Tuesday, August 31, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #1 - "Our Dominican Sisters"

Our little parish of Saint Theresa of Avila in Rhodelia, Kentucky, has produced 37 Sisters, 8 Priests, 1 Brother and hundreds of lay heroes in its 203 year history. In these periodic little "history briefs,"  I will spotlight the various religious communities from which they belonged and their contributions to Saint Theresa Church.  Among the Sisters coming from Saint Theresa, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth had twenty-three, the Sisters of Loretto and the Mount Saint Joseph Ursulines both had five, the Sisters of Mercy had one and the Dominican Sisters had three. I am still researching the many Sisters of Charity and the one Sister of Mercy. 

Today, I spotlight the Dominican Sisters from Saint Theresa. Next I will spotlight the Sisters of Loretto and the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. I will then spotlight the eight priests and the one religious Brother. In between all of them, I will recognize many of the lay heroes and ordinary folks who made up the parish of Saint Theresa. As many as possible will be recognized in the historic photo museum in the hallway of our new Saint Theresa Family Life Center. All these lay and religious heroes helped build the Saint Theresa family that we have known over the last 203 years!   


Sister Mary Catherine Buren O.P. 
Dominican Sisters of Fall River, Massachusettes 

Ora Mary Buren, daughter of Paul Emil Buren and Susan Eleanor (Cody) Buren, was from the small river town of Concordia, Kentucky, not far from Saint Theresa Church. Her parents owned a general store and hotel. She wanted to be a missionary and work with the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii. When she asked the help of a Dominican priest to help her discern this call, he steered her instead to a convent in Carrolton, Missouri. She became a Sister there, taking her younger sister's name and making final vows at 21 years of age. Her sibling sister, Catherine, joined her as a boarder at the convent school where she was living. 
Sister Mary Catherine contracted tuberculosis very soon after she made her vows. In spite of her illness, she insisted on accompanying the Mother Superior to help start a new community of Sisters in Fall River, Massachusetts where she died at age 25.  She is considered to be one of the 5 foundresses of the Fall River Dominican Sisters.  

Sister Mary Cecilia Buren O.P. 
Dominican Sisters of Fall River, Massachusettes 

Sister Mary Catherine's sibling sister, Catherine, followed her to Fall River and became a Sister herself in 1895 becoming Sister Mary Cecilia Buren O.P. three years after her sibling sister's death. She died in 1956 at 77 years of age. She lived much longer than her older sister. Both Buren Sisters are actually great aunts of our own Father Thomas E. Buren (1914-1985) who was a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville also from Saint Theresa originally. The parents of both Buren Sisters are buried in the old Saint Theresa Cemetery: Paul Emil and Susan Eleanor (Cody) Buren. 

Sister Mary Thomas Wight 
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois

Sister Mary Thomas Wight was the daughter of Thomas Noble Wight (1790-1855) and Harriet E. (Lilly) Wight (1800-1863) of Saint Theresa Church. She joined the Dominican Sister of Springfield, Kentucky. taking her father's name of "Thomas." In 1873, she was selected to be part of a group of 6 Sisters to establish a new community of Dominicans in Springfield, Illinois, to teach the children of Irish immigrants whose fathers were building the railroads. Her parents are buried in the old Saint Theresa Cemetery. She is considered to be one of the 7 foundresses of that Illinois Dominican community.    

Sunday, August 29, 2021


Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.
James 1:21-22

Of all the things I do as a priest, I take preaching most seriously. I was in the seminary during Vatican Council II. I remember clearly being taught that preaching the gospel is the primary duty of priests. I remember even more clearly the words of the bishop as he put the Gospel Book in my hands, as I knelt before him, entrusting  me with the task of preaching.  Here is what he said to me, as he looked straight at me: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are! Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach!” For those reasons, I try to give preaching my best and I pray that my efforts are effective!

From all I have heard from you, I understand that Catholics have been disappointed with Catholic Church preaching for so long, they don’t even expect it anymore. When Catholics do find a priest who can preach convincingly, they tend to follow him from church to church.  Others have just learned to do without it, year after year. Still others, sadly, join some Protestant denomination in hopes of finding an effective preacher. 

This problem, I believe, can be traced back to the Protestant Reformation, four hundred years ago. I have been warned that my image is a bit simplistic, but it seems to me that in that painful split, there was a property settlement. It seems that Catholics took the altars and Protestants took the pulpits.  Maybe that’s why most Protestant churches, at least until very recently, seem to have had tiny little communion tables and huge pulpits, while most Catholic churches had tiny little pulpits and huge altars. 

