The Associates World: December 2019

December 3, 2019

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An Associate’s View: Commemorating Hecker’s Ordination

By Paula Cuozzo, Boston Associate

Organist Dan Ficarri (left) Alexander Pattavina (right)

Since December 18, 2018, the Paulists, Associates, and others have been marking various milestones in Fr. Isaac Thomas Hecker’s life as we approach the 200th anniversary of his birth in a few weeks. 

One of the special events in this year was held on Sunday October 20, at St. Paul the Apostle parish (SPA), the Mother House in New York City, where Paulists, Associates, and others commemorated the 170th anniversary of Hecker’s ordination to the priesthood (October 23, 1851.) The celebration included the debut of an organ piece and a lecture delivered by the archivist for the Redemptorists. 

Earlier this year, Fr. Frank Desiderio approached Dan Ficarri, a student in the Master’s program and Julliard Organ Scholar in residence at SPA, to compose and perform a piece as part of this year’s celebration.  Dan created a piece entitled Visions of the Holy Spirit, with five movements, important phases in Hecker’s lifetime: 

  1. The Impulse
  2. The Angelic Being
  3. The Mystic Man
  4. The Conversion of America
  5. Renewal of the Age

One of the main advantages of the piece is that Dan, as a member of the SPA worship community, had been influenced by the mission and ministry of those who carry on the Hecker legacy.  In addition, Dan delved into Hecker’s biography as well as some of Hecker’s own writings.  Dan’s piece captured the essence of Hecker spirituality and Hecker’s attention to discerning the Spirit in his life and in the church. 

When I spoke with Dan at the end of the evening, I was not only impressed with his talent at composing and playing, I was taken with how much he learned about Hecker in a short time.  He precisely selected the five topics for these movements to give a wholistic view of how the Spirit remained with Hecker throughout his life, how Hecker grew to appreciate the power and the presence of the Spirit as he aged.  I am grateful that I was present at this debut and met such a faith-filled and charming composer and musician. 

Following Ficarri’s piece, Patrick Hayes, the archivist for the Redemptorist community in the United States, presented a lecture on Hecker’s time as a Redemptorist.  A former professor of theology at St. John’s University and Fordham University in New York, he has also taught in West Africa, where he helped establish Sierra Leone’s first and only Catholic university. Patrick has published in the field of American church history for the last two decades, and currently sits on the Executive Boards of the American Catholic Historical Association and the American Catholic Historical Society.

Like me, he has a sincere affection for Hecker. Like me, Patrick was at the Mass at SPA in January 2008 for the opening of the cause for Hecker’s sainthood.  Unlike me, Patrick has a deep understanding of Hecker’s years as a Redemptorist. 

Patrick began with an outline of Hecker’s quick decision in 1845 to join the Redemptorists, exactly one year following his entrance in the Catholic church.  Novitiate life was austere.  His novice director often challenged his spirit, testing his will and impulses.  In his time at the novitiate, Hecker realized that his seeking had come to an end and settled into studies and more intense contemplation. 

Patrick Hayes chats with Frank Desiderio


These months provided Hecker with the opportunity to remain open to grace that teaches us to remain open to the mystery of God.  His dedication to priesthood was found in his dedication to God.  Hecker, as he had done when he was with the Transcendentalists at Brook Farm and Fruitlands, combed the library for materials for inspiration.  One of his favorite books was The Spiritual Doctrine by Louis Lallemant.  This book proved to be especially impactful on the development of his theology of the Holy Spirit and his fulfillment of God’s will.  (Lallemant, a 17th century Jesuit, was novice master for Isaac Jogues, and Pope Francis also draws on this book for guidance and inspiration.) 

Hecker was not a scholar, and in fact last in his class in seminary in the Netherlands.  He struggled with theological treatises and dogma.  Instead, he gravitated to topics such as “examination of the soul.”  During Hecker’s years in the seminary, he was a daily communicant. However, he found it difficult to use prayer books and was not attracted to praying the rosary.  Because of his profound commitment to prayer and personal reflection, and in spite of his poor academic record, Hecker was ordained on October 23, 1849. 

