Community begins ad experimentum at St. Mary Parish

Surrounded by priests, seminarians and servers, the fledgling community, Filiae Laboris Mariae, joyfully begins. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

INDEPENDENCE — During a Solemn High Mass at St. Mary’s Church June 9, the Filiae Laboris Mariae community began. The community, founded by Sister Mary Regina and with the permission of Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., began ad experimentum.

Before the Mass began, the first two postulants, Sisters Margaret Mary Antunes and Paige Marie Kalinowski, received blessed Miraculous Medals from Father Matthew Bartulica, pastor of St. Mary’s.

The Mass, in the Extraordinary Form, was celebrated by Father Bartulica with Father Andrew Mattingly, diocesan director of Young Adult Ministry, serving as deacon and Father Eric Schneider, parochial vicar at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Gladstone, as subdeacon. The St. Mary’s choir provided some of the vocal selections, as did the Benedictine of Mary, Queen of Apostles, whose monastery is in Gower. The priests were assisted by altar servers and seminarians.

In his homily, Father Bartulica said that when the date for the official founding of the Laboris Mariae community was under discussion it was discovered that June 9 is celebrated “in certain places” as the feast day of Our Lady the Mother of Divine Grace, or Mater Divinae Gratiae. The day also fell in “the Octave of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit poured forth upon the Apostles and Mary all those 2,000 years ago.

“Mary is the Mother of the Church,” he continued, “and it is thanks to her that we have all the blessings we have in this world. Today is the day this community is beginning here at St. Mary’s. It is a great blessing for this parish”

The two postulants signed up without really knowing what they were getting into, he said, smiling at them. The Miraculous Medals symbolized their placing themselves under the protection of the Blessed Mother under her title the Immaculate Conception.

He reminded the assembly, “It is important that we understand that we don’t understand everything that happens here. It’s a great thing to realize there are things that are beyond us, things we leave up to Our Lord.”

A simple lunch followed Mass and then the congregation returned to the Church for Adoration and Benediction. After Benediction, Father Bartulica led the procession of the new community, seminarians and servers, guests, and parishioners across the street to the ministry center, which now houses the Mater Divinae Gratiae Convent and Chapel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sister Mary Regina, the founder of Filiae Laboris Mariae, has been a religious Sister for 24 years, and commented that she is profoundly grateful for and to her former community. “Over the years of my religious life,” she said, “I grew to appreciate ever more the Sacred Liturgy and the praying of the Divine Office. The Divine Office, as the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosantum Concilium, teaches us, ‘is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom; it is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with his body, addresses to the Father.’”

She recalled being “so struck” by Pope Benedict XVI’s address to consecrated persons given in 2007, which said, in part, “Your primary service to this world must therefore be your prayer and the celebration of the Divine Office. The interior disposition of each priest, and of each consecrated person, must be that of ‘putting nothing before the Divine Office.’ The beauty of this inner attitude will find expression in the beauty of the liturgy, so that wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshiping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth.”

During Pope Benedict’s pontificate, Sister Regina also learned an appreciation of the richness of the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass and became convinced that “even apostolic religious Sisters are called ‘to put nothing before the Divine Office’ and to pray the entire office and spend generous time every day in Eucharistic Adoration.”

She credited “various providential events” for leading her to the conclusion that her “Divine Spouse was calling her to begin in the life of the Church, a more contemplative form of apostolic religious life,” including praying all the hours of the Divine Office, chanting the major hours, engaging the heart through devotions such as the Holy Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, and the dedication of spending at least one and one-half hour daily “simply to be with Him in his Eucharistic presence.”

The charism of the community is to assist the Blessed Virgin in her apostolic mission of bringing souls to Christ, through “three intimately connected labors,” the Sacred Liturgy; prayer, especially liturgical prayer, and by making known the truth, goodness and beauty of life in Jesus in his Church through their apostolate.

Sister Regina said God allowed her to come to know young women who longed for such a way of life and had not found it in any of the existing communities of apostolic consecrated Sisters.

The community began at St. Mary’s because Sister Regina was living in this diocese and learned that Father Bartulica had available space in the Parish Minister Center, which was built as a convent, and he wanted to have Sisters serving the parish. Since it was the vision that Labor Mariae Sisters would exercise their apostolate in a parish or shrine, Sister Regina said it was a perfect place to begin.

The Sisters will be serving St. Mary’s Parish by offering catechesis for all ages, beginning with summer catechesis for children; helping with sacramental preparation, assisting with the parish Outreach Program, caring for the sacristy, and Sister Regina offers reflections on the parish blog.

She said that if God blesses the community, shown by stability in their way of life and growth in membership, the Bishop can give them canonical standing by erecting it as an association of the faithful. That will take at least a year, usually several years, but the community is beginning, and asks for prayers.


  1. June 24, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    I will pray for this experiment

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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph