Journey to the unknown

Friday, February 10, 2017

by Christina Esi Aidoo
Christina Esi Aidoo was welcomed into the candidate program of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in December.

I am Christina Esi Aidoo, a 26-year-old from the Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana and an Akan, precisely a Fanti. I am the oldest of seven children and have a diploma certificate in social work from the School of Social Work at Osu in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.

My desire to enter religious life was first aroused as a child when I saw a sister at our parish. I wished to become like her when I grew up. This desire kept growing until one day, I came into contact with Sister Evelyn Ntiamoah during the Feast of Christ the King, at Akropong, where she came for a vocation promotion.
I went to connect with her as my senior colleague social worker. Her speech had touched my heart and I admired her as she spoke. We exchanged contact information and I started visiting regularly. After some time, I prayerfully made a bold decision and, in faith, began the live-in program.

I discerned gracefully and prayerfully and applied to the next stage of formation to continue my journey and was accepted. As I continue to discern my vocation in Holy Cross, I ask for the grace and the strength from God to discern my call into religious life.

Christina’s reception prayer

Spirit of Guidance, I see before me numerous choices and a decision to be made. There is division in my heart. Sometimes I want it all. Sometimes I want to give up making decisions and wish that the future would go away. I entrust my decision-making into your hands, ready to do my part but also knowing that I cannot do this without your help. Lead me through all the unsure, unclear, doubtful, hesitant, and questioning moments that are mine as I search to find the right way in which to go.

Grant me the grace to choose freely, without being attached to the outcome. I trust that you will be with me as I make my decision prayerfully and with faith. Assure me that your peace will rest deep within me as I make the decision that seems best for me at this time.

Prayer for an end to human trafficking

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8, is designated as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking. The crime of human trafficking must be addressed everywhere by all people who believe in justice, freedom and human rights.

Please join us in the following prayer

O God, when we hear of children and adults deceived and taken to unknown places for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor and organ “harvesting,” our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are ignored through threats, lies and force. We cry out against the evil practice of this modern slavery and pray with St. Bakhita for it to end. Give us wisdom and courage to reach out and stand with those whose bodies, hearts and spirits have been so wounded, so that together we may make real your promises to fill these sisters and brothers with a love that is tender and good. Send the exploiters away empty-handed to be converted from this wickedness, and help us all to claim the freedom that is your gift to your children.  Amen.

Moreau Memorial

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reflection After the Word—January 20, 2017

by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC

Within an hour or so of this Eucharistic celebration honoring our founder, Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, the United States of America will inaugurate a new president at high noon. One might think that a lot has happened in the 144 years since Moreau drew his last breath in Le Mans, France.

I am fond of a cartoon I saw last year. A little boy sits at a table doing his homework. His chin is resting on one hand. A textbook lays open before him. In the other hand, his pencil is poised ready to take notes or fill in the blanks. He moans aloud to anyone who has ears to hear, “How will I ever learn history when every day the world keeps makin’ more?” (Bill Keane, Family Circus)

Every day the world keeps making more history, but as the old saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” But what pushes history forward is that each new generation must rediscover its founding principles and draw new meaning from its founding persons, symbols, and documents. Our founding principles, symbols, and texts are scripture-based. Through the lens of the scriptures we discern in our own time and place the Good News today. Since the Second Vatican Council, we have also turned to our community history to better understand the meaning of the charism of our founder for today.

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13

We claim as our founder a Frenchman who journeyed often to Rome to claim legitimacy for the three societies of Holy Cross. Like Saint Paul he poured out his heart and soul, his “tender affection” in letters to a nascent community which was already spreading beyond its initial borders. Paul called himself “a prisoner of the Lord.” This title was more than rhetorical because Paul literally was bound in chains in a Roman cell for the sake of the gospel. When “B. Moreau” signed his letters, he identified himself as Rector, Missionary Apostolic, or Apostolic Missionary for twenty years before referencing himself in his signature as superior, or superior general. Basil Moreau built up the Body of Christ as both pastor and teacher. Most of Moreau’s circular letters echoed Saint Paul’s urgent plea to strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

