Monday, July 21, 2008

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8)

On Wednesday we began our catechesis at the Love and Life site. Whether we were ready or not, we had 450 pilgrims lining up outside our beautiful little chapel—some eagerly waiting to go in, others looking like they needed a few more cups of instant coffee. Every pilgrim’s story is different…why they came to World Youth Day, what they expect to get out of it, how they want their lives to change. Deep down, each one is looking for the same thing, rather the same One. Some already have a relationship with Jesus, and they come expecting greater intimacy with Him. But many are really searching, not quite knowing who Jesus is, or who He will be for them.

I saw Philip walk into St. Benedict’s that first morning. I was intrigued by his appearance: He was tall and slender with long dreadlocks, multiple ear piercings, and green and black tied-dyed knee high socks. I thought to myself, “I wonder what his story is…” I caught him after Mass sitting by himself. I walked over to him with my pilgrim lunch in hand and asked him how it was going. I took a bite of my pilgrim lunch (an ice cold sausage), and immediately I knew that God’s grace was at work. It had to be, or how else could I explain eating every last bite of that sausage?!

He told me that he used to be an atheist and now he didn’t know what he was. His girlfriend is an atheist and she wasn’t too excited about him coming to World Youth Day. He came because his mom had invited him to go, so he agreed, and the two of them set out for Sydney from New Zealand. He spoke of wanting to know the truth and of being happy. I smiled because I knew that in searching for the truth and for true happiness, he was likely to find only one answer—God. So I encouraged him to have an open heart and to dig deep into his own heart and lay all his deepest desires and questions and hurts before Christ’s own merciful heart.

I saw Philip the next day and he practically ran over to me and blurted out, “I went to reconciliation last night. My life is going to change. I’m going to stop hanging out with all my bad friends and I want to have a serious relationship with Christ.” I could hardly contain myself either; I was so proud of him. Then he told me, “You have something that I want. You have this life, this flame about you…you’re so full of joy, and I want that for myself.” I could tell that he already had it—“it” being God’s love, His life-giving, transformative, merciful love. I spoke to Him about being nourished by Christ in the Eucharist at Mass and in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The next evening we had a Eucharistic healing procession at St. Benedict’s. It was a sight to behold: hundreds of people on their knees, inching up toward the sanctuary where Jesus was waiting to meet them each personally. For some reason the image of the Israelites going up to meet God in the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant, came to me. We sang, “Holy, holy, holy,” and I spotted Philip amidst the crowd of people. He slipped in the side door and fell to his knees. I watched as he approached Bishop Lori holding Jesus in the monstrance. I was moved to tears as Philip grabbed a hold of the humeral veil and buried his face in it. I begged for healing graces for him. The moment is etched in my mind forever.

Later Philip told me that that was the most powerful night of his life. He had met Jesus and he really knew His love for him. Furthermore He knew that God is calling him…calling him to break up with his girlfriend and to grow in deeper fidelity to Him and to serve Him with his life.

That’s the power that World Youth Day had on one pilgrim. And if it was all for just that one pilgrim that would be enough. So many times we are not privy to know how God’s grace works in other’s lives, but sometimes, God allows us to see His transforming effect on people so that we can grow in our trust and faith in Him and foster a deeper sense of reverence and awe for others. God’s grace is at work in our world and in our Church today. Let us pray for the eyes to see it and the faith to believe it.

Sr. Mary Theotokos

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mass For Young Religious and Seminarians

“In a very special way, my greeting goes to the seminarians and young religious who are present among us. Like the young Israelites in today’s first reading, they are a sign of hope and renewal for God’s people; and, like those young Israelites, they will have the task of building up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.” (from the mass homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral July 19th). The sign of hope and renewal that Pope Benedict described us as is radiated first from he who has become known as the “Pope of hope.” We aspire to only magnify what he is teaching us and in that will build up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.

It was only appropriate that during World Youth Day our Holy Father desired to gather with the seminarians and young religious from across the globe. As Pope Benedict entered the Cathedral a shout of “viva el papa” came from one of the seminarians hovering around the front door where a sea of cassock clad seminarians and habited religious were flooding the center isle to get a closer glimpse of the pontiff.

The vibrancy and youth of the Church’s vocations were obvious by looking around at the faces of those religious and seminarians that were in attendance. At the mass on Sunday at Randwick Racecourse, the Pope noted how the Church is young. It was all too apparent at this solemn mass in Sydney’s Cathedral that Her vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are also young and filled with great love for the Supreme Pontiff.

During this mass with young religious and seminarians Pope Benedict dedicated the Cathedral’s new altar. How fitting that this took place in the presence of those who are preparing their souls for lives of consecration. Cardinal Pell reminded us that Christ is our Head and true altar and all Christians, most especially those consecrated as religious and priests are also spiritual altars on which the sacrifice of a holy life is offered to God.

