Chronicle – Ordinations 2017

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the Lord’s name
~Ps 116:12~

These words from the psalmist beautifully describe the interior sentiments of all five men who were ordained to the priesthood during the month of May for the Province of the Immaculate Conception. Hailing from five different countries, (Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, and the USA) these new priests were made perpetual participants in the High Priest’s sacrificial office in three different locations on three different days. Fr. Ted Trinko was ordained in his home parish of Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara on May 8th, Our Lady of Lujan’s feast day. Present at that Mass was then Dcn. Michael Zhang who was soon thereafter ordained in his own hometown of Hong Kong on May 20th. Finally, Fr. Manuel Palma, Mariano Ruiz, and Willian Valle together with Dcn. Cecilio Hernandez were ordained together at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC on May 27th by the hands of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick. In his homily, His Eminence highlighted the positive response to God’s call which was given by all the candidates and how their vocation ultimately called them to an intimate union with Christ. All three liturgies were accompanied by an overflowing spirit of joy and gratitude for the grace of the priesthood.

In the days following the ordination, the new priests celebrated their first Masses with large number of their personal and religious family members in attendance. Coming together from all over the world to form their hearts into one like Christ’s, they will now spread back out to the four corners of the globe in order to give back to God’s people by means of the Word of God what they have contemplated during these years of formation.[1]

However, as Bl. Columba Marmion taught, these men were ordained principally in order to give men the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.[2] It was to complete this function that the very sacrament of Holy Orders exists. These priests, who “are bound, to acquire [spiritual] perfection in special fashion”[3] will do so principally through the proper celebration of the Mass since this is the greatest act of priestly charity which can be realized.[4] Acknowledging this, the Venerable Fulton Sheen, himself very talented, taught that the priest’s apostolic effectiveness “has little or nothing to do with their natural endowments. A Eucharistic priest will be a better instrument of the Lord among souls that a learned one who loves him less… ‘I will give such priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.’”[5] On the other hand, the fall of the priest, teaches Sheen, is necessarily accompanied by the priest withdrawing to a distance from the Eucharistic Lord.[6]

But Christ does not come off with the chasuble.[7] And so the priest must perform other ministries as well which do not come about ex opera operantis. Rather, these other ministries which these new priests will perform depend on their very sanctity. This is the teaching of our spiritual father, St. John Paul II, who wrote that the “greater or lesser degree of the holiness of the minster has a real effect on the proclamation of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and the leadership of the community in charity”[8] It is explained by the Holy Vatican Council which stated: “God ordinarily prefers to show his wonders through those men who are more submissive to the impulse and guidance of the Holy Spirit.”[9] This holiness will attract penitents to his confessional,[10] promote the growth of the Church,[11] and inspire him to be heard even by unbelievers.[12] It is not a question of simply choosing to pursue holiness, for Canon Law actually requires it of priests: “In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.”[13]

But keeping in mind that the very desire for sanctity is a grace which comes from above, we, the new priests of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, humbly commend ourselves to your prayers. At the risk of sounding cliché, helps us with your prayers, that we might help you with our ministry. There are certain graces which God has deigned only to bestow upon us once we ask Him for them. Here we can see the power of prayer which St. Therese of the Child Jesus described so beautifully: “How great is the power of prayer! One could call it a Queen who has at each instant free access to the King and who is able to obtain whatever she asks.”[14] Therefore we ask you who read this to present yourselves before our heavenly Father, interceding on behalf of all priests, that we might receive docilely the graces needed for the faithful and efficacious fulfillment of our ministry.

May God Bless you all,

Fr. Ted Trinko, IVE


[1] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, 188, 6: “Preaching should proceed from the fullness of contemplation.”

[2] Cf. Bl. Columba Marmion, Jesucristo: ideal del sacerdote, IIª parte – La obra de la santificación sacerdotal (continuación) B) In iis Quae sunt ad Deum, XI. Haced esto en memoria mía, p. 123.

[3] Vatican Council II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12)

[4] Bl. Columbas Marmion, Jesucristo: ideal del sacerdote, IIª parte – La obra de la santificación sacerdotal, 5. La Caridad en el ministerio de la palabra, p. 122: “The most excellent act of priestly charity is the Mass well said. When celebrated, the priest cannot thing exclusively of himself, because he carries in his heart the responsibilities of the souls that are entrusted to Him.”

[5] Fulton Sheen, The Priest Is Not His Own, 233.

[6] Ibid. 184.

[7] Cf. ibid., 56.

[8] Pope St. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, 25.

[9] Vatican Council II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12.

[10] Sheen, The Priest, 152.

[11] Ibid., 77.

[12] Ibid., 81.

[13] Code of Canon Law, 276 §1.

[14] St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, Ch. 11.

Ordination to the Priesthood of Theodore Trinko

Dear All,

On May 8th, feast of the Virgin of Luján, at a Mass celebrated at 5 pm at Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, CA, Bishop Thomas Daly ordained Dcn. Theodore Trinko to the priesthood.

