Vocation Blog


Rev. Msgr. Richard Joseph O’Donnell passed away on Monday, April 11, 2016. Msgr. O’Donnell was the Pastor Emeritus of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Chicago, now Blessed Sacrament Parish, and remained a resident there until his passing. He was 105 years old and the oldest Archdiocesan priest, just a few weeks short of celebrating his 81st anniversary of priesthood.   

Msgr. O’Donnell was born in Chicago on October 15, 1910. He attended St. Bridget and St. Basil Schools in Chicago, Quigley Preparatory Seminary and graduated from the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary.  Msgr. O’Donnell was ordained into the priesthood on April 27, 1935, by George Cardinal Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago.

In 2010 Msgr. O’Donnell served as Assistant Pastor at St. Gabriel Parish in Chicago (1935-41); Our Lady of Peace Parish on Jeffery Boulevard (1941-48); St. Bernadette Parish in Evergreen Park (1948-50); and St. Ita Parish in Chicago (1950-63). In 1963, Msgr. O’Donnell was named Pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish on Hermitage Avenue, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1981, when he was named Pastor Emeritus. The parish was closed in 2008 and is now Blessed Sacrament Parish.

In October 2010, then Catholic New World Staff Writer, Dolores Madlener in her “Five Mins With Father” interviewed Msgr. O’Donnel at 100 years - in a league of his Own.

Msgr. Richard J. O’Donnell is the oldest priest of the archdiocese. He has lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and the space age. Approaching his 100th birthday on Oct. 15, he reminisced recently about priesthood under six cardinals, being named a monsignor by the pope, and his love of baseball.

 He is: Msgr. Richard O’Donnell. Ordained in 1935 at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein. He is pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish (now Blessed Sacrament).

Growing up: “I had a brother and two sisters. Both my parents were born in County Clare in Ireland. My dad was a butcher for 32 years at Leyden & Doyle, a grocery and meat market at Archer and Locke in Bridgeport. I went to St. Bridget School for seven years and graduated from St. Basil’s.”

Love of baseball: “I played softball as a kid. We’d book games with other neighborhoods. Sometimes we’d get money — sometimes we won and sometimes we’d lose.” He is well aware the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in his lifetime. “Yes, 1908 was the last time, and I was born in 1910. I’ve been a White Sox fan since I was a little boy and followed them all my life. My favorite player was second baseman Nellie Fox.”

O’Donnell threw out ceremonial first pitches at White Sox games in 2001 and 2009.


Called to priesthood: “My brother Edward was an altar boy and he trained me at St. Bridget’s. The eighth grade nun at St. Basil’s, Sister Mary Ella O.P., got after the boys to go to Quigley. I took the Ashland street car downtown and then the State Street car to Chicago Avenue. We started with 45 boys in my room at Quigley.”

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk.” (Acts 3:6)


With these words spoken to a lame beggar outside the Temple in Jerusalem, Peter and John performed the first recorded act of healing by Jesus’ disciples after he had left them at his Ascension into heaven. It was a critical moment in the history of the Church because it was the moment when two of Jesus’ closest followers confirmed for themselves that his life, death, and resurrection had bestowed upon them the ability to manifest the Holy Spirit’s healing power. All they had at hand was the name of Jesus and the deep desire in their hearts that the beggar be healed.


For every Christian, there comes a point at which he has to decide whether the eternal Truth of Christ is true for him. In the Gospels, “faith” is never simply an act of passive intellectual assent, rather it is the foundation for concrete actions, made in trust but

ultimately made in the face of uncertainty.


For seminarians, the days and weeks following Easter provide powerful opportunities for discovering how deeply they themselves embrace the Truth of the Paschal Mystery. Most of them have served in Holy Week services: for some it was their first Holy Week as a seminarian; for the deacons, it was their first journey from the Last Supper, through the Passion, to the Resurrection as an ordained man. Not unlike Peter and John, their public identity was different at those services, compared to the years prior to their entering seminary, because something has truly been changing within them. As they served at altars in their home dioceses, as they enjoyed meals around the familiar tables of family and friends, as they accompanied their pastors on Communion visits—in myriad ways they were learning what it means to use only the “name of Jesus Christ” to bring healing to others, if they chose to do so. The radical com-mitment of faith that is called for from a true disciple is not formed overnight. It didn’t happen quickly for the apostles and it won’t happen quickly for a diocesan priest. Easter faith must be grounded on the intentional, steady growth that characterizes any sound relationship of love.


