Be a Saint, a light that shines at midnight. Sea un Santo, una luz que brilla en la medianoche.

 

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The Apostle Saint Andrew by El Greco (Spain, 1541)

Dear Friends in Christ,

God bless you, and happy Feast Day of St. Andrew, Patron Saint for Vocations since he introduced many, including his brother, Peter, to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Humbly being transparent in his discipleship and service to Jesus, St. Andrew is a great model for us to bring others to Jesus Christ, to know Him, love Him and be loved by Him.

On Sunday, October 28, the Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, we had a vibrant 4th Annual Vocations Celebration Fair at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Phoenix with Religious Sisters and many families.   The Sisters and Fathers of the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity (SOLT) helped  host this life-giving gathering of children, families and Religious Sisters to celebrate Vocations.  Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted was the main celebrant of the 10:00 a.m. Mass, and he preached on the gift of being called to become holy.  God has a plan for each of us to become a Saint.  The children were invited to come to the Fair dressed up as a Saint with the awareness that God is calling each of them to become a Saint.  How important it is for each son and daughter of God to ask , “How is it that You, Lord, are calling me to become a Saint?  What is Your plan for me, Lord, to live a holy life?  What is my vocation?”

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Bishop Thomas Olmsted with St. Padre Pio and his family.

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Look who came? St. Padre Pio with the stigmata!

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted with Fr. Dale Craig, SOLT, Pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish, Phoenix.

 

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A magic show by Fr. Jim Blantz, CSC captivated the audience, especially Robert.

 

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Fr. Jim Blantz, CSC, a Holy Cross Father, gave a magic show to remember forever!

 

 

 

 

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A great conversation with Sister Mary Angela Alexander, RSM, Director of CCHD/CRS in Phoenix.

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Sweet Salvatorians Sisters Georgene Faust and Leticia Regala, SDS, visit with Bishop Olmsted.

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Lovers of the Holy Cross of Saigon in Vietnam cannot hide their enthusiasm with Bishop!

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The Missionaries of Charity, founded by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, were there smiling!

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Let’s hear it for the Daughters of Charity from St. Vincent de Paul Parish and School in Phoenix!

And the winners of the prized baskets were…

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Zoe Faustina Zuk, dressed up as St. Gianna Molla, won a basket.  Her mom, Kelly Zuk, is expected to have a baby very soon on Christmas Day!  Thanks be to God!

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Fr. Fernando Camou presents a big reward to a very happy and grateful Saint Anthony of Padua.

Congratulations!

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A great time was had by all, and there will be more to come.  Don’t miss out on next year’s Vocation Celebration Fair.  Come and join the family at St. Andrew’s in Chandler!

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A double rainbow brightens a rainy day in Phoenix, Arizona, the Valley of the Sun!

Remember the Fidelity of Jesus:  Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Family.  This is the theme of the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of Phoenix which we are celebrating this year up to the date of the Anniversary of the Diocese, December 2, 2019.   The rainbow is a sign of God’s Covenant with His People, and He will be faithful forever.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Creator and Redeemer is always faithful – yesterday, today and forever.  As we begin the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese this Sunday, December 2, let us have deep gratitude and joy for God’s love and fidelity to us.   His Mercy endures forever.  Let us always be faithful as we are led by Our Father in Heaven to be holy.

God bless you.

With prayers, I am

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

Diocese of Phoenix, AZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons to Celebrate this new Season! ¡Razones para celebrar esta nueva estación!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Let us thank God for the many reasons to celebrate in this new autumn season of 2018! As we continue to pray for our beloved Church, let us celebrate the Canonization of Ss. Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero who were canonized in Rome on Sunday, October 14.  Here is a link to Pope Francis’ homily from the Canonization Mass of these shining lights:

https://zenit.org/articles/popes-homily-at-canonization-of-paul-vi-oscar-romero-5-other-blesseds/

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Just recently in this month of October, we had wonderful news of new assignments for Religious communities here in the Diocese of Phoenix:

  • The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate from New York (Sr. Mary Eileen Jewell, PVMI and Sr. Margery Therese Harkin, PVMI) are now serving in adult faith formation, catechesis and evangelization at Our Lady of Joy Parish in Carefree, AZ.
  • The School Sisters of Notre Dame (Sr. Patricia Gehling, SSND and Sr. Ann Marley, SSND) are serving in the Parish Office of Christ the King Parish in Mesa, AZ.
  • The Eucharistic Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Los Angeles are establishing a new foundation and convent at Immaculate Conception Parish in Cottonwood, serving as bilingual Religious educators at Immaculate Conception Parish in Cottonwood, AZ and Saint John Vianney Parish in Sedona, AZ.  They are a great blessing for us!

