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Nigerian church groups organize prayers for missing schoolgirls
Women holding signs take part in a May 5 protest in Lagos, Nigeria, to demand the release of abducted high school girls. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction of 276 schoolgirls during a raid in the remote village of Chibok in April. (CNS photo/Akintunde Akinleye, Reuters) (May 8, 2014) See NIGERIA-GIRLS May 8, 2014.

Women holding signs take part in a May 5 protest in Lagos, Nigeria, to demand the release of abducted high school girls. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction of 276 schoolgirls during a raid in the remote village of Chibok in April. (CNS photo/Akintunde Akinleye, Reuters)

By Peter Ajayi Dada
Catholic News Service

LAGOS, Nigeria — Religious groups in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state have organized prayer sessions and other activities to support the rescue of kidnapped schoolgirls. Continue reading

 
Archdiocese of Cincinnati announces appointment of Director of Dayton and Northern Regions Catholic Schools

Press Release

Gregg Marino, most recently Academic Dean at Carroll High School in Dayton, has been appointed Director of Dayton and Northern Region Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Continue reading

 
Mandela remembered for his valiant efforts to end aparteid

By Steve Trosley and

Catholic News Service

Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle to replace South Africa’s apartheid regime with a multiracial democracy, died Dec. 5 at his home in Johannesburg and was remembered the world over as well as in Cincinnati.

Mandela, 95, became the country’s first black president in 1994. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

In Cincinnati, Tony Steiritz, director of the Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office, recalled that when Pope John Paul II visited South Africa for the first time in 1995, the Holy Father said of the recently elected, first black president, Nelson Mandela:
“At the beginning of my visit, I wish to pay tribute to you, Mr. President, who, after being a silent and suffering “witness” of your people’s yearning for true liberation, now shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction.” (September 16, 1995 Address, no.2)

 
“Nelson Mandela was a man of faith who often worked with South Africa’s church leaders, including Catholic leaders, to eventually toss off the yokes of such overt racism,” Stieritz said Friday. “In addition to the resistance efforts of black and Asian South Africans throughout that country, the crushing system of Apartheid was eroded by the solidarity of millions around the world who were moved by Nelson Mandela and many other leaders’ passion and leadership.”

“So, Steiritz said, in addition to celebrating his life, “this occasion is also a reminder that we are continually called to stand with the poor and outcast of today, wherever they may be, to pursue a greater respect for their life and dignity, Stieritz said

 

As Pope Francis recently expressed, “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 187).

 

 

“In that mission,” Stieritz said, “we can all be inspired by Nelson Mandela’s faith, courage, endurance for suffering, leadership, and personal humility for the struggles ahead.”  In addition, as President of South Africa, Mandela’s support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also illustrates for us how we can make oppressive structures of sin give way to opportunities for personal healing and God’s grace. Stieritz said such solidarity led to effective international sanctions, which were endorsed by the U.S. and South African Catholic bishops, and other efforts that reshaped the policies of the ruling minority and eventually led to the path for a more racially equal society.

 

 

One of the world’s most revered statesmen, Mandela had a touch of humanity rarely seen in political leaders, said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa in an interview with Catholic News Service earlier this year.

Cardinal Napier represented the South African Catholic Church in discussions between Mandela and church leaders beginning in 1990, following Mandela’s release after 27 years in prison, until he retired from public life in 2004.

Cardinal Napier said he came to treasure Mandela through regular meetings church leaders had with his African National Congress in the transition from apartheid to democracy.

“I always felt we should introduce ourselves to him again, but it was never necessary,” said the cardinal, who was president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 1987 to 1994.

Mandela “remembered names and faces and always gave us a hearty welcome,” he said.

“I came to realize that if he had met someone he had no trouble remembering their names or where they were from. To him, people mattered because of who they were, not the position they held,” he said. “That’s what I really treasure about the man.”

