Thursday, May 30, 2019

(227) Living With Christ Through Images of the Holy Land As He Ascends Into Heaven and Sends His Holy Spirit


Looking up at the Mt. of Olives (also called Mt. Olivet) from the Kidron Valley.  Christ took his apostles to the top where He ascended into Heaven.  At the foot is the Church of All Nations which is built on the site of the Agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene with the golden steeples is a little higher on the right.  The Church of Dominus Flevit, where Christ wept over Jerusalem, is also on this slope.  For a video tour click on and also

       After Easter. He (Jesus) presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:3-5,8).  “You are witnesses of these things.  And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:48-49).

The site of the Ascension of Christ into Heaven at the top of the Mt. of Olives.  It was originally a chapel, but the when the Muslims conquered Palestine, they converted it into a mosque.

    Forty days after the Resurrection (Ascension Thursday) and after numerous appearances to as many as 500 people at once, Jesus took the apostles from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley to the top of the Mt. of Olives.  Then Jesus said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).  Christ directed this command not only to His disciples, but to us too.  So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs (Mark 16:19-20).
Inside the chapel/shrine are two footprints said to be those of Christ.  

        After the Ascension of Christ into Heaven, the apostles, Mary, and other disciples followed the command of their master and waited for the Holy Spirit in the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room, the same place as the Last Supper and the appearance of Christ after the Resurrection.  They waited in prayer for the next ten days, really a beautiful retreat, preparing themselves spiritually, preparing their hearts for the descent of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity.  May our Confirmation students also prepare themselves spiritually for that great sacrament.

The Cenacle built over the site of the upper room.  This is the site of both the Last Supper and the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

  The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles beautifully describes this momentous event:  When the time for Pentecost (50 days after Easter) was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim (Acts 2:1-4).

  Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.  At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?  Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?  We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."  They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, "What does this mean?" (Acts 2:5-13).  

        No longer afraid, the apostles were on fire for the Lord.  May the Holy Spirit set us on fire!  The apostles were so convinced of the truth that they fearlessly spread the word even at the risk of torture and death.  Indeed all the apostles except St. John were martyred for the faith.

  “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, 'You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.  You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know.   This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.  But God raised Him up, releasing Him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:14, 22-24).

   Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.  Only then did the apostles have the courage and the zeal to go out and teach all nations as Christ commanded just before ascending into Heaven.  The above photo shows the ruins of ancient Corinth in Greece which had a reputation of moral decadence.  There St. Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, had the zeal and courage to spread the faith.  We also are called to evangelize in little or big ways by prayer and example, by word and deed.  May the Holy Spirit also set us on fire, give us His gifts, and renew the graces of the sacrament of Confirmation.  We are called to be witnesses to the faith by our lives in the faith.   DON’T JUST KEEP THE FAITH; SPREAD IT.


See Blog #84 Meditations For the Rosary IV: The Glorious Mysteries

Thursday, May 23, 2019

(226) Graduating From the Ohio State University


       This past Sunday the Ohio State University awarded close to 12,000 degrees.  It took over an hour for all of the graduates to process into the stadium and take their seats in the end zone (see  The opposite end zone was empty.  Some 58,000 parents and friends filled the rest of the immense stadium to the top.
The president of Ohio State University, Dr. Michael Drake announced the National Anthem and the singing of “Carmen Ohio”, the Alma Mater as seen on  The fact that Dr. Drake happens to be black is a testament to how far we have advanced in the area of racial equality since slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws.  True, we still have to make the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King come true.  There were several speakers, the main one being the CNN political commentator and Washington Post columnist, Dr. Fareed Zakaria who challenged the students to make a difference in their careers for better communities and thus a better world.

       The caps and gowns are sustainable and great for the environment, having been made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.  That indeed is a lot better than the islands of plastic containers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Credit Ohio State University and its retail outlet, Barn & Noble for finding the right vendor to make it.

