Come and See
Come meet the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate!
If you are discerning your vocation, this would be the best way to get to know us. Take part in our prayer life, meet the Sisters, and learn more about our unique charism.
At this time visits are being planned on an individual basis, at a time convenient for you. Just contact me to plan a visit.
Feel free to phone or email me, too, just to get to know us a little better or to ask questions. God bless you!
Sister Dolores Marie,
How good God is! One year on Valentine’s Day morning we looked out and saw every tree, every twig, every bush, covered with ice, glistening in the morning sun! A “forest” of diamonds! What spouse except Jesus could give a whole forest of diamonds to His beloved brides! (A photo can’t do it justice.)
God is so good to us in so many ways. Yet, so many people don’t know about our good God, or don’t care.
Many years ago our foundress felt God leading her to begin a community where women would be “formed in the contemplative spirit and go out in search of the lost lambs and bring them back to the fold by means of instruction in the faith.” Her daughters, the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaulate, have been doing this since our foundation, and this charism is more needed now than ever.
Imagine the joy when a Parish Visitor goes to heaven and meets the ones she helped to reach there:
My soul had strayed from God
and you came to me.
I was confused
and you helped me to see.
I made a mess of my life
and you sought me out.
I thought I could never be forgiven
and you told me He died for me.
My faith was lukewarm
and you sought me and helped me.
I thought God didn’t care about me
and you visited me and told me He loves me.
I was growing up without knowing God
and you found me and taught me.
I thought learning the faith was a bore
and you showed me how exciting it really is.
I longed to fill the emptiness of my soul and didn’t know how
and you came to my door.
I said the roof would cave in if I ever went to church again
and you told me how much Jesus longs for me.
I was lost
and you sought me out, found me, and helped me to come home.
Wouldn’t you like to do this with us?
Our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, knew in her heart that the Sacred Heart would always be the strength of this community and of the apostolate. We could never do it alone; He would always be with us! And He has been!
The contemplative spirit, a life of prayerful union with God, and seeking out those away from the Lord and instructing in the faith—what a beautiful charism our foundress bequeathed to us!
Our community life is an essential part of our life, too. Not only does it give us strength for our prayer and apostolate, it also is a witness that women from different places, of different backgrounds, can live together in peace and joy!
To learn more about the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, email or phone me. We can arrange a vocation visit for you, at a time convenient for you.
May God bless you and guide you to the desires of His heart for your life!
Sister Dolores Marie
“There is a famine in the land—not for bread, not for water, but for the Word of the Lord.” (see Amos 8:11)
Yes, so many souls are starving, and some don’t even know it! Parish Visitors have been helping starving souls since we began, and this charism which our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, handed down to us still resonates in hearts listening for the Lord’s leading.
“The Sisters are to have cloistered hearts, to be contemplatives for the street. They are to seek out, after the example of the Good Shepherd, those in need of spiritual and material assistance, the poorest and most neglected, those not practicing their Catholic faith. The union of contemplation and missionary activity is the essence of the Parish Visitor vocation.”
This charism stirred the hearts of Alina and Meaghan, who recently began their postulancy with us.
Alina (left) grew up in Georgia and was working in Michigan before entering, and Meaghan (right) comes from Long Island, New York.
Postulancy is a time of transition from the life of a lay person to the life of a religious. After getting to know the community from the outside, now they’re getting to know us “from the inside.” There is much to learn, and there is also much joy in following Jesus Our Lord.
We have a new postulant in Nigeria as well—Rita. Pray for more vocations to our community everywhere we are located!
Two Sisters recently began parish visitation in a parish in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. They tell us of the great need there (as everywhere) for reaching out to those away from the Lord. More and more people try to live their lives without God. Pray that our apostolate there, and everywhere we serve, will be very fruitful for the Lord!
Yes, “There is a famine in the land….” Pope Francis has said, “Evangelization is the most important work of charity.” Combining this with contemplative prayer, according to our charism, gives it its power! And, the more technology there is, the more powerful and needed our person-to person contact is!
Won’t you consider loving and serving God and His people along with us?
May God bless and guide you as you continue to discern His will for your life!
Sincerely in Jesus,
Sister Dolores Marie
Our World Youth Day Not a World Away was a great weekend, with God’s grace coming down like the rain which also came!
Teens and young adults unable to go to Poland but interested in deepening their love for Jesus and their Catholic faith took part in the weekend, sharing in a number of World Youth Day events on a smaller scale. This included worship, music, catechesis, talks and skits on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, meeting new friends, and fun.
Our summer has been very full, and the highlight is always our annual eight-day retreat, which was in June this year.
The Parish Visitor summer included two final vow ceremonies (one in the Philippines and one in Nigeria) and three Sisters celebrating their jubilees of religious life at Marycrest on July 2.
We have been busy! Also, this summer, three Sisters attended the Given Forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the CMSWR for young women who may be potential leaders in the Church, and three other Sisters took part in the FIAT vocation days of the diocese of Arlington, Virginia.
Meanwhile, parish apostolates continued and often included events such as parish day camps and vacation Bible schools. This photo is of one of Sr. Mary Josita’s groups at the vacation Bible school in Sacred Heart parish in Monroe. There are so many ways to share our beautiful Catholic faith!
We’ll have some time for fun, too, before the summer is over—perhaps picnics, outings, etc. Being a contemplative-missionary doesn’t mean being somber!
May God continue to bless you and to guide you to exactly where He wants you to spend your life. He loves you! Be not afraid!
In our next newsletter—our new postulants !
Sister Dolores Marie
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus told Peter and Andrew (Matt. 4:19). Fishers? Fishing for souls? Yes, and even long before this, in the Old Testament, God said, “I will send hunters and fishers of souls” (Jer. 16:16).
Our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, called us “fishers of souls,” Sisters who don’t wait for the fish to jump to us, but who go out to where the fish can be found!
Come with me on an afternoon of fishing!
In the course of the afternoon, I not only found many in need of the Lord, but also some “fish” who seemed to be waiting to be “caught,” like the man who said, “ Yes Sister, we should have had the children instructed for First Communion way before this (they were about 10, 12 and 13). Please register them for the classes.”
Several other parents also registered their children, on the spot. Most of these children, too, were way over the usual age for First Communion, and some weren’t even baptized yet. There were several unbaptized preschoolers as well, and several couples living together without marriage. All of this called for informal catechesis right then and there.
Instructions in simple prayer were needed in four or five homes, as some of the children (and their parents) not only didn’t pray even before going to bed, but had no idea how!
Besides encouraging the parents to give good example and to participate in the Mass with their children, I gave an instruction to a grandmother who insisted that her pre-teen grandson watch Mass on TV each Sunday with her instead of walking around the corner to Mass at the church!
The children were delighted to have a Sister in their neighborhood, and they eagerly accepted the colorful holy pictures which I gave them. One little girl, already a mini-missionary, urged her even younger playmate to ask her mother if she could go to the religious instruction classes, saying, “Trust me, you’ll really like it!”
Then there was the handicapped man who told me how much he loved Jesus, and the faith-filled woman who offered to help in whatever way was needed.
Soon it was time to go, but there was much more fishing to be done another day, not only on this street but elsewhere in the parish. Fishing for souls! What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
All this may seem almost too good to be true, but it is definitely true! Of course, not all afternoons will be as fruitful as this one, but as Jesus said, “The fields are ripe for the harvest.” Our contemplative prayer life keeps us close to the heart of the Lord of the harvest. Won’t you consider fishing and harvesting with us?
On May 31, feast of the Visitation of Our Lady to Elizabeth, we rejoiced in the perpetual vows of Sr. Mary Emmadona, in the Philippines, and on June 4, feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the final vows of Sr. Mary Rosita, in Nigeria (both pictured here before their final professions).
What a privilege to profess perpetual vows to Jesus! May their lives be holy, happy, and fruitful for Him!
May God’s guidance and blessings be with you as you continue to discern His will for
Sister Dolores Marie
“The crucifix shows how far God’s mercy has gone for us.” (Mother Mary Teresa Tallon) Now we need to spread the good news to everyone. Alleluia!
Numerous persons are very much in need of His mercy! We meet so many people, and many have responded to His merciful touch and have come closer to Him. We are privileged to be His instruments of mercy, sometimes in big ways, sometimes, small. Let me tell you of just a few.
Mike had been away from confession for so long that he would joke with the Sister who was trying to help him, “If I go to confession, you’ll have to sit outside the confessional with a pot of coffee for me and the priest, I’ll be in there so long!” But, one day he surprised Sister by saying he had just been to confession, and “It was great!”
Jake came to the convent to thank Sister after his first communion—uncommon for children to do!—and said, “If it weren’t for you finding me and getting me to instructions, I wouldn’t know anything about Jesus!”
Matt confided to Sister, “I’m confused; I don’t know if I believe in God any more.” After listening, Sister gently said, “But God believes in you. He believes in you and loves you, no matter what has happened in your life. Never forget that.”
Michelle was really sad after her husband’s early death. Not only did Sister comfort her, she also brought an Easter card made by the religious education students, which touched Michelle’s heart.
The Sisters had tried to help Lily over many months, but she kept slipping, and she ended up in jail for a petty crime. While there she remembered the Sisters’ words and God’s grace touched her! Upon her release she began a new life, and she makes sure her sons attend religious instructions and go to Mass regularly with her.
Sue, a sad looking woman, answered the door. “A Sister! Come in! I thought God had forgotten all about me!”
Another person exclaimed, “You mean I can really come back after all these years? God will really forgive me? That’s wonderful!”
I could go on with many stories of God’s mercy, and His using us as His instruments of mercy. God is so good!
The works of mercy are woven throughout the lives of Parish Visitors. When we “admonish the sinner,” we do it with gentleness and love, so that the person will see God’s mercy. When we “instruct in the faith,” we try to make the truth lovable. When we counsel and comfort, we do it “face to face and heart to heart,” as our foundress said. Our life of contemplative prayer gives strength and power to our contacts with people and their various needs. We are so grateful for this beautiful charism, contemplative and missionary!
Many persons were instructed and brought into the Church at Easter. All our convents have stories to tell! Monroe, Arizona, Bronx, and abroad, God has used us as His instruments to further His kingdom.
Among those reached by our Sisters were teens, children, married persons, old persons, converts from Protestant religions, from the Jewish faith, and from no religion at all. Perhaps the most dramatic story comes from our Nigeria convent. Of their 140 baptisms at Easter, one eighty-year-old woman had been in a cult for 40 years. Various Christian churches had tried to convert her, but she was won by the kindness of the Sisters. May God be praised!
