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Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s homily May 20 at the religious sisters’ Jubilarian Mass at the Sacred Heart of Mary Chapel of Marymount University in Arlington had a message of hope for religious life.

The bishop said that when Pope Francis declared the Year of Consecrated Life in 2014, he listed three goals: to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope. You could see evidence of those goals in the community gathered in the chapel.

The Jubilarians, of course, were older. Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Sister Irene Cody was celebrating 70 years of faithful service. She was not at the Mass, rather staying at her order’s provincial home in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Four other sisters were there celebrating anniversaries of 60 and 50 years.

Religious life is not an easy sell in these times.

In a Vatican study released last year there was a stark finding, “The median age of apostolic women religious in the United States is in the mid-to-late 70s. The current number of approximately 50,000 apostolic women religious is a decline of about 125,000 since the mid-1960s, when the numbers of religious in the United States had reached their peak,” read the report.

But there is hope, if only on a local level.

One of the pope’s goals — to embrace the future with hope — was visible at the Mass. Scattered throughout the pews were sisters of a different age — I would guess in their 20s and 30s.

They were young, and looked eager to serve the church. They were also respectful of those women who came before them.

As Catholics we need to pray for not only priestly vocations, but for religious vocations too.

Read the story of the Jubilee Mass and see more pictures in next week's Catholic Herald.

Catholic Herald   More

When I stepped outside to get the morning paper today, I was stunned to realize there were no cars parked in front of my house. Thankfully, no crime had been committed. The day before, my youngest had come home from college — briefly — to retrieve her car for the rest of the school year.

As I stood on my front porch, I realized that, for the first time in eight years, I had a clear view of my street without the sight of my children’s not-so-new-but-in-fairly-good-shape vehicles. One by one, they had gone: the ’98 Toyota first to Charlottesville and now parked in Baltimore; the ’01 Ford to Harrisonburg; and now the ’03 Buick to Blacksburg.

Time had passed without my realizing. Strains of Mike Douglas singing “Where is the little girl I carried?” filled my mind as I thought about the fact that my little chickens had left the nest.

I remember when my son was born how time seemed to stand still. The days were long, measured from feeding to feeding. Days turned into nights, and the routine continued.

When the girls came along, time became my enemy, as I juggled diapers and endless laundry with soccer practices and scout meetings. I remember every night sitting on the couch teaching my son to read as I nursed our youngest while my husband tended to our middle child in the bathtub. For a while, I felt like my husband and I were simply existing, not living, in our efforts to raise our young family.

Now, those days were gone, and I was staring at the street with no cars parked in front of our house.

The other day, I met a young couple bringing their newborn to the pediatrician for his two-week checkup. They were loaded down with a baby carrier, stroller and a diaper bag that looked big enough to take on vacation. I congratulated them and asked them how they were doing.

“He’s not sleeping — at all,” the mother said. “I can’t wait until we get past this phase.”

I restrained myself from launching into a sermon to them …   More

As the weather turns warm with the coming of spring, many people are beginning to make plans for the coming gardening season. Most avid gardeners will tell you that they feel closer to God while working in their gardens than they do anywhere else. Planting, weeding, pruning, weeding, mulching, weeding, harvesting, and weeding are all opportunities to reconnect to God’s ongoing work of creation. Gardens are places to work the soil, but they can also be places to pray and seek a few moments of solitude.

From the earliest centuries of the Christian faith, people have seen in various plants echoes of religious and spiritual themes. Many of these are reflected in gardening folklore and even in the names of the flowers and herbs themselves: Mary’s Bedstraw, Ladder-to-Heaven, Penitent’s Rose, or Crown of Thorns. Like living stained glass, these flower and herbs became symbols of faith. And cultivating them became a means of prayer and contemplation.

Today, many gardeners plant whole gardens dedicated to religious and biblical themes.

Among Catholics, “Mary’s Gardens” are popular and are filled with plants whose names and folklore mention the Virgin Mary. In Washington, DC, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has a large Mary’s Garden, given to the Shrine by the National Council of Catholic Women.

If you’d like to start a Mary’s Garden at your church or in your own yard, there are lots of resources available on the internet. The best place to look is at mgardens.org, where you’ll find list of plants, references for folklore, photos, design suggestions, and information on plants and their symbolism.

Father Rice is Vocations Director for the Paulist Fathers.   More

To celebrate the year of consecrated life, the Catholic Herald is releasing a series of videos on some of the consecrated orders in the Arlington Diocese. The first in this series introduces the lay Dominican chapter at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls.

