Saturday, October 1, 2016

St. Thérése the Little Flower

Depending on how savvy Siri is on your smart phone, she would come up with St. Thérése the Little Flower or St. Teresa of Avila, maybe our newest St., St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata OR even St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross also known as Edith Stein.  St. Thérése was the model and inspiration for St. Mother Teresa.  When you look at their two lives, their simplicity is identifiable in their spirituality.

Since Oct. 1 (or October 3 in General Roman Calendar) is the date we celebrate St. Thérése of Liseaux,   it is timely that we share who she was.  Some of what I share with you, may be facts familiar to you, others not quite so.  Born as Marie Francoise-Thérése Martin on January 2, 1873, she was from Alencon Orne, France and died 24 years later of tuberculosis on September 3, 1897.  It did not take the Church long to beatify her which was done on April 29, 1923 by Pope Pius I and canonized just two years later.  If you read her life, Thérése joined two of her older sisters in the cloistered Carmelites community of Lisieux, Normandy.

St. Thérése of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D. (Order of Discalced Carmelites, so the nuns were barefoot has been widely venerated in modern times and is popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus” or simply, “The Little Flower.”  She is known though as the Saint of the “little way” or simplicity and practicality which was  her approach to the spiritual life.  This models that of St. Francis of Assisi and the two are probably the most popular saints in the history of the Church
Interestingly enough, Thérése was named as “Patroness of the gardens of Vatican City” and a little known fact that she was granted the title by Piux XI “Sacred Keeper of the Gardens.”  Her Basilica of Lisieux is the second largest place of pilgrimage in France after that of Lourdes.  Although she never strayed from the Carmelite convent, she desired to give herself wholeheartedly as a missionary was and was named Co-Patroness of the Missions in 1927. “My vocation is love…In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love” Other causes for which some may appeal to St. Thérése include as HIV/AIDS sufferers, radio care-a-thons, florists, gardeners and loss of parents.  She was named Doctor of the Church in 1997.

As I was writing this information about St. Thérése, I was reminded of little humorous story from my novitiate days at our Motherhouse in Illinois.  St. Teresa of Avila was referred to as the “Big Teresa” while the “Little Thérése” was St. Thérése of the Child Jesus.  At our Motherhouse, we had only one movable statue of a St. Teresa and it happened to be the one of St. Thérése, the little flower.  One of the members of the General Council, Sister Theresa, was a stout woman who gave a warm bear hug.  It happened to be her feast day, July 15.  We Novices wanted to do something special for her name day.  So we conceived an idea of moving the bigger than life statue on a dolly to the middle of the dining room.  So—in the dead of night—we moved her into the dining room, with a sign that said, “Is this Teresa big enough?” Happy Feast day!  Of course all the Sisters wondered who did this but there the statue remained until our Infirmarian, Sr. Mary John, hit her head on Thérése’s outstretched hand and statue needed to be restored to her original location and thus ended our escapade which we thought was a very funny and a creative way to celebrate Sister Teresa.

There are many stories circulating about St. Thérése being identified with roses, remember, she is patroness of the gardens!  While I don’t have a specific story to share with you, it is said that when someone prays to St. Thérése, a rose is sent as a sign.  “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.”  Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, contains unedited manuscripts and poems and will give you a more in depth picture of St. Thérése that Pope Pius Xi called her “the greatest saint of modern times.”  Indeed, she has been a significant model of sanctity for Catholics and others because of the practicality and really the simplicity of her spiritual life.  May your answer to prayer come in the form of a rose.  

Sister Christine Bowman, O.S.F.
Is a Franciscan Sister of the Sacred Heart since 1969: I’m a former nurse with a missionary heart. I responded to an invitation to join the Board of Directors of the Mission Doctors Association in 2013. Currently minister at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA as Director of Cathedral Relations.   

Friday, September 30, 2016

Jesus the Missionary

Jesus was a missionary. As the Word of God, he is the light of all nations. As the Word made flesh, he brought God's own life into our midst. Before returning to the Father, he sent the Church to continue the mission given him by the Father and empowered her with his Spirit: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21).

The entire month of October is World Mission Month!

During this special month dedicated to the missions, we are invited to recommit ourselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. Together we help to ensure all people receive help and the hope that comes from knowing the love of Jesus Christ.

Mission Doctors exhibit the love of Christ through the witness to their faith; by their compassionate care; by their sacrifice to serve.

I often tell the story of when Tim Cavanagh, MD was in Zimbabwe and a patient was in his consultation room and saw on his desk the photo of the Cavanagh’s four adult daughters.  Tim was asked ‘Are these your children’ and Tim said that like any proud father he sat up and said ‘Yes these are my girls!’  The patient then asked him ‘Then why are you here?’  Tim said he paused for a moment and said ‘Well I am here because there are people in the United States who love you and who have sent me to be here.’

"As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21).

