• Let us give thanks to the Lord Posted in: Catholic News

    Let us give thanks to the Lord for His bountiful blessings.

  • Prayer for Veteran’s Day Posted in: Faith News Online

    Pray with us as we remember our veterans and their incredible service and sacrifice.

  • Celebrating 25 Years of Service – Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix, Juliet Nakalema Posted in: Diocesan News

    Sister Juliet Nakalema celebrates 25 years of religious life and love that she considers foundational to who she is.

    “We prayed constantly and talked about God everywhere,” said Sister Nakalema of her upbringing. “I never saw anyone in my family ashamed of prayer. I was four years old when I started leading prayer and the only time I was ever bored was when I was outside the church environment. It was in my novitiate when I felt the real call, that true love for God required sacrifice.”

    Sister Nakalema is from Uganda and has been in the United States for 17 years. She serves at Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala which in 2003 partnered with her native parish as a mission church and has subsequently helped build a church, school, as well as several little satellite parishes “out in the bush.” As a result, she is able to return to her home on a mission trip every year.

    “Since being in the U.S., I have encountered so many people who are hearing God speak to them for the first time and so many others who find it hard to accept the faith,” Sister Nakalema explained. “I do pastoral care and I have seen so many return to the faith in the hospital. Some find it hard to say they’ve been away for a very long time, but when they come back, they don’t want to go away. We need to invite people to come back in a very simple way.”

    Bringing communion to the sick is a very big part of Sister Nakalema’s joy.

    “Every single day, I touch the Eucharist,” she explained. “Every single day I bring Jesus. It’s a very great honor and a privilege. I treasure that God chose me. All my life I’ve wanted to be in the house of the Lord serving him. I love it. I love living in community. I have everything. Religious life gives me so much joy!

  • Celebrating 50 Years of Service – Sister of the Religious Teachers Filippini, Dorothy Sayers Posted in: Diocesan News

    By Laura Dodson and Julie Conroy, Florida Catholic Correspondents – October 30, 2017

    “Fifty years later, I realize I gave nothing. God gave everything,” said Sister Dorothy Sayers, principal of Holy Family Catholic School in Orlando.

    “I truly believe that when I first had an inkling of entering religious life, it was a pull of my heart,” said Sister Sayers as she recalled that moment when she was eight years old. “Listening to others sing I wondered, ‘What if I can’t sing? Can I give all this to God?’”

    “As a teenager I went to daily Mass because I wanted to be with the Lord and I worshipped,” she continued. “I entered religious life at 15 and I thought, ‘I’m giving all this to God,’ but it was based on that relationship of love that came from God. I did nothing for it.”

    Sister Sayers’ father was English and the family traveled. Although her siblings were born in Malta, she was born in Libya and the family returned to England soon after where she was educated. She became a teacher of history and religion, was sent to Connecticut and then Rhode Island as a principal. She came to Holy Family Catholic School in Orlando 21 years ago as its first principal.

    “God puts the right people in your life,” Sister Sayers said. “When you step aside, He works wonders. The many people I’ve met working in schools and in the parish have been very supportive, very kind. At the celebration (of her jubilee) the room was filled with love.”

    Sister Sayers laughed when asked to pinpoint her greatest joy – “there have been so many,” she said. But she was able to describe what gives her joy: “It is a simple prayer of the heart – you can meet God in people, in reading good spiritual books and definitely before the Blessed Sacrament. I make that a priority.”

  • Six sisters rejoice for their years of service Posted in: Diocesan News

    By Laura Dodson and Julie Conroy, Florida Catholic Correspondents – October 30, 2017

    The Diocese of Orlando recognizes six religious with thanksgiving for their commitment to love and serve God and His people through teaching, social justice, and formation in the Catholic faith.

    Together, our Jubilarians celebrate 305 years of service to God!

    May the beauty of consecrated life continue as the Holy Spirit breathes in those who recently professed their final vows as Sisters of Incarnatio-Consecratio-Missio, Theresa Nguyen and Kim Chi-Ho, as well as Sister Grace Ford who just made her first vow as a Sister of St. Joseph.

    70 Years of Service – Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Teresa McElwee

    Sister Teresa McElwee, 88, is living out a lifetime of service to others and achieving things that do not seem possible as she celebrates 70 years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.

    She was born in 1929, one week before the Great Depression. One of five girls in her family, the call to ministry ran deep in her Irish family roots. “Both of my parents came from Ireland and they instilled in us service to the church and faithfulness to the call.” She joined the convent in August 1947.

