CMSM Visit to the Vatican: #3

The weather in Rome has been splendid, warmer than usual according to the natives. Sunshine every day, which made our many walks and rides to the various offices and dicasteries quite enjoyable.


CMSM with the Congregation for the Clergy

Our first visit Friday was with the Congregation of the Clergy. This was the first time I felt rather like a fish out of water. The bulk of the conversation concerned issues relating to religious priests who leave an Institute but are still ordained and “free agents”. At the end, I did mention the recent Vatican document on the Brothers and advocated that it be required reading for diocesan seminarians.


Our group with Ambassador Hackett (behind me)

On Friday afternoon we took cabs to Trastevere to meet the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Ken Hackett, at his residence. We had a good and very cordial meeting, conversing at length about the migrant issue, especially in Europe.


A detail from the sanctuary of St. Onofrio Church.

After that, four of us walked over to nearby St. Onofrio Church, the home of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Rome. Fr. Brian Terry, CMSM President-Elect, is the Minister General (Superior General) of the order, which was founded in the USA and is headquartered at Graymoor, NY. After a tour of this ancient and revered church, we celebrated a private mass around the altar. I noticed several symbols of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre within the church, and Brian informed us that Pope Pius X reestablished this medieval equestrian order here at St. Onofrio at the turn of the last century. As a member of the KHS, I was pleased to know that I had ended up here at its “mother” church.


A rendering of St. Pius X with the symbol of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre (red Jerusalem cross)

That evening all of us went out for dinner and ended up at a great trattoria called La Polese, where we dined outside to some delicious food and lots of delightful conversation.

We had our last meeting at noon on Saturday with the dicastery for Evangelization (aka The Propagation of the Faith), during which we discussed mission activities around the globe. After our meeting, Cardinal Feloni, the prefect, showed us the newly restored library; it was stunningly beautiful.


Marvelling at the beauty of the library.

After that four of us headed for Assisi to stay at the home there of the friars of the Atonement. It was about a two-hour train ride and we had a very pleasant and relaxing stay in Assisi. It’s a very special place, and we experienced the best of Franciscan hospitality.


Our group at a wonderful restaurant featuring typical Umbrian food, La Fortezza, with Brother Gregory (back left) and Paolo, a postulant (right front), and of course, our waiter.


The view of St. Clare’s Basilica from the Franciscan convent. 

We got back to Rome Sunday night, and each of us spent Monday on our own. I did the Jubilee pilgrim walk up the Via del Conciliazone and up through the Jubilee Holy Door. I enjoy visiting the lower crypt with several papal tombs. After pranzo (lunch) I visited ancient San Clemente Church near the Coliseum and then walked past the Coliseum, the Forum, and to the newly —and beautifully refurbished—Trevi Fountain. The three of us remaining gathered for a last pasta feast near the Domus before packing to head out Tuesday morning.

This proved to be a very interesting and informative trip; it certainly opened up my eyes to the complexity of the Vatican. I was also impressed with the mastery of knowledge and background so many of the “officials” we visited. We are a big Church with a presence in every corner of the globe. Pope Francis’ effect on the church now three years into his papacy is almost palpable. Vive il Papa! Arrivederci Roma!


CMSM Visit to the Vatican: #2

The place we are staying at is called Domus Carmelitana, and while it is a very pleasant place and conveniently located, the wifi here is rather weak, so it’s been a challenge downloading photos and being able to keep up. Add to that a rather hectic schedule of visits, and that it explains why this entry took so long to put together.


Waiting in line for the Papal Audience.

Every Wednesday morning a papal audience is held in St. Peter’s Square. We were fortunate to acquire good tickets and a few of us had excellent seats, and actually got the opportunity to shake the hand of Pope Francis. It was unexpected and almost unbelievable. I will treasure that moment for a long time.


“Up close and personal” with the Swiss Guards

After the audience we walked the short distance to the Generalate of the Salvatorians (SDS); Fr. Joe Rodrigues is a Salvatorian and he gave us a wonderful tour of the former palace right off St. Peter’s Square. We also had lunch and mass there.


Joe giving us a tour.


Our group on the Salvatorian roof.

That evening CMSM had an appointment with Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. I felt a certain sense of intrigue as were escorted by various Swiss Guards into the inner sanctums of the Vatican. It was a fascinating meeting with this man who has rubbed shoulders with diplomats and leaders from al over the world. Even though he was leaving for Poland the following morning, he generously spent an hour and a half with us.



Being escorted through the many rooms and halls of the Vatican to see the Secretary of State.


Our meeting with Cardinal Parolin.

