This week, in what is normally the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” that follows the news review, I’ve prepared a Special on the Seven Sorrows of Mary as a prelude to Holy Week. Perhaps we rarely think of the Seven Sorrows of Mary but there are many times during the year when reflections on those sorrows can be useful and inspiring. In fact, the final four of those 7 sorrows are all related to Christ’s passion and death, so in this Lenten season, as a lead-up to the Passion, let’s take a look.

Maybe I should first ask: Can you name the seven sorrows of Mary? Did you know that Our Lady revealed seven promises to St. Bridget of Sweden in the 14th century for those who recite seven Hail Marys daily while reflecting on her tears and sorrows?

The promises are truly amazing!

I hope this adds a special touch to your Lenten weekend!

The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin; Simon Bening (Flemish, about 1483 – 1561); about 1525–1530; Tempera colors, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment; Leaf: 16.8 × 11.4 cm (6 5/8 × 4 1/2 in.); Ms. Ludwig IX 19 (83.ML.115), fol. 251v; No Copyright – United States (  Ad Imaginem Dei: Our Lady of Sorrows, The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.



I was totally delighted to see the story about Conrad Hilton because I’ve known for years what great work the Foundation does. I’ve been aware since childhood of the meaning of philanthropy because of the good works done by my grandfather William and also by his brother Frank in the Frank J. Lewis Foundation. Over the years, especially in my late teens and 20s, I participated in philanthropic events and. on several occasions, I remember meeting Conrad Hilton. His name stood out among those whom I met simply because he was famous for his hotels.

Fast forward a few decades and his name surfaced again in my life when, as a board member of the Healey International Relief Foundation, I saw how the Conrad Hilton Foundation has helped us with the nuns we help in Sierra Leone, the country that is the main beneficiary of Healey philanthropy.

So the next time you stay in a Hilton Hotel, you know where some of your money will go.


Conrad Hilton is not only known for the hotel chain that bears his name. Because of him, and the legacy he left on his death, thousands, if not millions, of people have been helped through the grants the Hilton Foundation provides to women religious the world over.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

On Monday and Tuesday, Vice President of Strategy and Programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Marc Holley, visited the Dicastery for Communication, along with Sr Jane Wakahiu, Associate Vice President, Program Operations and Head of Catholic Sisters Program.

Since 2012 alone, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has given over $281 million to over 750 congregations of women religious in over 160 countries.

In an interview with Vatican News, Mr Holley explained Conrad Hilton’s vision and specific ways the Conrad Hilton Foundation funds women religious and their ministries.

Conrad Hilton’s legacy

Marc explained that “Conrad Hilton was a very religious man and from his earliest days, he was very prayerful and he was affected by the contributions of the Catholic sisters. So, in his last will, he specified that the sisters were especially deserving of the foundation’s benefactions.”

Women religious akin to Conrad Hilton’s spirit

“The sisters have such a broad reach,” Marc continued when asked why the foundation continues to tap into women religious in order to promote the broader vision Conrad N. Hilton left. “They are the ones who accompany people living in conditions of disadvantage around the world. They walk alongside them, they comfort them. But not only that, they helped them build sustainable lives, they train them in job skills training, they help them to establish a way of earning for themselves. And that was consistent with Mr Hilton’s entrepreneurial spirit as well. So, I think the sisters bring together many aspects of what was important to Mr Hilton.”

Four investment areas

Marc explained that there are four different “strategy areas” that the Foundation invests in through women religious. The first area is the formal education and formation of sisters. “These investments are added with investments in sustainability of congregations and care for the elderly sisters,” Marc added.

The foundation also invests in those ministries performed by women religious directed to “children and families.” “A newer investment area,” Marc explained is “in stopping human trafficking and helping survivors to recover and build lives of prosperity.” Another strategy area “aims to elevate the voices of sisters as advocates for their communities.”

The final area Marc spoke about is in the area of “research and evaluation.” “When we know about the great contributions that sisters are making,” he said, “that information can be fed back into the programming that we do and into their work as well.”

Pentecost Project

The Dicastery for Communication is also a beneficiary of the Catholic Sisters Program of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The Dicastery has launched the Pentecost Project because of a grant the Dicastery has received. Women religious have been able to subscribe to L’Osservatore Romano free for one year, some sisters will receive on-site training in communication in the Dicastery offices in Rome, others will be able to attend online classes in communication, and the Dicastery’s #SistersProject features one article weekly in 10 languages describing the ministry women religious are engaged in.



