News & Features

Norman Rockwell Film For John Aidan Byrne

Irish Immigrant Media Professional Will Honor the American Dream: Top-Rated Podcaster. Book Series Success. Norman Rockwell Documentary In Pre-Production

NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, November 14, 2023 / — Media man John Aidan Byrne, a successful US immigrant from Ireland living the American Dream, has announced his latest venture — a film documentary on iconic artist, Norman Rockwell.

“We’re talking to many creative people in the business, financiers, artists and some of the best directors in the industry,” says Byrne, an award-winning journalist, book editor, podcaster, and entrepreneur, who has signed on as producer, narrator and screenwriter for the documentary. “Norman Rockwell, an American legend, was complicated but touches a special place in all of our hearts,” adds Byrne. “He loved and cherished America, and was aware of its challenges. But he brought out the very best in our nation, from the simplicity and wholesomeness of rural living to urbane modernity, faith and family values, and a bright future in the land of the free.”

Byrne says the documentary is inspired in part by his friend S.T. Haggerty’s book, Norman Rockwell’s Models: In and Out of the Studio. (Rowan & Littlefield Publishers 2023.) Byrne has published interviews with Rockwell’s son, Jarvis, Rockwell model, Pauline Grimes, as well as with Haggerty himself who spent long summers at his family’s farmhouse near West Arlington, Vermont. (Norman Rockwell once had his home and studio here.) Haggerty grew up knowing many local Rockwell models in West Arlington, including those who posed for such famous works as Freedom of Speech, Breaking Home Ties, and Girl at the Mirror.

Byrne also says the documentary is “perfect for a corporate sponsor who wants to reframe the American consumer narrative, in a profoundly positive way that harkens back to the ideals that sustained America in the best and worst of times.” The impetus for the documentary is also propelled by new research on the American Dream, as well as his alarm at increasing polarization in US society, according to Byrne

An exhaustive study earlier this year by the Archbridge Institute and the University of Chicago on the American Dream, as reported by the New York Post, concluded that while the results, “continue to show large agreement and optimism across Americans of diverse age, race/ethnicity, education and income groups, there are signs of declining belief in the United States as the ‘land of opportunity.’”

“Wow, what’s that all about?” Byrne asks, incredulously. So if you think the America Dream is dead, think again, he says. In truth, he adds, it is about perception and reality. And Byrne thinks a new documentary on Rockwell, spanning the artist’s career, examining Rockwell’s vision of America, and in the eyes of his models (many still alive), and the author ST Haggerty, would be a cathartic moment for America.

A decline in belief in the American Dream, defined by factors such as an ability to live in freedom and retire comfortably, own a home and raise a family, has risen lately as more Americans are crushed by rising prices, lack of affordable housing, and fears about crime and personal safety.

Still, the Archbridge Institute survey with the University of Chicago released this past summer noted, nonetheless, that 75% of Americans — across all ages, race, income or education — admitted they have either achieved the American Dream, or are on the path to achieving it.

Byrne says notions that the American Dream as an achievable goal, is in sharp decline, are often fueled by poorly informed, or biased media and culture warriors — sometimes by pundits who do not believe in the great American ideal envisaged by the Founding Fathers. Norman Rockwell celebrated the American Dream across many decades, says Byrne, in wartime and in peace time, in good times and bad, capturing the essential nature of the nation, a spirit of can-do optimism and unity.

Byrne quotes Don Feder, who recently wrote in the Washington Times of how Rockwell’s art gave us hope. “We need that more than ever today,” says Byrne.

“He celebrated life in a simpler time — backyard ball games, prom dates, boys dreaming they’ll grow up to become firemen, a child goggle-eyed when he discovers a Santa hat and false beard in his father’s dresser. Middle America took him to heart. The snob-elite disdained him,” according to Feder.

Added Feder: “Rockwell had the last laugh. He painted the official portraits of five presidents. His Four Freedoms, painted in 1943, raised $132 million in war bond sales when it toured the country on exhibit. In 2013, one of his paintings sold at auction for $46 million.”

Says Byrne: “Our documentary will celebrate the sophistication, beauty and simplicity, as well as the contradictions of America, but also its great advances, and its hugely extensive technical and technological innovations you won’t find in any other parts of the world. Rockwell projects and honors this landscape and spirit of can-do and enterprise.”

About John Aidan Byrne

John Aidan Byrne, a multi-media expert who runs his own boutique communications company for print and video productions, is a dual US and Irish citizen who came to America from his native Ireland over three decades ago.

Byrne is a contributor and writer for numerous publications and outlets, including the New York Post, Wall Street Journal, National Catholic Register. He is an editor and writer for the Zicklin School of Business’ best-selling series of books on market structure. Byrne is Consulting Producer, The King: The Final Hours, a widely acclaimed play on Elvis Presley by Emmy Award-winning producer, Mark Macias. Byrne emceed a concert at Town Hall in NY. He was a weekend news announcer on the old WOR 710 AM radio. He has been featured and quoted on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, Gript Media, London’s Talk Radio, Page Six of the New York Post, Sunday Independent, Bloomberg Radio, Newsmax, WOR 710, Ireland’s LMFM and numerous more outlets.

Byrne is the former editor of Traders Magazine, and author of the trade publication’s notable 1997 cover story, The Madoff Mystery. He interviewed Bernard L Madoff and his brother Peter at their iconic offices in Manhattan’s skyscraper Lipstick Building. That was more than a decade before Bernard Madoff’s downfall, and the collapse of his multi-billion dollar empire. The cover lines blared, ‘The Madoff Mystery.’

