Fr Joseph Johnson (Apostolate Founder and Chaplain) anticipates his JUBILEE
25 years a priest of Jesus Christ +++31 May 1998 – 31 May 2023
Let us flood his mailbox: prayers, cards, well wishes, gratitude, testimonies, surprises!
Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ as together we live our daily Lenten best to pray, fast and give alms, fortifying this three-fold cord which is not easily broken (Eccl 4:12). Our disciplines solidly ready and move us toward our shared Catholic mission of sanctity.
“Beware the man of one book,” quipped the Saintly writer, Thomas Aquinas. And it might be fittingly adjoined, “Behold the Seven Sister who reads The Priest is Not His Own, for her prayer offerings will assuredly be enlightened and strengthened.”
Since the early days of the Apostolate, Venerable Fulton Sheen’s outstanding book, The Priest is Not His Own (1963), remains recommended reading for every Anchoress (see Guidelines). Hope reigns that upon that reading, the members of each group would be encouraged to follow course. The book is written to Sheen’s brother priests, but its wide availability invites us to listen in and learn. Sheen holds nothing back and opens wide the door into the life of a priest who offers himself as both priest and victim. This overarching message speaks to the very heart of each priest, himself an alter Christus. “Unlike anyone else, Our Lord came on earth, not to live, but to die. Death for our redemption was the goal of His sojourn here, the gold that he was seeking. He was, therefore, not primarily a teacher, but a Savior. Was not Christ the Priest a Victim? He never offered anything except Himself. So, we have a mutilated concept of our priesthood, if we envisage it apart from making ourselves victims in the prolongation of His Incarnation.” All 17 Chapters substantially underscore this priestly view of the call not only as shepherd of a flock, but also as a sacrificial offering, both in imitation of Christ. While the Archbishop does not suggest the priest literally sacrifice his earthly life, he does ask him to sacrifice his entire soul to Christ on the Cross in every Mass and his entire body to Christ with the breaking of bread. Sheen reminds that the priest also sacrifices his place in the world, remaining sympathetic to man’s difficulties, albeit separated “…Though we are in the world, we are never of it, for our High Priest has called us out of this world.” This separation from the world might become more challenging as a priest receives honors or distinctions or gains popularity.
It has been said that if upon reading a Table of Contents, one is moved in the heart, the reading of that book will surely finish the work and convert that heart. Here are a few chapter titles from The Priest is Not His Own guaranteed to stir the heart: The Priest is like Jacob’s Ladder; Holy Spirit and the Priest; The Spirit of Preaching and Praying; The Priest as Simon and Peter; Judas and the First Crack of his Priesthood; Why make a Holy Hour; and The Priest and his Mother.
Through roughly 275 pages, Sheen consistently offers an aide-mémoire of the call of the priest and enkindles the desire in his brother priests to generously choose to be as close in thought and deed to Christ as possible. The work is wholly rooted in the teachings of the Church and dense in sacred Scripture connections. A golden thread that encompasses the book’s theme is this one speaking of Christ, but one easily appreciated in the life of any priest: He gave Himself up on our behalf, a sacrifice breathing out fragrance as He offered it to God (Ephesians 5:2).
Well-known is Sheen’s fidelity to the offering of a Holy Hour every day of his priesthood. He preaches from his practices, challenging all priests to take this up. He knows it as not only possible, but necessary! As robust and demanding as his priestly call was, including college-level teaching, weekly radio broadcast, The Catholic Hour, the award-winning television show, Life is Worth Living, and writing scores of books (73 in total), Archbishop Sheen dedicated much of his time toward the formation of priests. The retreats and writings for his brother priests were manifestations of an unwavering love for Christ and His Church. In his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, he said, “I have loved every work to which I have been called or sent. But perhaps the most meaningful and gratifying experience of my life has been giving retreats to priests. . . . I really wonder if the priests who made these retreats received as much from me as I from them.”
Eleven of the volunteer Apostolate Coordinators in various dioceses and myself recently took part in an 8-week pilot book study of The Priest is Not His Own. The syllabus was written by Seven Sister, Ginger H (Texas). She served as our facilitator extraordinaire. Over and again came bursts of: “I never thought of that before… This is so rich… I am gaining insights on how to pray for our priests… Wow, what a connection… Yes, Anchoresses need to read this!” Another session will be offered for Coordinators in August, and time and prayer will direct what is next. In the meantime, the book is readily available at bookstores and an Audio version accessible on Formed. Check out Sheen’s YouTube of his talk called “Holy Orders” or another book entitled Those Mysterious Priests.