In Christ, the Incarnate Word, and His Mother,

Fr. Alberto Barattero, IVE

Good nights for the Vigil of Our Lady of Luján

          As happens about once every six years or so, this year Mother’s Day falls on May 8th, a fitting tribute to the greatest of all mothers and, in particular, the one who is the Mother of our religious family.[1]

          In every Marian apparition or miracle, some aspect of her maternal affection for us shines forth, just as a diamond reflects the light in different ways as we turn it in our hands. In apparitions where Mary speaks, this care shines forth in her words, the way she speaks, and even in the language she uses. For instance, who could fail to see Mary’s motherly love at La Salette, when, upon seeing that the visionaries, two uneducated peasant children, didn’t understand her French, she said, “Ah, my children, you don’t understand me; I will speak differently,” and then repeated her words in their local dialect. Or her maternal compassion at Lourdes, where Our Lady spoke to Saint Bernadette almost exclusively in her Lourdes dialect, as Bernadette proudly notes,[2] and displayed such warmth and such affection for the sickly and long-suffering Bernadette that the phrase, “she smiled at me,” appears almost as a refrain in her accounts of the apparitions.

          Yet, Mary’s maternal affection is seen perhaps even more clearly when she doesn’t speak, not because her words get in the way, but because silence has a way of calling our attention to what would otherwise pass unnoticed. A mother may tell her child a thousand times a day that she loves him, and we don’t doubt her, but we are overwhelmed by her love as she silently keeps vigil over her child when he is sick or asleep. Mary’s silence always has a particular eloquence of its own, because that silence is an echo of Calvary where she, the silent Mother of the Word Incarnate, became our mother in that marvelous exchange: “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26). We can apply to her the words of Psalm 19: “No speech, no word, no voice is heard, yet her sound extends through all the earth, her words to the utmost bounds of the world” (v. 4-5). Her silence speaks to us of all her love, all her affection, and all the graces won for us as she “received her wounds in the house of her beloved.”[3]

          Sometimes that silence lasts for just a brief moment; such was the case at Knock, when Our Lady and her companions appeared and disappeared all the while hidden under the cloak of silence. In such cases, the silence lives on in the memory of that appearance. Yet, at times, Mary deigns to leave an ever-present reminder, an image of her silence that continues to speak, and such is the case of Luján.

          A mother’s love is uncomplicated, unconditional, and overwhelmingly simple. We’d be hard pressed to find a simpler miracle than the one at Luján. God’s providence sent two statues down the path by the river, but our Lady chose one to remain there.[4] It’s as though the Queen of Heaven simply laid her finger on the cart and said, “This far, and no farther. Here I stay with my children.” That’s all. And from the banks of that river her image continues to silently remind us of her overwhelming love, affection, and concern for us as individuals, but especially as religious of the Incarnate Word family, who were born under her mantle and continue to seek shelter there, despite whatever storms or trials might arise. In silence she intercedes for us, and even in silence can obtain what we need, as the story is told of Saint Gemma Galgani. In ecstasy she begged Jesus for the grace of conversion for a sinner, which He refused. She appealed to His sacrifice on Calvary, to His mercy, to His charity . . . nothing; finally, Gemma threatened, “Jesus, I’ll ask your Mom. Imagine saying no to your mom.” To that, Jesus replied, “If that’s the case, then I cannot refuse.” Sure enough, the sinner arrived within the hour, and made his confession. “No speech, no word, no voice is heard, yet her sound extends through all the earth, her words to the utmost bounds of the world,” even into the depths of her Son’s Sacred Heart. Every trial and difficulty is an opportunity to run and trust Our Lady’s love even more, the occasion to make our own the plea of the Ave Maris Stella: Monstra te esse matrem, Show yourself to be a mother.

          In her writings about the apparitions at Lourdes, Bernadette, almost in passing, makes the following note: “I noticed that Our Blessed Lady would often look over my head to single out individuals in the crowd. She would then smile on them as though they were old familiar friends.”  Let us ask for the grace, for all of us, especially for those who tomorrow will consecrate themselves to Mary, to always turn to Mary in our needs so that at the end of our lives, she might lead us as “old familiar friends” and beloved sons and daughters past the veil of silence to join with her in the eternal hymn of praise in heaven.

Fr. Nathaniel Dreyer, IVE


[1] This good night was originally given in 2016, when Mothers’ Day in the United States fell on the 8th.

[2] Cf. M. Estrade’s The Appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Lourdes (Kent, UK: Burns Oates and Washbourne Limited, 1912), 246: “One day when she was talking with us, I said to her, ‘Tell me, Bernadette, did the Lady of the Grotto speak to you in French or in patois?’ ‘Oh, patois.’ ‘Bah! Do you mean to say that a lady of such lofty rank knows patois?’ ‘Yes.’ Then she added proudly, ‘And it was the Lourdes patois which she spoke.’” There was only one exception: “The parish priest told Bernadette to ask the lady her name; at the last apparition, the lady folded her hands and said, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception.’ On previous occasions, the lady had spoken with Bernadette in her native patois, or dialect, but when asked her name, she replied in proper French. Bernadette did not understand the words, and had to keep repeating them to herself as she went to tell the priest” (Ann Ball, Modern Saints: Their Lives and Faces (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2011), 73).