Watch the video below and read the article in the Catholic Herald:

Lay Dominicans at St Catherine of Sienna welcome novice

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Clare Sukley performed in the finals of Culpeper Has Talent at the state theater in Culpeper, Va March 28. She was voted in as a fan favorite and Sukley performed songs by Carrie Underwood and Jo Dee Messina. She spoke with the Herald after the performance and talked about the strength she receives from her faith. Read more about Sukley by clicking here.

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For many Christians the popular story of our faith is like a movie, beginning with an expectant Mary and Joseph searching for a room at the inn on Christmas Eve: a dark chilly night in Bethlehem, a manger, swaddling clothes, a bright night star and the Savior.

The Easter Triduum is the three-day climax of our action-adventure: the Last Supper, the betrayal and intrigue, crowd justice and the sentencing of Jesus, the scourging and humiliation, and the Crucifixion complete with dark clouds, a shaking earth and one last moan. Many movies would stop there, but our faith has a surprise ending — the Resurrection.

Just when many might expect to see the credits roll, we see women running, an empty tomb, a folded shroud, confusion and angst, and (cue the triumphant music) the moment when all realize that the Son of God who gave His life for all mankind has, in fact, risen.

If asked, we share this epic tale with friends, coworkers and small children. But what if we don’t have to be asked because the way we live during Lent and throughout the year tells the story for us?

We can be role models in our quiet Lenten practices — fasting, trying a little harder in weak spots and helping those who need a hand. We can discreetly make time during a busy lunch hour for Mass. We can pop in for eucharistic adoration late at night on the way home from errands.

These little ways — what we do and who we are — make an impression on others. They might ask us about the story, what it means, how it ends. They might ask why we do it, how do we do it and what’s the point of doing it.

Life parallels this hit movie as we experience high points — such as the birth of the Savior — and we endure gut-wrenching losses — as Mary watched her son being tortured, mocked and ultimately, killed.

Mary went on; we go on. But what a comfort to have our faith as our rock. We stand on it in line at the grocery store; we sense it beneath us as we fight rush-hour traffic. And …   More

St Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va. was filled with song during their Lenten Revival event March 16. The St. Joseph Gospel Choir performed several songs and visitors were able to hear an inspirational talk from Franciscan Father Paul Williams, who encouraged them to share their stories and experiences of Jesus Christ with the younger generations.

Read a story about the revival   More

Scholars put Catholics' relationship with the American immigration system into historical context in this Catholic News Service video.

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On top of school, swim team and coaching, one Paul VI freshman also finds time for baking and has even made a side business out of it. Aspiring baker Sydney Mandrgoc talked to the Herald about her business Sydney's Sweet Shoppe. With the help of her assistant, her mom, Sydney makes custom decorated cakes and cupcakes for birthdays, baby showers and more. She has just started volunteering for Icing Smiles, an organization that provides cakes for sick children. Watch as she makes a "Dr. McStuffins" birthday cake for 5 year old Esther, a young lung transplant patient with a taste for chocolate cake.

Read more about Sydney Mandrgoc's bake shop

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Is there anyone out there not looking forward to spring?

Almost zombie-like, we go through our winter routines:

Grocery store run: milk, meat, treats.

The steps: sweep, salt and wait for the snow/sleet/ice.

The gear: find the mate to the favorite glove you threw in the closet when it was 50 degrees last week; the boots so layered with road salt they’ve faded two shades; the coat that is begging for a spa day at the dry cleaners; and the hat, misshapen from being stuffed in pockets.

After the snowfall — twice as much as was predicted or a dusting from a front that “passed us by” — means another occasion to struggle putting boots on a squirming toddler or an impatient dog?

The steps: (repeat) shovel, salt and wait for the sun.

Intell gathering: Scarf up info from the TV, Internet and Listservs — is school open, delayed or closed; what’s the federal government doing; what meetings must I make?

The route: if I’m lucky enough to get down my hill in one piece, which main road can I get to quickest? Traffic report blaring in the car as the defroster cyclones into a burst of air colder than the air outside.

The drop-off: positioning the car at just the right curb spot where the snow pile is navigable; quick kiss; admonitions about being careful; merging back into the traffic flow.

At the office/school/back home: un-layering (while thinking what would happen if you had fallen in the snow with so many layers on, would you have been able to get up or just surrender to making a snow angel to look like it was on purpose?); strategically placing wet apparel in key warm areas; shuffling in your socks until you absolutely must put shoes back on for office decorum.

Water-cooler: Join your peers for a cry in unison, “No more snow (cold/sleet). Please, no more snow (cold/sleet).”

Lunchtime/5 p.m.: Repeat above steps in reverse while day dreaming about that hot, humid day last August when you actually said, “I can’t wait for …   More

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