A typical graduation day at the Ohio State University, looking at the back of the stage.  In front are the tables for distributing diploma.  The 12,000 graduates of Spring 2019 sat in the far end zone seats.
       It took another hour and more to hand out all 12,000 diplomas from numerous tables.  No names were announced except for those receiving the PhD degree.  The graduates hailed from Ohio mainly, but also from all over the United States and the world, including such countries as Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Israel, Somalia, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and a great number from China, among others.

Parents and family come from all over the world to be there for the big day of
their sons and daughters.
         This shows that one of America’s major exports is education which is contributing significantly to our balance of payments and the economic development of the world.  May American students befriend them and thus broaden their education by learning about foreign cultures.  May the international students see the good and the greatness in America, thus being forces for peace and ambassadors for friendly relations with the United States.  God forbid that they ever use their newly found knowledge against us.  That can indeed happen and has in the past when we ignore international students and are not hospitable.

       Although Ohio State University is very secular, it does have a person in charge of chaplaincy.  However, her prayer was very politically correct, ostensibly not to “offend” anyone.  Nevertheless, it did offend at least some believers as Dr. Anselam Newberry invoked “the spirit of light and life according to your belief”.  Why not use “the supreme being” or simply “God”?  Have we as a nation gone crazy over political correctness?  True, that’s better than no invocation at all.

Sunday Mass at the St. Thomas More Newman Center, the Catholic Parish for the Ohio State University Community.

       The St. Thomas More Newman Center, the Roman Catholic Campus Ministry for The Ohio State University had a beautiful Saturday night baccalaureate Mass on the eve of graduation as the Catholic students in cap and gown sat with their parents.  I never saw this done before on any secular campus.  However, I wish that the Newman staff would put more substance into the baccalaureate Mass…..perhaps with a procession and homily to energize the students to be aware of their responsibilities as Catholic laymen in a secular society and in the Church in great need of renewal.

Independent of Ohio State, it is the university parish that attends to the spiritual needs of students, faculty, and staff as well as and their families.  The staff of four Paulist Fathers and a dozen laymen provide a Catholic presence and an excellent program for Catholic students with Sunday after Mass breakfasts and evening suppers, classes, two retreats per year, Eucharistic Adoration, a prayer group, Bible studies, daily Mass, picnics, etc.  We are grateful for what they have done for our son.

In collaboration with the St. Paul’s Outreach, which our son Joseph belonged to and lived in community with, 300 students participate in small group Bible study throughout the academic year.  Joseph was the leader of one of the groups.  Student evangelists of St. Paul’s Outreach recruit other students of diverse backgrounds to dine at one of their eight houses for community living and participate in Bible studies.  The houses are like sororities and fraternities, where students live, pray, and do things together……all part of their daily spiritual formation.

Members of the parish community participate in a food for the homeless ministry, a soup kitchen for the poor, and Habitat for Humanity.  It also has a young Catholic professionals group for faith, service, and fellowship.  It even has a local counterpart to the internationally known Catholic Relief Services (CRS) that engages students and the wider community in tangible acts of solidarity to build a more just and peaceful world. CRS meets bi-monthly on Monday evenings at 7 p.m.

Students also have the opportunity to train and develop as leaders.  ESTEEM (Engaging Students to Enliven the Ecclesial Mission) is a national leadership program in the Church. ESTEEM leaders provide leadership in the community, go on retreats, have bi-weekly formation nights, attend a national conference, and are paired up with a community mentor.

The student organization (a Newman Club) is called Buckeye Catholics, or BCAT, for short.  BCAT meets on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at the Newman Center where there are speakers, live praise & worship music, and fellowship!  There will be opportunities for students to socialize and build life-giving community throughout each semester.  There are other opportunities as well for students to socialize and build life-giving community throughout each semester.

