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Daily Perspectives: Get prepped for the Pope’s encyclical

Tonight on Perspectives: What’s the Catholic Take on A.D. The Bible Continues, getting prepped for Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wraps up in Ottawa.

Don’t Skip Out on Saints

Driver's license of Archbishop Oscar Romero seen in museum in San Salvador

The first time I heard of Archbishop Oscar Romero was during my Grade 12 religion class.
Now, religion was the last class of the day and so there was every reason to just skip it.

Something that Mr. Whitebread (yes, that was his real name) was all too aware of, and took measures against.

His strategy was the promise of a movie about a revolutionary.

Hook, line, and sinker; he had me.

We were all present and accounted for, transfixed by the retelling of this ‘revolutionaries’ life.

By the end of it, we were convinced that Archbishop Oscar Romero was a saint, and it sparked meaningful discussion about discipleship and martyrdom.

The big take away for me, was that it gave me a sense of what sainthood might be like.

Man walks next to wall with graffiti bearing image of Archbishop Oscar Romero in San Salvador

Up until that point, most of the saints I knew of were so far removed from my own experiences I kind of just wrote them off.

But learning about Archbishop Romero was different.  There was something tragically real about his life.

So it’s with particular joy that I look forward to his beatification. It’s been more than a decade since I was in high school, but I’ve been inspired to reconnect with his story by reading a biography about Oscar Romero published by Novalis. The book I’ve been reading is part of the People of God series, it’s called Love Must Win Out. Its short but serves as a great intro (or refresher) on Oscar Romero and most importantly it tells the story of a modern day person who like us was challenged by the times he lived in to become a hero, a saint.

CNS photos

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The Producer Diaries – Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

The Church in the Digital Age

White smoke billows from chimney of Sistine Chapel after cardinals elected new pope

For an institution that still uses smoke signals to communicate the election of a new leader one wonders how the Church will respond to the challenges of the digital age? When I reflect on this topic, I can’t help but remember when the good old Pope Benedict launched News.va. That’s right, in case you’ve forgotten, it was Pope Benedict’s finger that launched NEWS.VA.

Isn’t there something incredible about an image of a Council Father, like Pope Benedict, launching a news portal via an ipad. Two worlds literally meeting at the tip of a finger. Reminds me of the scene of Adam and God in the Sistine chapel.

In light of the World Communications Day, I caught up with Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Author of Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age to share some insights with us:

Daniella Zsupan-Jerome
Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome with iPad that Pope Benedict used to launch @Pontifex

Today we celebrate the 49th World Day for Social Communications. Any thoughts on the Pope’s Message?

I recommend praying with this beautiful document. It invites us into the family of Jesus to re-learn some of the beauty and richness of human communication. The meditation on the Annunciation and the Visitation are especially profound as Pope Francis leads us to recognize how communication itself was made sacred in the Word becoming flesh through the yes of Mary. True to form, Pope Francis guides us from meditation to recognition in our own lives: to the reality of our own families and how communication emerges and grows from this basic human experience. I love his reflection on the womb as “the first school of communication” where the encounter between mother and child, “so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication.”

I also appreciate the challenge he names regarding digital culture: “The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.” He is calling us back to encounter here, back to recognizing the person in front of us, back to the basic posture of relationship that we are made for in the image and likeness of God. He challenges us here I think to think creatively and faithfully about how to do this in and through digital communication.

The Church in many places seems to still prefer analogue communication like radio (or smoke signals), are we ready for the digital age?

One of the reasons I love the Roman Catholic Church is because of its long-history of being “multimedia” as well as its beautiful theology of communication. Our theology set us up to think in terms of mediation, sacramentality, and grace present in and through something that conveys or carries it. We think of God’s relationship with us as God’s self-communication. We consider Christ as the Word Incarnate. We live empowered by the Spirit who has given us the ability to speak. All of these are a solid foundation for thinking about communication today.
The Catholic tradition is a multimedia tradition: we honor the body as our primary medium, we embrace the stuff of the earth as our sacramental symbols, we have a long history of art, performance, music, manuscript, print and even electronic media to illuminate, educate and inspire. All this makes us not only ready for digital culture, but sets us in a position of thought-leadership in terms of how to do this well.