The cause for the eventual beatification and canonization of our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, is in Rome, and hopefully before too long she’ll be Venerable. The charism which she bequeathed to the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate is more needed today than ever!
May the Easter peace and joy of Jesus, and His mercy, be with you and your loved ones, during this Easter season and always, and may He continue to guide you in your discernment of your vocation!
Sister Dolores Marie
Can you picture Jesus looking down at the world? His glance gazes over various countries, cities, towns, homes,and settles with a smile on _________ (you?).
Isn’t this a mystery? He chooses certain ones to be His brides. “You have not chosen Me; it is I who have chosen you” (Luke 15:16).
A mystery. Why me, and not my sister, my cousins, my friends? We don’t know why, but if we say “yes,” the mystery of the call will be followed by the adventure of following Him in religious life!
As the Year of Consecrated Life ends with the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, let us meditate a bit on what a vocation is all about:
- God has a plan, a call, for each person. All Christians are called to holiness--some in marriage, some in religious life, some in single life or another way of consecrated life.
- God calls some to be dedicated to Him in religious life, to a more intense love of God and living of the gospels. (This is not a self-chosen mode of life in which one assesses one’s own talents and aptitudes and makes a judgment as to what to do in life, but a call from God.)
- Both His call and our “yes” are necessary. His call is an invitation, not a command. We have free will and could refuse His call. God loves us personally, however, and refusing Him would sadden Him and “yes” would please Him.
- We will be happiest and most at peace if we respond “yes” to His call. He made us and knows us thoroughly, and His call is always in harmony with our deepest selves.
- Within the call to religious life, it must further be discerned which community a particular person should enter.
What a privilege and a joy
to be called!
Is He gazing upon you and calling
The last months of the Year of Consecrated Life and the first months of the Year of Mercy overlap. How appropriate! Religious pray for God’s mercy upon the world and are occupied with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the particulars depending on the charism of the particular order.
On the feast of the Presentation of the Lord,which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life, we Parish Visitors, as a community,renew our vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. We also do this on the feast of the Visitation and at the end of our annual retreat, and many Sisters renew their vows daily in their prayer time.
Recently Sr. Maria Catherine and Sr. Rebecca Miriam held a mini-class with a group of children from Newark, New Jersey, introducing them to the idea of what religious life is all about. A photo is below. Religious life is a big “unknown zone” to so many children and adults!
Much has been happening lately. Our Nigerian mission had its 25th anniversary, and our Sisters in the Philippines attended the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, Philippines.
A number of people have been coming to pray at the tomb of our foundress, the Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, whose remains are now in our motherhouse Chapel.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to get better acquainted with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. May God bless you and guide you in your discernment.
Sister Dolores Marie
This Year of Consecrated Life is a good time to reflect on just why consecrated life is so important.
As we know, living the Gospel counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience is something that not all are called to do. All Christians are to keep the Commandments and follow Jesus, but Jesus invites some to a life of deeper union with Him. As He said to the young man in the Gospel (Mt. 19:16-21), “If you would be perfect, come, follow Me. “
Jesus was poor, chaste, and obedient. By the vows of religious life we strive to imitate His way of life as well as His law of love of God and neighbor. What a privilege to be called to this!
There are various ways to live out this call, which is why there are so many ways of following Him in consecrated life. Some religious orders concentrate on His healing of the sick, some on His prayer in solitude, some on care of the aged, teaching in schools, and so on. Parish Visitors follow Him in His love for and outreach to His people as the Good Shepherd and His very prayerful life.
When every order does what it was founded for, living the vows and their prayer life well, the various orders fit together into a whole mosaic of praise and glory to God!
Pope Francis said, “To become priests or religious is not primarily our choice… It is the response to a call of love. I hear something within me, which makes me restless, and I answer yes.”
I’d like to ask you to think for a bit about the priests and Sisters you’ve known during your life. What are one or two of the best memories you have of a priest or Sister? Perhaps how they inspired you? How they helped you? Or something they did that was really nice?
Then, a second question: Why are Sisters needed in today’s world?
Our foundress told us to “make the truth lovable.” It also can be combined with fun! Here are some photos of fun in the snow following an informal religion class.
Our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, spoke so often about the neglected children and how they tugged at the heart of Jesus. Some were spiritually neglected, some physically neglected, and some both.
These children were numerous when our community was founded and are even more numerous today. Many of them are not noticed by the general population, unless they cause trouble in school or commit acts of vandalism—which some of them do. However, Parish Visitors find them by the hundreds. We call these children “Parish Visitor Specials,” as they need very special attention from us.
We’re not just speaking of inner city children, but children everywhere. Here are just a few real examples of children met by our Sisters in various places. (All names have been changed.)
Ann’s mother is a drug addict, so Ann pretty much takes care of all her own needs, at the age of nine. She wakes herself up for school and gets herself ready. Meals at home consist of sandwiches from the deli or instant macaroni and cheese. Her ambition in life is to be a high school dropout, like her big sister.
Nikki loves to visit the convent to “say hi to Jesus” in the Blessed Sacrament. However, her father, a non-practicing Catholic, won’t allow her to be instructed in the faith.
Josh’s mother has a live-in boyfriend, and his father is in jail. At twelve, he has been caught shoplifting and often stays out late at night; his mother wonders why she cannot control him.
Libby, age seven, burnt herself badly while trying to make supper. Her mother isn’t around, and she has to take care of herself. The rest of the family has so many of their own problems that they don’t pay much attention to her.
Mike’s parents try their best, but being in poor health they have no energy to do more than the bare minimum for their children. So, Mike and his siblings run wild around the neighborhood.
Kelly, age 14, is the child of her mother’s first marriage. Her stepfather dislikes her, and sometimes he makes her sleep on the outside porch rather than inside the house. Her mother drinks, so she isn’t much support at all.
Ben told us, “I like to come to the convent. It’s so peaceful here. In my house there’s always yelling and screaming.”
Kathy shares a bedroom with her big sister. However, on weekends her sister’s boyfriend stays over, and Kathy has to move to the living room couch. Her mother doesn’t care; she, too, has a live-in boyfriend.
Helping these children is one of the reasons why we were founded! These Parish Visitor Specials are dear to the Heart of Jesus. They’re our foundress’ heritage to our community!
These children are love-starved. They need love; they need Jesus. We, His Parish Visitor spouses, have been called to show His love to them.
How do we do this? The ways are many, depending on the circumstances. Most important, we befriend them. We show them we care. Even though they may be undisciplined and try our patience, we don’t give up on them but continue to care--a labor of love very pleasing to God.
Of course we do all we can to get them involved in the parish religious education program and in going to Sunday Mass. In addition, our convent chapels have always been open to neighborhood children, neglected or not, who want to come in and “say hi to Jesus” and get a little attention from the Sisters.
I’m sure Jesus looked with love at the Parish Visitor Sisters who showed the love of Christ to these and other children in various ways:
- At the Sister making a cake with a little girl whose mother never bothered much with her; the end result was a cake “that only a mother could love,” proudly brought home.
- At the Sister teaching a little boy how to make a snowman, as no one had ever taken time to play in the snow with him.
- At Sisters playing games with children in the church parking lot.
- When a boy who, in anger at his friends, destroyed our flower bed, giving him ideas for getting rid of his frustrations through sports.
- Arranging summer camp opportunities or one-day outings.
- Gathering mothers to discuss parent-child relationships.
- All along, interspersing reminders, whenever suitable, of God’s love, the Mass, the Sacraments, religious instruction classes, and chastity.
As our foundress said, the children from ideal Catholic homes get training in the faith and in Christian living from their families, but many other children would get none of this if it weren’t for the Parish Visitors discovering them, reaching out to them, connecting them with the Church, and continuing this special attention. These Parish Visitor Specials are dear to our hearts!
Our apostolate would bear no fruit at all without our life of prayer—our daily Mass, daily Holy Hour of Adoration, Divine Office, rosary. This combination of contemplative prayer and our unique apostolate is the very essence of our charism!
Spreading the Good News
How good Jesus is! We can know Him and have a personal relationship with Him!
How great the Good News is, too!
Just what is this Good News? The Father sent Jesus, God the Son, to earth to show us how to live, and He died for us to save us from our sins. He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sent us His Holy Spirit. He wants everyone to go to heaven!
Jesus told us to go out and spread this Good News, and that’s what Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate have done over the years and continue to do, following Jesus’ instructions (Matt. 10:5-9):
“Go after the lost sheep…
There are so many out there who have strayed from their Catholic faith, those who are neglectful, those who don’t know Jesus at all, those who don’t care.
“Cure the sick…
Sickness of the soul is so much worse than bodily illness, which will end at death. The soul will live forever, and we want souls to live happily in heaven.
“Raise the dead…
Some are dead in mortal sin and have been for years. What a privilege to tell them of God’s mercy and help them come home to the Lord!
“Heal the leprous…
The souls that are disfigured by wrong beliefs, wounded by hurts they haven’t forgiven, scarred by the immoral lives they lead.
“The gift you have received, give as a gift.”
We have received the gift of Faith; shouldn’t we give to others whatever help we can?
Why not come and do this with us?
Our life of prayer and our vowed dedication to Jesus give us the reason to do all this for Him. We see how He longs for all to come to His Sacred Heart. We see His thirst for all souls, for the children who don’t know Him, for all those who have strayed.
Then He gives us the grace to go forth and be His instrument in helping others.
People are starving for God’s word, and Jesus is longing for souls to give themselves totally to Him in religious life.
Is He nudging you? “Be not afraid” to say “yes!"
Most of our Marycrest and Bronx Sisters, as well as our Sisters from the Philippines, are in the above photo, along with our Marycrest chaplain.
On August 15, 1920 a woman boarded a train for New York City. Arriving in the bustling city at the end of the day, she traveled to West 71st Street . There she joyfully met with several other women who had prepared the house for her arrival. Who was this woman? It was our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, and the women were ones she had trained years before to do the apostolate she was longing to get started. This was the beginning, 95 years ago, of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.
This was to be an apostolate of outreach to the spiritually careless and neglected, and of religious instruction for all ages, especially the neglected children and youth, combined with a contemplative prayer life. “Our cloister is to be the Sacred Heart,” she said. Now, 95 years later, this contemplative-missionary charism is more needed than ever! Don’t you agree?
Serving God's People
“Women of strength, with that spirit of courage which puts you in the front lines in the proclamation of the Gospel, I wish to say a big thank you!”
These words of Pope Francis, spoken in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York during his recent visit, are so appreciated by the Parish Visitors, who have been in the “front lines.” At the recent World Meeting of Families exhibit, we also met several people who expressed their thanks for Parish Visitors who served God and His people over the years.