    Despite such an ample program, Fr. Ed Nowak, the director, says “only about 10% of OSU Catholic students take advantage of it.  True, some go to surrounding Catholic churches”, especially if they commute.  When students become active in the St. Thomas More Newman Center, they no longer are a number, one among thousands of other students.  On the contrary, they become part of a university parish community with opportunities to blossom socially and spiritually. See and a video at

Our son, Joseph Sebastian is flanked by his parents Paul and Jaga.  Big sister Naomi is on the right.  Joseph is wearing the scarlet and white sash, given to those who graduated with honor…….his was Magna Cum Laude.  Do you notice anything different about Joseph’s tassel?  Not having one, he improvised a tassel out of dental floss and dyed it with hot sauce.  His cap and gown is a hand-me-down from his big brother, John-Paul.
        Within that tremendous diversity in the Class of 2019 were three graduates that are from Appalachian Gallia County in southeastern Ohio where we live.  They include Varun Sharma of Gallia Academy who graduated in Architecture.  Joseph Sebastian of Gallia Academy and the University of Rio Grande graduated Magna Cum Laude (.03 short of summa) in Computer Science and Engineering.  They both were teammates on the Tennis team at Gallia Academy High School.

       After being a varsity gymnast for four years in the Vault and Floor Routine, Janelle McClelland of River Valley graduated (Cum Laude) in Speech and Hearing.  After teaching gymnastics this summer, she will study Speech Pathology in a master degree program at the University of Cincinnati.

    Our thanks to Stanley Harrison for sponsoring scholarships to residents of Gallia and Jackson Counties who study Engineering at the Ohio State University.  He grew up in Gallia County and now lives in Jackson County after a successful engineering career.  Numerous engineers today have a debt of gratitude to his generosity.  May they in turn give something back to other needy students who are now working their way through college.   

Thursday, May 9, 2019

(225) Sr. Maria Colabella: From Papal Volunteer to Maryknoll Missionary..........An Instrument of God That Communicated His Love on Three Continents


Sister Maria Colabella - a life serving God, His Church, and His people.

       Today, May 9 is Sr. Maria Colabella’s birthday.  I couldn’t find a better way to celebrate my friend’s birthday and her life than to reflect, research, and write this article to share with you.  She is a great model for women.  Sr. Maria would have been 79 years old, but went to the Lord on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.  She could not have chosen a better day to die.  Before joining the Maryknoll Sisters, Maria was a lay missionary on two continents, first in Nigeria, training nurses, and later in Peru.  
       Maria Colabella has been my sister Papal Volunteer since 1968.  Once one becomes a Papal Volunteer (PAVLA, a lay missionary group), there remains a fraternal bond among us for the rest of our lives.  After our time as lay missioners, a certain missionary spirit also remains, whether we later follow the religious or the lay life, be it as a single person or raising a family while following a career in serving God and His people.  Maria chose a permanent commitment as a religious and entered the Maryknoll Sisters congregation in 1978 at the age of 38.  For a series on the Papal Volunteers for Latin America see blogs #61-65 of this same blog at
        At the Universidad Católica de Santa María in Arequipa, Perú Fr. William Morris, an American Marianist priest and the founder in 1962 despite leftist resistance, was still Rector before all American volunteers and religious were evicted in 1974 after a takeover by leftist students and professors.  Maria taught in the Nursing School (1968-1972) and I taught Chemistry to future Science teachers along with Economic Development and Marketing to the business students.  Once I got a deep cut in the lab.  Maria was in the next building and fixed me up; I was ready to go.

         Maria’s boss was Sister Cristóforos, a German nun who started the Nursing program.  She was really a go-getter, persuading the West German Government to finance the construction of the three story 15 room Nursing School and equipping it.  Sr. Cristóforos is the type who can go into an appliance store and come out with a donated refrigerator.  She ruled with a quiet but iron hand, putting out great nurses. We joking called the nursing school the “4th Reich”.  It was a joy teaching Nursing Statistics to a great group of nursing students.  One of them became a Maryknoll nun who is still active.

