Seeing the Spirit at work in the world

People are moved by the Spirit in myriad ways. Those who choose religious life take a road less traveled. Our goal is to put a human face on this countercultural way of living. Along the way we will explore questions of faith, God's unique call to each of us, and the process of discerning a vocation.


The SpiritCitings blog has moved to the website of the VISION Vocation Network, www.vocation-network.org. Visit that site and click on the blog items at the bottom of the page. Thank you.

Talk about an active retirement

After 21 years as president of Maryland’s College of Notre Dame, School Sister of Notre Dame Kathleen Feeley, 78, “felt the call to go to Africa, because of all Africa has suffered and all the needs it has, especially in education,” she tells the Baltimore Sun. Following Fulbright fellowship trips to China and India, she heard—at a birthday party of all places—of the new Catholic University of Ghana. She contacted the president, and “he almost jumped out of the computer,” Feeley says. His message: “Come immediately.”

The university area, with its power outages, bad roads, and unairconditioned convent, is a far cry from Baltimore, where, Feeley told The Catholic Review, “I had an overdose of comfort and security.”

Most of the university’s 500 students are committed Christians and bring a faith perspective to their studies. “I love the sense they have of living in a spiritual world,” says Feeley. “It’s a quality I hope they keep.” In her teaching of English and religion, Feeley says her “goal is for them to read. Their lives will be much richer.” She also tries to expose her students to new ways of interpreting the Bible, with which they are very familiar. “There is a tendency toward literalism,” Feeley says. Besides teaching, Feeley also works with School Sisters of Notre Dame novices from all of Africa.

Her work in Ghana, she reports, has enlarged her view of Catholicism, led her to rely more on the Holy Spirit, and increased her appreciation of her community’s idea of transformation. “Being transformed is more than being your best self,” she says. “It’s being the self you never knew you could be.”


A wing and a prayer

When he was in high school Father Michael Zaniolo wanted to get married and have a family and career. His life started going in that direction when an interest in building and designing led him to becoming an electric engineer. But “I felt a spiritual emptiness,” he tells the Chicago Sun-Times. “The more I prayed, the more I kept sensing and hearing, ‘I want you to be priest.’ And I kept telling God, you’ve got the wrong guy. Finally, I said to the Lord, OK, if this is what you want me to do, I will explore it.” Ordained a priest in 1988, Zaniolo has been the chaplain of Chicago’s Interfaith Airport Chapels since 2001.

“With 50,000 airport employees and tens of thousands of travelers passing through daily, the airport is fertile ground for ministry to anyone who needs to talk about what is going on in their lives,” he says.

Zaniolo is the city’s one full-time chaplain who with several other priests is available to hear confessions and celebrate the Eucharist. Three deacons and several lay volunteers also assist at ten weekend Masses. In addition, his work involves being visible and available to workers, travelers, and even homeless people at the airport. “Once people find out I’m a priest, they’ll say, ‘Father, can you pray for so and so?’” Zaniolo’s “parish” also includes three fire stations that serve the airport, a police station, and nearby hotels, restaurants, and parking facilities.

“I hear confessions every day,” says Zaniolo. “It’s something that people usually don’t do every day, but for some reason, here at the airport . . . I hear them regularly. For the travelers, I’m sort of like an anonymous priest, so they can really unburden themselves.”

A tough part of his job is being one of the go-to people at the airport for emergencies. “I remember once a teenager committed suicide and her parents were on their way to Hawaii. I had to deliver the bad news and comfort them until they could find a flight back home,” he tells the Sun-Times. “Once a flight attendant’s eighth grader got hit by a train while the flight attendant was on the plane. They always call me for those things.

“The nice thing about being an airport chaplain is that it really allows me to be a priest. I do have a lot of administrative things to do . . . but I also have more opportunities to hear confessions and to give some advice and counsel to people.

“The reward is I get to really see the movement of God within someone’s life,” he says. “I could not have designed a life better than I have now.”


VISION gets busted

Tuesdays are Vocation Night on "The Busted Halo Show" with host Paulist Father Dave Dwyer. Last night Father Dave interviewed VISION Executive Editor Patrice Tuohy (hey, that's me!) about VISION and its highly successful new online feature VocationMatch.com. I was impressed with how well Father Dave prepared for our interview. He was up on all the trends in religious vocations and how young adults and vocation directors are using new technology and media to find each other.

