Pope Francis praises Servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl

During his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis praises Servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl’s life as epitomizing apostolic zeal and calls on the faithful to imitate the way she shared the joy of faith with others.


To learn more about Madeline Delbrêl’s life, check out this article from The Catechetical Review.

St. Eugene Prayer

Michael Rodrigo, O.M.I
Michael Rodrigo, O.M.I

I give you my hands to do your work,
I give you my feet to go your way,
Lord Jesus
I give you my eyes to see as you do,
I give you my tongue to speak your words,
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
Above all, I give you my heart
so that in me you may love your Father and all creation.
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me,
so that it is you, Lord Jesus,
who lives and works and prays in me. AMEN.

Based on the oblation prayer of Michael Rodrigo, O.M.I., Martyred 10 November 1987

Inter-Faith Journey: “Reflection into the Path of Wonder”

By Fr. Jack Lau, OMI
Originally posted October 23, 2023, on the OMIUSA.org website

By Fr. Jack Lau, OMI

Fr. Jack Lau, OMI
Fr. Jack Lau, OMI

The question asked of me many times while at Aanmodaya Ashram (an ashram is a hermitage, monastic community, or other place of religious retreat found in South Asia), an Oblate Ashram in Kanchipuram, India was, why are you here? “Why are you, a westerner here at this ashram which we find difficult to live in?” And I would tell them a story of how at 5 or 6, I had a photo of the Buddha in my room and by 11, incense was burning before him. Needless to say; I was not an ordinary first grader. But that answer usually ended the conversation. I continue to ponder that answer, for there is a part of me that is drawn to Asia and to the temples of Asia.

Sitting at a Buddhist temple. Notice-no shoes allowed.

My first experience was in traveling to Thailand in 2004. I stayed with the Oblates and traveled about with them. I remember going to the juniorate and going on a class trip to a local temple. I was excited and my eyes were open, and my heart was already there. Yet the students, probably all about 18 or 19 were shocked that we were going to a temple. For they were taught at home not to go to other places of worship, much like in the U.S. before the 1960s & 70s. Yet the Oblates of Thailand understood well the power of the culture to open up the heart. So, among the Oblates, prayer and the church environment, reflected the prayer at the temple. All were seated on the floor and the soles of one’s feet never faced the teacher or the image of the Holy. As a foreigner one learns by looking, observing, asking when necessary and making plenty of innocent mistakes. What I saw in Thailand was a Catholicism that looked as if Jesus grew up in Thailand.

That experience surely touched me for while helping-out at an Eco program at the Novitiate, one of the General Councilors (Oswald Firth, OMI, from Sri Lanka) came through. My demeanor must have stood out to him. He said to me, “you ought to spend a considerable amount of time at the Oblate Ashram in India.” At that time, I had already been instructing numerous yoga classes in Buffalo, Minnesota and was practicing Yoga while studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Typical meal, (you know I am about cooking and food.) 

I arrived in Chennai India early in the morning to the warm greetings of the Provincial House. After a couple of hours of sleep there was an early mass and breakfast. I was shown my place, which had a fork, spoon, and knife all in place. Then I looked around and no one was using utensils. The right hand was all you needed! And so “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” And yes, the food was different and spicier than I was used to. No cereal or café au lait!

It was that morning I meet Joseph Samarakone, OMI; director/guru/teacher/Acharya of Aanmodaya Ashram, a ministry of the Oblate Province of India. Sam, as I called him, was an imposing caricature. He seemed tall, though I was taller, he was large framed draped in orange, a white full beard and blue piercing eyes. His voice was deep and commanding. That afternoon we jumped into a jeep and drove about 1 hour to Kanchipuram-“City of a thousand temples”. I arrived, was blessed by the women of the ashram . I had a tour of the ashram and then I was shown my hut/dwelling. It had electricity, a bathroom, and I brought with me the mosquito net which I hung up with dental floss! What more could one want.

