Category Archives: Stigmatine Laity


Stigmatines – St. Joseph’s Hall
554 Lexington Street
Waltham MA 02452

Monday – August 31, 2015

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

Let us begin again with a note from St. Gaspar Bertoni’s personal spiritual diary, dated September 15, 1808 – which subsequently would have a great impact on the later development of the Stigmatine Community:

15th SEPTEMBER 1808

[41.]  Introduction to the Spiritual Exercises.  While visiting the altar of St Ignatius with my companions I felt much devotion and recollection with great inner cheerfulness and some tears – even though the visit was short.  I had the feeling that the Saint was welcoming us and inviting us to work for the greater glory of God as he did. To work in the same ways: though not using all those means that he was able to use. He seemed to tell us: “Onward, soldiers of Christ! Gird yourselves with fortitude! Pick up the shield of faith, the helmet of Salvation, the sword of the divine Word and fight against the ‘ancient serpent’. Make my spirit alive again in you and in others through you”.

[Now, a Brief Commentary by the late Stigmatine historian, Fr. Joseph Stofella, CSS]:

It was at the time of the annual Spiritual Exercises of the Clergy and the Candidates for Ordination, on the autumn Ember Saturday, which that year fell on 24 September. The Exercises began on Thursday evening, the 15th. The collegial visit to the altar of St Ignatius in the church of the Jesuits showed that for those ecclesiastics Saint Ignatius remained always the “Master”.

We do not know what the others had experienced during that “short visit”. Surely, in the life of Fr Bertoni, this was a landmark event! If it is true that the creature is called to pursue the glory of God and that the zeal for the glory of God must follow the plans which Divine Providence established for the destinies of the Elect, that day must have appeared to Fr Bertoni as the day of his effective insertion into those divine plans. As a matter of fact, the Lord assisted the experience by such a gift of Prayer, accompanied by some tears and with much cheerfulness, that to the humble priest it should have felt as really extraordinary. The fact also that he wrote this accurate note shows that he intended to remain grateful for it. He wanted to stimulate himself to correspond to it adequately. We should read again this note, therefore, with the same respectful devotion with which it was written.

The words attributed to St Ignatius reflect the text of Eph 6,13-17 with a reference to Rev 12,9 with that ancient Serpent which was cast down from heaven and leads the whole world astray. The spirit behind all this is the Ignatian “zeal for the greater glory of God”.

For those of you who can be present, we are planning our regular meeting of the Stigmatine Laity, at St. Joseph’s Hall with the 9:00 a.m. Mass. Then, there will be a coffee break – and at; 9:45, I will make a few brief announcements regarding the future of this format for the Stigmatine Laity. From 10:00-11:00 Page Vandewater and John Marzilli will have the hour to discuss their experiences at the International Stigmatine Laity meeting which they attended in Brazil.

One possible format for these meetings [as it is so difficult to travel in the winter so we can have no meetings from December until Easter] would be for me to send out each month by e-mail a reflection from the writings of St. Gaspar Bertoni.

Please pray for us all – our Very Rev. Fr. General [Maurizio Baldessari, CSS] with his Council will be coming for our Province General Meeting, September 17-18th – and then for the Council of Superiors that will conduct their annual meeting here from September 21-25th.

God bless you all – looking forward to your coming, if you can, on Saturday, September 12th, the commemoration of the Most Holy Name of Mary – with Mass beginning at 9:00 a.m. Hope you can come!

Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director

2015 International Conferences of the Stigmatine Laity in Brazil

This 2nd International Meeting of the Stigmatine Laity will take place at the Retreat and Conference Center of the Province of the Holy Spouses (“Santana Farm”) in Corumbataí, SP, Brazil, from August 24 to 31, 2015.

The Province of the Holy Spouses will be represented by:

Page Vandewater
Ruthie  George-Vandewater
John Marzilli

Follow the invitation letter and the documents prepared for this event:

  • History of the Stigmatine Laity in the Province of the Holy Spouses

History of the Stigmatine Laity in the Province of the Holy Spouses – a slideshow to be presented by Mrs. Page Vandewater

History of the Stigmatine Laity in the USA


Storia del Laici Stimmatini negli Stati Uniti 

História dos Leigos Estigmatinos na Província Santos Esposos, nos EUA

  • American Culture

American Culture (English) – a slideshow to be presented by John Marzilli


Cultura Americana (Italiano)

Cultura Americana (Português)

May St. Gaspar Bertoni bless all the participants for a fruitful meeting and a great time together!