Missionaries do not go – they are sent.  Mission Doctors are sent by you and me to bring hope and health; to serve as living witnesses to the love of God. 

This month we are reminded that we are all called to be connected to the missionary effort of the Church. 

How will you connect?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Jubilee for Workers of Mercy

Mercy does not just mean being a good person… 
It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus.   
                                                                        -Pope Francis

For the many times we strive to follow Christ's invitation to live for others and not just ourselves we are "Workers of Mercy"

"Do we visit the prisoner, the sick, help people understand their lives?  We are workers of mercy and Pope Francis invites us to celebrate our Jubilee of Mercy in Rome Sept. 2 - 4th to say thank you!"  
            •    Daughters and Brothers of Charity
            •    Members of the Catholic Workers Movement
            •    Ordained priests, Religious communities of men and women
            •    Lay people bringing Communion to the sick
            •    Teachers in classrooms
            •    Family members caring for elderly parents
            •    Mission Doctors who leave the comforts of home, the security of jobs, family and
                 friends...all are "workers and volunteers of mercy"....

.... and Pope Francis wants to thank you.

The culmination of this celebration will be Mass on Sunday Sept 4th with the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square - the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa, the epitome of a life lived for others.

Yet it is not only her life of service which stands as a witness but her deep faith when her faith was all she had: Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Be kind and merciful.  
Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier.  
Be the living expression of God’s kindness.             
                                                                         -Blessed Mother Teresa

While we can’t all be in Rome, we are invited to be together spiritually during this special jubilee.
A time to remember our call to be authentic disciples of Jesus.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I love my job!

Before breakfast today I was on Facebook messenger with Dr. Martha Coda in Cameroon.

With my coffee I went back and forth on messenger with Molly Druffner, in Tanzania with her husband Dr. Mark Druffner and their family.

Even before I got on the freeway I had emails back and forth from Dr. Marc Tunzi and Dr. Danielle Acton in Ecuador, and Drs. Paul and Terese Bauer who are in Tanzania with their five children. 

The lifesaving work of these doctors and the faith of their families making these long and often difficult journeys continues to inspire me.  Though August marks 35 years of working for Mission Doctors for me, I am always grateful to be witness to their service and provide whatever support I can – even if it is long distance.

I love my job!

Friday, July 29, 2016


Back at the Mission House, where they took part in the four month formation program in 2013, Mission Doctor and Lay Mission-Helper families have come together this week to connect, to share, and to pray.  These returned missionaries have served in Africa and Latin America and this re-entry workshop provides the opportunity to reflect on their time in service in light of returning to the United States, and a space to share the joys and challenges of their time in mission.

This has been a time of laughter, and shared tears; of story telling, and meeting 4 babies born since 2013!  During the workshop, at Mass, and over meals, we find the commonality and unique aspect of each journey. 

Tom and I returned from Thailand in 1981 with three young children and I see much of our experience in what has been shared. How we are changed by the experience, how we return and live and make an effort to hold on to the best of our time, striving to live each day with deep gratitude.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

World Hepatitis Day

There are many medical problems which present dramatically.  Think of broken legs, of the various types of infections, etc.   Often, the tests and x-rays done just confirm what both patient and physician already knew.  Other diseases can affect a person quietly and progressively, such as occurs in certain forms of chronic hepatitis.  This can potentially lead to problems including liver failure and liver cancer.  We are fortunate in our country to have the availability of ways to diagnosis and follow chronic hepatitis.  Many of the tests are part of routine healthcare and help to diagnose hepatitis at an early stage when treatments can be most beneficial.  In resource-limited countries, such diseases can progress insidiously to a serious and advanced stage in the absence of any way to diagnose them. 

Today is World Hepatitis Day.    We are blessed in our country with a long list of ways to keep hepatitis from harming us.  There are vaccines to prevent some types, knowledge of how the various types of hepatitis are spread and how to avoid contracting it, as well as a growing number of medical and surgical treatments for those who develop hepatitis and it's complications.

So what do physicians in mission lands do about hepatitis?  What do you do to deal with a disease you can not diagnose early?  How do you prevent hepatitis when vaccines are not available?   How do you treat people with hepatitis when specific medical treatments and surgery are not available?  You take the time and effort to educate your patients well about how hepatitis is spread and ways to avoid contracting it.  The best, and often the only, way to not be harmed by hepatitis in resource-limited countries is to not contract it.

The World Health Organization has established concrete goals for reduction in the transmission of and death from hepatitis in coming years.  Until hepatitis takes its place in the museum of diseases which once afflicted humanity, prevention remains the best and often the only medicine.

oday's guest blog post is contributed by Dr. Tim Cavanagh. Dr. Cavanagh is a veteran Mission Doctor.  Tim and his wife Sheila served for three years in rural Zimbabwe and continue to serve on short-term missions in Africa and Latin America.  Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.