Meanwhile, Byrne, will soon launch and produce a new podcast – his third podcast on audio and video platforms – for an academic institution in New York City. His DIG LIFE DEEP! Podcast- among the top 1½ percent of podcasts worldwide, as ranked by Listen Notes – inaugurated his podcast enterprises. That was followed by the hugely popular ODEON CAPITAL CONVERSATIONS Podcast. The weekly episodes of the ODEON CAPITAL CONVERSATIONS Podcast features famed bank analyst Dick Bove, and Wall Street veteran, Mat Van Alstyne, co-founder and managing partner of ODEON CAPITAL GROUP. ODEON CAPITAL CONVERSATIONS is now one of the top-rated Apple Podcast worldwide in the Business News category.

Back in 2017, Byrne spearheaded and coordinated, from here in America, one of the largest worldwide family gatherings of its kind in Irish history, reuniting in Ireland his far-flung cousins and extended family from America, Canada, the UK, Europe, as well as from locally from Ireland. They included long lost cousins who grew up in Rochester, in upstate New York, descendants of Byrne’s maternal grandfather, David Brennan. David returned to Ireland around the turn of the 20th Century, after toiling on the Erie Canal in the Rochester area.

Byrne has interviewed a cluster of VIPs, including New York billionaire and supermarket mogul John Catsimaditis; UFC Sports superstar, Conor McGregor; FOX News’ Raymond Arroyo; Godfather actor and legend, Gianna Russo; Bill O’Reilly’s writing partner on the Killing series, Martin Dugard; economist Peter Schiff; India’s youngest billionaire, Nikhil Kamath; author of best-seller, Dopamine Nation Dr. Anna Lemke; American exorcist, Msgr. Stephen J Rosetti, author of best seller, Diary of an American Exorcist; best-selling Irish American writer, Jack Cashill; 3X World Series Champion and MLB Star Todd Stottlemeyer, and theologian Dr. Scott Hahn Scott.

ACHIEVEMENT OF NOTE: Leading a group of runners who are part of the LIFE Runners organization, across the Brooklyn Bridge, New York, to raise awareness and funds for mothers and couples in crisis pregnancies, and for pro-life organizations. “The real payback was creating awareness, saving lives and making genuine friendships with some of the best and kindest people I have ever met in my life,” says John Aidan Byrne.

Contact John Aidan Byrne
Office: 973-529-4699
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: johnaidanbyrne
X (formerly Twitter): @JohnAidanByrne
Instragram: @DigLifeDeep!

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Advanced Strategy Concepts, Inc.
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John Aidan Byrne’s documentary on the iconic American artist, Norman Rockwell, is inspired by S.T. Haggerty’s new book, NORMAN ROCKWELL’S MODELS. In and Out of the Studio

Rochester Brennans: John Aidan Byrne’s granddad, David Brennan, worked on the Erie Canal before returning to Co. Mayo, Ireland. Photo shows him with his brothers in Rochester, NY. Circa 1890, to early 1900s

John Aidan Byrne

Historic family reunion in Ireland for John Aidan Byrne

The ODEON CAPITAL CONVERSATIONS Podcast with famed bank analyst, DICK BOVE, and Wall Street veteran, MAT VAN ALSTYNE, is one of the most top-ranked and popular podcasts on money and markets. The podcast is produced and hosted by JOHN AIDAN BYRNE



Mouth-watering and delicious!

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A Fiesta Fusion of Worldwide Flavors

Family Features – If you’re seeking inspiration to take mealtime from bland and boring to new and vibrant, look no further than these at-home fiesta recipes. With options ranging from tongue-tingling spice to smooth, creamy and simply delicious, you can call on global flavors to bring life to your kitchen.

This menu from “The New York Times” bestselling cookbook author and recipe developer Stephanie Banyas offers delightful flavor fusions from around the world. The lively tastes of the Spicy Shrimp Remoulade in Lettuce Leaves and Mexican Style Paella with Chicken and Sausage pop with the high-quality ingredients of Fresh Cravings Salsas.

These boldly flavored salsas are made with vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp onions, zesty peppers and spices. Plus, they’re never cooked or pasteurized, meaning you’re enjoying a vibrant dip that’s never soggy or dull. Available in a range of heat levels among restaurant style, chunky and pico de gallo, they complement any at-home fiesta.

For a fiery, zesty twist, this Red Pepper Chickpea Soup with Gazpacho Relish and Tortilla Croutons calls for Fresh Cravings Hummus, as its ideal creamy texture and savory taste balances out the spice. Made with a short list of high-quality ingredients like chickpeas, tahini and Chilean extra-virgin olive oil, this hummus has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

“The hummus adds loads of flavor and makes this thick, rich soup totally dairy and gluten free, so there is no need for heavy cream, cornstarch or flour,” Banyas said. “It’s as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to eat.”

To find more fiesta-worthy recipe ideas, visit

Red Pepper Chickpea Soup with Gazpacho Relish and Tortilla Croutons

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Banyas

Servings: 2

1/4       cup finely diced seeded English cucumbers

1/4       cup finely diced seeded Roma tomato

2          tablespoons finely diced red onion

2          tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1          lime, juice only, divided

            salt, to taste

            pepper, to taste

2          cups canned low-sodium vegetable stock, divided

1/2       cup Fresh Cravings Restaurant Style Salsa (mild or medium)

1          container (10 ounces) Fresh Cravings Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

tri-color fried tortilla strips

In small bowl, combine cucumber, tomato, onion and cilantro. Add half the lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let sit at room temperature.

In blender or food processor, process 1 cup stock and salsa until smooth. 