At the welcoming parade in the village for the First mass of Fr. Amila. Thsese are traditional Kandian Royal Dancers. The Sister and Amila’s family and Oblates follow.

I came to realize quickly that I would be spending between 5 to 7 hours a day in the temple sitting. At first it was in the round teaching centre with the statue of the seated Jesus (Sat Guru/Supreme Teacher) in the front. After about 7 months the temple which was under construction was completed and blessed by the Superior General.  What I experienced is that God speaks through cultures, through the lives of the people and their sacred texts. So, each day we would be reading from a variety of text. Friday was usually the Sufi Mystics. Saturday was from the Jewish Mystics and on the other days we read from the Christian mystics and the Sages and Saints from around the world. God is still speaking! Being in the State of Tamil Nadu where the Shivite experience/expression of Hindu culture was prominent we would read and ponder daily the local Shivite saints. Manikkavachaka was the sage that Sam would recite daily. One day, the electricity went out and he continued by memory the entire text. Sam was passionate and brilliant, and he shared with me his love of sacred scripture from around the world. (There are YouTube of his talks on-line) I continue to read and ponder these sacred texts throughout the week and often use them in my sermons. I am drawn to the Upanishads for their poetry, clarity, and rootedness in the human experience. “Hear, O children of immortal bliss! You are born to be united with the Lord. Follow the path of the illumined ones and be united with the Lord of Life.” (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 2:5)

An important moment in my journey was a visit to the Sikh Golden Temple, a gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. I spent the day walking around the large pool on hot white marble. I asked a group of young people; “who can go in the pool?” They said anyone can in the pool. So, I continued to walk and then I said, “what makes this water any different than the Jordan, the Tiber or even Lourdes”? And with that I plunged myself in, and a woman near me handed me her little boy. I will hold that moment and memory close to my heart and allow it to guide my way. I have carried these many experiences with me into the cave of my heart.

At the ordination of Amila, it is traditional for family and special guest to light the ceremonial lamp. It signifies the welcoming of the Supreme Lord, Jesus, into our presence. 

This past month (Sept 2023) I was able to attend an Oblate Ordination in Colombo Sri Lanka. Much can be said, yet to drive through the city streets, and walk along country paths I could see shrines with the Buddha and his disciples, Jesus, Mary, and Anthony of Padua through-out the country. As one looking in from the outside, the spiritual essence of the country was present and at least for me was not oppressive but inviting. I saw a lived faith reality in the temples and shrines. I saw it in homes with statues of both the Sacred Heart and the Buddha. The author and contemporary prophet of our time, Thich Nhat Hahn (d.2022) would see, “Jesus and Buddha as brothers”. 

Before the tomb of Fr. Michael Rodrigo, OMI

The moment of profound stirring was my visit to Seba Seth Gedera, an faith community founded by Oblate Michael Rodrigo, OMI -Martyr. (d. 10 Nov 1987) (On the OMI MUD page there are links to Michael Rodrigo’s OMI, writings)

Site of the assassination of Fr. Michael Rodrigo, OMI

Michael was about respecting individuals and lifting them up while celebrating their experience and faith. He was not there to impose a colonial church upon the people, in fact he was not there to build a “church”. Rather he was there to build the kindom (I purposely use the word ‘kindom’ for it reflects to me family relationships rather than the word kingdom that reflect to patriarchy and power) through dialogue, hard work, and radical relationships. Michael was also known for his knowledge of local healing herbs and vegetation. He was highly respected by the local Buddhist monasteries and was invited to teach (dharma talks).

As I walked into the small chapel, I fell to my knees in the place where his shattered body laid. I had read about him and seen the gruesome photos, but being there was something very different. Michael’s path into the kindom reality is one in which the Oblate family might study and be challenged by. It is about presence, respect and a radical “oneing” within all of humanity and all of creation. (LSi#91) “Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” 

This past year I have been participating in a Buddhist / Catholic Dialogue regarding the environment sponsored by the World Parliament of Religion. Laudato Si states (225) Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived our authentically, it is reflected in a balance lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to the deeper understanding of life.