A priest came to the exhibit to ask for Sr. Mary Cepha (now in our infirmary) who instructed him for First Communion. He also said Sr. Joan instructed his brother.
Another priest praised Sr. Mary Frances (now 101 years young!) with whom he worked in the Bronx. In that parish Sister found, in her visitation of families, many overaged children who had not received the sacraments, and she connected them with the parish religious education program as well as giving additional instructions to many of them herself.
Then a young woman approached us, saying that Sr. Mary Rita (now deceased) knocked on the door of her home many years ago and helped her parents return to the Church. She said, “If it weren’t for Sr. Mary Rita, I wouldn’t be here at this exhibit today, involved in the Church!” We don’t always hear about the people we visited or instructed over the years, so it was wonderful to meet these grateful people. We, too, are thankful to all the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate who have gone before us and “passed on the torch” to us. We are especially grateful to our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, for saying “yes” to God and founding and guiding our community despite numerous difficulties. We continue to walk in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, with contemplative hearts, bringing the light of the Gospel to many souls through our missionary visitation, our giving of religious instructions, and our youth work.
Our foundress told us that we are to have our cloister in the Sacred Heart, our cloister in the streets, and that one who loves God deeply doesn’t necessarily need cloister grilles to keep the spirit of prayer while seeking and helping those in need. We say, “Thank you, Jesus, for calling us to this beautiful vocation!”
On September 8 Sr. Mary Imelda and Sr. Jhoan Marie made their first vows. They also received their black veils and the medallion of the Immaculate Conception, which all professed Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate wear. This photo shows Sr. Mary Imelda kissing her newly blessed black veil. (A few more photos are on our website under “news.”) Congratulations, Sisters!
On the same day two young Nigerian women began their postulancy in Nigeria.
The long, dark nights of December seem to be a call from God to stillness and reflection.
A time of deeper prayer, of quiet and listening to Him.
However, prayer and listening also require fewer distractions. Could you spend less time on things that have nothing to do with the real meaning of Advent? For example, maybe less time on the internet? On what clothes to wear?
Along with this, maybe more time helping the poor, the elderly, the lonely? Any family members you haven’t paid much attention to lately? Could you invite someone who doesn’t go to church, to go with you to Mass, to confession, to an Advent concert? Can you help any children to understand the real meaning of Christmas? You can think of other things, I’m sure.
This season of quiet prayer, of Advent, of waiting, is a special time. Make good use of it!
In the quiet of prayer we can hear His voice. “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10).
What is He saying to you? Is He saying “Come, my beloved”? Is he “proposing” to you? Will you answer “yes!” to Him?
Rebecca Lasota heard His call and answered. She prayed and listened and followed Him into religious life.
On November 21, feast of the presentation of Mary in the temple, she completed her postulancy and was received as a novice. She received the Constitutions and Spiritual Directory of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, the habit with a white veil, and a new name, Sister Rebecca Miriam (a form of Mary combined with her baptism name). Congratulations, Sister!
The shepherds had to listen, but also to follow. The wise men had to leave their “comfort zone” to follow the star. However, don’t expect an angel to come to you, or a bright star to appear outside your front door. God usually comes in stillness and quiet.
Following can be scary, we can get “cold feet,” but we need to take the first step and forge ahead. A prayer I found helpful before I entered the convent was, “Lord give me the grace to know Your will, and the courage to do it!”
We recently began a Facebook page, at facebook.com/parishvisitorsofmaryimmaculate. Take a look at it and "like" and "friend" us!
Advent is a good time for reflection. For quiet. For just being still with the Lord.
A time to think about where my life is going. Where I’m at in my discernment of God’s will. What I should do next.
Advent is a time of grace. It’s a time of grace for all of us.
The word Advent means “coming.” Three comings are commemorated in the liturgy: His coming in the past, at Bethlehem; His coming right now, in grace; and His future coming at the end of the world. All three are important!
Reflect on Bethlehem. His coming as a baby. His humility. His poverty. His outreach, through angels and a star, to ordinary people—shepherds—as well as to kings.
His future coming is important, too. When my world ends at my death, what will I have done with my life? Will I have made a difference? Will I be able to say that I helped to lead others to Jesus?
But don’t forget His coming in grace, right now. Be sure to take quiet time as much as possible during Advent. Why not take a break from TV. From internet. From your cellphone. From the radio. Just be quiet and be with Jesus. Ask Him to let you know which road to take.
The shepherds had to be quiet to hear the song of the angels. Mary had to be quiet to listen to the Angel Gabriel. The kings had to think and reflect on the star, in order to know what to do.
Don’t be afraid of the quiet. Don’t be afraid of what He might say to you! He loves you and knows what will be for your happiness.
Children dream, “What will I get for Christmas?” But we need to ask, “What can I give to Jesus for His birthday? More prayer time? More care for others? And—is He asking me to give Him myself?"
In our parish apostolate, it’s a good time for the Sisters to revisit those who have been away too long from the sacrament of confession, to urge them during this time of grace to listen to God knocking at their heart, and to return to Him.
In the parishes we are, of course, mindful of the needy and the lonely, and we do all we can to help them have a pleasant Christmas.
And, we help the children, in their excitement about the approaching holiday, to remember that it’s the birthday of Jesus!
Advent and Christmas in the convent are very special. Decorations wait until the last few days before Christmas, like in Church, so we can appreciate the time of Advent and then feel the joy of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time of prayerful gratitude but also of fun and laughter with our convent family.
May our Infant Savior bring you and your family many blessings and much peace, and may He lead you to know His will, as He led the wise men.
Mary, our Model
A little girl opened the door to Sister’s knock, excitedly calling out, “Mommy, Mommy, look! It’s the Virgin Mary!”
Obviously that’s not who it was! However, we do try to imitate the virtues of the Virgin Mary, and she’s our model in visiting families. Mary contemplated in her heart what God had done, while making her visitation to Elizabeth.
Visitation is such a beautiful privilege, as is instructing others in the faith. We’re so happy God has called us to be contemplative-missionaries, to be Parish Visitors!
Let me tell you a little about our summer. Our apostolate continued, and among other things, our novices helped spread the faith by assisting Sister Mary Josita with the vacation Bible school in our local parish. The children and teen helpers liked it so much that they begged for another week!
Earlier in the summer the youth ministry office of our archdiocese sponsored a unique vocation event—a kickball tournament, featuring Sisters, priests and brothers. This was a way for the teens to interact informally with the religious and priests. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully the teens now know that Sisters, priests and brothers are human and can have fun!
Also, in June the novitiate hosted a teen retreat day. Ten local teenaged girls came and spent the day praying with the Sisters, hearing several inspiring talks, interacting with the novices, and having a procession to Mary.
In July five Sisters celebrated their jubilees. There were three celebrating 25 years, one 60, and one 75. How pleased heaven must be with these Sisters and their years of faithful love and service to God and His people!
The high point of the summer is always our annual eight-day retreat, a time of prayerful reflection, a time which always brings graces for the year to come. Our retreat master this year was Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., whom some of you may have heard of from EWTN. Our Sisters at our convents in Nigeria and the Philippines have their retreats there, days of many graces as well.
The professed Sisters are also able to have a visit to their family. In addition, all of us had some relaxing outings. Picnics are a favorite, in the many scenic areas that abound here. There were also trips to the nearby Marian Shrine and the Carmelite Shrine. Some Sisters went to a museum of church art, some swam or played games. There were several trips to Bear Mountain. (Yes, they have bears, but behind bars!) We can have a lot of fun, and a nice change of pace, simply and inexpensively.
Jesus told the story of the sower and the seed (Mt. 13:4-23):
Some seed fell on the path and the birds ate it.
Some fell on rocky ground.
Some was choked by thorns and thistles.
And some fell on good soil and yielded a very good harvest.
How beautiful when the seed, which is the Word of God, produces a bountiful harvest!
In our visitation of families, we are spreading God’s word. Sometimes, of course, the thorns and rocks prevent the seed from flourishing.
Other times people actually tell us, “Wow, I never imagined that a Sister from the Church would come to visit me.” Or, “God must still be interested in me, He sent you to my door.” And good things happen!
And there are times when the results come later and we don’t see them. A priest once told one of our Sisters, “Sister, you don’t know how much good you’re doing. I can’t give you any details, but I see it in confession.”
However, what if no one answers the call to sow the seeds, that is, to go out to the people to tell them about Jesus and His Church? How then can the harvest grow?
The people need someone to remind them of Jesus, to encourage them, to invite them to return. Are you the one they’re waiting for?
We can also apply this same story of the sower and the seed to discerning a vocation.
When Jesus calls,
Sometimes rocky ground--noise and distraction--blocks it out.
Sometimes the thorns--my fears and anxieties--choke it.
Sometimes the pleasures of the world drown it out.
And sometimes the answer is “yes!”
Which one applies to you? What kind of soil are you for His call?
First Communions are always a special time, especially Communions of children, teens or adults whom we have instructed. To prepare someone to receive Jesus is a very special privilege.
We have often helped poor children with dresses, shoes, ties, etc. for the big day. Of course the interior preparation is the most important, but the children also remember gratefully the attention we give to these external things.
One touching event in a recent First Communion was a little boy who had received the Anointing of the Sick right before the Mass for First Communion. He was bald because of cancer, and when Father called him to the front and hailed him as a hero, the whole congregation gave him a standing ovation.
What is a Parish Visitor?
Just what is a Parish Visitor? What is she like?
She may be short or tall, young or not so young.
She may have light hair or dark, light skin or darker skin.
She may be slender or not so slender; she may be exuberant or quiet.
She may come from the East, the Midwest, the West, or overseas.
She might enjoy singing, or the beauties of nature, or a good book. She likes a good laugh and a good game at recreation.
She might live at our convent in Bronx, or in Arizona, or at our motherhouse in New York, or in the Philippines, or in Nigeria.
The important thing is, she is a woman of God. A prayerful woman, who has given herself totally to Him.
A woman who feels for God’s people—especially those who have strayed from Him.
And who feels for His children—especially the spiritually neglected ones who never learned about Him, who are starved for Him and don’t know it.
She feels for them, goes out to help them, prays and sacrifices for them.
She loves her vows of chastity, poverty, obedience; she loves her Sisters in community wherever they may be.
She is inspired by our foundress, the Servant of God Mother Mary Teresa Tallon.
She loves the Church, the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd, our Blessed Mother.
She is a Parish Visitor!
When you were a little girl, did you dream about maybe becoming a nun someday? Or perhaps the thought came to you much later, “Should I be a nun? Or not?”
Even before you were born, God had his hopes and desires for your life. He knew what would make you happiest, what would be most fulfilling for you, where you could love and serve Him the best.