“I’m very impatient with some of the pragmatic arguments for celibacy—that it frees up your time and allows you to focus your energy in different ways. I’d rather see celibacy as a kind of irrational, over-the-top, poetic, symbolic expression of the soul in love.”  – Bishup Robert Barron

Celibacy is a normal requirement for priesthood in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, for several reasons.  Practical reasons are often cited—for example, that an unmarried man can more easily dedicate himself to the work of the Church. While this is a valid reason that has roots in scripture (1 Cor 7:32-35), it is not the most important reason.  More important are the spiritual realities signified by celibacy:

  • celibacy marks the priest as a man consecrated to the service of Christ and the Church. It shows in a concrete way that he is not merely someone who exercises a set of functions or who holds a certain office but that he has been changed on an ontological level by his reception of the sacrament of Orders.
  • Celibacy configures the priest more closely to Christ, the great High Priest, who forsook earthly marriage for the sake of the Kingdom and for the sake of uniting himself more perfectly to his heavenly Bride, the Church.
  • It is fitting that the priest who offers this same Jesus in sacrifice to the Father, show in his own person (albeit to an imperfect degree) the purity and holiness of his unspotted Victim.
  • Celibacy reminds us of heaven, pointing to the coming of the Kingdom when marriage will no longer exist.

When our family arrived home after Mass on Easter Sunday, our three-year-old son Augustine announced that he wanted to say Mass himself.
(Partly because he’s pious, partly because he just wanted the free graham cracker used to say Mass.)
So we got out the kids’ Mass kit—the same one that his older brother, Isaiah, began using when he was three years old—and let Augustine celebrate his own Easter liturgy.
Before he started I took out my iPhone so we record the Mass and share it with a few friends and family.
Later, I posted the video on Facebook.
I was stunned the next day when I logged in and saw that the video had already been watched over 20,000 times (!!).
Several people mentioned how it brought them joy, or reminded them of when they “said” Mass as children.
We’ve even had priests encourage us, affirming that saying Mass as a child was the seed of their vocation!
From Brandon Yogt

Exploring Priesthood Weekend (Apr. 8-10) a free retreat weekend for seniors in college and post-college age men who are interested in learning more about the priesthood.  You will have the opportunity to meet Fr. John Kartje, Rector of Mundelein Seminary, along with other priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese. Through prayer, presentations on seminary life and group discussions, men gain a better understanding of the priesthood and God’s movement in their lives.


Starts on Friday at 7pm and ends at Noon on Sunday.

All men must register with Fr. Francis Bitterman at fbitterman@archchicago.org or 312-534-8298.

Celibacy is always a top concern for men thinking about the priesthood: “I like girls too much to become a priest.”  But rest as­sured that every priest had the same thought before he went to seminary.

Even Pope Francis himself admitted to having to discern celibacy very carefully as a young seminarian:

“I was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle’s wedding… I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance… and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while. I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing.”

If even the pope had second thoughts about celibacy, you should not be surprised that you yourself struggle with the issue!

Here’s the fact: no bish­op will ordain a man if he doesn’t have a normal sexual attraction to women. That’s the way God made us, and it is an indication that a man is psychologically healthy.

Celibacy isn’t about repressing your sexuality. Rather, it’s about giving up a single woman—a wife— in order to serve all people. Celibacy means giving one­self wholly to the Bride of Christ, the Church. It’s a radical, supernatural call from God.

The difficulty, of course, is that in secular society, celibacy is portrayed as impossible or ridiculous. As Fr. Benedict Groeschel once wrote, “The media trumpets the message that sex brings happiness. If this were true, we would indeed live in an earthly paradise and the world would be ‘happy valley.’” But the truth is that there are over 400,000 celibate priests in the world, and the vast majority report great happiness and fulfillment.

Even if you struggle with chastity right now, God can give you the grace to become sexually pure. Don’t let a concern about celibacy prevent you from considering the priesthood.

This is the lie: Holiness is not possible.

 Search your heart. Do you believe holiness is possible for you?

I am not sure when or where this belief began its stranglehold on the spiritual life of Christians and the Church. No doubt there is a complex series of psychological reasons and excuses that cause us to accept and believe this lie. It is diabolical in its subtlety, evil genius in its simplicity.

