Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Blessed Advent and Christmas Novena! On December 8, Pope Francis gave us the unexpected gift of the Year of Saint Joseph which began on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to continue until December 8, 2021! What a blessing for the Universal Church as St. Joseph is our Patron and our Father. As Pope Francis wrote so beautifully in his Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde, “With a Father’s Heart”, St. Joseph is a “beloved, tender, loving, obedient, accepting, creatively courageous and working” father for Jesus Christ. He was a virtuous, chaste husband for the Virgin Mary, guarding her virginity, and a loving, protective father for Our Lord. What a beautiful example for all men, husbands and fathers as they fulfill the crucial role of leading their families!
I was intrigued by Pope Francis’ description of St. Joseph as “a father in the shadows.” Here is his reflection:
“Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.
Children today often seem orphans, lacking fathers. The Church too needs fathers. Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthians remain timely: “Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers” (1 Cor 4:15). Every priest or bishop should be able to add, with the Apostle: “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (ibid.). Paul likewise calls the Galatians: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!” (4:19).
Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust. Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration.”
Pope Francis advises us, “We need only ask Saint Joseph for the grace of graces: our conversion.
Let us now make our prayer to him:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.“
I wish all of you and your communities a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year of 2021!
Today, December 16, is the First Day of the Christmas Novena which goes until December 24 in which we have nine days to pray in preparation for Christmas, the Solemnity of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior! Let us rejoice during these precious days in which we welcome the Light of the world into our hearts. Here is a Christmas Novena Prayer from EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network):
Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable at midnight in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
To hear my prayers and grant my desires
(mention request here)
Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.
New Religious Sisters Serving in the Diocese of Phoenix
We welcome Sr. Mary Beverly Arao, PVMI, who recently arrived in our Diocese and began her apostolate of evangelization at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Sun City. She is the local superior of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate at Our Lady of Joy Parish, Carefree. She moved here from her Motherhouse in Monroe, NY.
These Sisters have been a vibrant and joyful presence in Phoenix since 2010. Thank you for these 10 years! We are so grateful for all you have done to spread the Good News in the Diocese of Phoenix and beyond. Sister Mary Eileen shares the beauty of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate Apostolate and Charism.
“The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate were founded by Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon in New York City in 1920. Mother Mary Teresa received a call from God to deeper contemplation and to go out in search of the lost sheep and bring them back into communion with the Lord and His Church. She wanted her Sisters to be contemplative-missionaries for the street with the Sacred Heart of Jesus as their cloister. The word “visitors” in our title to ensure that we would never lose sight of our vocation to go out in search of the lost.
The PVMI’s have served in the Diocese of Phoenix since 2010. At that time, Sr. Margery Harkin came to serve at St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix in the work of evangelization with Sr. Mary Beata Im serving as youth minister (and later as Director of Children’s Faith Formation) at Christ the King, Mesa. Two years later, Sr. Mary Eileen Jewell joined them to serve in campus ministry at the ASU Newman Center.
In God’s providence, the community re-located to Our Lady of Joy Convent in Carefree, Arizona in 2018. Sr. Margery and Sr. Mary Eileen both serve at that parish in the works of evangelization and pastoral care. Sr. Mary Beverly Arao has joined them as local superior in October, 2020, to evangelize at St. Elizabeth Seton parish, Sun City, and to engage in vocation promotion in the diocese.
The Sisters feel blessed to serve the people of this diocese under our faithful Bishop, Thomas Olmsted. The need for evangelization is as urgent as ever. The Sisters love to practice “the art of accompaniment” with many lost sheep whom they meet in homes or “on-the-way” (even in shopping centers and coffee shops!). The Sisters also train laity to evangelize. Our “specialty” is door-to-door visitation. We do not proselytize, but rather seek to go out as friend to all we meet. Sometimes the invitation to return to church is all that is needed. Many times, more visits and further accompaniment are needed to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead in bringing back the lost one, step-by-step.
The sisters also engage in the work of catechesis, bringing an evangelizing spirit into the process. With the onset of Covid-19, the Sisters began a new endeavor at Our Lady of Joy, Carefree. Each month, a box is personally delivered to the homes of each family in religious education. The box contains the lessons for that month, with all activity sheets and supplies needed. Links are provide to our YouTube channel and Google Drive for further resources. This has turned into a providential opportunity to reach families. It has helped them become the primary evangelizers and catechizers of their children. Parents hop on a Zoom call at the beginning of the month and receive adult-level catechesis plus tips in doing the lessons with their children.
God promises to bring good out of evil (Romans 8:28). During these uncertain times, we hope to use opportunities to reach people in unexpected ways. The Holy Spirit doesn’t take a break during a pandemic! God is on the move, always.
Look at some fresh, new faces of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist teaching at both Thomas the Apostle School and St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix. Sr. Mary David updates us below:
Beginning our 14th year in the Diocese of Phoenix, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist from Ann Arbor, Michigan are continuing our work of prayer and teaching in our Community’s first and longest-running mission. We are delighted and grateful to call St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church home. We have a lovely convent, and a beautiful chapel, where people regularly join us for prayer on Sunday evenings (when it isn’t a pandemic!) Our apostolate of teaching includes serving at two different schools. Three of the Sisters teach at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School—Sr. Michael Vincent (Middle School History), Sr. Mary Dominic (4th Grade), and Sr. Victoria Marie (3rd Grade). Three Sisters also teach at St. Mary’s High School, the oldest Catholic high school in Arizona: Sr. Mary David (Theology), Sr. Maria Jerome (Math and Physics), and Sr. Peter Thomas (Choir). In addition, Sr. Rose is beginning medical studies at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe. An eighth Sister, Sr. Maria Rose, is temporarily in residence, completing some theological studies, as well. We love serving in the Diocese of Phoenix and count ourselves blessed to be here.
We are so blessed to have these Religious Sisters giving glory to God with such joy! May the Lord continue to bless all of you and your communities as you serve Him with love, joy and fidelity. As we prepare for Christmas, may your hearts be filled with the light and peace of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, “God with us.”
With prayers, I am
Your Sister in Christ,
Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, Director of the Office of Consecrated Life, Diocese of Phoenix