As the Holy Father was reciting the prayers of the rite of dedication I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to religious consecration. As I along with six other novices are preparing for our own profession of vows in a few short weeks I was all the more compelled by these prayers when he said “Bless this altar…that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ.” As consecrated souls we are called to be a sacrificial offering out of love for the Lord. During his homily the Pope emphasized to us that “you yourselves will become living altars, where Christ’s sacrificial love is made present as an inspiration and a source of spiritual nourishment to everyone you meet.”

During these days in Sydney with the young Catholics of the world we saw this everyday in the numerous encounters we experienced. Whether it was local Australians just wanting to be in our presence and chat about what it means to be a Christian. To daily mass going college students inquiring about the possibility of their own vocation to religious life. No matter the situation these people desired a sign of hope. They desired authentic love with the living God. They desired to encounter Jesus Christ and were given the great treasure of that experience with His Vicar on earth whom they long follow in order to build up the Lord’s house in the coming generation.

Sr. Mariam Caritas

A Window for God

All vocations are of the Cross. Vocation is the place where you realize that what your heart yearns to do is so far beyond you that it can only be accomplished in Christ. Thus you give yourself fully to Christ, sacrificing yourself to Him, and trusting that by doing so you participate in the world’s salvation. Each of us has a unique vocation. Each of us is a unique image of God; no one else can show God to the world as you can. He has a beautiful and totally individual plan for each one of us.
I first discovered my vocation calling at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. I was sixteen at the time and very young in my Catholic faith. For the first time, I saw the Stations of the Cross, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that I experienced the Cross. I saw Jesus sacrifice Himself and knew it was for me. In that same moment, as I was watching Jesus die on the Cross, my older sister leaned over to me and said, “Have you ever thought of being a nun?” In her voice, I heard the voice of God. From the moment onward, I never doubted my religious vocation. However it was not until five years later, when I was on a “Come and See” weekend with the Sisters of Life, that I was able to concretely make the connection between the love of the crucified Christ and my sister’s revealing of my vocation. During those five years, I was searching for signs, for ways of knowing which community I was called to join. Then, when I met the Sisters of Life, I prayed before the Crucifix and I knew I did not need signs. I knew God’s love for me on the Cross was enough. Could there be any greater sign than a God who died for me?
Thus, I entered the Sisters of Life and spent nine months as a postulant, living with the community but not yet being a sister. During this time, I prayed about the mission and identity God had for me. I prayed about who I was in His eyes. Then I was given the gift of entering the novitiate, receiving the holy habit and a religious name, Sister Talitha Guadalupe. One month and one day after entering the novitiate I found myself on a plane to Sydney, Australia to attend another World Youth Day.
When we arrived in Sydney we went immediately to Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. There Sister Mary Anglica pointed out to me something I had never seen before. As you enter the Cathedral, there is a beautiful stained glass window showing the Gospel story from which my name is derived. The window depicts Jesus raising a young girl to life and in the corner is the inscription, “I say to you arise.” In Arabic the words are “Talitha, koum.” Then, the next day when I was praying before Mass, I asked God to show me what my mission was to be for this World Youth Day. I opened the Gospels, and the story was my story, the story of the raising of the little girl. It was as if God was saying to me that my mission was just to be, to be who I am in His eyes and to allow Him to show the world something of Him through me. I was to be His stained glass window, reflecting to the world an image of Him that no one else could.
I stand in awe of this reality. Always in the past, I have prayed for signs to know who I am called to be. After this World Youth Day I feel that God has revealed to me who He wants me to be. He asks me to be His Sister Talitha and He entrusts me to the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe that this may be so. Now I need to pray for a different type of grace, for the grace not to discover my identity but to live inside it and to truly experience it as God’s gift to me. I was given the grace to touch Pope Benedict (at the Mass on Saturday morning for priests, seminarians and young religious) right in front of my window in St. Mary’s Cathedral, the window of Talitha, after to having prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe that this may be so. In this I feel that through the Church, God is asking me to truly live my identity, to truly allow Him to radiate through me.
This was indeed my experience of World Youth Day. I did not witness any major conversions, but I was able to be present to many people and I saw the power of this. I saw the power of allowing myself to be small before God and simply to be where He placed me. One encounter in particular resonates in my heart. Towards the beginning of the week, I was walking and saw some anti-Catholic cartoons lying on the ground. I felt compelled to pray for those who were handing out the cartoons, and did so, entrusting them to Mary and asking her to draw them into the heart of Christ and to heal any bitterness they may be feeling. Then, a few days later, I actually saw a man, “Peter,” passing out these cartoons. At first I walked by, but then I felt impelled to go back. I asked Peter what he was doing, and he said he was just passing out some Baptist biblical literature. Then he looked out into the sea of pilgrims walking by, a sense of wonder came over him, and he said, “There are tens of thousands of people here and Christ died for each one of them.” My heart too stopped before this marvel and together Peter and I were filled with wonder at God and His love. Then I asked Peter to pray for me and shared with him my name. He smiled when he heard my name, recognizing it from the Scriptures, and said he would always remember me. He thanked me for being sweet and I left. I do not know what God will do with this encounter, but it touched me. It touched me to be able to share with Peter, a man who was attacking the Church, my identity as a daughter of the Church, and to be able to stand together in wonder before God.
God is awesome in the truest sense of the word, and He has a mission for each one of us. Sometimes we wonder what this mission could be; we worry that we will never find it. But we need not worry. Eventually God leads us to a place where our hearts meet His in such a way that without really even being aware of it, we radiate His presence. We are each uniquely created in His image and thus we each show something of Him to the world.
As Sisters of Life, we speak of our mission in terms of the Annunciation and the Visitation of Mary. We speak of conceiving Christ beneath our hearts and carrying Him forth into the world as Mary did. This was always a hard image for me. I felt that in giving Christ away, I would lose Him. Yet, God has shown me that this is not so. Instead, in receiving Christ, in receiving Him fully, I am so transformed into His image that I share Him in being myself. It is my being and not my doing that He desires and so it is with every person. As Cardinal O’Connor, our founder and father would pray, “God wants to reach out to others through your hands, God wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look into your eyes and see Him. Give God permission.”
Sr. Talitha Guadalupe (SV novice)

Who is Like God?

The third and final day of Catechesis was coming to a close, and the pilgrims were alive and buzzing… singing the World Youth Day theme song, laughing, taking pictures with one another. The mad dash for the food bags had begun, and I stepped back to take it all in and heave a sigh of relief. It was finished!
A young man approached me, “Sister, can I ask you a question?” “Yeah, sure…do you want to step outside?” His openness was apparent, and I knew his question would be a personal one.
“What’s your name?”
“Ah, Michael means ‘Who is like God?’ Your name is a question. Because there is no one like our God! How awesome… so, how’s it going?”
“Sister, I read Pure Manhood. I read Pure Womanhood. I read Sent.” He was referring to the materials we had handed out at the beginning of each day according to its theme. “I know I need to stop having sex with my girlfriend and I don’t know how to tell her. What should I say when I go home?”
I blinked, feeling incredulous; pausing in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was amazed and totally blown away by his humility! What strength and determination I saw in the eyes of this young man. Overjoyed and excited, I grabbed his shoulders and shook him hard; we laughed and exchanged a high five. I put my hand to my heart. What good tidings, tangible grace! “What a man!” I said to him, “I am so proud of you. God is going to totally honor this decision.” He smiled, and agreed, laughing at my exuberant response.
I asked seriously, “How do you think your girlfriend will respond? What are you most afraid of?”
“She’ll think I’m breaking up with her, or I don’t love her any more…but I do love her, and want to marry her one day.”
In an instant, it was as if I was talking to my own brother. And he wanted to be a man who does God’s will. He wanted to protect this young woman he cared for.
“Well, let’s start there…reassure her of your love for her. Tell her how much you love her and how you want to protect her purity, her relationship with God and that you haven’t been doing that. You’ll need to apologize. Can you do that?”
He was eager, and replied, “I went to confession and everything.”
“Tell her, no more fear of pregnancy, no more feeling used or rejected. You want to love her heart, and you want to be able to commit to her fully and cannot do that right now. Do you want me to write this down?”
He nodded and we stood there, putting to words his desire for purity, for a new beginning, for a relationship rooted in Christ, in prayer.

“How old are you Michael?”

We talked about dating as discernment for marriage, how sex before marriage blurs your ability to clearly discern and makes you feel distant from God. It was so very beautiful. I told him to begin praying every night for his future spouse, wherever she was and whoever she was…to pray for her purity, her relationships, that she would be a woman of faith, in love with Christ. He had been bolstered by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and asked for extra copies of the books for his girlfriend so they could talk about it.

“Michael, do you realize that you’ve received a grace? Do you see that? Do you know that God has touched you?”
He looked at me, opening his hands, “I was thinking to myself, ‘What if I hadn’t come to this site?’… I never would have read these.”

After promising to pray for one another, and a last word of encouragement, he headed back to his group and I wandered over to my dear sisters, almost in a daze. So much effort, prayer, and planning had gone into preparing for these pilgrims, for these sessions of catechesis. Hours and hours of meetings, phone calls, e-mails, organizing…and if it was for Michael alone, we would do it all over again. How many stories of grace will go untold? We’ll never know. But as Sisters of Life, consecrated for Love alone, loving purely and intensely in reparation for offenses against life and love, we are certain… nothing we do for love of Jesus and for love of our brothers and sisters can ever again be considered casual or small.

Sr. Bethany Madonna (SV novice)

Learning to Love Without Limits by the Stations of the Cross

The dramatic recounting on Friday of the events surrounding the crucifixion and death of Christ surely awakened a call, in the hearts of all who witnessed, a desire to love without limits as Christ and his Blessed Mother.

Through the prayer of the Stations of the Cross, the Holy Spirit inspires us to recognize the face of Christ in those around us in need. We are taught by Mary, Mother of God, Joy of all who Suffer, to accompany those most in need with our prayers and loving attentive presence.