Pour mixture into medium saucepan. Add remaining stock and hummus, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining lime juice. 

Divide soup between two bowls and top with relish and tortilla strips.

Spicy Shrimp Remoulade in Lettuce Leaves

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Banyas

Yield: 8 leaves


1/2       cup Fresh Cravings Chunky Salsa (mild or medium)

9          cups water, divided

            ice water

1          lime, sliced

12        sprigs cilantro

1          teaspoon kosher salt

1          pound fresh shrimp (31–35), peeled and deveined

Remoulade Sauce:

3/4       cup mayonnaise

1          tablespoon whole-grain mustard

2          teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/2       teaspoon chile powder or smoked paprika

1/2       teaspoon sugar

1/4       teaspoon salt

1/4       teaspoon black pepper

1/2       cup Fresh Cravings Chunky Salsa (mild or medium), drained well

1/4       cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/4       cup green onion, thinly sliced, plus additional for garnish

8          butter or Boston lettuce leaves

cilantro leaves, for garnish

lime wedges, for garnish

chopped black olives, for garnish (optional)

chopped hard-cooked eggs, for garnish (optional)

To make shrimp: In food processor or blender, blend salsa with 1 cup water until smooth. 

Fill large bowl with ice water; set aside. Transfer salsa mixture to large saucepan and add remaining water, lime slices, cilantro sprigs and salt. Bring to boil over high heat; stir in shrimp, cover, turn off heat and let shrimp poach off heat in liquid 10 minutes.

Drain in colander. Transfer shrimp to ice bath and let sit 5 minutes. Drain again.

To make remoulade sauce: In large bowl, whisk mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice, chile powder, sugar, salt and pepper until combined; fold in salsa.

Put half of remoulade sauce in large bowl. Fold in shrimp and cilantro, adding remoulade as needed to make mixture creamier; taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 6 hours.

Arrange lettuce cups on platter. Spoon equal portions shrimp mixture into lettuce cups. Garnish with cilantro leaves; lime wedges; black olives, if desired; and eggs, if desired.

Mexican Style Paella with Chicken and Sausage

Recipe courtesy of Stephanie Banyas

Servings: 4-6

1          container (16 ounces) Fresh Cravings Chunky Salsa (mild or medium)

12        ounces chicken tenders, patted dry

1          teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional, to taste, divided

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3          tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

12        ounces fully cooked chicken sausage or pork sausage links

3          cups low-sodium canned chicken stock, water or combination

2          cups long-grain rice

1          cup frozen peas

1/4       cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

lime wedges

Remove 1/2 cup salsa and set aside. In blender or food processor, process remaining salsa until smooth.

Put chicken in bowl, add 1/2 cup pureed salsa and toss to coat. Cover and marinate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours in refrigerator.

In large, high-sided saute pan over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until it begins to shimmer. Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until both sides are golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to plate, loosely tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes then slice into 2-inch pieces.

Add remaining oil to pan and heat until shimmering; cook sausage until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to plate, loosely tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. Slice on bias into 2-inch pieces.

Wipe out pan with paper towels. Add remaining pureed salsa and stock; bring to boil. Add rice and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring mixture to boil, cover and reduce heat to medium-low; cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 18 minutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle peas on top. Let sit, covered with lid, 5 minutes. Fluff with fork then stir in chicken, sausage, peas and cilantro. Spoon remaining salsa on top.


Host a St. Patrick’s Day Party with Style

Family Features – It may be a celebration in honor of a patron saint of Ireland, but you don’t have to be Irish to join the revelry that marks each St. Patrick’s Day. This year, gather some friends for a party that brings a bit of luck o’ the Irish to all.

Perfect Party Menu

It’s just not a party without a scrumptious spread of eats and drinks, and an occasion like St. Patrick’s Day makes it fun to plan your menu. From green frosted cookies to a green-hued punch, countless options are available. A buffet-style meal allows guests to nibble as they wish and enjoy a wide range of foods.

Be sure to think beyond the food itself and also consider how you can get creative in serving it. For example, a hearty stew might be served in bowls that resemble pots of gold. Or display traditional finger foods, such as slices of cucumber, on a platter in the shape of a shamrock.

Try creating a signature cocktail for the affair using a classic green liquor like Midori, sour apple schnapps or rum, or even a creme de menthe.

A Theme to Celebrate

With so many prominent icons associated with the holiday, decorating is probably one of the easiest aspects of your party planning. There’s no shortage of images that scream St. Patty’s Day: shamrocks, rainbows, pots of gold, leprechauns, top hats and more. You might choose just one for your party’s theme or create an everything-is-more ensemble that celebrates all things Irish.

For a more subtle approach, simply think green. Lots and lots of green. From streamers to balloons to photo booth props, if it’s green, it will fit your theme. You can use plants to add greenery in elegant ways, green table and glassware for festive dining and even green-hued lighting for an all-Irish ambiance.

Festive Fun

Sure, the food and drinks are a big part of the party fun, but St. Patrick’s Day also lends itself to some playful party entertainment. A soundtrack with classic Irish tunes is an ideal backdrop. You might invite guests to compete in a limerick writing contest or a scavenger hunt to find prizes like gold-covered chocolate coins and a candy-filled pot of gold.  

Find more ideas to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day at

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Support Small Business: 6 ways to help community businesses thrive

Family Features – Small business owners faced the challenges of the past couple of years head-on. Nearly all re-evaluated their operations to accommodate new ways of doing business amid changing safety standards and local protocols, and many plan to make these changes permanent.

