November 30, 2007




Nuns sing songs of Christmas magic

Friday, November 30, 2007

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The set couldn't be simpler: Fifteen women in blue arrayed onstage. Their dress is modest, they wear no makeup.

And yet there is, in abundance, magic and beauty, grace and hope.

The nuns of the Daughters of St. Paul performed their 13th annual Christmas Concert last night for the benefit of 500 lucky people in the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.

Their angelic voices perfectly conveyed the message of peace and love.

"They are a great group of nuns and they really are our angels," said Lois Nicotra, who, along with her husband, Richard, co-chairs the event.

This year is extra-special, as it marks the order's diamond jubilee -- the 75th anniversary of their humble beginnings in New York.

The nuns presented a video montage, and Sister Donna W. Giaimo read a letter from Provincial Superior Sister Margaret Christopher marking the anniversary.

Sister Donna said she recognizes that the nuns' performance is both transcendent and transformative.

"Our music just brings something deeper out of the season and the meaning of it," she said, "not only of Christmas, but the meaning of faith, the meaning of love and what all of it is about."

Missing in action this year -- at least in the flesh -- was the honorary chairman, actor Chazz Palminteri. With the Broadway strike ended, Palminteri had to return to his one-man show, "A Bronx Tale."

But he was present via a video that included snippets from his show. And he offered a raffle of two tickets with backstage passes.

"I'll show you around the set. We'll meet in the dressing room and talk and take pictures and we will have a wonderful evening," promised the actor on tape before introducing those "wonderful singers and incredible angels, the Daughters of St. Paul."

Despite the dearth of props, the nuns had some tricks up their sleeves. They sprinkled the crowd with golden confetti as they performed "God Is With Us." They flipped on their trademark red scarves while singing "Sleigh Ride" and adopted a techno-beat with a slight Latin flavor as blue, magenta and white lights swirled around them on "Sing, Angels, Sing."

Sister Anne Joan Flanagan's heartfelt "You Are Loved" had the audience transfixed.

During intermission, Dr. Larry Arann, accompanied by Sister Nancy M. Usselmann, did his crowd-pleasing rabbi skit.

It's estimated that last night's show raised $80,000 to $90,000. Funded projects include upkeep of the order's media centers, as well as the education of postulants.

Kiawana Rich is a news reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at


Catch the Daughters of St. Paul Choir on tour!

Thursday, November 29 – Benefit dinner and concert in Staten Island, NY 6pm

Saturday, December 1 – St Malachy's Church, Manhattan, NY 1pm FREE

Sunday, December 2 – St. Paul's Church, Princeton NJ 3pm FREE

Monday, December 3 – St. Athanasius Church, Brooklyn, NY 7pm FREE

Wednesday, December 5 – Maternity BVM Church Philadelphia, PA 7pm FREE

Thursday, December 6 – Bala Gold Club, Philadelphia, PA  7pm

Saturday, December 8 – Boston Concert in Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA 7pm FREE

Sunday, December 9 – Boston Concert in Jamaica Plain 3pm FREE

November 26, 2007


Feast of Blessed James Alberione (Nov. 26, 2007)

Fr. Edmund Lane, SSP, Staten Island, NEW YORK

In his lifetime, our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, whose feast we celebrate today, was driven by two great loves. The first of these was certainly for Jesus, our Divine Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life. In fact, he dedicated himself to the Lord with such an implacable determination to grow into a truly profound intimacy with Jesus through countless hours of prayer and sacrifice following the example of the apostle St. Paul that, at the end of his life, he was able to say of himself as did St.Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me." On the one hand Father Alberione was drawn to a deep contemplative life, and on the other hand his great love for souls inspired and energized him to do something special for the people of the 20th century. It was this second love that drove him to found such a wide variety of religious groups to provide a variety of services in the Church for the sake of the Gospel in our times. The very thought that there were men and women in the world who did not yet know Jesus or who did not know him well enough filled him with a holy anxiety that became the stimulus behind his priestly zeal. They had to be reached somehow and they had to be reached effectively and quickly. The five religious congregations, four secular institutes and one association of lay cooperators for which he was responsible made it possible to do so by using the swiftest and most efficacious means of communicating the word of God to the men and women of today: the press, first of all, then radio, television, films and filmstrips, records, tapes, CDs, DVDs and now the Internet. All of this, of course, presumed the underpinning of prayer. Prayer and the spiritual life were the pillars of his whole existence and were likewise the pillars of the institutes he founded. "Looks are deceiving," could certainly be applied to him. He was very small of stature and, by nature, almost shy. But he made up for that by his dedication to hard work which he inherited from his family and by his exceptional courage. He was an extraordinarily effective leader, an unbelievable achiever and builder. But he never rested on his laurels or even took note of them. There was always more to do. At the same time, he would be the first to say that "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." The things that he accomplished in his lifetime now recognized by the Church in having beatified him show unquestionably the fact that the hand of God was with him all the way. Reviewing his life on this his feast day fills us with a sense of wondrous admiration. Many of us here were so very privileged to have seen him, to have known him, to have been a part of his life and dreams and, therefore, recognize the need to praise, adore and glorify God the Father in a special way this day, the fourth time following his beatification on April 27, 2003 by Pope John Paul II that we have been able to celebrate his feast. Let us thank God for raising up men and women of great faith in every age to open up new paths for the Gospel in order to bring his salvation to the whole world. At the same time let us ask God for the grace we will need to live up to the calling we have received to follow in our Founder's footsteps. May we do so now as we continue with our celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of this Mass.


