Monday, September 11, 2017

Black Folk Religion: God as a Liberating God

I keep recognizing how much other cultures have to teach me.  A recent confirmation of that happened when I listened to an interview by Krista Tippet with Ruby Sales, civil rights veteran and public theologian. [“on Being”, August 17, 2017].  It helped me again acknowledge how many persons of color continually put their lives on the line to move social justice into the foreground of our awareness.  Ruby, who grew up on black folk religion, described her concept of black folk religion this way.

(Photo submitted by Martha Maloney)
“When I talk about Black Folk Religion I’m talking about a religion that came out of ordinary people during enslavement in the fields of America. We saw ourselves as a Beloved Community. It meant that we wanted to have justice because we loved everybody in our hearts.  Our songs were about God as a liberating God.” Ruby came to recognize and embody what God-justice, God-talk, God-love, and God-right-relations looked and felt like as the words rang in her ears.


Is it possible that the lyrics of these traditional black folk songs might help save America from itself by giving us a Beloved-Community-vocabulary in our time?


Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What does a Forever Commitment Mean?

Have you ever wondered how a commitment will stick for some people and not for others? Well here is a simple story about a lifelong commitment. When my two nieces were married last year, I was able to witness the marriage commitment of all the married couples who attended the reception. During the reception, the Disc Jockey began what he called, “The anniversary dance." After he invited all the married couples to the dance floor, the music started. When he called out a number that matched the number years they had been married they had to leave the dance floor. Of course, the first couple to walk away was the newly married. It was fun to watch and celebrate with each couple as they walked away. The count began with one year, three years, five years, seven years, ten years and fifteen years. Slowly he got up to fifty years, fifty-five years, and at this point, the only two couples on the dance floor were the grandparents of the newly married couple. At sixty years, only one couple was dancing, my parents. The count continued, sixty-one, sixty-two, he finally asked, “How long have you been married?” Everyone in my family called out “Sixty-four years.” At which the DJ responded, “I have never had a couple on the dance floor that long.”

(Tamra Thomas, OSB, Perpetual Profession, July 11, 2017
Photo by Nancy Bauer, OSB)
So what does forever mean to you? At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we make our forever commitment on our profession day. If you would like more information about our monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When Was It You?

Mary Reuter, OSB is currently the Novice Director for our community.
In a documentary about the monkeys of Shangri-la in the Himalayas,1 I watched one youngster that was rejected by the other monkeys, including his mother. He was left to learn by himself how to manage his life, stay connected with the “troop” (band of monkeys), and forage for food. He became under-nourished and socially isolated. 

One day he struggled to climb a tree limb; he was too weak to make progress. He was becoming discouraged, desperate. Suddenly a strong furry arm of his stepfather reached down to pull him up. I imagine him being brought into a strong embrace, smothered in the fur of his elder’s  protection.

When, in the midst of a day has someone made a comment of acknowledgement to you and you felt a boost forward? When have you been struggling in making a decision and an unexpected breakthrough made a freeing shift in your perspective and insight? You realized once again that there is a power beyond you and you can count on it for good. And this power is God. When have you needed help with a task and someone volunteered her services? You were pulled from feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed to relief and accomplishment. “I will praise you, God, and give you thanks” (adapted Ps. 30:1,4).

When have you extended a hand or arm to pull someone a little farther on one of their limbs of life? When might you have been an instrument of God who says, “I pulled you out of the pit” (Ps. 30)—the pit of whatever is burdensome, fearful, painful, unfree . . . .  And you respond: “I will praise you . . . , my God. I will give thanks to your forever” (adapted Ps. 30:12).

Mary Reuter, OSB

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Here We Stand

Here We Stand: Reforming Anew
Catholics and Lutherans in Dialogue
Saturday, September 9
8:30 a.m-1 p.m.