Over the past year, pandemic-related operational challenges, combined with a surge in physical and verbal attacks, have been uniquely difficult for a group of small business owners.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) businesses comprise nearly 10% of small businesses in the United States. Among them, 92% faced difficulties keeping their businesses open and operating amid the pandemic, according to Bank of America’s 2021 AAPI Business Owner Spotlight.

“While almost all AAPI entrepreneurs said the pandemic created additional stress around running their businesses, they remain determined and resilient,” said Carol Lee Mitchell, head of small business strategy at Bank of America. “Even as they faced immense obstacles, AAPI business owners took steps to move their businesses and communities forward.”

Local companies, including AAPI businesses, have proven to be fundamental to strong, healthy economies and inclusive communities. These entrepreneurs remain solution-oriented, quickly adopting new tools and strategies; however, they require support from customers and community members to thrive.

Consider these ways you can support small businesses, including AAPI owners and the community at-large, from the experts at Bank of America:

Choose to Shop Local and Small

Small businesses are ingrained in many local communities. When you choose to purchase from a small business, you’re directly supporting neighbors, friends and the people in your community. This support isn’t taken for granted by entrepreneurs; more than half of AAPI small business owners noted the importance of community support amid the pandemic. Also consider leaving a generous tip when you receive exceptional service – it can make a big difference for small business staff.

Gift Local

Keep the impact that your support could have on local community businesses in mind when shopping for gifts, whether they’re for loved ones near or far. For locals, a gift card to a nearby eatery or business such as a spa, salon or recreation center makes for a welcome gift that keeps your money local. When gifting those who live farther away, you can still benefit small businesses in your community by purchasing a thoughtful gift and packaging locally then shipping it with the help of a business in your area.

Help Spread the Word

Small businesses don’t usually have the means to invest in big marketing programs, so referrals and word of mouth can make a major difference. However, in today’s world, a great deal of consumer research happens online. That means you can be most helpful by taking your stories of great service and quality products to the internet, too. Seek out your favorite small businesses and write reviews on their social media channels. Take it a step further and give them a shoutout (with tags, if possible) on your own social media accounts where your friends and family are more likely to notice.

Help Fill Open Positions

The job market has shifted noticeably over the past year, and local businesses have been struggling to find the talent they need to continue to serve their communities. Small business owners recognize this and are shifting benefits for their employees, allowing for more flexible schedules and additional paid time off.

Since these business owners are looking for employees to help fill some of the uptick in demand, you can help by tapping into your own network and recommending people for different positions you see, whether it be through “Help Wanted” signs or based on the needs you hear from the businesses you patronize.

Be Mindful of Business Challenges

Finding a work-life balance can be difficult for small business owners even in non-pandemic times because they wear so many hats within their businesses, from CEO and salesperson to human resources and everything in between.

Business owners were more conscious of their mental health over the past year, as nearly all AAPI business owners acknowledged additional stress and more than half set aside specific time for self-care and mental wellness.

As a consumer, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that business owners are both short-staffed and dealing with supply chain issues. Take an understanding approach and work with local businesses to make sure they know they are supported by their community.

Check In on What’s New

Just as you’ve changed your consumer habits and needs, small businesses have adapted in dozens of ways. That could mean you have access to new services or options you never considered. For example, your favorite yoga studio may offer streaming classes or a favorite breakfast cafe you haven’t visited in a while might have an all-new menu. Take time to stop in and learn how your favorite businesses are changing with the times and see how those changes may suit your needs.

Look for additional resources designed for small businesses at

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.


Faith Up North: Iceland’s Church Grows Amid God’s Creation


NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER – On a dark, bitterly cold night in Reykjavik this winter, worshippers were scattered in pews for evening Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King, an eye-catching local landmark in the western section of Iceland’s capital. Iceland’s Catholic Church is booming as fast as the domestic economy, and on the vigil of All Saints, one of the curiosities — and the most obvious characteristics of that growth — is how the young outnumber older people in the pews.

This Neo-Gothic cathedral is another curiosity, atypically adorned by a flat roof, which surprises some visitors expecting a classic spire soaring triumphantly into the heavenly Nordic skies. When sunshine peaks in the summer, sometimes casting brilliant light all day, it is possible to see it illuminate the cathedral’s gray-stone exterior and gently brighten the stained-glass windows. Statues and sacred art do not overwhelm the senses at Christ the King, which in 2000 was named a minor basilica, 10 centuries after Iceland officially became a Christian nation. Religious imagery instead pleasantly sharpens the mind. The statue of Iceland’s patron, St. Thorlac, 1133-1193, on the left aisle, is especially striking. When sunshine streams through the stained-glass window high above the main altar, beams of light can fill the nave as worshippers receive Holy Communion. Many congregants kneel at the rails in this middle altar, some receiving the sacred Host on the tongue.

This display of reverence at Communion — uncommon in the U.S. — seemed like a remarkable act of piety, a harkening back to tradition. Franciscan Bishop Dávid Tencer, who leads the Catholic Diocese of Reykjavik, told me: “Here, this is normal.” Bishop Tencer, a Capuchin friar, with a long flowing beard, said that kneeling is a popular tradition among Icelandic Catholics.


“The people receive usually kneeling, though if they wish, they can also stand,” explained Father Patrick Breen, rector at the cathedral and vicar general of the diocese. “It has always been this way, and it will be unless someone would decide to take away the communion rails.” Father Breen shuddered to think that would ever happen.

Tradition runs deep in Iceland’s Catholic Church. “I would say Icelandic Catholics who do practice tend to be quite conservative,” reported Father Breen. The sound of Gregorian chant sometimes fills Sunday Masses at Christ the King. And many signs associated with a vibrant Church, from Eucharistic adoration to family prayer life, are everywhere. There are also clear signs of which side the Church in Iceland takes on a most fundamental issue.

