The life—and death–of Senator John McCain proved there is always a larger view and a larger love. You’ve probably read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. His books begins by asking the reader to look at the lens through which he or she sees the world. How does that lens shape one’s interpretation of the world? Maybe our country needs a new lens; maybe we need to change our perception. Having viewed much of Senator McCain’s funeral, I wonder how many Americans will change our perceptions of what the United States is.
Will we have the same lens as John McCain and see the good and the bad, the true and the false, for what they are—realities that continually challenge us to work together in unity? Can we become a united United States? Can we widen our views to see across the Senate Chamber aisle and the Atlantic? From our colonial days Americans have loved freedom—political, religious. We formed our country on respect for life and pursuit of happiness. Has our country’s paradigm shifted? Once upon a time we imagined democracy, and a whole new way of governing was born. Once upon a time we imagined a world without slavery, and amendments were added to our Constitution abolishing this evil. Once upon a time we imagined forgiving our enemies and rebuilt Germany. Will all the “once upon a time” values become mere fairy tales? I can only hope that today’s speeches at John McCain’s funeral will bring people of good will to our founding fathers’ large view and large love.

Faith with Coffee

September 4th, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The saints knew how to evangelize. It seems they had one rule: go to the people; don’t wait for them to come to you. Missionary saints like St. Paul, St. Patrick, St. Francis Xavier, and countless others traveled the globe to tell others about Jesus Christ. Other saints, like St. Therese of Lisieux, shared the gospel with letters and prayers without leaving their monastery or convent. Still others like St. Maximilian Kolbe evangelized by the witness of their heroic virtue and self-sacrifice. Every place on earth is a field ready for the seeds of evangelization.

In our parishes are there groups who are hungry for spiritual awakening or religious deepening? Are there groups that are underserved? Perhaps parents with small children?  Maybe the octogenarians who ponder how to live their remaining years well? Those with disabilities? The homebound or those who don’t drive at night? Care-takers?

One of my goals this new academic year is to increase opportunities for those who may be underserved. One way I call “Faith with Coffee.” When parents or drivers drop off children at school, they can stop by for a cup of coffee and 30 minutes of adult religious education. (They may bring their pre-schoolers, and anyone else is the parish is invited, too. The time was chosen designedly for the space of time between dropping off students and the next thing that needs to be done.) This Tuesday presentation will also include something Gospel-oriented to take home for themselves and the rest of the family. Similarly, those who bring children for religious education classes on Wednesday evenings will have the same opportunity.

Please pray that these Catholic Coffee Klatches truly evangelize. And let me know how you or your parish goes to the people to evangelize. Like all good vocation directors, let’s not wait for people to come to us.

Sr. Mary Dean Pfahler SND
Parish Ministry Director / Spiritual Director
St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
Long Beach CA

Books let you know they want to be read….

I was in South Carolina as the house guest of Denise, a friend of Springbank Retreat Center for Ecospirituality and the Arts.  While dicing vegetables for her detox salad recipe, I noticed Joan Chittister’s slim volume Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible lying at the other end of the kitchen counter.  Denise recommended it, having shared its treasures with a women’s book study group at the nearby Lutheran church.  I made a mental note of the title in case I would have a chance to read it alone or with others.

Now here at St. Bartholomew’s in Long Beach, California, I have that chance.  The Women at the Well book study group will be inviting Lydia, Prisca, Deborah, Miriam, Esther, Ruth, Elizabeth, Mary Magdalene, Martha and other biblical women into the conversation we women will be hosting.

Not only that, another likely candidate for the book study was sitting on the parish secretary’s desk yesterday.  Gina Loehr’s The Four Teresas had been on my wish list for some time.  In fact, I was about to buy a copy on with a gift card received at my 50th anniversary celebration.  When I saw The Teresas on Chris’ desk, I had to find out more.  She was about to donate it to the “Little Library” an Eagle scout had just constructed at the edge of the church property.  I will move it in that direction after a slight detour!

Another surprise surfaced at the St. Bart’s Women’s Council book sale in early June.  I had heard about metaphorical theologian Sallie McFague at Springbank but had not had a chance to read her.  Then Brother Don Bisson FMS mentioned her name in a CD talk I was listening to on the commute to work.  Wouldn’t you know it?  A donated copy of Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature appeared at the book sale.

See?  Books get in your face and don’t give up until you read them.
What book has been stalking you?


Editorial Note
I just checked the website for BetterWorldBooks and all three of these books are currently available. The prices are great and shipping is free within the USA. Besides that, for every book you purchase BetterWorldBooks will donate a book to a Literacy Program. Can’t beat that!!

A couple walked into the parish office and said they had phoned ahead to ask for a meeting space.  As I was showing them the community room, the wife excitedly told me that she was going to meet her birth mother. Some time ago the wife had graduated from our parish elementary school and was later married in our parish church. Now they were living in South Dakota but had been able to locate the birth mother still in Ohio. They thought our parish would be an appropriate place to meet. I told the couple that our parish was honored to be chosen for such an occasion. I showed them the community room and the nearby flower garden, and then I waited at the main entrance.  A few minutes later I heard a shout. Using another door, the birth mother and daughter had found each other. The wives with their husbands spent two hours talking and taking pictures  and then left aglow with joy. Our parish has many blessed moments, as we celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments, as we open a food pantry weekly, as we share faith in many ways—and in the unforeseen delights that dot a parish’s day.

Summarizing Two Great Books in One Word:  Relationship

This past week I began reading two books.  The first The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr was one I’ve tried to get hold of since its publication in 2016. The second is Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart.  At first glance these two books could not be more diverse, but they share the same theme: relation, relation, relation. William Paul Young, author of The Shack, calls Rohr’s book “a celebration of Relationship,” the relationship within the Trinity and our relationship with God and one another. I’ve been reading about God as a “fountain fullness” of love always pouring out the flow of divine love. Barking to the Choir has stories on every page about the individuals from gangs that Boyle has helped through Homeboy Industries. Every story warms the reader’s heart with its focus on belonging and “the holiness of second chances.” Boyle writes: “In all my years of living, I have never been given greater access to the tenderness of God than through the channel of the thousands of homies I have been privileged to know.” Both books bring God closer. Both books delight. The reader smiles in the midst of abstract truths made accessible through humor, malapropisms, slang, and clever expressions. Among the intriguing titles of Rohr’s chapters are “Tide Boxes at Kmart,” “Paradigms Lost,” “Transcendence Deficit Disorder,” and “Metaphors Be with You.” God is with us. Both books make God incredibly close and infinitely open to us. When we are in need, God is there. Or as Boyle in the language of one of his Homeboys writes: “The Dude shows up.”









The Way Forward is the Way Inward

Our readers may know that the four United States provinces of the Sisters of Notre Dame are in a process of becoming one province over the next two years. Some efforts toward unification have been in the works over the past few years, but with the proximity of 2020 the efforts are intensifying. What I have found so beautiful is the peace that pervades the sisters, along with trust in those most involved in the decision-making. In this process we have had to let go, for example, the selling of our provincial center property. Paradoxically, it’s in the letting go that we can create something new.


When we gather with sisters of other provinces, there is such evident unity. We have a common vision; everyone seems to be forward-looking. What a blessing! We are open to the future, and that is why we see the present as a time of rich possibilities. We know that the heart of all life is oneness, and so we work toward oneness to let new life flourish. The way forward can only be successful by simultaneously making the way inward. As we strive for unity, readers, please join us with your prayers.

The Miracle Story of Annie the Bus Driver

On a day in April the entire student body at St. John High School, Delphos, gathered in the gym to pray for Annie, one of our associates, who had bone cancer. Because the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Maria Aloysia, lived in Delphos several years, we prayed through her intercession for Annie’s complete cure. Students continued to pray for Annie, their favorite bus driver. Eventually the oncologists declared that Annie was completely free of bone cancer.

However, after 15 years, the cancer returned. This week Annie’s family and friends will celebrate her funeral and acknowledge her deep spirituality shown in her great involvement in her parish church, especially as a cantor and choir member. Annie has been an associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame since 2004.

May Annie be a great intercessor for our ND Associates
and all of us.


July 12th, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Around this time of year you may hear of priests’ anniversaries of ordination and religious sisters’ jubilees. Some religious orders mark the years from the time of entrance into the community as postulants. My congregation marks jubilee from First Vows. (The first vows a Sister makes are temporary for a few years until her Final Vows or Solemn Profession.) This year’s celebration ranged from 25 to 75 years of religious profession.

For many, the community’s celebration of jubilee is the high point of the year, whether one is a jubilarian or not. This joyful time is a time of laughter, memories, and foods beyond the typical convent fare. Above all, it’s a time of gratitude. It’s a custom in our community that when the Mass is over, the program performed, and the food cleared, that the Sisters celebrating jubilee have a chance to address the community. Whether in song or poetry or paragraph, the message of each group is the same:

Thank you.
Jubilee—a special day to thank God
and thank Notre Dame.

“Thank you” says it all.

Pray Always

July 10th, 2018 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Scripture asks,
“Pray always.”

Throughout Church history there have been two major ways to follow this demand. Monastic orders make the Liturgy of the Hours top priority, while other aspects of their day (work, meals, recreation, sleep) revolve around these times of prayer. There were even times in history when monks would allow themselves  only one hour of sleep to have almost the whole day devoted to prayer. Lay persons, along with priests and sisters not living in monastic communities, follow “Pray always” by leading the best Christian lives they can while punctuating their day with prayer. Such periodic prayer can be a quick one-liner, a period of meditation, the Mass or any other “lifting of the mind and heart to God.” The two ways, of course, need to be more nuanced than this short description allows, but my point is that both are meritorious responses leading many to lead very holy lives.

Whether living in a monastery or “in the world,” all of us can aim to “pray always.” One technique is to have a “signal” reminding us to pray more often than our regular prayer. One signal I use is lifting my coffee cup when I sit to pray first thing in the morning. God and I hold our mugs like beer steins and tell each other “cheers.” Just one word, one second of time, one thought, and a smile between God and me. Often this first prayer of the day is my best prayer of the day.

Probably many of you have a sign that you know comes directly from God. Maybe it’s a butterfly that shows a deceased loved one is present. Maybe it’s a deer that reminds you of God’s great care for you.
For me, it’s a heron often seen at Lial Renewal Center in Whitehouse, Ohio. Generally I make my annual week’s retreat there, and I hope to see the heron which for me means that God approves of my direction in life. During some annual retreats I see the heron only once, and that time is usually at the end of the retreat. Its flight says to me, “All is well. Keep flying the same route.”

This summer the heron showed himself on the very first day.  As I walked toward the lake, I mused, “I wonder if I’ll see my her__.” Before I could get the last syllable out, there he was! Some hours later I saw him again, standing quite still, then walking a few steps, standing quietly, then taking a few more steps along the path around the lake that I had intended to make. I waited so as not to disturb, and then another heron joined him. Together they flew off, and I continued my trek where the heron had been.  Within a couple minutes back came the heron, and he flew parallel to me for a few seconds.  Wow! Was that ever a sign from God that this would be a wonderful retreat!