Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Linking-In with the Needs of Women Veterans

Last fall I read articles in the local newspaper talking about PSTD and veterans. I have always had an interest in working with veterans, knowing that Saint Benedict’s Monastery could offer them a place of healing, self-reflection, safety, support and a sense of order through our schedule of prayer.   
Through the wonder of technology and Linked-In I was able to connect with Trista Mastascillo, program manager and chair of the St. Paul based nonprofit Women’s Initiative. Trista and I became fast friends and after she came to visit the monastery both us knew that this is a place where we wanted to create for the women’s veterans a spiritual space to call home. It was a sacred synchronistic moment.  With our entrepreneurial minds we went to work creating a retreat for the Women’s Veterans.  
I am excited to announce that Aug 14-16, 2015 the Women’s Veteran’s Initiative and the Sisters of Saint Benedict will host the first annual veteran’s retreat. We will focus on ministering to these women in traditional and alternative mental health ministries. Following the Rule of St. Benedict's core principal that everybody shall be welcomed as Christ, we will be extending our hospitality to the Women’s Veterans and meeting some needs of women that have not been tended to.   
Please pray for our retreat and that it will be blessed with grace, love, and peace for these veterans.

Trish Dick, OSB 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Subway Encounter

Supplied with two bag lunches, we made our way out of the pouring rain and cold down into the cavernous regions of the Philly subway system. 

We were told that we could expect to find many of the city’s homeless there because of the inclement weather. And sure enough, as soon as we entered, we were surrounded by hungry-looking men who immediately zeroed in on those of us who visibly held on to a bag lunch.
They knew the routine. Fabian, Kendra and I were suddenly facing a tall rather imposing man who told us his story of needing something to eat because his stopover in Philadelphia ended up being longer than he anticipated, forcing him to look for some food for the overnight. 

We gave him one of our bags and simultaneously another guy was begging for the second. He practically grabbed the brown bag out of my hands.

So, now what? We no longer had anything to give. How were we going to actually sit down and talk to any one of the others who mainly were also looking for a bag lunch?

Our leader encouraged us to wander, trying to be creative. Finally, my cohorts and I found Michael. Yes, he was searching for a sandwich, but in the meantime he engaged with us, telling us his story.

He was an older man whose family was in dire straits but Michael believed in hope and in God’s ever present generosity. Throughout his life God had provided and so while he was going through this rough patch, he knew it was not permanent.

While we three listened to Michael, a rather erratic young man approached our little group yelling and pointing straight at me, accusing me of something. I could not understand him and disgustedly he left us, only to reappear a little later.

Michael returned to his story with a most powerful message of gratefulness.  He virtually could not stop talking about his awe and wonder at having God in his life. Emphatically, he repeated that he was most humbled and grateful for life.

Moved by this man’s faith, Fabian gave him some money, even if we did not have food for him. Michael assured us it was enough to get a sandwich later. In turn, I was moved by my cohort’s action. In the end, all that matters is the encounters we have with one another and the love we show, no matter the circumstances.


Michael did not ask about us, but if he had, we would have explained that we were part of a group of ten from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota on spring break in Philly. We chose to go to the fifth largest city (approximately 1.5 million people) in the United States, which is known for its many and growing number of homeless people.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jubilarians and World Peace

I recently attended the Jubilee celebration of Benedictines celebrating their 60th anniversary of monastic profession. There was a palpable peacefulness present as I interacted with them. Later I read this commentary by Richard Rohr that clearly expressed what I sensed in their presence.
“In the second half of life, we do not have strong and final opinions about everything, every event, or most people, as much as we allow things and people to delight us, sadden us, and truly influence us. We no longer need to change or adjust other people to be happy ourselves. Ironically we are more than ever before in a position to change people—but we do not need to—and that makes all the difference.
We have moved from doing to being to an utterly new kind of doing that flows almost organically, quietly, and by osmosis. Our actions are less compulsive. We do what we are called to do, and then try to let go of the consequences. We usually cannot do that very well when we are young.
Now we aid and influence people simply by being who we are. Human integrity probably influences and moves people from potency to action more than anything else. An elder’s deep and studied passion carries so much more power than superficial and loudly stated principles. Our peace is needed more than our anger.”  Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
Thank you, Jubilarians, for adding your peacefulness to the balance of peace we have in this world of ours. 
Photograph by Karen Streveler, OSB, shows our 60th jubilarians. Left to right: Sisters Marie Gerads, Rita Kunkel, Miriam Ardolf, Clare Witzman, Telan Hu, Stephanie Mongeon, Bernard Heit and Lydia Erkens
Note: A Youtube video is available of Fr Richard Rohr presenting the content of Falling Upward.
Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB