Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Out of Gas

It was only before and during Vatican II days that school missions were not allowed to have a car.  Sisters would ask volunteers to take them to appointments or do business in town.

From 1964-69, after the Vatican Council, working at St. John Cantius Parish, St. Cloud, MN.,  our Superior, S. Delrey Kulzer had the use of her brother Tony’s second car once a month to do the necessary business in town.

This particular day bringing the car, Tony said, “This is a very good car, except the gas gauge does not work but not to worry. You will find a gas tank in the trunk when you need it.”

One day when Delrey and I were driving around town to our places given on our “to do” list, driving down 3rd street, I said, “Delrey, I keep stepping on the accelerator, but the car is coming to a stop.”

She said, “Don’t worry; there is a tank of gas in the trunk.”  So feeling confident, we got out, opened the trunk, took the can of gas, brought it up to the front, opened the hood, and thinking soon the problem would be solved. While she helped to hold up the hood, I had the tank of gas in my right hand, bending over and looking all around for an obvious place to pour it.  “Gee, where do I put it?” I asked.  I saw a knob that could have been turned, but it did not say, put GAS here.  I had my car license before  entering the convent, but it was either my Dad or one of my two older brothers who would fill the tank.  I continued to look up and down, from side to side, did not see anywhere that looked like an opening.

We closed the hood and looked in the trunk, closely checked the rounded corners, but found nothing that looked like a gas opening.

Delrey said, “Let’s look inside of the car down by the gas pedal, it would make sense to find it there.” We did not see an opening for gas.  

I waved to the next car to stop. The kind man asked, “Ladies, how can I help you?”  I answered, “Our car is out of gas and here is a tank of gas but we do not know where to put it.”

I gave him the can of gas; he walked back to the rear fender on the driver’s side, opened the lid and poured the gas into it.  Problem solved.

Smiling, he handed the tank back to me. As we graciously thanked him, I could tell by the look on his face that he had a good story to share with his friends for the rest of his life. 


Margaret Mandernach, OSB


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Best Thing to do is Breathe

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.
This week's BLOG is written by Mo Shannon-Thornton


(Bethany Purkapile, Erin Carey and Mo Shannon-Thornton)
Can you believe I have two more months left in the program? While I’m excited to go home and see my friends, family and fiancé, I’m not excited to be leaving my students. As many of you may know, I began the BWSC program at BARN. BARN is a transitional housing facility started by the Benedictine Sisters of Bristow. I thought I would enjoy working at BARN more than I would at BEACON. However, I’ve come to love teaching English to my students. There is honestly never a dull moment in my classroom. There is always laughter, jokes and chocolate. It never fails, but my students seem to always laugh at me. Mainly because I go on long rants about how I hate the English language and how I wish it wasn’t so complicated. Keep in mind the only reason why I go on these long rants is because I get frustrated because I find myself not being able to give a proper definition of words such as “things”.

While there are many days where I feel burnt out in life, my students seem to always teach me important lessons about living. Many of my students have children and grandchildren. Their life is far busier and more hectic than mine. Yet, they find time in their busy schedule to learn English. One of my students reads fairy tales to her daughter to practice English. While she admits that she does not always understand the words she is reading, she feels proud of herself for even trying. Witnessing things like this truly inspires me. And helps me put things into perspective. There are many days where I find myself complaining and stressing about EVERYTHING! Small matters that aren’t even relevant in the grand scheme of things.

It’s ironic because while I’m teaching my students English, they are teaching me something more valuable. They’ve taught me that just because I’m having a bad day, doesn’t mean I have a bad life. So the best thing do is breathe!

God Bless,


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

God Never Gives Up!

Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB
As I sat at my desk one day on a very windy day, I caught glimpse of a shredded garbage bag hanging from one of our trees high up. I have no idea how long it had been there. It made me wonder and clearly, I had no idea how it had gotten so high up in the tree. The wind blew and blew this day and I do not know how the garbage bag hung on, but it did. As I watched the bag hang on to the tree, I began to think of life and how so related we are to the bag persevering to endure the windstorm. The purpose of the garbage bag was to hold trash, leaves, clothes etc. There was a plan for it. However, that plan was changed one day by the stirring of the wind. It was nudged to take a path different from the one imagined. And though it fought its path, the bag flew into the arms of a strong tree that held it and would not let it go. While many outside sources affected the bag, it persevered, though tattered, from the storm. Its perseverance paid off.

Some days I wonder how I got to where I am in life. The plans I had did not play out in my life. In fact, the direction of my life changed rapidly without my consent. I followed without a choice. Like the bag, I did not know where I would end up, but hung on with all my heart and persevered. Sometimes hanging there left me tattered, but I still hung on. What I found is that by persevering, I landed in the arms of a loving God. A God that would never let me go. What is it that is stirring in us? Where will the winds of life lead us? Like the bag, we never know, but I trust that God has me right where I need to be. I have weathered the storms of life because I hang on to what God is calling me to be and trust that God will never let me go. God never gives up!


Tammy Shoemaker, OSB


Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Little Adventure

cid:DD1C914D-C865-40FC-B3F2-743B8F702F00Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

In the past few weeks since my last blog, I have been afforded the opportunity to do some amazing things. I was able to go to Washington, DC, to see most of the monuments. Sister Andrea Westcamp and I did 6.5 miles, starting in the very center of the National Mall and walking our way to each monument, starting with the Washington Monument. It was a long walk! The 6.5 miles we did was completed in just under 4 hours, but it was amazing to see the history of the United States - something I’ve only ever seen in a historical textbook.