[3] Cf. the Greek version of Zechariah 13:6, which reads: evn tw|/ oi;kw| tw|/ avgaphtw|/ mou

[4] Cf. Carlos Miguel Buela, Maria de Lujan (New York: IVE Press, 2011), 37.

With Peter in Mark’s House

Alexandria, May 3rd, 2017

Dear All in the Incarnate Word:

First of all, Happy “dia del Cristo de la Quebrada” and the 36th anniversary of the moment that Father Buela received the foundational grace!  Best wishes to all and may Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin grant that we may always persevere with fidelity and joy.

How good and merciful God has been, and continues to be with us, from that moment in which we were conceived for religious life!  To Him all the glory!

* * *

We are in Egypt.  We continue with a particular joy, and with a serenity that is rare in the frantic life of Cairo and Alexandria.

What happened?

A historic event, in my opinion.

After the terrible attacks against the Christian community of Egypt that took the lives of – and gifted us with – dozens of innocent Coptic martyrs, Pope Francis decided not to cancel his visit to Egypt.  This visit had been planned long before.  To tell the truth, there was fear about what could happen to him, to all the Christians, and the consequences that would follow everywhere.  The blood that had been shed on Palm Sunday of this year was still fresh!  Less than a month had passed since then.

If anything had happened, it would have been terrible.  Not only because of the essential of the  possible results: the offense against God and His Messiah, and the danger of perdition for those who would commit such grave crimes, but also because it would have been the downfall of Egypt as a country; foreign relations would have crumbled, as well as the “diminutive” Catholic presence here.

Yet, thanks be to God, none of this took place, and for this reason almost everyone here is very serene and content, simply because the apostolic visit of the Holy Father was successful.  It was a historic event, not only because it repeated the visit of the successor of St. Peter to the so called successor of St. Mark, as St. John Paul II had done, but because of the very difficult circumstances at the national, regional and world-wide levels in which this visit took place.

There were thousands and thousands of people who took care of everything that was necessary, from the logistics of the faithful for the celebrations to the security at all the levels.  Worthy of notice were the labor of the military, the special forces, police, etc.  Their vast operation was impressive and efficient.  We also remember that most of them are not Christian and they carried out their work  in a professional and very respectful way.  It was moving to see the Christians, for example, especially after the celebrations, passing beside the security forces and thanking them as though they had been the hosts of the events and a type of “heros”.  It was very good.  Deo gratias!

Even so, the fact that this was a historic success does not mean that all of the problems of Egypt; of the Middle East; the theme of interreligious dialogue; the full acknowledgement by the orthodox of catholic baptism; civil and religious rights for Christians and in particular for catholics, foreign relations, peace, etc. etc. etc. is all good.  What is certain is that the trip, the messages, the gestures, the peace lived during these days, and the common declarations, among other things, gave the inhabitants of this beautiful country a clear sign that peace and co-existence are possible when they are desired in an efficacious way, and this was evident.  It showed also that the Christian presence is an essential and very beneficial part of the life of this noble nation.

Almost all of our own who live in Egypt, including the people in our care, were able to participate in the two main events accessible to all.  The Holy Father’s entire trip lasted about 26 hours.

He had very fruitful encounters with the President of the Republic, with the Orthodox Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II and with the great Iman El Azhar, as well as meetings with the bishops, the Catholic Coptic Patriarch, priests, religious and lay people.

On Saturday morning there was Holy Mass in the military stadium of Cairo, and afterwards, and encounter with religious in the Catholic Coptic seminary of Egypt.  Father Jorge Hernandez had the opportunity to participate in the ecumenical prayer encounter the day before.  He was going to translate the message of the Pope, which was in Spanish as well as the following prayer, but since the beginning of the ceremony was delayed by two and a half hours, they cut the speeches, and when Fr. Jorge was going to translate the – finally – short greeting of the Holy Father, they told him not to.  It was a pity that the Holy Father could not give the speech he had planned, and poor Fr. Jorge had spent many days carefully preparing himself to give a simultaneous translation of the Spanish into Classic Arabic.  The practice will be of service to him for some other occasion!  In fact, we spent the time translating.  Deo gratias!

To end this chronicle, I would like to tell you something very beautiful that happened to me on the afternoon of last Saturday, April 29th.

We were preparing for the encounter with the religious.  We were literally cooking under the sun, little by little, but like a fire!  Fine, I go to look for a bit of water, and at this moment I heard them call various priests by name – I didn’t know a single one -.  I returned to the place they had assigned me for the superiors of congregations and asked the girl in charge of our section if there had been any other indication.  She checked, and as the provincial superior I had to be in committee to welcome Pope Francis when he arrived for the encounter with the religious.

She took me through various checkpoints, convincing the guards, who knew that she was one of the ones in charge, that I had to be with the other provincial superiors.  We were few.  The provincial of the Franciscans, the Jesuits, the Combonianos, and IVE.

I had barely settled myself in the reception área, when Pope Francis entered the seminary, and when he got to me I introduced myself and kissed his hand: “I am of the IVE Holy Father, I am the new provincial in the Middle East.”  Then the Holy Father said to me: “That’s great!  I want to thank you for all that you do, for all the good you do.  Where there are difficulties, where there are problems, you go and put yourselves to work.  Very good!  This is worth a great deal!”

