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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Walking with God in a Fragile World

It’s the title of the book I’m reading.

Great title. . . .

But it’s  that “ing” word that catches me!

No doubt: we ARE in a fragile world

though the word, “world” is too global a concept for me.

 “World” is big, over THERE

        where planes, drones, guns,

        bloodshed, deceit, endless destruction

        happen daily, moment by moment.

“World” is too far removed from me, HERE

       where yellow-leafed trees surround me

      and bouquets of golden mums,

      food three times a day and coffee in between.

HERE, where I don’t constantly worry about

       my child out on the street or the horrible fear

       in my gut when the telephone sounds. . .

HERE we have bathrooms, soap and water,

       friends to meet our helplessness,  and a

       chapel to harbor our miniscule worries.

HERE, we have only begun to see and feel  the effects

     of climactic change. 

    We doubt that catastrophe

    will ever overtake us. . .NO,

   not here in America!

So, LORD, how can I walk in this fragile world. . .

     “over there”

     “down south”

     “on the east coast”?

“By walking with Me. . .”     

     “There’s that bothersome  ‘ing’ word again. . .

     something in progress, Webster suggests!

‘But I’m beyond 80,’ I tell myself; others can do it better, faster. . .”

Yet, deep within, I hear sounds of another voice:

        “That’s not enough!

        You, my friend, are sufficient to the task too!  Wake up!

        Are you watching and praying? Not even for one hour?”

“Is that perhaps You, Lord, speaking to me?  ‘Yes’ You say?

      Then, help me with those  ‘ ing’ words.”

Please! Let me never close my eyes to the terrors

      of  this fragile world

      and its impending danger

      even as I sit here, even here,

      watching and waiting for You,

      weeping over our 21st century Jerusalem,

      where millions of seemingly unimportant people die.

We are vulnerable, Lord. . .

    wounded and wounding.

Please, have mercy on us. Please. . . Amen.

Renee Domeier, OSB

Thursday, November 3, 2016

LISTEN! It's Time For School!

You might think going to school is over—done that! Yet, as a Benedictine sister or monk, our lives and our homes, in the words of the Rule of Benedict are “schools of the Lord’s service.” Yes, hopefully, we keep on learning and growing daily. Most of the information we need and/or are curious about is literally at our fingertips—within a second!

But listen! There are other approaches to learning and growing for which our hearts long. Where can we turn for guidance at such a time of awakening? One way of living that has sustained thousands of Christians through 1500 years is found in the Rule of Benedict which integrates Gospel values such as prayer, hospitality, community, respect for all creation and beauty.

Benedictine values are the lifeblood of monasteries and abbeys of dedicated women and men all over the world. A major work of Benedictines over the centuries continues today in schools and libraries. Their main purpose is to teach and help students of all ages to envision for themselves and others how the way of Benedictine spirituality can influence their lives whatever their vocation might be.

Today our guests, co-workers, oblates and volunteers who visit and work side-by-side with sisters often express wonder and interest in our lives in the monastery. Questions like, “How do so many women live side by side in harmony?” and “What is it that calls you daily and nourishes your lives of prayer and community?”

We are responding in the age-old way of Benedictines. Yes, we have established a School of Benedictine Spirituality! The School offers four courses incorporating Benedictine/Gospel values for study and reflection. The classroom becomes a small community for interchange and there are times to meet and pray with the sisters in the monastery. Why not enhance your knowledge and deepen your spiritual life by choosing one of the courses?

  • Living Benedictine Values
  • Lectio Divina (prayerful reading)
  • Psalms and the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Spirituality of the Benedictine Tradition. Find out more here.

We invite your participation in the School. It is a great joy for us to support you in your spiritual life and to hand on the Benedictine way of life. Questions? Email benedictineschoool@csbsju.edu


Theresa Schumacher, OSB

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Pumpkin

Sister Lisa Rose and her carved pumpkin
Even though Halloween was yesterday, we can still enjoy the smiling carved pumpkins that sit on the doorsteps of many homes. One of the best things about a pumpkin is the hidden face within each and every one. From experience, we know that before carving the pumpkin it needs to be prepared. The preparation involves removing the insides and the seeds. The empty cavity is now ready to hold a candle. The candle that is placed inside will lighten up whatever face the carver creates on the outside of the pumpkin. The pumpkin carver may ask, “Will I make a happy face or a scary one?” Whatever the carving ends up being, the candle light will bring it to its fullest beauty. So a reflective question to ask is “What needs to be removed from my life in order for my true beauty to shine through?” We know that Christ is willing to help us remove whatever blocks our beauty. We also know that Christ is the light that comes alive in each of us every day. And it is through our prayers that we are strengthened by the Christ-light within us, so that in preparing our light, through prayer, we will be able to see the light that shines through everyone we meet.

If you would like more information about our community, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.
Lisa Rose, OSB