Click on the links or scroll below for the text from the following articles from the July/August 2017 issue of The Catholic Islander:
Pictured on the cover: Catholic Daughters of the Americas celebrate 45 years
From the Bishop's Desk
Bishop Herbert Bevard
St. Joseph High School science teacher, Brother James Petrait, OSFS, retires after 29 years
On June 2, Brother James Petrait, OSFS retired after 29 years of teaching at St. Joseph Catholic High School on St. Croix. At the St. George Village Botanical Garden, Bishop Herbert Bevard, Father John Mark and a large gathering from the school and church thanked Brother James for his dedication, enthusiasm and excellence as a teacher.
At the end of the school year, Brother James will attend an assembly of his religious order at De Sales before returning to St. Croix. He plans to spend his retirement in Toledo, Ohio, but says that he will continue to keep up the diocesan websites.
In his remarks, Brother James expressed his thanks, especially to Bishop Bevard, Father Mark, Mrs. Bryson, Ms. Miranda, Ms. John, Ms. Rosie Mackay and the many others for their kindness and support.
Noting that it all began with a small ad in a stateside newspaper during the spring of 1988. Teachers were being sought to come to St. Croix to teach. In his fifties at the time, Brother James’ interest and ever- youthful sense of adventure was piqued. With his superior’s blessing, Brother James applied for the position, and found himself at St. Ann’s Parish where he met Father Kosak, now Msr. Kosak, and Father Elliott Thomas, now bishop emeritus. While at St. Ann’s Parish, Brother James experienced the devastation of Hurricane Hugo and the subsequent rebuilding of the church, and St. Joseph’s church and high school.
In the triumph of Christian love and sacrifice over natural devastation, Brother James forged an ever deeper bond with his Catholic faith.
A technical hobbyist, researcher and devoted teacher, with a love of all things measurable and observable in God’s wonderful creation, Brother James sees all of science as yet secondary to faith and love.
He says, “Love has its roots in the heart of human existence and cannot be measured, but can only be experienced.”
As Bishop Bevard sends Brother James off to enjoy his well-deserved retirement, he wishes him good health and many consolations from Almighty God in the years to come. Imparting his apostolic blessing, he expresses with great fondness that Brother James Petrait, OSFS’ presence here will be greatly missed; but his holy and good influence on his many, many students, colleagues, parishioners, neighbors and friends on St. Croix, and in all of our diocese, will long be felt and deeply treasured.
From the Editor's Desk
by Father John Matthew Fewel
THE 45TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CATHOLIC DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAS
The largest organization of Catholic women in the Americas, Catholic Daughters of the Americas was formed in 1903. Under the patronage of the Blessed Mother, its members are united by their faith in Jesus Christ, in their devotion to the Church and the Holy See.
The purpose of the organization is to participate in the charitable and educational apostolate of the Church.
Further, as the organizations mission statement reads, the Catholic Daughters of the Americas strive to embrace the principal of faith through love in the promotion of justice, equality, the advancement of human rights and human dignity for all.
How did such a noble group come to St. Thomas? It was because of the vision of Mrs. Genevieve Christensen who assembled three of her closest and oldest friends, all parishioners of the Cathedral at her home at the Grand Hotel. She and her husband Hein managed to discuss the formation of a court of the Catholic Daughters on St. Thomas. Those ladies were Blanca Lydia Sandin, Josephine Diaz and Agnes King.
Since that meeting, the Catholic Daughters have engaged in many projects including: supporting orphaned children in South America; assisting in the financial support of our local seminarians and distribution of Christmas care packages to the shut- ins. Their most recent project is raising funds to support its beautiful completion, with funds raised in many successful campaigns, the renovation and restoration of our lovely and noble Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
We have much to be thankful for from the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. For their service for more than 45 years, and by the Grace of God, many, many years to come. Our diocese and all of its faithful wish the Catholic Daughters of the Americas a very happy 45th anniversary!
Journeys of Faith
by Paul McAvoy
Works of Charity
Jerry and Christine Woodhouse of St. Thomas were honored this year, along with the other members of the Order of Malta, with the annual Keys and Sword Award for their charitable work. For Jerry and Christine, helping their neighbors - whether close by or across the ocean — is something that flows naturally from their Catholic faith.