On the grassy hilltop outside the cathedral, a short walk from the city center that bustles with international tourists, a large 90-year-old bell waits to toll. “It is the bell of life,” Bishop Tencer told me. “And it makes the most magnificent sound when it is tapped, especially when people gather to pray near the bell for the protection of human life in the womb.”

“Sometimes,” added the bishop, “visitors might come in the early hours of the morning, especially during the nice summer weather, and I might occasionally catch the sound of the bell ringing. This is so beautiful.”


Minority Church

In a mostly secular nation, the Catholic Church in Iceland stands apart from the majority Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, the national church, on abortion rights. Unlike the Catholic Church, the national church does not oppose legalized abortion. Most Icelanders are, at least nominally, Lutheran. And socialized health care covers legal abortion in Iceland, which makes world headlines for the nearly 100% reported abortion rate of unborn babies testing positive for Down syndrome. (A small number of mothers decline the test or reject abortion if the baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome.) Bishop Tencer is deeply saddened by this statistic and those who support it. “The Lutheran bishop of Iceland has declared herself pro-abortion,” he said, referring to Agnes Sigurðardóttir. “This is very strange and not possible for us as Catholics. How can you be a Christian and pro-abortion at the same time?”


People in the Pews

Once comfortably warm and safely inside this notable cathedral, consecrated in 1929, the fresh faces of the people in the pews offer a strong glimpse of the Catholic Church in Iceland today. For well over a decade, young Catholics have been flooding the Church here — and most are recent immigrants.

Blistering economic success in Iceland opened the floodgates, drawing thousands of immigrants, from Eastern Europe, Asia and elsewhere, to fill labor shortages.

“We have members in the Catholic Church today who’ve come here from many nations, and we count nearly 100 languages,” said Bishop Tencer, noting that, by far, the largest number of newcomers are Polish, who account for about 4% of Iceland’s population.


Iceland eventually recovered from the 2008 financial crisis that interrupted this momentum by plunging the island-nation’s economy into a depression. It was a painful setback that forced economic soul-searching in a country popularized by stunning snow-covered landscapes, volcanoes, geysers and plentiful geothermal power. Tourism, fisheries and technology led the recovery. Today, cranes crowd downtown Reykjavik, where Polish crews build avant-garde hotels and pour concrete for glistening office towers.

Growth in Faith

Fifty years after it was founded, the Catholic Diocese of Reykjavik, comprising Iceland’s six parishes and 18 churches across this curious Nordic island in the North Atlantic, has never been as strong numerically. And it is growing as rapidly as the domestic economy, where tourists outnumber locals by three to one. By definition, the Catholic Church in Iceland has the kind of rapid growth that would gladden bishops in other nations. “We are the fastest-growing Catholic community in the Nordic countries,” said Bishop Tencer.

In 1970, there were about 1,000 Catholics, mostly natives, in Iceland. Since then, in about a decade, the Catholic population has skyrocketed from about 3,000 members to an estimated 13,500 registered Catholics. Most are immigrants. That means Iceland’s Catholic population is now hovering around 4% of Iceland’s population of 338,000, up from barely 1% in less than a generation. “It is a young Church today — as many as 80% who attend Mass on Sundays are young people, and this is a very recent phenomenon for us,” said Bishop Tencer. “When you step into the churches here, you will see many young faces, but not as many older people.” Masses are conducted in Icelandic, Polish, Spanish and English. “In one recent year alone,” added Bishop Tencer, “we had 150 baptisms, compared with about 15 to 20 funerals.”


Serving this growing Catholic population are 16 priests from other countries and one local from Iceland. The foreign priests come from various countries: five from Poland, three from Slovakia, one from the Czech Republic, two from Ireland, one from Germany, one from France, two from Argentina and one from Britain (now retired). There is a religious brother from Slovakia and many dedicated orders of religious sisters, warmly praised for pious works of Christian charity and devoted prayer lives. Bishop Tencer, a native of Slovakia, was named the diocese’s fifth bishop in 2015.

By all accounts, Iceland’s is an immigrant church. Sitting in the study of his neat rectory, Father Breen, a native of Dublin, Ireland, has witnessed the rapid growth since he arrived here as a priest in 1984. “The Church here is quite strong,” said Father Breen, a teetotaler who proudly wears his pin of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart, an international group based in Ireland and with a branch in Iceland, that promotes abstinence from alcohol. “The Polish immigrants,” added Father Breen, “are probably the most traditional.”

Catholic Iceland’s Challenges

But while the growing number in Iceland who call themselves Catholics is an impressive statistic, the underlying reality may provide a different, if sometimes dispiriting, picture. By several estimates, about 20% to 25% of all Catholics in Iceland attend Sunday Mass, for instance, hovering around the same rate as much of the United States, and in many parts of the Western world, today. (In addition, the surge in tourists who are Catholics visiting Iceland also means some extra faces at local Churches, especially for weekend Masses.)

Father Breen, for his part, welcomes all comers. He is well aware of the low attendance at Sunday Masses and of social problems that plague Iceland’s Catholic immigrant communities as much as other communities. Among the many Catholic immigrants, it is common for some couples to cohabitate before they arrange civil and then Church marriages. “I personally feel the number of marriages within the Catholic Church in Iceland is very low, and many couples tend to first arrange civil marriages before Church marriages,” said Michael Friggie, a permanent deacon at Christ the King, “but that might also be a worldwide and a European phenomenon.”