November 22, 2007


Colleen and Christopher
My 5-year-old nephew, Christopher, is watching "The Incredibles" today with the whole family gathered 'round, and we're watching the superhero lift two trains. Chris blurts out: "God is stronger than that!" (He just started CCD.) "He can lift the whole world! He can lift the whole universe! And He's really old! How old is he, Dad, 100?"

November 14, 2007









Daughters of St. Paul Newsletter

"Glory to God and peace to men." "Gloria Deo, pax hominibus." –Luke 2:14


75th Anniversary in the U.S.A.                             December 2007

Dear Friends,


A very Merry Christmas! We hope you and your family are enjoying the blessings of the season. As we share our good news of the past year with you, we are profoundly grateful to God and you.


                                 Chicago Awaits….

Our postulants, (pictured under the fatherly gaze of St. Paul) are planning an apostolic trip to Chicago in the New Year. We also had three professions this year: Sr. Karen Teresa, Sr. Jamie Paula and Sr. Maria Kim.

                                           Daughters of St. Paul Christmas Concerts   

Sr. Anne Joan and Sr. Helena Raphael, from the Chicago community, will join the Daughters of St. Paul Choir again for their annual East Coast tour. You can follow us on the road:

Sr. Helena Burns' blog: Sr. Anne Flanagan's blog: Our latest Christmas album is now out: "Season of Love," featuring all the songs we sing in concert. Sr. Anne, a soloist, also worked on a traditional album coming out in 2008: "Catholic Favorites: Holy God We Praise Thy Name." She is pioneering a trio of sisters singing sacred hymns. Who knows, maybe someday our choir will come sing in Chicago!!

Sr. Anne in her choir robes.


Travels in the Nation's Heartland

We were very busy this Fall "nunning" book tables, especially at catechetical gatherings, meeting thousands of catechists and directors of religious education across the Midwest. We also give talks on faith & media at many of these gatherings, helping youth and adults bring their faith & media lives together. We just added Iowa and part of Nebraska to our "territory"!


Women's Advent Retreat

Back by popular demand, Sr. Jean Frisk (a Mariologist) will be the retreat director for our annual Women's Advent Retreat, December 1. She will be helping the attendees to enrich their understanding of Mary through talks and clips from the movie "The Nativity Story." For more information: 312-346-4228.

A Catholic Film Renaissance?

Sr. Rose Pacatte, fsp, has written a film guide for "Into Great Silence," the three-hour "silent" movie about the Carthusian monks. Sr. Helena's review of the pro-life film, "Bella," was printed in the Catholic New World, and the second film of "Narnia," is in the works. On a darker note, the Daughters of St. Paul have prepared a free film guide to the "Golden Compass,"—to help parents, teachers and catechists explain our Christian beliefs vis-à-vis this new atheistic fantasy. Please call for a copy: 312-346-4228. Sr. Helena will be working on the screenplay of the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, in 2008. Please pray for all these film initiatives!


New "Theology of the Body Explained" by Christopher West now available!