 A Bible story seen through the Sri Lankan culture.  At the National Seminary 

As I continued to study and pray with the text of the deep wisdom of the world and the more that I see/read and take in, I see a common tap root. Richard Rohr, OFM, writes: “The recurring theme of all religions is a sympathy, empathy, connection, capacity between the human and the divine – that we were made for union with one another. They might express this through different rituals, doctrines, dogmas, or beliefs, but at the higher levels they are talking about the same goal. And the goal is always union with the divine.”

Thank you for the invitation to share a bit of my story as I continue to sit in and be present to the Word that is reflected throughout all of creation.

At a Buddhist temple in the mountains with the monks

Five Ways – Oct 23

October 18, 2023

Many thanks to those who responded to the Sept. 25 e-letter, regarding the booklet on Synodality as a Pandora’s Box.  As I noted in that e-letter, the Synod would begin on Sept. 30, with a unique ecumenical service on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome.  That 45-minute service is below and well worth our consideration. The Taize hymns are very moving.

Synodality and the Oblates, Part 7, Vibrant Ecumenical Vigil – OMIUSA

Secondly, the Jesuits, in their coverage of the Synod, have emphasized the role of women.  See below.

With October the month of the Holy Rosary, we have plenty to ask Mary to intercede with her Son:  the Synod, the war in the Ukraine, and the war in Israel.

With God’s blessings,
Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.

Synod Diary: Synod Mothers make their voices heard in Rome

By Colleen Dulle 

As I write this, participants in the Synod on Synodality are having their final discussions on the theme of mission. The question they are tasked with addressing is: “How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?” The conversation has focused largely on women, including women’s ordination to the diaconate. 

In his introduction to this section, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich drew attention to the question of gender right away: “Most of us are men. But men and women receive the same baptism and the same Spirit. The baptism of women is not inferior to the baptism of men. How can we ensure that women feel they are an integral part of this missionary church?” He challenged participants, most of whom are ordained men, to examine whether they feel “enriched or threatened” when sharing responsibility for the church’s mission with women.

Only 54 of the synod’s 365 voting members are women: a historic number, but certainly not anything near gender parity. In the synod hall, it shakes out to one or two women and 10-12 men at each table.

Outside the Vatican, several groups advocating for greater inclusion of women in ministerial roles in the church have held events in recent weeks. Speaking with a few of the organizers, it is clear that these (mostly) women support Pope Francis’ effort to incorporate more women into the synod, even in the face of internal resistance from some clerics. But, they say, having one or two women per table is not enough.

The women who are in the hall, though—Catholicism’s first “synod mothers”—are extremely qualified. We have heard from other synod participants that the women are some of the most hardworking members; many are experts in synodality, and they have contributed powerful testimonies in the synod’s open discussions.

At a Vatican press conference yesterday, my colleague Zac Davis asked Patricia Murray, I.B.V.M., the secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, whether the women in the synod hall felt they were heard, despite being in the minority. Sister Murray replied as any tough nun might: “We have been well able to make our point and use our time and space well.”

As the synod turns its sights to its third major theme of participation tomorrow, the question of women’s role in the church’s evangelizing mission will, without a doubt, remain at the forefront.

Colleen Dulle is an associate editor at America and co-hosts the “Inside the Vatican” podcast.


More synod news:

Two bishops from mainland China who have been participating in the Synod on Synodality with the help of translators left the synod early, after having been given special permission from the Chinese government to travel to the gathering. Vatican spokesman Paolo Ruffini said the two had to return due to “pastoral needs” in their dioceses.

Tomorrow, Oct. 18, the synod begins its fourth “module” on participation. The section will begin with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, followed by a public “general congregation” in which Cardinal Hollerich will frame the conversation and some synod members will deliver initial reflections to the group.

