the reports for the New Year, preparations for our audit, maintenance needs that had to be taken care of, and many meetings – both internal and external.  But, with the grace of God, life continues.

We have an organization of English and French speaking treasurers in Rome.  Here we share information and ideas and try to keep up with the changing financial regulations.  In December we had an English – speaking Italian lawyer share with us.  His firm has developed a webpage in different languages to help us with the many and constantly changing legal regulations.  This past week he offered a meeting on tax issues and on other issues that affect Generalates.

On the national level, since the beginning of February Italy has a new president - 73 year old Sergio Mattarella.  He is the third president since I came to Rome in September of 2000.  In Italy the president is chosen by the voting of lawmakers and regional representatives. Mattarella enjoys the backing of the center-left Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the youngest prime minister in Italy’s history. He succeeds the very popular head of state Giorgio Napolitano, who at 89 stepped down due to his advanced age. Mattarella has a reputation for moral integrity and anti-Mafia credentials in Italy, but he is little known on the international stage. The Italian president has mostly ceremonial duties, but he also acts as political arbiter. The president's influence usually increases in times of crisis because he can reject laws, call snap elections and nominate prime ministers.

On April 1 religious women in Rome whose home state is in the northeast have been invited by Kenneth Hackett, the Ambassador of the USA to the Holy See and his wife to a Coffee in honor of Rebekah DiMartino, a 2013 Boston marathon Bombing Survivor and to hear her Inspirational Message of Hope.  Sister Joanne and I will be attending.

Then on April 13 I will fly to the Philippines to spend three weeks there.  Here we have a home and a workshop for the blind.  I will do some financial work with the Sisters and also be another person in the house while one of the Sisters is away.  We have only two Sisters at present ministering in the Philippines, but a Sister from another congregation is currently living with the Sisters.  Our ministry in the Philippines is the same as the very first ministry of our Congregation – care for the blind.  We have 16 resident blind or partially-sighted young girls and women.  Those who are able to learn go out to school.  Several have already gone on to college. For those who have handicaps other than their blindness, we have a learning center and a workshop.  One of our blind, after she finished her college studies, got married, has a child and teaches at the Learning Center.  I return to Rome on May 6.  Please keep this trip in your prayers.

This year I will be home in the USA from July 30 to August 26.  I hope to see many of you during this time.  On August 21, the anniversary day of our founding, there will be a change in leadership in our province.  Please keep the out-going and incoming teams in your prayers.

Once again, I ask the Lord to bless you during Holy Week and to give you the graces you need, as well as much love, joy and peace as we celebrate the Feast of His Resurrection.

With love and prayer,

Sister DeSales

Dear Sisters,

MP with ConstitutionsIn preparation for Mother Pauline’s 200th birthday in 2017, I have been reading her letters and learning much about St. Josephher. That makes me want to continue to read and gain an even better understanding of her thinking and spirit. As I have also been preparing for the meeting of our provincial/regional treasurers and business managers from November 3 – 8, I have been struck by the many times Mother Pauline writes to the Sisters about keeping good financial records and that they be submitted to the motherhouse when they are due. She is also very concerned that all financial matters be handled correctly and that all the Congregation’s debts are paid.  But most of all I love reading about her devotion to good St. Joseph.  In this letter I would like to share with you some of her quotations which illustrate this devotion which has continued in the Congregation until today.

If you wish to have the Sisters join us in praying the Litany of St. Joseph for nine days in an important intention of the Congregation, do so; Letter to Sister Mathilde, October 14, 1856

I am pleased, my dear Sisters, that you have been praying so faithfully;  yes, pray much to dear St. Joseph, for it is most necessary that he help us in our household expenses and with our building which we shall most likely undertake this coming spring;  you will hear more about this later on. Letter to Sr. Liboria, January 20, 1860

Please pray very hard to St. Joseph and ask him to help us with our building project.  I consider this an extremely important matter for the spread of the Congregation.  We need St. Joseph to accomplish our goal.  Letter to Sister Mathilde and the Sisters in Constanz, February 10, 1860

We poor people have a great devotion to St. Joseph, the provider of Jesus and Mary.  He must be our provider, too.  Almost all orders know of his fatherly care.  Letter to her brother, Hermann, March 10, 1860

However, one thing disturbs me considerably; that is your financial status.  Day and night I have pondered the situation, and I have tried to figure out ways and means of helping you.  However, I have not yet reached a conclusion.  The amount of money involved is a large sum - the entire purchase price of the house, the new building, the other settlements with Father Rosenlächer, and still more.  I would feel so relieved if everything could be cleared.  Debts torture me intensely!  Therefore, pray without ceasing to St. Joseph that he may help me to find a way out.  I, too, have prayed much for God's help.  At present everything else that concerns our house in Constanz is secondary.  I know, for example, that we could wait with this or that loan - Father Dietsche and Father Rosenlächer, etc., etc.;  nevertheless, they are debts, and until I have the house and everything free from debts, I shall not be at ease.  I shall only worry about itLetter to Sister Mathilde, December 12, 1860

A capable management of one's finances certainly belongs to a regulated business. I cannot impress upon you how much I desire to have our Congregation firmly established in this regard.  Please pray much with the Sisters, and pray very devoutly to St. Joseph that he may help us to reach the desired goal. Letter to Sister Mathilde, December 12, 1860

Pray hard to St. Joseph that he directs everything to the honor of God and our good.  Letter to Sister Mathilde, December 11, 1860 

Just pray hard to good St. Joseph.  I am greatly concerned that the financial affairs of your house will soon be settled and am praying earnestly to the dear Lord in that intention.  Letter to Sister Mathilde, January 22, 1861

The dear God ordains the best.  Just entrust it to Him; and also obtain the intercession of St. Joseph.  Letter to Sister Josepha, May 2, 1862

You will see that the more childlike and firm your trust is in the dear Lord and in the help of good St. Joseph, the more certainly God will help you. Letter to Sister Scholastica, February 9, 1863

Ask St. Joseph to teach you how to be thrifty and how to manage the household well, so that the finances of your beautiful convent will be in good order.  I depend so much on that.  Letter to Sr. Walburga, November 5, 1870

May the dear Lord help us to get the money to pay in both places.  Dear St. Joseph has to be our true legal adviser.  Letter to Sr. Walburga, March 4, 1876

Ask the dear Mother of God to be the mother of your house and good St. Joseph to be its providing father and protector.  Letter to Sister Wunibalda, 1877

Our dear immaculate Mother Mary, St. Joseph, and all the angels and saints must intercede for you at the throne of God, so that you and everyone may become very holy.  May all grow in wisdom and grace before God and men.  Letter to Mother Gonzaga in Chile, March 1, 1880

And now, dear Sisters, I commend you and your house with confidence to the kind care of the Father, to Our Lady, to St. Joseph, and to all the dear angels and saints.  May you be pleasing to God, may you love and serve Him well so as one day to enjoy the bliss of heaven.  Letter to the Sisters in Lebu, Chile, March 2, 1880

These are just some of the references I found, but they illustrate how firm a devotion and trust Mother Pauline had in good St. Joseph.  And I think that devotion and trust continues even till today.

There is just one more interesting fact that I would like to share with you.  I had no idea that our participation in the Apostleship of Prayer went all the way back to Mother Pauline. On March 19, 1869, Mother Pauline wrote to the Sisters:

Believing it would afford all the Sisters a great pleasure to have our entire Congregation enrolled in the Apostleship of Prayer, I have today therefore on the feast of St. Joseph, asked the Reverend Chaplain Langenohl to enroll all the houses of the Congregation and every individual Sister, also the postulants.  At the same time, the Congregation has been incorporated into the Apostleship of Prayer.  All the Sisters are acquainted with the Apostleship of Prayer and its rich treasures of grace; hence, I need say no more.    Let us all strive zealously to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus and aid in furthering His interests.  May the divine Heart of Jesus always be our refuge, our consolation, our joy, our peace, our bliss, our hope in life and in death.

In all our undertakings and all our special projects, Sisters, let us continue to beg the good St. Joseph to be our protector and guide.

With love and prayer, your

Sister DeSales

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