I said to him: “pray for our missions, I especially ask you…” and going close to his ear I asked him for a couple of very important missions with a few difficulties.  I was surprised because he began to converse with me, asking me more about what I had asked him, and other related issues.

In addition to the words of praise he spoke about our missions around the world at the beginning, he added some in reference to the work with persecuted Christians, motivating me and telling me that this work, and our missions: “It is very important!  And again “What you do is very important!”

He was very happy with what we are doing and he told me happily, making a gesture that we should continue forward, “You already had your general chapter.  That’s good.”(¡Está todo bien!”.)

I asked him again to pray for us and told him that we pray very much for him and I thanked him for his words.

I had barely finished speaking with him when they gave me a commemorative medal of his apostolic visit to Egypt like the one that is in the photograph.

It is beautiful news.!

We continue to pray always for the Holy Father and for each and every one of our brothers and sisters in the Incarnate Word.

Un fuerte abrazo.

In Domino

Gabriel Romanelli, IVE

Provincial of the Middle East and Africa

Note:

Today the apostolic vicar of His Holiness for Egypt, Mons. Adel Zaki, celebrated Holy Mass, offereing it for our founder, Fr. Carlos Buela, and for the priests, religious and lay members of the Religious family of the Incarnate Word in the Middle East.

Sr. Maria del Corpus Domini Valle’s Funeral in Tuscania and Pontinia, Italy March 23-24, 2017

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Pontinia – Blessed Maria Gabriela de la Unidad Monastery

Sr. Maria del Corpus Domini passed away on Wednesday, March 22nd. The vivid desire to contemplate Jesus Christ and that He would call her on the 21st of March, the day of her anniversary of religious profession moved her to prepare all the details of her funeral. She would fall asleep with this desire during her last days. One of the sisters who was taking care of her said that during the night she would wake up and ask: “Still the Spouse has not come?”

Our Lord Jesus Christ had also prepared the smallest details from all eternity for this unique and mysterious moment. Well do we know that nothing is coincidental in the divine plan but rather that all has been perfectly determined by the loving providence of the Creator.

It was not coincidental that Sr. Corpus Domini would die after completing 25 years of her religious profession nor was it coincidental that a few moments before departing from this world she would participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the altar offering herself with Christ the Victim and would receive Him for the last time in holy communion. Neither was it accidental that she received anointing of the sick with plenary indulgence before passing away while her parents were present along with her monastic community who was able to accompany her in her last agony with the prayer of the Divine Mercy chaplet.

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Moreover, we could point out another detail that was not overlooked by Divine Providence: spring had begun the day before. We can be sure that this detail was not merely “accidental” but instead it was a sign of the coming of Him who makes all things new (cf. Ap 21:5). In fact, for Corpus Domini her “winter” had already passed. The winter of her interior trials and pain, of her struggles, of her efforts to be faithful to her religious vocation and to the charism of our Institute. Her illness itself and all that was for her “winter” had passed and it was the time to receive the eternal consolation promised by Jesus Christ. “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life (Mt 19:29). For this reason, we could truly place the words of the spouse on the lips of our dear sister when it says: The sound of my lover! here he comes…See! He is standing behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices. My lover speaks and says to me, “Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come!… the winter is past…The flowers appear on the earth, Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come! (Song of Songs 2:8-14).

The coffin with her mortal remains were placed in the Church in front of the altar. As Sr. Corpus Domini had indicated, they clothed her in a particular habit with a crown of natural flowers, the same crown which she used during the Holy Mass celebrating her 25 years of profession. In her hands was not to be missed the rosary as well as the monastic Rule, a crucifix with a relic from the Holy Land to remember the other cross that she held in her hands before dying. Her face which at another time spoke of pain was not beautifully serene giving a hint of a smile.

SSVM-CORPUS-DOMINI-FUNERALESThat same night of the 22nd of March, there was a vigil of prayer with her mortal remains. As people were notified of her death, they also came to pray until 10:30 pm when the doors of the monastery were closed and the contemplative sisters continued praying.

The apostolic sisters that had gone to help from the Provincial house, the General Procurate, and the International Juniorate took turns to keep vigil the whole night with hymns, rosaries, and stations of the Cross.

In the afternoon of the 23rd at 5 pm, the funeral took place. The Holy Mass was presided by Msgr. Mariano Crociata, bishop of the dioceses of Latina-Terracina-Sezze-Priverno. Various IVE priests and diocesan priests concelebrated. Among them was present Don Romano who was Sr. Corpus Domini’s parish priest to whom she confided her desire to be a great missionary when she was eleven years old.

The Church was full of people, friends, families, benefactors, and religious.  Even an overflow of people outside. Her parents, Marisa and Alberto, were seated in the first pew with a resigned look of sorrow on their faces.

