Mother’s Day 2022

The month of May gives us the opportunity to remember both Mary, mother of Jesus, and all other women who have left imprints on our hearts and souls — our mothers, of course, but also beloved grandmothers and aunts, teachers, doctors, neighbors and dear friends. All the women who have journeyed with us in life can be remembered during the month of May.

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A Reflection Moment

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

This morning I am once again being entertained by my hummingbirds. This is the first time in my life I ever had a summer off (if one imagines recovery from surgery as a summer off) to spend quality time in the mornings or evenings during prayer observing hummingbirds dive between the feeders.

I discovered the opportunity has been a kind of inner healing experience for me.  I have heard that simply surrendering time to observe hummingbirds is a healing opportunity but now I understand and embrace it.

Several years ago while in Trinidad a friend invited me to a hummingbird sanctuary. I had never imagined how many kinds of hummingbirds there are or how many could be in one location each morning and evening at the feeders. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I felt I was in the middle of a hummingbird circus which was amazingly delightful. Thus, my love for hummingbirds grew.

Last week I even purchased (via Amazon) another Shepherd’s Hook and feeder since so many hummingbirds are fighting over the two feeders I have.  I know that soon the hummingbirds will be headed south. Thus, offering me another glance at the meaning, value, and preciousness of time. Or, how and where do we focus our time and energy along life’s journey? How many major initiatives or activities have I allowed myself to be absorbed in, worthy as they were, yet to miss perhaps the ‘little moments’ that may offer the greatest insights in life. Or, render the richest and deepest meaning and impact on life and the life of those around me.

As the early fall days draw upon us, there is now a rush of hummingbirds on the balcony each morning. They are delightful as they scatter, chase and swiftly zoom to and fro guarding their Shepherd’s Hook domain.  (Click on link below to see video). Their numbers are increasing each day simply indicating the arrival of those who are migrating from the north headed south. There, I understand, they spend our winter and prepare for their migration north once again in early summer. The hummingbirds have become a daily reminder for me of all humans who are migrating around the world today. I hold them all in prayer.  I wonder and ponder who is willing to care for them during their migration or exile? (Text continues below video).

So, during these few short weeks, my balcony is one of their ‘resting & feeding’ stopovers.  I really have found these meditative moments not only healing but bringing inner comfort peace and joy into my life.  This is what we need today in our lives. There is too much hecticness.  I hope I can bring my new inner harmony and peace into the lives of those I will encounter when I return to campus September 4th when my medical leave is over.


(Sr. Angela Ann is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton).


“It’s For Us!” An Epiphany Reflection by Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

“Hurry up and wait” isn’t just a sarcastic Army slogan.  We do it often when going to doctors’ offices, and for our Sisters, it seems like it is the standard practice at the podiatrist’s office.  So I was not surprised to be sitting and sitting while the Sister I had taken there was back in the treatment area.

The waiting room is the length of a train car, and it is narrow.  So those in the waiting area sit facing each other with about four feet from knee to knee.  I was across from the receptionist, and a young man she’d addressed as Timothy was discussing payment options with her.  When it was settled and he walked toward the other end of the room, I noticed that his gait was awkward, like someone with cerebral palsy.   He sat down opposite me and watched as I crocheted a top on a towel.

il_570xn-594290918_rmjx“What are you making?” he asked.  I held it up and replied, “One of those towels you can hang from a knob or a handle on a cupboard.

“Oh, that’s pretty!” he exclaimed.  Then he was called to the treatment area, leaving his jacket next to another young man and an older man I presumed was their driver.

It occurred to me that I could hide the finished towel inside his coat, so I hurried to finish it and tucked it into his jacket, cautioning the other young man, “You didn’t see anything.”  He nodded solemnly.

I returned to my seat and began reading a magazine, hoping to get out of there before he returned, but no such luck.  He came out and picked up his jacket.  Out fell the towel I’d rolled up and tied with red yarn.  He picked it up and showed it to the others, a big question mark on his face.  “That lady (pointing to me) put it there,” said his companion.  So Timothy walked it back to me and held it out.  “It’s for you,” I explained.  “It’s Christmas, it’s a present.”  His face lit up and he hurried back to the others, exclaiming, “It’s for us!  We can keep it! It’s a Christmas present for us!”

Maybe he doesn’t get many gifts, although he seemed well dressed and well groomed.  Maybe it was the surprise element that delighted him. Whatever, I was delighted by his reaction and later, walking to the darkened parking garage to retrieve the car, it occurred to me that he had repeatedly said, “…for uswe can keep it!” Not “…for meI can keep it!”

joy-of-giving-8What a rare treasure Timothy turned out to be, so in union with his living companions that there seemed nothing self-centered in his view of my simple gift.  He gave me a much richer gift, and I’m still cherishing it—and him.