Christopher West ("Mr. Theology of the Body") has completed his newly revised "Theology of the Body Explained" to match the new text of Pope John Paul the Great's revolutionary "Man and Woman He Created Them—A Theology of the Body." Check out our website for other great new books such as Sr. Mary Peter's specific needs prayerbook, "Tender Mercies," and "How to Handle Worry—A Catholic Approach," (with workbook). Sr. Kathryn James came out with her fifth title: "Making Peace with Yourself—15 Steps to Spiritual Healing."


A Sleigh-full of New Children's Books!

Forget sugar plums! Goodies for little book lovers are now available: "My First Christmas Sticker Book," "Santa's Prayer" (little ones pray to Jesus with Santa for the world—CD included), "St. Paul-the Thirteenth Apostle"—just in time for the year of St. Paul: June 2008—June 2009! Also in 2008, look for the launching of "Life and Soul Jr." (a companion to the adult "Life and Soul" magazine).

In the Works

Sr. Anne is working on a book about grief for children, and Sr. Helena is putting the finishing touches on "He Speaks to You," a daily devotional for young women. Many different congregations of Sisters are contributing to the daily "Advice from the Nuns" section. New Technology: Check out Sr. Anne's YouTube channel: Search for "singingsisters" on YouTube!


Vocations: "The Apostolate of Apostolates"

Please pray for Jackie Gitonga, originally from Kenya, getting her PhD at UIUC. She is discerning whether to join the Daughters in Kenya or the USA! We had a wonderful Chicago Vocation Retreat in the summer which nine young women attended. It included a "contemplative walk through the city," to help young women reflect on the spiritual needs of people in our media culture. The Daughters of St. Paul are missionaries to a media culture!


2008 Lenten Bible Studies

We will be hosting a 20-week study of The Gospel of Matthew on DVD by Jeff Cavins, as well as a repeat of an 8-week Overview of the Entire Bible (also by Jeff Cavins—Great Adventure).


If you would like to help sponsor any of the above-mentioned projects, please let us know! Whatever you can do will be greatly appreciated! Remembering you in our Christmas Novena beginning December 16 -- please send us your intentions! If you're downtown, join us for the Novena! (Starts at 6:30pm, December 16—December 24.)


Blessed Christmas and New Year,

Sr. Helen Rita, Sr. Mary Thecla, Sr. Susan Miriam,

Sr. Anne Joan, Sr. Helena Raphael


Daughters of St. Paul          172 N. Michigan Ave.          Chicago, IL 60601          312-346-4228    


Family and Friends Cheesy and Pompous Microscopic Christmas Newsletter*


Dear Family and Friends,


Greetings from the Land of Lincoln (and ethanol)! Indiana is trying to get into the Lincoln act. The official state welcoming sign now says: "Indiana—Boyhood Home of Lincoln." He is just SO beloved out here. Another year bites the snow! I hope you are all dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square in the frosty air. Chicago just gets better and better. Mayor Daley is on his 6th term (if he finishes it, he will be the longest reigning US mayor ever). Word is that he's grooming his son to continue the dynasty. Whatever he's doing, it certainly works. The new bird of Chicago is the "crane." They're all over the skyline, and each new condo that goes up is sold out before construction is completed. This is a city of young adults because the job market is booming. Chicago factoid for you: Buckingham Fountain (right next to Lake Michigan) marks the beginning of the fabled Route 66! AND I think I've finally cracked the secret of the Midwest. The East Coast has roots but no wings. The West Coast has wings but no roots. The Midwest has both. Folks that are grounded and open at the same time.

Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da da….Batman!

For those of you with too much time on your hands, my "da's" are anatomically correct:16. Try the theme song yourself! So I felt like I never left L.A. because they were filming Batman #17 in Chicago this summer, and LYING to us—telling us it was a movie called "Rory's First Kiss." (Rory is the name of the director's kid.) Whadda they think, we're a bunch of Midwestern bumpkins? We have roots AND wings! But we figgered it out. We had a priest from Sicily staying with us, who kept taking pictures at the outdoor sets and didn't quite get it that when they kick you off the set, they mean it. The film crew told us there was going to be an explosion and they didn't want us to get hurt. Right. An explosion named Christian Bale.

The Real Cranes

You haven't lived till you've seen and heard migrating Sandhill Cranes. (They live up in Wisconsin and beyond.) At first you think they're Canada geese, but the honking is more eerie and prehistoric sounding. They fly with the moon on their wings—no wait, that's the song—they fly with neck and legs outstretched (ouch!) unlike other birds that tuck 'em in. 80-inch wingspan! They spiral up in the thermals (like hawks) to great heights. It's really something quite mystical.

The Fake Eagles

The diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, is huge. It comprises 16 counties, and borders Lake Superior (Canada) at its nothernmost. If you're thinking "Brrrrr," you're right. Diocesan motto: "Not big time, just a good time." I went eagle-watching in Superior. I went to all the eagle haunts where the locals swore I would see eagles and eagle nests. They made it sound like eagles are to Superior what pigeons are to Chicago. Nothing. I have been eagle watching many times in my life--at places named Eagle Lake, Eagle Harbor, Eagle Rock, Eagle Bay, Eagle River, Eagle Mountain, Eagle Pond. Nada. (The only bald eagle I've ever seen is on the Muppets.) I'm beginning to think that our "E Pluribus Unum" friends should be put BACK on the endangered list 'cuz I sure haven't seen any! But then again my Dad, who loved moose and spent many summers hiking and mountain-climbing in New Hampshire before he died, never saw a moose. And moose do exist because I saw TWO of them the ONE morning my Dad did NOT accompany me to daily Mass one summer in New Hampshire.

Of Media Workshops, Blogs, YouTube and Facebook

Yes, I continue to blather about media literacy, philosophy, and Theology of the Body (took a week-long course with Christopher West this summer—wow!) to all who will listen, traveling around the Upper Midwest. We also do book and media exhibits with these talks. We just got IOWA and part of NEBRASKA added to our "territory." Our sisters in St. Louis tried to steal southern Ohio from us, but we weren't having any of that! I began an eponymous blog: Again, if you have too much time on your hands, you may want to check out where I have left my footprints in the cornstalks this year (just click on past months and days on the left hand column). I did my first YouTube (just search for "Daughters of St. Paul—Ask the Nuns!") The video is wretched and the audio is worse, but you gutta start somewhere. I am loving Facebook (aka "Wastebook" because of all the time spent on it)! It's really a great way to organize your online life and know when all your friends are brushing their teeth.

Vocation Work

"Jambo!" means "Howzit?" in Kenyan. A young woman studying in Illinois, Jackie Gitonga, is joining the Daughters of St. her native Kenya. The United States' loss, Kenya's gain. Please pray for her as she finishes her studies and abandons us. But I'm not bitter. We had a wonderful vocation retreat here this summer which 9 young women attended. Almost 10. Let me explain. The last young woman to be picked up--Anne--called from the train station. "I'm at the corner of Jackson and Canal." I drove there with a few of the retreatants in the car, and there she was, like all the others, sitting on her suitcase, clutching a pillow. We waved, she ran to the car, we hugged, loaded her stuff, she piled in, we drove off. Everyone introduced themselves. She said her name was "Amanda." (Hmmm. Maybe I had gotten the name wrong.) "Where are you from?" they asked her. "Michigan." (Hmmm. Anne was from California but GOING to Michigan.) Then Amanda piped up: "Where's Aleesha?" I slammed on the brakes. (There was no Aleesha on the retreat.) "OK—who are you and who do you think we are and did you or did you not sign up for a vocation retreat?" I demanded. Amanda: "No." All the other retreatants in chorus: "We kidnapped you!" Me: "Why did you get in the van??!!" "Because Aleesha works with handicapped children and I thought maybe she worked with nuns and maybe she sent the nuns to get me." Needless to say we whooped and hollered all the way back to the train station. The police screamed at us for parking in the bus lane as we unloaded "Amanda," but we were laughing too hard to hear or care. "Have a nice life, Amanda!" we all shouted.

Life in the Foodie Community

So I walk in the living room before supper, and there's Sr. Thecla, our community cook (just celebrated her 50th anniversary of profession this year), watching the Food Channel, SOBBING!! She was watching one of those cooking contest shows, and this young man had his culinary creation brusquely rejected. He and Sr.Thecla were sobbing. Evidently the young man said: "It's like someone rejected your son." Typical supper in the Chicago community: Sr. Thecla (foodie): meat, potatoes and veggies. Sr. Susan (ascetic): whatever Sr. Thecla cooks. Prunes for dessert. If it's Sunday, ice cream. Sr. Anne (foodie): whatever Sr. Thecla cooks, with the addition of her own tangerine-feta-ginger-honey-rosemary-balsamic-tumeric dressings. Sr. Helen (Alaskan outdoorswoman): bowl of vegetables and two apples. Sr. Helena (processed foodie): Raisin Bran.