Matthew 16:24-27

There was much in Moreau’s France to disturb the peace and unity of the nation. Moreau was born ten years after the French Revolution. During the life-span of Basil Moreau, France endured nine changes of its civil government. The 19th century in Europe was a time of ferment and unrest. Napoleon Bonaparte in the name of the French Revolution made himself Emperor of France. Eventually he was defeated and deposed and the monarchy restored by the royal houses of Europe. Then the restored French monarchy fell in 1848. Moreau observed that “more than one throne was destroyed” yet Moreau insisted that Holy Cross was blessed despite that most difficult year. (CL 35, Jan. 5, 1849) In quick succession in 1850 the Second Republic ended and the Second Empire was established. It was a period during which coups and revolutions convulsed Europe, including the papal states. French troops were unable to protect the pope against the Italian populist rebellion. Such chaos in the Old Europe divided more than France. Sister Veronique last November, in accepting the Civil War Campaign Medal honoring our sister nurses, spoke of “the cross of war” as the context for our ministry in 1861-1865 in the New World. If one becomes a disciple of Jesus the Christ, one must respond to the fallout from the rise and fall of empires and nation states.

No wonder Moreau issued prohibitions against reading newspapers—the press was filled with calumnies, slander, and the constant churn of economic and political disruption (CL 40--Jan. 4, 1850; CL 47--Dec. 8, 1851). I think some of us remember our years of initial formation, when we hung up our long stockings to dry in “the hanging room.” While we were straightening out the stockings on the rack or hanger above, we were also looking downward, trying to read yesterday’s newspaper on the floor. Only the novice mistress or superior had access to all the news that was fit to print—and read. Were Moreau alive today he would be urging us to fast periodically from cable television and online news, no matter of what political stripe. We are living in an era when one wonders what is journalism and what is “fake news.” Novices, be wary, be very careful of social media. Do not believe every Tweet you read, except this “Good News” which is less than 140 characters: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Moreau lived in such a tumultuous time that he often mentioned in his Circular Letters the “storms” disturbing his own political and religious world. He warned against political entanglements, which is different from being an engaged citizen. He wrote, “Whatever fate Divine Providence holds in store for the nations of Europe, and especially for France, take care not to be involved, even indirectly, in political factions which try to hasten the march of events.” (CL 40—Jan. 4, 1850) One’s religious vocation, being a follower of Jesus Christ is one’s primary commitment. His loyalty to the papacy and to Pope Pius IX was due in part to looking to the church as a rock of stability, order, and clarity when the world felt like it was falling apart.

The early Christian community tried to practice Saint Paul’s virtues of humility, gentleness, and patience in hopes of surviving the Roman Empire by accommodating itself to it. Likewise, in 1851 Moreau wrestled with the obedience the state was due when a duly elected president initiated a successful coup d’ etat and declared himself king. In the end, Moreau urged obedience. His logic was that one could not set up a new social order as easily as one could set up a factory or a business. Instead, Moreau made a wager and trusted in Divine Providence, hoping that political stability would allow Holy Cross to take root and flourish. “Since men no longer act on principle, is it not better to accept the situation as it is, though we are not responsible for it, and see therein a new design of Providence?” (CL 47--Dec. 8, 1851)

There is much in our global reality that shakes us to the core. What happens here in the United States impacts the rest of the world and vice versa. There is a reason we have Offices of Justice and Peace in every diocese, let alone in our religious congregation. There is a difference, however, from being a political partisan or ideologue, and one who discerns the signs of the times within the context of the universal church. Let us remember Moreau’s love for the Church and our public role in it.

Those of you who are young in this Congregation, continue “to live in a manner of the call you have received.” Pray to mature as women conformed to the Risen Christ whose body we are together. Bear with one another through love, especially with those of us who are older. We have borne the cross of war, discord, and division.

We have seen more than one American president stand on the Capitol steps, who promised to unify this very diverse country; to proclaim “Liberty and justice for all.” The axis of the world does not turn on the Washington Mall. The world turns, yes. The world spins. Around and around it goes, anchored in the Cross—the Cross which is our only hope, our best hope. Hold on to it, cling to it—as did Basil Moreau. Together, we will keep making more history. Or as Moreau would have urged, see the hand of God in all the events of life, knowing that to those who love God all things work together for good. (CL 35—Jan. 5, 1849)

Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau feast

Friday, January 20, 2017

Today the family of Holy Cross celebrates the feast day of our founder, Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau. Father Moreau challenges all of us wear the garment of grace so that the good works we do come from the bottom of our hearts.


Lord Jesus, source of all that is good, 
you inspired Blessed Basil Moreau 
to found the religious family of Holy Cross 
to continue your mission among the people of God.