What does HE want for YOU? He never forces, but if He is calling you to religious life, He is hoping you’ll say “yes” to His plans.
Outreach for Souls
Pope Francis repeatedly has stressed the need for reaching out to those who are away from the Lord — just what the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate were founded to do and have been doing ever since.
People sometimes wonder about this outreach to the straying souls. How would Jesus answer your questions? Let’s look at an imaginary conversation with Him.
I never knew it was so important to go out and seek for those away from You.
These persons often will not make the first move to return to Me. They may not even realize how much they need Me. They need someone to reach out to them, in My name and in the name of the parish pastor.
In the Scriptures I said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door to me, I will come in….” Knocking at doors is really knocking at their hearts. When they open to you, I can begin to work, through you. Not in a pushy way, but gently, compassionately, lovingly. I love knocking at doors!
Jesus, I don’t know if I could do that. I’m too shy, and I’d be scared to knock at a stranger’s door.
My daughter, I give the graces needed to those I call. To those who are scared, I give courage. To those who are shy, I remind them that I’m right there with them, and they’re doing this for Me. The person behind that door is my child, too. Be not afraid!
But I wouldn’t know what to say.
You won’t be asked to go out until you’re prepared. Remember, my own mission work didn’t begin right away. You’ll need to grow closer to Me, heart and soul, in the novitiate, and to be taught how to be My instrument in seeking souls.
Who will I find?
You’ll find the ones I’m leading you to. Those yearning to return to Me, those who are careless, those who have children who know next to nothing about Me. The children really tug at my Sacred Heart. You’ll encourage these children to connect with the parish instructions, and perhaps teach some groups yourself.
Jesus, with Your help, I think I can do that. In fact, it sounds exciting! I do want others to come to love you more. Give me, please, the grace and the courage I need to follow You!
On November 24, 2013, Sr. Mary Beverly made her final vows. A few photos are on the website under Recent Events. On this joyful day we receive a crown of roses, symbolizing the crown of eternal life promised to those who live their vows faithfully!
The Sister also receives a crucifix ring—her wedding ring—and her mission crucifix. This is a very special crucifix, only given to missionaries. To be a missionary means to be sent forth, sent out to others, not just to wait for them to come to us.
Sr. Mary Beverly has a unique story of a little “missionary.” Sister’s family was not Christian, but as a little girl Sister had a Catholic playmate who had just received her First Communion. This little girl decided that her friend absolutely had to be baptized, and so she proceeded to do so, with the correct words and the garden hose! This child taught her how to pray and what Catholics believe. When Sister Mary Beverly officially became a Catholic in her teens, she had a good preparation already!
Souls in need are all around us--abandoned, falling through the cracks, their straying souls often unknown to others. They might be right around the corner from us, but they need missionaries! They need prayerful, contemplative missionaries! Wouldn’t you like to do this along with us?
A Gift of Thanks
First Communion day had finally arrived. This was an extra special occasion, as all in this large group, grades four through eight, were from families who were careless about their faith. All of these young people had been found by Sister Mary Vivian on her visitation of families and invited to come to religious instructions.
Some parents came to see their son or daughter receive First Communion, though, sadly, some parents did not think it important enough to come. The boys and girls were all dressed either in white or in their best clothes—all except Emmy.
Emmy arrived, without family, and we were surprised and saddened to see that she was still in her old play clothes. If we had guessed that her family wouldn’t have fussed over her a bit, we would certainly have found something nice for her to wear, but it was too late.
If Emmy felt embarrassed about this, she didn’t show it, and she participated attentively in the Mass and received Communion prayerfully. After Mass we had another surprise, this time a pleasant one. Emmy went up to Sister Mary Vivian and thanked her for teaching her about God. She then gave Sister a thank you present of a little pin she had bought at the dollar store, a pin that said “Mary.”
Such a touching gift of thanks, from a child who had so little! How appreciative she was!
We have so much to be grateful for, haven’t we—our faith, our family who cares about us, food every day, health, education, and so much else!
Thank God frequently for all His gifts to you. He will be pleased with that!
There are so many children out there like Emmy and the others in that First Communion group. Is God asking you to find them and help them come closer to Him?
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate are so grateful to God for our contemplative-missionary charism. We are privileged to have a Holy Hour of adoration each day, in addition to our other prayer time, and we strive for a spirit of recollection throughout the day.
This combination of contemplation with missionary outreach to those who are straying from the faith, and giving instructions in the faith, is the essence of our charism.
May God bless you and keep you always close to Him and grateful for all His gifts!
Reception into the Novitiate
"Dear daughters, what do you ask from us?"
"Drawn by God’s mercy, we have come here to learn your way of life. We ask you to teach us to follow Christ crucified and to live in poverty, obedience and chastity. Teach us to persevere in prayer and penance, in the service of the Church and mankind. Teach us to live out the Gospel every day of our lives. Teach us your rule and help us to learn to love our Sisters as Christ commanded us."
With these words began the simple ceremony of reception into the novitiate on September 8, for three postulants who are now Sr. Mary Imelda, Sr. Jhoan Marie, and Sr. Marie Fe. As is our custom, the latter two kept their baptism names, as they already included a form of Mary, and Imelda had Mary added to her name. They’re excited to begin this new step and are learning how to keep their veils on correctly!
Just what is a novitiate?
The novitiate is the official beginning of religious life, and it's a time of growing to know the Lord more intimately, a time of many special graces. It's also a time to know ourselves better and to recognize anything in ourselves that may hinder our relationship with the Lord, as well as to spiritually prepare to go forth to spread God's word.
This time of spiritual preparation is so important. In Scripture so many persons who were chosen to serve God in a special way, first went apart. Jesus, besides His 30 years of hidden life, went into the desert for 40 days. John the Baptist lived in the desert, Paul spent a time of quiet in Arabia (Gal. 1:17), and the apostles had a three-year preparation before Pentecost.
This is a time of learning the Parish Visitor way of life more deeply, of learning the way the vows are lived in this community, of deepening one's prayerful relationship with the Lord. Then, when the time comes for vows, the Sister, knowing what is involved, is able to make her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience peacefully and joyfully and then serve God's people as a vowed Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate.
On August 15 Sr. Theresa Marie finished her two years of novitiate and joyfully professed her first vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. She'll soon be moving to our Bronx convent and serving God’s people through missionary visitation, sharing God's word with them.
The Call to Religious Life
These Sisters followed the Lord's call to love and serve Him in religious life. They heard His call, and they answered. But, you may say, how can I know if He is calling me?
Don't expect the call to be an actual voice you can hear, or an angel coming from heaven to let you know. Don't expect to be knocked over, as St. Paul was.
Do you sense a tug at your heart? A realization in your heart, an awareness, that you should do this? This is deeper than feelings. You might feel scared, afraid of the unknown, afraid of what your friends and family will say. Even so, if God's "still, small voice" is calling you, do not be afraid. He loves you and will help you. Trust Him and follow Him!
On July 2 we always celebrate the jubilees of our Sisters, and this year we have five Sisters celebrating their jubilees. Think of all the love of God, Masses, Communions, Holy Hours, rosaries, and other prayer over the years, as well as the numerous persons they brought closer to the Lord. How pleased He must be with them! Let me introduce you to our jubilarians.
Sr. Mary Frances, celebrating her 80 year jubilee, lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn before entering our community. She was a pioneer member of our Rome, New York mission, giving religious instructions to thousands of public school children, many of whom still remember her fondly. She then worked in the Bronx for quite a few years, in family visitation and religious instructions. She learned Spanish in addition to her native Italian, and she also spent a few months at our Nigerian convent. Now, at the age of 99, from her wheelchair she has a ministry of writing to prisoners.
Sr. Agnes Cecilia, celebrating 70 years of religious life, was born in northern California and has done family visitation in fifteen different parishes in various cities. Her last apostolic assignment was Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she is lovingly remembered by those she helped. She loved to bake and gave the Sisters great pleasure with her Sunday rolls and other treats.
Sr. Dolores Augustine, another 70 year jubilarian, grew up on a farm in Minnesota. She served God’s people in Scranton, Brooklyn, Rome NY, and Chicago (when we had a convent there). Her last assignment was in Brooklyn, where she served for many years a tri-lingual parish of immigrants from Caribbean countries. Some of the people she helped there still keep in touch and visit her at Marycrest.
Sr. Carmen, our golden jubilarian, was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the Bronx while in her teens. She has done family visitation and given religious instructions in a number of parishes in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. She has been Novice Director in New York and also in Nigeria, and she recently served in our mission in the Philippines.
Sr. Sophia Maria is our silver jubilarian. She was born in Korea and came to the United States in her college years. She has been serving the Korean-American community, first in Queens, NY and currently in Bronx, NY. Congratulations to all our jubilarians!
Free Vocation Talks
The Institute on Religious Life, an organization which promotes solid religious life faithful to the Church, is offering free vocation talks on their “Vocation Audio Download of the Month Club." A free talk is provided monthly for a year. If you think you would find this helpful, go to SpeakLord.net.
To feed the hungry — how important that is, and how appealing to our womanly nature. Giving sustenance, giving our love with the food. But, food for the soul is even more necessary!
The hunger of so many is not just for food for the body, but for the soul! Food that will give the spiritual nourishment to sustain them through life and to take them to eternity! This hunger can only be satisfied by coming to God, coming to know Him or coming back to Him if they have strayed away.
There’s something deep inside everyone that craves for more, for the eternal. However, many people don’t know this, don’t even know why their souls are so restless, don’t know how to go about reaching toward God. Jesus is willing, more than willing, to feed their souls and satisfy their thirst with Himself.
These persons can be found! They can be helped to return to the Good Shepherd! They can be led to the spiritual food their souls need!
When we approach people, face to face and heart to heart, they know that the Church is interested in them, that God is interested in them. This personal approach, gentle and non-threatening, can touch the heart quickly. In this age of technology, our person to person approach is more and more effective in helping today’s straying sheep.
And, what is more heartrending than a hungry child? I remember one time when I brought an emergency bag of groceries to a very needy family. Little Mike’s eyes, seeing it, lit up, as he exclaimed, "Food!" Yet, how many children lack the food their souls desperately need. They don’t even know that their souls are famished, and often their parents don’t seem to realize it, either. We find these children everywhere, in every town or city in which we work We want to lead them all to Jesus through instruction in the faith!
We’ve been doing all this since our community began. It’s a satisfying and appealing apostolate, finding these starving souls, who may not even know how starved they are, and leading them to Jesus!
As Blessed John Paul II told us,
"Do not be afraid to go out into the streets like the first apostles... This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel... Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern 'metropolis.' It is you who must 'go out into the byroads' and invite everyone…to the banquet which God has prepared for His people."