Jerry was raised in a Catholic family and went to Catholic schools from elementary through college. “Catholicism really has been in my life from the beginning. Whether in business or other endeavors, [I realized] faith played a big part in that. You just rely on faith to get you through difficult times,” says Jerry who began in the U.S. in the clothing business, managing stores on college campuses, and then went into the clothing business with his own stores in Columbus, Ohio. Later, he bought a business in St. Thomas that made fragrances, most notably St. Johns Bay Rum, which is sold in classic mens shops in the United States and for the tourist market. That is what brought him to the Virgin Islands, and his experience in the retail business helped him to succeed in the fragrance business.
Christine was born and raised in Paris, France, and lived there until she married Jerry. “My father was very pious, and while it wasn’t his style to talk about his faith, I always went to Mass with him. That made an impression on me, and when I was 12, we started in Paris going to a different church every Sunday to discover the buildings.” Having a shared faith was important to Jerry and Christine in their marriage, and they helped encourage and sustain each other with their mutual Catholic faith.
“When we became part of the Order of Malta, we were exposed to a group of absolutely wonderful people. What we like about it is nobody is taking credit for the good deeds ... you’re not there to be looked at, you’re there to help. And the people there accomplish so much,” says Christine.
One project they got interested in was a hospital that the order runs in Haiti. A clothing drive in St. Thomas became a way for the Order of Malta in the USVI to help with the hospital.
Christine explains, “Our little group was able to collect clothes in parishes and throughout the island, and Jerry was able to talk the shipping company into giving us free shipping - it was wonderful to see the Catholic community, and the rest ol the community, really rise up to the occasion to help out.”
Jerry and Christine continue to stay involved with their faith in pro-life causes and in other issues important to them. In living out their faith, they are answering the Gospel call and finding personal fulfillment in assisting others. Jerry has even used his background and experience in the clothing business to set up a web store (orderofmaltamerchandise.com) that sells Order of Malta shirts, ties and clothes - with the profits all going to the charitable work and scholarships for children at Ss. Peter and Paul School on St. Thomas.
“The Order of Malta really has enriched our lives tremendously,” Christine says. “Jerry and I go to our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, and during that week we are at the service of the sick who come as guests of the order. I can tell you it’s a wonderful, uplifting and joyous event for us and them.”
One of the missions of the Order of Malta is the sanctification of each member, and the Woodhouses are embracing that goal. “Involvement with the order has brought our marriage closer, and I think it’s very rewarding,” Jerry says. “I second that!” Christine adds.
Saint of the Month
ST. BRIDGET OF SWEDEN
Feast Day: July 23
Patron saint of Sweden, co-patroness of Europe
Canonized: October 7, 1391
"Margery Kempe said of St. Bridget that "she had a laughing face,” and was "kind and meek to every creature,” which she demonstrated in her service to the Roman poor."
Claim to Fame: Bridgets father, Birger Persson, was one of the wealthiest landowners in the country. From an early age, Bridget showed a deep interest in religion, and her family fostered this as she grew. Following Bridget's mothers death, an aunt came to live with the family, and she encouraged Bridget's faith and strong will. At age 13, Bridget married Ulf Gudmarsson, and although marriage had not been her first choice, she was happy. The couple had 8 children, among them St. Catherine of Sweden. Bridget's charity made her very well known in Sweden, and she was acquainted with a number of theologians, and she even lived in the court of King Magnus Eriksson for several years.
What made her a saint: As a girl, Bridget sometimes had religious visions, including one of Mary placing a crown on Bridget's head. Following her husband's death, these visions became more frequent, even believing that Jesus Himself visited her. She also founded a convent at Wadstena, and created a new order, the Bridgittines. She journeyed to Rome to obtain commendation from the pope that would make her order official, but did not receive commendation. (Her daughter Catherine did, however, after Bridgets death.) Bridget remained in Rome for the rest of her life, and was known for her charitable and pious lifestyle.
By Doug Culp
What do you say when...
A FRIEND WONDERS WHY HER YOUNG SISTER JUST DIED WHILE HER ABUSIVE GRANDFATHER IS STILL ALIVE?