Negotiations between Mandela and South Africa’s apartheid regime began in 1989 while he was still imprisoned. The late Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban told Catholic News Service at the time that he was “astonished” to hear that the notoriously intransigent former President P.W. Botha had approached Mandela to discuss negotiating an end to the armed struggle against apartheid.

The negotiations were fraught with difficulties, and Mandela frequently called on the country’s church leaders to help overcome the deadlocks, Cardinal Napier said.

“When there was a problem, Mandela would say exactly how he saw the problem,” he said, noting that the South African leader was a “direct man and it was easy to engage with him.”

Mandela’s humility and self-deprecating sense of humor were other qualities Cardinal Napier said he valued.

In February 2001, when Cardinal Napier was inducted into the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II, Mandela was in Mozambique.

“He tracked me down to St. Peter’s to congratulate me. He said, ‘Archbishop Napier, how wonderful that you’ve been promoted to this esteemed position and you still have time for all of us back home.’ I called him Mr. Mandela and he said, ‘No, it’s Madiba.’ He wished me luck and asked me to pass on his greetings to everyone there.”

Mandela, who was born in 1918 into the Xhosa-speaking Thembu people in a village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, was often called by his clan name ‘Madiba.’

Cardinal Napier recalled a 1991 meeting at retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Cape Town office, where church leaders and liberation movement leaders were introducing themselves to each other.

“I could see Mandela quite clearly from where I was seated, and when the Methodist bishop’s turn came to introduce himself Mandela said, “That’s my bishop.’ He’s the only political leader I’ve known who’s … allowed himself to be defined in terms of his faith, not just in terms of political allegiance,” the cardinal said.

After serving one term in office, Mandela became a high-profile ambassador for South Africa and helped with peace negotiations in other African countries.

Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 and, three years later, at the age of 85, retired from public life. He made rare public appearances after that, but helped to secure South Africa’s right to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

On his 80th birthday, he married Graca Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique.

After his official retirement, his public appearances were primarily connected with the work of the Mandela Foundation, a charitable fund he founded.

On July 18, 2007, his 89th birthday, Mandela formed The Elders, a council that aims to tackle global problems.

In honor of Mandela’s birthday in 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama called the South African leader “a beacon for the global community and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation.”

Two years earlier, the U.S. and 192 other U.N. member states created Nelson Mandela International Day to honor the African leader through acts of community service.

Every July 18, people around the world take up Mandela’s call for citizens to “take responsibility to change the world into a better place” by donating 67 minutes of their time — one minute for each year of Mandela’s struggle against white-minority rule — to helping others.

The parishioners of Regina Mundi Church in Soweto are among thousands of South Africans who have heeded the call, said Oblate Father Benedict Mahlangu, a priest at the parish.

On July 18, 2011, members of the Catholic Women’s League were at the church at 6 a.m. to prepare a special meal for unemployed and homeless people in and around Soweto, Father Mahlangu said, recalling that Mandela came to a service at the church to celebrate his birthday in 2010.

The church, the largest in Soweto, served as a refuge for anti-apartheid activists for decades. Bullet holes in the ceiling and the broken marble altar have been preserved and serve as reminders of the apartheid era.

 
Bishop Binzer, area religious leaders to pray for immigration reform

Bishop Joseph R. Binzer and other area religious leaders will join together Tuesday to pray for immigration reform. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

Press Release

Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, along with other faith leaders and representatives from the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati and the American Jewish Committee, will gather at noon Tuesday, November 26, in the undercroft of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral for an Interfaith Prayer Service for Immigration Reform. Continue reading

