Thursday, September 9, 2021

"SAINT THERESA MUSEUM BRIEF" #2 - "Our Ursuline Sisters of MSJ"

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 to which they belonged and of whom Saint Theresa Church is proud. 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 highlighted our three Dominican Sisters last week. I am still researching the many Sisters of Charity and the one Sister of Mercy. This week I want to spotlight our five Mount Saint Joseph Ursuline Sisters. 

Sister Ruth Helen Flaherty OSU 

Sister Elizabeth Ann Ray  OSU

Sister Marita Greenwell OSU 

Sister Mary Amadeus Pike OSU 


Tuesday, September 7, 2021


When I was younger, my motto was "go for it!" As I have gotten older, my motto is becoming "let it go." 

For most of my life as a priest, I had a beard. I grew it the second summer after I was ordained when I made my first of five backpacking trips to Taize, France. For the first forty years, it was dark brown. When it started turning gray, I tried to "hold on" to it by dyeing it. I don't think it fooled anyone but me. When I retired, I finally got up the nerve to "let it go." I shaved it off. I could never get used to it being gone, so last year I let it grow back in all its whiteness! I learned that I did not have to let go of my beard. I just learned that I could still have an old-man beard, but not a young-man beard! It was never a matter of giving up my beard altogether, it was just a matter of adjusting to reality.  

When I retired, I was adamant that I was not going to sit down in a rocker and die. I wanted to do something new and interesting rather than cling to my old jobs or try to repeat them in another location. I made a clean break. I resigned from my job as Director of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates that I had created at Saint Meinrad Seminary fourteen years earlier. Next I stopped writing my weekly column in The Record, called An Encouraging Word, after fifteen years. 

I did not "retire" in a traditional sense. I re-created myself. Instead of working at the seminary, I started volunteering in the poor Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Instead of writing a weekly column in our diocesan paper, I started writing my own blog by the same name - An Encouraging Word. For a while, I did keep on conducting a few local parish missions and leading priest convocations and retreats mostly in Canada and the United States. 

Last year, after 12 trips to the Caribbean missions, I decided it was time to stop and find something closer to home, especially after COVID and a major volcano eruption. COVID also stopped me from booking any more parish missions. It hurt, but I re-invented myself once again and started my most recent project, turning  my old Saint Theresa Grade School in my home parish, that had been closed for twenty-eight years, into a new Saint Theresa Family Life Center

Last week, I decided to "let go" of one more thing. After doing over 160 priest retreats and convocations in 9 countries, and cancelling 4 more because of COVID, I still had one on the schedule - one in the Honolulu, Hawaii. At first, I said "yes" to their invitation for the spring of 2022. I bit the bullet last week and told them that I did not think I could honor that request after all. They persisted and tried to book me for 2023! At that, I was tempted to delay a decision until I realized, as painful as it was, that it was now time to "let go" of doing priest retreats and convocations altogether. I know in my heart of hearts that it was a good decision. 

In all of this, I have learned two lessons. (1) Sometimes, it takes more courage to "let go" than to "hang on." (2) I learned, as well, that "to let go" does not mean "to quit." It simply means opening oneself up to something new, something more age appropriate and something different. My new project at my home  parish is another great outlet for my renovation creativity, my parish revitalization training and my love for preaching. It's more distance-appropriate for my age.  It is a chance to give back to the people who gave so much to me! It excites me! 

“Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits."
Sarah Breathnach

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.”
William Shakespeare

Monday, September 6, 2021


LUKE 6:6-11

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up and stand before us.”
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Our gospel reading is from the gospel of Luke. I love the gospel of Luke for many reasons – mainly because it is the gospel with the most details, it is the gospel for the Gentiles, it is the gospel of prayer, it is the gospel of women, it is the gospel that speaks the most of praising God and it is the gospel of the universality of God’s.

We see Luke’s propensity for detail. A doctor himself, he lets us know right off the bat that it was the man’s right hand, something that neither Matthew nor Mark mentions in their accounts. One of the apocryphal gospels says that he was a stone mason who comes to Jesus for a cure because he did not want to have to beg for his bread, but to work for it.

We see even more of Luke’s propensity for detail. As he tells the story, he mentions several pertinent details: it was the Sabbath, Jesus was there to teach, there was a man there with a withered right hand, the Scribes and Pharisees “watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath.”

