Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Another Angel in Heaven?

Christmas morning, 2002, my then seven-year-old son tiptoed in his red footed fleece onesie down the carpeted staircase to the Christmas tree. John heard whimpering from the strange brown crate Santa had left. As he peered through the wires of the crate door, he gasped and ran up the stairs yelling for his brothers and sisters to ome see the wolf in the living room!

Jeff and Elizabeth, the oldest and bravest, opened the gated door to let the excited puppy out of her crate. The tan puppy leaped from child to child. Anne Marie had just turned four, but she knew this puppy presented nothing she needed to fear. Six-year-old Tom picked her up and was giggling so hard from her licks to his face that it took him a few seconds to realize she was peeing on his Power Ranger pajamas.

Their first priority was to name her. She wore a sky blue bandana dotted with Angels, so the kids unanimously chose Angel as her name. As the kids grew up, Angel often followed them as they walked to school, went with Carolyn to play with the kids and their friends at recess, and she loved playing soccer with them when they returned home after school. All of our friends, relatives and neighbors knew and loved Angel. She was a caring Cairn Terrier who loved our family unconditionally. Angel was a seemingly endless ball of energy, until Christmas 2017. She had slowed down considerably over the last year, but could still run to greet the kids when they returned from college or came by to visit. By Christmas Eve it was clear she was nearing the end of her glorious life on Earth. She made it through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but on December 26, 2017, Angel took her last breath peacefully at her favorite spot in front of the fireplace, held lovingly in my arms with our family surrounding her.

During her last 48 hours of life, the kids asked a lot of questions about life, death, and heaven. These questions can be scary because there is so much we do not know. The most fundamental question they wanted answered was whether or not Angel would be going to heaven. Would we ever see her again? If her soul lives on, what exactly is she doing in the afterlife? Is she playing heavenly soccer while awaiting our eventual reunion with her? Angel’s death even led us to discuss what exactly happens to us when we die. Will our guardian angel or a deceased loved one be waiting to show us where to go and what to do?

As their dad, I first wanted to comfort them in their immense grief. I also needed to remind myself that my children are now 26 to 19 years of age, and they want to know the truth more than merely what I think would cheer them up and help abate their intense sorrow. I first needed to address what we can expect for Angel.

I usually turn first to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but there was not much specifically on pets in heaven. As I looked at some of the more helpful Catholic websites, I found information about Pope Francis speaking about what we can expect in heaven. During a weekly general audience at the Vatican, the Holy Father stated, “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.” Many listeners took this to mean that heaven will include the perfection of all the world we now know, including plants and animals.

Although this Pope never stated what he believes happens to our pets after they die, a previous Pope did. Pope Paul VI once told a distraught boy whose dog had recently died, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed that animals do have souls and are “as near to God as men are.”

Following Pope Francis’ remarks, Catholic apologist Paul Thigpen took up the question of animals going to heaven in the December 22, 2014 edition of Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly. He admits that we just do not know for certain whether we will see our pets in heaven, but he does remind us that God created us and animals out of nothing, and all things are possible with Him. If God chooses, He can somehow bring animals to heaven for our joy or perhaps even for His own pleasure. Thigpen describes how this would be a preternatural gift from God (granting some or all animals a privilege beyond their nature).

Ultimately, we do not know for certain whether our pets will be in heaven. After reading Scripture, the Catechism, Church Fathers, Saints, and Church Teachings, there is still much we do not know about eternity. When I encounter matters of faith I do not understand, I turn to the place I should turn first – Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We can best know the Father by knowing His Son. So I return to Jesus and pray. My relationship with Christ should always come first. When I reflect on how God loves me even more unconditionally than Angel loved us, I cannot help but feel all will be well in the end. As in all the other cases of worry, fear, and uncertainty that I encounter in life, I know that if God is in charge, everything will be alright. I know how much God loves me and all of His awesome creation, so with no doubt or hesitation I entrust myself and my family, even Angel, into His loving hands.


Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, live in St. Louis, MO, and are blessed with three sons and two daughters (two out of college, three in college). Dr. Mathews, a gastroenterologist, is trying really hard to improve his Spanish for his annual medical mission trip to Honduras with his Giaccardo GI Group, whose patron is Blessed Fr. Timothy Giaccardo, the first priest of the Society of St. Paul and the first beatified member of the Pauline Family.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Saying Yes! Like St Joseph

I have found myself reflecting quite a bit over the past few weeks about the Holy Family--not only the Yes of our Lady, but also the Yes of St Joseph, maybe even more so than in the past.  After all, Mary was full of grace and without sin and Jesus was God made flesh, but Joseph was just your ordinary guy trying to live the life God called him to. I can relate to that on a whole other level.  I can only imagine that Joseph had thought his life would be different than it was.  Did Joseph ever imagine where his life would take him?  Even if he did, I doubt he foresaw the path his family’s lives would lead and how much they would affect the rest of mankind. God’s dreams for Joseph would guide him to become the Foster Father to the greatest Son ever to walk this Earth, but none of it could have happened without his Yes.   

Ever since I was a little girl, my greatest dream in life was to be a mother.  It might seem like a silly or small dream, but I firmly remember sitting on the church steps when I was seven or eight and planning it all out.  I would get married at 18, have eight children--one more than my parents did-- and live happily ever after.  I can say there have been many moments where my Yes to God has taken me into lands I never planned on visiting and adventures I may never have chosen on my own. But each turned out to be the greatest of blessings.  When I was just 20 years old, one such Yes in my life was when I became a foster mother to two amazing little boys. 

Fostering has always been a part of my life.  My mother took in foster children from the time
I was very small.  I can’t remember a time in my childhood that didn’t involve sharing my room with many sets of bunk beds and more goodbye’s than I could handle.  I remember being very young and deciding not to love too much because of how much it hurt to say goodbye.  This is how I would live a good part of my life, loving half way.  But in reality, it hurts much more to live this way.  You have so many regrets and you still have the pain of saying goodbye. But instead of facing this pain once, instead you face it over and over, day after day.  It doesn’t stop your pain but rather it just stops you from fully embracing the joy that comes with loving completely.  

What do you say when your best friend from high school calls to tell you her two sons are being taken away by the Department of Social Services and asks if you would be willing to take them?  I prayed about it for a moment and then said “Yes!” to one of the greatest adventures I have ever been part of.  Just like that, in a single phone call, I became a foster mother.  I had no idea at that time that this was only the beginning of the journey.  This would lead me to open a home for foster children with my sister Cindy, who is two years older than me. We took in two little boys and three teenage girls; it continued from there.  Each child that came into our home left an indelible imprint on my heart that will be with me always.  

For two and half years of my life, I was blessed to care for and love these amazing children as their foster mother, but my heart was also breaking for the suffering they had already endured.  I was also trying my hardest to not get too attached, for in fact they stress during training how much you are required not to get too close.  In my opinion this is impossible, and not in the best interest of the children.  They need someone to love them unconditionally even while the foster parent knows that it is going to hurt tremendously once the children are no longer with them.  My foster son once told me it was like my heart was a
puzzle and there were pieces cut out where each one of them fit into it. No one could take another one’s space and no one would never fill it; that is some deep wisdom for a 7-year-old, but also completely accurate.  The movie Tarzan by Disney came out around that time and I would always sing, “You’ll Be in My Heart” to the boys, and the girls indirectly since teenagers are too cool for you to sing to them.  I still have contact with all the children we fostered, was present for the births of several of their children, and continue to remind them how much I meant and still mean every word of that song and that they hold a place in my heart, always.

I have done a lot of growing up over the past almost 20 years since that first Yes, and I think that God is preparing me to one day again say Yes to being a foster mother. But this time, I will be able to put my whole heart in and have no regrets.  I've learned to not sweat the little things so much, to love as much and as long as I can, to not be afraid to say I was wrong and am sorry, and to get completely and totally attached even if it is only for the briefest of moments. Each child needs to know how much they are treasured by God through me.  Until that day comes, I am getting lots of practice by being a Big Sister through Big Sisters of America, nannying to two families with 6 children between them, and being a Foster Aunt to my sister’s foster children.  