    After spending her early years teaching elementary and secondary school in the Maryland area, she came to Florida in 1973 at the request of then Diocese of Orlando Bishop William D. Borders to identify and work with groups of people who needed financial assistance. There were 40 parishes in which she set up justice committees. In 1977 she accepted the challenge of establishing the Justice and Peace Office for the Diocese of Orlando. “We wanted to address the literacy and employment needs of poor women,” she said. Along with others, she developed two different non-profit organizations, Homes in Partnership and The Community Trust Federal Credit Union.

    Filled with enthusiasm for God’s working poor and her social justice ministry, Sister McElwee founded the Apopka Family Learning Center in 2001—no small feat for the fiery red head with boundless energy. “We felt a need to reach out to children and families. The new center would provide opportunities for children and parents to connect with one another.” It took 18 months to raise the $1.5 million to house the center. “Yes it was hard to raise the money, but I had a lot of good, wonderful church people who really believed in what we were doing.

    “I still have lots of energy. I can’t imagine what God has in store for me for the rest of my happy life,” she said.

    60 Years of Service – Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Virginia West

    Sister Virginia West, 78, remains active and living out a lifetime of giving to others.

    A native of Boston, MA, she was just six years old when her oldest sister left the family to join the Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur. She, too, felt a calling and joined the convent in 1957.  “It just felt like the right place for me,” she said.

    Her first class was 64 fourth grade boys. “It was very scary to stand up in front of this whole group of little boys,” but she was supported by a mentor who met with her on a regular basis.

    Sister West was teaching high school in the inner city when her eyes were opened to the many difficulties some of her students faced in obtaining an education. She became interested in social justice, and studied for a counseling degree. She also received a doctorate in ministry from Boston University.

    In 1982 she moved to Florida. Her initial work was in the Family Life Office for the Diocese of Orlando. She worked with the separated, divorced and widowed. She went on to help individuals going through the annulment process. “It gave people a chance to really look at their marriages and how to grow as healthy individuals from their experiences.” Sister West has also worked with those going through the marriage validation process. “We focus on what the sacrament of marriage means and how to live it in your everyday life.”

    Having travelled to Haiti 14 times through a parish to parish connection she said, “We work on projects that are sustainable for individuals to do, so that when we leave their lives will be improved.”

    Sister West remains involved in committees within her community. “We have a wonderful family, they continue to support and encourage me.”

    50 Years of Service – Sister of the Religious Teachers Filippini, Dorothy Sayers

    “Fifty years later, I realize I gave nothing. God gave everything,” said Sister Dorothy Sayers, principal of Holy Family Catholic School in Orlando.

    “I truly believe that when I first had an inkling of entering religious life, it was a pull of my heart,” said Sister Sayers as she recalled that moment when she was eight years old. “Listening to others sing I wondered, ‘What if I can’t sing? Can I give all this to God?’”

    “As a teenager I went to daily Mass because I wanted to be with the Lord and I worshipped,” she continued. “I entered religious life at 15 and I thought, ‘I’m giving all this to God,’ but it was based on that relationship of love that came from God. I did nothing for it.”

    Sister Sayers’ father was English and the family traveled. Although her siblings were born in Malta, she was born in Libya and the family returned to England soon after where she was educated. She became a teacher of history and religion, was sent to Connecticut and then Rhode Island as a principal. She came to Holy Family Catholic School in Orlando 21 years ago as its first principal.

    “God puts the right people in your life,” Sister Sayers said. “When you step aside, He works wonders. The many people I’ve met working in schools and in the parish have been very supportive, very kind. At the celebration (of her jubilee) the room was filled with love.”

    Sister Sayers laughed when asked to pinpoint her greatest joy – “there have been so many,” she said. But she was able to describe what gives her joy: “It is a simple prayer of the heart – you can meet God in people, in reading good spiritual books and definitely before the Blessed Sacrament. I make that a priority.”

    50 Years of Service – Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, Pat Sipan

    “God speaks to me in silence, in worship, in His people and the next step that’s right in front of me,” said Sister Pat Sipan. “I’ve been blessed with moments of contemplative prayer and also with dry spells that come from the woes. In challenges, the Lord is with me in the decision of how to respond—if I spend enough time giving the Lord time to speak. If I pull away from all my duties and spend that time, I can get perspective.”

    Sister Sipan has been a teacher in the classroom and in religious education for more than 35 years and a director of faith formation for 24 years. There were several years of overlap of both! She is currently the director of faith formation at Resurrection Parish in Winter Garden.

