Friday, December 30, 2016

An Experience from Mo!

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.

Greetings Everyone!


Can you believe it’s nearly the end of December already? I sure can’t. I also can’t believe that I’m actually surviving this winter. My body has become so used to the deathly temperatures of Minnesota that it’s not used to Virginia’s “freezing” temperatures of 40-50 degrees.  It’s the eve of Christmas Eve as I write this and the monastery has been absolutely busy. Yesterday evening the sisters had a tree trimming party and we all indulged in tons of treats.  There was peppermint bark, cookies, eggnog, butter pecan melts and CHOCOLATE! You can never go wrong with chocolate. During this holiday season I have so much to be grateful for-both good and bad. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in Bristow. And I am grateful for the moral lessons my students teach me.


I absolutely love working at BEACON. BEACON is one of the monastery’s ministries that provides service to immigrants who want to learn English. I didn’t think that I would enjoy working at BEACON as much as I do. It really brings me joy when I see my students actually understanding the lessons I teach. The English language is pretty difficult to learn. And it’s even more difficult to teach. Last night I taught my low intermediate class about the simple past tense. While I was teaching my lesson, I couldn’t help but think of how complicated the English language is. But somehow my students always seem to smile and come to class with an eagerness to learn. It’s inspiring to see the effort my students put forth on a daily basis. Many of them drive 30-45 minutes just to come to class. I had one student who drove from Maryland three days out of the week just so that he could learn English. That in itself is determination and perseverance at its finest! If I’m being completely honest, when I attended CSB, I had trouble being on time for my classes. So being a witness to many great individuals literally going out of their way to achieve a goal makes me want to do better. It makes me want to work harder to ensure that I am being the best English teacher that I can be.


What I love about teaching is that it is helping mold me into a better person. I used to tell people that I could NEVER be a teacher because my philosophy was if you don’t understand something, then you just don’t understand. And I don’t have the time or energy to help you understand. In teaching my students, I have gained an enormous amount of patience because when I see my students giving their all, I can’t but help feel an obligation to give my all and help them reach their goal of being able to speak English.


I hope you all had a merry Christmas and that you have a happy New Year!


Until next time,








Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Living Ourselves Into New Thinking

I’m remembering the words that are sometimes spoken during the Christmas season, “The Messiah is always among us.”  Yet when life exposes me to situations that seem unbelievably demeaning, those comforting words are quickly drowned out by my inward spontaneous anger or sadness.  I’ve begun to ask myself, can those uncomfortable feelings be inviting me to break open my heart to places in me that want to be named and healed so they can become my teachers?  Can I name times or situations in which I actually demean myself without even being conscious of it?  Claiming my own capacity for demeaning might tenderize my heart and birth a gentle space within it for receiving those who sound demeaning.  An expanded heart might free me to breathe love on the embers of God-presence that lives at all times in each person’s heart… including my own.

Because matter itself and all creatures became holy with Jesus’ birth, the healing that happens in me can allow me to walk with greater love and respect one day at a time.  There is this saying, “We don't think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.”  And maybe when that happens the fullness of Christmas is revealed among us, and God’s kingdom manifests itself again and again. 

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Carrot Like Your Spiritual Journey?

Have you ever wondered where carrot seeds come from? Well recently, I learned that a carrot needs to stay in the ground for two years before it flowers and produces seeds. This was new information for me and I found it fascinating. A friend explained that the root of the carrot actually dries up and nourishes the top. The top, the green, eventually forms a flower which then produces seeds. It is in this miracle of nature that a carrot gives up its life for the production of new seeds. If you reflect on it, you can compare the process that a carrot goes through in producing seeds to your own spiritual journey. To clarify, as a carrot spends two years in the earth to rest in the quiet, a person who spends time in the quiet place of her heart will nourish her faith. So quiet time is one way to strengthen the foundation of your faith and experience spiritual growth. In comparison, our outward signs of spiritual growth, such as the flower is for the carrot, could be acts of kindness that brighten the day of the people you meet.