As Christians we believe that there is a mystery of God's salvific and merciful love which surrounds human suffering. The Church, our Mother and Teacher, helps us to understand and enter into this mystery through the prayer of the Stations of the Cross.

When suffering enters our lives, we unite ourselves with Christ and pray to the Father, "Lord, take this cup from me, nevertheless not my will but thine be done." With faith and loving acceptance we follow in the footsteps of Christ, in obedience to our Father, knowing we are participating in a mysterious way in the pouring out of God's salvific and merciful love upon the world.

So let us go forward reflecting often upon the words of Scripture and the Stations of the Cross that we my be strengthened and inspired by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives, especially when we or those we love are faced with the mystery of suffering that we may truly live, that we may truly love without limits as Christ and his Blessed Mother.

May the Lord grant abundant blessings to all those who participated in making the great devotion of the Stations of the Cross part of the pilgrimage of World Youth Day 2008.

Sr. Mariea Dolorosa, S.V.

Grace Abounds

Pope Benedict XVI left Sydney this morning but the grace released here is still very present and at work! I have asked some of the Sisters in the next few days to post some stories of grace for all of you to share in the many signs of God's love, presence and activity in the lives of those that we have met here. Now I know what Saint John meant at the end of his Gospel when he said if he were to record all of the stories of Jesus' life and teaching, it would take more than all the books in the world could hold.

The theme for this WYD was from Acts 1: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses." Be encouraged! 200,000+ pilgrims have over these past 5 days had the fire of the Holy Spirit ignited within them anew, have been stregthned in their faith through the presence of the Pope and one another, and are now returning to the four corners of the earth to be His witnesses.

To view a video clip of our site or to download the talks given visit:
Two of the talks are currently avaialble and the rest will be posted asap.
Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Finale of Eucharistic Grace

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, presided over a moving Eucharistic Healing liturgy as the final activity at the Love and Life Site.

Pilgrims had an opportunity to, one at a time, reverence the Lord Jesus truly present in the Eucharist.

(Photos/Stephen Feiler)

Friday's Final Festival

(Photos/Stephen Feiler)

Lunch and Laughs

One Christmas, Cardinal O'Connor observed that there is no point trying to fill people's souls if you don't fill their bellies...

Friday Catechesis and Mass

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, offered the final catechesis of WYD at the Love and Life Site.

College Knights of Columbus leading the procession through a packed St. Benedict's Church.

The crowds for the Mass overflowed to the courtyard outside the church.

At the conclusion, Sister Katherine showed pilrgims the special booklets they would be provided as gifts, along with Miraculous Medals and WYD patron prayer cards.
(Photos/Stephen Feiler)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'A Microcosm of the Culture of Life'

Thursday Catechesis and Mass

Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, Australia, led the Day 2 Catechesis at the Love and Life site, and was joined by Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco at Mass.

(Photos/Stephen Feiler)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Multiplying the loaves - how to feed hundreds of pilgrims

Whew - how do you feed hundreds of hungry young people from 8 AM to 10 PM at night? With lots of help from prayer and many new good friends!

We wanted to make sure every pilgrim that came to the love and life site would be able to say they had been fed - spiritually and physically. Thus was born "Cafe Benedicto - holding the keys to a good cup of java." This on-site cafe has been providing tea, coffee, hot chocolate, fruit, cookies and food to all the hundreds with whom we have been so privileged to spend these past two days. It has become a great spot to relax, warm up a bit when you're cold, and talk with any number of new friends you've made while participating in the activities at the Love and Life Site.

However, for me, as a Sister working in the cafe, I have been witness to many "mini-miracles" of generosity. As you can imagine, we couldn't quite cross the US and the Pacific Ocean with enough coffee and cookies to feed the thousands we hoped to see at our site (though we did make a last minute trip to Costco and brought with us over 30 pounds of Oreos)! But upon our arrival in Sydney, we have been so blessed with the generosity of many of the Sydney-siders we've met:

  • the parishioners of All Hallows Church who pitched in with a cookie drive to provide more baked goods for the cafe;

  • the local bakeries and fruit markets that so kindly contributed to the cause;

  • new friends in the local Philippino community who helped supply us with coffee;

  • and not least of all, the amazing help of Lebanese Maronite Catholics who volunteered to prepare homemade Lebanese food to help feed the pilgrims Wednesday night, so they didn't have to travel off-site to get their supper. What a feast we enjoyed here so everyone could stay and enjoy "Under the Southern Cross" as it took the stage!

  • For me personally, I have loved talking with pilgrims from all over the world while working in the cafe. I've chatted with young people from Melbourne, Australia; Portland, Oregon; the island of Tonga; Brazil; Columbia; Dunedin, New Zealand; Irving, Texas and many more!! I'm looking forward to many more great conversations this last day-and-a-half!

    -Sr. Maura Walter, S.V.