His first parochial assignment was at Our Immaculate Lady of Victories in Clapham, London.  Hecker was not enthusiastic about parish ministry; rather, his “desire for souls” drove him towards mission work.  Thus, Hecker returns to the United States in 1851, and he and his friends offer missions.  Their first mission at St. Joseph’s parish in Manhattan was such a success, Hecker and his friends were in demand.  Ever attentive to the Holy Spirit, Hecker relentlessly pursued bringing the joy of faith to those outside of the church, and he remained in the mission band until 1857. 

As we know, Hecker’s time with the Redemptorists ended in 1857.  Yet, throughout these years with the Redemptorists, Hecker honed his understanding of his theology of the Holy Spirit animating his ministry and mission, which guided him in his life as a Paulist. 

After the lecture, Patrick said to me that the Redemptorists take claim of Hecker as one of theirs when there is any positive story about Hecker or the Paulists today.  I liked Patrick very much, a charismatic and delightful storyteller, someone who shares a thirst for combing the depths of Hecker’s life and finding inspiration for our times. 

How fortunate was I to be there.


Hecker’s journey to and with the Catholic Church

The final installment of a talk given as part of the Hecker Bicentennial Pilgrimage to Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral: The Continuing Significance of Isaac Hecker’s Early Life and Vocational Discernment on May 17, 2019

By Fr. Ron Franco, C.S.P.

Looking back on Hecker’s ideas from the vantage point of the present, we can appreciate his consistent commitment to enhance the quality of Church life, to build up the Catholic Church in the United States, to achieve what, in a letter to Brownson, he called “a higher tone of Catholic life in our country.” one consequence of which would be to make the Church more attractive to non-Catholics. It seems that Hecker already understood that any successful impact on the wider American society presupposed an effective mission and ministry within the American Catholic community.

“The Catholic faith alone,” Hecker wrote in that letter to Brownson, “is capable of giving to people a true permanent and burning enthusiasm fraught with the greatest of deeds. But to enkindle this in others we must be possessed of it first ourselves.” Hecker was convinced that the same Holy Spirit who spoke in his own heart and in human hearts in general also spoke through the Church, and that the evangelization of American society through missionary action aimed at the conversion of individuals would benefit both Church and civil society.

Nonetheless, much of what Hecker admired in America – the egalitarianism and sociability which Tocqueville analyzed and which Jacksonian populism celebrated – no longer characterizes post-industrial America. Hecker’s America is gone – forever.

And, of course, Catholicism has changed as well. For one thing, the 19th-century flexibility and openness of spirit that could affirm his spiritual search, vocational discernment, and uniquely personal pattern of priestly formation has given way to a much more fearful, rigid, rule-governed preoccupation with safety and security, which mirrors the changes in society at large.

Secondly, conversions to Catholicism continued both during and after Hecker’s lifetime but never in the numbers necessary to make the kind of impact on American society Hecker had hoped for. What made the difference (then as now) was immigration.

As a New Yorker, born and bred in a city of immigrants and pastor of a parish of immigrants, Hecker obviously could not completely ignore this. And, in his less than systematic way, he linked it to his theory of American’s providential significance. As he wrote near the end of his life: “But the discerning mind will not fail to see that the republic and the Catholic Church are working together under the same divine guidance, forming the various races of men and nationalities into a homogeneous people, and by their united action giving a bright promise of a broader and higher development of man than has been heretofore accomplished.”

That modest expansion of Hecker’s thinking may be more relevant now than ever, focusing on his New England Transcendentalist connections and “Earnest the seeker” imagery.