Catholics who leave us for someone else’s pulpit must know that they are going off and leaving the Eucharist. What we need to do as Catholics, what we have been working on over the last several years, is to strengthen both: powerful celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word followed by powerful celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.

Preaching is being taken more seriously these days in our seminaries. I was not professional homiletics professor, but for a few years I did teach homiletics (preaching) at St. Meinrad Seminary. The downfall of most preaching courses, I learned, was that they focused way too much on public speaking techniques and not enough on the faith of the preacher. My belief in this matter is similar to William Faulkner’s who said, “If a story is in you, it has to come out.”  I always reminded my students that if the love of God was in their hearts, they would find an effective way to communicate it. “Nemo dat quod non habet.” (If you ain’t got it, you cain’t give it!) If the love of God did not burn in their hearts, their efforts would probably be just another speech about God. A homily is not a speech. The insight of a homily, I believe, is meant to turn on a light bulb in the minds of those who hear it, to help the listener make a deeper connection to God. 

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.

 The preacher, and the lectors at Mass, must be the first to ‘humbly welcome the word” and “be doers of the word, not just speakers and readers only.’ Preaching, especially, is an awesome responsibility and the well from which it comes, must be constantly fed!  The preacher must know himself, know others and know God, and be able to talk about all three in a convincing way. Lectors don’t just “read to people,” they “proclaim the good news” too. They must read with conviction and they, too, must practice what they read!

For the next few Sundays, the second reading will be taken from the Letter of James. James is famous for his insistence that faith is to be lived out, not just claimed and talked about. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” “What good is it to profess faith without practicing it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, “Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed,” but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless.”

My fellow Catholics, we cannot be ignorant of scripture and at the same time live the way God has asked us to live. There can be no distance between faith and practice. As the Letter to the Romans puts it, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe unless they have heard of him? And how can they hear unless there is someone to preach? Faith, then, comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ.” 

It would be wonderful if every one of us took the opportunity to study scripture in a formal way. Scripture classes are offered in almost every parish these days. The diocese has many continuing education classes available on scripture. However, one of the simplest ways to study scripture is to take advantage of our Liturgy of the Word each week. To get the most out of the Liturgy of the Word each week, three things must happen. (1) Readers must read well. (2) Preachers must preach well. (3) People must prepare themselves to listen well.  

(1) One of the hardest things to get across to lectors is that they are not just “reading to people.” They are “proclaiming the word of God.”   That means they must, not just be able to read the words on the page, but be the medium through which people hear God speaking to them. That means the reader must be familiar enough with the text to convey its meaning. If the reader does not know what the words mean, how can he or she read it with meaning? The role of the lector, standing in the pulpit, should be taken as seriously as the priest standing behind the altar. Incompetence, sloppiness or pretension, in the pulpit or at the altar, should never be acceptable in our churches. Good liturgy strengthens the faith of the people. Bad liturgy weakens the faith of the people.      

(2) As a priest, our primary role is to preach. I have a long way to go, myself, but of all the things I do, I take preaching most seriously. I typically work a minimum of 10-12 hours a week preparing these homilies for delivery in person and for publishing on my blog for people to read or re-read. Not everyone can hear. Not everyone can get to Mass. Not everyone can understand the English language well.  As you know, not all priests spend that much time preparing to preach. I remember one incident when I was Vocation Director. I was reading an evaluation that one of our pastors wrote about one of our soon-to-be-ordained seminarians. He criticized the seminarian for “working too much on his homilies.” This time the seminarian was right and the supervising pastor was wrong! Preaching is not just one of many things a priest does, it is the single most important thing a priest does!  

(3) People in the pews must prepare themselves to listen well. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” In reality, many Catholics still don’t understand that! They come to liturgy and put the whole burden of a meaningful liturgy on the backs of the priest, the musicians and the liturgical ministers. Many come late, leave early and in between, sit with their arms folded, never singing or answering the responses or even mouthing the creed. Sometimes they come with an attitude of “OK, now entertain me, impress me and inspire me and, if you fail, I’ll blame you and leave here to tell the world that “I don’t get anything out of Mass because of the boring priest and the lousy music.” The word, “liturgy” means “the work of the people.” We preachers, presiders, lectors and musicians are here to “help you pray,” not to “do your praying for you.” It is your job to pray over the readings before you get here, get here in time to hear them read and at least sit up and pay close attention when God’s word is proclaimed from the pulpit.  

“Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you.” Like the parable of the Sower and the Seed, it is now enough just to have good seed to sow (the word of God), not enough for the sowers to sow well (the lector and the preacher’s job), but the ground on which the word is sown must be fertile and receptive. That, my friends, is your job: to be good hearers of the word.    

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted
in you. Be doers of the word and not hearers only