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Catholics, Lutherans and other interested people will gather in the Gorecki Center at the College of Saint
Benedict to address the challenges this day’s title suggests. The words “Here I stand” are often
Dr. Kathryn Johnson
attributed to Martin Luther, as he strongly affirmed his belief in the saving power of God’s mercy. For us today, “here we stand” can both affirm Catholic and Lutheran traditions, beliefs and practices, and pose a series of questions: Where do Catholics and Lutherans now stand in relation to each other? Can we stand in unity in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Can we work together for justice, nonviolence, mercy and hospitality, in a world hungry for these Gospel values? In other words, to what new reformation do our churches and our world call us?

Abbot John Klassen
We’ll address some of these questions guided by Dr. Kathryn Johnson, director for ecumenical and inter-religious relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Her keynote address, “What Difference Does This Anniversary Make?” and the response of Abbot John Klassen, OSB, of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., will bring to light the gifts of the Spirit to both religious traditions, throughout their history and at this moment—gifts we can offer to each other and to the world through concrete, united action.

Bishop Donald Kettler
Bishop Jon Anderson
Bishop Donald Kettler of St. Cloud and Bishop Jon Anderson of the Southwest Minnesota Synod of the ELCA will open and close the day
with prayer. There will be time throughout the day for conversation and questions for the speakers. We’ll continue our dialogue at lunch as we break bread together. The day will end with prayer, ritual and song.

You may register online, but hurry because registration for this event is limited.
Questions? Contact Sister Eunice Antony at (320) 363 8927 or

Co-sponsored by Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Collegeville Institute, Diocese of St. Cloud, Saint John’s Abbey, Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in cooperation with Southwestern MN Synod of the ELCA.

[Related events this weekend are being held Friday, September 8, at St. Mary’s Basilica in Minneapolis and Sunday, September 10, at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville. For more information, contact Carla Durand at]

Mara Faulkner, OSB

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gorgeousness Revealed

As I move through different circles of interacting with others, an observer’s first impression of me may hinge on what I look like.  However, my body is not me. It is the house in which I live. If you say that I am so many inches tall, or that I weigh such and such number of pounds, I will reply, “You are not describing me. You are talking about my address.” [Plotinus]

(Photo by Nancy Bauer, OSB)
When we share stories with one another we begin to notice who we each are at a deeper level and may actually discover certain layers of inner beauty.  In the transformative and life-expressing exchange of storytelling, the listening presence of an attentive “other” helps me see more fully who they are and who I am.  It helps me discover again the truth of this African proverb “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” (A person is a person because of other people.)

Once we risk taking off a layer of our skin by telling honest stories to one another, who knows, we might find that more of us can walk around in our uncovered gorgeousness.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Happiness Attacks"

Recently I was with a homeless woman who suffers intermittent “panic attacks”.  Her entire body shakes from the pain.  She sits down for a few seconds, and then, has to rise for a brief moment or walk around to ease the terrible pain especially in her legs. While she was with me, all I could do. . .or knew how to do . . .was to hold her and assure her that how she was responding was perfectly O.K.  It must be terrible to live in her skin, so constantly expectant of another “panic attack” though she was not always able to predict just when it would come!

Today I read of another woman who had what she called “happiness attacks."  These started for her when she was a child.  They lasted but a few moments and came whenever “everything was right in her world:" when she was loved, enjoying school, being cared for.  She noticed these wonderful attacks even though they lasted but a moment. And, wonder of wonders, these attacks continued into her adulthood!  What a blessed woman!  I, too, want to be conscious of such “happiness attacks” in my life and call them by their name!

Have you had a “happiness attack” today?  I have! This morning, I saw our little chipmunks voraciously consuming layer after  layer of tiny blue berries on medium-sized trees outside our chapel—four of them!  The chippies were so quick and even intent upon enjoying this feast in an orderly manner, from top branches to the succeeding layer of leaves and fruit!  I could not help but smile and be grateful for such a lovely “happiness attack."

