They are Bridges

Wednesday, September 01, 2021 12:52am

“Do not think that He is leaving you alone, for that would be to wrong Him.”

— St John of the Cross

Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ! Taking a nature hike “off the beaten path” might lead to wandering into the domain of perilous critters, poisonous plants, or even a waterway with a swift current and no bridge in sight.  Moses at the Red Sea and later his successor, Joshua, at the Jordan River, experienced such predicaments.  How is it possible to lead the Israelites across?  In both cases, God’s provision summoned cooperation: Moses to lift his arm and staff, and Joshua to dip his foot in the water. God made a way where there seemed to be no way.

How often we stand at a place in life, befuddled as to how to get to the other side.  Our Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He provides for His people – personally and with our collaboration. The Sacraments are personal encounters with Christ where all things are made new (II Cor 5:17, Rev 21:5).  They serve to move a person from one place to another.  The Sacrament of Confession is archetypal. When one wanders from the plan of God in the flurry of life and the fog of sin, God’s wisdom and love assigns His priests to assist.  They are bridges of sorts, empowered and sent for the work.  ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’ (John 20:21-23).

God’s plan through sacramental Confession is a marvelous trifecta: a penitent, Jesus, a priest.  In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, to highlight this, a penitent kneels before an icon of Christ and offers the confession.  The priest stands or sits to the side, listening, guiding as needed and poised to offer absolution. Our Lord underscored this for St Faustina (Diary, 1725): “My daughter… make your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest it is that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light.”

If a Seven Sister were to make her way to a front pew near the exquisite baldachin and tabernacle of the Cathedral of St Paul (St Paul, Minnesota), she would first pass the north and south transepts which house three double confessionals on each side.  Here thousands have been brought by God out of a dimness of life to ‘begin again’ in new light.   Aloft the confessionals are two colossal sets of three stained glass figures that together speak a thousand words about the sacrament of reconciliation.   Christ is the central figure in each.  A Penitent is on the left, a priest on the right.

On the north side, Jesus is depicted as Shepherd, pressing a lamb against His breast and another lamb shown attentive at His hem.  In sacred Scripture Jesus often described Himself as a Shepherd in search of the lost sheep, imaged as a sinner.  Approaching this confessional, the penitent is reminded of the unfaltering response of the Good Shepherd:  seeking, finding, welcoming and rejoicing in the return. St Dismas (the good thief) is the window to Christ’s left.  At Calvary Dismas expressed his guilt and sorrow, recognized Christ’s deity, and received forgiveness and the promise of paradise.  St John Nepomuccene is the priest to Christ’s right.  In 14th century Bohemia, he was confessor to the queen.  The king demanded that the queen’s confession be disclosed to him.   St John adamantly refused and the king bade for him to be bound, gagged and heaved into the river.   This martyr is characterized with his index finger pressed to his lips, emphasizing the unwavering “seal of confession”, even unto death.

A Seven Sister would likely be especially fond of the windows on the south side.  Jesus is centrally shown as the resurrected Christ at the time of the institution of the sacrament of reconciliation.   The aforementioned Scripture from the gospel of St John is etched in this window.   To His left is our companion, St Mary Magdalene, hair unbound and reverently balancing the flask of fragrant ointment.  In contrast with St Dismas, her confession is not a deathbed event, but more typical of the confession that seeks holiness throughout a lifetime, compelled by love, step by step.  To the right of Christ is our beloved patron, St John Vianney, donning a purple confessional stole which he holds up in a seeming gesture of both an invitation and as a promise of Christ’s sure power and love.

Gazing at the panorama of the six windows, one grasps the full influence of their instruction, taken as a whole.  Jesus instituted the sacrament of Confession out of wisdom and merciful love.  He beckons a personal encounter with Him through the ordained assistance of His brother priests.  The shower of graces transforms a penitent’s life – grace upon grace, promised even unto the last breath.

May we know the privilege to pray for God’s chosen confessors and the privilege of availing ourselves of this great gift that stands to move both the priest and the penitent to new and full life in Christ!  And consider this: our tri-patrons mirror the same trifecta– the Christ Child in the embrace of Madonna of the Grapes (Protectress of the Eucharistic life) in contemplation of the violent winepress ahead effecting forgiveness of sins. Alongside are our other two patrons – penitent and priest.  St John Vianney rightly reflects, “We cannot comprehend the goodness of God towards us in instituting this great Sacrament of Penance…. He foresaw our frailty and our inconstancy in well-doing, and His love induced Him to do what we should not have dared to ask.  If one said to those poor lost souls that have been so long in Hell, “We are going to place a priest at the gate of Hell: all those who wish to confess have only to go out” … Oh, how soon Hell would be a desert.”

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.