The very next day, the community planned a trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation and house. It was incredible to be able to spend the entire day with the sisters (and Greg, an oblate), but also to be in Thomas Jefferson’s house and to see and live the history. I’ve never been much of a history fan, but being able to walk through history and imagine what life would have been like back in time was something I know I would like to do again.  

It’s amazing how quickly an individual or group of individuals can affect your life. I’ve personally experienced this while spending my time here in Bristow. As May quickly approaches, so does the dread that I eventually have to leave this wonderful group of women and begin my adventure into the unknowns of adulthood. As I reflect on what I want in my future, I quickly come to the question of when next I will be able to visit the sisters here in Virginia. 

In just a few short months, the sisters here in Virginia have become my second family. Sometimes the love that comes with that can be a bit smothering, but then again, so can the love of a mother or grandmother. They care, they love me as much as I love them. As I spent the last week recovering from an outpatient laparoscopic surgery, the sisters did more than take care of me. They made me feel comfortable, as if I was at home. Many people had asked if my mother was going to be coming to Virginia to be with me through the surgery. As I think about this, it wasn’t necessary. I was not afraid or nervous because I knew I had 30 women waiting for me at home, ready to take care of me just like my mother would have.

I would like to thank all those that have kept me in their prayers over the past week! Surgery went better than expected and I am almost back to being my bubbly self (I have to keep the bubbles down, no strenuous activities for a few more weeks!)

Sending my love and prayers,


 (The pictures above are both from Monticello. The flowers are through a window in the cellar, looking onto one of his small gardens).


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

National Catholic Sisters Week

Wednesday, March 8, is the first day of National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW). On Tuesday, March 14, we have scheduled an event on our campus. NCSW is all about recognizing Catholic sisters who have had a positive impact on your life. This is the fourth year that NCSW is being celebrated. The first two years, events were held on the campus of Saint Catherine University in Saint Paul. This year, religious communities were invited to write a grant proposal explaining how they would like to celebrate NCSW. In writing a proposal, I decided that it was an opportunity for us to inform as many people as possible about NCSW. So I specified that we would hand out 2000 Fun Size packets of M&Ms on Tuesday, March 14. Each packet will have a label on it that reads CELEBRATE WITH US National Catholic Sisters Week. Sisters will walk around campus, meet students getting off the bus, and visit academic buildings. Greeting students, staff and faculty with a sweet treat is our goal for the day. The grant gifted us with money for this event. This allowed us to purchase the M&Ms, print the labels, and advertise through printed flyers that will be posted throughout campus. Many hands have heled put the labels on the M&Ms and many hands will distribute them on March 14. So celebrate NCSW with us, wherever you are. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Beauty in Death

Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), an outreach of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., invites College of Saint Benedict alumnae to join the monastic community in deepening relationships that support justice and service in a new location. Volunteers strive to live out the Benedictine Gospel values that were formed during their undergraduate education in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

This week Erin Carey who serves with the Benedictine sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, blogs.

Before coming to the Mount, death was something foreign. It was something that stopped my own world for a few days, pulling me out of school, had me traveling to another city, or taking time off of work. It was something I didn’t face often, but when I did it was overwhelming. Death was so final and mysterious. Over the past four months, four sisters in community have passed away. As we prepare for another memory service and funeral this week, I am thankful for the lives of the women who I was not able to get to know well but who have shaped my experience in many ways.

With each sister’s passing comes beautiful rituals of memory services and funerals along with smaller rituals throughout the month after her death. For a month after a sister has died, a candle is lit in chapel during prayer. Her light shines in the back of chapel as everyone walks in. We pray with her and other sisters who had died on the date in years past, going back to the beginning of the community. The practices remind me that while the sister is gone, she is still connected to the community and plays a part in the shaping of life here, even though she is not bodily present. For sisters who died 70 or 80 years ago, they may not be remembered personally by anyone anymore, but they are remembered because every sister has had an impact on the shaping of the community. While the sisters mentioned at prayer may not be known by anyone in the chapel today, it is way to be thankful for the past for providing for the future. It is also a reminder that life will continue on even when we are gone.

During a memory service, the people gathered start in chapel. After a prayer, we begin the procession to the community room. The body is guided by pall bearers down the hallway connecting chapel to the community room. It is one last journey through the house. The family members, sisters and friends of the sister follow along behind, singing. During the rest of the service, stories are shared from the people who knew her best. There are always surprises. The stories are uplifting, touching, funny or profound. Because I did not have the chance to know these sisters well, it has been a joy to hear about their personalities and quirks. It paints a picture of each person, not just as they were when they died. It’s a picture of who they were in the last years of their lives and who they were as young sisters. After the sharing, everyone processes back to chapel for evening prayer. As family, friends and sisters file into chapel, each person bows in reverence to the body before finding a seat.

This reverence continues to the next day as well. We pray with two sides of chapel facing each other, so with the body in the middle of chapel, the focus of the prayer is centered on the sister. It is beautiful to encircle her with prayer. She remains in the center of chapel during morning prayer the next day and throughout the day, until the funeral in the evening. This literal living of the passage from the Rule of Benedict that says, “keep death always before your eyes”, has made death a little less foreign. I see each sister’s journey through death and into new life as something to be reverenced, bowed to, and accepted as natural. Death is still frustratingly mysterious to me, but I’ve seen it a little more closely now. Thank you Sisters Bernadette, Janet, Maureen, and Roberta for your presence in community, now and continually.