 
St. Maximilian Kolbe- Changing Habits: The Nun Monologues

Saturday, October 5th at 7:30 p.m., St. Maximilian Kolbe invites you to attend “Changing Habits: The Nun Monologues.”  Ticket includes presentation and appetizers.  A cash bar will aso be available.  $20 per person for advance tickets and $25 at the door.  We will also be taking an offering for the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Changing Habits: The Nun Monologues is a play of monologues about growing up Catholic, being Catholic, learning from nuns, stories and confessions from actual nuns.  It’s both humorous and bittersweet, nostalgic and current, taking a sweeping look at the culture of nuns in society.  For more info. check out our website: www.saint-max.org or call Lakme in parish office 513-777-4322, ext. 105

 
Pope’s comments did not mark change in Church teaching

By Cindy Wooden

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When Pope Francis told reporters July 28, “Who am I to judge” a homosexual person, he was emphasizing a part of Catholic teaching often overlooked by the media and misunderstood by many people.

In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the church teaches that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

But the catechism also describes a “homosexual inclination” as “objectively disordered” and homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered,” because sexuality is “an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.”

The church teaches that any sexual activity outside the bond of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. Pope Francis did not change or challenge that teaching.

Pope Francis made his comments about homosexuality during a news conference with reporters flying with him from Brazil to Rome.

The pope was asked about what has been described as a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, allegedly a group of priests and bishops who work at the Vatican and protect each other. Pope Francis said it was important to “distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who makes a gay lobby.”

“A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?” the pope said. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.”

Although the question to the pope was about gay Vatican employees, the pope’s response was not specifically about priests who are homosexual, a question addressed in 2005 by the Congregation for Catholic Education, which was in charge of seminaries at the time.

The document was titled, “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.”

The church distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies or orientation, it said. The church, unlike much of the public, does not assume all those with a homosexual orientation are sexually active, just as it does not assume all heterosexuals are sexually active.

Men “who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’” are not to be admitted to Catholic seminaries or to be ordained, it said, although it did not give a detailed explanation of what exactly constitutes a “deep-seated” homosexual tendency.

While excluding their suitability for ordination, it said, “such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s cross the difficulties they may encounter.”

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaking on “CBS This Morning” July 30, said Pope Francis’ remarks on the plane reflect “a gentle, merciful, understanding, compassionate” approach to church teaching which emphasizes “that while certain acts may be wrong, we would always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity.”

Pope Francis’ words “may be something people find new and refreshing,” Cardinal Dolan said, but “I for one don’t think it is and I hate to see previous popes caricatured as not having that.”

The current pope’s approach to the question of homosexuality on the flight from Brazil reminded some journalists of the approach Pope Benedict XVI took to a question about gay marriage during a July 2006 flight to Spain where he celebrated the World Meeting of Families.

“It’s true that there are problems and things that Christian life says no to,” he told reporters. “We want to make people understand that according to human nature it is a man and a woman who are made for each other and made to give humanity a future.”

However, he said, instead of focusing on condemning attempts to legally recognize homosexual unions, “let’s shine a light on the positive things, so we can make people understand why the church cannot accept certain things, but at the same time wants to respect people and to help them.”

 

 
Archbishop Schnurr: While High Court decisions disappointing, neither requires states to change laws barring same-sex ‘marriage’

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr made the following statement about the U.S. Supreme Court decisions of June 26, 2013.

 The Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is deeply disappointing. It means that the federal law government will recognize same-sex “marriages” in states that provide for it, extending spousal benefits to the couples involved. Continue reading

 
Catholic bishops warn Filipinos against ritual crucifixion

A penitent reacts as nails are removed from his palms after being nailed on a wooden cross in a 2009 Good Friday ritual near Manila, Philippines. The country's Catholic bishops have warned the faithful against resorting to extreme forms of sacrifice on Good Friday, including crucifixion and self-flagellation, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. (CNS photo/John Javellana, Reuters) (March 28, 2013.)

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Authorities announced that at least 24 “penitents” are expected to be nailed on the cross on Good Friday, an annual ritual meant to atone for sins and give thanks to God for blessings.

