Greeting of Pope Francis

Greeting of Pope Francis-St  Charles 2Springfield – The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) which took place from September 22nd-26th and was the first held in the Americas, brought thousands from the region, the U.S. and from throughout the world to Philadelphia to attend with its theme being Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive. Historically, the reigning popes would attend some part of the WMOF and this proved to be true for the WMOF held in Philadelphia. Joined to Pope Francis’ memorable and inspirational visits to Cuba, Washington, D.C. and New York City, his visit to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was met with great enthusiasm, excitement and warmth.
From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has taught and modeled a “message of mercy” and this was very much in evidence during his stay in Philadelphia. He spoke on the issue of migrants at Independence Hall; he met and spent time with prisoners in one of the city prisons; he blessed a grotto of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, a particular devotion of the Holy Father; and he met with victims of clergy sexual abuse. These were all highly publicized parts of the itinerary of the Holy Father and rightly so representing for us that our pontiff is a “servant” and “martyr” (to bear witness to the faith) of mercy.
One last example of Pope Francis’ witness to the “Gospel of Mercy” was a pre-arranged but little publicized greeting of the Holy Father upon his arrival at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary- his home for his two day visit. Word was received two months before the pope’s arrival to Philadelphia that a group of residents, nine in all, from the programs of Don Guanella Village, Divine Providence Village and St. Edmond’s Home, along with 2 family members each, the administrators of the programs and I would have the blessing and privilege of greeting and meeting the Holy Father as he entered the grand foyer of the seminary. Much anticipation and excitement accompanied this greeting which would take place on Saturday, September 26th. After the Holy Father was met and greeted outside the main entrance of the seminary by Archbishop Chaput, the seminary rector and the 150 seminarians, he entered into the foyer and immediately began to shake hands, embrace and bless the residents and their family members. You could see the warmth, the love and the spirit of encounter that the Holy Father often speaks of present in the demeanor of the Pope. It brought to mind for me the motto Pope Francis has chosen for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “merciful like the Father.” In Pope Francis, we beheld the merciful, compassionate and generous love of the Father and the “face of mercy”, His Son Jesus Christ. An incredible, blessed and grace-filled experience for all who greeted Pope Francis that day!

Another School Year Underway

IMG_7591E. Providence – To open the new school year, Fr. Silvio gave the first graders of Sacred Heart School a blessing during the beginning of the year Mass. He also wanted them to learn about the Pope, so Fr. Silvio gave the class a book about Pope Francis prior to his visit to the US. Their teacher read parts of it to the class throughout his visit. They read that Pope Francis’ favorite part of the day is in the evening when he prays in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour of Adoration. They were excited to hear that because they go to Adoration in October and May! So they took Flat Francis with them to the church, stopping to take a picture with the St. Louis Guanella statue, too. The first graders participate in a year-long Flat Stanley project so they couldn’t resist introducing Flat Francis to their Flat Stanleys!

Seminarians Outing

Legazpi 3Legazpi  – The seminarians headed to Busay Falls on August 8th. It is located in Malilipot, Albay, about 45 minutes away. The eight seminarians and their formator, took time to relax, enjoy the falls and renew friendships and fraternity. All worries were pushed aside to make the day meaningful for discernment; they even shared their various talents of singing, dancing, playing volleyball and guitar. They had the opportunity to understand and be confident in their vocation. The Busay Falls is a marvel of nature reminiscent of St. Francis, who loved Gods creation and Pope Francis, who invites us to care for the environment in Laudato si. The second part of the journey was a visit to the “Brothers of Charity” congregation in Tabaco. The Superior, Bro. Isidore Kiro, was a gracious host; introducing their novices from Africa, India, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Philippines. It was an opportunity to see both the cultural diversity in their community, as well as their singular spirit of service to the church. The whole day was enriching for all the seminarians.

Guanellian Cooperators and Special Children Blessed by Pope

Manila – During the visit of Pope Francis in Manila, four tickets were given to our community to participate in the gathering with families at the Mall of Asia Arena. Two of our active Cooperators, Jun Hizon and Sonya Pilarta were given the chance to attend this gathering because of our resident persons with disabilities; Tommy and John Paul. Because of his wheelchair, John Paul was placed in front with his companion, Jun Hizon. To their surprise, when the Pope arrived, they were greeted personally by the Pope. John Paul was blessed and touched by Pope Francis on his head and Jun kissed the ring of Pope Francis. Jun said: “My having been blessed to have kissed the ring of Pope Francis is an experience I will cherish forever. I was so overwhelmed at seeing his kind, serene and gentle face that I was not able to say a word of thanks for his blessings to John Paul and me. While awaiting his arrival I said to myself that given the opportunity I will kiss the ring of Pope Francis, and Divine Providence intervened.”John Paul 01 Cooperator with Pope