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Grand Opening and Dedication of St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Avondale

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On August 21, we had the grand opening and dedication of St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Avondale.  The first day was on August 13 with Freshman and Sophomore Classes.  Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, OP is the principal accompanied by 3 of her Sisters,  serving as the leadership of this wonderful school which is forming our children well.

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted addresses a large crowd which overflowed.

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Front:  Bishop Eduardo Nevares left of Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP.  Behind: Superintendent of Schools, Harry Plummer with Deacon Doug Bogart. Third row: Dr. Maria Chavira, Chancellor of the Diocese, and Fr. Fred Adamson, V.G.

There were many people who came to be part of this grand opening and dedication.

 

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Father Fernando Camou, the new high school chaplain.

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Sister Mary Gertrude Blankenhagen, OP

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Bishop Thomas Olmsted blesses the new school building with holy water.

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Thank you, Bishop Olmsted and all who were involved in making this dream a reality!

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Have you ever been to the St. Joseph Shrine in Yarnell, AZ?   Why not go sometime? The Stations of the Cross are the highlight.

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The weekend of September 7-9, we celebrated the 85th Anniversary of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in Arizona, beginning in Tucson and thriving in Phoenix, AZ.  On Friday evening, I joined the celebration at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, AZ.  Sister Mary Elizabeth Lawrence, SC was playing the steel drums. Hearing her play reminded me of the music of the Caribbean Islands.

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Representation of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill from Greensburg, PA.

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Recently, I made a trip to Our Lady of the Rosary Dominican Convent in San Jose, CA.  They have beautiful stained glass windows in their chapel of Dominican Saints as well as a small shrine to Mary, Mother of God, Mater Dei.  The roses there are breathtaking!

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Ss. Agnes of Montepulciano and Margaret of Hungary, pray for us.

 

With prayers, I am

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

La Vida Consagrada: Esposada a Cristo…Seeking the Face of God

 

 

Did you know that two years ago on June 29, 2016, Pope Francis wrote an Apostolic Constitution on Women’s Contemplative Life, Vultum Dei Quaerere?  Prepárate…

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Pope Francis with Las Servidoras del Señor y de la Virgen de Matará

“Consecrated persons, by virtue of their consecration, ‘follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way’.  They are called to recognize the signs of God’s presence in daily life and wisely to discern the questions posed to us by God and the men and women of our time.  The great challenge faced by consecrated persons is to persevere in seeking God “with the eyes of faith in a world which ignores his presence”, and to continue to offer that world Christ’s life of chastity, poverty and obedience as a credible and trustworthy sign, thus becoming “a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word”.  ~Pope Francis

(Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quaerere on Women’s Contemplative Life, #2)

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost this Sunday, let us rejoice that the Lord has chosen us to follow Him and be configured to His Son, Jesus Christ.  May the Holy Spirit touch all our hearts, purifying us and sanctifying us to become holy.  Holy Spirit, come into our hearts and minds, inflame in us the fire of Your Love.

Holy Spirit with Gifts

On Saturday, May 5, 2018, the West Valley Serra Club hosted a beautiful Religious Appreciation Dinner at the Diocesan Pastoral Center where we honored 22 Sisters celebrating Jubilee Anniversaries from 25 years up to 75 years of Religious Life!

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Front left to front right:  Sr. Gabby Marry, IBVM (60 years), Sr. Sandra DeMann, FSPA (50 years), Sr. Cecilia Warner, SSND (50 years), Sr. Kathleen Janiak, RSM (60 years), Sr. Lillian Lila, BVM (70 years), Sr. Ann Marley, SSND (60 years).  Wow!  2nd row left to right:  Sr. Betty Banja, SHS (25 years), Sr. Mary Brigid Burnham, OP (25 years), Sr. Mary Gertrude Blankenhagan, OP (25 years), Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP (25 years), Sr. Mary Lynn Heiser, SSND (60 years), Sr. Elizabeth Carey, IBVM (70 years), Sr. Georgene Faust, SDS (75 years).  Back, left to right:  Sr. Margaret McBride, RSM (50 years), Sr. Maria Olivia Pacheco, SNDdeN (45 years), Sr. Linda Campbell, OSB (50 years).  What a blessing you all are for the Diocese!