But the country’s Catholic bishops warned the faithful against resorting to extreme forms of sacrifice on Good Friday, including crucifixion and self-flagellation, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

“Let us concentrate more on the prayers. … These are the wonderful ways of celebrating the Holy Week,” said Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, president of the Philippine bishops’ conference.

The prelate said the real spirit of the observance of the Holy Week is “conversion of oneself.”

Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, chairman of the bishops’ Commission on Youth, also reminded the faithful that there are “other forms of sacrifice and suffering that would lead to real conversion.”

“The Lord appreciates all these forms of sacrifices, but sometimes the kind of sacrifice that we impose on ourselves … is not what the Lord wants us to do,” he said.

Although the Catholic Church decries the ritual, the government says it cannot stop devotees from crucifying and whipping themselves.

The health department has already warned those taking part in the rituals to have tetanus shots and to only use sterilized nails.

 
National Catholic leaders react to papal resignation

Pope Benedict XVI listens as Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati presents a question during a meeting with U.S. bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington April 16, 2008. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Catholic News Service 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Here are excerpts of statements from U.S. Catholic and other religious leaders released in reaction to Pope Benedict XVI’s Feb. 11 announcement that he is resigning, effective Feb. 28:

— Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles: “Pope Benedict XVI has truly been a Holy Father to the family of God, his Catholic Church. His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the church. This is the act of a saint, who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God’s people. I have great affection for this pope. … He is one of the wisest persons in our world today.”

— Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, N.J: “He had an incredible ability to make the most profound and intense aspects of our faith clear and accessible not only to Catholics but to all people. Pope Benedict XVI helped the world understand Catholicism. … I have always found him to be gentle and kind, despite the contrary perception created by some. … In a world where power and influence are sought after and held tightly, this passing of the papal crozier speaks volumes about Pope Benedict XVI’s humility and desire that the Catholic Church be led effectively and well.”

— Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J.: “His decision clearly reflects his love for the Lord and for the church. Over the decades our Holy Father has proven to be a sensitive pastor, a brilliant scholar and teacher with a profound and stalwart faith in our loving God and his son, Jesus Christ.” — Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco: “On behalf of the priests, religious and lay faithful of the archdiocese … I express our deep gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for his lifetime of tireless and selfless service to the church. That service includes more than sixty years as a priest and of course especially these last seven years as our Holy Father. I will pray for him with great filial affection, and ask that we all hold him in prayer at this time.”

— Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, of Springfield, Ill.: “Throughout his life, he has been a defender of the truth and a voice for the poor. He has been an advocate for peace among nations as well as a promoter of respect for God’s creation in nature… To our Holy Father, I join with the people of this diocese in offering our prayers and best wishes during these last days of his pontificate and for a tranquil retirement.”

— Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of Opus Dei: “The church feels today a special need to thank Benedict XVI for his rich and fruitful magisterium, and also for his humble and generous example of service to the Church and the world. … In this singular moment in the church’s history, the faithful of the prelature — priests and laity — are praying for Benedict XVI … We are invoking the Paraclete’s help for the future Roman pontiff.”

— Kerry Robinson, executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management: “We thank him for his service to the Church and join him in his hope that his successor be elected with recourse to prayer and grace. We look forward to welcoming his successor, a leader charged with managing a global institution serving the spiritual needs of more than 1 billion Catholics while extending pastoral and charitable ministry to many millions more.”

— Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore: “His Holiness is a profound and loving teacher of the faith, a courageous defender of human of human rights and dignity, and a man of prayer, humility, and wisdom. … (I) request the prayers of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and all women and men of good will for Pope Benedict as he concludes his long and loving service to the church.”

— John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America: “Throughout his career, Benedict XVI has conferred upon the church the great gift of his theological wisdom, in a special way deepening our understanding of Catholic education and the role of the Catholic educator… The Catholic University of America will always treasure in a personal way his visit to our campus on April 17, 2008, to address Catholic educators from around the United States.”

— Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis.: “He has written about this (resignation) as a possibility, which we can now say was a preparation for this. This was a courageous decision. … In the meantime, we continue our mission of proclaiming the Gospel. … As part of the new evangelization, this will be a wonderful opportunity for us to discuss our faith with others and to encourage them to once again strengthen their relationship with the church.”

— Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Del.: “No one knows the rigors of the pontificate like the Holy Father and I am sure he gave much consideration, and most importantly, much prayer to this decision. … We entrust the church to Christ’s care, and we know that the Holy Spirit will guide the cardinals who will elect our next pope.”

— Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo.: “Pope Benedict has accomplished much in his nearly eight-year reign. In particular, he took the foundation Blessed John Paul II created for the “new evangelization” and fortified it for his successor. He leaves his position during a Year of Faith that calls every Catholic to assist the Holy Father in rediscovering the joy of living the Catholic faith. His encouragement and openness to modern forms of communication has inspired many Catholics to look for new, innovative ways to evangelize.”

— Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: “This decision … exhibits the great strength and humility of Pope Benedict, recognizing his own human limitations as well as his pastoral solicitude for the well-being of the universal church. I recall with great fondness (his) visit … to the National Shrine in 2008. … At that time, the Holy Father expressed that the purpose of his journey to America was to confirm us in the faith and the hope that is ours in the Lord Jesus.”

— Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Neb.: “We see this decision, in the context of a lifetime of service to the Lord, as an act of great pastoral love for all of us in the church. I remain grateful for his leadership and fatherly care.”

— Bishop Roger J. Foys of Covington, Ky.: “Pope Benedict has been a faithful son of the church and has labored long and hard in the vineyard of the Lord. He has met challenges and criticism with firm faith in the Lord. He has borne … suffering in an exemplary way in these difficult times in which we live when almost everything is questioned and even absolute truth, even the immutable truths of our faith, is called into doubt. We pray that the Holy Father may have the peace that comes from being faithful to the Lord, his word and his church and thank him for the example he has been to us all.”

— Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester, N.H.: “(He) has shown us how the church established by Jesus Christ is a never-ending continuum. … Time and time again, we saw in his ministry how our faith continues to be revealed to us and how our deep traditions continue to guide us forward. Today, he asks us to join him in an historic moment and simultaneously reminds us that all of us are pilgrims on a journey to Christ.”

Cardinal Daniel N. Dinardo of Galveston-Houston: “His papacy has been marked by wonderful encyclicals like ‘Deus Caritas Est,’ many pilgrimages all over the world to visit and strengthen the faith of the local Churches, his great care for peace, for the poor and suffering, especially in developing countries, his great care for the Middle East, and his vision for a new evangelization and a deeper attachment to the person of Jesus Christ by all the clergy and faithful.”

— Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill.: “He has continued the work of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that is so deeply influenced by rationalism, materialism, relativism, and individualism that it is difficult for many to embrace faith in God, love of all people as one’s neighbor, and service to the poor and afflicted; difficult to affirm the authentic teachings of the church concerning what it means to be human, what it means to be a family, what it means to respect the dignity and worth of every human life, even the most vulnerable.”

— Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League: “Benedict XVI has profoundly bolstered the positive trajectory of Catholic-Jewish relations launched by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked closely with John Paul during his 26 year papacy, developing a historic new relationship between Catholic and Jews as ‘loving brothers and sisters’ after centuries of tragedy. … There were bumps in the road during this papacy … But (Benedict) listened to our concerns and tried to address them, which shows how close our two communities have become in the last half century, and how much more work we need to do together to help repair a broken world.”

 
Phuong Mai Dong Welcomed as Sisters of Mercy Candidate

By Sister Victoria Vondenberger 

On Aug. 4, the Sisters of Mercy welcomed Phuong (pronounced “Fong”) Mai Dong as a candidate for the Mercy South Central Community.