Or you may have witnessed—as I did-- a six month old baby girl sleeping contentedly upon her daddy’s shoulder.  Or was it a simple thoughtful action like that of a young school child holding a door and smiling at the elderly woman carrying her two bags with  minimal contents as she made her way out of the supermarket?

Let us begin to notice our “happiness attacks."  Surely these would calm the “panic attacks” that at times may visit us. . .or at least others for whom “not all things go right in their world.”


Renee Domeier, OSB

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eloise at Five Years Old!

My little neighbor friend turned five. She invited me for her birthday party. She was excited to turn five this summer and proudly beamed she would be going to kindergarten. Eloise is a very precocious, intense and playful five year old. She’s a delight to be with and I have learned so much from her.  Most of us really need a five-year-old friend to keep us grounded in life.

(Photo of Eloise's picture by Trish Dick, OSB)
Yesterday she gave me one of her drawings. She was befuddled about how to draw a five so her mom drew a five on the paper so she could trace it. She made a grand picture for me but decided the five wasn’t how she liked it, so she started over and made her five and then quickly realized her name wouldn’t fit on the page. No problem -- she would write the rest of the letters to her name below.  She proudly gave it to me to hang on my refrigerator.

Eloise taught me that there is beauty in our imperfection. Actually, there is an abundance of life in not getting things right. What mattered the most was her generosity and purity heart in giving this gift. There was no shame in her letters below the five and that is exactly where they needed to be. I mean where else would you put the letters when there is plenty of room there? 

Every day for the Benedictine way of life is a turning – a conversion of our heart. Let us cast our imperfections upon the Everlasting love of God and enjoy the beauty of grace. This is true holiness and purity of heart. Embrace the life of conversion – finding beauty in imperfection and adapt the letters of your life where needed.


Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

No Going Back

When you hear the words, “There is No Going Back”, what goes through your mind? The phrase “no going back” for me means to build upon what has already been. It means moving forward into my future. I cannot change the past yet I can direct the future. To expand on that thought, for me it means to build upon my experiences. These experiences may be pleasant or unpleasant; yet usually there is growth in what has been part of my past to prepare me for my future. No going back also makes me think twice before I speak because I cannot take back hurtful words. I do not want to regret something I have said to another in a moment of frustration. Whether in action or words, I am continually moving forward in my life. So going back is never an option. I have also learned that every decision I make builds upon a past decision. This thought propels me forward to serve God and to be what God is asking me to be. As a Benedictine sister, there is no going back on my commitment to God or to my community. Each day I move forward in response to God’s call for me. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Generous Listening

(Photo by Martha Maloney)
Krista Tippett, interviewer for public radio’s On Being has been asking provocative questions of her guests over the years. Her concept of generous listening described in her recent book, Becoming Wise, keeps lingering with me.  There seems to be a deep desire rising in many of us to connect with persons on the margins of our everyday experiences… culturally, politically and in our dreaming. Currently our monastery campus is hosting, “Circles of Understanding” between our local Somali neighbors and interested people. Krista Tippett’s invitation to generous listening seems to describe exactly the qualities that might allow us to create an enhanced sense of somehow belonging to one another. She says, “Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability - a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one's own best self and one's own best words and questions.”
Each of us together is gradually finding ways to enhance our sense of belonging to those who once were strangers.  Their stories can teach us about their unique world and our common threads. According to Padraig O’Tuama, a poet, storyteller and theologian, “Creating a sense of belonging both creates and undoes us.” In this “belonging process,” who knows what careful questioning and wise language we may be learning?

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Grace to Stay Silent

Have you ever experienced a desire to "get a word in edgewise” when someone is dominating a conversation? Or perhaps it was you, yourself, who dominated  a conversation so that  no one else could share her good or even better idea . I know both situations. . . but we’re not alone in our experience.  Read what a 17th century nun used to pray; it could become our prayer, as well:

“Lord, Thou knowest better than I that I am growing older and will someday be old.  Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.  Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.  Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy.  With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.  Seal my lips on my aches and pains.  They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less  cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.  Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

“Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.  Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people.  And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

I can say a resounding “AMEN” to this prayer.  How about you?