 It is astounding that just one lie can neutralize the majority of Christians. That’s right, neutralize. This lie takes us out of the game and turns us into mere spectators in the epic story of Christianity. It may be the devil’s biggest triumph in modern history. It is the holocaust of Christian spirituality.

In a thousand ways every day we tell ourselves and each other: Holiness is not possible. But it is a lie. And we cannot experience the complete joy that God wants for us and that we want for ourselves until we get beyond it.

Excerpt taken from Chapter 36 of Matthew Kelly’s new bestseller Rediscover Jesus. Get your free copy (just pay shipping). http://bbold.cc/uaUey

Story:  The Passion that we read on Palm Sunday and during Holy Week calls us  to embrace our humanity.  We are called to allow hope to overwhelm the cynicism that so often creeps into our lives. 

            Bryan Stevenson says that “We are all broken by something.  We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.  We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent.” (Just Mercy, p. 289).

            Steven is a young man who is a ward of the state (Department of Children and Family Services).  He sits in the Juvenile Detention Center for stealing a car. He tells me that he just wanted to leave his foster home in order to find his family. 

            After so many years, I’ll never get used to seeing a kid confined to his cell.  There he has been stripped of his clothing and any personal belongings, including his family.  So often there is just a hallowed look, a look of aloneness.  You walk by and see these young eyes peering out just to get a glimpse of something or someone outside that cell. 

        84% of the youth detained in Cook County Juvenile Detention Center are black.  14% are Latino and 2% are other. 

·        They are overwhelming poor – all coming from about eight communities on the west and south sides of Chicago. 

·        Most suffer from trauma (physical and mental) and a severe lack of resources. 

            A friend of mine visited the Precious Blood Center on the south side and spoke to some of the youth.  He witnessed how they were being stopped by the police just for walking in groups of two or three.  He saw how they were being put out of school when what they really needed was someone to listen to them.  He remarked, “This would never happen in my community.  There would be an uproar.  Their parents would cause a scene.”

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Scripture Passages to Reflect on Daiy

Lenten practices for this week

This Week’s Daily Prayer

This Week’s Point We recount the Passion so that we remember and connect the experience of Jesus with the experience of many who are disenfranchised and marginalized. 


Fr. Dave Kelly is a member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and has worked with Kolbe House Jail Ministry for the past 30 years.  He is, also, director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a restorative justice hub on the south side of Chicago.

For more information about Kolbe House, visit www.kolbehouseministry.org

What is seminary Like?

“The formation of future priests… is considered by the Church to be one of the most demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity.” – Saint Pope John Paul II in Pastores Dabo Vobis.

The best formation the Church offers!

The seminary is the place where a man is formed mind, body, and soul into the image of Jesus Christ.  Seminaries are not places where men walk around in silence all day chanting in Latin. Rather, they are places of joy, camaraderie, and deep learning!  Today’s seminarians experience the best formation the Church offers!

In order to become a Catholic priest, a man must fulfill three basic requirements: a college degree, 2 years of Philosophy study, and 4 years of Theology study.  Some men enter seminary while still in college and so they attend College Seminary.  Once they get a degree, they can transfer to Major Seminary.

What is daily life like for a typical seminarian? In a word: busy. Because the demands of priesthood are so great, formation of future priests is rigorous.  In addition to master’s-level academics, seminarians pray together at least twice a day, go to daily Mass, meet with their spiritual directors, and go to pastoral assignments at local parishes. Plus there are special meetings, workshops, and homework.

Four Pillars of Priestly Formation

Being a priest is not a job: it is a taking on a new identity; it is becoming alter Christus, another Christ. To this end, the Church requires rigorous formation in four key areas:

Human formation: learning how to form the future priests’ personality to be a bridge to Christ; how to be an effective public spokesperson for the Church.
Spiritual formation: developing a deep and mature relationship with Christ through prayer and virtuous living.
Intellectual formation: understanding the truths of the Faith and cultivating the skills to teach the Faith to others.
Pastoral formation: learning how to be a “shepherd of souls,” helping parishioners through the joys and trials of life.

During their formation, seminarians learn to put Christ first in all things.

Three Levels of Seminary

College Seminary: Men who obtain a normal college degree, while at the same time undergoing the formation required to enter major seminary.
Pre-Theology: Men who already have a college degree, but who need to satisfy the requirements of two years of formation and study of philosophy before entering major seminary.
Major seminary (Theology): Men who have attended either college seminary or pre-theology, who now begin the final four years of priestly formation.

Installation of Ministries

Seminarians progress through several formal steps on their way to priesthood, typically in the timeframe presented below (with some variations, depending on the seminary).  Note that the first two ministries are also held by lay people throughout the Church.

Ministry of Lector (First Theology): Proclaim the word of God in a liturgical assembly.
Ministry of Acolyte (Second Theology): Assist the deacon and priest during Mass.
Admission to Candidacy (Third Theology): The bishop formally calls a man to be ordained.
Ordination to Diaconate (Spring of Third Theology): A man is ordained to proclaim the gospel at mass, preach, baptize, witness marriages, and assist the priest in bringing Jesus to people in need.
Ordination to Priesthood (Spring of Fourth Theology): A man is ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ

Story:  Several years ago, Zenobia, a young woman arrested for drug possession, was brought into the courtroom for a hearing.  Zenobia had stood before this judge several times prior to this.  He knew of her past history and of her battle with her addictions.  We sat hopeful that this time she could get some help and be given the opportunity for long-term drug rehabilitation and mental health counseling.  Her public defender presented her case and made the recommendation for drug rehab in lieu of incarceration. 

            To our dismay, the judge began lecturing her in this loud voice for all in the courtroom to hear and then had her handcuffed, sentenced to nine months in prison and concluded with “It would have been better if you had never been born”

            Just last week Zenobia called me and asked me if I remembered that day.  She talked about how much the judge had hurt her and how she didn't know how to deal with such a remark.  There are lots of stones thrown in our courtrooms and lots of permanent damage done.

            Months ago, Adolfo, one of the thousands of youth in United States sentenced as children to “Life without Parole”, had a chance to be re-sentenced and hopefully get a chance for freedom after being incarcerated for more than 20 years.  There in front of many “Scribes and Pharisees” and TV cameras, humiliating and demoralizing words were spoken and the accusers did not walk away until all their “stones” were thrown.  Adolfo and his supporters then waited for two weeks hoping against hope for a possible outdate – a possibility of one day being free. 

            But no, the day came and Adolfo was handed down a sentence of “natural life”.  He put his head down and wept.  His supporters in the courtroom gasped at this pronouncement and left the courtroom carrying emotions of sadness and anger and dismay.

            Bryan Stevenson writes about a lady who is a “stonecatcher” in his book Just Mercy.  Fr. Kelly told her beautiful story in his First Sunday of Lent Reflection.  This is a lady who sits in the courtroom to “catch the stones” people hurl at each other.  She says, “There is lots of pain in here.  . . .  It hurts to catch all them stones people throw.” 

            We so need a “Stonecatcher Lady.”



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Scripture Passages to Reflect on Daiy

Lenten practices for this week

This Week’s Daily Prayer

This Week’s Point How might I be transformed this Lent if I intentionally became aware of stone throwing and became a stonecatcher.

This week's author is Donna Liette, C.PP.S., a Sister of the Precious Blood.  She is a member of the team working at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. She has been a volunteer with Kolbe House at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center for over five years. 

 For more information about Kolbe House, visit www.kolbehouseministry.org

The Upper Room is a site in Jerusalem unique unto itself. Most sites we visit have a church with beautiful and ornate paintings, mosaics, and icons. The Upper Room, however, is exactly what it sounds like: simply an upper room. It has quite the history though. For hundreds of years believers have held the tradition that the Last Supper and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles happened in that spot. A church was built there in the 5th century, destroyed in 614, then rebuilt again and destroyed again in 965. The room that we are able to visit now is part of a church that Crusaders built in the 12th century, which partly fell into ruins, then was attended to by Franciscans for a few hundred years, and was also used as a mosque for a while. Yes, it has a lot of history! While the room might be simple and seen by many as a disappointing site, it is still very moving. 


Today, after classes, a friend and I decided to walk to the Upper Room and meditate on the events that happened there. As I imagined the Last Supper taking place in that room, I could not help but think about the apostles. What was going through their minds as Jesus, their Lord and closest friend, washed their feet? What were they thinking when Jesus gave them His body and blood in the form of bread and wine? Did they have any idea what their future would hold: that most of them would be sent out to the ends of the earth and martyred?