We had a such a lovely time together with the Serrans, our dear, supportive friends!

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Sr. Georgene Faust, SDS (right) celebrates 75 years of Consecrated Life!

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Sr. Gabrielle Marry, IBVM celebrates 60 years of Consecrated Life!

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Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP, Sr. Mary Brigid Burnham, OP and Sr. Mary Gertrude Blankenhagan, OP are classmates, celebrating 25 years since they professed their First Vows.  Congratulations, Sisters!

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Sr. Betty Banja, SHS (left) with Sr. Sophie, her former Postulant mistress.

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Bishop Eduardo Nevares (right) in conversation with Josefina Camou, mother of Fr. Fernando Camou of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale, AZ.

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Sr. Raphael Quinn, IBVM smiles with delight as she enjoys the evening.

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Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, Sr. Mary Beata and Sr. Margery.

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Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa from Kerala, India, left to right:  Sr. Nidhi, Sr. Sheena & Sr. Tessy, who teach at St. Mary-Basha School in Chandler.

 

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Thursday, May 10Sr. Rita, SHS and Sr. Rael, SHS, two Council members of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus came for visitation from war-torn South Sudan.  They were welcomed by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Fr. Robert Aliunzi and myself.

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Left to right:  Sr. Sophie Lado, SHS (local superior), Fr. Robert Aliunzi, A.J., Sr. Betty Banja, SHS, Sr. Rael, SHS and Sr. Rita, SHS.

On Saturday, May 12, there was a special Silver Jubilee Mass at St. James Parish in Glendale for the celebration of Sr. Betty Banja’s 25 Anniversary of Religious Vows and Fr. Benedict’s 25th Anniversary of Priesthood.  Bishop Nevares celebrated the Mass, and there were many present for the great celebration Mass and reception.  Sr. Betty Banja renewed her vows, Fr. Benedict shared his vocation story and Bishop Olmsted was present for the dinner celebration after Mass.  It was glorious!

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Sr. Betty with BEN and Fr. Ben

Fr. Benedict, AJ, Sister Betty Banja,SHS and Bishop Eduardo Nevares.

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Left to right:  Fr. Benedict, AJ, Sr. Rael, Sr. Betty, Sr. Rita, and Bishop Nevares.

What beautiful celebrations we had to celebrate Consecrated Life here in Phoenix!

With prayers, I am

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

 

¡Feliz Día de las Madres! Nuestra Señora de Fátima, Ora Por Nosotros…

Dear Friends in Christ,

Happy Mothers Day!  As we celebrate motherhood and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we love the tradition of crowning the Queen of Heaven and showering her with roses.  This Mothers’ Day coincides with the Solemnity of Our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven and the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  As our Mother, she intercedes for our sanctity and salvation.  Let us approach her with trust and confidence, consoled by her Immaculate Heart.

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International Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe.

Since Easter Sunday, God has blessed me abundantly as a spiritual mother.

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Sophia Maria Davis, daughter of Carrie Davis, admires the Mercy Cross.

On April 2nd, I made a special trip to the Diocese of Gallup, NM to give a retreat to the Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Joseph (Las Hermanas de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y San José) to help them prepare for their first official General Chapter of Elections and Chapter of Affairs.  The Holy Spirit directed all the conferences, prayers and proceedings.  It was a truly blessed time.  God’s magnificent love embraced me in every sunrise and sunset of each day.  The beauty and the precious experience I had with the Sisters will always be cherished.  What touched me most was that all 9 Sisters called me their madrina or Godmother.

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Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup with Las Hermanas de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y San José & Sr. René Backe, CSA (right).

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We enjoyed our meals together each day of the 5-day retreat.

En la Capilla con las Hermanas

We prayed morning and evening prayers (Liturgy of the Hours) together with Eucharistic Adoration during the evening Holy Hour.

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Perpetual Adoration Chapel of Las Hermanas at Casa Reina Convent.

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Front of Casa Reina, the new Convent of Las Hermanas.

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Three parakeets greeted me as I entered the Convent, Casa Reina.

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The sunset over Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Gallup, NM.

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Mini, a very affectionate cat, became my friend.

