Carmelite Nuns in Cuba Receive Host-making Machine From Cardinal Dolan

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In a gesture that honors the Eucharist and the faithful, Cardinal Dolan and benefactors of the archdiocese have given a host-making machine to a congregation of nuns in Cuba.

The sacred gift was transported last month to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Havana, via ship from Spain where the machine was manufactured. The special present stemmed from the cardinal’s pastoral visit to Cuba in February 2020.

“There was a machine there that was donated by Cardinal (John) O’Connor” that was no longer working well, said Wanda Vasquez, director of archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry, in a phone interview with Catholic New York. “Cardinal Dolan said to the mother superior that anything that she needs with regards to helping the Church in Cuba, he’s available to assist them.” 

Ms. Vasquez, who was among several people who accompanied Cardinal Dolan on the visit, noted that the nuns “make the hosts for all of the parishes on the island.” She said the mother superior, after the cardinal had returned to New York with his small entourage, made it known that there was something they needed: for the host-making machine to be fixed.

“So the cardinal made the decision, as opposed to helping them fix the machine, getting them a new machine,” Ms. Vasquez said. “He said he wanted to do it as a gift. So it was a gift from Cardinal Dolan through his pastoral visit to Cuba. 

“He felt that he needed to help them to help the Church in Cuba continue our Eucharistic value...to be able to create the host and be able to continue delivering them to all the parishes in Cuba.” 

Father Lorenzo Ato, director of communications for archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry, handled the contacts last year with the host-making machine manufacturer, Formas Giménez Maquinaria, of Zaragoza, Spain. 

A shipping issue delayed the machine’s arrival in Cuba until mid-February. Father Ato called the cardinal’s gift “a noble gesture.”

Sister Ana Mercedes de Jesús Crucificado, O.C.D., mother superior of the nuns, told CNY in a March 3 email that the congregation is thankful to Cardinal Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York for the new host-making machine. 

"We have seen his heart of a pastor before a flock in need of the most important thing, the bread for the Eucharistic celebration," said Sister Ana Mercedes, noting that the congregation “will continue praying for Cardinal Dolan, for his pastoral works, and for his most profound intentions." 

She added that the work of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Havana "is a challenge, in a country that is thirsty for God.”

“For us as Discalced Carmelites, from the quiet and silent surrender at the feet of Jesus in the tabernacle, we carry the joys and hopes, the pain and suffering of all the Cuban people and all of humanity."

The cardinal’s entourage, in addition to Ms. Vasquez, included now-retired Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who is Cuban-born; Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities; and three representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Father Leopoldo Perez, Christopher Ljungquist and Richard Coll). 

Bishop Cisneros was also part of Cardinal O’Connor’s pastoral visit in April 1988, after which the cardinal arranged for the Discalced Carmelite Nuns to receive a new host-making machine.

“Cardinal O’Connor learned that they were in dire need of a new machine to make the hosts,” Bishop Cisneros told CNY last week via email. “As a Cuban and as a bishop it was my honor to be invited by both cardinals O’Connor and Dolan to accompany them in their pastoral ministry.  My participation with Cardinal Dolan was to be of assistance with the language and introduce him to ecclesial and lay ministers.” 

(Cardinal O’Connor went to Cuba again in 1998, when now-St. Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit). 

Cardinal Dolan’s six-day pastoral visit to Cuba occurred Feb. 7-12, 2020. He was invited to visit the Carribean island nation by its president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and by the Cuban bishops. He accepted the invitation after consultation with the U.S. State Department and the Holy See.

Cardinal Dolan’s trip was highlighted by Masses and pastoral community visits by the cardinal, including the visit to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Havana. The Contemplative Sisters of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, founded in Spain in 1562, emulate the life of their foundress, St. Teresa of Avila. The Cuban congregation was founded in 1702. 

In coverage of last year’s pastoral visit, Catholic News Service quoted Cardinal Dolan as saying of the nuns at their monastery of St. Teresa and St. Joseph:

“I have confidence in the future of the Church because of your presence...To see these wonderful sisters, to know they are praying daily, giving their lives in silence and penance and prayers for the good of souls, the conversion of sinners, for the glory of God’s name, for the love of Jesus and His Church, what a great blessing that it. So, hermanas (sisters), gracias. We love you in America.”

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