Much of the conversation between us seminarians this trip has been about our upcoming ordination. It is only about two months away! In some ways we are very similar to the apostles. We have spent multiple years getting to know Jesus as the apostles did, and now we are soon to be priests. Do we know what we are getting into? Are we ready for what the future might hold as priests? Ready or not, we will be thrown into ministry like the apostles. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), Jesus told His apostles during supper. He also tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. We can find comfort and encouragement in these words. 


As I was leaving the Upper Room, I remembered that tradition holds that the Upper Room is not only the site of the Last Supper, but also the site of the descent of the Holy Spirit. I pray that the Holy Spirit will enter into the hearts of all of us here as we prepare to go out to the entire world as the apostles did. I pray that we will never stop learning from Christ’s example of servitude and the new commandment He gave the disciples during the Last Supper: “As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Posted by Mundelein Pilgrims at 3:53 AM

INSEARCH is for post-college men with a serious interest in diocesan priesthood. Meetings are held every week in the evenings in downtown Chicago. It provides a weekly opportunity to engage the question about priesthood. In addition, a small fraternity develops among the men who participate in INSEARCH, sharing a common bond in the search to gain clarity around the question of priesthood

Their annual retreat is this weekend, March 11-13.  Please pray for those who attending this weekend..

Contact: Fr. Francis Bitterman at fbitterman@archchicago.org or 312-534-8298.

God has a mighty, awesome, wonderful transformation in mind for you.

We pray for tweaking—and then we wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers. The reason is simple: God is not in the business of tweaking. He’s in the business of transformation.

The other sad, tragic, miserable truth is that most of us have never prayed a prayer of transformation—not even once in our lives. Most of us have never come before God and prayed:


Loving Father,
Here I am.
I trust that you have an incredible plan for me.
Transform me. Transform my life.
Everything is on the table.
Take what you want to take and give what you want to give.
Transform me into the person you created me to be,
so I can live the life you envision for me.
I hold nothing back;
I am 100 percent available.
How can I help?


If you want to see miracles, pray that prayer. If you want to see and experience miracles in your own life, pray a wholehearted prayer of transformation. That’s a prayer God will answer. God always answers a prayer of transformation. Never once in the history of the world has God not answered a sincere prayer of transformation.

So what’s it going to be: More tweaking or are you ready for transformation?

Excerpt taken from Chapter 22 of Matthew Kelly’s new bestseller Rediscover Jesus. Get your free copy here (just pay shipping).



What will be the hardest thing about letting God transform you and your life?



Pray the transformation prayer in the Rediscover Jesus excerpt above. Ask God to transform the area of your life that you reflected on yesterda



Jesus, keep the desire for transformation alive in my heart.


For videos:


Good Friday, March 25, 2016 - Each year we follow the passion of Christ in the heart of our city, where thousands of people carry their cross every day. Through choral music, Gospel passages, reflections, and our silent procession, we hope to enter more deeply into the events of Good Friday and their meaning for us today. We ask to experience the exceptional Presence of Christ among us as a real answer to the needs of our hearts.

As we process through downtown Chicago on Good Friday, we join with the entire Church, the Church throughout the world and the Church throughout the ages, in remembering what Christ's suffering and death mean - not remembering what it meant - but remembering what it means for us here and now and means for all people in every place and time.

Route: Walking in silence through the heart of Chicago, from the Daley Center Plaza to Holy Name Cathedral.

Schedule: We gather at Daley Plaza at 8:45 AM, and begin promptly at 9:00 AM with an introduction.
The scheduled arrival at Holy Name Cathedral is around 11:30am, and the last station is expected to conclude around noon.

Additional Information: The total length of the walk is approximately two miles. Participants are encouraged to be prepared for fatigue, and for possible inclement weather.  For information contact us via phone (312) 725-2320 or email info@wayofthecrosschicago.org. The Way of the Cross is sponsored by the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation


Story:  On one of my regular Thursday evening visits to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, I entered one of my usual pods.  A young man I had not met before came right up and asked if he could talk with me.  That’s what we are there for -- so of course, I was ready to listen. 

                A handsome 15 year-old Latino -- shiny black hair, huge, expressive eyes, slight of build, G could not have looked more anxious, sad, lonely.  In disjointed phrases, he told me his story. 

                G is the oldest of seven children in a family with a Mom who was left to raise them when her husband was sentenced to 50 years in prison.  G said he saw her so very tired all the time.  He often had to help care for his siblings, even though he was only 10 or 11 years old. 

                Long story short, he found a way to  “help” her out, by selling drugs and doing other “stuff” for and with his fellow gang members.  It all led to the serious crime he is now charged with. 