    “I felt I could be more effective in a parish setting,” said Sister Sipan as she explained her transition out of the classroom into parish ministry. “The parish provides a variety of settings. For example, high points are those moments of conversion that occur in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation). I also coordinate the Associates of the Sisters of Notre Dame – 76 active and 24 intentional.”

    When asked what gives her the greatest joy, Sister Sipan responded, “Being on the journey with God’s people doing whatever God puts in my path.”

    50 Years of Service – Dominican Sister of Adrian, Marie Skebe

    It was a field trip in sixth grade to the Sisters of St. Joseph, at that time located in Jensen Beach, FL that introduced Sister Marie Skebe to the “joy of community.” Her vocation had been nurtured by a strong Catholic family, but ironically they were shocked and not happy with her decision.

    “Every time I returned home for a visit, they insisted that I didn’t have to go back,” Sister Skebe explained, “but God kept calling me back. I just knew that’s where I belonged. I am very grateful for God’s patience and fidelity to me – because it is God’s side that is most important. Jesus speaks in a lot of varied ways and my life path seems to have changed through happenings.”

    She entered in 1966 – during the Second Vatican Council, at a time when the Church and her community were in flux.

    “We studied the documents as they were happening and experienced their changes,” Sister Skebe said and gave an example. “At the beginning of my novitiate year, we weren’t allowed to speak to others not in community – by the end of the year that was reversed. Life just kept changing.”

    Her community determined that the sisters had to go back and finish their college degrees, but she was working at a parish as a second grade teacher and her pastor didn’t want her to leave. He paid her a full salary so that she could commute to university to finish her degree while teaching.

    Sister Skebe applied for a position in Fort Pierce to be near her aging parents, but they moved to Orlando. At Blessed Sacrament Parish in Cocoa, she worked for a pastor with a deep love for the sick and homebound. “I learned ministry to the sick from him and it prepared me so that I was blessed to be able to care for my mother at home until she was almost 96.”

    Sister Skebe is the director of faith formation for St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Orlando – still fulfilling her call to teach the faith – fifty years later.

    25 Years of Service – Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix, Juliet Nakalema

    Sister Juliet Nakalema celebrates 25 years of religious life and love that she considers foundational to who she is.

    “We prayed constantly and talked about God everywhere,” said Sister Nakalema of her upbringing. “I never saw anyone in my family ashamed of prayer. I was four years old when I started leading prayer and the only time I was ever bored was when I was outside the church environment. It was in my novitiate when I felt the real call, that true love for God required sacrifice.”

    Sister Nakalema is from Uganda and has been in the United States for 17 years. She serves at Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala which in 2003 partnered with her native parish as a mission church and has subsequently helped build a church, school, as well as several little satellite parishes “out in the bush.” As a result, she is able to return to her home on a mission trip every year.

    “Since being in the U.S., I have encountered so many people who are hearing God speak to them for the first time and so many others who find it hard to accept the faith,” Sister Nakalema explained. “I do pastoral care and I have seen so many return to the faith in the hospital. Some find it hard to say they’ve been away for a very long time, but when they come back, they don’t want to go away. We need to invite people to come back in a very simple way.”

    Bringing communion to the sick is a very big part of Sister Nakalema’s joy.

    “Every single day, I touch the Eucharist,” she explained. “Every single day I bring Jesus. It’s a very great honor and a privilege. I treasure that God chose me. All my life I’ve wanted to be in the house of the Lord serving him. I love it. I love living in community. I have everything. Religious life gives me so much joy!

  • A prayer for the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary Posted in: Catholic News

    As we commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on Saturday, October 7, 2017, let us pray for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. We pray:

    For those who have died, may their souls be welcomed into the heavenly Kingdom;
    May those who were injured feel God’s healing touch;
    A prayer of thanksgiving to those who bravely put themselves in harm’s way to help those who were injured;
    For families and friends of those affected by this tragedy, may they find comfort, peace and God’s grace.

    Salve Regina

    Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
    To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
    To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
    Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

    Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    Let us pray

    O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation.
    Grant, we beseech Thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
    that we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ our Lord.
    Amen.

  • Bishop Noonan celebrates 34 years of priesthood Posted in: Diocesan News

    On September 23, 1983, Bishop Noonan became a priest and gave his mother one of his first blessings! Pray with us for our shepherd on the 34th anniversary of his priestly ordination. May God bless his life of service with mercy and joy.