Understanding the power of media is nothing new for Dwyer, who produced and directed television for MTV and Comedy Central before entering the priesthood. He now serves as the publisher of BustedHalo.com, the Paulist website for young adult seekers, and hosts his weekday call-in radio show, which began last December. "The move to satellite radio is a natural progression of sorts," says Dwyer in an interview by Bill McGarvey posted on BustedHalo.com. "I feel proud to stand on the shoulders of Paulists of years past who were pioneers in Catholic book publishing, radio, film and television." Dwyer is confident that if "St. Paul were alive today, trying to get the message of the Gospel out, he’d have a website, a blog, a podcast, and a channel on satellite radio." Not to mention, a webcast, vodcast, and vlog. Thanks, Father Dave, for your help in promoting vocations and creating a culture of discerment.

“The Busted Halo Show” airs live every weekday between 7-9 pm EST on Sirius channel 159.


Monks continue ministry of forgiveness

Forgiveness was central to Jesus’ ministry and mission. And the Benedictine monks of Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri have made it central to their own mission in the five years since gun violence tore their peaceful world apart.

Lloyd Robert Jeffress, a 71-year-old retiree, walked into the abbey 90 miles north of Kansas City on the morning of June 10, 2002 and opened fire with an AK-47 assault rife, killing two monks and leaving two others seriously injured. Jeffress later killed himself.

The doors at Conception Abbey are still unlocked and open and forgiveness continues to be the reigning theme as the members of the rural monastery quietly marked the fifth anniversary of the tragedy this week.

Since the shootings, little has changed in terms of how the monks go about their daily routines and interact with visitors. Father Gregory Polan, the monastery's abbot, said ending the monastery's practice of openly welcoming strangers would defeat their purpose of living Christ's teachings.

If anything, said Polan, the shootings helped reinforce the teachings of Saint Benedict, the founder of the abbey's religious order, who instructed monks to keep death always before their eyes as a way to gain perspective on how to live their lives.

Local law enforcement has also kept a close relationship with the monastery, a bond that began on the day of the shooting. “The unbelievable strength and faith . . . have overwhelmed us,” said Nodaway County Sheriff Ben Espey. “We're always welcome. . . . It brought a lot of people closer together.”

Source: An article for the Associated Press


Mary Annette Gailey had worked at a day-care center, in retail food management, customer service, and with computers. Then, drawing inspiration from her father, who had worked in a Mack Truck engine plant, she became an over-the-road tractor-trailer driver. It was here she also received a call to become a religious sister. After several years of discernment, Gailey, 38, recently made her final vows with Pennsylvania’s Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Gailey frequently drove in silence to take better advantage of the contemplative side of her solitary hours on the road, which lent themselves to listening to God and sorting out the direction her life was taking. Driving a truck “allowed me to listen to the Holy Spirit,” she told the Associated Press. “It was a metaphoric journey being played out.”

“I was spending time in solitude, with just the Holy Spirit, and God spoke to me,” she said. “It’s definitely not like people picking up the phone and someone calls you . . . . There’s no lightning bolt. It’s much like a quiet whisper and listening to your own heart.

Her discernment process included attending come-and-see events, keeping a journal, meeting regularly with a vocation director, and living as an affiliated member of the Holy Family Sisters. For a while she spent one week living as a layperson, and another as if she were to be part of religious life. Her experience living as a religious gave her greater peace. “Someone said to me, ‘Go where the peace is,’ ” she said. “When you find the deepest peace, you know it’s true.”

“God never stops calling,” she says “When do we finally listen?”

After leading a team of 20 Catholic men and women religious to a United Nations conference on climate change last November in Nairobi, Kenya, U.S. Maryknoll Father John Brinkman said that "global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures . . . but protecting both the human environment and the natural environment," following God's command to "take care of other created beings with love and compassion.”

Mentioning the words of the late Pope John Paul II, Father Brinkman, a member of Maryknoll's commission on ecology and religion, said, "God has endowed humanity with reason and ingenuity that distinguish us from other creatures," and "ingenuity and creativity have African churches urge industrialized nations to remedy emissions debt enabled us to make remarkable advances and can help us address the problem of global climate change. It is very unfortunate that we have not always used these endowments wisely," he said.