Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ as we together anticipate the Feast of our patron and patron of all priests, St John Vianney (Aug 4th). What a perfect impetus to consider the role of shepherd, as we honor this Saint chosen to inspire priests to emulate Christ, the Good Shepherd.
The figure of the shepherd holds lengthy history. Ancient Oriental kings designated themselves as guides and shepherds of the people. Scripture highlights the transformation of Moses and David, both shepherds by trade, as pastors of God’s People. Through the prophet Ezekiel the Lord renders this peace invoking image of Himself: “As a shepherd seeks out his flock… so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Ez 34:12). The Psalmist is moved to sing about the Lord as Shepherd who provides everything, so much so, that there is nothing that is wanted. When Jesus stood among us, He declared Himself the Good Shepherd, the One who sacrifices, protects, leads and nourishes – and would call others to do the same.
The title Good Shepherd remains reserved for Jesus alone, but every priest is called to follow in the footsteps of this “shepherd and guardian of your souls.” The priest’s role as shepherd in imitation of Christ as Shepherd is only credibly realized in his submission to allow Christ to explicitly work though him as a shepherd. In Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992) Pope St John Paul II clearly and concisely summarizes the priest as the “head and shepherd of (Jesus) people” who “lives and works in the service of the Church” and “for the salvation of souls”. The priest is indeed a shepherd sent out with a divine plan that is invariably messy and tough business.
(1) Laying down one’s life for his sheep is not settled during an Ordinand’s ceremonial laying prostrate during his Ordination Mass. The sacrifices of our priestly shepherds are customary, daily, the life. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” Our prayers can fortify our shepherds to stay the course and remain keenly sensitive and vigilant to their assigned duties, embracing the graces that are sufficient to the sacrifices that are being asked of them. A growing friendship and fortification through the Holy Spirit are key.
(2) With a shepherd-like heart a priest/bishop is rightly moved to protect those under his care. That protection is manly, fatherly and guided by charity (including tough love as the situation may warrant). Protection can be recognized in unwavering fidelity to the magisterium, helping to set souls free from besetting sin, prudent counsel and action that serve to protect both body and soul. Our prayers can ask for growth in the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. These hinge virtues fuel an authentic desire toward safeguarding those under his protection.
(3) Priests/bishops are charged with the task of leading people to Jesus Christ. A good shepherd knows his sheep foremost as children of God in search and in pilgrimage toward Home. “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” The flock knows his voice, which should be an echo of the ways of Christ and His Church. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Our prayers can bolster pastoral hearts to be enlivened despite the strains of leadership, and heartened for the wisdom to guide through so many hopes, sorrows, joys and sufferings within the flock.
(4) “When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.” (Gospel of St Mark) Our priests, as shepherds, know that their flock requires and awaits nourishment. What endless wealth of life-giving goodness, truth and beauty through the treasure trove of the Church! Our prayers can support our shepherds to boldly and unremittingly offer solid doctrine, liturgy and the sacraments to nourish the souls entrusted to him.
Like the stirring detail of Champaigne’s Le Bon Pasteur wherein the lamb seems both calmed and invigorated in its nearness to Christ, may this Communiqué elicit both a contentment but also rouse something anew within our hearts. Artists across the arc of time and meridians of the world have used time and talent to create a seemingly limitless number of portrayals of the Good Shepherd. He is seen standing, searching, sitting, squatting, stretching over a cliff to save. He clutches a staff, coddles a sheep, offers water to a lamb or respite by slinging it over His shoulders. Some depict Jesus alone with one wee sheep, others with vast wandering herds. Iconographers challenge the onlooker to grapple with the mysteries of the Good Shepherd, sculptors reveal both strength and gentleness through their chisels. Others have taken up pastels, chalks, sparkly mosaics and stained glass to incite the imagination. With such varied images, Visio Divina seems a rewarding consideration. Visio Divina (translated “divine seeing”) is related to Lectio Divina (divine reading), but instead of Scripture, this form of reflection uses art to help set one’s mind toward prayer. Let us together learn more about the Good Shepherd and His ways through sacred images and art. Our knowledge and love of the Good Shepherd will indeed prosper, and our prayers for our priest shepherds will indeed flourish!
United in prayer and mission…that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest.… eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day…. “One Ave Maria makes hell tremble” (St John Vianney). Pray that I will not ‘spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted…’ (St Teresa of Calcutta) … your kind emails and notes and phone calls and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your financial sacrifices are for 100% furtherance of Apostolate. THANK YOU! The letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! What glory is given to God through your writing! Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
SEVEN SISTERS – in and out and about:
Heartfelt welcome: NEW groups that registered in JULY to cover more priests in daily prayer: Additional groups in Cameroon (Africa), Italy (Rome, Florence), Canada (Ontario), Spain and these USA states: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Let no shepherd be left behind!
RECENT … and AHEAD on the calendar:
> May-October: Champion Shrine’s Shepherd Project. A season of prayer for each and every Bishop in the USA. One daily prayer provided. To sign up: https://championshrine.org/shepherd-project/
> Gratitude to Holly and Nancy for organizing the 2nd Annual Seven Sisters Day in Olympia, WA, on 8 July 2023 with Archbishop Etienne offering his supportive presence and reflection.
> Gratitude to Jean B for organizing a Fellowship and Recommitment event for Cedar Rapids, IA, area Seven Sisters. Janette joined them by Zoom for a talk and time of Q and A.
> 4 August 2023: annual HOLY HOUR (from Janette and Jeff) for intentions of all Seven Sisters on the Feast of St John Vianney. Expect blessings!