Ok, what are some of the practical implications for priestly and lay formation?

If we are living in a digital culture, then it is important to begin to think in cultural terms, rather than simply about specific tools, skills or platforms to use in ministry. For ministerial formation, this means thinking more broadly. For priestly formation, it raises questions about how to teach, govern and sanctify digital culture, or more specifically, the people we are called to serve in our digital culture. For the lay minister, it is about how to live a baptismal call to share the Gospel, to be a communicator of Good News in the digital age, whether at home, at work, in our social and professional contexts. For both lay and priestly formation, this brings an intentionality to communication, and engenders communication that is, at its core, an act of giving oneself in love. Even when it comes to a text or tweet, this is possible.

Pope Francis seems to be a pretty savvy communicator, judging from his twitter followers and famous selfies, anything we can learn from him?

Openness to learning and trying something new, courage to look “human” while doing it, and the commitment to seek encounter with people through the screen, especially those who need healing and reconciliation the most.

In your book you made an interesting observation about the location of the Media on the Council Father’s agenda. Mind letting us in on that ‘Conciliar joke’?

At the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers placed the discussion on Inter Mirifica (Decree on Mass Media) intentionally following the discussions on the liturgy and revelation, and preceding forthcoming discussions on Christian unity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the church. Wedged between these heavier topics, the discussion on the topic of social communication was anticipated to be lighter, even called an “opportunity for relaxation” by Cardinal Cento, the president of the commission that oversaw the preparation of the schema on this topic. I am not sure how relaxing the discussion was, even if it dealt with the media. Over two and a half days, fifty-four Council Fathers gave a verbal address and an additional forty-three submitted written feedback. This sounds like work.

Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus featuring an interview with Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome!

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

 

 

Finding God

seeds of the word

Growing up in Namibia or ‘South West’ as it was called back in the day meant we only had public television for a couple of hours in the evenings – even on weekends.

So when I wasn’t spending time running around in the veld, or swimming in the freezing Atlantic off the Namibian coast, my dad and I would spend Saturdays eating grilled cheese sandwiches and watching videos from the only local video store.

In other words, Saturdays were bliss.

Namibia is a land of unmitigated natural beauty: surreal landscapes with endless horizons. Spending much of my childhood surrounded by so much nature, I recall early on feeling a sense of awe at Creation. Those endless days (and nights) hiking and climbing and daydreaming in trees were deeply formative experiences.

But equally as formative perhaps, were those movies I watched with my dad. And as much as I’d like to think that I listened very attentively to the priest’s Sunday homilies … it’s more likely that I was daydreaming about the movie I watched the day before. Movies like the Neverending Story, Indiana Jones or Back to the Future, for better or worse, made a lasting impression.

The power of popular culture, whether we like it or not, influences and shapes us. Films, movies and books provide a unique opportunity to evangelize. Fr. Barron of Word on Fire Ministries understands this better than most and his film reviews are always rich with cultural and spiritual insights. If you haven’t caught any of his reviews, here’s one of my favourites on the film starring Brad Pitt called Moneyball.

His latest book Seeds of the Word: Finding God in Culture, continues his important work of sifting through our society and finding evidence of God in Film, Politics, Books and the wider culture.

As he points out in the Preface, when we look for seeds of the Word in culture we are following in the footsteps of the great of evangelist the Apostle Paul.

Christians have long taken Paul’s strategy on the Areopagus as a model of for the evangelization of culture. Before sowing the Word, one looks for the semina verbi (seeds of the word) already present among the people one seeks to evangelize.” (Barron, ix)

Ain’t that the truth. Personally, just one glance through the table of contents of Barron’s book hooked me. Check out these chapter titles:

World War Z and the Council of Trent
The Tale of Two Hitchenses
The Preachings of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Woody Allen, Moralist
Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Dangers of Consequentialism

These short essays (only a page and half long) are personable and thought-provoking. An excellent accompaniment to any pop culture diet.