                What I remember most from that visit was his deep remorse; his fear for his mother now that he would not be there to help; his anxiousness to confess his crime and “do the time.”  But most of all I remember the end of our conversation when his eyes welled up and he said,I wish I could just be a kid again.”



Reflection:  In Sunday’s Gospel, the young son left home and became prodigal, i.e. lavish spender, wanton, wasteful.  But he came back repentant, remorseful, and ashamed.  His father welcomed him with open arms that closed around him (the definition of unconditional love).  We call him the “prodigal son,” but maybe he should be known as the “pardoned son.”

                The son was broken in spirit, enough so that he knew the only way he could be repaired was to come home, acknowledge his negative behaviors, and ask for forgiveness, which he received.  He was restored from brokenness to wholeness.

                I recently heard a message describing the beauty of mosaics, reminding us that they are carefully made from broken pieces of glass and/or stones.  If even one piece is not placed correctly or is missing, the work of art is incomplete and not as beautiful.  We are God’s mosaics, made, each, individually by His hands, our life’s experiences, families, our successes and failings.  When we fall short, have a piece missing, we as Christians know to whom we can go to be repaired, to be made whole again. 

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Reflection (Continued)

Scripture Passages to Reflect on Daiy

Lenten practices for this week

This Week’s Daily Prayer

This Week’s Point:  :    As disobedient children can usually run to their parents and feel that forgiveness and mercy, we can know our heavenly Father is there for us.

 Sara Nuñez is this week’s author.  She is a volunteer at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and has been a Kolbe House volunteer for nine years. 

 For more information about Kolbe House, visit www.kolbehouseministry.org

The Holy Father has indicated the Fourth Sunday of Lent as a special moment of prayer and celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. In keeping with the Jubilee theme, the Archdiocese of Chicago will observe this time as the Days of Mercy and Forgiveness, on Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, 2016, to express our communion with the universal Church.

For parish locations and times:


Receive mercy and forgiveness. Be merciful and foregiving

Five Deacons will be ordained priests for Chicago on May 21, 2016.

We are very blessed that they will be serving the Archdiocese of Chicago

This is an important time to give these seminarians extra prayer support.

Please pray for them, their families and all they will be serving in Jesus’ name.


There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree, but have found none.  Cut it down.  Why should it exhaust the soil?”

The gardener  said to him in reply, “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it.  This tree may bear fruit in the future.  If not, you can cut it down.  --  Luke 13: 6-9



 Story:  Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, is about taking a close look at mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America.  He says the problem “is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.” (p.14).

            Stevenson believes that “the true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” (p.18)  In a speech he gave at St. Ambrose University this fall, Stevenson emphasized that we have to be in “proximity” to the poor and the marginalized to understand their situation and be moved to do something.

            Sometimes it’s easy for me to get discouraged when working with our youth at the Precious Blood Reconciliation Center or visiting with the young men in prison.  Is my work productive?  Is it bearing fruit?  Am I making a difference? 

            I’ve come to realize that just the act of going to see someone in prison is a corporal work of mercy and the chance to do it should be gratefully enjoyed and appreciated as a gift from God, even if the outcome is not always positive.


 Reflection:  In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus warns us that we are all sinners and that we must repent and change our lives.  God gives us an abundance of chances and showers us with love and mercy.

            Just as the person who had the fig tree planted in his orchard wanted to cut it down because it bore no fruit, we as a society are too quick to give up on our youth.  We are impatient for them to make changes. 

            For some of the youth we serve, the workings of grace are obvious.  All they need is a chance.  For others, grace is a potential energy not yet apparent in their attitude and behavior.  Too often our society, including parents, schools, law enforcement, the legal system, and the public at large abandon our youth, leave them for dead, and cast them into the shadows of society.

            For many youth, their problems are “rooted” in poverty, with few resources to help them “grow” and develop.   The problem starts in our schools who are all too quick to suspend and expel students rather than to look for alternative solutions to resolve problems.  One solution is to use peacemaking circles.  Peacemaking circles can take time; so schools think that it’s easier to cut out the problem.  This begins the school-to-jail pipeline, a pipeline which often ends with our youth being tried as adults, ending with our youth in prison. 