May he be for us a model of the apostolic life, 
an example of fidelity 
and an inspiration as we strive to follow you.

May the Church be moved to proclaim his saintliness 
for the good of all people.

Lord Jesus, you said, "Ask and you shall receive."
I dare to come to you to ask 
that you hear my prayer.
It is through the intercession 
of Blessed Basil Moreau 
that I ask ....

May I learn to imitate his holiness and service
and look to him confidently in times of need.
 Learn more about Father Moreau on our website.

Northeast India,18 years of foundation

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sisters’ mission stories connect past to present

by Sister M. Bruno (Beiro), CSC

Sister Judith Hallock, left, and Sister Joann Halvelka, center, receive the vows of Sister Molli Gertrude Costa during her initial profession in 1987. Sister Joann moved from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Shillong, Meghalaya, in Northeast India a year later.

Editor’s note: In honor of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the women of Holy Cross, some of our sisters submitted personal reflections or stories about missions around the globe. The pieces offer unique glimpses into the Congregation’s history. This is the third article in the series.

Past: Remembering with gratitude the sisters who came and gave life

In the past, visions of disciples were rooted in the contexts of peoples. All sorts of disciples with all sorts of temperaments were called to live out this gift from the Father to Jesus and the Church. Visions were actualized.

Father Basil Anthony Moreau sent the Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters from France to India in 1852. They reached East Bengal in 1853 and Father Moreau planned for them to collaborate in ministries. In 1947, at the time of partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan, the Holy Cross sisters’ ministries were in East Pakistan.

Present: The sisters who are ministering in India

In response to the request by the Holy Cross priests in India to establish the Holy Cross sisters in India, and in accordance with the sisters’ Area of Asia five-year ministry plan, it was decided to establish a local community in Shillong, India, in 1998. The community resided at Holy Cross Villa, in the vacation house they had purchased in 1933.

Sister M. Perpetua (Meyer), CSC, opened and directed a House of Studies in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in 1993. Sisters from Bangladesh went there for perpetual profession preparation and formal education studies. They received experiences in community and ministry. For them it was a new culture, both in Holy Cross and in the Church. At that time, Sister Perpetua worked with the Montfort Sisters, aiding unwed pregnant girls and rag pickers of the city.

In 2006, the House of Studies moved to Meghalaya. There sisters pursued graduate and post-graduate studies and participated in vocation recruitment and other ministry with the Holy Cross priests and brothers in the newly established Northeast India District.

Shillong, Meghalaya’s capital, had long been a vacation place for visiting sisters. They would stay at the Holy Cross Villa vacation house, which Sister Marie Estelle (O’Brien), CSC, had purchased in 1933 for sisters ministering in the area. Sisters, in small groups, would enjoy the cool relief of a vacation for one month, walking the hills of Shillong.

We were so comfortable there. Never did we worry about unlocked doors or windows. We were among the Khasi people of Northeast India!

The house was vacant during the winter months and was rented out to different groups, including the Holy Cross priests, the Society of Christ Jesus, who administered the nearby Nazareth Hospital, and to the Sisters of Holy Cross and Marianites of Holy Cross.

Then in 1998, the Area Council decided to respond to the invitation of the Holy Cross priests and the direction of the Area five-year plan to establish a local community in Shillong. Sister Joann Havelka, CSC, a member of the Area Council under the leadership of Sister Joseph Mary (Hoess), CSC, decided to experiment to find out if sisters could live in Shillong during the cold months. Each room in the bungalow was outfitted with a fireplace, where charcoal loaded into lead buckets could be burned. But the sisters claimed that after October, the weather in the hills was much colder than that on the plains of Bengal.

Still, Sister Joann and two Bangladeshi Holy Cross sisters, Joya Rozario, CSC, and Salome Nanwar, CSC, had the courage to go. They left Dhaka by train for Sylhet District in Bangladesh to cross the border at Tamabil for Northeast India. They had no trouble with immigration, but once they were on the other side, they heard that the Dawki Bridge, which had to be crossed to take the trip up the hills, was under repair. With the strength that they had and the help of men from the local market, they crossed the river through no-man’s land carrying nine large bags and several shoulder bags each!

I remember the time that Joann and I, two hours up the hill from the Dawki Bridge, carrying trunks and bags of supplies for Shillong, came across a landslide, not uncommon in the hills. Nothing was to stop us. We asked several men, who were working to remove the stones and dirt off the road, to carry some of the larger trunks and bags while we carried the smaller ones. We spent the night in a government bungalow so that we would be "refreshed" in the morning to manage for the next possible landslide!