Thursday was our busiest day with four visits. Our first was with Msgr. Lucio Ruiz, the new head of the Secretariat for Communications. His task is to reform this office to align with modern forms of communication. In my humble opinion, he is the “right man” for the job. He clearly understands Pope Francis’ vision and how best to convey it to the world.


Monsignor Ruiz is third from the left. 

We then headed over to Trastevere for two joint meetings with the Offices of the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Peace and Justice. The timing was especially relevant since two days later Pope Francis would head to Greece for his historic visit to the migrants there. A personal highlight was the conversation with Christine Jeangey and Flaminia Giovanelli about the situation in Syria and Iraq.


Christine and Flaminia with Sr. Joan Steadman, Executive Dtr. Of LCWR

Our final visit was one filled with energy and zeal. We met with the Congregation for Catholic Education: Fr. Friedrich Bechina, FSO, is a dynamic advocate for Catholic Education who had just gotten back from a visit to Chicago. We covered a lot of relevant topics, and he was invested and interested in all of them. I was pleased to present him with a copy of Brother Mike Fehrenbach’s new book, “Schools of Character” on faith-inspired charter schools.


Fr. Friedrich with Brother Mike’s book.

Thursday evening I had a very pleasant reunion dinner with Sr Mary Willette, SSND, who works at their Generalate. We ministered together at San Miguel in Minneapolis.

More meetings Friday and Saturday. . .


CMSM Visit to the Vatican

Serving on the National Board for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men has resulted in my now serving as a member of the Executive Team that visits the Vatican dicasteries (offices and departments) each spring. I am the only member that represents a Brothers-only institute. I am following in the footsteps of several other FSCs before me, including Brothers Dan Casey, Bob Schieler, and Frank Carr.


LCWR-CMSM Joint Dinner

This week (April 11-16), we are here with Members of the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious), and with two days down, this experience has provided me with a very interesting insights into the inner workings and key players in the Vatican.

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Inside Vatican City

On Monday we visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican Commission on Safeguarding Minors, and a joint visit with LCWR to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Today we visited the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Congregation for Bishops. With each visit we have a specific set of points we share but the main goal for each visit is to dialog and build relationships. So far, that has certainly been the case.

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Our group: Joe Rodrigues, SDS; Jim Greenfield, OSFS; Brian Terry, SA, and John Pavlik, OFM Cap; with CDF representatives Archbishop Di Noia, OP and Rev. Bob Geisinger, SJ.


After our meeting with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 A few “side” visits: I had coffee today with Joshua McElwee, former LV who worked in Kansas City, and is now the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. It was really nice to catch up with him. I also headed to our Generalate for dinner this evening. Brothers Bob, Jorge (the Vicar), Rafa, and Gustavo were present so we had a good visit, and I also enjoyed seeing the other Brothers who live and work at the Motherhouse, including Bro. Louis DeThomasis.

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 NCR’s “man in Rome”, Joshua McElwee

Tomorrow, Wednesday, we have tickets for the Papal Audience. Stay tuned!


So Long, Singapore!

On Thursday night, I had the privilege of attending a donor appreciation banquet for SJII Scholars. This is a special program that awards deserving students who cannot afford to attend SJII a full scholarship, including room and board for scholars from other countries. This of course is directly connected to the Lasallian Mission of the school. It was a wonderful evening at a lovely hotel in downtown Singapore, and joining us for the banquet was Mary Fox’s nephew, Tom, who happens to be in Singapore for a few months studying.

The Brothers Larry with Tom Fox

The Brothers Larry with Tom Fox

Our special dessert topped with the edible school logo!

Our special dessert topped with the edible school logo!

On Friday morning, I had a chance to get to know some of the scholars a bit better. I spent about an hour with seven of them, and I was so impressed with their ability to articulate what SJII means to them and the difference a Lasallian education is making. Some are Singaporeans, but others hail from Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

SJII Scholars

SJII Grade 11 Scholars

I had lunch with a few of the board members of SJII, including two founding “old boys”. I enjoyed conversing with them about SJII’s growth and impact in nine short years. We also had a wonderful Chinese meal together that arrived in several courses.


Board Members of SJII with Larry and me.

Board Members of SJII with Larry and me.

That evening I went out for a seafood dinner with the community that had hosted me. It was fun spending time with them. The community includes Brothers Kelvin, who teaches at SJI, Paul who is principal of SJI and also one of the LEAD Auxiliary Visitors, Ignaci, who teaches at SJII, and Larry, SJII President. We came back to the house and continued our socializing.

Larry and I, Kelvin, Paul, and Ignaci.

Larry and I, Kelvin, Paul, and Ignaci.