Here are some statistics I came across while doing a paper for class on this subject. “According to the Children’s Bureau, child welfare agencies in the United States receive nearly 500,000 calls a month concerning child maltreatment, 50,000 reports of maltreatment are accepted by child welfare services for evaluation each week (almost 3 million a year), and about 1 million cases are opened for child welfare intervention annually.  These numbers are over and above the 550,000 children who have ongoing involvement in foster care each year, and a larger number formerly in foster care and now adopted or in guardianships.” (Barth, Lloyd, Chapman, Dickinson, Christ (2008)

There are so many opportunities to allow Love to grow in our hearts, we always have the choice.  So, my prayer will be that we each have a heart, like St Joseph, so connected to God that we are able to hear His voice sharing His dreams for our lives.  I also pray that we have the grace to respond without hesitation with a resounding Yes each and every time we are called to Foster Love.  What dreams might God be trying to share with you?  

Barth R. P., Lloyd E. C., Chapman M. V., Dickinson N. S., Christ S. L. (2008) Child welfare worker characteristics and job satisfaction: A national study. Social Work, 3, retrieved from

Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for 3 years. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 16 months before settling in Waltham, MA. In addition to being a foster parent, she has been working with children in various ways for the past 20 years, helping with the children's program on retreats and with the Holy Family Institute group in Boston, and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham and visits the hospital monthly to bring Scripture and Communion to patients in the eating disorders and behavioral management wards.  Most recently she has graduated with her Associated Degree and has gone on to pursue her Bachelor's and Master's in the Human Services/Art Therapy fields.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Icon of Holiness & Divine Love

A contemporary Holy Family Icon by V. Lukan
As the Christmas Season comes to a close, this week’s liturgical calendar is rich with solemnities, feasts, and memorials. The tone and theological focus for this week was set right at the beginning, on this past Sunday, with celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family. Then, on the day which the secular world calls New Year’s Day, we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Within the family of the Lord, we see the epitome of human holiness, generosity and faithfulness. That is, we see and remember the great calling and work of Mary, whose Fiat began a New Day for humanity.

This coming Sunday, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Lord’s Epiphany on January 7th, and then, on Monday, January 8th, the Christmas Season will end with the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. Meanwhile, these major celebrations are flanked on all sides with celebrations of great saints who followed the path to personal holiness which was set by Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Their apostolates of service (unique in salvation history) comprised their own journeys to ever-perfecting personal holiness for themselves and to their participation in redemption for all the faithful. The saints we celebrate this week also emptied themselves to make room for the Lord by serving the communities around them. Each one of these pillars of holiness displayed profound devotion to the Holy Family and its members. In their various communities, they all served the most vulnerable members of the human family, the sick, the poor, and children. Here I will present only brief outlines of the lives of these wonderful saints. I highly recommend reading about the details of their lives as told in books available from Pauline Books & Media.

Two Ancient Doctors of the Church

Saint Basil the Great

Both Saint Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen were fourth century Fathers of the Eastern Church. We celebrate their memorial on January 2nd. They both also have been declared Doctors of the Church. In fact, they were good friends and reinforced each other in their theological and apologetic efforts to strengthen the early Church by clarifying its dogma. In addition, Saint Basil was renowned for his sensitivity to and work with the poor. His generosity eventually became the stuff of legend.
Saint Gregory Nazianzen

As Bishop of Caesarea, Saint Basil personally organized a soup kitchen and distributed food to the poor during a famine following a drought in the region. He gave away his personal family inheritance to benefit the poor of his diocese. For Greeks and others in the Orthodox tradition, Basil is the saint associated with Santa Claus as opposed to the western tradition of Saint Nicholas.


Remembering Three North American Saints

On January 4th and 5th we celebrate the memorials of the first two American citizens to be canonized, Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) and John Neumann (1811-1860), respectively. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first saint who was actually American-born. Both of these saints were educators, known for the development of educational institutions in the United States. Their apostolates provided essential support to families working to bring their children up in the faith while becoming good citizens of their young nation.