If you would like to learn more about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

By Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Season of Firsts

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 at the College of Saint Benedict in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

Mo Shannon, Erin Carey and Bethany Purkapile are the Benedictine Women Service Corps volunteers for 2016-17. On September 1, they began a year's service at Benedictine monasteries in Bristow, Va., and Erie, Pa.

Three Thursdays a month will feature a blog post by one of these volunteers. These women will share a bit of their experience within the BWSC ministry and ask that you pray for them as they extend Benedictine values to the world during their year of service.

A Season of Firsts

by Erin Carey

December is upon us and that means life is busy in preparations for music recitals at the Art House, getting ready for my trip home after Christmas, enjoying the Advent season and adjusting to life with the snow. In Erie, the sisters are careful to fully celebrate both Advent and Christmas. That means that we don’t have Christmas decorations or music, yet. Everything is still in blue as we await the 25th. However, the tree and other decorations will be put up on December 21st. It’s difficult to be patient, but there have been little glimpses of Christmas around the Mount. One of which popped up this week after our very snowy weekend. Jessica and I built a snow-person behind the Mount, just visible from the dining room. It was Jessica’s first time making a snow person! We are still looking for the right name for our creation. Suggestions are welcome!

The Art House was busy with preparations for the Open House we had on December 8. Students finished art projects and practiced dances and musical pieces. The parents and families of the students were invited in the evening for a recital and art show. My 7- and 8-year-old music students played “Jingle Bells” on the hand bells. We put on red and green reindeer antlers to make it even more festive! It was a joy to watch the students get excited about playing for other people. There were gasps and wide eyes when the students were asked to play for the recital. They were excited to share what they learned. I loved watching all of the talents my students have. One of my 8 year olds from hand bells was also in a hoop dance class. The dancers used hula-hoops that are twirled and rolled and spun around them. I loved watching her swing the hoop above her head and simply grin and giggle!

At Saint Benedict’s Education Center, the refugees are enjoying their first sights of snow. There were some excited faces when the flakes started falling last week. For many people, it is their first time seeing snow. There is a Somali man who towers over everyone and has deep, booming voice. As we watched the snow come down, he looked out the window with eyes wide saying, “It is ALL white! Erie is white!” It was a reaction that was so innocent and sweet.
It has ben a season of firsts around here, I suppose. It was my first Thanksgiving away from home. It was difficult to be away, but wonderful to be able to spend the holiday with the sisters. The food and time spent together made me thankful to be in such a special place with special people. In other firsts, I’ve taken up the flute under the direction of a sister. I can play some Christmas carols, and we’ve enjoyed some flute duets as well. I’ve also started to test out my baking skills, thankfully, under the direction of a sister. So far, only bread and cookies, but more to come, I’m sure! I’m (patiently) looking forward to Christmas time here at the Mount!



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Beloved Community

Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB
People are connected to those whom they love and who love them back.  We feel it even when we walk into a room, or hear the voice of welcome when kids run into the house after a day in class or when good friends laugh wholeheartedly with one another.  I felt it when I listened to Vincent Harding, the civil rights activist, who was recently interviewed by Krista Tippet on MPR.  Along with Martin Luther King, Vincent Harding seemed able to gather into his heart the jarring opinions, the hateful actions and words among the whites and blacks in the 1960s; and he continues to speak to us in these dark times when we hold at bay those who are different from ourselves, so unable to receive or even respect one another.  Both black leaders spoke of the need to form the BELOVED COMMUNITY, a concept which necessarily eliminates such ideas as “minority/majority,” “black/white,” “worthy/unworthy."
To create the Beloved Community among us, today as then, is hard work! We need to find new words to express our new reality e.g. “minority” no longer works. It connotes the existence of a “majority.” Just as in modern day families, our society is a blended one! We whites are no longer filling the ranks, directing or controlling societal mores. We need to make room for other colors, other ideas, and other ways of expression. In the 60s, one way to express opposition was through protest songs. The song “This little light of mine,” was the marching song to tell Governor Wallace that no matter what he would do, the songsters would continue to let their little lights shine! Or later in Alabama, when supporters of Martin Luther King were trying to discern whether or not to continue the march or go home, a new song was born to capture the hearts and minds of those who were discerning their decisions. It was the gripping song: “KUMBAYA ... Someone’s crying Lord; someone’s suffering, Lord ... Kumbaya ... Come be with us, Lord, Kumbaya!” With the collective support of one another and the truth of their songs, not many volunteers returned home!  They would continue to march for the civil rights of their suffering brothers and sisters!