And who knows, maybe one day while you’re chatting about World War Z or something, you’ll have your own dizzying eureka moment where you connect a seemingly obscure movie line to an even more obscure Council document.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries
Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories

 

A Modest Comeback?

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Cheridan Sanders speaks with Shannon Joseph, President of Trends about fashion and faith.

Is it possible to be both fashionable and modest?

For a few years there, I felt as if the only way I could dress modestly was to look as if I’d been locked up in an underground bunker for the last twenty years. There was literally nothing decent to buy!

Ok, I might be exaggerating slightly. But I’ve been constantly annnoyed by the limited choices available. Everything seemed to be too short, too tight, too see-through, too low-cut, and so on. It’s enough to make a grown woman weep.  Uncontrollably.  In the change-room. *sniffle

But the times they are a changin’. Because Modesty is making a comeback.

Take this article published in Vogue recently entitled, “How Orthodox Judaism’s Laws of Modesty Gave Me a Sense of Style”. And bloggers like Fabologie and others are showing the world that it is indeed possible to be fashionable and modest.

I don’t think that this is just a passing trend. More and more women (religious and non-religious) are saying enough! The hemline – it stops here! And you don’t just have to buy designer labels to get the look.

After some surfing around the web, I realized that there are lots of smaller retailers out there that are catering to those who want to buy clothes that are both stylish and modest, without compromise. Like this store that literally says that in their tagline.

So all of this got me thinking and, I decided to poll my co-workers at S+L to hear what they thought about fashion, faith and self-expression.

I also interviewed Shannon Joseph, President of Trends for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus about her organization which works with teens girls to promote healthy self-esteem and positive body image.

“It’s time for us girls to dare to be different, to break out of the cookie-cutter mold and create a unique sense of style that best expresses who we are as people. It’s time to change the face of fashion.“ Shannon Hale, Co-founder of Trends

What’s remarkable about Trends is that Shannon Hale founded Trends when she was just a teen. She was fed-up with what was being sold by most retailers and she set out to challenge the hyper-sexualization of young women in the media and fashion industry. Today Trends is a national organization and their workshops cover a range of topics from how to shop for your body type to a National fashion forum with inspirational speakers.

All this is to say that not only is it possible to be fashionable and modest, but as many women are showing us, faith is a wonderful way to inspire originality and a distinctive identity which is essential to developing an authentic sense of style.

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The Producer Diaries
Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

Saving the Peace

Girl displaced as a result of Boko Haram attack in Nigeria rests her head on desk at camp for displaced people A girl displaced as a result of Boko Haram attack in the northeast region of Nigeria rests her head on a desk at a camp for internally displaced people. CNS photo/Afolabi Sotunde, Reuters.

One of the most interesting conversations I had during my stay in New Orleans was with Sr. Cecilia Dimaku of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Nigeria. I know most people haven’t ever heard of this congregation, but theirs is a story worth telling.

When Archbishop Ekpu founded the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1975 he did so in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), a particularly intense and tragic time of tribal conflict.

Also known as the Biafran War, the conflict tore the country apart. By the end of it, two million people had died from famine or conflict.

It is a lamentable story, but one that sets the stage for the arrival of the Sisters, so I’ll just quickly summarize here.

After Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960, six years later the Muslim Hausas in Northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos, prompting thousands of Igbos to flee to the east where their people were the dominant ethnic group. The Igbos doubted that Nigeria’s military government would allow them to flourish, so in 1967 they established the Republic of Biafra for their safety and security.

Unfortunately, diplomatic attempts to reunify the country promptly failed and they were plunged into a terrible war. A war that Nigeria won after it secured the oil fields -the main source of revenue for the fledgling Biafran Republic. The resulting loss of revenue led to a tragic famine in which an estimated one million civilians died.

We know that no culture or civilization can stand except when the womenfolk of that society have assumed their proper place in it.

Archbishop Patrick Ekpu, Founder of Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

It is in the aftermath of this crises that the Sisters of the Sacred Heart were born.