    Celtic Springs on the Strings

    (Photo/Stephen Feiler)

    WYD Coordinator Visits Love and Life Site

    We were honored to be visited by Bishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., Auxuiliary Bishop of Sydney and Coordinator of WYD, who was a great advocate and supporter of the Love and Life Site. (Photo/Stephen Feiler)

    Lifting up our voices, and our hearts

    (Photo/Stephen Feiler)

    Late Night with... Sr Mary Gabriel!

    Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, joined Mother Agnes Mary on the set of "Under the Souther Cross" in a conversation with pilgrims at the Love and Life Site, MCed by Sr. Mary Gabriel. (Photo/Stephen Feiler)

    Love, Life and LUNCH

    College Knights of Columbus working over the grill to feed the throngs of hungry pilrgims during the first day at the Love and Life Site. (Photo/Stephen Feiler)

    Wednesday's Matt Maher Concert

    Young pilrgims pointing up to their Maker during Matt Maher's afternoon concert at the Love and Life Site. (Photos/Stephen Feiler)
    A young pilgrim admires the Madonna of the Streets medal worn by Sisters of Life. (Photo/Stephen Feiler)

    Abundantly ALIVE!!!

    Abundance is the theme at the L&L Site. The place was rockin' throughout Day 1 of WYD. We hosted pilgrims from Oregon, Maine, Wisconsin, California, Chicago, Texas, Canada and Australia for the morning catechesis and a large group from Chaminade and Kellenberg HS in NY crashed our site so the Church was PACKED with the aisles filled and people spilling out into the courtyard. A spirit of joy and anticipation filled the air. The session began with some praise and worship led by our Sisters and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal band, then Helen Alvare (former pro-life spokeswoman for the USCCB, now law professor at George Mason U.) gave a reflection on the day's theme: "You are Chosen by God," we entered into a time of Eucharistic Adoration before the catechisis with Bishop Joseph Pepe from Las Vegas and Mass.

    Pilgrims from many different countries joined us throughout the afternoon for the concert with Matt Maher in the sun-bathed piazza and the various talks on life issues and the theology of the body in the University auditorium and classrooms. The Church was alive with pilgrims praying and going to confession throughout the day and into the evening. After vespers and dinner (provided by the local lebonese community) we hosted a "late night" talk show: Under the Southern Cross that featured a great cast: was a band from Tongo, Celtic Spirit - an amazing family from Canada whose 7 children all play the fiddle and do irish step dancing, Edwardo from the movie Bella stopped by and Helen Alvere, Mother Agnes and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson were interviewed. It all wrapped up with chanting night prayer together and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Then we ran to catch one of the last buses going back to the boat house and dove in bed (for an extended nap) before heading out this am for Day2!

    Gotta run - we're all heading down to Darling Harbor to meet the "boatacade" - the POPE IS HERE and is going to be arriving at Banagaroo on a boat to greet the young people of the world!
    We'll post some pictures later.
    Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV

    Let the Fire Fall!


    WOW! It is happening! The spirit of joy and expectation is palpable. It's amazing to see our Sisters in hyper-drive passing out info on the Love and Life Site and funky square pins and stickers with the Love and Life logo on them to everyone and anyone. Sr. Loretto Michael is my favorite when it comes to street evangelization. I get the feeling she's hosting a continual street party, greeting the guests (whether or not they know they've been invited) and welcoming them with genuine gladness - and an expectation that they are equally glad to meet her, their gracious hostess. It never fails to astound me how relational Jesus desires us to be - sincere interest in the other opens doors to grace that would otherwise be unimaginable. This was clearly evident as we made our way to the opening Mass at Barangaroo on Tuesday afternoon. The Sisters joined a joyful river of pilgrims making their way through the city of Sydney, mixing and mingling with Sydney-siders (locals). Sr. Gemma handed a palm card to two young women who began walking beside us and told a bit about themselves. Both students from mainland China studying in Sydney, they had neither been baptized, and knew very little about Christianity but wanted to know more. One asked us to explain what we believe to them. As I started speaking about Jesus, it quickly became evident that it was back to the basics. And so, as we approached the gates to Barangaroo, we covered a whole lot of ground: we told how there is One God, creator of all, who revealed Himself to Abraham. We spoke of the reality of sin and the need for redemption. We spoke of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit and Eternal Life. Words that normally fly around Catholic circles (and convents) with familiarity suddenly were met with blank stares and as I did my best to translate them into readily accessible language I realized again - if it weren't true, Christianity would be simply unbelievable! Still entrenched in conversation, we miraculously walked through the gates without anyone noticing that our two Chinese guests did not have registrations. And what a sight greeted us: Beautiful music pumped out over the loudspeakers, thousands upon thousands of faces from every nation, every tribe, smiling in the sun, flags waving, greetings being exchanged with obvious joy: whose heart wouldn't soar? In the midst of sensibly soaking in the festive atmosphere, our guests continued asking questions: why World Youth Day? What do you mean that Jesus is alive? What is the Pope? And then Mass began - the party stopped and everyone turned to worship. Everyone around us, from literally everywhere in the world (we had Africans, Pacific Islanders, Koreans, Poles, Italians and South Americans surrounding us) grew silent. Sr. Gemma and I walked through the Mass with our guests, explaining each part and what was happening. As we did so, the depth of the greatness of our God and the gift of our Church became more and more magnified-- to me. How beautiful and tender is Jesus, how great His love for us, that He who is so "Other," so sovereign, makes Himself not just one of us, but desires to come into our bodies in the Holy Spirit and the Eucharist making us true temples of God, forever restoring us in His Life. I had no idea how our new found friends were responding, but I knew I was falling even more deeply in love with Jesus and the Church, my heart burning within me! At the end of Mass, I turned to them and saw that tears were streaming down their faces. When they hugged us good-bye I thought they wouldn't let go. What a blessing they were to us, and it all started with a little palm card.

    During his homily at the Opening Mass, Cardinal Pell offered a beautiful invitation for everyone present, wherever they were in the faith journey. His invitation? Take the next step. Trust, and go deeper. These are words for us all during these grace-filled days of World Youth Day. The Holy Spirit is pouring out His Life here in Sydney. But His Life and this outpouring is not just for those of us in Sydney but for the whole Church. Let us take Cardinal Pell's words to heart: what is that next step we must take to enter the Heart of Jesus more deeply, to receive His Love more purely, to surrender to Him more perfectly? He wants to give us life, and life in abundance. Let the fire fall!
    - Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Post a Comment!

    The countdown is on! The official WYD '08 Opening Mass with Cardinal Pell + 400 Bishops + 2,000 priests and young people from around the globe will be at 4:30 this afternoon at Barangaroo (they have lots of fun words like that here). Come Holy Spirit!!! The Love and life site is gaining a great deal of media attention - Sr. Mary Gabriel, Sr. John Mary and I participated in our first press conference this morning at the international media center down at Darling Harbor where all the action is at. Interestingly, one of the things they were intrigued about was the fact that we are blogging from the site and that there are many people back in the Ststes that are following what's happening here virtually - so don't be shy, post a comment! People in Australia want to hear what you think about World Youth Day and the Love and Life Site!

    Knights come to the aid

    College Knights of Columbus gather Sunday, July 13, after evening Mass at St. Benedict's on the Love and Life Site campus.

    Taking a short break

    Holy Habit Rocking the Boat "Downunder"

    About 39 days ago I exchanged the very blue, and somewhat ambiguous Sister of Life postulant outfit, for the flowing folds of the holy habit and became one of eleven proud new novices. Needless to say, after walking the streets of Sydney, Australia for a week, there isn't a flicker of ambiguity about what I am about, and the powerful witness of the habit.
    "You are the first Sister in habit I have seen in twenty-three years!" said one woman.
    "Look mum, an angel." said one awe-struck five year old on the train.
    "I just LOVE your robes...vestments...why your'e so young! Tell me, what ARE you?" exclaimed another Aussie.
    The stares are unabashed, and the cellphones and cameras are snapping pictures at furious rates. At times you feel like a bit of a tourist attraction as a five minute walk in the city guarantees a strangers request for a picture with you. If this wasn't enough, (and I give my word this is a true account) I sat in transit on the bus sure that the stylish, blonde-haired, twenty-something, deep into the tunes of her i-pod would remain indifferent to me, her habited peer sitting a seat away. Low and behold, within five minutes she had removed her head gear and was inquiring about mine. With cordial curiosity and openess she asked question after question. I was the very first Sister she had ever seen. She grew more and more in awe as I accounted the essence of religious life, and described the great joy and freedom that embracing Christ's call to love Him with an undivided heart has brought my life, when I just a year ago, like her, was a bright-eyed young twenty-something with the world at my feet. Both equally delighted with the encounter, she bid me 'goodday,' with a smile and the Love and Life Site palm card in hand, hopeful to join us for the festivities and learn more.
    No doubt the Holy Spirit is on the move and the Sisters of Life are being called in God's shuffles of witness and Providence. What a grace, what a privilege, to wear the holy habit and serve as public witnesses to Christ.
    Sr. Mariae Agnus Dei (SV novice)

    Bohemian Rhapsody- en Christo!

    It all began with Katrina, an artist, a free spirit, chalkin it up on the boardwalk at Bondi Beach. Her jagged Kool Aid hair drew us to her instantly and we were sharing laughs almost immediately. There was a true and genuine goodness that she so generously shared with us. She invited us to join her and join her we did...for three hours of Chalk Catechesis, true "sidewalk" evangelization. Picture the scene with us...chalk of every color on the hem on our white tunics, fingers that looked like they were the canvas, bands and guitar strummers playing on a stage in front of a lawn, fathers and mothers doting on their children, dogs without leashes, a beat box playing in the distance, kids skateboarding through our art, and surfers coming in from the shore, whales surfacing, the bluest and purest water washing over the rocks.

