Jane Catholic is a wonderful woman. Sheâ€
Last week, she received a letter from such wonderful women, the consecrated ladies of Regnum Christi, who are living in what was previously an orphanage in northern Rhode Island. The old Saint Aloysius Home is certainly large enough to house this growing group, but dated properties have their expensive side.
Happy Easter! I hope these days of joyful celebration bring many graces to you and your family. We have completed our Lenten journey, helping Jesus to carry His cross, like Simon of Cyrene and experienced the love that Christ has for us. Both my conversation with family members and friends as well as the prayer intentions many people have sent to us have led me to pray more about the mystery of the cross as an inseparable companion on our lifeâ€
The consecrated women at Mater Ecclesiae depend entirely on the support of many generous benefactors. We say it often, but the generosity of our benefactors is truly a sign of the Fatherâ€
Many Catholic receive such letters from a variety of Christian witnesses in the field â€“ those evangelizing in Africa, those staffing soup kitchens in inner cities, and medical teams who bring comfort to those in dire need of the most basic care. Perhaps the letters are formulaic, but the need is universal. Apostles need material support, and their benefactors receive grace. Godâ€
Jane continues reading and the appeal becomes more specific:
But today I am asking you for a special need that we have. I would like to tell you about our Kitchen Renovation project. This need has become very urgent with the passing of time and increasing safety requirements.
As consecrated women the heart of our home is naturally the chapel. But like your family much of our family life is centered around meals: extraordinary celebrations throughout the year like Christmas and Easter but also the ordinary life of three meals a day, 7 days a week. Many of us have as part of our daily responsibility to prepare meals and so the efficiency of our kitchen is important, since it provides 120 women with 3 hot meals every day! Thatâ€
Our kitchen was built in 1942 and most of the appliances were last updated in the 1960s. As the number of vocations has increased our current appliances and equipment have not kept up to the task at hand. We donâ€
Let me tell you about some of the work we have planned. Frankly some of the remodeling is not very exciting: a new system of pipes, reworking the electricity, heating and cooling systemsâ€¦ Not exciting but very much needed especially if you consider that the water pipes have broken twice in the last 3 years. Other projects are much more appealing: the upgrade of sinks, refrigerators, freezers, stoves, a vegetable steamer and the renovation of 3 pantries.
In light of this, I now ask you to consider helping us with the financial support of the project. In order to renovate the kitchen this summer, we need to raise $700,000. We are asking our closest, more generous benefactors who have become part of the Mater Ecclesiae family to support us in the important endeavor. Would you be able to help us with a gift of $250? I know that this is a significant request, and it may require a sacrifice on your part, but your generosity in the past gives me the confidence to ask you to consider it. Since Mater Ecclesiae is a non-profit organization, all donations are tax-deductibleâ€¦.
What she takes with her to prayer is the love John Paul II obviously had for this group, the radiant faces of the consecrated women she has met (even the daughters of some friends), and their obvious sincere fidelity to the Church. None of these things could deceive her â€“ it was simply a matter of priorities.
What Jane cannot begin to bring to prayer is what she doesnâ€
She also cannot know that the education that these women undergo â€“ often having opted to leave other distinguished schools and universities â€“ is not accredited. In an age when schools compete for students with all sorts of packages and benefits, these girls are promised an accredited education that doesnâ€
Jane also imagines that the women divide their time between the kitchen and their other responsibilities, just as she does herself in order to feed her own family, but she hasnâ€
Jane knows as well as the next person that home repairs are insanely expensive. Sometimes one imagines that just buying a new house would be more cost effective than making the requisite upgrades, but how many properties are actually available which would house so many people â€“ complete with a chapel! Certain parameters have to be respected, no matter the cost. But if she knew some of the misleading details that this group is fond of promoting, then wouldnâ€
If I could have a cup of coffee with Jane, I might ask her to consider the overall wealth of the Legionaries of Christ, their relationship with the consecrated women who serve their needs so effectively, and the disparity between the actual status of its priests and the sincere poverty of these women. They own nothing, they consider themselves married to Christ, and yet they enjoy no canonical oversights. They accept their status in trust, which is one of their predominant virtues. When their parents become concerned about their vocation, neither the local bishop from their home diocese nor the bishop of Providence has jurisdiction over what happens to them. If anyone wanted to prey on their good will, there is nothing to stop them, for any criticism or second guessing is immediately squelched in the name of â€œgospel charity.â€�
I might tell her about the depression in the ranks of these lovely women, who give without measure with dubious results to a questionable end. The end, indeed, has been coined â€œa parallel churchâ€� by one American Archbishop, who banned them from his diocese. I might tell her about the confusion I find in counseling those who have left, unsure of their canonical status, since they were once â€œespousedâ€� and have moved on. I might tell her about the grave concerns by the many local women in Rhode Island â€“ some of whom were previously members of Regnum Christi and who worked closely with the consecrated in since long abandoned projects.
Finally I would ask Jane to take this â€œurgent needâ€� with a grain of salt. Even if these select donors donâ€
The consecrated women of Regnum Christi are the most lovely and compelling face of the Movement. They were front and center in countless papal audiences so that a saintly pope could read their sincere expressions of affection. They, of all segments of Regnum Christi have taken Christ at His word â€“ abandoning family, prospects of marriage and children, and living the evangelical counsels with as much perfection as they can muster. In an age of slick production and competing messages, they are the real thing â€“ and the Legionaries cannot afford for them to go home.
Relax Jane. The money will come, even without your heartfelt sacrifice.