Deacon Friggie, ordained in 2017 and a married father of six, arrived in Iceland from America’s Midwest some years before to work professionally as a geneticist for a startup. “I am very excited to be a deacon because of this charmer,” he said, nodding to Father Breen in the room, for encouraging his vocation. “I love this diocese, where personal interaction is so much easier than back in Indianapolis, a place where I might have met the local bishop only at confirmations,” Friggie added. “Here I can stop by and can have coffee with the bishop anytime.”

As he witnesses a burst of new life in Iceland’s Catholic Church, Bishop Tencer seems pleased. But like the ebbs and flows of the fresh ocean water that laps up on shore here, the tide can go either way, he realizes. “The future looks bright when we are going in this direction today,” Bishop Tencer said. “But things can change very quickly, so who knows where we will be at in two to three years?” Then he added: “There could be another crisis, for example, and foreigners who’ve come here may move away from Iceland to somewhere else.”

Still, Bishop Tencer is undeterred, seeing the influx of immigrants as a huge blessing for Iceland’s Catholic Church. As he said, “These immigrants come here from many different cultures, bringing wonderful elements of faith and customs and practices they follow at Christmas and during other seasons.”

© 2022 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register –



Life Savers: The Sisters of Life at 30

‘We approach one heart at a time.’


NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER – A remarkable thing happened one day at Planned Parenthood in New York City about a decade ago — call it a triumph over evil.

In the desolate moments only hours before, it hardly seemed likely for a distressed, 18-year-old woman, single, pregnant and alone, contemplating the prospects for her unborn child.

Her mom had assured her that if she wanted an abortion, the choice was hers.

Yet that only deepened her loneliness and anxiety.

“God, if you don’t want me to do this,” prayed this young pregnant woman in a perplexed state, “please send me a sign.”

Later, in a daze of confusion, no bright prospects immediately in sight, she set off with two friends for Planned Parenthood, intending to arrange an abortion.

“She sat there in the waiting room, filling out the paperwork — and she was restless,” recalled Sister Mariae Agnus Dei, local Sisters of Life superior at the St. Frances de Chantal Convent in the Bronx, New York. “So she went over to the brochure rack and was drawn to one brochure in particular. By some miracle of God, our informational brochure had made it into the waiting room of Planned Parenthood — and to this day we don’t know how! She read the brochure and started to cry. She knew this was the answer to her prayer.”

We are sitting in the front parlor at the Sisters of Life convent on a quiet street in the Bronx on a sunny morning with Sister Marie Veritas, the community’s evangelization mission coordinator. “This young woman then grabbed her two friends in Planned Parenthood,” Sister Mariae Agnus Dei recalled, “hopped on a bus and came here with them. Here I am in full habit, monastically dressed, later coming face-to-face with this woman who had never met a sister in person. We both sat down together to have lemonade and cookies, and I said to her, ‘Tell me your story.’”

The single mom unburdened herself, sharing her life stories, dreams and goals with Sister Mariae Agnus Dei. And then she paused. It made Sister Mariae Agnus Dei think of the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary learned she was to become the Mother of Jesus.

“Sister, my life is not over, and I have to let go with God,” this woman told Sister Mariae Agnus Dei.

Her next chapter had a happy ending. One of some 800 women in crisis pregnancies who contact the Sisters of Life every year for support and shelter, this single woman chose life, later giving birth to an adorable baby girl. The mother eventually completed her studies, graduating college with an honors degree in psychology. She later married, as Sister Mariae Agnus Dei put it, a “super-awesome guy.”

The story illustrates the Sisters of Life’s unconditional love for women in troubled pregnancies.

The late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York founded this contemplative and active religious community, revered for its pro-life ministry, 30 years ago this month. The cardinal contemplated the idea decades after his 1975 visit to a Nazi-era concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. “Good God, how could human beings do this to other human beings?” Cardinal O’Connor declared after placing his hands inside a crematoria oven, the melded ashes of Jews and Christians profoundly shaking his spirit and the shocking historical legacy of Dachau transforming him.

The chilling memory later led him to establish the Sisters of Life in 1991. Soon, many women responded to his call for recruits. Cardinal O’Connor was also deeply troubled by the abortion culture in New York, a city labeled America’s abortion capital. It is a staggering reality that has been met with a pro-life response.

Pro-life shelters and nonprofit charities, including EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers headed by Chris Slattery, Good Counsel led by Chris Bell, and LIFENET out of nearby Newark, New Jersey, led by Christine Flaherty — a trio of devout Catholic leaders — put down deep roots in the New York metro area in response to the crisis.

And so have the Sisters of Life.

First, Prayer

Prayer is at the heart of the Sisters of Life’s daily life. Their day typically begins at 5am, with four and a half hours of common prayer before day’s end at 10pm. That devotion is inspired by Cardinal O’Connor, who felt society’s intense crisis of faith could only be “cast out by prayer and fasting” ((Mark 9:29), according to Sister Marie Veritas.

“Prayer is our first and most fundamental work — everything else flows from that,” she said. It is an integrated community life.

“Each of our missions is quite unique and deeply essential,” added Sister Marie Veritas.

“Our crisis-pregnancy mission is one of our fundamental works because of our vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

From a small cluster of eight sisters, the Sisters of Life has grown steadily into a youthful community, with 116 sisters today in the United States and Canada: 60 perpetually professed, 38 junior professed, 12 novices and six postulants. Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, a former faculty member and professor of psychology at New York City’s Columbia University and The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has served as superior general since 1993. The community’s missions also include weekend retreats for men and women; outreach to college students in Colorado; and (not surprisingly) helping women after abortions. The sisters profess the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and, uniquely, a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.