But, most significantly, as American Catholics have assimilated, they have, as Hecker’s critics like Brownson warned, become maybe more American than Catholic. As Thomas Merton noted in 1958, “Maybe what is wrong with American Catholicism is that it is in large measure Protestant rather than Catholic. … one would look in vain for any of the trace of the spirit of Medieval Catholicism in America … its broadness, its universality, its all-embracing compassion, its joy, its understanding of man and his nature, its cosmic outlook, its genuine eschatology; its asceticism; its mysticism; its poetry.”  Merton may have typically overstated his case, but it would be hard not to notice how American – and therefore Protestant – so much of American Catholicism has become. And it is very unlikely that that was the outcome Hecker hoped for!

All of which inevitably brings us back to Hecker’s lifelong obsession with the supposed failure of American Protestantism.

There are actually two main components to Hecker’s critique of Protestantism.

For Hecker, Protestantism equaled private judgment, which in turn led to social fragmentation. Having himself experienced the divided and fragmented character of both American Protestantism and the United States, Hecker always appreciated the importance of authority in the Church, as the providential alternative to the Protestant principle of individual interpretation. The internal order of the visible Church was, for Hecker, the divine sanctioned means for the fulfillment of Christ’s life and mission on earth, pouring – through its unifying experience of community, tis worships and its sacraments – the oil of the Holy Spirit on the troubled waters of the world. Hecker’s developed understanding may be even more relevant in our even more religiously fragmented century, in which the Catholic Church is herself experiencing the division and fragmentation Hecker feared in Protestantism.

His second critique of Protestantism, however, is somewhat more problematic:

In Hecker’s historically limited understanding of Protestantism, Protestantism equaled a belief in total human depravity, which rendered it incompatible with human fulfillment and a free society, whereas the Catholic belief in the goodness of human nature (even in part after the fall) did not stress that incompatibility. Brownson and others worried that Hecker’s lack of theological precision risked regarding reason and nature too positively. Hecker, however, did not actually advocate a state of pure nature. For Hecker human nature was always already transformed by grace. Hence the importance of his emphasis on Providence, and this is, I believe, a valuable part of his legacy.

On the other hand, however, it is clear that Hecker’s emphasis on Providence could at times could at times merge too easily with his messianic understanding of American exceptionalism which, ironically, he (and the larger society) had absorbed from the Protestantism he was so critical of.

This became problematic later in his life in his very 19th-century theorizing about races, nationality, and ethnicity. The Belgian Redemptorist Cardinal Deschamps admired Hecker and believed Hecker had left the Redemptorists without committing so much as a venial sin. But he sharply rebuked Hecker’s 1875 “Exposition,” which later formed the first chapter of The Church and the Age. Deschamps declared: “I cannot share the opinion of the author in regard to races, progress, and the march of empires. … The author should distinguish more carefully in these matters between the role of the Church and the role of man.”

 And so must we.

In the end, Hecker would agree with Marx that a citizen might remain religious as an individual: not on a political level – in the union of church and state – but on a social level – in the union of religion and society. But, whereas for Marx, that meant human alienation and religion’s survival showed the inadequacy of democratic politics, for Hecker religion meant the solution to alienation and the fulfillment of human aspirations, And so his confidence that religion’s power to heal and reconcile the contentious divisions of modern society would solve the problems politics could not.
The Church’s mission happens when people are excited enough to witness to it in their lives and when they really believe (as Hecker so strongly did) that those who accept the Church’s faith will be better off as a result – both individually and as a society. In a politically polarized and socially fragmented society, Hecker’s youthful religious experience formed the foundation for his ministry as a priest, proclaiming Catholic faith and building Catholic community, confident that that would change society for the better.


How Will Your Advent Pilgrimage End?

By Erin Cordle, Associate Director, Columbus Paulist Associate and Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Office for Social Concerns

God has a work for me to do in the world, and I shall live to do it.
(From statements made by Father Hecker towards the end of his life, PV, p.3)

For years, I have felt that the Holy Spirit pointing me different directions to see people who have needs or may be falling through the cracks. Because I work for the Catholic Diocese of Columbus (Ohio) in the Office for Social Concerns that usually means I reach out to others with the same concerns and encourage community responses.