In December, the first pre-aspirant arrived accompanied by her pastor, Father Harry D’Silva, CSC. She was from Mizoram. The first native Holy Cross priest, Holy Cross brother and Holy Cross sister were from families in the state of Mizoram, formerly known as the Lushai Hills.

Sister Joann served as supervisor at a school for the blind, a ministry she shared with future aspirants, and the local Society for the Welfare of Disabled. She taught the aspirants Scripture and assisted the student sisters with their lessons. The sisters visited villages where the Holy Cross priests ministered and spoke at the local hostels, often for vocation promotion. Sister Joann gave talks to seminarians and formation groups, even outside of India, any time she was invited. There was no end to the energy she possessed to do the needful and to share her gifts.

In 2000 she served as candidate directress and taught English to the men in the initial formation program at the Holy Cross priests’ home in Brookdene, Shillong. Sister M. Carmen (Davy), CSC, arrived to guide and tutor the student sisters and later became the assistant candidate directress and guided the aspirants and postulants.

Sister Joann saw opportunities to expand ministry in the area. She served on the Board of Trustees and as treasurer of the Society for the Welfare of Disabled, advised the Interdenominational Christian Women’s Forum in Shillong and started a local self-help group.

Sister M. Bruno (Beiro), CSC, arrived from Bangladesh in 2003 to relieve Sister Carmen, who was retiring to Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. As the community grew it adopted several ministries in the village and city. In the following years, a new mission was opened in the state of Tripura, where the sisters supervised a Boys Town project operated by the Holy Cross priests, offered pastoral ministry and taught in the parish school in Bodhjungnagar.

Four sisters left Shillong to begin a new mission in the village of Jatah in 2007. There, they taught in the village school, provided health education and offered pastoral care in the parish of Mawkynrew.

On February 19, 2012, Sister Joann left India for the last time. She had served well as guide and tutor for 15 years.

Future: Going forward with hope, embracing the future to give life

See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19)

We carry on this witness of sharing God’s love and Spirit, and are seeing increased numbers and ministries. In 2014 we started a sponsored ministry at Barakathal, Tripura, and plans were drawn up for a school and pastoral ministry program. Working with the local people, we continue to answer God’s call for our mission by:
  • building communities of justice and love—by assisting right relationships among children, youth and adults of different cultures and religions, and educating children to justice;
  • eradicating material poverty—through high quality education, both formal and informal, which will help move children out of a cycle of poverty and equip them to be contributing citizens; and
  • ending discrimination—through education about injustice and corruption, and by encouraging education for life.

Practicing the virtue of hospitality

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

by Sister Margie Lavonis

Each of the Holy Cross congregations of sisters, brothers and priests, founded by Father Basil Moreau, is known for wonderful hospitality. People often comment on how welcoming they are. One tends to feel “at home” in their presence. In his book on Father Moreau, author Gary MacEoin says that members of the congregations of Holy Cross are the most hospitable people he has ever met.

We are called to be welcoming people. Hospitality is a vital component of Christian love. It gives flesh to what a loving person is about. Hospitable people accept and make others feel at home regardless of who they are or where they come from. They always have room for another person in their hearts and at the table of their lives. They make others feel wanted and cared for.

I have been thinking about this virtue a lot in light of the immigration controversy in our country. Each of us who follows Christ needs to examine how open to and accepting we are of people of other cultures and from other countries. Do we make the “stranger” welcome in our presence?

Hospitality is not limited to how welcoming we are to those different from us. It may be as simple as inviting someone to sit with us during lunch, or starting a conversation with someone we have never spoken to when we go to Mass. Smiling at strangers who pass by us on a street or in a store is also a gesture of hospitality.

Even simple experiences of hospitality can affect us deeply. Many years ago my parents and visited the Methodist church where my brother, who was working his way through college, directed the church choir. I still remember how warmly the church members, who recognized it was our first time there, welcomed us and immediately made us feel right at home. Had I not been a committed member to my own church, their loving spirit might have attracted me to return again.

Extending hospitality is not just a “nice” thing to do. It is integral to what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ.
Perhaps we can take some prayer time to reflect on how well, or not so well, we have exercised this important virtue. Whom we welcome into the circle of our lives? Remember Jesus told us that when we welcome anyone we are welcoming him.