About 60 Mercy Sisters, Associates and some of her family members attended the prayer service in Cincinnati at McAuley Convent. Phuong, 22, is a lovely, petite and quiet young lady. Born in Vietnam, Phuong came to the US with her mother and sister when she was five years old. A decade later, her father was able to follow his wife and children.

Asked about when she first considered religious life, Phuong lit up with the memory and offered the very sure response that happened when she was five years old. Phuong’s mother asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. When Phuong had no response, her mother asked, “How about being a Sister?”

In middle school, Phuong kept saying a religious vocation was not what she wanted when pastors, priests and women religious would ask her about possibly having a religious vocation. In high school, she thought about other careers, perhaps in art, which she loves, or in psychology or nursing. Like her friends, Phuong was attracted to different boys and dreamed about dates and marriage. Phuong said she has always been shy and lacked courage to ask a boy for a date. She had many boys who were friends but no serious boyfriends.

Phuong worked as a nail technician doing pedicures and manicures for a time before she got her license at age 18 and went to college to prepare to be a nursing assistant as a step to becoming a registered nurse. She finished college in 2010, worked in assisted living situations and offered home health care, primarily for the elderly.

Her pastor saw that Phuong was very involved in altar service from the days of middle school, even becoming leader of the altar servers for her parish. In her parish, boys and girls become servers after first Communion. There was something about being on the altar that really gripped Phuong and motivated her to be very involved. She recruited others to serve also.

Phuong spent a lot of time thinking and praying about her future before she went to college, and especially as she neared completion of her studies. Meanwhile, her pastors and other priests kept asking Phuong if she thought she had a religious vocation. Finally, she gave in said, “Fine, I’ll be a Sister.” She was introduced to several religious orders, but felt a special attraction to the Sisters of Mercy.

Phuong met vocation minister Sister Kathleen Tinnel and began the process of discerning her vocation to Mercy in 2009. At that time, 19 year old Phuong was the youngest woman considering joining the Mercy community. Phuong also met Sister Elizabeth Nguyen and made a one week retreat in St. Louis with others who were considering religious life. Phuong recalled that she just felt more comfortable with the Sisters of Mercy than with other religious orders she visited. She said she has learned to listen closely to how God calls us in our lives and she also listens to what others who know her tell her that it seems God wants her to do.

After a lot of praying, thinking, retreat and meeting other congregations of religious during two years of discernment, Phuong feels peace in her decision to become a Sister of Mercy.

Asked why she was attracted to Mercy, Phuong said she felt that she fit in with the Sisters. She saw that they prayed together and went out to do ministry, then came home to eat together, to share their lives and to pray together once again before returning to their ministries. It felt “like my home,” said Phuong about what the constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy describe as a rhythm of contemplation and action. At least one other community she considered seemed to pray for long hours, but they did not speak with each other very much.

At first Phuong said her parents were surprised she was seriously considering a religious vocation but they quickly agreed and supported her in her pursuing the discernment process.

Her high school friends were also surprised and Phuong received response such as, “Really?” and “You’re crazy!” but her peers also support her decision. They want to be sure Phuong will connect with them when she visits her family. Most of them are now in college or newly married.

Entering the Mercy community for Phuong meant moving some distance from her Vietnamese family. She has a sister who is seven years older and lives with their parents, her husband and their two and three year old toddlers near Atlanta. It is hard to be eight hours away from the home where she lived with her parents and her sister’s family, Phuong admitted.

At the close of the welcoming prayer service, the group was asked to move to the reception leaving Phuong and her parents some quiet time for prayer. The last ones out of the chapel saw Phuong kneeling on the carpet between her parents before the tabernacle, still supported by the mother and father who nurtured her faith and then generously chose to let their daughter go into God’s service.

Phuong currently ministers at Mercy Montessori, where, along with several other childcare professionals she works with preschoolers in the aftercare program. Those who know Phuong say her gentle manner comforts the little ones in her care.