Can we expect to do less as we enter our new era, and strive again to create a Beloved Community out of nasty partisanships? I don’t think so.  Demographically, whiteness is fading! It is understandable that we are in an identity crisis, that we wonder if we still have a role in our rapidly changing color and cultural society. We find that we are no longer in the majority. We need to move out of our comfort zone of white power into a new normal. Can we begin to call this new community a Beloved Community, as did Martin Luther King and Vincent Harding?  Do we have the courage? The compassion? And the creativity? It will take all three, and all of us–young and older, white/black/brown/red/ and yellow folk; it’ll take discipline, that of developing eyes to see and ears to hear  while our hearts and minds  break open to new unexpected revelations of light within the darkness. Again I’m reminded of the wisdom in one of Leonard Cohen’s songs: 

Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering;
There’s a crack in everything;
But that’s where the light gets in …

The cracks are all around us! Can we afford to lose the light that is or can come through!  I don’t think so ...

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Joy and Sorrow of Life in Bristow

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 at the College of Saint Benedict in a capacity that will challenge them personally, spiritually and professionally.

Mo Shannon, Erin Carey and Bethany Purkapile are the Benedictine Women Service Corps volunteers for 2016-17. On September 1, they began a year's service at Benedictine monasteries in Bristow, Va., and Erie, Pa.

Three Thursdays a month will feature a blog post by one of these volunteers. These women will share a bit of their experience within the BWSC ministry and ask that you pray for them as they extend Benedictine values to the world during their year of service.

I typically like my blog posts to be one coherent idea, but too much has happened in the past few weeks that I would like to share with you all. I’m limited in words, but for this blog post I feel as though it is important to share both my experience at BARN and the passing of Sister Anita.

BARN (Benedictine Aid Relief for Neighbors, a transitional housing program)

It’s an amazing opportunity to notice when the saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” occurs right before your eyes. On my second day at BARN, I was assigned the project to help place a family from the county’s homeless database into one of our rooms at BARN. I was given a list of requirements that we had and was asked to call each individual on this list to see if they met our criteria (having a car, job, willing to live in a group community, intensive case management, just to name a few) and if they would be a good fit in our program. This was not an easy process because I could hear hopeful expectation in the voices of each person I called: this would finally be the help they needed. Unfortunately, for most individuals, my call wasn’t that call.

I found a family from the county’s list after quite a few heartbreaking calls. A single father with three children under the age of 10. It’s interesting because I almost decided that to start from the bottom of the list and I could have chosen any number of different orders in which to call these families, but I didn’t. I started from the top of the second list handed to me (families are triaged into categories in the database based on the severity of their situation, so all families on this list were of the same triage category). And there was no answer for the first three phone calls that I made.

The chosen family came to an intake interview and are now settling in to their BARN community. It was a truly humbling experience to be able to help place a family, especially during the holidays. I was brought to tears by the excitement of the youngest child, simply because they would have their own bed and comforter. It was a beautiful reminder that not only does God provide us in our time of need, but that we need to be grateful for the things that we do have, even if we don’t think it is very much.