And Pope Frances, in his Easter message, told us,
"Christ is risen! I would like [this message] to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest..."
Won’t you come and join us in this apostolate, needed now more than ever?
"We adore You O Christ, and we bless You. Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world."
What a privilege to be able to know Him and adore Him!
Adoring God can be done anywhere, anytime. We can love and adore Him in the midst of other duties, walking down the street, sitting quietly in our room. One of the best and most special ways to adore Him, though, is adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus is there in the Blessed Sacrament waiting for us. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament gives Him special honor, but whether or not there is Exposition, we can adore Him there and give Him our love.
In adoration we focus on Him, not on ourselves. We are there to give Him our time, our love, our attention, not to look for good feelings. We are there as a friend at His side, staying with Him even if at times He seems inattentive to us. We love Him.
There are only three wonders in the world, our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, said. The first is that God loves us. The second is that He allows us to love Him. The third is that, though He loves us and allows us to love Him, so many don’t do it!
Even little children can be taught to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Many times children have come to our convents to "say 'hi' to Jesus." Some even ask, "Sister, open it up so I can see what He looks like!"
There is a need for more people to love Him, to adore Him. Not only for you to do so, but for so many more to do so, as well.
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, since our foundation, have been bringing people back to Jesus—to confession, to the Eucharist, to realizing His love for them individually, to coming to Him in prayer.
You have heard of the New Evangelization. Evangelization has been going on since the church was founded, people may say, so what is new about it? Blessed John Paul II told us that besides the church’s care for the faithful and the outreach to those who never heard of Jesus, there is a whole "in-between" group—baptized Catholics who no longer are faithful, for one reason or another. This group unfortunately is getting larger and larger. Evangelizing this group is the New Evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI builds on what Blessed John Paul II said, adding that the New Evangelization must be done with new ardor and new zeal.
Reaching out to these people to bring them to Jesus, sharing our Catholic faith both informally and in religion classes, and combining this with adoration, with contemplation, is why we were founded. Won’t you consider coming to do this with us?
“Sister,” asked the little girl, “what happened when you were born and your Mommy and Daddy found out that they had a baby nun?”
Well, we know it doesn’t happen that way, but just what is discernment of a vocation?
Discernment, briefly put, means to recognize whether something is from God or not. In discerning a vocation we are trying to see whether God is really calling me or whether my own fears and negative feelings against it, or else wrong reasons for it, are the influencing factors.
Discerning a vocation implies, of course, that God’s call can be known. No, it’s not a voice from heaven or an angel appearing, but that still, small tugging at my heart, that conviction within me, that realization that God wants me in religious life. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, “The experience of a vocation is unique and indescribable, and is only perceived as a gentle breeze of the clarifying touch of grace.” There might not be 100% certainty yet, but we should have at least a reasonable certainty in order to move forward.
Obstacles can sometimes come—family opposition, laughter of friends, college debts, and so on. These, however, can make me stronger in my desire to follow, or I can “cave in” to them. As Blessed John Paul II continues, “Fears and doubts come to disturb us and make it more difficult to decide. It is then that we need to hear the Lord’s assurance, ‘I am with you. Be not afraid.”’
Prayer is absolutely essential. A lot of prayer must go into vocational discernment; there is no other way! Discernment is not just a decision all on my own. It’s discerning whether God is making a “marriage proposal” to me and whether my response will be “yes.”
What about you? During this new year, try to be more lovingly attentive to Jesus, praying daily, honoring His mother Mary, going to daily Mass if at all possible, asking Him to give you the grace to know His will for your future, and the courage to follow when the time comes!
Our evangelization and catechetical apostolate continues from our convents in Bronx, Arizona, the Philippines, Nigeria, and here in Monroe, New York. This apostolate, fueled by our contemplative prayer life, is needed more than ever! Below, Sr. Maria Leah’s religious education students pose for a photo.
“With the help of God, I, Sr. Maria Leah, have studied your rule and have lived among you as your Sister for the time of probation. I now ask…that I may dedicate myself to God and make my profession in this religious community of Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.”
With these words at Mass on January 25, 2012, Sr. Maria Leah asked to make her first vows, after completing two years of novitiate. As the ceremony further says, we are “already consecrated to God by water and the Holy Spirit.” Like the young man in the Gospels, some are called by God to go beyond living a good life to living the Gospel counsels. What a privilege to be called, and how grateful we are that Sr. Maria Leah responded to the call and joyfully made her vows as a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate.
At our first profession of vows we receive our black veil and the medallion of the Immaculate Conception. Mary Immaculate, as shown in the picture on this page and on our medallion, is the patroness of our community and our model in contemplation and in reaching out to others in their need. We remember that in the Visitation, right after hearing the stupendous news that she was to be the Mother of God, Mary went to Elizabeth, while pondering God’s message in her heart.
January 25 is also the anniversary of the day our foundress received the inspiration to begin this community, where women, “formed in the contemplative spirit, go out in search of the lost lambs and bring them back to the fold by means of Christian instruction.” We thank God that Mother Mary Teresa Tallon said a generous “yes” to God’s call!
“Over and above the public proclamation of the Gospel which is addressed to all…the other form of communication—from one individual to another—will always be valid and important. The Lord Himself often followed this method…. We cannot allow the need of bringing the Good News to multitudes of men make us forget this form of evangelization, in which the individual’s conscience is touched by the special words another addresses to him.”
This quote, which appears in the document for the Synod of the Church on the New Evangelization, really summarizes the Parish Visitor outreach to those who are away from the Lord. Yes, Jesus, the Good Shepherd went after His lost sheep, and He told his apostles, too, to go after the lost sheep (Matt. 10:6). He made them fishers of men (Mark 1:17), and He told them to go into the highways and byways to bring people in (Luke 14:23). And in Rev. 3:20, we read, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
If you haven’t yet read “The Church Calls” on our website, take a look at it. It shows that many current Church documents echo the words of our foundress, who saw, many years ago, the need for evangelization and catechesis, especially to the spiritually neglected.
Parish Visitors have continued this throughout the years. This apostolate is more needed now than ever. In this age of technology, person-to-person contact is even more powerful than in the past. Even just walking down the street we give wordless witness to God.
What about you? Is Jesus calling you to be a fisher of souls? To help the lost and straying sheep?
You might think, “How could I ever go to a stranger’s door and start a conversation about God?” Of course, we receive training in the way to do it, gently and without being pushy, and we don’t begin until we’re prepared. The first few times might be a bit scary, but then we see the exciting challenge of letting people know that Jesus cares, that the Church hasn’t forgotten them. So many of the people need instructions in the faith, too, and that’s also part of our charism. All this is combined with our contemplative prayer life. It’s a beautiful vocation, following in the footsteps of Jesus as a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate.
The Sisters who are instructing children for First Communion are busy preparing for this big day. It’s a privilege to be able to instruct someone in the faith, and it’s so very special to instruct children to receive Jesus in Communion for the first time.
One of the Sisters, as part of her classes, often introduces the children to various saints of the church. So one day in March she asked,
“Does anyone know who St. Patrick is?”
“Sure, Sister, he’s the one who started the big St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City!”
Our faith is such a precious gift which we can easily take for granted—a real belief in Jesus, belief in the Trinity, belief in the true faith of the Catholic Church and all that it teaches. Martyrs have died for the faith. Many others have spent their lives witnessing to the faith. It is certainly worth living and dying for!
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate have always known the importance of spreading the faith-- rekindling dead or wavering faith and instructing others in the faith and in the living of the faith. There are so many who don’t appreciate the faith because they’ve never been told, or because they have forgotten what they were once taught. These persons need to be found and to be helped to come to Jesus.
“There is a famine in the land, not of bread or water, but for the word of the Lord.” —Amos 8:11
“My sheep were scattered, with no one to look after them or to search for them.” —Ezek. 34:6
The Lord said, “Whom shall I send?”—Isa. 6:8
The need is so great. Is God asking you to do your part to spread the faith? Is He calling you to be a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate?
Make Every Soul Count!
This was one of the mottoes of our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, and it was passed on, over the years, as we go forward into the future. Every soul is important to God! Every one, no matter their economic bracket, their race, their family background, their physical or mental health, is loved by God. Each and every person was made by God and is destined for heaven.
But do they know that? Do they know that God loves them, that Jesus died for their salvation? Someone needs to go to them and, in a friendly, gentle way, to talk to them about Jesus, to tell them of His love for them, His desire for them to love Him.
So many souls are “lost in the shuffle” of life—like the woman, a shut-in, who didn’t realize that one of the priests was able to hear her confession in her native language. Like the mother who thought that she couldn’t have her baby baptized because she couldn’t afford a white outfit and a donation. Like the young woman who didn’t realize she could return to the Church after having left it in her early teens. Like the elderly man who argued with a priest many years ago, left the church, but wants to return before he dies and is afraid. Or the child who stopped coming to religion class but wondered why no one asked about her.
Mother Mary Teresa knew that all these people, and so many others, need someone to reach out to them and help them find the path to return to Jesus. After many years of difficulties she was able to found our community so that these souls could be reached. She was a woman of great trust in God, great love of God, zeal for souls, and deep faith. We are truly grateful to her for the founding of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.
This photo, which looks so much like St. Therese, is of our foundress before entering religious life. You can read more about Mother Mary Teresa’s story on our website.
Her home parish, St. Bernard’s, Waterville, New York celebrated their anniversary this year, and a group of Parish Visitors went there for the day to celebrate with them. Mother Mary Teresa, as a young girl, often traveled the three miles from her family farm to the parish church. A plaque has been in the church vestibule for some years, honoring their parish daughter, Mother Mary Teresa. While in Waterville the Sisters also visited the graves of Mother Mary Teresa’s parents in the parish cemetery.
Prayer and Community
To be a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate, to be a contemplative, a woman of deep prayer, with a unique mission of outreach to His straying sheep and instructions in the faith for those who need to know Him—what does this mean?
Each Parish Visitor is to be a woman of prayer, a woman who loves God deeply and wants to grow in this prayerful love, day by day and year by year. This desire needs nourishment, like a growing plant needs watering.
In our years of formation we learn more and more about prayer, about Jesus, about Scripture, about our beautiful Catholic faith, and about our charism. We also learn what it means to be a religious Sister dedicated to God by the vows and faithful to the Church.
What a privilege to be called to follow the chaste, poor, obedient Jesus by vows! We followed Him before we came to religious life, but like the young man in the Gospels (Mt. 19:16-21), He has called us to follow Him further. Unlike that young man, we said “yes” and chose to live these Gospel counsels of Jesus.