Tereza Lopes


Stigmatines – St. Joseph’s Hall
554 Lexington Street
Waltham MA 02452

Pentecost – May 24, 2015

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

Let us begin with a note from St. Gaspar Bertoni’s personal spiritual diary:

For the examination of conscience, one should choose a Saint of the same vocation as a mirror. In this way, one finds matter for confession every day. Whatever falls short of that Saint’s perfection is faulty. [An excerpt from his spiritual diary, July 30, 1808]

Fr. Gaspar Bertoni founded the Stigmatines almost 200 years ago – at a time when the Jesuits had been suppressed. St. Gaspar made of us a small ‘copy’ of the Society – and a number of the early men had asked the Bishop if they could leave the Diocese and join the re-established Jesuits – and, of course, the Bishop said ‘no’, to meet plus VII’s appeal for Church renewal. St. Gaspar thought he could fill this void in Verona, with diocesan priests who might apply.

The Stigmatine Congregation owes its numerical strength and spiritual prosperity to this young priest who, in an era that spawned more dictators and persecutors than even today, braved intolerance and opposition and started a movement to reclaim the souls of the youth of this city – work for vocations – and contribute to the reformation of the Diocesan Seminary.

Gaspar Louis Dennis Bertoni, born in Verona, Italy, on October 9th, 1777, entered its Seminary at the age of 18. Ordained in September 1800, not quite 23 years of age, he was assigned to one of the city’s larger parishes where he witnessed a society ravaged by the French Revolution and Napoleon’s takeover of Verona. The suffering and neglect – including the dissolution of schools and suppression of religious orders – caused him deep concern, and he decided to combat the evils of his time.

Fr. Bertoni organized his priest and brother associates into a society dedicated to assisting Bishops in any field of the Word of God whatsoever, but particularly in sharing God’s Word [Euntes Docete – Mt 28] – through caring for the education of youth, retreats and parish missions, and developing religious and priestly vocations. On November 4, 1816 – secretly, and without the use of a particular habit – the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of our Lord Jesus Christ, knows as the “Stigmatines”, came into being. The name, representing the Five Wounds of Christ, was chosen to reflect their willingness to undertake any work, no matter how difficult, for the salvation of souls.

Within two years of Gaspar Bertoni’s death [† June 12, 1853], the small community he had founded was given its initial approval by the Holy See – and in 1856 was formally erected as a Religious Congregation.

In the early 20th Century, the Stigmatines answered the call for priests and religious to serve the Italians who had sought a new life in the Americas, uniquely through offering local parochial assistance. In 1905, they followed the emigrants to the United States – and in 1910 to South America [Brazil]. At the request of the Holy See, some eventually undertook the special vocation of spreading the faith in the Far East of China.
From the humble beginning of two priests and one Brother, the Stigmatine Fathers and Brothers have spread significantly in their Apostolic Mission – Italy, United States, Canada, England, Germany, Brazil, Chile, the Ivory Coast, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand – conducting missions and retreats, teaching in schools, colleges and seminaries, promoting religious and priestly vocations.

Fr. Bertoni was beatified by Pope Paul VIth, at St. Peter’s in Rome, on November 1, 1975 [a Holy Year] – and exactly 14 years later, Fr. Bertoni was canonized by Pope John Paul II – and now, may rightfully be called “Saint Gaspar Bertoni”.

While not perfect, this spirit of his was entrusted to his Stigmatine community – we have received another life-long challenge, also from the Spiritual Diary. We still pray that God’s good work which has only begun in us will be completed in His Mercy! [cf. Ph 1:6]

We must make in ourselves a portrait of Jesus Christ… [Feb. 26, 1809]

A Stigmatine Calendar was compiled between 1966 – 1967 – under the direction of the late Fr. Gino Benaglia, CSS, based on St. Gaspar’s writings and spirit and our early history.

The parameters are 1777 – 1911, with the election of the first Fr. General in the 20th century, Very Rev. John B. Tomasi, CSS – whom I had the privilege to know during my student years in Rome [1952 – 1956]. I assisted at his last Holy Mass, which he was celebrating on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, 1953, right after Christmas. In prayer, I was present the night if his death, in early January 1954.

