Building Communities

children in the remote village
of Mandabe, Madagascar
Before Bishop Donald Pelletier, M.S, retired as Bishop of Morondava, Madagascar, he went for one last pastoral visit to the district of Mandabe, where for many years Fr. George Repchick (+1998) ministered lovingly to the people. Bishop Donald writes:

“I just returned from a five-day visit to Mandabe. The road has not gotten any better since the times we traveled it together years ago. How many years is it now – 5 or 6 – since the approaches to the bridge at Dabara were washed away? The bridge still sits in the middle of the river with no way to get on it. Meanwhile we have to plow through about two miles of shallow water and deep, fine sand to get across.

“As always it was a very sentimental trip as I can’t but think of George and pray for him when I am there. An enlarged photo of him adorns the back wall of the church. Fr. Richard – an Italian priest incardinated into the diocese and who is presently director of that missionary district – says that George’s presence is still vividly felt. I am amazed to see the continual growth of this Christian community. I think it is the district that has shown the most progress and growth in the last six years.

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Our Burma Heroes

Many of our Burmese Missionaries
As the saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I remember those days as a young student in the La Salette Seminary High School in Hartford, CT., in the late 1950’s. I often heard our returning missionaries from Burma share their fascinating stories of their ministry in what seemed to me to be another world. As they gave their testimonies to us 100 teenagers, despite the early hour (7AM), we were transfixed by their stories of faith in that very challenging and remote part of the world.

As years passed, I fortunately got to meet or hear about every La Salette that served in our Burma Missions. Our very active Hartford Mission Circles in our seminary as well as those La Salette Mission Clubs scattered across New England, were tremendously supportive of our “Burma Heroes”, those La Salettes who left family and country to serve in that far away vineyard of the Lord. These were impressive men of faith and I was proud to be connected to and supportive of their efforts to spread the Catholic Faith.

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Meeting Pope Francis

Untitled-1It was a special moment on Wednesday afternoon, March 13, 2013. A vast crowd had gathered in dark and rainy St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. The white smoke rose from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel. The bells rang and the crowd cheered in delight.

When the curtains opened on the center balcony of St. Peter’s and the formal announcement was made, “Habemus Papam (We have a Pope)”, the excitement built still more.

This was to be an event of firsts. His name was to be “Pope Francis”, never before used by a Pope. From the announcement we learned that his name was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, the first non-European ever elected Pope.

When he came out to greet the cheering throngs, he wore his simple white cassock and cape. His gentle smile was assuring; his brief word and actions were also precedent setting. In his brief sharing, he asked those gathered before him to pause in silence and pray for him. What a lovely change of expectations. He needed our prayers!

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We Pray for Peace!

Woman planting potatoes
Editor: These are reflections from a participant of our 1991 Council of the Congregation held in Antsirabe, Madagascar. When Fr. Franz wrote this, his Province’s mission in Angola (now a Province) was still in the midst of a seemingly endless civil war and he sees the ongoing reality of life in his Madagascar surroundings.

Around us life goes on: They are walking through the many fields, quietly, in rhythm. They bear under their arms baskets that they have woven themselves. They walk together, side by side. Two more come behind. They are sowing potatoes in the red earth of the highlands of Antsirabe. They work carefully. Their hands are like opened shells. Their feet don't trample the furrows, but move along the narrow strips of elevated earth.

The two women who follow behind use their bare feet to cover with earth the freshly sown potatoes. They tread the soil lightly. They are working with confidence in their hearts. The potatoes will grow and multiply, and there will be food for many.

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La Salette in Spain

Fr. Gerry Comeau, M.S.,
longtime minister in Spain

At the end of her message, Our Lady of La Salette asked the two children to make her message known. Later Bishop de Bruillard extended this mandate to all who hear Mary’s message, her wonderful message eventually did reach the four corners of the world. I’d like to share with you, in particular, how it reached the Church in Spain, my place of ministry for these past fifty years.

La Salette Devotion Reaches Spain

Once the Church approved the Apparition of Our Lady at La Salette, France, the devotion quickly spread through all of Spain. The most important apostles of Our Lady were Count Narciso de Peñalver, Catalán, from Northeast Spain (who became Maximin’s very good friend and paid for the nine bronze statues depicting the Apparition on the Holy Mountain) and Don Florencio Sanz from Pamplona in north central Spain. In 1863 the latter published a Spanish translation of Canon Rousselot’s book on the “Truth of the Apparition”. Both men heartily supported and propagated the devotion and the response was immediate.

Read more: La Salette in Spain

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