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The Hermitage at Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Gallup.

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Saint Clare Hogan

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Main Chapel of Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Gallup, NM.

Meal with Bishop Wall

It was a time of blessings and communion with Las Hermanas.

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

 

Blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter!

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Triptych with the Crucifixion by Cornelis Engebrechtsz (1520) currently located at the National Gallery in Prague

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Blessed Holy Week!  From March 9-11, we had the Spring Convocation for Religious at the Franciscan Renewal Center with the theme of “Mercy, Forgiveness and Healing” featuring Fr. Ignatius Mazanowski, FHS and Sr. Esther Mary Nickel, RSM as speakers.  It was a blessed time of prayer and retreat as we had Eucharistic Adoration throughout the weekend coinciding with Pope Francis’ call for “24 Hours for the Lord” of continuous Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Confession.  It was a prayerful weekend with the blessing of Mass with Bishop Olmsted accompanied by Deacons and wives who were on a formation retreat that weekend.  The group of Sisters that attended took this opportunity to make a spiritual retreat.

Spring Convocation 2018

Communities in this photo:  Sisters of Loreto, Sisters of the Divine Savior, Carmelite Sisters of St. Teresa, Missionary Carmelites of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Lovers of the Holy Cross of Saigon,  Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Servants of the Plan of God, Congregation of St. Agnes, and Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, MI.

What a great group we had!  Others included, the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity, the Consolata Missionaries, the Daughters of Charity and Sr. John Mary, ESEH.

Both talks were marvelous!  Sister Esther Mary gave a wonderful talk from a Sacramental theological perspective on mercy, forgiveness and healing of Penance.  Father Ignatius spoke about the process of forgiveness which is the beginning of the process of the healing of the heart.

Here are the complete notes from his talk for us:

Copy of Fr. Ignatius’ Talk

We had wonderful weather throughout the weekend, and it even rained!

 

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Sr. Anthony Mary Diago (left) and Sr. Esther Mary Nickel (right).

 

 

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The Franciscan Renewal Center, affectionately known as “The Casa” is a very nice place to make a retreat.  A new church, Our Lady, Queen of Angels, was built there with beautiful stained glass windows, made in Germany:

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Our Lady, Queen of Angels

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Creation

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The Word became flesh in MARY and dwelt amongst us.

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Christ is the light of the world.

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There is a new Sister who came to the Convocation who I would like you to meet: Sister Isabel de la Santísima Trinidad a novice of the Missionary Carmelites of St. Therese of the Child Jesus from Puebla in Mexico.

On November 21, 2017, on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, I attended her entrance into the Novitiate at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which she was invested in the Carmelite habit of her Religious Community at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Scottsdale.  Bishop Olmsted, Fr. McGuire, the Pastor, Fr. Loeffler and Fr. Fita were present to witness the investiture of Sr. Isabel by her Mother General.

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Sr. Isabel de la Santísima Trinidad Hernandez with her Mother General, Madre Virginia.

Sister Isabel shares her reflection of this wonderful experience with you:

“I am very grateful with God and St Therese of the Child Jesus because by her intercession she has helped me to recognize my vocation and pursue religious life. God has granted me many blessings one of them was getting the opportunity to know the sisters. I met the sisters at Saint Anne’s Parish in Gilbert, AZ in 2012, it was through them that I began to wonder what it was like to live like them. Who knew that God had already chosen me to follow Him? In December of 2016, I had the opportunity to go to Puebla, MX for an experience. Seeing so many young sisters willing to give their life to God, affirmed my willingness to be part of this religious life. I received the habit in the congregation of Carmelite Missionaries St Therese of the Child Jesus on November 21st   of 2017. The memorable mass was celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Rev. McGuire, Rev. Loeffler, Rev. Lorig, and Rev. Sergio as the co-celebrants. It was very exciting as well as nerve-wracking because I was taking a much bigger step. There were a lot of things that were scaring me because I was taking a decision that would change my life. Interiorly, I was afraid of what my family members and friends would think, but once I was in mass, seeing Jesus on the cross I realized that if Jesus had died for me. Why not me give my life to him?

I have been a novice for two months already and I can assure that it has not always been easy living in the community with the sisters, but I can say that it has been worth everything. I am glad that God placed in me the curiosity of wanting to know more of how the Religious Life was like. Even though at the beginning I was not sure I was called to be a Religious Sister, with the help of God through the Scriptures I was able to discern the will of God. I recognize that I still have a long way to walk in this pilgrimage, I wish to continue following Jesus and help others find happiness like I did.”