Archbisop Ekpu’s hope was that these holy women would be a symbol of unity, as it gathered women of all tribes together; making manifest Christ’s desire “that they may all be one” from the Gospel of John.

No small vision, when you consider that Nigeria is inhabited by over 500 distinctive ethnic groups.


Left, Sr. Cecilia Dimaku, Former Superior General of Sacred Heart Sisters seated next to Sr. Evelyn.

But that’s not all, the Archbishop also hoped that the new Order would celebrate what is beautiful in African culture. He had rightly intuited the need for a Christian witness that was also an inculturated one.

Up until that point in his country’s history, most nuns were missionaries from other parts of the world, many of them Irish. It seemed time for young Nigerian girls to see an African model of holiness and womanhood.

One of the ways that the Sisters gave expression to this understanding was by adopting a traditional African-style habit and veil.

It was so distinctive in fact that when Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria he commented that it stood out as ‘a concrete expression of inculturating what is beautiful and rich in African culture’.

Fast forward to today, and their charism – the work of affirming all that is good in Nigerian culture while attending to downtrodden women seems to be as important as ever.

Nigerians to hold elections Feb.14
Nigerians vote near Lagos April 26, 2011. A Nigerian cardinal called on candidates in the country’s elections to focus on issues of importance to voters rather than on character assassination and smear tactics. CNS photo/George Esiri, EPA

The Sacred Heart Sisters promote the dignity of women through apostolates in: education, pastoral ministry, medical works and counselling. Much of their work is with young women who have been forced into or have deliberately entered into prostitution.

And, as Nigeria increasingly plays a leading role on the continent of Africa as an economic giant coupled with its growing media industry (Nigeria’s Nollywood is second only to India’s Bollywood) it is clear that the country is poised to influence the hearts and minds of many in Africa, and beyond.

And that begs the question, in a global reality where Nigeria is growing in influence and power, what kinds of cultural values will ultimately be communicated?

Only time will tell, but we can be assured that the Sister’s witness to unity and the promotion of the dignity of women will go a long way to building a culture of peace in Nigeria.

CAR BURNS AT SITE OF EXPLOSION AT CATHOLIC CHURCH IN NIGERIA
A car burns at the scene of a bomb explosion outside St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja. Five bombs exploded Christmas Day at churches in Nigeria. The explosion at St. Theresa’s killed at least 27 people. Militants of the Boko Haram sect said they had set off the bombs, raising fears that they are trying to ignite sectarian civil war. CNS photo/Reuters

S+L On The Road: The Producer Diaries
Scher on location with George+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting adventure invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, preventing human trafficking, and so much more. The production is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

S+L on the road: the Cause for Henriette Delille

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From the left: Sr Laura, Sr Greta share with me about Venerable Henriette Delille’s story and her continuing significance.

During my time in New Orleans, I visited with Sr. Greta and Sr. Laura of the Sisters of the Holy Family to learn about the Cause for Venerable Henriette Delille, founder of The Sister’s of the Holy Family – the second oldest African-American congregation of religious women in America.

Opened in 1988, Henriette’s Cause took a major step forward in 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI declared her Venerable. And it looks like there’s much more to come.

To date, more than 300 favors and possible miracles, granted through her intercession, have been reported; and over 2,000 letters from 47 states and 15 countries have been received.

Even Hollywood has taken notice. In 2000, Hollywood actress Vanessa Williams starred as Henriette Delille in The Courage to Love  a movie inspired by Henriette’s story. Although, to hear the Sister’s tell it, the love story angle in the movie is highly improbable.

This gave me a good chuckle.

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Sr. Laura holds up a t-shirt, which promotes the Cause of Venerable Henriette Delille.  On the shirt is her only recorded writing,  penned on the inside cover of an 1836 prayer book: “I believe in God. I hope in God. I love God. I want to live and die for God.”

In the following clip, Sr. Greta speaks to me about a painting depicting Venerable Henriette Delille’s life.

It’s interesting to note that Henriette was not a slave. In fact, she came from a long line of free women.

By the time Henriette was born in 1812 she was a fourth generation descendant of an enslaved African women; a third generation Afro-Creole and a second generation free woman.