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Full Circle of Learning

“Learning” is a word that, at 57 years old, I relish and embrace. As a matter of fact, the older I get the more I have an expansive curiosity about the world around me and the desire to learn about it.  My learning is sometimes random and sometimes intentional, sometimes it leads to more and more interest and then other times I just scratch the surface and move on. I am learning to embrace this rhythm in my life and, the more I accept it, the more lighthearted and playful is my soul.

What I truly love is when my learning comes full circle! For example, I remember the first time I bought a house and inherited all these plants and a garden. I frankly couldn’t tell or know if it was a weed or a flower. As a child I was too busy riding a bike, swimming or playing softball in the summer to learn about plants or a garden. Except I knew I loved fresh green beans from the garden and that was just taken for granted. Now the rhythm of curious learning beset me and my master-teacher was my best friend who taught me and continues to teach me about plants, gardens, and the art of canning. And on my curvy path of learning I’ve had success and, of course, failure but I learned through both methods! The gift my friend gave me was the love of gardening.

This year I have had the opportunity to share my love of gardening with some neighbors who bought their first house. As we journeyed together to figure out what was a plant and weed, why deadheading was important, and which plants needed and wanted shade I began to see the love of learning to garden being seeded in my neighbor and my soul sang and skipped with joy. I also knew a paced learning and tending to the garden would cultivate motivation rather than overwhelming her with a “learn it all now” approach. I understood this from the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 64: 13, where we are advised wanted to avoid extremes, in case, by rubbing too hard to remove the rust, we may break the vessel.  When we were working in the garden one evening my neighbor asked me, “How do you know all this stuff?”  I replied, “The same way you are learning, from a friend who helped when I acquired my first home.” And then I added, “Someday you will opportunity to teach someone else.”  “Really?”  And I replied wholeheartedly, “Yes!”  

This is the joy of coming full circle in learning, but more importantly the call of the Gospel for each of us – go and make disciples, mentor, teach, and pass the baton of the gift of your knowledge to the next generation. St. Benedict intuitively understood the Gospel and discipleship as important parts of living the Rule. He called his community a” school of the Lord’s service”. He wants us to learn from one another. He also refers to his community as a workshop where we use the tool of good works. 

I encourage all of us to look, listen and share generously and graciously the gifts and knowledge bestowed on us by the Spirit so that we may experience the joy of giving and the beauty of empowering – soul gardening. 

 Trish Dick, OSB

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourth of July

(Fireworks over our Monastery
Photo by Postulant Laura Suhr)
What memories come to mind when you think about the 4th of July?  Do you have any family traditions? Some of my memories focus on family, fun, and swimming at “The Lake.” Along with picnics and fireworks, the day was complete. For as long as I can remember my family celebrated July 4th with some cousins at our family lake cabin. So now, fifty years later the family tradition has changed very little, yet for me the meaning of the day has changed quite a bit. As an adult, I recognize the holiday as more than picnics and fireworks. It is time to thank God for His many blessings bestowed on us every day. It is a time to thank all the women and men who currently serve in the armed forces and protect us every day. As we take time to remember our country today, let us also remember the women and men who protected our country in the past. An interesting fact about July 4 you may not know about. It was on July 4, 1852, when the first sisters arrived from Eichstätt and set foot on American soil in the midst of parades and celebrations. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Hope Through the Love of Christ

(Girls, God and Good Times Camp
Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
I love the season of summer. I love it for a combination of reasons.  There seems be a more relaxed schedule; there is the hustle and bustle of the noise of children outside playing; and there is the unfolding of the beauty of the earth seen in the many flowers, plants and trees. The gardens are full of little sprouts of hope that desire to bear fruit. I am amazed that these little seeds sprout not knowing what the future holds for them. They could be wiped out by the nibbling of cute little critters who are eager for some fresh nourishment. A rain cloud could decides to ping down hail that tears and flattens them. The heat of the sun could scorch them and a human creature forget to water and nourish them. Yet even when they confronted with adverse conditions, these sprouts are resilient and, with some tender loving care, come back to life with a daunting, generous hope of becoming a part of the sustaining beauty of the earth.