Our love of the Lord is sustained daily through Holy Mass and a Eucharistic Hour of Adoration, in addition to Morning and Evening Prayer of the Divine Office together, meditation, the rosary, and Scripture and other spiritual reading. We have a monthly retreat day and a yearly retreat of eight days.
All this is lived in community, with other women who share the same ideals, the same love of God. We pray together and laugh together and share a unique community apostolate. This great apostolate is something larger than ourselves—it’s the Good Shepherd’s apostolate—and we’re privileged to be a part of it.
Community life is a joyful life. No community is perfect, and as with any family perhaps sometimes there could be misunderstandings, but we know we love each other and are here for the same reason, to follow the Lord. It is said that only in a convent can a group of women be in the kitchen at the same time and not “kill” each other!
How wonderful to spend our days for Him, to give our lives to Him! Jesus has promised that whoever leaves mother and father and home for His sake will be with Him in the eternal kingdom! (Mt. 19:29) As someone else has said, our “pay” will be “out of this world!”
"Do not be afraid.... I am with you."
A vocation is really an amazing grace, isn’t it! However, discerning a vocation can be a struggle. Do your thoughts go something like this?
I imagine God looking down at the world, looking around, and then looking AT ME. He looks at me, with love, and with a look that says, “Come! Come, be My own. Come, give yourself to Me, totally. Then reach out to My children who don’t know Me. Help them. You’ll be My spouse, and you’ll be their spiritual mother. They need Me so much, and they need you so much. Please say yes.”
Me? But why me? I’m so ordinary. I’m certainly far from perfect. Why would He want me for this? There are others who are the type to be a nun, but me?
On the other hand, the men Jesus picked didn’t seem to be the type to evangelize the world. They were fishermen. Worldly people probably thought that was nuts. Well, people might think it nuts for me to be a nun, but if God could help the world with fishermen, maybe He wants to use me, after all.
But I’m scared. And anyway, I have other plans for my life. I’ve always thought about getting married and having a family. That’s a good way to serve God, too. Yet, this tugging at my heart from God won’t go away. HELP!
Yes, Lord, help! Help me, please. As I sit before You in the tabernacle, my fears melt away, and I want to give myself totally to You. Then by the next day my fears and uncertainty return. Help!
Yes, keep praying, and He will help. Despite the struggles of discernment, know that the Lord loves you very much. The fact that you are even considering a vocation is pleasing to Him. His amazing grace has brought you this far, and His amazing grace will continue to lead you if you sincerely ask Him and really trust Him to let you know His will for your life and to give you the courage to do it.
Our Sisters in the parishes continue seeking the wandering sheep and instructing children, teens, and adults in the faith, guiding them closer to Jesus. There is so much to be done, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Let me give you an example. Sr. Mary Beata, while visiting homes in the parish she used to work in (before her recent assignment to our Arizona mission), found many children and teens in need of religious instructions. Most were able to fit into the parish religious education program, but a number of them did not. They weren’t baptized, or were older and didn’t yet have first communion, or couldn’t go to the parish program on Sundays because they had to split their Sundays between their divorced parents in two towns. The older ones among them would be uncomfortable in the parish RCIA; they’re just too young for it. Some parishes have special programs for overaged youth, but many do not.
A Parish Visitor, though, doesn’t just let these youth fall through the cracks. She tries to find a way to help them. Sr. Mary Beata found volunteers to assist her, and she formed four different after-school classes according to age levels, which she and the volunteers taught.
Great fruits followed from this. How happy the Lord must have been to see these children and teens take part in the sacramental life of the church! Sister helped many of them with the practical details, too, from clothing to godparents.
If it were not for this outreach and instruction, these youth would have fallen through the cracks, would continue uninstructed in the faith, and would grow up to be parents of yet another generation lost to the faith. The parents of youth like these often know little or nothing of the faith themselves, so they cannot pass it on to their children. When we instruct children in the faith, or arrange for their instruction, we often foster the parents’ return to the faith, as well, and we hope that the children will eventually pass on their faith to “a generation yet to be born.”
Contemplation is the fuel which fires and sustains this missionary apostolate. As our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, said, “In proportion as I am a contemplative, in that same proportion shall I be a missionary, and a cheerful, generous missionary.”
More about Our Apostolate
“Who would believe we should find the numbers of neglected children we did? Only the discerning eye shall discover the most needy and the truly loving soul help the unfortunate children.”
“Love the poor little children as if each one were our own little brother. What would we do then? Why, the poor neglected brother would get the first of everything, especially as regards his soul’s welfare.”
These words of our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, were written before the foundation of our community in 1920 and are still so true today. Neglected children can be found all around us.
We all have heard stories of child neglect and abuse, and we feel so badly that anyone would neglect or abuse a child. Children who are malnourished, without families, without shelter, fill us with compassion, as does the ultimate child abuse, abortion. Other children are emotionally neglected, starved for their parents’ loving attention.
In addition, besides the physically and emotionally neglected children, there are many, many more who are neglected spiritually. Their souls are forgotten or ignored.
We would consider it quite neglectful if a mother did not get her child vaccinated. But how many parents keep putting off the baptism of their children?
Most mothers would want their child to be kept clean, but how many never teach them to keep the commandments and to keep themselves pure?
Children need adequate food, and parents want them to be healthy and strong. What about children who have never been prepared for the Eucharist and for Confirmation?
Only a negligent mother would leave poisonous household substances around, but how many children are exposed to various kinds of bad example, often right in the home?
Children need to know and love God and need to know how to live His way. This is part of growing up to be a fully developed human being, the way we were created to live, heading not just for worldly pleasures and success but for heaven.
Let’s look at a real life example, whom we’ll call Ashley. Ashley is nine, a pretty little girl. She always looks a bit disheveled, as her mother doesn’t pay much attention to her, and she is allowed to come and go as she wishes. Her mother has a new live-in boyfriend and is mostly interested in him and in buying new clothes.
Ashley and her family were found while Sister was visiting homes. Her mom is Catholic but never got around to having her baptized. Since Sister came her mom lets her go to religion classes, but it’s all up to Ashley to get herself there and get herself to church on Sundays. Ashley’s sad eyes light up a bit to know there is a loving God who loves her personally. Sister tries to give Ashley some extra attention, attention which she doesn’t get at home, and encourages her in wanting to live the way God wants.
Ashley now can see that there is more to life than what she sees at home and that her soul will live forever. Little by little her mother is starting to think about possibly changing her lifestyle for the better.
These spiritually neglected children were a concern of our foundress, and they are the concern of Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate today, as well. They come from all economic backgrounds, not just from material poverty. This poverty is worse—a poverty of spirit! These children need to be instructed about their faith, and their parents need it, too! We find these children in our visitation of families, and we don’t let them just “fall through the cracks.” God loves them, and so do we.
Ashley, and others like her, are dear to the heart of God. As our foundress said, these children are destined for heaven. But, they have to be found and then helped. Is God asking this of you? Won’t you help us with this tremendous need in our world today? Won’t you help bring neglected children to Him?
Have you ever wondered what Sisters do in the summer? Let me tell you a little about how the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate spend their summers.
One of the most important things is our annual community retreat, which usually takes place in the summer. The annual retreat, at least eight full days of reflection and of silent prayer, is always a time of special graces for the year ahead, a very precious time with the Lord. I always look forward to this special time.
Of course, the Sisters in the apostolate are continuing to spend time helping the people through visitation for evangelization, sometimes Vacation Bible Schools, and planning catechetical programs for the year ahead.
There are some vacation days as well, enjoying simple pleasures together. Picnics are a favorite, and some Sisters enjoy swimming or badminton or walks in the woods. We have been on vacation day outings, over the years, to various places—state parks, the Statue of Liberty, museums, many shrines, and other places. Sometimes a picnic lunch right here at Marycrest, followed by a badminton game or a video, can be just as much fun. We’ve even had rides through the local scenic hills in the rain!
The Sisters may visit their families once a year for two weeks (except during the novitiate), and these visits usually take place in the summer. Also, in the summer, the Sisters may wear their cooler light blue habits if they wish, instead of their navy blue habits.
The jubilees of our Sisters—25th, 50th, 60th, and sometimes 75th—are always celebrated on July 2. We also renew our Enthronement of the Sacred Heart on the feast of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd is special to all Parish Visitors!
So, even though our apostolate and our duties continue during the summer, there is a change of pace from the rest of the year. Here at Marycrest we also enjoy God’s gifts of green trees giving shade from the sun and gentle breezes blowing over the hills.
In the summer as well as throughout the whole year, we have much to share with each other, and in our postulancy and novitiate we’re introduced to the joy and simplicity of our community life. We might discuss during recreation time some simple experience, such as a beautiful rainbow we saw, spotted fawns, or (horrors!) a skunk which was quite nearby! Maybe we’ll share about a book we’re reading or a silly joke. At times the tragic events or evils of the day are discussed in a Christian way.
The postulants and novices see how the Sisters treat each other and how they exemplify the life we are called to live as religious. The spirit of Mother Mary Teresa Tallon is alive and passed on through the generations of Parish Visitors, and the love of God and our Catholic faith is alive and growing within each of us.
God is good, all the time!
A New Novice
The feast of the Assumption, August 15, is the anniversary of our foundation in 1920 and is always a special day for us. We had another reason to celebrate on August 15, when Sr. Susan Marie renewed her vows and Theresa Moore completed her postulancy and began her novitiate. Theresa is now called Sister Theresa Marie, combining a form of Mary with her baptismal name, as is our practice. We rejoiced with her as she received the habit and white veil, the Constitutions of our community, and our Spiritual Directory.
Theresa grew up in Michigan and was working in Indiana before entering our community as a postulant. Before beginning her novitiate she traveled to Michigan to visit with her family for two weeks. In the novitiate she joins Sr. Maria Leah, our second-year novice. (In our Nigerian novitiate we have two more novices.)
The novitiate is the official beginning of religious life, and it’s a special time of growing to know the Lord more deeply and learning about the vows and daily living as a Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate. Then, when the time for vows comes, the Sister is able to make her vows joyfully and peacefully.
This time of spiritual preparation before one’s mission is so important. In the Scriptures we read that so many persons who were chosen to serve God in a special way, first went apart. Jesus, besides his 30 years of hidden life, went into the desert for 40 days. John the Baptist lived in the desert, Paul spent a time of quiet prayer in Arabia (Gal. 1:17), and the apostles had a three-year preparation before Pentecost.
May God abundantly bless our novices, and may He grant us many more who will come and prepare to love God as a vowed Parish Visitor of Mary Immaculate and to serve Him in this apostolate, so sorely needed in our world today.