In other words, Henriette grew up in a society in which she was respected as a Creole with ties to prominent white and free coloured Creoles (Henriette Delille,Virginia Meacham Gould, 18).

According to Benedictine Father, Cyprian Davis who wrote a biography about Henriette called, Henriette Delille, Servant of Slaves, Witness to the Poor, the Delille family became free because Henriette’s great, great grandmother Nanette was brought to America as a slave, and freed after the death of her owner.

Apparently, Louisiana under French rule, had some provisions for slaves in their law, and it was possible for a slave to be bought out of slavery over the wishes of his or her owner.

According to Father Davis, a slave could demand an owner to name a price for the slave’s freedom and if the owner refused, the slave had recourse through the courts.

In the case of the Delille family, Nanette eventually amassed enough money to buy her daughter (and two of her grandchildren) out of slavery.  In time, Henriette’s family became relatively wealthy, even if they remained second-class citizens.

But Henriette’s early life was not without turmoil, and as I delve further into her story, I look forward to sharing these revelations with you.

Learn more about St. Augustine’s parish where Venerable Henriette Delille ministered in this post.

S+L On The Road: The Producer Diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

S+L on the road: The Vietnamese Connection

Portrait of Bishop Dominic Mary Ho-Ngoc-Can, founder of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

My time in New Orleans has yielded many interesting stories, one of these is the role that the Archdiocese of New Orleans played in receiving refugees after the Vietnam war. At the request of Archbishop Philip Hannan the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary moved from Philadelphia (where they were studying) to New Orleans to build up and support the Vietnamese community as they made their way in America.

We’ll explore that story line more in the series, but for now, I’ll share this article featured in America magazine. It’s an interview with Bishop Luong, the first and only Vietnamese American Catholic bishop. In the article, he speaks about his work among Vietnamese refugees and the continuing importance of the Rosary in Vietnamese family life today.

Sr Sandy Nguyen, Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Chi Hoa welcomes us.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Here’s a tidbit of info that my guide (and gracious host) Dr. Barbara Fleischer of Loyola Institute for Ministry pointed out to me on our drive over to visit the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

Here, Sr. Sandy Nguyen gives us a quick tour of the Motherhouse.

S+L On The Road: The Producer Diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are! The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.  

S+L on the road: Jesuit Church ‘a real head-turner’

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In an earlier post in which I wrote about Cafe Reconcile, a bustling, award-winning restaurant that helps at-risk youth develop employable skills, I mentioned that the founder of the program, Fr. Harry Tompson S.J. was the former pastor of Immaculate Conception parish (‘Jesuit Church’ to locals). It’s worth mentioning that Jesuit Church deserves its own accolades because it is a beauty. Its intriguing architecture is a vibrant mix of Neo-Venetian Gothic Revivalism ( yes, I had to look that up too). I’ve included some shots of the exterior for you, I would have taken some of the interior, but my ride was circling the block and I only had a few seconds!

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As you can see, its architectural style makes it a distinctive and intriguing landmark.

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Front entrance to Jesuit Church

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Close-up of the Church walls

Designed by Fr. John Cambiaso it was completed in 1857. However, after it suffered foundation damage it was disassembled, reassembled and rededicated in 1930.

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Detail of the Church doors.

The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and continues to be an unmistakable fixture in the heart of New Orleans.

S+L On The Road: The Producer Diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

S+L on the road: let’s go to cemetery!

Its not uncommon in New Orleans to see buses with the destination “Cemeteries” and hoards of people getting onto them. As strange as that sight might seem, New Orleans does have grand cemeteries, which people flock to see. Some of them dating back to as early as the 1700’s. Since most of New Orleans is built on on a swamp the deceased have to be buried above ground, often in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums. Over time, these tombs have come to resemble small villages and are called the Cities of the Dead (…cue spooky organ interlude)

Naturally I had to check out what all the fuss is about.

Aren’t they fabulous? My only question now, is how do I include these visuals in our new series!

S+L on the road: the producer diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing a new S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.