Listen to our recent podcasts from Rome:

·         Inside the Vatican: As discussion turns to women deacons, the synod ‘gets interesting’

·         Jesuitical: The lay woman bringing Catholic social teaching to the heart of the Vatican ·         Inside the Vatican: Meet the lay woman who led the U.S. synod process 

Five Ways – Sep 23

Monday, Sept. 25, 2023

Many thanks to those who responded to the August 28 Five Ways item.  In it I noted that September began with the Ecumenical aspect of the Season of Creation, on you tube.  The month of September also ends, Saturday, with The Ecumenical Vigil of Prayer, on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, to begin the October Synod.  You may google “Ecumenical Vigil of Prayer,” to see how young people especially will participate in it.  And the Vatican website (www.vatican.va/content/vatican/en) will tell you how to watch on you tube this important service which is scheduled for 5-7 pm Rome time, Sept. 30.

Below you will see an attack on the very concept of synodality, and my response to it (in both English and Spanish).  Please note that on the Mission-Unity-Dialogue website (www.harrywinter.org) the five earlier postings on synodality are now available on their own page, on the right of the home page.

 Your comments are most welcome.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.

Synodality and the Oblates Part Six  Synodality and Oblates, Part Six, A Pandora’s Box? – OMIUSA

Spanish 1  Synodal y Pandora – OMIUSA

Spanish 2  Synodal Dos – OMIUSA

Synodality and Oblates, Part Six, A Pandora’s Box?

Click here to see this article en Español
Reforming the Church Book

Recently, practically every Catholic priest in the USA received in the US postal system a 100 page booklet The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box: 100 Questions & Answers. Sent free by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), the accompanying letter is signed by President Raymond E. Drake and dated Aug. 20, 2023. An enclosed form seeks comments, financial contributions and further names of people to receive the booklet.

Originally written in Spanish by Jose Antonio Ureta and Julio Loredo De Izcue, neither of whom seems to have any background in theology, and translated by Jose A. Schelini, the booklet has a two page preface by Cardinal Raymond Burke, who claims that synodality has no history in the doctrine of the Church.

One may summarize the booklet’s thesis as claiming that a minority of progressive liberals have taken over the synodality process (#87). The main villain is the group of Germans pushing the Synodaler Weg (The Synod Way, #’s 53-91).

What is very noteworthy is the silence about St. John Henry Newman’s article “On Consulting the Faithful in the Matter of Doctrine,” in which he lists 20 examples from church history in which the hierarchy got it wrong and the laity did not. The most famous of these is the fourth century Arian heresy denying Jesus’ divinity. At the time, most bishops were Arians (with the notable exceptions of St. Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria, and the popes). The laity maintained a staunch belief in the divinity of Christ (my thanks to Christine Schenk, C.S.J., for her article in the US Catholic of Oct. 6, 2020, for reminding us of this “Listen to laypeople, said John Henry Newman”).

As the Second Vatican Council began in 1962, it was not the bishops who were the Church teaching; they were being taught by the council priest theologians, led by Yves Congar O.P. and Karl Rahner S.J.

Reforming the Church Book

An author with a deep theological background who is much more positive about the Synod process is Serena Nocety and her book Reforming the Church, A Synodal Way of Proceeding, published by Paulist Press. My thanks to Lester Zapata for pointing out this book to me.

The Church Reform Section (IV, #’s 41-52) of Pandora’s Box does not seem to be as critical as the rest of the book. However, there is silence regarding those reformers who weren’t conservative bishops: St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Madeleine Delbrel.

The Wikipedia article on Cardinal Raymond Burke is quite extensive, detailing his opposition to the Synod and Pope Francis. It may be significant that Pope Francis named Cardinal Burke to be among the voting members of the upcoming October synod.

Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I.
Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I.

Three Oblates are among the 465 already named as voting members: Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I., of Windhoek, Namibia; Archbishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’cruze, O.M.I., of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Bishop Radoslaw Zimitrowicz, O.M.I., auxiliary bishop of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine. As more people are named for the supporting staff, there will probably be more from the Oblate Family.