    As we laid out our stories there in living color on the sidewalk; "The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive", "It's time to live"; "The Humble, Life Giving Love of Christ"; the Immaculate and Pierced Heart of Mary... the encounters began. "Aren't all religions the same?" "What is meant by fully alive?" "Have you ever been in love?" "Why the hypocracy?" "Why a sword in the heart?" "Who needs the Church?" "What if there isn't a God?" We laid out our stories, and the passersby laid out theirs. A mother who lost her 18 year old son in a car-accident, three years ago yet ever present. A woman wounded by the Church, searching for meaning, yet drawn to His Bride still. Two young surfer boys calling out, "Pray a Hail Mary for me Sisters!" making the sign of the cross in passing. An actress with the Sydney Theatre Company, looking for Truth through the parts she plays. Two Frenchmen pursuing meaning in their lives through journalism.
    At the heart of it all, at the end of every exchange, it was plain...our very souls reach out for the transcendent, seek fulfilment: to love, to create. Through creative expression, through lyrics, through paint, through the graceful movements of a board sliding down a wave...the human heart seeks to find itself, know itself.

    We were surrounded by the arts...passionate people, expressing their gifts and deepest desires... The passion that fuels the drive for all of that is inspired by the Infinite One.

    Sr. Joan Marie, Sr. Mariae Veritas, Sr. Bethany Madonna (SV novices)

    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    50 Knights of Columbus collegians arrived over the weekend and have been a huge help today on the set up. They are a fantastic group of young men from universities throughout the USA and have been set up with luxury pilgrim accomodations, staying in an empty building nearby fittingly named Pioneer House, camping out on the floor. Actually, most of the pilgrims are roughing it, sleeping in Catholic Schools around Sydney. There are 200 Italian pilgrims staying at the parish near us in Abbotsford, sleeping on the school's gym floor and sharing the 4 temporary showers brought in for the event - fun! Luckily most of the large events are outdoors :).

    Pilgrims are flooding into Sydney Harbor now. We have met groups from Spain, South Korea, Italy, Poland, Germany, Africa, Tongo, France, New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and Puerto Rico so far. The Holy Father arrived in Australia yesterday and you can feel the excitement mounting. It's even spreading to the locals now. They have thoroughly warmed up to the Sisters, so much so that we can't go out without being stopped numerous times for photos and conversations.

    The Holy Father has definitely brought the power of the Holy Spirit with him. So many stories to tell about yesterday. Since it was Sunday, we couldn't work, so we split up to see some of the favorite local spots: Bondi Beach, the Botanical Gardens, and a bunch of us took the ferry to Manley and Sr. Maria Kateri, Sr. Elizabeth Ann, Sr. Mary Gabriel and I took the bush walk (an Aussie hike) out to North Point. Everyone came home rejuvenated by the spectacular beauty experienced and full of what we call "God stories" -- encounters with people that only the Holy Spirit could arrange. More on that later - it's time for Holy Hour. Check back for some photos from today, Alton from the Knights is going to post them later.

    Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    A Few Pix from the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit

    When in Australia, do as the Aussies!

    The longer we’re here the more we’re trying to integrate the local customs. We’re learning the lingo, “no worries mate.” We’re careful to watch out for the kangaroo crossing. Perhaps more importantly we’ve come to experience the food. In these parts a morning staple is the infamous Vegemite. What is it you ask? The label describes it as a concentrated yeast extract. High in Vitamin B, Aussie’s eat it at breakfast like most Americans would eat peanut butter. Some Sisters were replacing there usual PB on toast with Vegemite. The reactions about this “down under” delicacy has been varied to say the least. Here’s some responses about Vegamite from a few Sisters…

    “I’ve had it everyday. It has a lot of vitamins…I’ve been spunky the whole time”

    “It’s a taste you didn’t even know your taste buds could perceive”

    “I began by eating ½ peanut butter, ½ Vegemite, but now I’m going for the full spread!”

    “A word to the wise, don’t eat it by the spoonfuls”

    “It tastes like bouillon”

    “I put too much on the first time. The way you should eat it is layer on butter, then thin, thin, thin! I learned from a real Aussie.”

    “User warning—spread it on lightly!”

    “It’s like solidified soy sauce. I can’t eat it because of the amount of sodium. You know—dry mouth, cotton mouth. But we still get along, we’ve bridged the gap!”

    “As all the great saints would advise--everything in moderation. Vegemite though, less than moderation. Temperance is the best!”

    “Only eat it for energy, not flavor”

    “An egg on top restrains the intense bite”

    “Just thinking about it I get a lump in my throat”

    “I don’t start my day with vegemite, I don’t end my day with vegemite”

    “Three words—black strap molasses!”

    Sr. Mariam Caritas

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    The Sisters are bustling about Sydney today in order to pick up all the essential ingredients to create an atmosphere that is ALIVE with life and love.

