Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Special Gathering


This past weekend at our monastery we had a gathering of Benedictine women in formation from three monasteries of the Federation of Saint Benedict: Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, N.D., Saint Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, Minn., and our own monastery. 

A few years ago our Vocation-Formation team recognized the importance of bringing together women in formation to give them the opportunity to meet each other, to receive input on a topic relevant to their formation and to recreate together. During introductions on Friday evening we asked that as we introduced ourselves we would mention where we were from originally. The responses highlighted for me, and the others I believe, the new diversity of geographical locations our women come from. What do I mean by that? Well, when I arrived at Saint Benedict's from Canada in 1995, I could count on the fingers of one hand, well maybe two, the sisters - we were 450 at the time - who where from another country or state other than Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. This weekend these women were from the Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and one from right here in St. Joseph. 

The women in formation come to monastic life out of the experience of living rich professional lives, of being single or married with children, of having all the comforts of modern life - house or condo, car, cell phone, laptops, and opportunities for travel, etc.  I did not take a survey but if I were to ask them I suspect that one of the most challenging aspects of setting out in the monastic way of life with scripture and the Rule of Benedict to guide them would be giving up their freedom and self-will.  Imagine at 45-60 years old being told with whom you will live and, discerning with the help of the sub-prioress, what your ministry will be.

These women, along with other men and women who join monasteries and abbeys, learn very quickly that the only way they can grow and accept the challenges of religious life is by being women and men of prayer and deep reflection. Finally with God's grace supporting them they move out of their initial formation years as strong individuals ready for what lies in the future.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Leaves as Kin

Photo: Carleen Schomer, OSB
Whenever something continues to unsettle me I have a strong hunch that it’s an invitation to something.  My current “unsettled state” keeps growing each time I listen to the news.  I know I’m not alone in this agitated feeling. So recently I’ve been grappling with power & force when I pray the Our Father.  The word “kingdom” keeps entreating deeper exploration.

 It seemed so appropriate to speak of a kingdom in the Old Testament era, when kings and laws were the common guides for civic order and power.  Recently, many of us have been drawn to spell that word differently.  The word “kin-dom” seems more resonant with the God of unconditional love that we have come to acknowledge. Different cultures and religions acknowledge everything and everyone as kin.  Persons from these traditions consistently are respectfully open and use power for empowering.  I find myself increasingly inviting this kin-expression of God-ness to enter more deeply into every cell of my body as a welcome gift.

However, in the encounters of daily life, I find that awareness easily receding into my unconscious.  That makes me all the more grateful for fall leaves.  They invite me to remember that every time I let the sap of my being re-enter my roots for a precious time of quiet nurturing, I’m somehow allowing the Root of my Being to prepare me again for Spring Rising.  No wonder I enjoy dancing to the music of crackling leaves while I toss them about when no one is watching. 

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Helping Hands at the Monastery

The monastery in Ogden, Utah
Religion can be used to justify acts of inhumanity or acts of kindness and love. When they are acts of inhumanity, they become news worthy. When they are acts of love, they are quiet and unnoticed by many. The latter is the story of the Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph.

Sixty-seven years ago during WWII, a group of Sisters left Minnesota for Ogden, Utah. They established a hospital to serve the huge influxes of workers that flooded into the area to help with the war effort. Their philosophy, "Caring for the sick as if     they were Christ in person."

When local leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed Mormons, learned of this great service to many of their faith, they decided to give a little back. This Saturday about 230 volunteers from the Saint Cloud Stake came to Saint Benedict’s to serve the Sisters.

Local congregations in a geographical area are known as a Stake in the Mormon Church. The Saint Cloud Stake asked these congregations to send volunteers to help in what is called a “Day of Service.” People came as far away as Alexandria and Elk River to serve the Sisters.

Cheri Moore, a Stake leader led the volunteer’s efforts. She worked with Sister Jean Schwartz, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Sisters at Saint Benedict’s. Old and young came together to clean, paint, spruce up the cemetery, and helped to prepare the garden for winter.

A surplus of volunteers was sent on assignments for the City of Waite Park. City officials directed the volunteers as they cleared garbage from parks and drainage ponds and removed weeds from the ice rink and children’s baseball diamond. Some of the youth grumbled when the weeds seemed to never end, but the adults encouraged them on. Tasks that would have taken days of work were finished in a few hours.

Diana Rogers, from Elbow Lake, was asked as she pulled weeds, why she came so far. “Serving is a very important thing to do,” she said with a smile. That sentiment was seen all Saturday morning as the volunteers worked hard. At 1:00 pm, the work ended, lunch was served, children giggled, and tales of the day’s labor were shared.

The Sisters of Saint Benedict have officially come home from their mission in Ogden, Utah. They served with distinction, helping to create Ogden Regional Medical Center. They quietly served for 67 years, practicing what can only be called true religion, the unconditional love for others.

Douglas Ward
Public Affairs Media Specialist
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
St. Cloud Stake 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Enamored of Space and Trees

I am as enamored of space as I am of trees—almost!

I realize that there are needs, opportunities and/or preferences as to living in the  city or in the country.  I was born in a rural area in southwestern Minnesota.  Imagine, if you will, the 1950s, before agri-business became ‘law of the land.’ There were endless open spaces on small farms, one after the other, patterned with a variety of growing things and animals, and only interspersed by tree-lined, long driveways and the protective grove around a home, buildings, and yards that also seemed too big for small kids sent out to do the chores.

Now look at the sea of blue-blossoming flax fields, moving with the breezes, or the long rows of beans, clean and straight, that invite your eyes to follow almost as far as the horizon.  Smell the air—sometimes affected by  manure, but not always—the smell of threshed grain or, even, watch the shockers as they build a sturdy cone of five, or perhaps six, bundles of wheat, skillfully placed so as to resist summer rains.  Listen to the meadowlarks or the mourning doves.

Can you see, smell, hear, imagine any of these happenings other than in the farmlands where SPACE is not just a commodity, but sheer gift, a luxury, a place to revel in, a space to roam in, where, like the proverbial buffalo, deer and antelope, one can almost taste peace ... or as Emily Dickinson would have it, a place where one could create a poem if there were only one clover and reverie ?

Are you enamored of space and trees, as well as I?  I hope so.

Renee Domeier, OSB