Below are excerpts from the April 2015 issue of The Long Island Catholic Magazine.
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Following God’s lead, finding joy in living the Gospel
By Rick Hinshaw
The journey to a religious vocation can involve very different paths, as the experiences of Daughter of Wisdom Sister Marie Josée Seide and Franciscan novitiate Brother Cein Sullivan attest.
Growing up in Haiti, Sister Marie Josée first encountered the Daughters of Wisdom as a high school student in Port-au-Prince. Decades later, after political upheaval in her native land had led her to come to the United States, she re-connected with the community through Sister Bernadette Sassone, a Daughter of Wisdom who was serving as a pastoral associate at Marie’s parish, Our Lady of Mercy in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
In the ensuing years, Sister Marie Josée said, “I just followed God’s lead. I was searching, with God’s help, feeling God is calling me to something.”
She spent six years, from 2006 to 2012, working in the Diocese of Rockville Centre for the Office of the New Evangelization. She served in the many different ministries within that office, she said, including youth, young adult and campus ministries, as well as various cultural ministries, particularly Haitian-American Catholics.
As we all try to “join hands together” as one Church, she said, “it helps people to also remain connected to their culture. I could see the effect on this level during my time working in the diocese. To be able to worship in your own culture means a lot to the people,” especially as they strive to adjust “in the midst of another culture.”
Through those years, she continued to pray for God’s guidance, and ultimately felt drawn into the Daughters of Wisdom. In 2012 she joined the congregation’s French-speaking International Novitiate in Paris, and last August she made her first profession of vows at the Montfort Spirituality Center in Bay Shore.
“We are one family with the Montfort Fathers and Brothers” she explained. “Our order is more than 300 years old,” having been founded by St. Louis de Montfort in 1703 in France.
She has recently taken a position as executive director of St. Martin de Porres Academy in Elmont, one of several schools and residences for children with special needs operated by the De LaSalle Christian Brothers.
As a young boy on Long Island, Cein Sullivan “always felt I had a vocation”; but as the years passed, he went to college, obtaining a degree in marketing and advertising at Pace University, and embarked on a career in property management. He relocated to New Orleans for a time and then to Providence, Rhode Island, and “for about 10 or 12 years, pulled away somewhat” from involvement in his faith. Then, wanting to be closer to his family, he moved back to Long Island, and slowly started returning to his Catholic roots and his thoughts of a religious vocation.
And then, in a truly 21st century model of evangelization, he came across a “vocations placement pop-up” on Facebook. He filled out the detailed questionnaire, gauging his interest in various communities and charisms, and the site put the questionnaire out, he said, to religious communities across the country.
“The Franciscans of Brooklyn was one of the first to come back,” he said, and his interest was kindled when he realized that the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn run St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, where a number of his friends had gone. He began the application process, was accepted, and has now completed the preliminary two year “candidacy” period (known as a “postulancy” in some other orders), living in community with the Brothers at the Franciscan Friary in Kings Park, he explained, but still being somewhat “financially independent. You can still hold your own job” during this period, but he did not, as the demands of the job he had — working for then-State Senator (now Congressman) Lee Zeldin — would have interfered with the prayer and spiritual requirements of his religious candidacy. So instead, he was able to obtain a job at St. Anthony’s, working in the alumni office, and he also volunteers several days a week with the Benedictine Sisters at their assisted living residence in Greenlawn. He is called upon to provide “ministry and pastoral care” there, which, he said, often involves simply offering his “time and friendship” as well as sometimes spiritual conversation and reflection.
“I had never worked with the elderly before,” he said, so “in the beginning, that was very challenging.” But it became easier “the more I got to know them and the more they got to know me,” Now, he said, “I can see myself going into that type of ministry,” should he be called to do so.
In this work and his life experience, Brother Cein has found — as Sister Marie Josée does in the charism of her order — a calling not just to serve people in need, but to seek them out in order to minister to them spiritually as well as materially.
Incarnate Wisdom of Jesus
“Our charism is to serve the least of the least,” Sister Marie Josée said. “At the time when the Montforts were started, France confined the poor in hospitals, so people wouldn’t see them. So Montfort went into the hospitals. That’s where the order started. And that’s what we are called to do,” she said, to seek out “those who suffer from injustice, mostly women and children.”
And their charism is not defined solely “by what we do,” she emphasized, “but also the way we do it.”
“Our spirituality,” she explained, is “that we will present Jesus’ Incarnate Wisdom” to the world in all that they do, so that others may discover that Incarnate Wisdom and be attracted to it. They are called “to be the face of Jesus in the lives of those people who are rejected by society,” she said; “to make them feel they are children of God, and to help them get back to wholeness, and to their freedom as a human being. That’s what God wants for His children.”
Similarly, Brother Cein said, “when you live in certain towns on Long Island, if you don’t want to be aware of the poor, you don’t have to be.” Yet all his different life experiences, he said, have “definitely centered me” in terms of growing in awareness of the needs of others. Even during his career in property management, he worked in Rhode Island for a nonprofit that provided housing for people and families afflicted with the HIV virus; and when he moved back to Long Island, he worked in community housing efforts for the homeless. And his work for Sen. Zeldin, he said, involved constituent services, “helping people with their problems.”
