Christmas Reflection

                        Christmas crib at St. Teresa’s Motherhouse, Germantown New York

My friends, as you plug in your computer, iPhone, iPad or smartphone  to recharge the power this Christmas, be aware of the need to connect to your greater power, Jesus.  Our inner power becomes depleted and our spiritual functionality becomes less apparent unless we fine tune our awareness to that inner voice that speaks of peace, harmony and above all love.  As Christians we are called to be fully charged, fully human and above all fully alive.

“The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love.  It is the power, which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force, which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power, which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good.  It is the power of God.  This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead.  It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace”. (Pope Francis)

Wishing you and your loved ones the peace and love of this Christmas season when Jesus humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Sr. Mary O'Donovan, O.Carm. 
Vocation Director


Meditation on the Christmas Stable

by Sister Philomena Anne of Divine Mercy, O.Carm.

Our Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was about to give birth to the Savior of all mankind.  Saint Joseph tried to find a place for them to stay but there was no room for them at any of the inns.  They, however, found a stable, and after giving birth to the Child Jesus, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and placed in a trough used by the animals to feed.

We all look forward to Christmas as we put up the decorations.  We look forward to the celebration of Our Lord and Savior on Christmas Day.  But how many of us, once Christmas is over, forget?  Christmas is never about the gifts.  It is about our Lord who was born in that stable.  During Advent, we should thank our Holy Mother Mary for saying Yes to the invitation from God to be the Mother of the Redeemer and thus bringing our Lord into the world.  He turns our hearts into a clean stable.  We should keep this stable open all the time and listen to what God's Son has to tell us, not just through Scripture readings leading up to Christmas, but all year round.  We need to all keep that image of the Holy Stable and create it in our hearts.  Our hearts will then be the inn that always keeps itself open to the Lord with plenty of room where we can visit.  We can talk to Him in silence an contemplation for years to come.


Intra-Formation Workshop at Mount Alvernia Retreat Center

On November 10-12, 2017, Sr. Philomena and Sr. Helena attended a two- day conference on the topic of "Family of Origins" sponsored by the Religious Formation Conference Region 2 Members.  It was held at Mount Alvernia Retreat Center in Wappinger Falls, NY and was attended by members of different religious communities in initial Formation along with their Formators.  We were privileged to have Dr. Kevin McClone, Director of the Institute for Sexuality Studies based at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, IL. Dr. McClone possessed a wealth of knowledge and his gentle presentation allowed for much sharing and openness to happen.   Sr. Philomena enjoyed the company of other novices from different religious traditions and charism, and for the opportunity to socialize, and to participate in group discussions (away from their Formators!)  issues common to those who are new in religious life. 

Below are some photos taken at the event:
Father Mike, Franciscan Director of Mt. Alvernia welcomes us.


Mount Alvernia Retreat Center

Some of the participants

Dr. Kevin McClone

About 40 participants were present

Sr. Philomena with Carmelite Pre-Novices and Novices


Reflections on my Jubilee Year

by Sr. Ann McCartney, O.Carm.

– Into the land of Carmel I have brought you: Jer 2.7

This year along with four other Sisters, I celebrated 50 years as a Carmelite Sister for the Aged and Infirm.

During my annual retreat in March, I spent some time reflecting on the past fifty years wondering where the time went!  I thought of that scared eighteen year old girl who left her family in Scotland to travel to New York to begin a new adventure.  How did she get there?

Growing up in Scotland I didn’t have much contact with religious communities and those I did meet always seemed so serious and mysterious.  Joining them was something that I never contemplated or ever thought I would do.  In 1966 there was a vocation fair that was held in my parish in Paisley.  The evening before it began I was at the Church and one of the priests there invited me to “come over to the hall and meet some Sisters.”  I went over with him and wandered around the hall watching the communities set up their information booths.  Some of the communities I recognized but most I didn’t.  As I walked past one booth, a Sister called out to me and invited me over.  I stopped and was introduced to the two Sisters at the booth.  It turned out that their community was from America and had just arrived in Scotland about two years before.  They were located in a different part of the country and not a part of our diocese.  (It appeared that they had badgered the Bishop to let them be a part of the vocation fair!)  I talked to them for a while and found myself exchanging addresses with them – not that I ever intended to follow up with them!