Guanellians at Pope Francis’ Mass

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Manila – The concluding mass of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines was held on January 18th, and was a great opportunity for us to see the pope in person. Eight of our special children, seven seminarians and three priests joined the concluding celebration. Pope Francis’ visit gave hope to the Philippines on a rainy day caused by a typhoon, yet no storm could keep us from attending the closing Mass. Many Filipinos showed their faith and made personal sacrifices to witness this event. We spent many long hours waiting in a downpour with our eight loving special children who never complained, and were given a special place in front of the stage with other groups caring for persons with disabilities.
The cold and hunger left us upon the arrival of the Pope, and everything turned to joy. The Papal mass was celebrated solemnly, and all people near and far participated in singing and responding during the mass. The whole assembly received the grace of God through the presence of Pope Francis, and it was an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience.

Theological Reflection

Chennai – On November 20th a theological reflection was led by the students of First Year theology. They presented the theme, “Pastoral Challenges in the Family,” as Pope Francis announced this to be the year of family. It was very apt to have reflections based on family in line with our pastoral theme, “Bond of Charity.” Fr. Francis, Vice-Rector of Don Guanella Major Seminary, was the chief-guest for the event. The brothers led the community to reflect upon the basic foundations of the family. They contributed the entire negative and the positive elements of family. And as religious living family life, we should have elements of the family. There was a Q&A period for the audience to clarify their doubts. During his address, Fr. Francis also shared his thoughts about family and invited everyone to contemplate “life as the Guanellian Family.” The reflection ended with the Papal anthem.   DGMS event

Guanellian Family Prepares for Lent

20141130_112215Grass Lake – The aroma of freshly cut pine and evergreen branches was in the air at the Pious Union of St. Joseph on Sunday, November 30th, the First Sunday of Advent. On that day we held a Guanellian Family Day and made Advent Wreaths from real evergreen branches.

After 10AM Mass, all were invited to the Pastoral Center where each family worked together to make an Advent Wreath for their home.  It was beautiful to see each member of the family taking a turn to place an evergreen branch into the wet floral foam as the wreaths were assembled.

The Guanellian Family Day has been a tradition at the Pious Union, where we give opportunities to our area families and pilgrims to have some spiritual enrichment. We recognize the importance of our Guanellian traditions, but also that family life is the foundation of our society. As Pope Francis has emphasized, “It is in the family, with its unique capacity to form each member, particularly the young, into persons of love, sacrifice, commitment and fidelity, that the Church and society …will find the resources necessary to renew and build up a culture of solidarity.”

The custom of the Advent Wreath is a simple tradition that helps us to await the coming of Christ. It is a custom rich in symbolism, as each part of the wreath has significance. As each family finished assembling their wreath, a prayer service was held. Each part of the prayer was not only an intercession, but also contained a short explanation as to what each symbol meant. Fr. Satheesh then blessed all the wreaths with holy water and all shared a potluck meal.

The Harvest of Happiness Lies in Giving not in Receiving

“We weep for what you have lost, fight for what you have.
Weep not for what is dead, fight for what is born in you.
Weep not for the one who abandoned you, fight for who is with you.
Weep not for those who hate you, fight for those who want you.
Weep not for your past, fight for your present struggle.
Weep not for your suffering, fight for your happiness.
With things that are happening to us we begin to learn that nothing is impossible to solve, just move forward.”

Pope Francis

These words of Pope Francis were also true in the life of our Founder, St. Louis Guanella. As Servants of Charity (Guanellians), we exclaim, along with Mother Church, joy in inaugurating the centennial anniversary of the death of our Founder, St. Louis Guanella, who embraced love in its dignity, poor and neglected people in their fraternity, and orphans in their solidarity. He lived as a saint of the poor in those days where miseries, sufferings and neglect were at their peak. The man born in the small village of Fraciscio, Italy became the illumination and light of the people; especially those who cry “I have no one.” His complete surrender to Divine Providence is a magnifying exhortation of his life’s glorification. That’s why “his works are sustained by the spirit of trust in providence, of work and of sacrifice that is holiness and work. The only things we should fear in regard to the life of our Houses are sin and lack of trust in the Lord.”
“We are united with each other principally by the bond of charity intended by the founder to be the life of God poured forth into our hearts by the Spirit and by the love of individuals who enjoy living and working together.” (Con. 12) This bond is the source of our progress and perfection, which sustains us in the mission of our Founder. The theme of our Provincial Chapter invites us to be in fraternity, having a sense of belonging and surrendering oneself for fraternal correction. “It is not my will but let thy will be done” (Mt 26,39) was the act of surrender by Jesus when he was in pain and agony. Though everyone deserted him, his trust in his Father never wavered. He committed and convicted himself in the kenosis of His Father’s mission. Therefore, the world is drawing us into a mess; mesmerizing advertisements, unquenchable consumerism, fascinating and fabricating ideologies, tricky principles of division, magna carta of political arenas, edifying and enriching social mass media and a spiritual dryness and vacuum in the hearts of people takes humanity away from the heights of heaven. There is need of living well, but there is even more need of dying well. A good death is everything, especially today where people think only of things and enjoyment here on earth, rejecting eternity says our Founder. So we are invited to bear the burden of one another (Gal 6,2) and to show filial surrender to our brethren and work for the alleviation of suffering taking on the program of our founder, “Pray and Suffer.” As this month is dedicated to the Divine rosary, let us take all our petitions and prayers to our Divine Mother so that she may obtain for us all the necessary graces. The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched;  they must be felt with the heart says Helen Keller.