"He Speaks to You" and a new screenplay

The daily devotional for young women I've been working on, "He Speaks to You," will come out in 2008, God willing. Mother asked me, "Didn't Sr. Marie Paul dedicate her first book to her mother?" I'm also beginning a screenplay on the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. I didn't save on my car insurance, but I did lower my cholesterol by cutting down dairy and eating raw flaxseed—a miracle food.

NOT Back on the Road Again

Mother and I were (insanely) going to take a road trip down to the deep South in the middle of record-breaking heat this August to see relatives. But Mom broke her wrist very badly which made it impossible. (Mom was walking "Spencer" the dog—on a 30-ft. cable—who decided to run after "Lucky" the cat. Mom decided to hold on to the cable.) My sister, Mary—a long-time Californian--is moving to Georgia to be with her son, David, so we'll have to try again soon!

172 N. Michigan—Seminarian Depot

We had an inordinately high number of seminarians coming over for pizza this year. One bunch was from Peoria, Illinois  ("Boyhood Home of Fulton Sheen"). They plan to drive to Rochester, NY, and steal Bishop Sheen's bones and bring them back to Peoria where they belong.

We Irish

"We Irish have a streak of pessimism that sustains us in times of joy." –Bishop Boland, Kansas City, MO

"Irish Alzheimers: When you only remember the bad stuff." I just read the life of St. Bridget of Ireland (who wished for a "lake of beer for the King of heaven"—no kidding). What an extraordinary lady! Turns out she was based in Kildare where the O'Byrne clan originally hung their shelaleighs, until they were pressed eastward by the "Scandinavian horror." At the risk of sounding like St. Bridget, I have to share this: "If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every Spring. He sends a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He listens. He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chose your heart. Face it friend, He is crazy about you! God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and light for the way." –Anonymous Uplifting Cyberspace-Circulating Thingamahooey

"Elf" and "Bella"

I hope you all saw these two movies. Remember the "Elf" rules:

1.        Treat every day like it's Christmas.

2.        There's room for everyone on the "nice" list.

3.        The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear.

The Niecephews

Colleen is 16, and yes, America and Canada, DRIVING. Actually she has a sweet jeep and is the family chauffeur. Kevin is 14, and playing Lacrosse. Christopher is 5, began kindergarten and CCD, and has to wear whatever Kevin wears.

Christmas in Heaven

My brother, Robert (Bif), 74; my uncles Gilbert Lawlor, 79, and Richie Lawlor, 77; my brother-in-law Guy; and a dear friend's mother, Filomena, 91.


ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?? If you are, please send me your email because a first class stamp will probably be $7.89 next Christmas, and if I send you a Christmas EMAIL, I won't be limited to just TWO pages! You lucky devil you!    love and prayers,  Sr. Helena xo xo xo


*Remember, Cheesy because it's quick, slick and impersonal; Pompous because it assumes you actually care what I've been doing all year; and Microscopic because I think ALL my news is desperately important!












November 13, 2007


We are so blessed to have Fr. Don Sassi, SSP, as our Father General. He is truly prophetic in regard to the new evangelization and the new media!
"The specific characteristic of the Pauline charism is evangelization and communication. Evangelization and communication collaborate together to create a new identity."
"Blessed James Alberione realized that apostles of the media must be formed through a spiritual life so as to transmit it to others. He gave models of holiness: Jesus Master, Mary--Queen of Apostles, and St. Paul the Apostle to give direction to every aspect of Pauline formation: human, Christian and religious. The apostle becomes holy by helping others become holy. The whole Christ (dogma, morals and worship) presented to the whole person. As Blessed James said: 'Speak not only about religion, but speak of everything in a Christian way.'"

November 9, 2007


24,000 Catholic Teens from all over the USA!

Things I learned at NCYC:
"God is Cajun."
Family means "Forget About Me I Love You."
Whale means "Who Has Always Loved Everyone?"

Below can you find:
--Sumo wrestling (teens encased in big plastic bodysuits)
--Sr. Mary Michael, OSF, shooting hoops?
--SPAM: St. Philip's Adolescent Ministry?
--Fake nuns?
--Wall o' Catholic mugs?

Please pray for the soul and family of Veronica (16 yrs old) from Las Vegas. Killed by a hit and run driver (she was on the sidewalk) when she went out for pizza in Columbus.