Listening to Jesus – A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9 

“…I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but found none…”  –Luke 13:6

tree_barrenMany years ago, in my childhood, I remember following my father outside in our backyard.  With watchful eyes, he would survey the vegetable garden and the fig tree planted there.  With the care it received, the fig tree would reward my father and his family with a harvest of fruit in due time.  When summer faded, my father would safeguard the tree from Pennsylvania’s wintry blast.  With shovel in hand, my father would dig around the tree, wrap it in sacking and cover it with soil.  There it would rest until it was time to resurrect it back to the warm, bright light of spring.

Today’s scripture poses a possible case of neglect or indifference.  Jesus searches for the fruit of the laborer’s work, but there is none.  The scene provokes a possible connection to our own relationship with Christ.

figtreeWhat care do I give to my relationship with Jesus?  Is there quiet time?  Time for listening, rather than reciting prayers or a litany of requests?

Quiet time in Christ’s presence nourishes the heart.  What does your relationship need in order to deepen, to grow?  The distractions of the world often deafen us, making it hard to hear the call of Christ that will nourish us.

Picture yourself in the scene with Jesus and the gardener.  What do you see?

Dry fruit?  No fruit?

Listen to Jesus.  He comes in search of fruit.   What do you hear from Him?


Experiencing God

A Reflection by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Evry Creature Reflct God Pope

Isn’t this a wonderful statement from Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si”?  When I came upon it I was struck by the many wonderful ways God uses to communicate to us, and how God uses all of creation as a revelation of Godself.

The Pope’s statement remind me of some of my favorite passages that have led me to ponder the care, love and largess of God’s involvement in the universe:

          “The world is charged with the grandeur of God…” [Gerard Manley Hopkins]
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God…” [Ps 18]

          “Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
          You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord.
          All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
          All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord…” [Daniel, chap. 3]

Grandeur of GOD 4What is the message that God is conveying to us? How do we avail ourselves to listen to that message? And how do we respond to what we hear?

Ernesto Cardenal, a Nicaraguan priest, poet and politician put it this way:

God communicates with us by way of all things. They are messages of love.

Grandeur of GOD 3How have you experienced God’s love recently?

  • Taking a moment to wonder at your capacity to love and be loved…
  • Gazing at the stars and experiencing a sense of awe at the vastness of the universe and, despite the minuteness of yourself, become aware of your capacity to appreciate your place in God’s grand design.
  • Experiencing a sense of gratitude and awe at being a part of this grand design 

God's love 3So, the next time you try to skip a rock on the surface of a pond, pet your cat, play with your dog, ponder the miracle or your spouse, children and friends, take a moment to thank God for revealing and sharing Love in such accessible ways…and share that love with another—any other on the face of the earth.

Reflection for Holy Thursday

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis

By Denise Levertov 

  rembrandt jesus

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
A soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
In a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
That He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
Drifted for mortal moments.

Letting the Light In – A Reflection for the New Year

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

The month of January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god with two faces, and at least at the beginning of the month, we tend to look back at what has been and ahead to what may be. I’ve been doing that, as I imagine you have, too, in free moments. (I hope you’ve had a few!)

At some point in December, public radio quoted lyrics by Leonard Cohen and, as poetry often does, those lyrics spoke strongly to my intuition, but it took some time and thought to put their meaning into words. Here are the lyrics:

Forget your perfect offering,
Ring the bell that still can ring.
There is a crack in everything—
That’s how the light gets in!

crack in everythingAt Christmas we celebrated how the Light got in—to our world, to our spirits—but that Light never would have come (as far as we know) if sin hadn’t caused the “crack” in everything first. Nothing after that sin is perfect; everything is flawed.

And everybody (except Mary and Jesus) is flawed as well. You recall the doctrine of original sin, and the phrase “our fallen human nature,” so we can forget trying to find or make a perfect offering, except for Jesus on the cross and at Mass, of course—the Light.

What can we do? “Ring the bell that still can ring”—which is what you do as you raise your families, provide formation in faith for every age of believer, offer care to those physically or mentally ill. We can’t wait for perfect programs, facilities or people: What we have and who we are is all we have to work with, so we go ahead, letting light in through the cracks, so our lives and our world will be full of light, despite or because of many obvious cracks.

So, next time you say to yourself, “I must be cracked to be doing this,” or someone else judges you in that way, please reply, “Yup. That’s how the light gets in,” and keep your soul in peace.

window and light 2God works best, it appears, through the flawed and the imperfect. That would be us.


“It’s amazing what a congregation of women can do!”

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

–Excerpts from a homily given by Bishop Denis J. Madden on
October 10, 2014, at a Mass marking the beginning of the
Community’s yearlong anniversary celebration

Bishop Denis J. Madden delivering the homily at the Mission Helpers Anniversary Mass.
Bishop Denis J. Madden delivering the homily at the Mission Helpers Anniversary Mass.

In the annals of the Mission Helpers we read, “United in their love for the poor, early Mission Helpers banded together to incarnate God’s love for all those who are spiritually or temporally in need.”