As will be evident to Stigmatines, the source material has been the Founder’s own Spiritual Diary – his Letters – and the early Chronicles of the Stigmatine Community – Fr. Lenotti’s 18-year Chronicle deserves a special mention.

In all my community studies, one fact above all has touched my heart: the Stigmatine Community has only experienced the Sacred Stigmata in its nearly 200 year history: the “Sorrowful” Good Friday aspect, ion the enormous sufferings the Community has endured – the many pre-mature losses of dear and competent men – and the failures of some apostolic resurrection, and the extraordinary commitment to the Apostolic Mission, living out in practice the words of Jesus on Easter night, when He manifested His Sacred Stigmata in the Cenacle room with this Apostolic Mandate: As the Father has sent me, I now send you! [cf. Jn 20:19, ff.]

Please come and join us for his Feast Day Mass on June 12, 2015 [Mass at 4:15 p.m., followed by Dinner] the 162nd anniversary of his death. This year it is also the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.

Rev. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


Stigmatines – St. Joseph’s Hall
554 Lexington Street
Waltham MA 02452

April 19, 2015
3rd Sunday of Easter

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

As we are still in the “after-glow” of our celebration of the Stigmatine Titular Feast, honoring the glorious Stigmata of the Lord – and since it is rather late in the month, there will be no May meeting. Our next possible gathering may be like the one this past Friday, with an afternoon Mass at 4:15 – followed then by super. This is not definite yet, so further information will be forthcoming during the month of May.

In our faith, the Sacred Stigmata – or the Five Wounds that our Lord suffered on Calvary – are celebrated in their ”sorrowful” dimension, culminating in the thrust of the Roman soldier’s spear into the side of the dead Christ. In this commemoration, the usual reflection is on our copious redemption.

With the Gospel of Mercy Sunday, the Stigmatines celebrate the festival of their title on the Friday following, emphasizing the Apostolic Mission of the Risen Christ, as recorded in John: As the Father sent Me, I now send you…!

In the light of this, the Stigmatines celebrate the ‘integral’ Stigmata – one and the same set of wounds as found on the dying and dead body of Christ – as well as then being retained in the Risen Body of Christ: Luke mentions Jesus showing His hands and His feet – while John alone presents the hands and the sacred side of Christ.

In the life of St Gaspar Bertoni, there are many historical sources” for this understanding of Jesus Christ in the Stigmatine charism. One would be the small Church in Verona dedicated to the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi where the Stigmatines were founded on November 4, 1816 – also the fact that St. Gaspar Himself preached on the “Grades of the Passion’, an old-time weekly devotion, emphasizing the wounds in Christ’s body. Furthermore, the Saintly Stigmatine Founder suffered all through his life with poor health – requiring, according to the medicine of the time, repeated lancing of infections in his legs. This inspiration behind all this was the lived hope: By His wounds, ours are healed…!

Please pray for our Stigmatine confrere, a Brazilian Bishop, + Antonio Alberto Guimarães Rezende, CSS, at the age of 89. May he rest in peace! Let us continue to pray for each other and for all the Church needs. [On Friday, June 12th of this year, St. Gaspar Bertoni and the Stigmatines will be featured in the Boston PILOT section on Religious Life.

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


Stigmatines – St. Joseph Hall
554 Lexington Street
Waltham MA 02452-3097

Palm Sunday
March 29, 2015

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

Many blessings for a new spring-time and a blessed Easter.  As we ponder  the mind and heart of St. Gaspar Bertoni,  let us ponder his Parish Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter over 2 centuries ago [in those days called “Low” Sunday, April 5, 1807] – on “The Spiritual Life”:

 1305:       Having thus proposed the future resurrection, St. Paul requires another resurrection of us, a new institution in the present life, for the changing of our ways. When, in fact, … when an avaricious person becomes merciful, or a wrathful individual becomes meek, there takes place in these instances a resurrection which is the principle of the future… The former way of life is canceled, and the new and angelic way flourishes anew. Thus, we can say with St. ANSELM [1]: intemperance has died in such a person, and sobriety has risen up; …. On hearing “new life”, let each one seek out in himself much diversity, and great changes….