So, it’s back to winter in Chicago after almost two weeks of tropical heat and humidity, which I never quite got used to. Not that I’m complaining! I’m very glad and thankful that this trip panned out. I saw and experienced a lot and have a much clearer sense of our Lasallian Mission in the Philippines and Singapore. I thoroughly enjoyed the many places I visited and Brothers and Lasallians that I met. I’m also impressed with the vocation ministry efforts in LEAD and will share some of those in a later blog’ along with several impressive artistic renderings of the Founder and Lasallian saints.

Most of all, it was so gratifying to see how well both Marty and Larry are doing in their respective ministries and communities. They truly are “Brothers Without Borders”, and it’s so clear they are making a positive difference and touching all kinds of hearts.

I had to try a Singapore Sling)

I had to try a Singapore Sling!








I arrived in Singapore on Tuesday afternoon, and Brother Larry Humphrey met me at the airport. It’s always good to see a familiar face in a crowded airport. After prayer and dinner with the Brothers that evening, we headed for Chinatown. Chinese New Year begins on February 8, and the signs of it are everywhere in Singapore. Chinatown was bustling with energy and markets as people get ready for a celebration that I can only describe as a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, with a whole lot of red thrown in! (red=good luck, celebration,and joy)


I must admit I knew very little about Singapore before arriving, except that it is an island, a city, and a country. What I didn’t know is that it’s only been a nation for 50 years, but in that short time, it has become a first-world country with a very strong economy and standard of living.

In Singapore Bay with the "MerLion", the symbol of the country.

In Singapore Bay with the “MerLion”, the symbol of the country.

The Brothers have been here since the 1850s, and currently sponsor three “secondary schools”: Saint Joseph’s Institution , St. Patrick’s, and St. Joseph Inst. International. SJII is the school where Larry serves as president. It is an International Baccalaureate School, opened through the efforts of the “old boys” (alum) of St. Joe’s. SJII also has an international elementary school with students pre-K though 6th grade. On Wednesday morning, I was the “mystery reader’ for one of the pre-K classes, which was a treat.

Here I am reading to the kids.

Here I am reading to the kids.

Later that morning, Larry and I observed several campaign speeches by students running for captain of the four houses set up in the grade school. This “casa” concept is also very popular in our Lasallian schools in the states, so it was interesting to see how it plays out here. The houses are called: Benilde, Jaime, Miguel, and Mutien after FSC saints, and because they are designed for elementary age students, an artist was commissioned to give the four a more “kid-friendly appearance.

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Wednesday evening, Larry and I dined on the riverfront and enjoyed the tropical evening in downtown Singapore. On Thursday I toured the other two secondary schools (7-12) in Singapore: Saint Joseph Institution and Saint Patrick’s. We began at St. Patrick’s, and our guide was Brother Nicolas, who has been at St. Pat’s for many years.


Bro. Nicholas and I in the courtyard

Bro. Nicholas and I in the courtyard

The windows in the chapel were designed by Bro. Joe McNally, a renowned artist here in Singapore.

The windows in the chapel were designed by Bro. Joe McNally, a renowned artist here in Singapore.

The original SJI was founded in 1852, and because the current school building is undergoing a complete renovation and addition, the school has relocated temporarily. It’s clear that the great pride and sense of community of SJI has relocated right along with the students. Bro. Kelvin was our tour guide and Larry and I ended our visit at SJI by sitting in on part of his religion class and chatting with the students.

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Thursday night I attended a special scholarship dinner which I’ll talk more about next time.

I really liked this outdoor sculpture of kids having fun.

I really liked this outdoor sculpture of kids having fun.


Last Day in Manila

Will the real Marty please raise his hand? Or maybe not....

Will the real Marty please raise his hand? Or maybe not….

True to form, we headed out early to make sure that Marty could be present for the start of the school day at De La Salle Zobel. Along with Araneta, this is the other school that he helps out at; here he serves as what we would call the Lasallian Animator. If I had any doubt at this point that Marty is a Lasallian rock star in the Philippines, it was made very clear here at DLSZ. The life-size image is left over from one of his numerous 60th Jubilee celebrations; I’m quite sure several of the little kids really do think he’s the Pope. Wherever he goes, he is mobbed by the kids. And unique to the Philippines, I believe, each student takes your hand and brings it to their forehead as a blessing and sign of respect. Even some adults. Very humbling!



After an extensive and impressive tour of the elementary and high school, we “invaded” several teacher’s work areas and offices. Again, Marty is well-known and loved by all. We ended my visit there with a very nice lunch, and Brother Bernie, President, was able to join us.

