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,


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