Sister Maria Isabel de la Santísima Trinidad Hernandez Guardado, MCSTNJ

~~~~~~~~~~Translation in Spanish~~~~~~~~Traducción en Español~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Estoy muy agradecida con Dios quien por gracia me ha llamado y Sta. Teresa del Niño Jesús, porque por su intercesión me han ayudado a reconocer mi vocación y seguir al Señor en la vida religiosa. Dios me ha concedido muchas bendiciones a lo largo de mi vida una de ellas fue el tener la oportunidad de conocer a las hermanas.

Conocí a las hermanas  Misioneras Carmelita de Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús en la parroquia de Santa Ana en Gilbert, AZ el 2012, fue a través de ellas que me empecé a preguntar qué era vivir como ellas. ¿Quién se imaginaba que Dios ya me había elegido para seguirle? En diciembre de 2016, tuve la oportunidad de ir a Puebla, Mex., para hacer una experiencia y conocerlas mejor. El ver tantas hermanas jóvenes dispuestas a dar su vida a Dios, afirmó mi vocación y el deseo de abrazar la vida religiosa. Regrese a la Diócesis de Phoenix para continuar mi vocación, recibi el Hábito en la Congregación de Misioneras Carmelita de Santa Teresa del Niño Jesús el 21 de noviembre de 2017.

La memorable Misa fue celebrada por el Obispo Thomas J. Olmstead y concelebrantes los Reverendos Padres McGuire, Loeffler, Lorig y Sergio Fita. La misa fue muy emocionante y estresante a la vez, porque estaba dando un paso más. Había muchas cosas que me estaban asustando porque estaba tomando una decisión que sabia que iba a cambiar mi vida. Interiormente, tenía miedo de lo que podrían pensar mis familiares y amigos. Pero una vez estando en la  Misa y viendo a Jesús en la cruz. Me pregunté ¿Por qué no me darle mi vida a él?

Ahora llevo ya dos meses de novicia, y puedo asegurar que no siempre ha sido fácil vivir en la comunidad con las hermanas, pero puedo decir también que ha valido la pena. Me alegro de que Dios haya puesto en mí la curiosidad de querer saber más de cómo es la vida religiosa. Aunque al principio no estaba segura de que estaba llamada a ser una hermana religiosa, con la ayuda de Dios, a través de las escrituras puedo ir descubriendo la voluntad de Dios cada día. Reconozco que todavía tengo un largo camino que recorrer en esta peregrinación, deseo continuar siguiendo a Jesús y ayudar a otros a encontrar la felicidad al igual que yo lo voy logrando continuamente.

Hermana Maria Isabel de la Santísima Trinidad Hernandez Guardado, MCSTNJ

Thank you, Sr. Isabel.  It is a special gift that you shared your entrance into Novitiate.  Muchas gracias, Hermana Isabel.  Que Dios la bendiga.  God bless you.

 

 

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As we take time to listen to the Lord in His Passion and suffering this Holy Triduum, let us rejoice in His victory over death for our salvation and citizenship in Heaven!

 

Blessed Holy Triduum and Happy Easter!

With prayers, I am

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life

Diocese of Phoenix

Celebrating the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life with lit Candles…

 

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Sister Mary Ignatius, OP of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (right)

On Thursday evening, February 1st, we had a beautiful Vigil Mass on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and con-celebrated by Bishop Eduardo Nevares at Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix.  With a strong group of Religious Sisters and Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, we gathered together with blessed candles to worship the Light of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the center of our lives.

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Here is the Creche Set at Mater Misericordae Mission in downtown Phoenix where the Priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter live and minister in a traditional way.  Their Christmas decorations remain until February 2, the end of the liturgical Christmas Season.

 

We gathered at the foot of the cross in front of the Cathedral, the cross from St. John Paul II’s visit in Phoenix on September 14, 1987.  Bishop Olmsted blessed the candles, which is traditionally done on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, February 2.  After blessing the candles, Bishop Olmsted’s candle was lit representing his mission of bearing the Light of the World, to spread the love of Jesus throughout the earth.

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted blessed the candles before the commencement of the Vigil Mass.

Each present lit his/her candle and continued in procession into the dark Cathedral.  As the sun set, our lights were shining brightly as we were led.  Together we went forth with deep faith and gratitude to the Lord for our vocations to Consecrated Life.

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Sr. Savina Grace, MC is in the front, followed by four Lovers of the Holy Cross of Saigon, Vietnam, a newly established community of Sisters at St. Louis the King Parish, Glendale.

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Sr. Maravillas, MC and Sr. Christine, MC process, followed by the Servidoras del Señor y la Virgen de Matará (Sr. Sabiduria, Sr. Rose of Heaven and Madre Natividad, SSVM)