Fr. Soosai Rathinam

Road Map for the Fullness of Life

Provincial Superior Fr. Soosai Rathinam

GoodShepherdFlowers-sacrd heartIn our Province, we have the joy of entering into the “New Pastoral Year in Asia” which consists of labor, watchfulness, perseverance and self-denial. In “The Cup of our Life”, Joyce Rupp writes, “ A cup is a container for holding something; whatever it holds eventually has to be emptied out so that something more can be put into it, to make room for the new. Therefore, a constant process of emptying and filling, of giving and receiving, of accepting and letting go.” These are the qualities of life in the field of mission, education, and formation that is, “doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well,” and our magic formula is “Imitate, Improve and Innovate” which is the strategy of Japan to become a super power.
Be Proactive: it is the awareness that you are the animator of your life, a strategic thinker, following a plan and anticipating obstacles before they become problems. We are all responsible for our life and actions. Therefore, we need not throw our responsibilities on others without conviction or be carried away by shifting the responsibility for our action to someone else.
Aim for the fullness of life: Pope Francis on May 10, 2014 addressed around 300 thousand people, mostly students, saying, “Let us not steal the love for school; true education makes us love life and opens us to the fullness of life.”
Let us have full FOCUS on our ministry! When it comes to ministry the question shouldn’t be what else can I do? The question should be, what can I do that no one else can do? And what can I do that no one else is doing?
June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart which represents the core of the person, center of all our spiritual activities, and seat of emotions, love and compassion. Therefore “when a heart is inflamed with a heavenly charity, it will certainly work miracles of holy undertakings”- St. Louis Guanella.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam

Luxurious Poverty…U-Turn!!!

Fr. Soosai Rathinam, SdC

“No one can live without delight and that is why man, deprived of spiritual joy, goes over to fleshly pleasures” (Thomas Aquinas). Our reliance on other persons and attachment to worldly possessions in this hedonistic culture is quite normal. For some, a car is a wife for others, computers, cell phones, friends and financial security and so on and so on. I have trusted him/her like a mountain but he/she has abandoned, betrayed me… these are the desperations and  cries of today’s lives. In this context, possessions lead to attachment which leads to greediness and a grabbing mentality.

Instead of relying on material security, we should rely on God and in His Providence and thus we become voluntarily poor like St. Francis of Assisi who said “My God and my all” which was his prayer. In the life of Jesus, He identified Himself with the poor and His lifestyle had no security, comfort, permanent house, and He was even buried in a borrowed grave. The followers of Jesus also left everything- nets, boats, hired servants, tax office, etc.

“Give what you have to the poor” and “poverty depends on Charity “says our father of the poor St. Guanella. His eyes were able to see Jesus in the poor, “the most abandoned of all, bring him in, sit him at your table and make him yours, because he is Jesus”. Fr. Guanella warned the religious “let the two sins against providence be avoided “spending uselessly and refusing ourselves what is necessary for food, clothing and health. Our founder underwent umpteen sufferings, miscomprehensions, the FOUR F’S (fame-hungry, freddo-cold, fumo-smoke, fastidi-adversity) He always encourages us to love poverty, love the cross, and embrace penances and thus we can ascend the ladder of perfection.

Our Holy Father’s Lenten message is an eye opener to make an examination of conscience on a life of evangelical poverty in three types (of destitution): material, moral and spiritual and show our ‘Diaconia’ in meeting the needs of the poorest and alleviate the poverty with compassion, tenderness and solidarity of His love. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial in order to enrich others by our own poverty and solidarity. The recent Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India also urged us to become an example of simplicity, transparency, justice and mercy in a society polluted by corruption and violence.

St. Joseph loved poverty and suffered the privation of life with patience and without murmur or complaint! He is a model of patience and was full of the virtue of humility and, with a righteous attitude, obeyed the plan of God. May he bless each one of us to be generous through our personal and community poverty!