 Elizabeth Ann Seton was particularly devoted to both the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. The order she founded, now known as the Sisters of Charity, was originally named, “Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph”. John Neumann’s contributions to Catholic education were made in conjunction with his role as Bishop of Philadelphia, where he was the first Bishop in America to establish a diocesan school system. He did this at a time when the country was rife with anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic attitudes and activities. As we all know, Elizabeth Ann Seton also dealt with strong anti-Catholic sentiments and treatment. Both of these saints were canonized in the 1970s by Pope Paul VI.
Statue of Brother André by
Joseph-Emile Brunet
on the grounds of
Saint Joseph's Oratory in
Montreal, QC, Canada

 On January 6th we celebrate the life and ministry of Saint André Bessette (1845-1937), who was a mystic and healer. During all of his religious life, he was known as Brother André, serving in ministry to the sick. His life (well worth study) is a fascinating story of courageous perseverance and dedication in the face of withering challenges and controversy. When he was accepted into the order of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, his own poor health prevented him from being ordained. So, after first having his application to join the Congregation rejected, he was assigned duties as porter, sacristan, and messenger for the College of Notre Dame in Quebec. Some of his duties included visiting the sick, which eventually became a healing ministry and which generated dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people to seek him out. However, he refused to take credit for any of the thousands of cures. He insisted that the cures were effected, through prayer, by the intercession of Saint Joseph. 

He anointed with oil the pilgrims who sought him out in his little chapel, and he prayed over them. He devoted his entire apostolate to Saint Joseph and began an effort to build a larger space to receive the sick. In 1924, construction began on the Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory. Brother André, who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, was the first Saint of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

The Holy Family: Model of Love, Work & Service

Saint Joseph's Oratory, Montreal. This is a
popular pilgrimage site for those devoted to
both Saint Joseph and Brother André .
For Brother André and so many saints commemorated this week, Saint Joseph of the Holy Family was a great exemplar of personal holiness. They followed his example in their own lives. They consciously tried to emulate the way Joseph loved, led and protected the Holy Family. Devotion and prayer to Mary's spouse, Jesus' foster father, bears great fruits for the believer. They say that faith can move mountains. Brother André has shown that it can cure the incurable. Understanding Saint Joseph with the spiritual depth of our saints will lead, in turn, to deeper understanding of how to become an increasingly graced member of any family, including the family which is the Catholic Church.

About the Holy Family, Pope Paul VI gave us the following words of wisdom in an address he made on January 5, 1964. You can find the text of the full address in the Readings section of the Prayer of the Church for the Feast of the Holy Family (Liturgy of the Hours: According to the Roman Rite, Volume I, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1975, pages 426-428). 

“The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.
“Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.
“Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value – demanding yet redeeming – and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself.”

In these words Pope Paul VI, who is often referred to as the “Theologian Pope”, shared his thoughts about the simple, yet powerful, beauty of praying and working within the community of love which is the family. He also teaches us how to become more and more worthy members of the other family to which we all can belong, the Church.


"May God grant that, through the Redeemer, we all be made authentic children of Mary, brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus, sons and daughters of the Father, and members of the Family of Divine Love, which is the Church."

Marie-Louise Handal is a Pauline Cooperator based in Manhattan, New York City. She is an educator and writer who has participated in organizing and hosting a number of Pauline Family special events, media presentations and educational programs in the New York Archdiocese and environs.
      Her education includes a Master’s Degree from St. Joseph's Seminary, a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from the New York Archdiocesan Center for Spiritual Development, a Master of Science in the Foreign Service from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Mathematics & Science from Hunter College. She is currently a candidate for the S.T.L. from the International Marian Research Institute, the American Branch of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum, Rome.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Pauline Mission in the Southwest

A Blessed Christmas Season and New Year to you all!  As I prepare for the special hour of adoration on December 31st to end the year and welcome in a New Year, I am counting all of the special graces and blessings experienced in our Pauline Mission here in the Southwest!

Las Vegas

In October, Sr. Irene Regina and I made an apostolic trip to Las Vegas for ten days.  We wanted to share a few pictures that hopefully capture the thirst of the people of Las Vegas for Catholic Resources in English and Spanish (especially Bibles) and their warm welcome and joy to have us there. 

                                                           Holy Family Parish in Las Vegas

We visited three schools during the week and several teachers told us that the children who are born and raised in Las Vegas have never seen Religious Sisters in person! 