*NEW- to serve YOU! Want to plan a Seven Sisters information session, Morning of Reflection, Day of Retreat, Overnight Retreat? Or just need ideas to getting the word out about the Apostolate? A group of Seven Sisters with creative and organizational gifts will help you get started, keep you going and pray all along the way like sisters do! No idea too small or too big! SevenSistersEvents4U@gmail.com
MATTERS of the HEART:
- “My Seven Sisters Apostolate participation has been overflowing! Beautiful prayer time, new friends, a new ministry. I hope that it has overflowed into Father’s life too.” (Marcia, Minnesota)
- “I have been a Seven Sister going on my 6th year. An anchoress needed to have a successor, so I volunteered. I am deeply committed to this Apostolate. I have a nephew/Godson who is a priest. I realize the need for this Apostolate, especially in our current culture.” (Deb, Nebraska)
- “A priest approached me about this ministry in March 2020 when COVID affected us all. I honestly did not know what to expect. Women signed up right away! Beautiful graces have been received not only by Father but from the seven + sisters and fasting brothers who are in the apostolate. We are so blessed to have re-committed last month on our third year. God bless all the sisters in Christ!” (Yoli, Florida)
- “Thank you for this beautiful mission! I am truly honored and humbled to be doing God’s Will, in some small way, in this area of strengthening His priests.” (Susan, New York)
- “Hi! I recently moved. I was in a group in Missouri as a sub but never got called to take an hour. After seeing the beauty of the program at the parish, however, I am excited to bring it here.” (Karen, Michigan)
- “I am a mom of 3 boys and an RN. Our priests need all the support we can provide. They have a hard job to meet the needs of all the parishioners. I am so happy we can pray for them in this way.” (Carol, Kansas)
- “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to join a group of Sisters in a most vital role in protecting our priests, our Church and thus our world. Most gratefully in Christ…” (Linda, California)
- “Our pastor wrote a thank you card saying the Seven Sisters ministry to him is the best gift we could give him. The ministry has been a blessing and I just started today (07/01) a novena to the Precious Blood for the Seven Sisters to continue to grow and to get the needed funds in its growth.” (Nancy, Illinois)
ELIJAH’s HELPERS: Intercessors in this group are dedicated to offering Holy Hours for priests in various forms of crisis (no names known). These are special Hours for special circumstances and carry special supportive graces. It is growing! Please consider this vital, hope-filled offering for our priests! All inquiries to Nancy at ElijahsHelpers@gmail.com or cell: 612-756-1107.
APPRECIATED and LOVED quilt project: A double cloaking for RETIRED PRIESTS: Seven Sisters prayer and a quilt! The priests love both! To learn more regarding a single quilt for a retired priest or on how to get this started in your Diocese, contact QuiltsBySevenSisters@gmail.com
FASTING BROTHERS is growing: Groups of men offering various forms of fasting to augment the prayer efforts of a Seven Sisters group. Each man prayerfully discerns the type of fasting he will offer and commits to fast a designated day of the week (excepting Sunday/Solemnities). Our Chaplain, strongly urges formation of these groups. There is a form on the Website to register.
LAMP-BEARERS: Lamp-Bearers, so-named for their action of continually ‘filling of their lamps with the oil of prayer’, was launched to pray for the Apostolate at large. Each intercessor offers prayers every day for the Apostolate. Intentions are gleaned from topics and calendar points in the monthly Communique and also sent to members on the second or third Sunday of the month. Additional intercessors welcomed. Inquire through Website.
SEVEN SISTERS Guideline BOOKLETS: Available as free download from Web site. Hard copies passed on for printing cost of $2 each + P/H. Order thru Web email with amount desired/address
SEVEN SISTERS Tri-fold BROCHURE: Effectively used in parish pamphlet stands (ask pastor’s approval prior), Adoration Chapels, Retreat Centers, Bags/Packets for Women’s Conferences/Retreats, Women’s clubs, Serra clubs – or simply handing out! Available on Web as free download. Recommend 80# silk for best printing results. May also order through Web site. Indicate address/quantity. 50 cents each or 25 for $10 + P/H. Available in ENGLISH and SPANISH.
SEVEN SISTERS Tri-fold LITANY for PRIESTS: Beautifully printed on 100# silk (a bit thicker than brochures). Original artwork (inspired by the Diary of St Faustina) by Seven Sister in Minnesota, Litany by Richard Cardinal Cushing. 50 cents each or 25 for $10 + P/H.
REMEMBRANCE of those SEVEN SISTERS who have PASSED: We want to remember those Seven Sisters in name and in prayer, who have gone before us to their eternal rest. Visit the Web site. Click on ABOUT folder and scroll to bottom, choose: IN REMEMBRANCE. Follow prompts… OR you may submit info via the Website email. Please check site monthly for additions and to pray!
PRIEST who has PASSED to ETERNAL REST: If the priest for whom you pray has entered eternal life, the group may be led to continue to pray for a length of time for the soul of that priest. Perhaps a novena of Holy Hours or the offering of holy Mass(es) for the priest. You will know. Some groups have/are offering Holy Hours for an entire year for their beloved deceased priest. Groups may be started following the death of a priest that did not have a group prior. This is commendable and welcomed. Please register these special groups through the Web site.
SPANISH translation of Communique: Posted (and archived) on the Website. The translation link is sent with every Communique. Commitment Prayer/Guidelines Booklet in Spanish (on the Website – free download)