The overall number of babies lives saved by the Sisters of Life is immeasurable. The nuns’ deep prayer life and inspiring public message of hope is likely changing the hearts and minds of many hundreds of women in crisis pregnancies everywhere. To be sure, these may never register as statistics, or show up on the nuns’ doorsteps in distress. But transformed by this prayer and profound message, we can imagine how these women lovingly raise their babies instead of having abortions. The official number of lives saved by the Sisters of Life is huge, not surprisingly, as many as 8,000 babies alone saved over the past decade, given the current number of women in crisis pregnancies the Sisters of Life now serve annually. (And that official number may be a conservative estimate.)


But the good sisters don’t keep statistics.

“Instead of saying ‘babies saved,’ we prefer to say ‘women served,’” Sister Marie Veritas said. “We have served thousands of women over the past 30 years. Each one is a gift. We are not looking at numbers. … We approach one heart at a time.”

‘Cosmic Battle’

Sister Marie Veritas said it wasn’t by chance the Sisters of Life was founded in New York City. “In a sense,” she said, “we stand in the heart of the battle — the cosmic battle John Paul II spoke of between a culture of life and a culture of death.”

New York state in 2017 had 12.2% of all 862,320 abortions in America, the Guttmacher Institute reported; that’s a rate about double the national average. In 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act that legalizes abortion up until birth. In effect, the law legally sanctions infanticide.


“New York is like a microcosm of the culture,” said Sister Marie Veritas. “You see the currents of materialism, hedonism, the exaltation of personal autonomy very clearly here. And in that, you also see this aching thirst for God: People ache to encounter a love that will answer the cry of their hearts.”

Recently, a mother of three young children in Canada, pregnant with her fourth and working long, grueling shifts, considered an abortion. The pregnancy was a “shock” to her. Feeling emotionally drained, she contacted the Sisters of Life in Toronto. It was a happy, storybook ending. The mother changed her mind, giving birth to a bouncing baby girl with the same steadfast support and love the Sisters of Life show everywhere: no judgment calls, no questions about her religious denomination, only questions about her future. “The sisters phoned every other day, kept me company, sang songs to me, brought me food, threw me a baby shower and even connected me with other pro-lifers in my community,” the mother told a student reporter at Toronto’s The Catholic Register.


If New York is a perplexing moral danger zone, the Sisters of Life are filled with hope and a joy that is contagious. Yet New York can test the bravest. The COVID-19 pandemic cast a long shadow, ending the celebration of public Masses and trimming religious practices.

Streaming Masses proliferated, but they were never the same as in-person worship. At the Sisters of Life communities in New York, the nuns could not attend Masses in person for more than 43 days because of local mandates (now lifted). In response, the communities had Communion services and an extra Holy Hour daily. Still, the sisters, who shun TVs and radios, watched Mass livestreamed only once, on Easter Sunday.


“I would say the sisters suffered deeply,” said Sister Mariae Agnus Dei. “But we also found a powerful invitation of the Lord to go deeper into ourselves, to be present to his presence drawing within us.”

COVID-19 shutdowns in the Big Apple were relentless. An annual fundraiser, the Sisters of Life Gala, was hosted virtually for the first time this year. The once-familiar sight of the Sisters of Life, purveyors of the Good News, blissfully roller blading, biking or playing ultimate frisbee in New York’s Central Park, was circumscribed. But it didn’t exactly slow them down. Two of the nuns in Manhattan, first responders, could organize food deliveries for women in crisis pregnancies. At a much slimmed-down March for Life in Washington earlier this year, though much less than the typical 40 or more religious that usually attend, two nuns marched.

The Sisters of Life saw God’s hand through it all. In February last year, Sister Mariae Agnus Dei and Sister Marie Veritas launched the uplifting Sisters of Life podcast, co-hosting Let Love. “We record it in a linen closet,” Sister Marie Veritas said cheerfully. “We launched as the pandemic started to hit, and with God’s providence, it has enabled us to be present to those we love.”


General Inquiries

Annunciation Motherhouse

38 Montebello Road

Montebello, NY 10901

(845) 357-3547

Crisis-Pregnancy Help

20 Cardinal Hayes Place
New York, NY 10007
(212) 737-0221

Hope & Healing After Abortion

(866) 575-0075

[email protected]

© 2022 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register –




Get Away Without Going Away 5 family staycation ideas that won’t break your budget – Family vacations are a great way to bond and take a step back from the hectic schedules that accompany everyday life, but sometimes time or money (or both) make planning an elaborate trip a non-starter.

However, a staycation – a vacation you take right in your hometown (or nearby) – can be much less expensive and fit into nearly any amount of available time with the added bonus of skipping out on potentially stressful travel.

Consider these staycation ideas to take advantage of your local area’s attractions and prove you don’t have to go far to spend quality time together.

Visit local landmarks.

Just because it’s not a traditional vacation doesn’t mean you can’t pretend to be tourists. Start by visiting the places you recommend to friends and family from out of town or pick up a city guidebook to uncover hidden spots you may not even know exist. Make a plan to seek out historic sites, visit local landmarks like museums or try an out-of-the-way restaurant (or two) you’ve never eaten at before.

Camp out in the backyard.

Camping doesn’t have to be done far from home. In fact, it can be done right in your own backyard. Pitch a tent to sleep under the stars and plan a night full of traditional camping activities like roasting s’mores, telling spooky stories by flashlight and trying to identify stars and constellations.

Set up a picnic in the park.

Pack a basket with sandwiches, fruit and other treats and head to the park. You can enjoy a casual meal then take advantage of the open space for a family walk or game of tag before retreating to the playground to let the little ones expel any leftover energy.