                                                 Catholic School in Las Vegas

The Spanish Bible Studies on Thursday Nights at Holy Family Parish have to be held in the Church because approximately 500 people come each week.  The Church Hall is not big enough!  A new Catholic Church in North Las Vegas is being built and it needs to hold 4,000 people because the area is expanding and the population is growing by leaps and bounds.

The people were still healing from the tragic shooting on October 1st and we saw many signs reading “Vegas Strong”.  There is a deep faith among the Catholics of Las Vegas and we thought often, “Where sin abounds, there Grace abounds.”

                                                          Young Man at Holy Family Church

                                                        Our day off trip to the Grand Canyon 

San Diego

In November, Sr. Irene and I held a parish book display in San Diego at St. John of the Cross Parish.  It is always a joy to return to San Diego with our Pauline Mission!  Josie Stanley, our former manager of Pauline Books and Media in San Diego, assisted us with the book display and she will be going on the next mission trip to Las Vegas with Sr. Irene in January.  Another person who "God willing" will be assisting Sr. Irene in Las Vegas is one of our Pauline Cooperators from St. Louis, Patti Anderson!  In addition to these wonderful lay women, we are in contact with Hispanic families who are in formation for the Holy Family Institute.  The Pauline Family is alive and well in Las Vegas!

                                         Sr. Irene Regina, Josie Stanley and Sr. Marie James


The day after Thanksgiving, Sr. Irene and I once again packed the van and drove seven hours to Phoenix!  We were there five days visiting schools to promote our JClub book fair as well as exhibiting a Parish Book Display at The Church of the Holy Spirit in Tempe.  The parents of Sr. Maria Kim Bui came to see us and we enjoyed a couple nights out with them after the evening Masses!  Our founder always said that the parents of our Sisters are the first Pauline Cooperators!

                                                       Mr.and Mrs. Bui, parents of Sr. Maria Kim

                                               Church of the Holy Spirit in Tempe, Arizona

On November 30, we headed two hours south to Tucson.  It had been several years since we visited that diocese where a brand new bishop was installed the day before we arrived!  His name is Bishop Weisenburger and just like Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix, his family is from Kansas.

Sr. Irene and I visited St Augustine High School where we talked to the Juniors and Seniors about our vocation stories and our Pauline life and mission.  Sr. Irene was a basketball player in college at St Mary’s in San Antonio.  I could see that some of the girls were happy to hear her story and after our talk, they asked their teacher if it would be appropriate for them to invite us to their varsity basketball game that night!  Of course we accepted their kind invitation and enjoyed watching their game!

The following day we visited kindergarten through seventh grades at Our Mother of Sorrows School.  The kindergarten teacher told us that she became a Catholic because of her many visits to our Pauline Books and Media Center in San Diego when we were downtown on 5th and Cedar.  She expressed her gratitude for our mission and it was wonderful to see her living out her love for the Catholic Faith as a kindergarten teacher in a Catholic School in Tucson!

Our weekend parish book display was also at Our Mother of Sorrows parish.  So many of the children that we had met on Friday at school stopped by with their parents to purchase books, music, and DVD’s.  There are not many Catholic resources available in Tucson so it was beautiful to see the great thirst of the people for our Pauline Mission!

                                                         St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson
                                                                  Beautiful Arizona!

Feast of Blessed James Alberione

While Sr. Irene and I were on our apostolic trip to Arizona, the Sisters in Culver City hosted a Mass and Dinner on Sunday, November 26 for our Founder’s Feast day.  The priests of the Society of St. Paul, The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, the Pauline Cooperators, and friends were able to join in for the Mass and Potluck dinner that followed.  We were with them ‘in spirit’ and we heard that it was a wonderful evening of Pauline fellowship!

                                    Blessed Alberione's Feast Day Mass in Culver City

Thank you Blessed James Alberione for calling us to such an awesome Pauline Mission in the Southwest!  Please join us in prayer for the thousands of people we met in these past few months and those who will be meeting us anonymously through the Pauline editions, JClub brochures, Catalogs and Vocational materials left throughout the Southwest.  These are like seeds planted in the desert that will blossom into a spring desert that is in bloom!


Sr. Marie James Hunt entered the Daughters of St Paul community in 1981. She is currently missioned in California where she is the local superior of the Culver City community.  Sr. Marie James is also the West Coast Coordinator of the Pauline