This morning, August 28th, began with the Sacrifice of the Mass offered by Father Jeremiah, a monk of Saint Mary’s Abbey, at Villa Walsh, The Institute of the Religious Teachers Filippini. The monks of Saint Mary’s Abbey have offered Mass for the sisters for many decades. We had a modest and delightful breakfast with Sister Betty Jean, the Provincial of the Filippini sisters and some other sisters. The sisters’ patience with me was grand because I had so many questions about the Congregation; I had never met a Filippini sister before and I was intrigued by their charism.
The vocation of a Filippini sister, based on what Saint Lucy Filippini and Cardinal Mark Anthony Barbarigo gave to the Church is your fundamental living of the Gospel being a contemplative in action, that is, A Filippini sister has a life of prayer with her life of ministry. Sounds like the Jesuits and other orders founded since the 16th century; and you can see these sisters are serious about their vocation when you meet them. Saint Lucy and the Cardinal founded schools of Christian Doctrine for girls in Italy, ministered to the poor and the sick, conducted retreats and guided the women preparing for marriage. What more does the Church need?
Later in the morning, Father Jeremiah and I ventured to Newark Abbey and Saint Benedict Prep
to visit with the Benedictine monks, particularly Brothers Maximilian and Patrick. We prayed Mid-day prayer in a beautiful abbey church, toured the school, Saint Mary’s Parish and the abbey. Newark Abbey is the original site of the Benedictine monks of the American-Cassinese Congregation sent by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer in 1857 to Newark. It is from this abbey that Saint Anselm’s Abbey and later college where founded in Manchester, NH, and Saint Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, NJ. Brothers Maximilian and Patrick were very gracious hosts and great fun. We lunched at The Tops Diner (East Newark) and visited Newark’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart. You would not believe the beauty of this cathedral church! Even Pope John Paul II made a visit here and former President William Clinton remarked how surprised he was to see such a magnificent in Newark, New Jersey. A brief video was produced in 2007 by the NJ Star Ledger on the Newark Abbey monks, have a look.
The last treat of the day was the afternoon visit to the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal based at the Friary of the Blessed Sacrament (Newark, NJ). This is the group founded by Father Benedict Groeschel and seven other Capuchin friars in 1987. The friary was the former the Monastery of Saint Dominic (nuns of the 2nd order of the Order of Preachers). It was indeed a privilege to visit the friary: it was peaceful, prayer-filled and beautiful (much work has been in the 4 years since the coming of the friars). When the nuns moved to other monasteries, their dead were exhumed and reburied in a local cemetery, including the incorrupt body of an extern sister known for holiness, Sister Mary of the Blessed Sacrament who died in 1899. Our host at the friary was Father Richard who graciously illustrated for us the life of the friars: their simple life, their prayer and their clear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What I experienced was genuine and one which I have confidence is made by God for service in the Church.
What a day! Say a prayer for the Filippini sisters, the monks of Newark and the Friars of the Renewal: they need our moral and spiritual solidarity, indeed they need we ought to be in friendship with them. Perhaps more accurately, we need their witness!