Mother Demetrias (Mission Helpers’ foundress) took to heart the words we heard this evening from John’s first letter:

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.”

Just the other day…I saw a man with a bent back walking down the street. I could not see his face, only his hunched back. And by the grace of God I could see and experience the presence of God in him. I thanked God for that visit and at the same time wondered how often have I missed His other appearances.

You, my dear Sisters, have not missed these sightings of the Lord; you, my dear Sisters, have not missed the Lord coming among us for the last 125 years in various shapes and forms—now that’s a lot of sightings!

With no anxiety but in a spirit of thankfulness at being able to serve the Lord by serving others your missions have taken you all over the United States, to central and south America, and your ministries have extended beyond the borders of the classroom to faith formation, spiritual direction, hospital ministry, care of the elderly…You have served in centers for those with special needs and offered shelter and protection to abused women and extended a welcome to asylum seekers.

Pope St. John Paul II said: “To welcome the weakest, helping them on life’s journey, is a sign of civilization. These persons belong in every way to the category of the poor whom Jesus reminded us in his beatitudes ‘will inherit the Kingdom of God’.”

The Mission Helpers bless the congregation while singing Sacrum Cor Jesu.
The Mission Helpers bless the congregation while singing Sacrum Cor Jesu.

My dear Sisters, you have been doing this for 125 years, and I am especially thankful that you have been doing it here in this Archdiocese where you have served in more than 150 parishes and countless social service centers.

From your earliest days you were known as “new kinds of Sisters.” You were not the traditional school teachers or nurses. Instead you went out among the people, reached out to those who were the most alienated or neglected by society, and responded to their needs.

It’s amazing what a whole group, a congregation of women, can do! It’s amazing what a group that takes the Gospel seriously can do.

How sorely the world and this local Church today still need your presence and your service so filled with love. You, the good Mission Helpers, change people’s lives, you give hope when there is no reason to hope, and you bring joy when lives are surrounded by darkness. Can anyone thank you enough for this? I don’t think so, but at least we can try.

Bishop Madden and Seminarian John Martinez, St. Mary’s Seminary
Bishop Madden and Seminarian John Martinez, St. Mary’s Seminary

May God continue to show His face to you and bless you with His most favored Blessings.

The Language of the Heart – A Reflection on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

This is a reprint of a letter that is circulated among the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart, June 27. 

In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. In so doing, we are exhorted to envision the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – looking upon our world: “Men and women being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning. With God, we can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing”.

Trinity-icon_Andrei RublewAnd then, “The leap of divine joy: God knows that the time has come when the mystery of salvation, hidden from the beginning of the world, will shine into human darkness and confusion. It is as if I can hear the Divine Persons saying, “Let us work the redemption of the whole human race; let us respond to the groaning of all creation.” (*)

From this Trinitarian relationship of love, God took on human form in the person of Jesus. In the words of Wendy Wright, “When the mystery of the Godhead spoke itself to the world that had emerged from its own ripe, generative belly, it spoke in the language of the heart. It spoke a tenderness so poignant it would break our hearts if only we would be still enough…It is said, in the devotional tradition, that when the body of God was broken open so we could peer inside to divinity’s innermost depths, it was discovered that the heart itself was pierced. Not by the soldier’s lance, for that entered the body’s right side. Instead, the heart, lodged in the chest’s left cavity, was pierced by Love’s own longing”. (**)

The history of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart reveals a heartfelt response of love to the love and longing of the Heart of Jesus. Mary Frances Cunningham’s vision of an apostolic community of women who live among and minister to those in need mirrors the Trinity’s own desire for an intimate relationship with human creation.   Her response, and that of hundreds of sisters through the years, was one of relationship and intimacy. She and they worked to break down barriers that divide and oppress people; that blind them to their identity as beloved of God.   In her own words, “As Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart we should strive ever more earnestly that the love that brought Jesus to earth be our distinguishing mark, the sign by which all may know that we follow closely in Jesus’ footsteps.”

language-of-the-heart-sai-darshan2As we look to our future as a Community, filled with hope yet cognizant that there are challenges that we must engage, we will be well served to remember that the heart is a dynamic place of change and exchange. Wendy Wright states that “…God’s heart is the center where all paradoxes are held in tension. Christianity is a religion of paradoxes. Three in one. Fully God and fully human. Life born through death…The tradition of the Sacred Heart seems to me to be a vehicle through which we locate the place of paradoxical convergence. The heart is at the center of God’s body, the center of the liturgy, the center of our redemption, and the center of the universe. There all things converge, but their convergence does not dilute distinctiveness into sameness. Instead, the incredible tension of holding opposites together generates intense creativity. For the center is not static but dynamic, and the existence of paradox there is not chaotic but life-giving.”(**)

Grounded in our relationship with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with each other, and with all we encounter, we can turn toward our future with hope and courage. Happy Feast Day!

(*) “Draw Me Into Your Friendship” by David Fleming SJ

(**) “Sacred Heart: Gateway to God” by Wendy Wright