Advent is upon us, and in the hustle and bustle of Christmas
preparations it’s important to make Advent a truly holy season, full of gratitude and love to Jesus. We have so much to be grateful for, haven’t we! What a beautiful Christmas gift it would be to offer oneself to Jesus with a really loving and thankful heart!
This season is a time, too, to think about those in need, to see what we can do to help them. Is God asking of you something more?
The very word Eucharist means thanksgiving. Do you ever stop to thank God for giving us the Eucharist? For giving us this very special gift?
But what about so many Catholic children who haven’t learned about Jesus? Many adults, too, don’t appreciate the Eucharist and the other treasures of our faith. Are you willing to help them?
How about thanking God that we know Him and that we were baptized into the true faith.
So many don’t know Him and don’t care; so many never received the grace of baptism. Are you concerned about them?
What about the gift of having decent parents? No family is perfect except the Holy Family, but to have grown up in a decent family that cared about me is a great gift from God.
What about all the children whose parents don’t care? Whose parents are immoral? Whose parents don’t give them any affection or love?
What about thanking God for the food you have every day, for shelter, for clothing.
There are so many throughout the world without these basics, and even in our own country there are many who are barely making ends meet, if at all. Are you aware of their plight?
Be grateful to God, too, for living in a free country, with the freedom to openly practice the faith.
For the gift of life, given to you by your parents.
For your friends, your health, your education.
The list could go on and on and on.
How about thanking God, too, that you are discerning your vocation, trying to see what His will is for your life? Yes, the fact that you are even considering giving yourself totally to God is a gift from Him, and I’m sure He is pleased with you for this.
A vocation is a precious gift from God and is cause for great thanksgiving. It’s a great privilege to be called to be the spouse of Christ, and we are responsible to take it seriously and to act on it as soon as we know what He wants and as soon as we are able to follow. Be generous to Him! God will never be outdone in generosity, and He will give you many blessings in return! Your list of what to be thankful for will grow and grow!
You are very special to Him. You are unique; there’s no one like you. God made you and loves you—yes, you—personally. He looks on you with love, with all the love of His Sacred Heart. When you understand what His will for you is, are you ready to leave all and to follow?
Blessed John Paul II said, “Don’t be afraid to cast out into the deep.” What better way to spend your life than to give yourself to God.
All our Sisters pray daily for vocations, asking Mary to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more laborers into His vineyard. I’m sure you are praying, too, to know God’s will. Trust in Him, and He will surely help you!
The Foundation of Our Community
New York City? How did a country girl end up founding a community in New York City? Yes, in the hustle and bustle of the city the Holy Spirit inspired our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, to begin the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. How did this happen?
Mother Mary Teresa, then Julia Teresa, grew up on a farm in upstate New York. She then became a teaching Sister, working in Indiana and California before coming to New York City. During a retreat in California she had realized that God was leading her to a deeper prayer life; she continued her deep prayerfulness even in the midst of her duties in New York City as a teacher in a Catholic school and director of a large Sunday school program.
Despite the good work she was doing, her heart went out to the many people all around her who were untouched by the Church. The Church, the Catholic school, and the Sunday school program were available and reached many people, but there were so many, many other Catholics who were never reached by God’s saving word. She knew that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, longed for them, too.
She saw that many children who should have been learning their faith never came to religious instructions; others came and dropped out and were never seen again. Families found numerous excuses for not going to Mass, for not having the children baptized and brought up in the faith. Young people became involved in illicit pleasures. The list could go on and on. They needed Jesus in their lives.
Does all this sound familiar? Yes, all these things were going on even then, while the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd longed for these souls to return to Him, these precious souls for whom He had shed His blood.
The children, especially, tugged at her heart. So many children of supposedly Catholic families were growing up like pagans, knowing little or nothing of their heritage of faith, of God’s deep love for them. How could she help them?
She realized that someone would have to go out to these people to encourage them in their faith, to help them to know and love the Lord. They needed missionaries, even though they lived perhaps within a stone’s throw of the Church!
At Mass, on January 25, 1908, it became clear to her that God wanted her to begin a new religious community dedicated to deeper prayer and to outreach to those in need of Him, and to instruct the people in their faith. After much difficulty, on August 15, 1920, the feast of Mary’s Assumption, in New York City, the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate came into being.
The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate have always kept to these ideals of a deep prayer life combined with outreach to and religious instruction of those in need of the Lord—we are contemplative-missionaries. As Mother Mary Teresa Tallon said, the greater our contemplative communion with God, the more zealous we will be as missionaries.
We work directly with the people, in grass-roots contact, on behalf of the parish pastor, finding those in need and helping them in the spirit of the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd—especially the neglectful Catholics and the poor. While our first concern is their spiritual need, we do not neglect the material needs and other needs of the people.
We find our strength in the Eucharist, and this is also the greatest gift we have to offer to the people—helping them to return to, or to begin to receive, Jesus in the Eucharist. Mary, too, gives us a model for our contemplative-missionary vocation in her visitation to Elizabeth after receiving the angel’s wonderful message that she was to be the Mother of God. Mary shows us that prayerfully pondering the Word in one’s heart as a contemplative and visiting someone in need can certainly go together!
Our love of the Church, our simple and friendly approach to people, and our simple community life are other traits of the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate.
There were many people in need of the Lord in the early 1900’s, but I’m sure you can imagine how many more there are these days! They need someone to go to them, to help them, to tell them about their Lord. What about you? Is He nudging you to do this?
May God bless and guide you as you discern His will for your life!
Arizona is our newest mission field! Two Sisters recently traveled there to begin our apostolate in the Phoenix diocese and to open our convent in Mesa, Arizona. The need is great there, as everywhere. Pray with us that much good will come from this new endeavor.
On August 15 Sr. Mary Emmadoña made her first vows at Marycrest, a joyous occasion for her and for all of us. Also, on September 29 we welcomed our newest postulant, Theresa, who comes to us from Michigan.
I’d like to tell you about our spirituality, and I especially want to share with you how much the Eucharist means to Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate. In the years leading up to our 1920 foundation, our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, rejoiced in the new encyclicals on Frequent Communion for Adults (1905) and Early Communion of Children (1910). Until then, even Sisters didn’t receive Our Lord in the Eucharist daily, and children had to wait until perhaps 12 or 14 years of age for First Communion!
The Eucharist is the greatest gift we have to offer to the people, as our foundress told the Sisters. To instruct children for First Communion and then for continued love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament throughout their years, and on our visitation of families to find those who have been away from Him and help them return to their Lord and Master by confession and Communion, are wonderful experiences. It’s a privilege to be chosen to be an instrument of the Good Shepherd to others.
As we go along on our visitation of families, there are others, too, whom we meet who do receive Our Lord in Communion but barely understand Who it is they are receiving. Brief informal instructions are given to them to shed light on the meaning and beauty of the sacrament, as well as to give them whatever other spiritual help they need.
From the early days of our community we have had the privilege of a daily Holy Hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. It’s such a privilege to be able to spend this hour with Our Eucharistic Lord, over and above our other daily prayer. In contemplation we give Him our love and adoration, and He strengthens us for reaching out to help people in His name.
All our convents have a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. Neighbors, especially the children, are welcome to stop by and pray in our chapels.
His Sacred Heart is so loving and longs for us to spend time with Him. Yes, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is special to us, as is the Good Shepherd zealously searching for the lost and straying sheep. Our foundress frequently speaks of the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd, and in front of our motherhouse is a statue of the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd, smilingly carrying a lamb on His shoulder. As Parish Visitors, through our prayer we are to have contemplative hearts, with compassion and zeal for those needing to be reached by the Good Shepherd and needing instruction in the faith.
As Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, our spirituality of course includes loving Mary and modeling ourselves on her, especially in her Visitation. Daily rosary, the litany of the Blessed Virgin on her special feasts, the Angelus (or Regina Coeli), and wearing her medallion are all part of our community practices, as is renewing our consecration to her at the end of our annual retreat. And, St. Joseph, husband of Mary, is the patron and protector of our community.
Did you ever realize that following a vocation can be compared to the wise men following the star?
The wise men of old wanted to follow Him. They had to leave family, home and possessions to go forth.
You want to follow, you may feel you probably should follow, but .............. it's hard. Are you willing to leave all to follow Him?
It was probably hard for the wise men, too. Perhaps their friends and relatives laughed, or thought they were a bit strange to consider such an idea. Perhaps the wise men had a hard time deciding if they really should go ahead and set out on this journey.
What about you? If your friends think you’re crazy, will you still go forward? Will you keep praying for the grace to know God’s will and the courage to really do it?
Perhaps there were cloudy or foggy days when the star was obscured.
Are you waiting until the way is 100% clear, not realizing that clarity will grow as you follow Him?
Traveling through the desert, of necessity they had a minimum of distractions and could concentrate on their goal.
What about you? Are you avoiding unnecessary distractions and overstimulation so as to pray better and discern God’s will more clearly?
They didn’t know how long their journey would be until they reached their goal. Would it go relatively quickly, or would it perhaps take years?
Your discernment, too, may move quickly or may take years. But, like them— don’t give up!
With all the many stars in the sky, they looked for the one special star, The Star.
Will you keep your focus on Him?
What if they had stayed home? They could have still been good people, but look what they would have missed! They would not have been able to adore Jesus, and they would not have been able to spread the good news upon returning. The journey was worth it!
God showed them the way, but they needed the courage to follow, perhaps despite cold feet and the fears of facing the unknown. God does His part, and we must move forward to do ours!
Upon reaching their destination, they offered their gifts.
We offer ourselves and all we are, for God to use for His glory and for His people.
Then He gives us Himself as our spouse. How pleased He was with the wise men, and how please He’ll be if you follow His call and give yourself to Him! His help will be there. The road may look rough, until you begin walking upon it. His peace, His joy, and He Himself await you if you follow the star!
Is this question similar to yours?
Dear Sister, I think God is calling me to be a Sister, but I don't know what to do next. What steps should I take?
Dear Friend, Here are some suggestions. Just as your discernment thus far was made with much prayer, all of these steps must also be accompanied by sincere and loving prayer.
What seems to draw you? What are you looking for in a community?
You could check the websites of the Institute on Religious Life (religiouslife.com) or the CMSWR (cmswr.org/member_communities), both of which can also be reached through links on our website. Where does God seem to be nudging you? Where can you best serve God and His people? Begin narrowing it down to those that you want to look into further.
Contact the vocation director. Ask any questions which are on your mind. You'll get to know the community a little better and she'll get acquainted with you.
If the community seems as if it is one you want to look into as a possibility, try to arrange a visit, either a vocation retreat or an individual visit. If you live near enough, the first visit could even be a one-day visit.