The following was written by a very dear friend of mine who also corresponds with a group of people, many of whom are students, on all matters Catholic. Often he reposts marvelous, uplifting, educational stories written by others. His work is always beautifully researched and documented.

And just as often, he pens his own thoughts, as he did in this missive (the title is mine). When I first read this, I felt it should be published by a pastor somewhere in a church bulletin. I have permission to post this.


Many people get into a rut when they come to Mass… it’s more of a routine than a Holy encounter.

This Lent, try something new.  For example…

~  Get up ten minutes earlier… okay fifteen minutes.  Get to church early… and leave the socialization until after the Mass.

~   When you enter the church, dip your finger into the Holy water… then move up to the center of the aisle so you can see the entire church.   Look at the Crucifix, or the Tabernacle… take a deep breath.  Empty your mind of the material world… and of today’s plans and worries. Remind yourself that you are now entering into the realm of the Spiritual… into the “Eternal Now”… God’s world of Angels and Heavenly Saints.   Relax…

~ Find a quiet pew…  approach it and once again pause before you enter.   Gaze at

Christ upon the Crucifix… you are closer now and you can see His face more clearly.  Greet Him… give silent thanks that you are privileged to join Him in praising His Father.  Genuflect or bow… showing your humility before the Almighty.

~  Do not start chatting with those around you.  Drop to your knees and open your dialog with Christ.  Don’t rattle off a quick rote prayer.  Put your heart into your prayer… you are now into a conversation with your Savior… tell Him you are honored to be with Him…  to join Him in His Holy Sacrifice… to witness His Love and obedience of God the Father Almighty… the God of Abraham… Isaac… Jacob… Moses… David… and John the Baptist.  You are indeed privileged to be included.

~  Now pray… no, not for your wishes… pray for the needs of those who are suffering… spiritually or physically.  Pray, as requested by Our Lady at Fatima, for sinners… great and small.   Pray for our celebrant… and all who have donned the Consecrated Life.

And importantly, tell Christ how much you dearly love the Most Holy Trinity.   Thank them for being in your life this past week… and affording you the opportunity to serve others.

~  At the proper times during the Holy Mass…  “Lord have Mercy” and “Lamb of God”… pour your heart out… beg Christ for mercy on the souls of His faithful Children… and even more mercy for the people who are simply not trying.

~  Understand the Readings before you come to Mass and how are they related to one another… and to you and your family.   Listen to the Readings… don’t read along.

~  Be open to the Homily.  Get one, perhaps two, points to ponder this upcoming week.  How can you live what you have heard?

~  At the Sanctus… Holy, Holy, Holy… become aware of the mysterious Holy Spirit’s presence.   Through His remarkable power the gifts of bread and wine shall become the actual Body and Blood of our Lord.   We are back in the “Eternal Now”… back among the early disciples at The Last Supper… Jesus is speaking to you… to your heart and soul.  Look about you… His Blessed Mother is there… all the Apostles.  Then look up, all the Angels and Saints are in deep adoration. They are with you to… “Do this in memory of Me”.

(photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

~  At Communion… approach the Host knowing Christ is there waiting for you.  Welcoming you.  Loving to share Himself with you.  To give you the strength to go forward to share and serve others in the Glory of His Father.  “In Him… With Him… and Through Him”.   Let those commanding words sink in.

I cannot help but smile as I approach and see the Sacred Host… for that is my LORD.  I feel He too, is smiling and welcoming me back.

Look lovingly as the host is nested within your palm.  Take it gently into your mouth and very soul.  Then make a slow and deliberate Sign of the Cross… As the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are One, they too, are welcoming you to join with Jesus the Christ.

Return to your seat and realize that you and Jesus are one… you within Him and He in you.   This is the absolute closest you can get to Our Lord on this earth.  He is with you now… it is an excellent opportunity to ask for His mercy.  Plead for a particular soul waiting in Purgatory.   Or perhaps the return of a wandering relative or friend, to come home to the Church… or for some specific intension.

