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,

 

-Mo

 

 

 

 

 

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 lrose@csbsju.edu.

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.   


https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-s5WWx8cMKMk/WFNQPYXV3zI/AAAAAAAABXE/YR03UuhuqkIjeZLpMaAiwFQH2hJvXo_dwCLcB/s320/Bread.jpg
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,

Bethany

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 lrose@csbsju.edu

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 www.sbm.osb.org/oblates/

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