  • Melbourne Central Catholic helps train guide dog for service Posted in: Faith News Online

    By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic Staff – September 19, 2017

    On the first day of school, Melbourne Central Catholic High School had a unique new student on campus, Riley, a guide dog in training. In support of the school’s rich Franciscan history and charism of caring for animals, the school is assisting Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. (SEGDI) with the training of a yellow Labrador retriever puppy for one year.

    The Husky Chapter of the National Honor Society chose to sponsor the dog as one of its several service projects after meeting NHS coordinator Anita Kealer’s husband and his guide dog, Rio. Kaeler said, “The kids were so impressed with their relationship that they asked if they could do something to support Southeastern Guide Dogs.” Students and faculty will help Riley improve his socialization skills so that he will be ready for his six-month formal training at SEGDI next year.

    “The support for Riley on campus is overwhelming,” said Kaeler. “Especially if they are feeling stressed or down, the students say that simply seeing Riley makes them feel better. We stand outside the classroom during each class change and he greets the students as they go by. It’s great socializing for Riley and an opportunity for students to say hello and give him a pat on the head. He even has his own little fan club that comes to visit him in the classroom during break every day. Some teachers are using Riley as an incentive for students to do well in their classes by rewarding them with a visit from Riley.”

    Riley is learning how to interact with students, staff and guests; how to greet people politely and wait patiently during conversations. He is also learning how to successfully navigate stairs and elevators, react calmly to loud noises, ignore sudden distractions, and respond to basic commands. After his SEGDI training, he will be able to serve as a working guide dog for someone who is visually impaired or as a service dog for a veteran living with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

    According to the SEGDI mission statement, guide dogs provide “freedom, confidence, courage, and hope for people who cannot see and veterans who have seen too much.” The organization has numerous volunteer puppy raisers, including MCC. The honor society will be hosting four car washes this year to continue raising funds for SEGDI and for Riley’s care. They will present SEGDI with a check later this Fall.

  • Virgin patroness of Cuba image visits parish Posted in: Faith News Online

    By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic Staff – September 15, 2017

    More than 100 faithful came in the pouring rain to gather and pray the rosary, then celebrate a Mass in honor of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba. The Mass, which has been celebrated in the Diocese of Orlando since 1973, came just two days before Hurricane Irma swept through Orlando.

    With the musical sounds of the St. James Cathedral Choir lingering in the air, the statue of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (as she is known in Cuba) was processed down the aisle of St. Augustine Parish in Casselberry on Sept. 8, her feast day, to a place of honor before the sanctuary. The statue used for this year’s procession belonged to Father Tomás Hurtado, pastor of St. Augustine and a Cuban immigrant. Parishioners filled the church, praying for their patroness’s intercession and remembering how Our Lady of Charity appeared to three fishermen off the coast of Cuba around 1600. Since then, she has been a sign of hope for Cubans.

    The tradition of celebrating the feast day was begun in the diocese by Father Domingo Gonzalez, a Cuban native who served as director of the Spanish Apostolate in 1973. He said the Virgin is “a mother common to the hearts of all Cubans, the living symbol of cultural, traditional and national unity both in and outside of Cuba.”

    Maria del Carmen García is one of many who want to keep the tradition alive. She helped organize the event this year and has taken part for the past 35 years. She said, “It is important for Cubans because it gives them a chance to recognize their patroness, pray for Cuba and its needs, and to maintain unity.” They also collect a donation for charity. This year’s donation will be sent to help those recovering in Cuba after Hurricane Irma. “Here we can gather, converse and share,” she said.  “It was great to see people from so many countries, not just Cubans.” A Columbian friend even donated prayer cards for those attending.

    Over the years, the Mass has taken place in several parishes. Annunciation Parish member Maria Consuela Espinola came with her husband Arturo. She said, “The Mass is usually more elaborate. We normally gather afterwards, but it was complicated due to the hurricane.” The Espinolas had not attended for several years due to work conflicts. Now that Dr. Espinola is retired, she said they look forward to attending for many years to come.

  • Ministry Formation Conference is cancelled Posted in: Diocesan News

    Due to Hurricane Irma’s effects on Central Florida, the Diocese of Orlando has cancelled the Ministry Formation Conference scheduled for Saturday, September 16, 2017 at Bishop Moore High School.

    No information about rescheduling is available at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience and ask for your continued prayers and support of those impacted by this devastating storm.

    Refer inquiries to the Secretariat for Laity, Family, and Life at slfl@orlandodiocese.org.