Monday, June 11, 2012

Benedictine Women's Service Corps

The weekend of May 19-22 was a busy one for the BWSC, Benedictine Women’s Service Corps. The volunteers who had been serving in Puerto Rico arrived at St. Benedict’s Guest House Friday night.

On Saturday afternoon they gave their first presentations to the Sisters at St. Scholastica, along with the volunteers who had served in Tanzania. On Sunday afternoon at St. Benedict’s Monastery Dining Room, the Benedictine Women’s Service Corps volunteers showed a video and power point presentations to the Sisters at St. Benedict’s. Sarah Schwalbach and Jana Graczyk spent ten months in Humacao, Puerto Rico living with the Benedictine Sisters of Monasterio Santa Escolastica and teaching English to kindergartners and history and geography to eighth graders at El Colegio San Benito. Ashley Irons and Maggie Niebur spent seven months in Chipole, Tanzania, and three months at St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

The experiences of these women going out to the world as Benedictine volunteers, makes a huge impact on their lives and the lives of those they serve. As they debrief from their service, they demonstrate the differences in placements, cultures, and experiences. The audiences of sisters, mainly, showed their appreciation when the women would talk about the various Benedictine Houses and their local customs, or about the length of liturgies.

The Corps now boasts of seven women who have served in the past two years, and will be sending out another volunteer at the end of August. This year, the emphasis is domestic. Therefore volunteer Ashley Blaine, just recently graduated from the College of St. Benedict will serve in Ridgeley, Maryland, where the Benedictine community of St. Gertrude’s ministers through their Benedictine School for Exceptional Children, the Barn, which helps the poor with clothing and food, and a transition house for abused women and children.

Barefoot Weather

I love the months that don’t have an “r” in them for several reasons. One of the main ones is my inclination to go barefoot whenever possible, especially on warm grass. I’m sure I may have lost some “cold feet” readers just mentioning the removal of shoes. But I wager there are a good number of us that rarely wear shoes in the house, even in winter. Might it be that taking our shoes off in the house acknowledges it as “sacred space”. You can probably guess my scriptural basis for this belief.

Remember when Moses saw the burning bush and God called out to him saying, “Remove

the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” [Exodus 3:5]. When we remove our shoes, could it also be possible that this very act creates a sacred space? I think of the many early tribal peoples that have a profound reverence for the earth. They learned to walk as gently as possible on mother earth, acknowledging that it is pregnant with life. And those would silently let nature speak to their being, often report how each dimension of creation is a sacred aspect of ourselves that we may have forgotten.

Did you say you were going to join me in the revere of removing your shoes and running through a yard sprinkler… clothed but shoeless?! Some children never recover from their childhood delights.