Sister Anita Sherwood

As many of you might know, we lost a sister in the community this Sunday. Sister Anita Sherwood was 98-years-old. This was a really scary incident for me and one that I previously hoped I would not have to experience during my volunteer year. Death is a really foreign and scary subject for me. As a young child, death brought a lot of anxiety for me. My fear of death and losing those around me was what initially illustrated to my parents and doctors that I had a severe anxiety disorder. I know that the end of this week won’t be without stress, anxiety and heartbreak, but there is a beautiful aspect of death illuminated in the monastery: one of everlasting life, peace and happiness for the memories that were shared with an individual who has passed. Sister Anita will truly be missed by many. I will miss her bright smile that could light up any room, or the way that we would make eye contact after mass on Sundays; all I had to do was wink and wave and she would smile and blow kisses my way. I’ll miss the way that she was always cold and loved blankets and hats!

Although I don’t think I have fully processed what has occurred, I feel truly blessed for having the opportunity and time spent getting to know Sister Anita. She was truly a blessing and I will forever cherish my time with her.

Sending my love and many prayers,


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Thanks, Dad

The Rose family
Photo by Lisa Rose, OSB
I am sitting in the living room as my dad lies in the hospital bed. The house is empty right now except for the two of us. Being alone, it is easier to tell him that I love him and thank him for being my dad. I thank him especially for teaching me how to pray.

I believe that my religious vocation was first nurtured in the home by the example of my parents through their faithfulness to prayer and going to church. I am remembering the day I told my parents that I wanted to join Saint Benedict’s Monastery. They supported me in my vocation from that day forward. I recall one Sunday evening when I was returning to  Saint Benedict’s when dad said to me: “If you ever want to come home, the door is always open.” I was touched by that comment because he always wanted the best for his children.

And in wanting the best for us, he always made sure we got to church on Sunday. I remember once, when we were not home for a weekend, the most important thing my parents did was find a church so we could go together as a family. My parents always liked to sit up front, so we would walk up to the first pew as a family and stay until the last word of the final hymn was sung. Often the pews behind us were empty when we left the church.

I took the time to thank dad that day when we were alone, for teaching me about Jesus. At this time, I am in vigil with my dad, as he is slowly leaving the world we know it and he is moving on to his final journey to meet Jesus--the Jesus he loves so much. As I say good-bye to my dad, I am grateful for my own vocation.

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict's Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

Lisa Rose, OSB

Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Advent Reflection

Pat Pickett, OblSB
Pat Pickett, OblSB, is an oblate of Saint Benedict’s Monastery and shares a reflection about Advent. Oblates of Saint Benedict are Christian individuals who associate with a Benedictine community in order to enrich their way of life. They live according to the wisdom of Christ as interpreted by Saint BenedictTo learn more about Oblates and the process of becoming an Oblate, visit

In the still, quiet, gray of midnight morning, everything was calm. Light snow began to decorate the evergreen branches outside the kitchen window. My reflection abruptly ended as I was startled by the twinge I felt across my back. The calm and quiet rushed to a crescendo of personified knowing. As I stood, the twinge radiated to the front of my body. It was time. Waiting was over. Driving to the hospital over freshly snow-covered streets, the contractions were close now.
In a little over an hour, I was holding my son. He showed no signs of his recent journey and my mind began to drift as our heartbeats melted into one drumming sound, tu-tum, pu-pum tu-tum, pu-pum tu-tum, pu-pum. Nine months of waiting, five months since that first whisper of movement telling me that a new life was growing inside me, my son was now nuzzled against my breast.

What a gift to have been pregnant during Advent! Those days brought me closer to Mary, closer to the mystery of God’s love being clothed with the body of a baby. Each day became a reflection on the Incarnation. For me, it was a realization of how God waits with each of us to say, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Christ is born into the messiness of our lives when we are open to the profound reality that God is always there giving us a chance to receive this new mysterious, re-created eternal life.
Watching my baby become a little boy and now an adult, I am brought back yearly to that tender birthing Advent, realizing that Christ is always coming to each of us, waiting for us to become more familiar and accepting of the story, realizing that our whole life is a birthing time. Partnering with Christ, we learn to say, “Yes!” with more abandonment each Advent cycle. We begin to see, to believe that God really is at work transforming us, creating new life, forming our lives into the “kin”dom of eternal love.