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On Thursday, January 18 and Monday, January 29, I participated in very lively vocation panels.  One vocation panel was for a class from Bourgade High School at Mater Misericordiae Mission in downtown Phoenix, moderated by Fr. Scott Sperry.  After vocation stories were shared by myself, a married couple and a Focus missionary, we attended the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin celebrated by a Priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).  As you can see in the sanctuary, Christmas was being celebrated here after the Baptism of the Lord until February 2.

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Mater Misericordiae Mission Church in downtown Phoenix on W. Monroe Street.

On Monday, January 29, we had an amazing vocation visit at St. Catherine of Siena Elementary School in Phoenix, organized and hosted by Luisa Lukaszewski.  She is the mother of one our seminarians, Peter Lukaszewski.  With an enthusiastic and joyful heart, she invited me, Sr. Savina Grace from the Missionaries of Charity, Fr. Ernesto Reynoso, Fr. Robert Rossi, OSC, a married couple, Chris and Windy Hadley and Claire Halbur, an applicant to be a Consecrated Virgin Living in the World.  Each of us gave our vocation story and had a delightful time meeting the children from Grades 1-8.  Some of the children were dressed up as Saints!  Here are some photos:

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Clare Lukaszewski dressed up as St. Clare of Assisi.  That is one classy monstrance for Our Lord!

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Sr. Savina Grace, MC from Calcutta, India grew up down the street from the Motherhouse of the Missionaries of Charity, and she knew Mother Teresa.

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Windy Hadley shares her touching vocation testimony with her husband, Chris Hadley.

Fr. Ernesto Reynoso

Fr. Ernesto Reynoso was a mechanical engineer, and God’s persistence call for him to be a Priest was inescapable!

Claire Halbur - Consecrated Virgin

Claire Halbur, Director of Sacred Music at Saint Mary Magdalene Parish in Gilbert, AZ,  is called to be a Consecrated Virgin Living in the World for the Diocese of Phoenix.

 

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Thank you to all of you who dressed up as your favorite Saints!  What great outfits!

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So many of us have been inspired by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  I was at first at the age of 8 and then again at 21 years of age in 1997 when she died on September 5, just six days after Princess Diana.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us, that we continue to shine the Light of the World, the love of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior, to all those God gives us to serve.

God bless you all.

With love and prayers,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life of Phoenix, AZ

 

 

Religious Life was begun by a hermit. Happy Feast of St. Anthony the Abbot!

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Saint Anthony the Abbot Tempted by a Lump of Gold, 1436 – Fra Angelico

Dear Friends in Christ,

Today, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Anthony the Abbot (of Egypt), a “Desert Father” and the Founder of Monasticism.  He lived as a hermit, which is a form of consecrated life called “eremitic or anchoritic life”   The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about what it means to be a hermit:  a life dedicated to praising God in silence and solitude.  The solitude, prayer and penance of the hermits are recognized as the beginning of monastic life of both men and women in the Church.

The eremitic life:  Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits ‘devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.  They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ.  Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him.  Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of the spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One,”  (CCC 920-921).

St. Anthony the Abbot with the bell

Saint Anthony the Abbot (ca. 1615) Colección El Conventet, Barcelona

Much of what is known about Saint Anthony is from a biography I recommend:  Life of Saint Anthony of Egypt by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria.

Anthony of Egypt by St. Athanasius

St. Anthony was born at Alexandria in 251.  He lived to be 105 years old.  At eighteen years of age he was left an orphan, with one sister.  He had great rank and wealth.  Thoughtful from childhood, he feared the temptations of the world.  He would go to Church to pray frequently.  He heard his calling to follow Jesus Christ radically upon hearing the Gospel passage, Our Lord’s words to the rich young man:  “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor – you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me..” He was so impressed by these words, he gave his parents’ inheritance to the village, which comprised of 200 acres, a great estate which produced abundance crops.  He sold the remainder of his possessions, gathered the money and distributed it among the poor, but he laid by a little which was sufficient for his sisters’ wants.  The next time he went to church he heard the Lord say in the Gospel: Do not be anxious about tomorrow.  He promptly went out and gave the poor all that he had left.