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The order of the liturgy continued as Sr. Corpus Domini had meticulously prepared: the Gregorian Mass pro defunctis, the introit In Paradisum, the readings from the book of wisdom, Psalm 25, the Gospel which invites us to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. It seemed like through the liturgy, she wished to make her last call to those who were present to speak to them of the value of eternal life. This time, however, she did not do it with her voice but with the voice of the Spouse, the Word of the Father.

Msgr. Crociata preached a beautiful homily about our last end, highlighting the intense desire that Sr. Corpus Domini had to go to Heaven to contemplate God. Moreover, he referred to her example of contemplative religious life completely donated to God in silence and prayer as a great testimony to the transcendental.

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At the end of the Mass, her brothers Vincenzo, Anabella, Stella, and her niece Sara spoke moving words of farewell. The people then began to file one by one to the coffin to give her thanks, to speak with her, to say goodbye to her, to ask her for prayers in heaven.

Lastly, the funeral car arrived to translate her mortal remains to Tuscania. Corpus Domini’s parents greeted her for the last time while the Servidoras intoned various hymns to Mary. Then, the people were requested to exit the Church so that the monastic community could come out to greet her before they closed the coffin.

The grill of the Church’s choir was opened and the sisters of the community who with so much charity had accompanied and cared for her in last moments, approached the coffin. The hymns to Mary continued as they entrusted the soul of our dear sisters to her. The funeral ushers very respectfully made the sign of the cross and began to seal the coffin. As the hymns continued, the doors of the Church were opened once again so that the coffin could be lifted into the funeral car that would take her to the Monastery of Tuscania.

Sr. Corpus Domini had arrived in her beloved Monastery in Pontinia two months before and she make the resolution to live each day as a gift from God to prepare herself for the final encounter with Him. How many times must she have meditated and made hers the words of Psalm 84: “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord…Blessed are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you.” This was her desire: to die in her contemplative cell, surrounded by her community, to die in the House of the Lord.

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TUSCANIA – Monasterio “San Pablo”

SSVM-CORPUS-DOMINI-FUNERALESA few hours later, her mortal remains arrived to Tuscania. An arch of flowers and a path lit by candles decorated the entrance to the Church of the Monastery of St Paul. Everything was adorned with white flowers to receive the body of the spouse of Christ. The songs of the monastic community of the sisters of the International Juniorate accompanied the entrance of the remains of Maria del Corpus Domini into the Church. Beholding all these images brought to mind the words of Psalm 44: “All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters, her raiment threaded with gold; In embroidered apparel she is led to the king. The maids of her train are presented to the king. They are led in with glad and joyous acclaim; they enter the palace of the king.” This text is beautifully applied to the Holy Virgen Mary, but it is also used as a hymn in the liturgy of Investiture or religious profession (Audi Filia) precisely because it describes one who leaves her people and her father’s house to follow the Divine King.

Thus, everything was harmoniously prepared with simplicity and solemnity: the grand crucifix above the wall, beneath it the monastic choir with its grille, the tabernacle, the altar, and the coffin sealed containing the body of our beloved sister, and on top of it a Cross of Matara, her picture, and a crown of real flowers.

Twenty three years ago, Sr. Maria del Corpus  Domini prostrated herself on a carpet before the altar of St Peter’s Church (Sezze), as a sign of her perpetual gift to God, giving testimony that she loved Jesus Christ as her only Spouse. In Tuscania, the closed coffin containing her remains, rested over a carpet being like a second prostration this time to tell us with an eloquent silence (paraphrasing St. Therese) that she did not regret having giving herself to Love, Jesus Christ, and that now nothing could separate them.

In this Church, both communities, the contemplatives and the juniorate sisters, spent the night accompanying her remains with hymns and prayers.

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The funeral took place at 11 am on March 24th. The Holy Mass was presided by Rev. Fr. Diego Pombo, spiritual father of the Servidoras. Seventeen priests and four deacons were present. In addition to the Servidoras, there were IVE Seminarians from San Vitaliano Seminary in Montefiascone, numerous lay people, friends, and family members.

The Holy Mass was sung by the contemplative community follow the book of exequies prepared by Sr. Corpus Domini herself.

Everything was solemn during the liturgy and mad us thing of the grandeur of the heavenly liturgy which she was now rejoicing in.

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During the Sermon, Rev. Fr. Arturo Ruiz Freites spoke of the soul, its immortality, and of eternity. He referred to the extraordinary gift of our sister, the first to cross the ocean to live poverty. He spoke of her love for our Congregation, her fervent prayer for the unity of its members, and her special prayers for priests.

After the last prayer while Iesu corona virginum was begin sung, her coffin was blessed. Salve de los cielos was intoned as the seminarians carried the coffin on their shoulders to begin the procession to the cemetery led by the processional cross and followed by the incensor, priests, family, the SSVM… all walked step by step as the psalms which Corpus Domini herself had chosen were being sung.  The sun was brilliant and the sky blue making us think of her eternal destination. The bells rang festively.

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As we neared the cemetery, her body passed to the shoulders of her sisters.