A couple of week after the vocation fair I received a letter from the Sisters inviting me to visit their convent.  This went on for a while until I finally decided to go for a visit and get it over with.  Getting there meant that I took a bus to the train station, a train to the ferry and a ferry ride to a town called Dunoon which is in Argyllshire.  To me it seemed like traveling to the end of Scotland!!  I remember ringing the doorbell and being admitted to a parlor to await one of the Sisters.  When I stepped into that house I felt this incredible feeling going right through me and a great feeling of peace within my being.  It was kind of freaky and I wondered what I was doing there!  The plan was for me to visit for the weekend but I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to stay that long.  When Sr. Elizabeth Anne came into the room I was ready to tell her that I could only stay overnight but she was so friendly and approachable and not at all serious like the other Sisters I had known that I said nothing.  At that point I did not even know what kind of work the Sisters did but by the end of the weekend all I could think was this:  “I don’t know what it is that they have but I want it too.”

After I got home I couldn’t get the experience of that weekend out of my mind and I found myself making another visit – then another until I was going to the convent about every other month.  During one of those trips I was privileged to Meet Mother Angeline Teresa, O.Carm., the Foundress of this congregation who was making a visit to the home.  At one point my mother said that it was financially difficult to continue to let me go off on my trips.  By then I was seriously thinking that I wanted to enter but wasn’t sure how to tell my mother.  After a few months my mother told me that it was a waste of my time to keep this up; after all she said, “It’s not like you are going to become one of them, are you?”  I saw this as my opening and told her that as a matter of fact I did want to enter that community.  Up until then no one in my family had met any of the Sisters or really knew where I was spending these weekends.  On my next trip I talked to Sr. Elizabeth Anne about the possibility of entering the convent and how to go about it.  Sister invited my mother to come for a visit so that we could all discuss the situation.

And so it was that in September of 1967 I left Scotland with two other young women to embark on the most incredible journey ever imaginable.  After arriving in New York we spent a couple of days in one of the homes there and then were taken to the Motherhouse to officially enter the community on September 8, 1967.  

And what a journey it has been; have there been challenges?  Absolutely!!  Have I ever regretted taking that first step?  Never!!  Through the past fifty years my assignments have been varied and my Missions many, but through it all I have always known that I am where I was meant to be.  I still remember that sense of peace and belonging that I had when I first entered a little nursing home in Scotland named Bethania.  I truly believe that God gave me the gift of my vocation at that moment and I thank Him for always being with me through these fifty years.   Knowing what I do today would I still embark on that journey?  You bet I would!  Caring for our elders and making a difference in their lives is amazing, and I would encourage any young woman who feels that call from God, to step out in faith and with trust in Jesus answer YES to his invitation.         


The Waterfall

                                                             Photo courtesy: Google

 (in the woods behind the tennis court at Avila) 

For years I've come to the waterfall,
Where I often heard God's call.
During Fall, Winter or Spring,
I'm there with fallen leaves and trees,
Feeling God's breeze.

I'm there in the rainfall or the snowfall,
The water flowing fast as a football,
Or slow because of an icefall.

My time at the waterfall
 brings contemplation,
It can last until the nightfall,
As I sit and pray at the waterfall.

This year there was no waterfall.
Branches and trees had covered
 the stream where water did flow.
One could only see a stream of water,
that glistened and stayed still,
which made one feel His Fill.

Although there is no waterfall,
One can sit and dream and hope that
it will flow downstream,
or even a tide water stream.

The waterfall is a memory that 
one will always remember.

Sr. M. Michelle of All Saints Moore, O.Carm.


Fatima Day at The Blue Army Shrine

 As the Catholic world celebrates the 100th centenary of the Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, the Blue Army Shrine in Washington, New Jersey, home to the World Apostolate of Fatima, held its second gathering of the faithful on June 13, 2017.  This day was the anniversary of the second apparition when Our Lady appeared to the three children to reiterate the message she gave them on her first apparition on May 13, 1917: pray the rosary daily, sacrifice yourself for sinners, offer reparations for the offenses committed against God, greater respect for the Blessed Sacrament.  On this second apparition, there was an added request by the "Beautiful Lady."  She asked Lucia, the older of the three, to learn how to read and write.   This was a practical request given the mission that Sr. Lucia was given to spread the message of Fatima.

Sr. Philomena and I were blessed in finding the opportunity to participate in the celebrations.  The crowd was noticeably smaller than the one we attended in May but it was still large in number.  There was a noon day Rosary with procession of the Fatima statue, a talk by an invited speaker with the theme inspired by President John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for the country" into "ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God."  The Eucharistic celebration with an inspiring homily given by the Chaplain of the Shrine was at 1:00 pm followed by Exposition, Benediction and Eucharistic procession.  There was Divine Mercy at 3:00 pm and tour of the Holy House. 

It was a tremendous blessing to be among the many who were on fire with love for Our Lady of Fatima.  Her message continues to be relevant and the call to live the Fatima message is ever more urgent in our present day as we face a pervading spiritual alienation and crisis of faith among many.