~ And always give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the opportunity to participate with Christ in honoring Our Father at this Holy Mass.  Many in this world are not so privileged.

The highlight of your day… and perhaps week… has now come to its conclusion.

As one who believes in the True Presence of the Holy Eucharist, that final blessing is special for you.  It is bestowing graces upon you to go and share your faith with others… and to bolster your defenses against the Evil One.

Perhaps you will feel extra peace and joy as you slowly exit the church knowing that all the Angels and Saints are doing the same.  It is a special time… a special feeling.

Peace be with you.




Before the general audience, in an area just outside the Paul Vi Hall, Pope Francis blessed a bell titled “Voice of the Unborn” donated by the Polish “Yes to life” Foundation in Zambia. The bell will be brought to Infant Jesus Cathedral in Lusaka and from there it will travel to other cities in the country.

Archbishop Alick Banda of Lusaka and the vice-president of the Bogdan Romaniuk Foundation took part in the blessing of the bell. The Bells of the “voice of the unborn” are already ringing in Poland, Ukraine and Ecuador, and other countries are also interested in the initiative.

Bogdan Romaniuk, a Ukrainian entrepreneur, is the idea man behind these “Voice of the Unborn” bells, an idea that came to him when he learned that every year, over 42 million children around the world are killed through abortion. In order to draw attention to this, Romaniuk presented to the board of directors of the Polish “Yes to Life” Foundation the idea of a bell that would speak on behalf of the unborn and speak out for conceived life.

Speaking at a “Yes to Life” event in 2021, Romaniuk noted how “The goal of the founders of the European Union was to strive to build European unity based on Christian values. This is also shown by the flag of the European Union, on which there are twelve stars symbolizing the Mother of God.” He highlighted how ideologies opposed to the civilization of life are trying to “shape the consciousness of people against life from conception to natural death.”

At the general audience on October 27, 2021, the Pope spoke of two bells he had earlier blessed – the first two “Voice of the Unborn” bells.

He said, “At the request of the Polish Foundation ‘Yes to Life,” I blessed bells today bearing the name ‘The Voice of the Unborn.’ Their destiny is Ecuador and Ukraine. May it be for these and all nations a sign of commitment to the defense of human life from conception to natural death. May their sound proclaim to the world the “Gospel of Life,” awaken consciences and the memory of the unborn. I entrust to your prayer every child conceived, whose life is sacred and inviolable. I bless you from my heart.”

Engraved on the bells are the words of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko: “The life of a child begins under the heart of its mother,” as well as those of the 5th commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.”




In St. Peter’s Square this morning, Pope Francis began his weekly talk on missionary zeal by noting “we now consider the teaching of Saint Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhoration Evangelii Nuntiandi, on evangelization in the modern world. Pope Paul insisted that evangelization is primarily a personal witness to the Gospel and its saving truth. For this reason, he stressed the importance, in all the baptized, of a living faith in the triune God, manifested in a life of holiness fully consistent with the message we proclaim.”

St. Paul VI “went on to say that the Church not only evangelizes, but is herself evangelized, that is, constantly called to conversion and interior renewal in the Spirit. A Church that evangelizes is entirely turned to God, the source of our salvation, and, at the same time, entirely engaged in a creative dialogue with the world, cooperating with the Lord’s gracious plan for the unity and peace of our human family.

The Holy Father then explained that “Every one of us is required to respond to three fundamental questions, posed in this way by Paul VI: “Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?” (cf. ibid.). Is there harmony: do you believe I what you proclaim? Do you live what you believe? Do you proclaim what you live? We cannot be satisfied with easy, pre-packaged answers. We are called upon to accept the risk, albeit destabilized, of the search, trusting fully in the action of the Holy Spirit who works in each one of us, driving us ever further: beyond our boundaries, beyond our barriers, beyond our limits, of any type.

“Read and re-read Evangelii nuntiandi,” urged Francis. “I will tell you the truth, I read it often, because it is Saint Paul VI’s masterpiece, it is the legacy he left to us, to evangelize.”

In a multi-language appeal at the end of the audience catechesis, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that “Saturday will be the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, and our thoughts turn to March 25th last year, when, in union with all the bishops of the world, the Church and humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us not tire of entrusting the cause of peace to the Queen of Peace. I would therefore like to invite every believer and community, especially prayer groups, to renew every March 25 the act of consecration to Our Lady, so that she, who is Mother, may preserve us all in unity and peace.