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Upon reaching the mausoleum of the Poor Clares where her body would be interred, the last prayers of the rite were recited: “May choirs of angels escort you into paradise; and at your arrival may the martyrs receive and welcome you; may they bring you home into the holy city, Jerusalem.  May the holy angels welcome you, and with Lazarus, who lived in poverty, may you have everlasting rest.” Songs to Mary both polyphonic and traditional followed next as ropes lowered the coffin. Among contemplatives, she was interred, she who had wish to live and die as such.

We returned to the monastery with souls full of gratitude to our Lord for the heavenly moments that He allows us to live and we shared a small feast. Our Religious Family was preparing to celebrate the first vespers of the Solemnity of the Incarnate Word and of the 33 years of foundation for the IVE. Maria del Corpus Domini who for 25 years had celebrated that feast on earth, now contemplated face to face this mystery in the solemn celestial liturgy united to God and to her beloved brothers and sisters of her congregation. Those very brothers and sisters that He had given to her on earth. “She told me that at last she understood what God wanted from her. It was to no longer be occupied with things of this world, but to be an intercessor. ‘Even when I am in heaven’ she told me ‘ask me for many things’ ” (Testimony of Mother Siempre Virgen).

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A.M.D.G

Posthumous writing of sister Maria del Corpus Domini: “The story of a Cyrenian.  Reflections on the time of illness and perserverenace.”

“As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.” (Mt 27,32)

I would like to begin this reflection with the figure of Simon of Cyrene, because the illness of leukemia which began in May of 2015, was so abrupt and unexpected, suddenly feeling a cross placed on my shoulders, one that I did not ask, nor looked for … exactly like the Cyrenian!

I was asked to write something about the second part of my vocation, as the discovering and the entering of religious life and subsequently contemplative life had already been written about on a previous occasion. It was asked that this second part be about the 25 years of first profession of vows that I will celebrate this upcoming March 21. Instead, I would like to refer to my last two years of life marked by a grave illness, one of the diseases that causes tumors in the blood, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

It has been a journey very similar to that of the Way of Santiago di Compostela…full of milestones, sacrifices, pain; but also moments of rest and comfort, finally arriving at the joy of acceptance. Acceptance of the illness and even more so of the Adorable Will of God, although mysterious. Truly seeing the illness as a gift, a sublime gift of the enamored Spouse that wants to beautify and prepare His bride for the wedding; enriching in this way the one who lives it and all those who surround her, starting with her own family.

Even Blessed Maria Gabriella of the Unity experienced something similar as she expressed to her mother in a letter written June 7, 1938: “…the Lord, as you know, has always favored me with special graces, but now with this illness He has given me the greatest of all. I have totally abandoned myself into the hands of the Lord and I have received so much… There is no greater joy than that of being able to suffer something for the love of Jesus and for the salvation of souls. Be happy as well, my mother, and thank the Lord for this great grace He has bestowed on all of you and on me”.

After acceptance came trust. The work of faith, of believing and of laboring to believe in each moment to be in the Greatest Hands, even though not always fully comprehending the Lord’s designs; in fact according to my doctors I was at the end of my life already at least two times. Right after the beginning of my illness, as soon as I had finished the first round of chemotherapy, the doctors said that I had responded well and that all would be okay. Instead, exactly after one year of intensive care (the reason why I was living outside of the monastery with the Mothers in the Procura in Rome) the illness became aggressive and no longer responded to any therapy. It was June 2016, precisely the same time the General Chapters of our two Institutes were starting. I understood that the Lord asked this sacrifice for the fruits of these meetings. I was told that my case was advanced and that my situation was grave… How many times I was told that I was in a grave situation … how many times I had received the anointing of the sick … how much time the Lord had gifted me to prepare myself for the encounter with Him … all Mercy!!! The great privilege to be called and to be conformed to the image of Jesus Crucified, this is the grave illness … to be able to say with St. Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”  (Gal. 2, 20) Our intelligence is confounded, because we do not understand what our Lord wants, because we cannot plan anything … when you do not know if you will live for another month or not, … everything truly changes.

Yes, everything truly changes in front of the possibility of death, our way of thinking truly changes, our worries, our love towards others, mercy takes the upper hand … one understands what’s really worth it and what’s not. Two passages from the book of Sirach come to mind: “Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand, so are these few years among the days of eternity.” (Sir. 18, 10) And: “In whatever you do, remember your last days and you will never sin.” (Sir. 7, 36)

At this point, I want to add a reflection about one’s own perseverance, because more than once I have contemplated about the marvel of being able to die having persevered, by the Grace of God, in the vocation that He has given me and in the Congregation where He has called me and where He has so greatly loved me. It is an immense Grace that I desire for all the members of our Institutes; it is an intention for which I have prayed, pray and will pray from Heaven. I have said to myself, what would it be like for a soul to be on death’s bed having been unfaithful and having abandoned her first love … I wonder how many regrets one must feel in that situation, even if certainly the Mercy of God will not abandon her …

Therefore, I also thought, during our entire life we must defend and fight to conserve our vocation, just as St. Peter said: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.” (2 Pe. 1, 10)

That does not mean, though, that there will be no temptations throughout our life, or darkness, dryness, trials of all types. Deep down, we all know the quote from Sirach: “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” (Sir. 2, 1). However, when it happens to us, we forget … Permit me to share something very personal, I was tempted, many times, to abandon my vocation. Instead, the jealous Spouse of our souls never permitted me to fall … He always intervened just in time, through the motions of the Good Spirit, by my asking for help from my spiritual director and my superiors and even more. Here I will tell you a little secret … my constant prayer requesting the grace of perseverance in my vocation that I have elevated to the Lord from the first days of my novitiate (1991) until today in every Holy Mass, as was recommended to me while a novice. I have never forgot to pray it not even one day. It is also good and fruitful to read the article written by Fr. Buela on the subject of perseverance which is published in Servidoras I, I strongly recommend to read and reread it, it has done me much good.