Each of the primary classrooms made me a special welcome sign; this is one of them (in Tagalog)

Each of the primary classrooms made me a special welcome sign; this is one of them (in Tagalog)

These are severa; of the teachers; thank God they wear distinctive uniforms as well; otherwise I would have mistaken most of them for students.

These are several of the teachers; thank God they wear distinctive uniforms; otherwise I would have mistaken most of them for students.

Bro. Bernie (beside Marty) and the rest of the leadership of the school.

Bro. Bernie (beside Marty) and the rest of the leadership of the school.

Our final stop was Dasmariñas, which includes a medical school, a university, and a care center for senior Brothers, plus a Brothers’ community. Our guide was a young Brother, Mark, who is in his first year of vows, and teaches religion at the school. Our first stop is the new Brothers’ care facility. It’s lovely and well-staffed. One of the residents there is Brother Benildo, who was once a General Councillor; it was good to meet him.

Brother Mark, our very able and affable tour guide in front of the care facility.

With Brother Mark, our very able and affable tour guide, in front of the care facility.

The "event center" at Dasmariñas campus.

The “event center” at Dasmariñas campus.

So—full disclosure—as the tour progressed, I found myself getting more and more tired. It was a combination of the heat plus the fact that I’d gotten up at 2:45am to be part of a 3:00am conference call that morning. What? Well, keep in mind that 3am here is 1pm the day before, which is a fine time for a US conference call. Not so much for someone in Asia! So, I had to ask Bro. Mark to give us an abridged tour of the rest of the campus so I could crash. That said, Dasmariñas, like so many other ministries in the Philippines, is a very impressive place, which even includes a museum of “old Manila” on campus, thanks to the foresight and contributions of former DLSU president (and SMU alum) Brother Andrew Gonzalez. After a rest, we had a very nice dinner with the Brothers there, including Bro. Gus Boquer, president. Home to pack and get ready for the trip to Singapore!


There is so much impressive native art in the places we visited. This is one of the stations of the cross in the chapel at Zobel. Live Jesus in our hearts!





Friday & Saturday in the Philippines

Saturday and Sunday were very busy days and we covered lots of kilometers. Marty has made sure to provide me with a real sense of both the variety of ministries in the Philippines as well as its geography and history. I’m soaking it all up.

We headed to Lipa Saturday morning, which is the site of both a school and the novitiate. As is typical of schools here, this is an integrated school with many levels of education, including university level. Our affable tour guide was Brother Dante, who also hosted us for a delicious lunch.

Brother Dante

Brother Dante

I really enjoyed visiting the PARC novitiate, and seeing how it compares and contrasts with our own in RELAN. There are 8 novices from several countries. The novice master is Bro. Vince; last year it was Brother Christy Croos, who spent a couple years in our District at SMU and is now Visitor of Sri Lanka. I was struck to see Brother Pat Craine’s photo on the “wall of novice masters”. He was my novice master at Windsor and interestingly he was also Christy’s several years later at this very site. I met all but two of the novices who were in Manila for spiritual direction.

The novices and staff flashing their Midwest District coasters!

The novices and staff flashing their Midwest District coasters; Bro. Vince, Novice Master, is beside Marty.

I enjoyed our visit and finding out that Brothers Dante and Vince will join Dodo (Visitor) to do the Camino in May to celebrate their 25th jubilees. That evening back in Manila we had mass and dinner with the District Council who had just finished their Council meetings.

We left early Sunday morning to drive to Bagac, about three hours away. Three Brothers came with us: Gene from the Philippines and Isaiah and Joshua from Burkina Faso, who are studying at the University in Dasmariñas. Our first stop was Bacalor to witness a pretty amazing sight: an old colonial-style church half buried in lava from an eruption almost 25 years ago.

This is a side view of the Church; all you can see is the top of the door; the lawn level is how high the lava built up.

This is a side view of the Church; all you can see is the top of the door and the rose window above it; the lawn level is how high the lava built up.

Here you can clearly see the top of the original church windows.

Here you can clearly see the top of the original church windows.

Our next stop was Mt. Samat, where a huge cross has been erected to commemorate the experience of the Filipino people during World War II. There was also a museum which focused on the Pacific Theatre. From there to Bagac, we followed the trail of the infamous Bataan Death March. To actually read about, witness photos, and see the trail was very sobering.


One of many markers along the side of the road commemorating the Bataan Death March.

One of many markers along the side of the road commemorating the Bataan Death March.

Bagac was a delightful experience. The Brothers opened the Jaime Hilario School there about ten years ago. It is growing rapidly and is serving very needy kids. One perk is the nearby beach and cove; lovely, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to linger and swim.