Janette (Howe)


10th Anniversary Year of our Founding Graces (03/24/11 – 03/24/21)

In celebration: (1) Plan a time for Confession this month.  Express gratitude to the Confessor!

(2) Visit the Cathedral of St Paul website   Click on tours to enjoy a virtual tour with Apostolate Chaplain, Fr Joseph Johnson, as guide!  See Spot 22 for the windows!

(3) Read archived Communiqué of October 2016 in the Year of Mercy for more on Confession.

SEVEN SISTERS – in and out and about:

Heartfelt welcome: New groups registered in AUGUST to cover more priests in daily prayer:  Additional groups in Argentina, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain & these USA states: Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. We pray daily for priests and bishops on 6 continents, 25 countries, all 50 USA states, nearly every Province in Canada and over 2200 groups!  Eight active groups for Pope Francis.

DAILY prayer for GROWTH: During this Year of St Joseph (12/08/20 to 12/08-21) every Seven Sister is asked to offer DAILY the Act of Confidence:  Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee. Heart of Mary, I implore thee. Heart of Joseph, meek and just. In these three Hearts I place my trust. Two Seven Sisters (Karen, PA, and Lisa, MN) have created beautiful prayer aids.  See Website for downloads.

RECENT … and AHEAD on the calendar:

> Gratitude to Molly for filming an historical piece for the Apostolate at the behest of Fr Joseph Johnson.  See Website for this piece that celebrates our history and God’s provision of love and grace.

> Gratitude to Deb (St Paul-Mpls, MN), initiator of the Appreciated and Loved Quilt Project, for providing a quilt at the request of Connie, Anchoress of a priest (Lincoln, NE) who unexpectedly passed away.  The quilt was sent by expedited service and presented to the mother of the priest by the Anchoress and group members at the funeral. What a testimony of united love!

> 09/08/21:  By invitation, Deb and Janette will join the retired priests (Byrne Residence, St Paul, MN) to speak about the Apostolate Quilt Project and a group will present a quilt to a priest there!

> Save the Date: First Saturday, 11/06/21.  Annual Archdiocese St Paul- Mpls.  Morning of Reflection and Renewal.  Archbishop Hebda will celebrate Mass.  Details forthcoming.


Ø  “I belong to our Eucharistic Adoration Society for our Church. I love the Eucharist and I love our faith. When a friend told me about this group, I knew I would do it instantaneously. I love Jesus so much. It is the least I can do for one of His priests.” (Patty, Virginia)

Ø  “I have been a Seven Sister for the last two years and witnessed a truly amazing transformation that could have only come from God and prayer!! I feel it was a miracle.” (Marianne, Iowa)

Ø  “My sister participates in this ministry. I told her I felt called to pray because the world is crazy right now!! I mentioned to my pastor about starting a group. He was so grateful and said he had benefited from the prayers of Seven Sisters at his former parish. He shared that some days he would marvel how he was still standing, then realized someone had prayed one hour for him that day. I get chills just typing this!” (Stacey, Nebraska)

Ø  “As Sacristan, I work closely with the pastor and seeing how hard but enthusiastically he has worked to keep our parish connected and focused on God during this trying time of the pandemic, I felt he could use spiritual help to keep his love and devotion to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ strong in his heart and on his mind. After getting a brochure of the Apostolate, and praying about it, decided it was time to start.” (Cheryl, Florida)

Ø  “I pray for our pastor in another Seven Sisters Group and found it such a beautiful prayer experience, that I wanted to become an anchoress for a Seven Sisters Group for our Parochial Vicar, and pray for him also. Praying in serene union with both groups is truly much more than a double blessing! (Carol, Wisconsin)

Ø  “I feel so very blessed to have been called to this devotion.  It has strengthened my prayer life in so many ways.  It has encouraged me to go to daily Adoration and Mass.” (Stacy, Tennessee)

Ø  “For decades I’ve been yearning to do more for our priests. I have strong dreams of the priesthood and their protection. There are burdens and never-ending tasks put upon them.  I have asked Our Lady to help me to find an outlet for my compassion and devotion for our priests. Our Mother has given her answer. For years the name ‘7 Sisters’ kept popping up in my mind, out of the blue; now I understand.” (Elizabeth, Illinois)

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

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. Anchoresses: let us know the Seven Sisters group to which the Fasting Brothers are linked, name of lead Brother, his contact info and the start date.

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, but many are offering prayers every day.  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.  Those desiring to learn more, send an email of interest/inquiry through the 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.  Available in ENGLISH and SPANISH.

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!

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:  Due to unforeseen work duties, Zahyra B has been on leave from Apostolate work the last 2 months.  She hopes to get this one translated, posted/archived on the Website.  If it is easier to receive through an email account, please let me know. Expect 2-4 days for translation. Commitment Prayer/Guidelines Booklet in Spanish (on the Web – free download).