All of this, Brother Cein said, “made me aware of a larger world out there. I began to realize the Catholic spirituality I had given up on.
“Even with all my other jobs,” he said, “and even though I was happy, I always knew something was missing. That brought me back to wanting to serve the Church.” Now, having received his habit in January — he was permitted to complete his two year candidacy in a year-and-a-half, and has now begun his novitiate — he is “very happy,” he said, “to have found this community of Brothers.”
“It is no longer just about being happy in a job,” he said. “The Franciscan Way is all about living the Gospel,” and that is where he finds “that deeper joy that Pope Francis talks about.”
Bishop Murphy: Faith and New Works
The Middle East: Hope from an observer
All of us are constantly aware of the horrible tragedy that is being played out in the Middle East and North Africa.
The suffering of innocent persons, families and religious and ethnic groups is overwhelming in its scope and barbarity. In the internecine battles of various Muslim groups, Christians and other minorities have become time and again the most vulnerable and most marginal, subject to forced conversions, forced exile, persecution or death. Mosul has had a Christian community since apostolic times.
Aleppo of the Melkites is a church that was founded in the fourth century. In both places, as well as countless villages and towns across Syria and Iraq, few if any Christians are left. The 21 Coptic Christian martyrs in Northern Libya beheaded by a fanatical Muslim group of thugs were slaughtered only because they were Christians. In Northern Syria, more than 200 Christians have been captured by ISIS and held hostage. Two Christian bishops were kidnapped over two years ago, disappearing without a trace. These and so many others are all victims of murderous thugs bent on slaughter in order to found a “Caliphate.” They destroy, murder and terrorize to try to establish themselves as an independent state, wielding dictatorial and totalitarian power, blaspheming God by invoking His name and the Q’ran as their justification.
The Holy Father has been joined by his brother bishops here and around the world asking all Catholics to be united with one another and with our brothers and sisters in all Christian traditions, in prayer for all those suffering from these modern-day Herods. We are one with our Jewish friends and all peace-loving Muslims, as well as all people of belief or simply of good will, to call an end to the atrocities. We call upon our political leaders to be decisive and courageous in making decisions that will stop the slaughter and return the Middle East to a place where men and women of all the diverse backgrounds of that area might live in peace. That is not the peace of creating a desert. It is peace based on justice, freedom, security and mutual respect of all peoples and nations, especially minorities. That has never been an easy task in the long and tortured history of that very important part of the world. But it must be the goal to which one and all are dedicated, each according to the responsibilities that pertain to us all as individuals and as members of religious communities and nation states.
The situation is extraordinarily complex and no one I know of is such an expert that he/she can give a solution. There are, however, some aspects and realities that we all need to acknowledge and on which we all should be in basic agreement:
1. Israel is a sovereign nation whose existence was determined and approved by the United Nations. Israel has a right to exist in safe and secure borders and her sovereignty must be ratified and accepted by all her neighbors in the region.
2. The Palestinian people should be given help to attain statehood in a territory that is sustainable and should be helped by the international community, including Israel, to build a stable society with a government suited to their traditions, with honest leaders who serve their people and respect their neighbors.
3. Iran is modern-day Persia and is conscious that it was never conquered by ancient Rome. Respect for her sovereignty and her traditions is owed to Iran. Allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons is not owed and, in fact, is contrary to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. All nuclear nations should be one, with the help of the IAEA, in opposing and preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons. The terrorist activities that Iran currently and continuously is sponsoring should be brought to an end.
4. ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah, are rogue movements. The issue is not to “degrade” them. The challenge is to convince them to lay down their arms and stop their barbaric thuggery. We should always seek dialogue first. But the principles of Just War are certainly applicable if dialogue does not achieve its goal.
5.The rights and responsibilities of all majorities and minorities — religious, ethnic, national — should be respected and advanced by all nations in the area, as well as by the international community.
6. Individual nations have the right and responsibility to form their own governments, so long as they respect their neighbors and the rights of their own citizens and live in internal and regional peace. Just laws are to be obeyed. Treaties must be respected. Peace is the fruit of justice.
These are only a few basic points for consideration from one who wishes always to be a fervent advocate of peace based on justice, security, human dignity and mutual respect.
Despite all the setbacks in the region, the Catholic Church remains a vibrant Church in collaboration with her sister churches. Catholic Near East Welfare is our local aid group that works in the countries of the Middle East with the bishops caring for all — especially refugees, the sick and the needy — in our parishes, hospitals and welcome centers. Catholic Relief Services does its best to offer humanitarian aid. Our diocese maintains close contacts with the papal representatives in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Israel. Any moneys I can find I transmit through the nuncios to help people who are suffering “on the ground.” The witness of the Church is strong and it is awesome in its faith, hope and perseverance, sowing the seeds of life and love for a better future.
Please keep all the people — Christian, Muslim, Arab, Israeli, Iranian, Lebanese — in your prayers. And may we ourselves be instruments of peace not only through our daily prayer but, in addition, by our voices calling political leaders to accept and exercise their responsibility to further the cause of peace by concrete actions. Religious leaders of all faiths must demonstrate by our prayers and show by our words and witness that we are all men and women who believe in a loving God who alone can guarantee the gift of peace.
Bishop William Murphy is the fourth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. Visit Bishop’s blog at www.licatholic.org, or email email@example.com.