And let us not forget, in these days, troubled Ukraine, who is suffering so much.”



I recently aired a Special report on the Vatican Observatory in the interview segment of my weekend radio show, Vatican Insider. I keep up with news about the Vatican specola because of my many visits there, including full days spent at the observatory in the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo covering the summer schools offered for students of astronomy. The specola offices, classrooms and museum are no longer in the palace but on the ground of of the apostolic territory. I was thus interested when I saw this story today on Vatican News.


Vatican Observatory Foundation announced that astronomers from the Leibniz-Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) and the Vatican Observatory (VO) teamed up to spectroscopically survey more than 1000 bright stars which are suspected to host their own exoplanets.

According to a Vatican Observatory statement, the team – which includes VO astronomers Fr. Paul Gabor, S.J., Fr. David Brown, S.J., and Fr. Chris Corbally, S.J., and VO engineer Michael Franz – now presents precise values of 54 spectroscopic parameters per star in the first of a series of papers in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and releases all its data to the scientific community.

This unprecedented large number of parameters will be essential to interpreting the stellar light and finding connections between the properties of stars and their possible planets.

Pope Paul VI watching moon landing

Stars, the statement explained, tell stories about themselves, and sometimes about their undiscovered planets. Their language is light. Starlight reveals many physical properties of a star, such as its temperature, pressure, motion, chemical composition, and more. Researchers analyze the light with a method called quantitative absorption spectroscopy. Searching for new worlds using Vatican telescope – Vatican News


The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development announces the theme of this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees focused on the right to choose migration as an option for livelihood and personal development.Pope Francis has chosen “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay” as the theme for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be celebrated on 24 September.

The Day is observed every year on the last Sunday of September as an occasion to express support and concern for people who are forced to flee their homes, to encourage Catholics worldwide to remember and pray for those displaced by conflict and persecution, and increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers. It was first celebrated in 1914. World Day of Migrants and Refugees to focus on right to stay – Vatican News


Addressing the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelisation, stressed the desire of the Holy See to bring to the attention of this Council “the plight of many individuals and communities who endure persecution because of their religious beliefs.”

The Archbishop, in reiterating Pope Francis’ words, noted that peace also calls for the universal recognition of religious freedom. It is troubling that people are being persecuted simply because they publicly profess their faith, he said, noting that in many countries religious freedom is limited. “About a third of the world’s population lives under these conditions.” Holy See draws attention to people facing religious persecution – Vatican News



As you know, St. Joseph’s feast day is traditionally March 19 but this year that solemnity was transferred to today because the liturgy of a Lenten Sunday, in this case, Laetare Sunday, supersedes celebrating St. Joseph. No matter what, March 19 is always Father’s Day in Italy and, of course, the name day (onomastico) of men named Joseph (Giuseppe). Tanti auguri to all men who are Fathers or named Joseph (maybe a double celebration if Dad’s name is Joe)!

If you look at March 17, 19 and 25, you can see what a big week we celebrate in the Church: St. Patrick, St. Joseph and the Annunciation!

March 25, by the way, also marks another important date for the Church: It’s the anniversary of St. John Paul II Encyclical “Evangelium vitae” on the value and inviolability of human life (March 25, 1995).


Pope Francis today received members of Italy’s National Union of Traveling Attractionists (UNAV) and underlined the importance that this type of show – rides and carousels – offers to people in town and city squares, where, he said, “one breathes a climate of genuine light-heartedness in the open air, the opposite of what happens when everyone is alone with his mobile phone or your computer.”

Addressing his guests in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father said, “Your vocation is to sow joy. For this reason, I encourage you to always keep your heart and your life open to a perspective of faith, which is born of an encounter with Jesus Christ, present and active in his Church, present and active in you, in each of the people you find , in each of the people you make laugh. Which is one of the beautiful things: sowers of smiles! It’s so nice!”

The Pope underscored how those rides and carousels that stop in towns and cities, “offer children and adults moments of light-heartedness, distracting them a little from the worries that beset daily life.” He described “images of pure joy of the happiness of a child on the carousel that is in the “memory of every family.”