My yearly journey into Advent is to have faith that God waits with me and with all of us. God takes me where I am and works with me, with us. God’s new life is always about to happen tu-tum, pu-pum tu-tum, pu-pum tu-tum, pu-pum, God longs for that day our hearts will synchronize as we are held in God’s loving embrace.

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Grumpy Nun

Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB, of how the monastery campus should look, but doesn't
I don’t come from Minnesota. I come from England. We have snow in England but it’s wet, heavy snow which comes and goes in the space of a few days or, at most, weeks. It’s certainly not up to the high standard of a Minnesota snowfall. I love dry Minnesota snow. It seemed like a real miracle the first time I got snow in my boots here. Scenes of jubilation – there was time to tip it out of the boots before my socks got wet!

I should come clean, I am a snow addict. If there was snow all year, I’d be happy. And when I first came to Minnesota I really thought I’d found an almost perfect winter climate. This is how it was. Every morning I would wake up to a beautiful dawn, the sun would climb up into the sky and there’d be that perfect contrast between blue sky and pure-white, diamond-dotted snow. The highs were always in the mid-20s, so every afternoon, I’d put on my down coat and my boots and go out for a lovely invigorating walk in the woods. About once a week, there’d come a snowfall so that everything remained looking pristine and pure, no dirty slush ever offended the eye.

I’m now experiencing my 12th Minnesota winter and nothing has ever quite matched up to that first one. Sadly, I’ve come to accept that it can’t be like that every year. But I still do get very excited when the first snowfall happens. It was a good one this year, but I did have the nagging feeling that because it was wet snow, it might behave like English snow and disappear.

It did and I am now grumpy because of it. Warm temperatures and rain have conspired to remove all but a few traces of the glorious white stuff. Left behind is a rather depressing colorless remnant of fall. I feel colder than I do when it snows because, although the absolute temperature is quite high, above freezing, it’s a damp cold that’s left behind which seeps into the fiber of my being.

It had better snow properly (as I would term it) soon, and stay snowy, or I am going to be one grumpy nun for the foreseeable future!

Karen Rose, OSB

Monday, November 28, 2016


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.

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! I miss seeing all of your smiling faces. I pray that your Thanksgiving was full of love, laughter and great food because I know mine surely was. Thanksgiving morning the sisters and I are sat in the community room and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. People were laughing, knitting, napping and patiently waiting for the food to be served. Our community room was filled with many guests. Christina Désert, who volunteered two years ago, came all the way from Cambridge, Mass., to spend Thanksgiving with the sisters. They were so excited to see her. After all, she was their very first volunteer. Sister Nancy Bauer also came to visit! She brought her friend Corrin and they seemed to enjoy themselves. On more than one occasion, S. Nancy asked to take my picture. For a brief second, I thought I was famous. However, I was quickly brought back to earth when I was told I would be helping with ALL the Thanksgiving dishes. Let me tell you, washing Thanksgiving dishes was quite the feat.

Even though I longed for mom’s baked mac and cheese and my granny’s sweet potatoes, I was truly blessed to be able to spend Thanksgiving with individuals who I have grown to care for. It was nice being in an environment where there was a representation of what unity looks like. This post-election season has definitely uncovered the large rift that is unfortunately still present in America. What I loved about this past Thanksgiving was that, for one day, it did not matter what political party one represented or background she/he came from. What mattered most were our many blessings.

Shifting gears, I would like to talk about how the month of November has been full of many changes for me. I started my new job at BEACON. I’m really excited because starting December 6, I will be teaching a lower level intermediate English class. As I helped future students register for classes, I tapped into my nearly non-existent Spanish speaking skills. I haven’t spoken Spanish since my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure I made a few people laugh with my terrible Spanish. Although I have tough skin, I can see why learning English can be very intimidating and discouraging. I’ve heard some Americans say, “You can’t live in the U.S if you don’t know how to speak English.” Or I’ve heard, “I wish those people would just go back to where they came from.” Knowing that there are still people like this in the world pushes me to make sure my students know that I am an ally who supports their efforts in learning another language to achieve a better life. It is important to understand that many immigrants who come to the U.S seek out a better life. I feel it is my duty to ensure that these individuals reach their goals. The world already has enough cynics. What we lack is understanding and compassion. The Beatles had it right when they said: “There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be!”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Year of Mercy has ended, but not our call to be merciful.