If this could be the community for you, continue the contact, either by phone, by writing, or further visits if you are near enough. Perhaps ask for some further reading material about the community. You'll be getting to know them better and better.
If this seems to be the place where God is leading you, tell the vocation director that you want to begin the application process. She'll give you the details. The amount of time this will take will vary, perhaps some months. During this time you'll keep getting to know the community more and more.
If the community agrees that God seems to be leading you to take the next step, you will be told that you're accepted for the postulancy, and the date of entrance will be set. The vocation director will tell you what clothing and books to bring and other details.
THE BIG STEP
Now the big day comes, and you are ready. Despite cold feet and some tearful good-byes, you step through the door of the convent to begin your postulancy. How pleased God is with your love and your courage, and how the angels rejoice! You have made this big step generously; know that God will never be outdone in generosity and will be with you every day, every hour as you continue your journey into religious life.
Sr. Susan Marie
Let me begin by asking you to picture something in your mind. Think of the Good Shepherd, if He came down to earth today. See Him looking at all the people passing by, looking carefully, lovingly. Yes, He would see the good people and be very pleased with them, but He would also see the others. Those who seldom, if ever, set foot inside a church. Those who couldn't care less about Him. Those who are more interested in pleasure than in anything else. Those who haven't prayed for so long that they've forgotten how. The children who never were taught about Him. The teens who are confused and searching. The list could go on…and on…and on.
This is mission territory! Yes, it surely is! Some people might think, "We have churches, and if these people want to come, they can come. Why bother seeking them out?" But, that's not the Good Shepherd's attitude toward His prodigal children.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, yearns for these people to return. He wants them to come to Him. But, someone needs to reach out to them, as He reached out to seek for the lost sheep. Who will go for Him? Whom shall He send? Who will say, "Here I am, Lord"?
Pope John Paul II recognized this great need and called it the New Evangelization reaching out to the many among the baptized who have drifted away from the faith. Our foundress, too, recognized this need and felt the call to begin a new community where women, formed in the contemplative spirit, would "go out in search of the lost lambs and bring them back to the fold" by visitation of families and individuals and by religious instruction. We do this in a gentle manner, as He would have done, gentle and yet bringing out the truth about the way He wants us to live.
The need is great, as you can imagine. This personal, gentle outreach touches hearts and is more and more needed in today's world. Jesus still says, "Whom shall I send?" What will your response be?
But I'm scared, you may say. How could I go to the door of a stranger and speak of my Lord? Yes, most of us were scared at first. But, God's grace gives us the fortitude to joyfully go out in His name and enjoy the challenge, and our contemplative prayer life fuels the zeal within us. Of course, we are trained in how to do this before being expected to go forth. And, it is amazing how many people, away from the church for years, are eager to tell us their story and to hear that they are welcome to return to God. If Jesus is nudging you to do this, don't be afraid! He will be with you!
We also have a new postulant here, Leah, who came to us from the Philippines. Perhaps you are wondering just what the postulancy is all about. Postulancy is a time of orientation, of transition into religious life, of a deeper introduction to the community. Before entrance the woman learned about the community from the outside, but now she learns from the inside. Because this is an introduction, it includes many things: taking part in the prayer life of the community, taking part in community life and community activities, an introduction to the apostolate of the community, household duties, and classes on our foundress, on Catholic doctrine, on our spiritual life and apostolate, and on God's call as seen in Scripture. There are many things to learn and experience, and it's a time of a deepening relationship with Our Lord. There are plenty of laughs, too, over many things!
Q. You say you are contemplative-missionaries. Just what does that mean? How can a Sister be both at the same time? Or, are some Sisters missionaries and the others contemplatives who pray for them?
A. As Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, we combine contemplation and missionary activity. Yes, both at the same time, not one or the other. To be a contemplative means to be a person of deep prayer. Usually people think of cloistered nuns as the only contemplatives, but that is not accurate. Cloistered contemplative life is a very special way to serve the Lord. However, contemplation is not reserved to those who are cloistered.
Jesus was a contemplative, someone of deep prayer, as I'm sure all would agree, yet at the same time He was the Good Shepherd concerned for the lost sheep. He combined the two perfectly, and that is what we strive to do.
Mary was another contemplative-missionary. Right after receiving the wonderful news that she was to be the Mother of God, she went out to visit her cousin in need, all the while pondering in her heart the wonderful things God had done.
We strive for a life of deep prayer, nourished by daily Mass, Divine Office, meditation, a daily Hour of Adoration, rosary, spiritual reading, and that spirit of prayerfulness called recollection.
Along with this we are missionaries. The word "missionary" is often thought to mean only foreign missionaries, but it actually means "one who is sent" to go out to the people in the name of the Lord. The ones we are sent to could be right in our own town or city, or anywhere in the US, or in one of the foreign countries in which we have missions. The Good Shepherd has wandering sheep everywhere, in need of someone to help them return to Him!
Of course, those Sisters who are elderly, or who care for the administration of the community, etc. are serving the missionary apostolate by their prayer and by their service to those in the active apostolate. All Parish Visitors are contemplative-missionaries!
Q. Are you faithful to the Holy Father? Are you Eucharistic and Marian?
A.Yes, yes, and yes! We are a pontifical community and are lovingly faithful to the Holy Father and the Church. And, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament has always been a part of our community. As I mentioned, we have a Holy Hour of Adoration daily. Also, Mary Immaculate is our community patroness and our model.
Fishing for Souls
It was a sunny summer afternoon, "a fine day for fishing," said the Parish Visitor Sister.
Fishing? Yes, fishing! Jesus Himself told Peter, at the time of the miraculous catch of fish, "Henceforth you will catch people." Even long before this, in the Old Testament, God said, "I will send hunters and fishers of souls." Our foundress, Mother Mary Teresa Tallon, called her Sisters "fishers of souls," not sitting on the banks waiting for the fish to jump to them, but going out to fish.
So, Sister went fishing on this fine summer afternoon. In the course of about three hours of fishing for souls, she not only found many, but some of them seemed to be waiting to be "caught," like the man who said, "Yes, Sister, we should have had the children instructed for First Communion way before this (they were about 10, 12, and 15). Please, register them for the classes."
Several other parents registered their children, on the spot. Most of these children, too, were way over the usual age for First Communion, and some weren't even baptized. There were three or four preschool children who were still unbaptized, too. Several couples were living in common-law marriages.
Sister gave some on-the-spot instructions in simple prayer, as some of the children (and their parents) not only didn't pray before going to bed, but had no idea how! Sister also encouraged the parents to give good example and go to Mass with their children, and she tried to give an instruction to a grandpa who insisted that his grandson watch Mass on TV each Sunday instead of walking around the corner to Mass at the church!
The children were delighted to have Sister in their neighborhood, and they eagerly accepted the colorful holy pictures she gave them. One little girl, already a mini-missionary, urged her even younger playmate to ask her mother if she could go to the Sunday school classes, saying, "Trust me, you'll really like it."
Then there was the handicapped man who told Sister how much he loved Jesus, and the faith-filled woman who offered to help in whatever way was needed.
Soon it was time to go, but there was much more fishing to be done another day, and Sister would be back—not just on these streets, but elsewhere in the parish. Fishing for souls! What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
This story may seem almost too good to be true, but it is true! Of course, not all afternoons will be as fruitful as this one, but as Jesus said, "The fields are ripe for the harvest," and He said that laborers are needed to bring in the harvest. Our contemplative prayer life keeps us close to the heart of the Lord of the harvest. Won't you consider harvesting with us?
How is your discernment coming along? Are you actively, sincerely, trying to discern God's will for your life? What He most desires for you? Where you are most needed to help spread His kingdom? Is that tug at your heart still there?
But do your thoughts at times run something like this?
How can I be sure?
My parents want grandchildren.
I'm so ordinary, so weak, so imperfect.
Why doesn't God leave me alone and pick somebody else?
What if it doesn't work out?
I'll have to give up some of my independence.
I'll have to leave my possessions behind.
My friends might think I'm weird.
I might miss having a husband and children.
I'll miss my family.
On the other hand, when you're at prayer, perhaps before the Blessed Sacrament, do your thoughts run something like this?
Lord, I love You, and I want to give myself to You.
So many people don't know You.
I want to spread Your word. I want everyone to love You.
Convent life couldn't be too hard. Lots of people have done it.
Their novices seem normal and happy.
My parents would probably get used to the idea.
I guess I could live without my car and my cellphone.
I've thought about this for so long.
I want to do something worthwhile with my life, something for You.
It would be so nice to have regular quiet times for prayer.
And to live with others who love God and want to help people.
What better husband could a girl find than You?
If I don't go ahead, I'll always regret it.
How could I not go ahead, when God has been so good to me.
You could probably add to these lists. Yes, discerning how God is leading is difficult, but once we realize where He is leading, we must go forward! Be brave, despite cold feet. Yes, a new endeavor is often scary.We have to be brave for Him and act on His leading!
Our Exciting Apostolate
Our postulant and second-year novices here have begun visitation/evangelization in this local area. It an exciting thing to go out into the homes, meeting the people and helping those who have been careless about their faith. No matter what area we serve, whether country or city or suburb, there are always souls who have strayed and need someone to reach out to them, as the Good Shepherd did.
Our method is “face to face and heart to heart,” as our foundress taught, and is simple and friendly. In this age of technology, person-to-person contact is even more powerful than in the past. Even just walking down the street we give wordless witness to God.
You might think, how could I ever go to a stranger’s door and start a conversation about God? Of course, we receive training in the way to do it. The first few times might be a bit scary, but then we see the exciting challenge of letting people know that Jesus cares, that the Church hasn’t forgotten them. So many of the people need instructions in the faith, too, and that’s also part of our charism. All this is combined with our contemplative prayer life. Yes, it’s a beautiful vocation!
Advent is such a beautiful season. We are awaiting Christmas, thanking God for His coming to earth over two thousand years ago and thinking, along with the liturgy, of His second coming. We open our hearts to His grace more and more, knowing that He wants us to come closer and closer to His Sacred Heart.
But, for so many people, the true meaning of Christmas is obscured by so many things—partying, rushing around, or having other priorities. Even children, old enough to know, don’t always know what Christmas is. For example:
Susie: "I’m so excited. Christmas is coming. It’s somebody’s birthday. But I can’t remember whose!”
How many Catholic adults, too, don’t even have any semblance of a religious Christmas, not even saying a little prayer to Jesus.
Our world is in need of Jesus. Is Jesus in need of you to help spread His message of love and peace? The field is ripe for the harvest, as all Parish Visitors know. Would you like to help us to reach these people, helping them to know and serve Him better? Would you like to love Him with us, consoling Him for so many who forget Him?