“In a world so often marked by a gray and heavy atmosphere,” said Francis, “you remind us that the way to be happy is simplicity; and also a form of entertainment in the open air and in company: the opposite of what we see more and more today, everyone alone with their mobile phone or computer that isolates you from social communication. You invite them to go out, to meet in the square, to have fun together.”

All this reminds us “that we are not made only for work but also for celebration,” concluded the Pope. “God is happy when we celebrate together as brothers and sisters in simplicity.”




I wish all my family members, friends and fans who are Irish (or wannbe Irish) a beautiful, bountiful and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I can trace family back a few centuries to County Mayo and also Galway and someday will publish some names in case the cousins in Ireland are reading Joan’s Rome!

Enjoy a pre-prandial (or post-prandial) or any-time-of-the-day-that-you want green beer!

Would you be enjoyin’ corn beef today now? Is it Irish or American? Or Irish-American? Here’s the answer: The Complicated History of Corned Beef (Why Is Corned Beef Called Corned Beef? (

Does your menu include Guinness (that dry Irish stout) brownies! If not, why not? The NYT tells you how to make them! Guinness Brownies Recipe – NYT Cooking (

Now, what’s missing from your day? Maybe a little Irish Dance? (29) A MUST SEE TAP DANCE DUEL BY US SEMINARIANS!! – YouTube

And everyone knows what happens in Chicago! (NBC image)

And here’s the only way to end St. Patrick’s Day (or perhaps your day started with this blessing)!

An Old Irish Blessing for St. Patrick’s Day

May your days be many and your troubles be few.

May all God’s blessings descend upon you.

May peace be within you, may your heart be strong.

May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.

May the strength of God pilot us, may the wisdom of God instruct us.

May the hand of God protect us, may the word of God direct us.

May thy Salvation, O Lord, be always ours this day and for evermore.

Amen. (attributed to St. Patrick)






Because of recent, exciting news from the Jesuit-run Vatican Observatory, in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” this weekend, I bring you on a visit to the Vatican’s specola or Observatory.

What was the news? Well, in February, the Observatory announced that the Working Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) published their latest batch of named asteroids that includes 3 Jesuit astronomers and a Pope. The Vatican is a prestigious member of the IAU.

Two Vatican telescopes are on the apostolic palace at Castelgandolfo but the Vatican’s latest generation of telescopes –   VATT (Vatican Advanced Telescope Technology – are on Mount Graham near Tucson. The Special I’ve prepared will tell you why they are in Arizona.

VATT Mount Graham

Telescopes at Castelgandolfo

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The Pope was Ugo Boncompagni (1502-1585), Pope Gregory XIII, who directed the reform of the calendar   – the Gregorian calendar used worldwide today – and began the tradition of papal astronomers and observatories. The observatory statement notes that, “the four asteroids, or “minor planets”, all have connections to the Society of Jesus — the “Jesuits”. Over thirty asteroids now bear the names of Jesuits.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.




Today I offer an early St. Patrick’s Day gift – some special dance steps by two American seminarians, now ordained priests. You may have seen this story yesterday in the Culture column of Aleteia news. Viral dancing seminarian duel merges Tap vs. Irish step (

I took this video at the North American College’s 2014 Rector’s Dinner, using my iPad and standing against the dining room wall that is opposite the entertainment area. There is entertainment every year at this annual spring fund-raising dinner, and I knew 2014 would be special – but not this special! – because I knew that David Rider from New York, who had danced at the previous Rector’s Dinner – was about to do an encore and he had told me “there will be a big surprise this year!

And that surprise was fellow seminarian John Gibson from Milwaukee. While David had been on Broadway as a dancer before entering the seminary, John’s interest in the Irish dancing, so-called River Dance, came from watching his sister who excelled at Irish dancing – and John took it up as it looked like great fun!

Both are now ordained priests and doing the Lord’s work in a different way, but I’m sure they’ve not lost their ability to dance up a storm, using their God-given talents!

When the video hit 1 million views, David, John, three of the musicians and I celebrated with a champagne dinner at my home!

It has over 3 million views – let’s make that 4 million today!  Spread the joy and the fun! If this doesn’t make you smile and feel good, nothing will!

While the video was not credited to me yesterday, I saw my image today on the Aleteia website in the upper left corner of my original Youtube video.