The authors object very much to Father Timothy Radcliffe, former Master General of the Dominicans, to be the preacher for the October synod’s spiritual exercises (#96). Older members of the Oblate Family may remember Fr. Radcliffe as one of the two presenters at our 3rd USA Oblate Convocation, held in Pittsburgh, PA, from Nov. 5-9, 2007. (Fr. Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I. was the other).

The authors rejection of any meaningful effort to reach out to LGBTQ is evident from #26 through the “Postface.” Readers here may refer to Synodality and Oblates, especially #’s 2 and 3: click here.

Fr. Timothy Radcliffe
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe

I welcome comments on the matter of LGBTQ and any other issue raised by the Pandora book. The book may be obtained from The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), PO Box 341, Hanover, PA 17331, USA, TFP@TFP.org I www.TFP.org; tel. (888) 317=5571. It has been translated into Dutch, French, German, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish). The English edition has $10.95 on the back cover.

Instead of a clear line between the teaching Church (bishops and pope) and the learning church (laity), is not every person in the Church both a teacher and a learner, in different moments and ways?

Five Ways – Aug 23

Monday, Sept. 25, 2023

I hope you can open the YouTube below for this Friday, Sept. 1’s very important ecumenical observance of the Care of Creation Day begun by Pope Francis and immediately joined in by many religions, and by those of no religion.

And as we approach the October Synod on Synodality, there will be at least three Oblates among the 465 voting members.  Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I. of Windhoek, Namibia; Archbishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’cruze, O.M.I. of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Bishop Radoslaw Zimitrowicz, O.M.I., auxiliary bishop of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine. As more people are named in the supporting staff, there will probably be more from the Oblate Family.

For many of us, synodality is a mystery.  Recently, the pope’s apostolic nuncio in the USA, Cardinal Christophe Pierre, attempted to clear this up.  “I am a bit amazed to see people saying ‘We don’t want synodality, because this goes nowhere.’ It goes somewhere.  But it requires effort.  If you are a parish priest, you have to involve all your parishioners.  Fathers and mothers have to involve the family and work together” (Boston Pilot, July 21, 2023, p. 9).

One area that touches all of us is our attitude towards LGBTQ people.  The same issue of the Pilot newspaper notices this as part of the synod discussion (p. 5, from Our Sunday Visitor).

Many thanks to those who commented on the July 12 e-letter.  I welcome your insights especially on the Sept. 1 youtube presentation. Feel free to forward this e-letter to your friends.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.

The #SeasonOfCreation 2023 begins on September 1 with the Day of Creation 🙌💙 Ecumenical faith leaders from around the world will lead this moment of presentation and reflection 🌊Join us: 🎉 
#SeasonOfCreation2023 #prayer #catholics #commonhome pic.twitter.com/8yzfw6TxiS

Fr. George McLean, OMI, Evangelizer and Dialoguer

We are grateful to Fr. Charles Hurkes, OMI, for forwarding the 64 Letters of Condolences from Dr. Hu Yeping. Click here for a slightly edited version, where the many cc e-mails have been deleted. A personal remembrance of Fr. McLean: after his year of study in Cairo, Egypt, concerning Islamic Religious Thought (1991), he wrangled an invitation to address the Mullahs (scholars of Islamic Religion) in the holy city of Qom, Iran. He was the first non-Islamic scholar, and the first Christian, to do so. He entered the lecture hall with some fear, and immediately sensed the hostility of the Mullahs.

Fr. George McLean, OMI
Oblate of Mary, with a passport to heaven

He related to a group of us when the Oblate Center for Mission Studies, Washington, DC (1994-1999) and his Center for Research in Values and Philosophy (see 8th item below) were working closely together, that all of a sudden, an expression from our Oblate spirituality came to mind: to be an Oblate of Mary Immaculate is to have “a passport to heaven.” He remembered that this is also a revered Islamic expression.

So he introduced himself as an “Oblate of Mary, with a passport to heaven,” and the Mullahs expressions all changed from one of hostility to welcome. This was one of Fr. McLean’s many gifts, to take an expression from one religion and adapt it to another, showing the unity of values.