All of us Brothers having lunch in the Bagac Brothers' Residence

All of us Brothers having lunch in the Bagac Brothers’ Residence; Bro. Ray (in blue) is the school president.

Our last stop was Las Casas de Acuzar, a recreation of the grand old homes of the wealthy from around the Philippines. Houses and hotels are literally taken apart and painstakingly reconstructed at this site. We toured several of the buildings.

A sample "casa"

A sample “casa”

We got back to Manila late, but I was very grateful to be able to have seen so much on our Sunday outing.




Manila, Day 2

On Friday, Bro. Marty made sure I would not succumb to idleness! We covered lots of kilometers, and I toured three LEAD ministries: De La Salle Araneta University, De La Salle Green Hills, and the College of Saint Benilde.

Bro. Marty and I aboard the College of St. Benilde shuttle

Bro. Marty and I aboard the Benilde shuttle

We began the day at Araneta, one of the two schools Marty spends time at each week. It was a long tortuous drive through crazy traffic, but definitely worth the visit. Marty is clearly a celebrity at DLSAU!


Araneta pride and spirit

Araneta pride and spirit

I was struck by this image of the Founder, because it’s very rare that you see the Founder in a “rural” setting; but it’s quite appropriate at Araneta which has an agricultural and horticultural focus.


Next stop: Green Hills, the only Lasallian all-boys school in the Philippines. It has a very extensive and impressive campus and was the former headquarters of the Philippines District, now part of LEAD.IMG_0812

Marty and I with our wonderful tour guides

Marty and I with our wonderful tour guides


The gym at Green Hills has key historical significance. This tally board, which has been preserved, records the monumental election victory of Cory Aquino over Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, which led to Marcos’ exile a few weeks later.

Our final stop of the day was The College of Saint Benilde, very near DLSU in Manila. I was very impressed with the creativity and innovation that practically leapt from the place. From fashion design to culinary arts to filmmaking, CSB is nationally known as both a trendsetter and leader in creative arts higher education.

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One of Benilde’s signature programs is hotel and restaurant management. We ended up our day with a delicious dinner prepared and served by students in training. Our two wonderful guides, Mela and Robin, dined with us. Bon appetit!



Manila, Day 1


Before lunch on Thursday, I got a tour of the Brothers Residence and we met Brother Simon from Vietnam. Some of the scholastics insisted on a photo, since the three of us formed quite the trio of heights!


After lunch, Brother Michael led us on a thorough tour of De La Salle University, a very impressive place. We ended up in the president’s office, where former president and prominent Lasallian Partner Carmelita Quebengco provided me with a detailed and helpful explanation of the Lasallian East Asia District and its ministries.

Brother Marty and I with Lita Quebengco.

Brother Marty and I with Lita Quebengco.

A sobering moment on our tour occurred when we visited the main chapel at DLSU, where 16 Brothers, a Redemptorist, and several lay people were slaughtered by the Japanese in 1945. The plaque testifies to their martyrdom.



Many of them were killed right in this main aisle of the chapel.

Later, we joined the District Council of LEAD for a delicious dinner out. It was good to be reunited with some Brothers I already knew from General Chapter (Sockie and Tom Lavin) as well as meeting some new ones.


There is at of pride and spirit on display at DLSU. The color of the Lasallian schools in the Philippines is green, so DLSU is certainly a “green” campus!


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And finally, a closing shot of Manila Bay in late afternoon.



Visiting LEAD (Philippines + Singapore)

Hong Kong Airport

Hong Kong Airport

So, I am officially in Asia for the first time! I survived—thanks to an “economy plus” seat—my 16-hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong. I had about three hours in the Hong Kong airport, so I walked around a lot trying to recover from sitting for so long. When “what to my wandering eyes should appear” but a jazz combo playing away in this little second-floor café!


It just seemed so incongruous to be in the bustling Hong Kong airport and hear American jazz being played live. I sat down, ordered a beer and just enjoyed the moment.

My flight to Manila was less than two hours long, and I arrived shortly after midnight on Thursday morning. Getting through customs went very quickly and once I retrieved my bag, there was Brother Marty to greet me. By 1:00am we had arrived at De La Salle University, and I was in my room at the Brothers residence. I promptly unpacked and crawled in to bed.

I had a good rest and just finished lunch seated at the same table as Brother Ricky Laguda, General Councilor, the one I had not yet met, since he was not present at the General Chapter.

In the hallway of the Brothers' Residence

In the hallway of the Brothers’ Residence

Soon, I’ll be getting a tour of DLSU. Stay tuned!