1312:       To cite still another example, CORNELIUS a LAPIDE  [2] relates the story of the Holy Count, Eleazar, immobile in his mountainous solitude, lived there a celibate life with his virgin wife, Delphina. She sent him letters to find out how he was getting along.  He responded: I am healthy of body and safe. If you wish to see me, look for me in the wound of the side of Christ. For it is there that I dwell, and here it will be easy to find me. You will search in vain in any other place.

      Do you see, my hearers, the just idea of a person risen with Christ? Could such a person even yearn for the lowly realities of this life? Could such a one seek for anything else in this life, other than the supernatural and heavenly goods, among which he will live eternally?

1313:       But, precisely this life of glory, in the hope of which we now glory, is much less known and seen by the world. Similarly, there is not seen the glorious life to which Christ has risen, and of which He lives in God, that is, near His Father. This is why St. Paul states [Col 3:3, ff.] that our life is hidden with Christ in God: …When Christ shall appear, who is your life [i.e., the cause of your life], then you shall also appear with Him in glory… [v. 4].    This is just like the pearl, says St. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, [3] whose end is hidden as it is in its shell.

1314:       Even more fitting is the example that St. AUGUSTINE [4] uses to explain this passage, that later St. ANSELM [100] would copy. In the bitter winter, even the green tree seems dry to the sight. As the summer approaches, the living root once again is  vested with fruit. This is our life, that is much like that winter, when the sun is further away from us and concealed behind the clouds. This sun for us is Christ.

1315:       We are much like the plants, dry on the outside, and without foliage, without honor, and without the appearance, or the luster of beauty. However, within we have living roots: charity, planted in God, as in a vital, stable, and living earth. The summer will appear, as the glory of Christ comes. And the plants will be seen to come to life again, rising up, and once more give their fruits and vital foliage. There will be the glorious traits of beatitude, both in the spirit as well as in the flesh. Come on now, exclaims  St. AUGUSTINE [104], come now, most sweet Jesus, that this pact with You be a firm one for me: that I might die totally to myself so that You alone might dwell within me. Within, totally in recollection, I will keep silence, so that You alone might speak in me. I will be totally at repose, so that You alone might work in me. The Apostle cries out: … And I live now, not I; but Christ lives in me… [Ga 2:20].

1316:       And in another place: … But our conversation is in heaven… [Ph 3:20].  And: … But you are not in the flesh.. [Rm 8:9].  And again: … having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ … [Ph 1:23].   These are some of the sublime affections of a person dead to sin, one who no longer has a taste for the things of this earth. These are the sublime feelings of a spirit living hidden together with Christ in God. Such a person seeks only the superior realities, those that are of heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God [Col 3:1]. These are the sweet transports of a heart ravished by the sweet joy of these holy thoughts….

1322:      … To heaven, to eternal life, to heaven, you have been called. You are already well along your way, and moving along with giant steps. Follow through to the goal, to your heavenly home. You have been enrolled by God for an eternity to be the citizens of heaven, domestics, heirs of God. Upward, then, with all vigor, with all your strength, hurry onward, hasten your steps. The saints await you, already sure as they are of their happiness and solicitous also for yours. Christ awaits you, and has already prepared a place for you – rather, a throne. Why do you hesitate, why to look anymore to earth, to heaven, to heaven!  If you have risen with Christ…

+ + +

             Let us continue to pray for the Church, the Stigmatines and all trying to build a spiritual life in the hope-filled faith that if we have indeed risen with Christ, let our thoughts be above! As we pray in every celebration of the Eucharist: Lift up your hearts!

For those of you who can come, please join us for the Mass in honor of the Stigmata, April 17th at 4:30 – with supper following. We will be in touch regarding subsequent meetings.

Sincerely yours in the Healing Wounds of Christ,

Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director


[1] Cited by Cornelius a Lapide, Col 3:3.
[2] Col 3:3.
[3] In Epist. Ad Col.  Hom 7, 2 [t. 11, p. 227/2 D].
[4] cf. De Script. Vet. et Nov., Test., Serm. 36, 4. [t. 5/1, pp. 176 G, ff.].


Stigmatines – St. Joseph’s Hall
554 Lexington Street
Waltham MA 02452-3097

 February 18, 2015

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

A blessed Lent to you all! Due to our severe winter, we really have not had much contact since our gathering [for those who could make it!] for the Mass and supper on the 199th anniversary of the foundation of the Stigmatines, November 4th [1816 – next year is the second centenary].