Luke tells us that Jesus realized their evil intentions and defiantly calls the man up and tells him to stand there in front of everybody. Jesus, we are told, looked around at all of his enemies and said, defiantly, “Stretch out your hand!”  With that the man’s hand was restored! The response from the Scribes and Pharisees, Luke tells us, is that they were “enraged,” very much “enraged,” and “discussed together what they might do to Jesus.”

It is important to remember just why  they were enraged! They were not enraged because Jesus healed the poor man’s hand. They were “enraged” because it did it on the Sabbath. They considered healing as “work” and “work” was forbidden on the Sabbath day of rest. Instead of rejoicing that a poor man had his hand healed, had his job back and had his dignity as a worker restored, they were upset because they loved their rules and regulations more than they loved the reason for those rules - God himself.

Sisters and brothers, here is the simple lesson for us today. As an organized religion, we need rules and regulations, but there is an ever-present danger that we all have in organized religion – the danger of putting loyalty to the system above loyalty to God, making secondary things essential and essential things secondary. I learned this lesson in a most memorable way from Cardinal Collins of Toronto, Canada.

I led his priest retreat in the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, a few years ago. I did half of the priests one week and the other half the following week – about 900 priests in total.  Cardinal Collins was there listening both weeks. Well, he really liked what I had to say, so he asked if I would come back next year and give what I just gave to the priests to the seminarians of Saint Augustine Seminary. When I agreed, he asked me if I would give the priest retreat the following year.  That would mean that I would be giving retreats in Toronto for five weeks over two years and he would have to personally listen to me for four weeks himself!

To test his sincerity, I told him I would come back the following year if he would come to Saint Meinrad, where I was working, and lead a prayer day. I thought that would give me an escape from writing another set of retreat talks. To my shock and surprise, he said, “I’d love to!

He came to St. Meinrad that Fall and led the Day of Prayer to open the school year. During that day, during the question and answer time, one of the seminarians asked about making Holy Hours. Cardinal Collins paused a moment and said, “Yes, I believe that making a Holy Hour is a very, very important discipline for priests and seminarians alike! He repeated his words for emphasis. Then he paused for a few seconds and said, “But… but if someone is dying in the hospital during your Holy Hour and you get called, forget your Holy Hour and go to the Hospital!” There was an audible gasp from all those pious little seminarians! He made the very same point Jesus is making in today’s gospel – sometimes, there are a few things more important than even pious disciplines and religious rules!


Sunday, September 5, 2021



Jo Ann Reasbeck became Sister David Clare Reasbeck SCN in 1950

Today I am going to my home parish of Saint Theresa to honor a great woman who spent many years serving the members of our parish, especially the youth, Sister David Clare SCN. She served in our parish from 1965-1984.

In August, 1965, Sister David Clare received word from Nazareth to be ready to go to Crossroads Public School and St. Theresa Parish, in Rhodelia, Kentucky as superior, principal and teacher of grades five and six. There, in Meade County, Kentucky, Sister David Clare ministered for nineteen years.

Sister Anne Magruder, one of the sisters who was with Sister David Clare in Rhodelia, said that she learned so much about hospitality from Sister David Clare who was always ready to welcome others.

The parish at Rhodelia had family choirs under the direction of Sister David Clare. Parents and their children sang at Sunday Masses from the choir loft.

At that time, St. Theresa parish had two seminarians - Rev. Bob Ray who was ordained in 1969 and Rev. Ron Knott ordained in 1970. The SCNs always welcomed these seminarians to meals at their convent home whenever they were in Rhodelia. Sister David Clare planned and directed the music for each at their first Masses after ordination.

A former student at Rhodelia recalled fond memories of Sister David Clare who, after school provided roller skating, or parties, or movies, for the children. The former student said she decided to be a teacher because of Sister David Clare’s example of attention to the needs of the children.

Sister David Clare, with her brother Father David Reasbeck after whom she was named. Father Reasbeck died in 2011

Sister David Clare celebrated her 90th birthday on August 26, 2021. She called twice to tell me about all the many wonderful cards she got from her former students. "So many!" Beloved by all, she will return today, with Father Bob Ray and Father Ron Knott, to be honored by the parishioners of Saint Theresa in celebration of her 90th birthday.  This photo was taken at the Saint Thresa Picnic on August 14 of this year when we celebrated the revealing of Phase One of the new Saint Theresa Family Life Center. In her honor, I offer these recorded songs - Happy Birthday and Going Home