The Year of Mercy formally began on December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, with the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. It ended with a simple but profound celebration for our community this past Sunday with the celebration of Christ the King. As quoted by our Holy Father, "Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation. May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ."  As Christians we are ALL called by our baptismal call to live a life of faith and love.  As sisters, in our daily living we seek and find God through our threefold promise of stability, conversatio (continued fidelity to monastic life) and obedience. 

That the year has ended, we are called ever more profoundly to live a life of mercy through compassion and forgiveness to other people. With the recent elections we need to find a way to love and accept one another with dignity and respect despite our differences.

For me personally, I have focused on the word compassion.  I try hard not to judge the actions of others because I don’t want to be judged.  Every day I am more and more aware of God’s deep and unconditional love and mercy for me. I am God’s beloved. How can I not show that same compassion and mercy to others?  It is not always easy, we are human, we fail and yet we keep trying.  But I feel I am in an atmosphere conducive to continuous conversion of my short-comings. 

With the holidays upon us, let us set aside our differences and rejoice in each other. Let us be thankful for the many blessings we have received and strive to love one another with the heart of the God who loves us so much. Be the first to ask forgiveness from another and the first to show kindness.


Tammy Lynn Shoemaker, OSB



Thursday, November 17, 2016

For the Beauty of the Earth

It is hard to comprehend that next week is Thanksgiving already. It has been almost three months in Erie, and life is a never ending flow of beautiful surprises:

One was a trip to Niagara Falls. The size of Niagara alone is impressive and the tons of water flowing continuously over the sides is awe inspiring. As I stood along the edge, listening to the roar of the water and the gusts of wind through the trees, I heard something else as well. During our time at the falls, I counted at least four languages other than English. There were people from all parts of the world stopping at this wonder of nature and appreciating the beauty. The beauty of the falls speaks to everyone, no matter the language or culture.

The beauty of music has been a constant in my life, but at the Art House I got to experience the feeling of being in awe of music through the eyes of a 12-year-old. A few weeks ago, I was given an assignment by one of my students to listen to the soundtrack to a certain videogame. I did my homework and brought back the melody of the score for her to play. We sight-read the music together. Suddenly, she recognized the melody. Her eyes lit up and she grinned. She looked over at me and said, “Thank you.” She looked back at the music, still smiling and asked, “Can we play it again?” It was privilege to be a witness to her first taste of the beauty of playing piano.

Beauty at Saint Benedict’s Education Center is seen in the meeting of races, languages and cultures of the refugees. However, one vocabulary lesson was particularly challenging. The teacher was explaining that a family is typically a parent or parents and children. One of our Syrian refugees took out his phone in an attempt to translate. Once he understood, he began to type quickly. Google translate spoke, “I understand, but all Syrians are all one family.” This was a much needed reminder that we all belong to one another.

I’m currently reading the book, Becoming Wise by Krista Tippet, a broadcaster for National Public Radio. In it she includes interviews with people from all different faith traditions, commenting on what it means to be human. One man, Xavier Le Pichon, commented profoundly on love:

“ … once you enter into this way of … walking with the suffering person who has come into your life and whom you have not rejected, your heart progressively gets educated by them. They teach you a new way of being … . My heart cannot be educated by myself ... . And if we accept being educated by others, to let them explain to us what happens to them, and to let yourself be immersed in their world so that they can get into our world, then you begin to share something very deep. You will never be the person in front of you, but you will have created what we call communion.”