As I begin to reflect on epiphany this year, I realize it carries a range of meanings including an intuitive grasp of reality, an illuminating discovery, realization, disclosure, or insight, or simply a revealing scene or moment. My definition of an epiphany is a revelation that usually changes me in some way. For the past year or so, my epiphany moments often have focused on the needs of our veterans, active duty service members, and their families.

I keep reflecting on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) in which a man on a journey is accosted by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. In the narrative, one person after another passes him without helping him, either being too busy to stop or fearful of what obligations would be involved if they did stop. It wasn’t that they did not love their neighbors – just not this neighbor. The essence of this parable is that our neighbors choose us – we don’t choose our neighbors – as they lie beaten, broken, and in need beside the road we walk.

Many soldiers and their families may be like the man beside the road in needing someone to be neighborly to them as they deal with stresses that inherently come with being military families. But to help means we need to have a degree of understanding. Soldiers endure hardships, no doubt. They are separated from family for extended periods of time. They are deployed to different and, at times, dangerous locations throughout the world.
Their families struggle with deployments as well; however, how their struggle is directly related to the support they receive while their loved ones are gone. Active duty soldiers can usually find built-in support through their bases. For reservists and National Guard members, support is harder to find and less likely to be effective.

Military service members make up less than 0.5% of our current U.S. population (with nearly 35,000 Ohioans). They are our neighbors and members of our churches. My concern is that in our diocese there are few common places where our military families regularly gather to support one another. (Rickenbacker Base is located 12 miles southeast of downtown Columbus – with only minimal base housing.)

We, as Church, can help bridge that gap. Military families earn the right to be called strong, resilient, and proud. But they also need us to be aware of their struggles. It is not because they feel we need to solve their problems for them; they may not want our sympathy, but they do need us to have a degree of understanding. When we understand, we can support our neighbors. When we are supportive, they may be better prepared to maneuver through the various issues that they inevitably face.

When teachers understand military stressors, they can reach out and help students who can no longer concentrate because mom just got deployed. When employers understand military stressors, they can be sensitive to their employees who are suddenly both mom and dad in the family. When pastors understand military stressors, they can seek out families in their churches and offer support.

As Catholic Christians in a complex world, it is our duty to help others. Just like the Good Samaritan, who we help and when we help is up to us.

What gifts will you offer the Christ Child this Epiphany?

Toronto Associates Renewal Commitment

by Mike Kallock, C.S.P.

Left to right front: Angie Barbieri, Fr Mike Kallock, Brenda Mashall; back row: Heather McClory, Filomena Melo, Ann Karner, Inge Ali, Joe Furfaro, John Sliwinski.


It was a delight to be at St Peter’s our former parish in Toronto the weekend of November 22-24 to visit our Toronto Paulist Associates and witness their recommitment for one more year.

I joined their monthly Saturday meeting. I was very impressed. They usually meet for about three hours.  

After prayer from the Paulist Prayer Book, they check in with how they are living out the Paulist Mission and Spirituality, break for social and snacks, and close with sharing their reaction to the latest Newsletter’s Proposed Program for the Month.

On this Saturday, we ended with the Prayer Service for the Rite of Commitment. We had been together for over three hours. I was deeply touched by the depth and quality of their faith sharing and how they support and enrich each other as Paulist Associates.

The Paulist left Toronto at the end of June 2015. But I am very gratified to tell you our Toronto Associates are very much carrying on the Spirit of Hecker!  


Prayers Inspired by Quotes from John Henry Newman

(John Henry Cardinal Newman, a Paulist Patron was canonized on Oct. 12.2019)

“God has created me to do God some definite service. God has committed some work to me which God has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.”

May I resolve that my life be lived in such a way that, while I may never know its mission completely, I will never let it stand in the way of God’s hope for me.

“God has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do God’s work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep God’s commandments.”

May my life and the way I live it be a voice that gently calls others to self-examination and a yearning for the Good.

“Therefore, I will trust God, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve God, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve God. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve God.”

May I, even in sickness or perplexity or sorrow, remember always that God’s trust in me survives and surmounts all my weaknesses.