Maria’s personality can be best described by the virtue of kindness.  She was fun to be with and had a great sense of humor.  Sr. Maria loved people and communicated in good Spanish with a Brooklyn accent.  Her colleague on the Nursing Faculty, Virginia Mieghen Wessing spoke Spanish with a thick Boston accent.  She could have lived in a modest room in the middle class neighborhood near the University, but chose to live in a pueblo joven with the poor and commute to the University on two crowded buses.  Her social life was with her neighbors and occasional get-togethers with the American religious and Papal Volunteers.

       I left Peru in 1980 after my father’s death to teach at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and be closer to my widowed mother and ailing brother.  I went into Academia and Maria continued her work with the poor in medical and pastoral ministry, such as ecclesial communities while a Maryknoll missionary in Peru, Nicaragua, and in the vicinity of New York City doing home care when health problems brought her home.  See for details of her biography and a video.
      Even as a Papal Volunteer in Peru, Maria had a heart problem with the Mitral Valve.  As a Maryknoll Sister, she had at least three open heart surgeries.  Her faith and courage in confronting all of this was beautiful, offering it all up to the Lord as a prayer for the missions.  We had Sr. Maria on our prayer list at St. Louis Church in Gallipolis, Ohio.  She would not let a heart problem stop her from serving God and the poor in medical and pastoral ministry in Latin America, later home care and family health programs with the Dominican Sisters in the USA.

Papal Volunteer Maria Colabella and her ability to communicate Christian love which was so much a part of her. 
       On her deathbed Sr. Maria  made the effort to call and inform me that a colleague of ours in Peru, Sr. Catherine Schulyer or Sr. John Emanuel, a sister of St. Joseph, died at the age of 107.  May they both have a happy reunion at the feet of the Lord.  Let us pray for the repose of their souls.  Sr. Catherine was another character.  She taught literature with a great missionary spirit and enthusiasm……to teach Christian values.  She begged and borrowed gems of literature from the United States Information Service and went to the kid’s house if the student did not return the book.  We shared a shed on campus……half for my Chemistry lab and half for her English Lab.  We both taught in Spanish in a loud voice with enthusiasm.  Once my big mouth was a little too much for her and she then shouted in jest across the wall in English:  “Shut up, Paul”.  Because she was so unique and demanding, some students nicknamed her Juana la Loca and me as Zapatón because of my big feet.  Other great St Joseph nuns out of Albany, NY who worked with us include Sr. Mary Joseph who taught in the Nursing School as well as Sr. Estair, Sr. Dolores, Sr. Amelia, and Sr. Loyola, a cadre who taught English.
Over the years we kept in contact.  In 2011 Sr. Maria was working in home care programs in New Rochelle, NY.  My wife Jaga, daughter Stephanie, and son Joseph came for the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Fr. Joseph Kowalczyk, a Maryknoll priest who worked with us at the Universidad Católica as a Physics and Religion professor.  He’s a former electrical engineer for GE and had a ham radio station in Peru.  Besides helping out at the local Maryknoll Parish, El Pilar, he ran a House of Formation for seminarians.

   We stayed at a motel a half hour away since Maryknoll was also celebrating the 100th Anniversary of its founding (See  After informing Sr. Maria where we were, she visited and quickly told us that this cheap motel we found on-line is a dump, so to speak.  She got us out of there and the next night we found a great motel (50% off) for the same price.  

At Maryknoll Maria treated us like royalty with such warm hospitality; we had a marvelous time; what a great reunion!  Sr. Maria had the nuns invite us for dinner and it was such a joy meeting several nuns that I knew in Peru, including Sr. Elizabeth Roach, a former student of mine.  Sr. Elizabeth, 91 and supposedly retired, was director of the library and still writes children’s books about the missions......great for fostering mission awareness. She also makes author visits all over the world with classes to teachers and children over Skype.  Go to and search for Elizabeth V Roach.

It was also a great joy to meet a number of retired Maryknoll priests and nuns at the two center houses.  They are old, but still spry……unable to go back into the missions, but still able to live a life of prayer for the missions as St. Theresa, the Little Flower did from her convent.  We and the entire Church owe them a great debt of gratitude for 50, 60, 70 years serving God, His Church and His people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  Sr. Paulita Hoffman served for 85 years.  Maryknoll does a wonderful job in taking care of its veteran missionaries unable to continue abroad.  

      Thank you my Sister Maria for all that you have done.  Please pray that we have another joyful reunion in eternity.  A Dios y con Dios (to God and with God), Maria until we meet again.     


Our Sister Maria Colabella went home to God
today, March 19, 2019 at 11:53 a.m.
at The Maryknoll Sisters Center.
She was born on May 9, 1940
in Brooklyn, New York,
and entered Maryknoll on September 2, 1978.

We rejoice with our Sister Maria
in the new life she now enjoys.
She now knows, with all the saints,
what is the breadth and length and height
and depth of God’s Love that surpasses all knowledge.

January 28, 2014

Sr. Maria is a former Papal Vounteer who taught in the Nursing School of the Universidad Catolica de Santa  Maria in Arequipa and lived in a slum with the people. She will be undergoing open heart surgery.  Please pray for a successful operation.  She's described on and in the Blog #65 of  This is at least her third open heart surgery.  She's a joyful warm warrior for the Lord.  Thanks and God bless.

 ---- Forwarded Message -----
From: Greetings <>        
 Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2014 8:13 PM                                  
 Subject: Greetings

Dear Paul and Jaga,

Loving greetings to you and all in your lovely family.

It was so good to hear from you at Christmas, and catch up on all your news.
I send very belated Christmas and New Year's greetings now, apologizing for being so late.:-(
Hope this finds you all well........

Besides sending you this greeting, I write to request your prayers at this time.  On Monday, February 3rd, I will be undergoing another open heart surgery ---this time to replace my Mitral valve.  (In 2005, it was repaired).
Knowing that you and other dear family and friends are praying for me, and the Medical team, means a lot.
Thanks so much......

I think of you often, and the time you were at Maryknoll.  It was great. 
Hopefully, my new mitral valve will also get to meet you soon...................:-)
Much love abrazitos

Sister Maria Colabella
"For me one of the greatest joys of this ministry is the opportunity to work and share with people of many different cultures and races. As a missioner who has been so graciously received in other cultures, I now welcome the opportunity to be a welcoming presence to people from other lands."
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Maria Colabella began three years of nursing studies at Long Island Hospital School of Nursing; obtained her B.S. in Nursing from St. John’s University; was Head Nurse and Instructor at Long Island College Hospital for six years, and served as a Public Health Nurse for the Visiting Nurse Association.

She worked with the Catholic Mission Board in Ado Ekiti Nigeria and joined the Papal Volunteers, teaching Nursing at Universidad Santa Maria in Arequipa, Peru. In association with the Dominican Sisters from Columbus, OH, she worked in Chimbote, Peru.  It was in Peru that she met Maryknoll Sisters and realized she wanted to make a life-long commitment to serve the poor in religious life.

Entering Maryknoll in 1978, Sister Maria was assigned to work in Ocotal, Nicaragua where she spent five years as a nurse in government health programs. She was involved in formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities and home visiting of the sick. Upon her return from Nicaragua she completed her studies at Maryknoll School of Theology, receiving an MA in theology.

After another year in Lima, Peru again in medical and pastoral ministries, Sister Maria has found mission in her own backyard. As a member of the Maryknoll Sisters Eastern U.S. Region, she worked in a home care program in Brooklyn for eight years, meeting people from all over the world, both homebound patients and their attendants. In the Bronx she worked at Siena House, a shelter for homeless young families. Presently she lives in New Rochelle, NY and works with the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services, Ossining, visiting patients from Latin America in their homes who are in need of maternal and child care. In 2009 she received Recognition for ten years of Nursing Service with Dominican Sisters Family Health Services.