My heart has been continually educated over the past three months. It has been stretched, widened, broken and embraced by people from all around the world. To walk with the refugee, to listen to the child or to live with a sister takes a continual opening of each other’s hearts to one another’s suffering and beauty. This widening makes my heart tender and vulnerable and it is difficult to remind myself that what I do is worthwhile despite the pain of carrying someone’s sufferings with me. I have to believe that even though our hearts are being torn, the love and beauty we find together is worth it. I have to believe that making someone feel needed, accepted and loved is worthy of our hearts. I have to believe that beauty will keep calling us back to communion, whether it is in nature, music or the wonder of our human family.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that my heart has been entrusted to these people for a short while.

Peace and prayers,

Erin Carey, BWSC Volunteer



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Our Father Revisited

Photo by Janelle Sietsema, OSB

This November night when the full moon is luminous, the squash are waiting to be baked and the cucumbers are safely shelved in pickle brine, it’s hard to keep the heart from raising a grateful shout of delight. Gratefulness often seems to bring the words of the Our Father to my lips. But as I’m typing this blog a 2016-version of this familiar prayer keeps rising in me. Tonight, these grateful words form yet another expression of our precious Our Father.

Our Ever-creating Father and Mother,

calling on your holy name connects heaven and earth.

In you all of creation becomes a kin-dom.

Resting in you, we know and do your will.

Then earth and heaven are one.

Give us today the nurturing bread of your presence.

Salve our wounds with your forgiveness.

Open our hearts to be salve for other’s wounds.

Alert us to the destructive temptation of judging others.

Gently draw us into your unconditional-love.

Invite us to rest within it,

until all evil loses its power.

As you continue to birth kin-dom energy,

 all creation is empowered and set free.

Then in the now and forever

your glory and praise will be sung.


Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Friday, November 11, 2016

Expectation, Hope and Healing

I had many expectations and hopes when coming to Bristow. It was a new adventure and I knew there would be many firsts along this journey. I expected to enjoy my time at the monastery, to be cared for by many of the sisters and to make a small difference in the ministries that I would be serving. I hoped to make friends and lifelong memories. I hoped to find something (or someone) that inspired me, that led me to what I should be doing with my future. So far, all these things have happened. However, I never expected or hoped that I would find my experience to be healing.


I’ll be the first to admit that I secretly hoped I would find romantic love while also here in Bristow. What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic and I watch way too many sappy movies. (How great would it be to say that I met my future husband while volunteering for a year?) In all honesty though, I did find love. It might not be what I originally anticipated, but I found love here at the monastery. Every day I wake up and I am reminded that I am loved by the sweet smiles and greetings of the sisters. I’m reminded of the love in the secret smiles and eye contact during prayers, and the everyday hugs from Sister Connie Ruth, Sister Miki and Sister Charlotte. The love that surrounds this monastery and those in it are endless and not a day goes by that the love and joy that the sisters share for one another is extended to all those around them.


Not only did I find love embracing me on my adventure here, I began to love those around me. I found friendships that I never thought would exist. I love teaching and my students so much that I’m now considering education as a future option for me. I found a love for religion (again) and a deeper understanding of faith. Never in my hopes and expectations, which I long thought about before beginning this journey, had I thought that this experience would be healing. I wasn’t broken, but I knew something was missing. The past six years of my life have been a struggle. My family structure had fallen apart and mental illness had truly taken its toll. Without going into great length about my family dynamics, my family is very diverse and about a year ago, my entire family lost hope that we would ever be a stable family again. Love was no longer the grounding features to my family, but rather anger and mistrust. I was afraid to volunteer for a year for fear that my family would slip further into the abyss and that there would be no returning. I took a leap of faith and it was the best thing that I could have done.

My family is doing great, by the way. But I truly believe that the love I found here was the healing that I needed after a rough year. Not only did I need to be reminded that love exists in all of us, but I was able to remind my family that through everything, one constant remains: we all love each other and together this is what would heal us. Love will always trump hate.

BWSC Volunteer,

Bethany Purkapile