“God does nothing in vain. God knows what God is about. God may take away my friends. God may throw me among strangers. God may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, God knows what God is about.”

May I return God’s trust in me with an eagerness of confidence that, whatever the trial, I am not abandoned.


Proposed Program For December 2019

Submitted by Mary Sullivan, Paulist Associate, Boston.

(This concludes the monthly themes for the Bicentennial Year of Hecker’s Birth taken from the designated month from Isaac Hecker for Every Day edited by Ronald Franco, C.S.P.)

The fourth installment of “Isaac Hecker: The Search Continues” which appears in this issue of the Associates World (December, 2019).  This is part of a talk given by Ronald Franco, C.S.P. as part of the Hecker Bicentennial Pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on May 17, 2019.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, instructed the hearts of the faithful, grant that, by the same Spirit, we may know what is right and always rejoice in the Spirit’s consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


“The conversion of the American people to the Catholic faith has ripened into a conviction with me which lies beyond the region of doubt.  My life, my labors, and my death is consecrated to it… In the union of the Catholic faith and American civilization a new birth awaits them all, a future for the Church brighter than any past.”

(Hecker to Rev. Adrian Roquette, 24 July 1859, as quoted in Portier, Providential Nation, page 251)


The Advent season and the hope provided by the birth of Jesus provide us with reasons to be optimistic about the future.  Name at least 3 things (ideas, occurrences or the like) that might contribute to a brighter future for the Church (be realistic).

Were you surprised by the quote from Thomas Merton that Ron Franco C.S.P. included in his article, to the effect that “… one would look] in vain for any of the trace of the spirit of Medieval Catholicism in American [Catholicism]… its broadness, its universality, its all-embracing compassion, its joy, its understanding of man and his nature, its cosmic outlet, its genuine eschatology; its asceticism; its mysticism; its poetry”*. Why or why not? 

If there came a time that world nations (and religions) were at peace, would Hecker consider such a period to be “a future brighter than any past” or would he want more?  Would he still want all (or at least America) to be unified in recognizing the Holy Spirit?  Discuss.

*Thomas Merton, December 7, 1958, in A Search for Solitude; Pursuing the Monk’s True Life, ed. Lawrence S. Cunningham (Harper Collins, 1996), p. 234

Loving God, I sense that all is your creation and everything, and all of us, are being drawn back toward your loving heart.

Help me to be a person of peace, To speak about it in an uneasy world, And to live it among the people you have put into my life every day.

Light in me a desire to prepare for your coming to stand in the darkness, waiting, eager and filled with joy.


Proposed Program For January 2020

Submitted by Joe Scott, C.S.P., member of the Paulist Associates Board. Fr. Joe is presently at Old St Mary’s, San Francisco.



Opening Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. O God, who by the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Spirit we may know what is right and always rejoice in his consolation, through Christ our Lord.

All powerful God, you taught the whole world through the teaching of the apostle Paul. As we celebrate his conversion, grant that, by following his example, we may be witnesses to your truth in the world. We ask this through Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Reading: Galatians 1:11-13: Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached to me is not of human origins. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Quote from Isaac Hecker: What an example was St. Paul, of courage, fidelity and hope! He did fight the good fight! To compare little men with great, I feel great sympathy with his career. Poor fellow! Persecuted on all sides, shipwrecked, imprisoned, caught up in the third heavens, and finally beheaded! What a hero for Christ! Pray that I and each of us may be actuated by the same spirit as our patron, St. Paul.

Reflection: The Conversions of Ananias and Paul:

This month we celebrate the feast of the conversion of our patron St. Paul. The official church calendar  date is January 25th. It is the major feast of the Paulist Fathers and of our Associates.

The story of Paul’s conversion is one of the most dramatic events portrayed in the New Testament, even if he did not actually fall off a horse.

We sometimes forget that Paul’s conversion would not have been completed were it not for the quieter but perhaps just as profound conversion of a Christian named Ananias. We don’t celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Ananias, although we should.