Have a home spa day.

If you’re looking for some relaxation but don’t want to splurge on the full spa treatment, plan an at-home oasis instead. Light some candles, run a bubble bath and break out the facial masks and fingernail polish.

Visit an amusement park.

No matter where you live, there’s probably an amusement or water park within driving distance. A quick online search before you arrive can help prepare a strategy for hitting the most popular thrill rides and waterslides while skipping those that may not provide quite the same entertainment value.

Find more tips and tricks for enjoying family time together at

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Deliciously Healthy Dishes from Sweet to Savory

Family Features – Supplementing meals and snacks with powerful, versatile ingredients can take healthy eating from bland and boring to delicious and adventurous.

Take your breakfasts, appetizers, dinners and desserts to new heights while maintaining nutrition goals with naturally nutritious and surprisingly versatile California Prunes. Rich and smooth with an ability to enhance both sweet and savory flavors, they can expand your menu with nearly endless powerful pairing options.

One serving of 4-5 prunes packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Together, these nutrients form a web of vital functions that support overall health.

Whole, diced or pureed, the versatility of prunes allows you to enhance the flavor of recipes from morning to night in dishes like Citrus Breakfast Toast, which brings together vitamin B6 and copper from prunes and vitamin C from citrus to support a healthy immune system.

Try Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, Prune and Thyme Flatbreads for a tasty family meal, and while you wait for dinner to cook, you can serve up Prune, Mozzarella and Basil Skewers. These easy appetizers provide several key nutrients. Mozzarella is a good source of calcium and prunes provide vitamin K and copper, all of which support overall bone health.

Make dessert a bit better for you but equally delectable with a vegan option like gluten-free, plant-based Prune and Almond Truffles. The soluble fiber in prunes helps lower serum cholesterol and blunt the effects of excessive sodium in the diet. Nuts like almonds provide good fats that help lower the risk for heart disease.

Find more recipe ideas at

Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, Prune and Thyme Flatbreads
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: 4 flatbreads

Caramelized Onions:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup butter
6 large yellow sweet onions, sliced into thin half circles
3 sprigs fresh thyme
coarse kosher salt, to taste
4 personal flatbreads
1 cup caramelized onions
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
10 California Prunes, diced small
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
sea salt, to taste
coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

To make caramelized onions: Preheat oven to 400 F.

In large stockpot over medium-low heat, warm oil and melt butter. Add onions and cover; cook 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add thyme sprigs and season with salt, to taste; turn pan lid slightly ajar. Place pot in oven 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

To make flatbreads: Preheat oven to broil. On sheet pan, toast flatbreads under broiler 4 minutes, or until toasted, flipping halfway through.

Spread 1/4 cup of caramelized onions over each toasted flatbread. Refrigerate leftover onions.

Tear mozzarella and place over onions. Divide prunes among flatbreads and place flatbreads under broiler 4-6 minutes until cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.

Sprinkle flatbreads with fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Citrus Breakfast Toast
Prep time: 13 minutes
Cook time: 2 minutes
Servings: 2

Prune Puree:
16 ounces pitted California Prunes
1/2 cup hot water

1 large citrus fruit, peels and piths removed with knife, sliced into rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons raw sugar
4 tablespoons sunflower butter
2 slices whole-grain sourdough bread, toasted to desired darkness
2 tablespoons prune puree
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
2 California Prunes, finely diced

To make prune puree: In blender, pulse prunes and water to combine then blend until smooth, pourable consistency forms, scraping sides, if necessary.

Store in airtight container up to 4 weeks.

To make bruleed citrus wheels: Place citrus wheels on baking sheet and divide sugar evenly among each piece.

Using circular motion, pass flame of culinary torch repeatedly over sugar until it boils and turns lightly charred and amber.

To build toast: Spread 2 tablespoons sunflower butter on each piece of toast. Top each with 1 tablespoon prune puree spread evenly across sunflower butter. Sprinkle each evenly with sunflower seeds and diced prunes. Top each with half broiled citrus and serve.

Alteration: Use broiler set on high instead of culinary torch to caramelize sugar.

Prune and Almond Truffles
Recipe courtesy of Meg of “This Mess is Ours”
Prep time: 45 minutes
Servings: 24

1 cup California Prunes
1 1/2 cups toasted slivered almonds, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus additional, to taste, divided
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla paste or extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Boil water and pour over prunes. Soak 30 minutes; drain.

In food processor fitted with “S” blade, pulse 1/2 cup toasted almonds with salt, to taste, until fine crumbs form. Transfer to shallow bowl and set aside.

Add remaining almonds to food processor with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cocoa powder. Pulse 30 seconds to combine. Add prunes, vanilla paste and almond extract; process until combined. Mixture should be creamy with slight texture from almond crumbs. Transfer prune mixture to bowl and refrigerate 1 hour.

Once chilled, use small cookie scoop to portion out individual truffles on parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently roll each truffle in reserved toasted almond crumbs. Store on parchment-lined plate in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Serve chilled.

Prune, Mozzarella and Basil Skewers
Prep time: 5 minutes
Servings: 5

5 pieces prosciutto, halved lengthwise (optional)
10 California Prunes
10 basil leaves
10 cherry-size mozzarella balls

If using prosciutto, fold each half in half lengthwise so width of prune is wider than width of prosciutto. Starting at one end of prosciutto, wrap one prune; repeat with remaining prosciutto. Set aside.

Wrap one basil leaf around each mozzarella ball then thread onto skewer. Thread one prune or prosciutto-wrapped prune onto each skewer.