In this period as well, two members of our Province died, known to most of you: Fr. Henry J. Linse, CSS – who died at the age of 95 [pre-deceased by his brother, Fr. George Linse, CSS, who died also in January over 2 decades ago] –and Fr. Joseph Connolly, CSS – who died three weeks later, February 6th, 2015, at the age of 84. Please pray for them and for those who mourn them.

It has been decided that we will not have a March meeting –hoping that much of this snow will melt [!]. This means our next gathering will be for Mass and supper on the Feast of the Stigmata, which is celebrated on the Friday following Mercy Sunday. So, the Feast of the Stigmata will be celebrated this year on April 17th – and as the festivity approaches, you will be informed by letter inviting you, regarding the time of Mass and supper.

As we endure here in New England the rigors of one of our most severe winters on record, we might do well to ponder the life of our saintly Founder, Fr. Gaspar Bertoni. So much of his life, he spent as an invalid, confined to his room – and mostly to his armchair and bed. Perhaps with the many spiritual masters who see that holiness is much associated with deadening routine, and involuntary limitation to free movement, due to age and illness with which none of us is totally unfamiliar! If this is our own present personal lot, let us associate ourselves to that wonderful idea of St. Paul that we are being invited [as was St. Gaspar!] to make of our lives an oblation to the Mercy of God [cf. Rm 12:1] – and with St. Peter who invites us all to join our sacrifices to that one sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

A blessed Lent to you all – let us pray for each other, and the Stigmatines’ Apostolic Mission in the Church, and also our own! God bless you all – hope to see you on April 17th for the Feast of the Sacred Stigmata.

Very sincerely yours,

 Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director

Letter to the Stigmatine Laity – in preparation for our meeting on Saturday, Dec. 6th, 2014

Stigmatines – St. Joseph’s Hall
554 Lexington Street
Waltham MA 02452-3097

November 24, 2014
Vietnamese Martyrs

Dear Stigmatine Lay Member,

                            On the first Saturday morning of December –i.e., December 6th – we have scheduled our regular monthly meeting.  The plan for the morning will be as follows:

9:00                 Celebration of Mass
9:40                 Coffee Break
10:00              Conference [Please try to be punctual – this time has to end at 10:40]
10:40              Discussion and end of the formal meeting
11:00             The Sacrament of Reconciliation is
available for those who request it.

As last month, we did not cover much ground – so, again, this we will try to show the Old Testament Exodus Covenant Formula in response to God’s: Thy Will be done!  Jesus coined this expression, and a variation of it appears in Mary’s response to the Angel: Let it be done to me according to Your word!

In the long history of the Catholic Church, among the saints and charisms of religious communities, this formula was adapted to changing circumstances. St. Ignatius of Loyola [Spiritual Exercises, n. 234] prayed: receive, o Lord, all my liberty… (Suscipe).  St. Charles de Foucauld was inspired to offer a Prayer of Abandonment, with his invocation beginning and ending with his addressing God, the Merciful Father.

As we have seen, the Stigmatine Founder had his own interpretation and expressions of Holy Abandonment:  in what is perhaps a deMontfort inspiration of his prayer to Mary: Buon Giorno, Madre mia!!!! – St. Gaspar Bertoni used a very familiar form of address to Mary in the light of the Immaculate Conception, that would be defined on December 8, 1854, 18 months after his death [+ June 12, 1853] upon which our reflections this year are based.  In the course of this year, we are pondering in prayer different expressions of St. Gaspar’s life of abandonment – suffering all his life for poor health, and initiatives that did not always succeed. In his darkest hour, when many men left him – in the 1840’s – always bed-ridden, he wrote his Constitutions for the Stigmatine way of life.

As we prepare for a New Advent, and for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we pray to her as the Spouse of Joseph, in the mystery of their Holy Espousals. With St. Gaspar, we thrust our cares on the Merciful Lord:

…  Please offer to God all I have to do and suffer today, in union with your merits, as well as those of your Blessed Son. I offer you and consecrate to your service all my being and whatever belongs to me, placing everything under your protection.

And may God bless you all! I hope to see you on Saturday, December 6th here at St. Joseph’s Hall.

Sincerely in the Healing Wounds of the Merciful Lord,

 Fr. Joseph Henchey, CSS
Acting Spiritual Director