Ananias lived in Damascus, and he undoubtedly heard the word that the fierce anti-Christian Saul of Tarsus was coming to his city to stir up trouble and persecute the Christians living there. “Persecute” meant torture and death. “Christians” meant Ananias and the friends he loved.

The same day the Lord speaks to Saul he speaks to Ananias, saying “Saul of Tarsus has become blind and needs you to lay hands on him to regain his sight.”

Ananias wonders “what is Saul going to do to ME once he regains his sight?”

When Jonah faced a similar request to preach to his hated enemies in Ninevah, he got in the first boat sailing in the opposite direction. It took God a storm and a big fish to get Jonah’s attention. Even so, Jonah was never exactly a fervent convert.

Ananias doesn’t escape in the opposite direction, but he protests mightily to the Lord, sighting all the very good reasons why visiting Saul is a bad idea.
But the Lord replies “go!” And Ananias goes. And when he lays his hands on the man who could kill him, he calls him “Saul, my brother.”

When I hear this story, I wonder: “which of these two underwent the greater conversion? Which is harder, to change your life around from bad to good, or to forgive your very worst enemy, call him your brother and mean it? Both are close to impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Two things are certain: none of us would call ourselves Christians today were it not for St. Paul. And Saul might still be simmering in his blindness of hate were it not for the courage and trust in the Lord guiding Ananias.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When have I had to change my life from one way of thinking/acting to another?
  2. Who or what (outside me or within) resisted my desire to change?
  3. Who or what supported/ encouraged my decision to change?
  4. In what way is my group of Paulist Associates called to conversion? What could we do to support that conversion? What might make it difficult?

Closing Prayer: We ask your blessing upon us and our community, O Lord. We strive to proclaim your word in our words and actions. May our deeds this day further the ideals of our founder. May we be inspired by St. Paul, our patron. May we be ever more converted to you. We pray this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Consider submitting an article for inclusion in an upcoming issue of The Associates World

The Newsletter is published monthly, except January and July. Material for Associates World is always welcome

The Associates World welcomes submissions of articles or information about upcoming events or things going on with your local organization.

These should be sent as Microsoft Word documents and attached to an email to  Except for reporting on late-month events, we would appreciate receiving submissions by the 20th of the month before the publication date. Please contact editors Kathleen Lossau ( or Denis Hurley ( with questions or article proposals.


Prayer for the Intercession of Father Isaac T. Hecker

Heavenly Father, you called your servant Isaac Thomas Hecker to preach the Gospel to the people of North America and through his teaching, to know the peace and the power of your indwelling Spirit. He walked in the footsteps of Saint Paul the Apostle, and like Paul spoke your Word with a zeal for souls and a burning love for all who came to him in need.

Look upon us this day, with compassion and hope. Hear our prayer. We ask that through the intercession of Father Hecker your servant, you might grant us (state the request).

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. One God, forever and ever. Amen.

When you pray this prayer, and if you believe that you have received any favors through Hecker’s intercession, please contact the Office of the Cause for Canonization of Servant of God, Isaac Hecker at Visit the web site: to learn more about his life and the cause for his canonization.


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Paulist Associates National Director

Mike Kallock, C.S.P.
Paulist General Office
New York, NY 10023

Board Members

Carol Wagner Williams
Tuscon, AZ

Frank Desiderio, C.S.P.

Katherine Murphy Mertzlufft
Columbus, OH

Joe Scott, C.S.P.

David Rooney
Chicago, IL

Mary Sullivan
Boston, MA

Paulist Associates Promise:

I believe that I am drawn by the Holy Spirit to the spirituality and qualities of the Paulist Community. I have discerned both by prayer and study that God calls me to become associated with the Paulists. I promise that I will pray for the works of the Paulist Society, meet with others, who are also members of the Paulist Associates, for spiritual sharing and formation; and I seek to embody the apostolic qualities of the Paulists in my daily life.

Attentive to the Holy Spirit and faithful to the example of St. Paul and the charism of Father Isaac Hecker, I commit myself for one year of membership in the Paulist Associates.