In 2017, Theology 101 is focusing on the topic of evangelization. Specifically, the task is to offer some ways of approaching various questions Catholics may encounter from co-workers, family and friends regarding the practice of the faith. Of course, we must remember that nothing can replace the power of witnessing to the Good News through our own actions and words combined with our willingness to accompany others on their faith journey.
My friend’s sister, who was a wonderful young person, just died. What do I say to my friend when she wonders why this good person died while her alcoholic, abusive grandfather is still alive?
When faced with such a question, what you do is more important than anything you could say. Your friend is hurting, and is probably angry at the perceived injustice of her sister’s death. She needs a safe place in which to be “heard.”
Consider the experience of those who have served as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion at a hospital. Many times, one canbe at a complete loss for words — and these often turn out to be the best visits. Because one is present without speaking, the other person has room to share his or her story. And the stories are simply amazing — stories of life, of loss and of love.
At such times, we must attend to our sister and brother. In other words, we must be active as a listener and therefore be willing to be quiet; we must clear the clutter of thoughts, noise and lists of responses and ready-made answers from our minds.
If you are moved to speak, try asking your friend about her sister. Give your friend an opportunity to reflect on the beauty that was the life of her sister and the love they shared for each other. This is not to say that you should in any way minimize her grief or anger, but such sharing can lead one to feel gratitude for having had such a person in his or her life. This feeling of gratitude can be an important step toward healing. Of course, you could also offer to pray with her for her sister, her family and, yes, her grandfather.
THE MYSTERY OF GOD'S RESPONSE
Ultimately, your response should reflect the response of God to death and human suffering. This response is found in Jesus Christ on the cross. In other words, God responded to death and human suffering not by taking it away, but by entering fully into it and suffering with us (which is the true meaning of compassion).
In Christ, we learn the key is not in escaping from hurts or living some illusory existence free from suffering. Even the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, was not spared the hurts of living in a fallen world, though never was there one who was more innocent and good. In fact, he experienced wounding on every level. He was rejected by his people and abandoned by his friends. Jesus experienced the perceived failure of his mission and endured taunting, torture and crucifixion at the hands of both the civil and religious authorities.
And yet he did not respond to any of these assaults on his being by cursing God for his misfortune. He did not curse those who inflicted the wounds. Instead, Jesus trusted God the Father completely, saying, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Equally important, he looked down from the cross at his persecutors and prayed for them so that mercy and forgiveness might be granted unto them.
CHRIST COMFORTS THOSE WHO MOURN
This response to suffering is the truth that makes us free. It is a response that seems both supernatural and absurd to the world. This is so especially because nothing changed externally as a result of Jesus’ incredible response to the many wounds he received. He did die and was buried. His followers did mourn his loss. Life did go on as normal for the greater part of his following — that is until Easter Sunday.
"Jesus experienced the perceived failure of his mission and endured taunting, torture and crucifixion at the hands of both the civil and religious authorities."
When we see images of the risen Christ, we see a glorified body, but not an unwounded body. The marks from the physical wounds remain. However, these wounds now testify to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. The wounds have been transformed from being a fruit of hatred, anger or indifference against one’s neighbor into being a witness of the depth of God’s love for each one of us. The wounds that once caused an excruciating and humiliating death are now the badges of the final victory over sin and death.
It is true that God does not guarantee us a life free from pain and wounding. However, God does guarantee that while death is an ending, it is not the end. It is precisely in your being present, suffering with, bearing the anger and hurt of your friend without judgment or condemnation and showing your love for her that you can create an opportunity for your friend to encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who alone comforts those who mourn.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Consider prayerfully reading the following Gospel passages:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But / say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Mt 5:43-45)
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?" They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. (Jn 11:32-35)
1. How might these two passages speak to the friend’s question?
2. What do they have to teach us about God’s response to good and bad, death and human suffering? What do they have to teach us about our response to these things?
Which saint said the following?
God is with us — and if sufferings abound in us, his consolations also greatly abound, and far exceed all utterance ...
A) St. Nicholas
B) St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
C) St. Bridget of Sweden
D) St. Paul
Correct answer to the Evangelization Quiz
B) St. Elizabeth Ann Seton