St. Paul speaks about a battle that we can apply perfectly to our vocation and the fight in order to persevere “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.” (Eph. 6, 12-13)

To Timothy: “Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6, 12)

We can also apply to the theme of perseverance this exhortation of St Paul to Timothy: “This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him; if we persevere we shall also reign with Him. However, if we deny Him He will deny us. If we are unfaithful He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim 2, 11- 16)

I think how wonderful it is that as I come close to death I am able to share the same sentiments as St. Paul, which I apply to the grace of perseverance in the religious vocation, the Saint writes: “For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for His appearance.” (2 Tim. 4, 6-8)

All of these thoughts come to my mind as I come close to death, this is the reason why it is so wise of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the spiritual exercises, who recommends that before making any resolution, one must consider in the moment of death which decision one would have liked to have made. It is true that in front of eternity each decision has a much different weight.

Throughout my illness, many superiors have asked me to pray for vocations and for the perseverance and unity of our members and for our faithfulness to our charism, something that I have always done, am doing and will continue to do in Heaven if the Lord calls me. I believe that there is no sweeter death (even one with much physical suffering) than that of a spouse of Christ (in other words a religious and nothing more), who finally falls into the arms of her beloved Spouse. He who was looked for in faith and hope during her earthly life.

May the Lord give me the sublime grace to be found ready when He comes to take me. From the day of my birth in a Christian family and through the whole of my life (25 as a religious), I have been an object of predilection of the Infinite Mercy of God … may He bring to fulfillment this work that He has begun in me, so that I can eternally sing of His Mercy!

Sr. Maria del Corpus Domini, SSVM

February 26, 2017

In the Papuan Jungle: “Maka Base Camp”

The “Maka” is a river in the Walsa zone (LLG) and it is from this river that this “Base Camp” gets its name. The “Camp” belongs to one of the lumber companies here in the Sanduan Province.[1] The company’s name is the “Vanimo Forest Products Company” and it is the largest company in the province and its “Base Camp” here in Maka is consequently the largest in the business.[2]

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The bishop sent me to attend to Maka because many of the workers who live here with their families are Catholics. There are more or less 70 families coming from different provinces to live here in pavilions built by the company itself. The pavilions are long structures divided into rooms measuring about 4 m x 6 m, constituting a family’s home. Many of those living here came as teenagers to work and now they are married or living together with their children. On average each family has about 4 – 5 kids which were born in the camp. For this reason there is a great need for spiritual attention. The company helped them to build a church, but the nearest priest lives in Utai, about an hour’s walk away along the same mountain road. Due to the long distance and the lack of availability of a vehicle to pick him up, he is only able to come a couple of Sundays out of the year to celebrate Mass.

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There are also a few Asians living in the camp who came from Indonesia and Malaysia to work in the company. A few of them are also Catholic and have also lived here for a while (In fact two of them asked me to marry them. They came as single individuals, but now have their own family here). At the beginning they acted a little opposed to my visit, but after a few days I have been able to become friends with a few of them…Especially since the time that I went up to talk to them on the day that it was raining and they could not go out into the jungle to work. As they were all gathered in a house, I took the opportunity to visit them while they were placing bets on cock fights…It was something new for me, so I began to ask them questions and then began to cheer for the rooster of the friend who was explaining the fight to me. They were happy that I joined them in this…afterwards I invited them to the Rosary and mission sermon at night and a few of them came. Obviously they knew that I had not come to place bets with them.

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The Malaysians are very simple people. They come from a culture that is a little bit similar to that of Papua and they are Catholics…this is already a great advantage and of great value. After exchanging a few words with them you realize that you already have a lot in common, especially a common faith. Here they live a little better than the Papuans, but not too much better: they also have a few large houses (large pavilions, but elevated on posts) where two or three men live together in a room or in a room all to themselves if they also have a wife and children. They also have a house for the common kitchen and dining room where a group of ladies cook for them. Newton, the seminarian, and I are living among them. They have given us a small portion of one of these houses which has two rooms and a bathroom. It’s still rustic, but pretty nice for being in Papua. Having a bed, electricity, a bathroom and a shower is not so common here. I would never have imagined having this at the camp, even less would I have imagined that there would be air conditioning! Certainly, it’s a luxury! In our house in Vanimo you can’t even turn on the fan for an hour because it sucks the battery dry. This, in comparison, is a five-star hotel! In reality, the company can provide this sort of luxury because it has two huge generators (as big as a car or one of those containers you see at the port) that run 24 hours a day, without which they could not run the factories and other machines. Even more so, it would be unbearable to live in these pavilions in this climate without air conditioning.