    Having the habit of relying on Divine Providence for everything from the roof over our heads, to the apartments that need to open up for the pregnant women living with us in NYC, to the grace of healing needed to soothe the broken hearted who come to us for retreats; we are confident that nothing will be lacking for the pilgrims coming to the Love and Life Site. But a lot needs to happen before next week. So we were sent out begging today. We like to call it giving people the opportunity to be generous. Here are some of the initial reports back:

    Hunting for furniture: We are hosting a live talk show on Weds. evening in the piazza of the University of Notre Dame and need to create a studio look on stage so I was sent out with Sr. Mary Gabriel and Sr. John Mary to see if we could "borrow" some furniture for the week. Hmmm... where to go? We started at a used furniture store near campus. The place was packed with stuff to the ceiling, everything used. My initial assesment - very promising. Until I met the owner of the store. He let us know up front that being an athiest and a businessman, "borrowing" furniture wasn't a possibility. OK, so we made some small talk about the hippie surfboard hanging on the wall and then I spotted them - an old pair of rollerblades in the front window. He said coolly, "You're not the rollerblading nuns from New York, are you?" "As a matter of fact, yes we are." The ice began to melt. He later admitted to me that at that point he decided to let us borrow the couches and table we needed, but being a businessman, we had to earn them. So we crossed the street to the local cappucino spot (and I'm thinking, I should go begging more often!). A long conversation ensued -- discussing some of his problems with the Church was the way we were going to earn the goods. We discussed freedom, evangelization, the crisis of child abuse, faith and love. He ended up opening his shop late that morning and we promised to continue the discussion next week when we pick up the furniture, over a cappucino of course.

    Krispie Cream: "We'll have to give you a call back." Sounds like a strike out to me.

    Cookies: As women and spitirual mothers we love to nourish people. Mass will be offered each moring at the site and there will be Eucharistic Adoration throughout the days and nights in St. Benedict's Church on campus so spiritual nourishment will be ample. We're ready for the rumbling of the Holy Spirit to descend, but Sr. Mary Karen wants to be sure that there are no young stomachs rumbling. She was on the job before we left the Bronx contacting our friends on Authur Ave. in the Bronx. Believe it or not, and if you are familiar with the Sister's practices of washing tin foil and ziplock bags for reuse, you'll believe it -- our novices checked 15 boxes of donated italian cookies on their flight over for our "Cafe Benedetto." The WYD organizers tell us to expect over 20,000 pilgrims to visit the Love and Life Site each day and they'll be bringing their appetites. We have already received over 100 lbs. of powdered cocoa, but nothing to dunk. Our current cookie supply will be devoured in an hour. That was the grim situation until God sent a wonderful Leabonese family to the boathouse last night. They have seen the Sisters walking around the neighborhood and stopped by the see how they could help. The face of God's Providence is once again revealed: Antoine and Gorgette. Gorgette took Sr. Mary Karen out shopping this morning and as they were filling up her car the scope of what is happening here sunk in. Gorgette called the manager out and arranged for two truckloads of cookies to be delivered to the site. Deo Gratia!

    Sr. Mary Elizabeth, S.V.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Sydney is amazingly beautiful, a harbor city filled with tropical vegetation, exotic birds and people who obviously love living life to the full. After touching down on Sunday morning we all headed over to Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral and then took ourselves on a walking tour of some of the sites for WYD - Hyde Park where the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available, the famous Opera House that will be transformed into a massive Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, and then we picked up the pace to catch our ferry to the Sydney HS boathouse that has become our local convent for the month. It's not easy moving a group of 47 Sisters of Life through a crowded harbor teaming with people that have never seen anything like us outside the Sound of Music, so we missed our ferry. One hour until the next boat...what to do? Sr. Mary Concepta cracked out her violin and the Sisters serenaded those on the dock with Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire." (That is, those who can sing, which means I was in the audience.) The beauty of the music drew people in and the non-singing Sisters struck up conversations with the locals. I sat there and watched faces filled with apprehension about WYD, the crowds it would bring and how it would effect their daily commute lighten and brighten up. They may have to wait a bit for the bus, but if a live performance of Bach breaks out, maybe it won't be so bad. We invited them to come up for a coffee and biscuit (aka cookie) at the Love and Life Site next week.

    Sorry, gotta run to catch the ferry now. No internet at the boathouse!
    Sr. Mary Elizabeth, SV

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008


    Pope Benedict XVI is coming to Sydney...and he wants you to live freely and to love without limits. So come. Take a load off. Meet other young people who are searching for greater meaning to their lives. Encounter Jesus in the Eucharist; He is the only One who can really fulfill your infinite desire to be loved. And He wants you to know His love.

    The Schedule of Events for the Love and Life Site

    Join us for an outdoor festival of life. It's happening! We'll be hosting several Catholic artists for live entertainment including Matt Maher, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Band, Bernadette Black, Scythian, and Celtic Spring. On Friday, we will have a Eucharistic Healing procession which is sure to be powerful. In addition, we have many Theology of the Body speakers and pro-life witnesses set to speak each day. To find out more about the schedule of events and details of the Love and Life Site, go to our website @