BIRTHDAYS in the Monastery
"How do you celebrate birthdays?" you might ask. Here at Saint Benedict's, because we are a large community – in St. Joseph, MN alone, there are about 150 of us living in or around the monastery - the entire community could not celebrate each sister's birthday. In fact some days there are several birthday sisters. But we have a couple of ways of letting everyone know whose birthday it is on a particular day: our internal newsletter has a list of birthdays for the month and in our dining room there is a special place where a sign is up for the day announcing a birthday . . . or two or three. S. Janet Thielges works on these announcements all year round and succeeds in making them very unique for each sister (see picture). If the sister is in the dining room on the day of her birthday we sing Happy Birthday to her during the meal. She will also be remembered with many birthday cards left on her mail shelf. A simple but genuine sign of our love for her.
There are some birthdays that are particularly special. If a sister celebrates her 90th birthday the entire community at St. Benedict's gathers during the afternoon for special treats. For the rest of us, until we reach the venerable age of 90, birthday celebrations can take various forms. If we live in a small group of sisters, e.g. 3, 4, or 5 sisters, our living group might ask the sister whose birthday is approaching how she would like to celebrate . . . movie and a special dinner . . . have a few friends over for a birthday party . . . go on a picnic . . . or go visit a museum, etc. This past Sunday night S. Dolores' living group invited some sisters over for a hors d'oeuvres supper and a birthday cake for her birthday in a few days; it just so happened that it was also Sister Jeannie's birthday so we celebrated her as well. (See picture). In past years several of us who have birthdays in October have gotten together some time during the month for a special dinner.
Other times, when a group is either a little larger which means several birthdays during the year, or if in a smaller group 2-3 sisters have their birthday close together the group might decide to ask each sister to choose a "person day" so the celebrations get spread out over the year. We love parties so we do not want to miss out on any.
No matter how we celebrate, there is always a special prayer as part of the day or evening; birthdays are occasions of thanksgiving . . . giving thanks for the person's life, the many ways she builds up the community, and the many gifts she shares with us all.