For more on Fr. George McLean and the Center for Research in Values and Philosophy, click these links:

Understanding the Signs of Our Times

Fr. George McLean, OMI Bio

Five Ways – Jul 23

July 12, 2023 Five Ways E-Letter

Many thanks to those who commented on the June 21 Five Ways E-Letter. 

Please note that Bishop Robert Barron below is one of those elected by the USA bishops to take part in the Synod on Synodality, which begins on Sept. 30 with an ecumenical service.  Twelve “fraternal delegates” from non-Catholic Christian Churches will also participate. A complete list, including the many women who will be able to participate for the first time in a synod, is available on the internet.

You may want to read the four synod items on the home page of the Mission-Unity-Dialogue website:  http://www.harrywinter.org.

The June 2023 issue of Oblate World, pp. 4-7, (available on www.omiusa.org) noted that our Oblate shrines in the USA are taking part in the National Eucharistic Revival, which began on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, June 2022 and will run until Pentecost 2025.

And may we all slow down during the hot summer months and enjoy God’s many gifts to us, especially the presence of Jesus among us in the Most Blessed Sacrament, where He energizes us for evangelism, ecumenism and dialogue.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Harry Winter, O.M.I.

Synodality and the Oblates in the USA, Part Five: Missing, Other Churches

by Harry Winter, O.M.I.

As the Synodality process continues, there are two authorities who have commented differently about the role of Christian Unity as we proceed with synodality. Jon Nilson, professor emeritus of theology at Loyola University of Chicago, wrote on March 7, 2023 in the national Jesuit review America that the “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 Synod” document “says nothing–not a word–about our relationship with other Christians.” He observes “The synthesis from the United States gives no hint that ecumenism is a non-negotiable priority for Catholics.”

A second authority is Sr. Nathalie Becquart, a French Xavieres sister, undersecretary for the General Secretariate of the Synod of Bishops.  In a talk she gave at the Boston College of Theology and Ministry, Oct. 27, 2022, she said that across the board in the synod reports submitted to the Vatican “There was also a strong call to foster ecumenism.  For the Church to face the most important problems of our world–ecological climate change, violence, polarization–we can’t do it alone, we have to do it with our brothers and sisters from the Christian faiths and other religions.”

However, when her talk was printed in America, April 20, 2023, this portion was omitted.

Nilson proposed a simple but perhaps not easy step. “Let each Catholic priest, deacon and pastoral minister call or e-mail a nearby counterpart–perhaps a Lutheran, an Episcopalian, a Methodist–to say ‘We both belong to Christ.  We must not be strangers.  Can we get together for some coffee and conversation soon?’

“What good might come from encounters like these?  Only the Holy Spirit knows.  Meanwhile, doing nothing is not an option. The status quo is intolerable.  We need ecumenical relationships that produce mutual knowledge and trust.  Then, by the end of the 2024 session of the Synod on Synodality, our church might really be more synodal with strong visible bonds to our brother and sister Christians.  Then, too, we might be more and truly visibly on the way to that unity which discloses Jesus as the One sent from God to us and for us.”

May every member of the Oblate Family remember what our Constitutions and Rules state about Christian Unity:  “We collaborate in a spirit of brotherhood with others who work for the Gospel.  Our efforts will be characterized by a genuine desire for unity with all who consider themselves followers of Jesus, so that, according to his prayer, all may believe that the Father has sent him (cf. Jo 17:21). Finally, in our hope for the coming of God’s reign, we are united with all those who, without acknowledging Christ as Lord, nevertheless love what he loves” (C 6).

Synodality emphasizes that every baptized Christian is an evangelizer and a missionary. With the expansion of the Oblate Family, the Holy Spirit is blessing us with more resources for evangelism.  The Oct. 2023 Vatican Synodality session requires more involvement on our part, difficult as this may be.

May we exercise creative fidelity as we continue with the synodality journey.