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This company, like the rest, help the local people, at least momentarily. For example, they build roads, which the company itself needs in order to extract lumber, but which at the same time allows for communication between villages and with Vanimo Town. Being connected to Vanimo means: access to a hospital, the possibility of buying simple things like rice and sugar, that other services can reach the villages, and that missionaries like us can arrive more easily by vehicle. The companies also build schools, and the “Papa-Graun”[3] help them to build “permanent” homes (out of “material” we would say—tin roofs, wooden floors and walls, a water tank, but without a kitchen or bath, but this is nonetheless enough). Also, for example, once every two weeks they offer a ride to Vanimo in one of their trucks for anyone who needs to make a trip to the town. But as I said before, it seems to me that they are only helping them “momentarily” since as soon as they leave these roads go by the wayside (which has already happened to a few of them). They build the roads only for the time being, since left unattended, the roads and bridges are destroyed and filled with potholes. Neither do they teach the people how to use their money, nor are they worried about their families by giving them a home and dignified life or by taking care of the schools and their functioning…and obviously, they are neither missionaries, nor Catholics, nor Spaniards (like those of the Spanish kings of old). They are businessmen. Their priority is to extract lumber…and abide by a few rules.en-la-selva-papuana-maka-base-camp-n-2-3-768x576

In order to complete this panoramic view of the situation and the zone in which I am currently on mission (I hope this is not too boring, but it’s necessary so that later on I can speak more easily about the details) along with this base camp there are also two other Catholic communities which I want to visit and attend to. First, there are more workers who live about 15 km away near the sawmill (there are about 50 families, mostly Catholics, and good people. I have already been to visit them a few times and each time they are always asking for the sacraments—baptism, Holy Communion, marriage…). Second, about 50 km away from Maka there is another camp belonging to a different company, called “5 – 6 Base Camp”. Nearby there is also a Catholic village called “Smok” with its own catechist.[4] I estimate that “Smok” has about 40 families living in it. Also, about 130km away lies Kiab-Konabasi (a non-Catholic area) where a new group of Catholic families moved this year in order to form a new village entirely for the purpose of living together in the same faith. I hope to be able to go and visit them too. The diocesan vicar told me about them before I left Vanimo, but I don’t know if I am going to make it…they tell me that the road is very dangerous, especially during the current rainy season. Finally, there are a few more Catholic families dispersed among various “non-Catholic”[5] villages nearby. I hope to be able to visit them as well or at least send them a message so that they will come and receive the sacraments now that there is a priest nearby for a few weeks.

To be continued….

Fr. Martin Prado, IVE

Missionary in Papua New Guinea


[1] Papua New Guinea is divided into 22 provinces, which are further sub-divided into districts and furthermore into LLG’s (Local Level Governments). Finally, each LLG is made up of towns and villages. We belong to the “Sanduan” Province (some also call it the “West Sipik” Province since it is on the western side of the one of Papua’s most important rivers, the “Sipik”, also known as the “Green River”). Vanimo is the capital of the Sanduan Province and the capital of the “Vanimo Green District”. Walsa is simply one of the localities (LLG) that makes up part of the Vanimo Green District. I am on mission in Walsa, and it has only a small portion of the population of the Vanimo Green District. In all of Walsa there are only 100 inhabitatns (attended to by two parishes) and I will only be able to visit a few of them during my time here.

[2] In Papua there are many companies dedicated to cutting down trees and extracting wood, which is the most sought after resource in our province, and I also believe in all of Papua. For example, within the boundaries of our parish there are two companies, each with their own shipping ports, machinery, and jungle camps (where they have houses, workshops, 24 energy, etc.). They are something both impressive and strikingly different for all of us, considering that here the local people have neither vehicles nor electricity and they still hunt with bow and arrow.

[3] This is what they call the heads or fathers of the family, among those families that first inhabited this area. They are the heads and owners of the villages.

[4] The title “catechist” does not simply refer to those that teach Catechism classes. Here “catechist” makes reference to those men which “take the place of” the priest in a village or parish. They are fathers of families who receive classes one a year in the diocese (classes which are taught by our sisters, SSVM, who work at the diocesan “Pastoral Center”). Thus, these catechists are the ones who celebrate the Liturgy of the Word on Sundays when the priest is absent. They are also the ones who prepare the people to receive the sacraments and they are the ones who keep the pastor and bishop informed about their village. For instance, when I arrived to Maka, the catechist already had a list of children needing baptism and a few parents ready to regularize their marriage.

[5] All of the villages here were once Catholic. They were evangelized by the Passionists about 50 years ago. But, due to the lack of missionaries and a crazy pastor who arrived to the zone many of the people became part of the “Revival” or the CBC. Practically speaking they don’t practice anything, since the same thing happens here in our parish which I believe happens everywhere else—those who enthusiastically run after the new “versions of Christianity” eventually lose their fervor and are left empty because of the sensible nature of their piety, and thus they stop attending their services and they also do not return to the Church out of shame. Thus, they are left with nothing, not even prayer.

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