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Reflection (Continued)

Scripture Passages to Reflect on Daiy

Lenten practices for this week

This Week’s Daily Prayer

This Week’s Point:  Too often we label someone in such a way that allows us to remain distant from them.  How would I feel if this person were my child? my brother? my sister? my parent? my spouse?  

Mike Donovan has been a Kolbe House volunteer for over ten years.  He goes into the Juvenile

Detention Center twice weekly and visits many who are sent on to the prisons

For more information about Kolbe House, visit www.kolbehouseministry.org



Has priesthood crossed your mind, but fear pushes the idea away:

Fear of commitment          Fear of celibacy       Fear of being unworthy

These fears are very common, even for men who are already in seminary. But literally thousands of men have had the same concerns and then went on to become holy and effective priests.

The first principle to remember is that God does not speak through fear.  Fear is a tactic of the Enemy to keep you from pursuing God’s will; it is like the bite of an animal that paralyzes its prey to keep it from moving.  A man in fear will find it difficult to move toward God’s will.

So how do you overcome fear?  Here are five ideas:

1. Turn your fears into concerns. 

You may have legitimate concerns about celibacy or preaching—but that is not the same as being afraid.  Rather than feeling fear, look at the requirements of priesthood objectively.  Sure, it’s true that priests need a certain level of self-control and ability for public speaking. These and many other areas require serious self-assessment. Yes, you probably will discover areas that need to change and improve. But go about your discernment with a cool head, not a fearful heart.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). Recall that when Jesus called Peter (Lk 5:1-11), our first pope said, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  Jesus then assured him that there was nothing to fear in following him. Likewise, Jesus knows your difficulties and weaknesses. If you trust him and “cast your net into the deep,” all will be well.

2. Reflect on God’s love. 

Fr. Brett Brannen, in his book To Save a Thousand Souls, recommends this meditation when a man feels fearful: “God is infinite in power and he loves me infinitely. There is no snatching out of his hand. God will never send me where his grace cannot sustain me. If he asks me to do something difficult, like become a priest, he will give me the grace to do it. I will not fail because he is with me. And I will be happy because I am doing his will. Even if I lack some of the needed qualities, God will help me develop them. In his will lies my peace.”

3. Entrust your fears to the Blessed Mother. 

Recall that after the angel told Mary to “fear not,” she readily accepted God’s will for her: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  Entrust your fears to her intercession, and she will help calm your heart and find the will of Jesus.

4. Remember what seminary is for. 

From a purely practical perspective, it’s comforting to know that if God calls you to be a priest, ordination is still years away. Seminary offers a period of intensive formation to help a man address his concerns, grow in holiness, and prepare for an effective priestly ministry. No man enters seminary ready to be a priest!

5. Look to Scripture for Consolation. 

If you have some fears concerning priesthood, know that you are not alone. Those prophets and apostles whom Jesus called in the Scriptures also had fears. See the Scriptural references below to see how God encouraged them.

I’m not holy enough (Isa 6:1-9; Lk 5:1-11)

I’m afraid I will fail (Ex 14: 10-31; Lk 15)

I’ve made mistakes and I’m a sinner (Jn 21:15-23; Mt 9:9-13; Lk 7:36-50)

I’m too young (1 Sam 3:1-18; 1 Sam 16:1-13; Jer 1:4-10; Lk 1:26-3)

I’m not talented enough (1 Sam 17:32-51; Lk 1: 26-38)

I want to have a family (Gen 12:1-3; Mt 12:46-50; Mk 10:28-30)

I want “the good life” (Mk 10:17-31; 1 Cor 2:9; Mt 13:44-46; Jn 10:10; Mt 16:24-27)

I’m afraid of making a permanent commitment (Ruth 1:15-17; Mt 28:16-20; 1 Cor 12:5-10)

I’m afraid of public speaking (Ex 4:10-17; Jer 1:4-10; Jer 1: 9-10)

I’m not smart enough (2 Cor 4:7-18; Ex 4:10-17)

I’m afraid of being alone (Ex 3:4-22; Lk 1:28-38; Mt 28:20)

I want to be happy (Ps 37:4; Mt 5 (1-12; Jn 10:10; Mk 10:28-31; 1 Cor 2:9)

I’m filled with fear (1Jn 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

As St. Pope John Paul II reminded us so often throughout his pontificate:  Be not afraid!  Don’t let fear paralyze you. Instead, ask a priest you trust to help you with your concerns. Remain faithful to daily prayer, trust in God, and your heart will be at peace, no matter what your vocation.







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