Now unto his sister he spoke words of love, and of truth, and of the fear of God, and he made her mind to be like his own; and he delivered her over to certain chaste nuns who were living there at the time.  And when he had made an end of these things, he then became a solitary monk and trained himself in a life of strictest abstinence and self-denial, not far from his own home. He kept a careful watch over himself and practiced great austerity. He did manual work because he had heard the words: If anyone will not work, do not let him eat. He spent some of his earnings on bread and the rest he gave to the poor.

Having learned that we should always be praying, even when we are by ourselves, he prayed without ceasing. Indeed, he was so attentive when Scripture was read that nothing escaped him and because he retained all he heard, his memory served him in place of books.  Seeing the kind of life he lived, the villagers and all the good men he knew called him the friend of God, and they loved him as both son and brother.

St Anthony the Abbot tempted by demons

The Temptation of St. Anthony Abbot by Annibale Carraci (1597)

Throughout his life, he was tempted by demons, which he always rejected.  As he resisted Satan’s torments, he was driven deeper into the desert to find more solitude and a life of asceticism and sacrifice.  His holiness is what drew many men to follow him to leave the world and dedicate their lives completely to praising God.  As he became famous, the monks of Egypt and all other folk who did not lead a life of the ascetic and recluse, men of distinction also, came to him in large numbers.  The  monks came that they might imitate his way of life and deeds, and the laity came that he might pray over them, and might heal certain of them from their sicknesses.

When there were too many people that followed him, and the trouble which men and women caused him increased, he became afraid that he would be unduly exalted in his mind by reason of the things which God had wrought by his hand or that he would be esteemed beyond what was just and more than he deserved.  So, he left that place to live his life in more solitude and prayer.  For him, God came first.

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Visiting Fr. Eugene Florea at Merciful Heart Hermitage in Black Canyon City

December 13th, the Feast of St. Lucy, I had the gift of visiting Fr. Eugene Florea at Merciful Heart Hermitage in Black Canyon City where Priests and Candidates to the Priesthood can find silence and solitude.  I was accompanied by Sr. Hania, a Contemplative Hermit from the Monastic Family of Bethlehem of the Assumption of the Virgin and St. Bruno from Livingston Manor, NY.  Fr. Eugene Florea is a Priest of Phoenix living as a Diocesan Hermit on the top of a mountain.  The climb up the steep mountain with a winding, narrow (one-way) road requires much courage for any first-time visitor.  After 7 years there, he is experienced with such challenges.  With his help, we made it to his residence and the hermitage surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation.

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Fr. Eugene Florea in Black Canyon City at Merciful Heart Hermitage.

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Merciful Heart Hermitage Chapel

 

 

 

 

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A hermitage overlooking the grandeur of Black Canyon City

Inside a hermitage, a perfect place for a silent retreat.

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Fr. Eugene Florea and Sr. Hania

Originally from Mexico, Sr. Hania enjoyed her stay in Phoenix from December 9 -13.  She joined us in the great celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Phoenix.  Sr. Hania’s joy to be here was seen in her evident exuberance.  When I arrived at St. Anthony’s Parish in Phoenix, she showed me an amazing gift made and arranged by the parish community.

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A Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe with one thousand roses decorating her image!

 

The devotion of Our Lady’s children is what is so precious and breathtaking here.  Can you imagine the amount of time and care that went into decorating with these roses?  This gift praises God and called forth many hearts to come and pray to Our Mother.  For Sr. Hania, a Contemplative Hermit who lives in the secluded forest of New York, this is a rare sight.  For Father Florea, who lives secluded on a desert mountain, this is a gift none of us expected for him to receive.  It was a special grace granted through the intercession of St. Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Lucy!  With courage, we continue to follow the Lord’s mysterious plan for those called to this noble vocation to be separated from the world to be dedicated entirely to God.

St. Anthony of the Desert, pray for us!

With gratitude and prayers,

Sister Anthony Mary, RSM

Director of the Office of Consecrated Life