With all this said, one might still be wondering just why “the priest is not his own” … Working oneself to the end of the book will have its reward! Ven Fulton Sheen, pray for us and guide us!
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 February to cover more priests in daily prayer: Additional groups in Basilian Salvatorian Order (Byzantine) (NEW), Cameroon (Africa), Toronto/Ontario (Canada) and these USA states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. We pray daily for priests and bishops in over 3000 groups serving 6 continents, 27 countries, all 50 USA states, most Canadian Provinces. Let no shepherd be left behind!
RECENT … and AHEAD on the calendar:
> Fri-Sun, 10-12 March: Retreat at Franciscan Retreat Center, Prior Lake, MN. Embracing the Gift of the Eucharist. Mary and the Eucharist: Inseparable. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Sun, 26 March: Feast of our beloved patroness, St Margaret Clitherow. She loves us and prays for us! Seek her friendship and support. St Margaret Clitherow, pray for us and guide us!
Giving glory to God: Especially desiring testimonies from Priests, Bishops, Fasting Brothers regarding the Apostolate. Send to Janette Howe, 43 Nord Circle Rd, St Paul, MN 55127
More glory to God: Because so many have asked… Would like to hear from those in the field of Product Design interested in joining in prayerful endeavor and assistance in how our beautiful logo and mission might be utilized in things like a monastic kneeler, scarf, pin, vigil candle glass or the like.
MATTERS of the HEART:
Ø “I’m very impressed with this work in support of our priests. It’s been very meaningful for me personally these few first months that I’ve been committed, and I believe helpful to our pastor.” (Natalie, Ohio)
Ø “We are off to a wonderful start. The priest is praying for us!!” (Esther, Wisconsin)
Ø “My mom is anchoress at my home parish and it has been so fruitful. I am now a FOCUS missionary and our priests give so much and have changed so many lives in their ministry here. They are also young priests who have so much on their plate and I want to serve them through our prayers.” (Mary, West Virginia)
Ø “I am a member of the block Rosary Crusade with a love and dedication to Mary and the rosary. The priest is surrounded by temptation just as we are, so they need our prayers.” (Lucy, Cameroon, Africa)
Ø “I love the Eucharist and I want the priests to always be protected by the Holy Spirit. I love going to adoration and praying for the priests.” (Gabriela, Maryland)
Ø “I attended a TEC retreat years ago. During that retreat, our parish priest that asked me to consider the Apostolate was discerning his vocation. I witnessed him kneeling, praying the rosary as a young high school boy. He inspired me. I knew I was being called to pray for him in the Apostolate.” (Judy, Wisconsin)
Ø “A lovely lady called me and explained the Apostolate of the Seven Sisters. I thought that was the most beautiful idea to pray for our priest. When I shared the apostolate with the others, I was surprised by their enthusiasm, love, and respect for our priests, and now we are ready to start.” (Teresa, Virginia)
Ø “A woman from a nearby parish introduced me to Seven Sisters Apostolate and asked me to pray about initiating a chapter in my parish. We have a brand new, first-time pastor and feel very led to support him with prayer. All of the “sisters” already keep a weekly hourly (or more) vigil before the Blessed Sacrament and understand they would be adding an additional hour a week to pray for our pastor.” (Pat, New Jersey)
ELIJAH’s HELPERS: By prayerful desire and directive of our Apostolate Chaplain, Fr Johnson, a pilot group of Seven Sisters intercessors dedicated to offering Holy Hours for priests in various forms of crisis (no names known) within the Archdiocese of St Paul-Mpls, began in June 2021. In June 2022, this fruit of the Apostolate opened to form more groups in more Dioceses. All inquiries to Nancy at ElijahsHelpers@gmail.com or cell: 612-756-1107. It is growing! Please consider this!
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: In January 2020, 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 prays a minimum of once per week, many are offering prayers every day. Intentions 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. 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. 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. If it is easier to receive through an email account, please let me know. Allow a few days for translation. Commitment Prayer/Guidelines Booklet in Spanish (on the Website – free download)