I think of the book of Ecclesiastes where it says there is a season and time for everything. Shauna Niequist, in her book, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, states that there is a season for wildness and a season for settledness and this is neither. This season is about becoming.  Hope is about becoming in whatever season we find ourselves.  I do have to admit I am a slower, but impatient, learner at times. The season of becoming and unfolding can be awkward, clumsy and lack coherence.  Yet we Benedictines are given a way to understand the season of becoming through the Rule of St. Benedict, where he stresses the love of Christ as the focal point. The love of Christ is the center of our growth process.  We put hope in Christ and in becoming no matter where we are or how clumsy the process. 

If you find you have little critters of criticism nibbling at your hope of becoming, clouds of voices pinging down doubts of unfolding, or are feeling the sun’s scorning rays of discouragement, then press on in the love of Christ. In Benedict’s Rule, verse 74, Chapter 4, called “The Tools of Good Works,” he admonishes us to not to despair or lose hope in God’s mercy.  That hope may often be found in another person with a watering can, who gently waters your spirit back into the season of becoming.  Ask yourself whether today you are the watering can or the sprout needing nourishment? 

May we all find our anchor of life in the hope of becoming through the love of Christ.

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Nectar of Godness

Quieting our being to allow centering prayer to happen is not always easy.  Quiet can so readily give space to unresolved circular thoughts and feelings.  It reminds me a bit of sitting near a hummingbird feeder and noticing the whirring of the bird’s wings.  The rapidly moving wings and the perfect stillness of the rest of the bird’s body presents an amazing contrast.  It seems as though it would take a significant amount of nectar-energy to sustain this simultaneous wing movement and quiet body floatation.

(Photo by Kippy Stuhr)

As we are quieting ourselves for centering prayer, we may begin to notice our brain whirring like the wings of a hummingbird. While we long to connect with the quietness of our body, our brain-wings are simultaneously busy at work. Fortunately, if we can acknowledge our whirring thoughts and feelings and candidly but gently let our brain know that those are “not needed right now”, we can create within ourselves connected moments of inner space for Godness. In this sacred space, the nectar of God’s presence can slowly nurture and transform us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

“Every sunrise is God’s greeting; every sunset, His signature.”

(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
This morning I experienced God’s personal greeting!  I sat by Watab Lake, in the inky darkness, waiting. 

God is never late; it was 5:55, Central Standard Time.  And at that moment, through an opening in the overcast sky, the sun began to rise, as Emily Dickinson says, “a ribbon at a time”. 
As if there had been a reveille call, the purple martens exited their wooden house to sing to the sun. 
A wild duck perched herself on a post to my left. . .
and stayed there for more than half an hour looking and listening. 
After taking a belabored flight, no doubt stiff from too much
standing on a tiny round space, a blackbird took
the stand.  
There’s more.  The slight wind not only moved the waves downstream, but played with the leaves on most of the trees.  They were happy too:
such stability of place! such freedom to move within
their circumscribed orbits!
 Not like the dozen birds who wafted easily from one branch to another, never hitting their heads but alighting-- with grace—atop
the branches. I remembered one of our Schola
directors telling us to sing chant that way: “on top of the note, like the birds approach their destination; and therefore, not flat, neither distorting the chant nor
hurting ears sensitive to pitch!

Oh, what a lovely morning! What a glorious greeting from our God!  What will the next hours open up to me? 

I’ll keep on looking and listening.  Tonight I’ll be grateful to read God’s signature in the sunset!
Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The Alchemist"

Luminous Lodge Retreat
In the book, “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Caelho we meet a shepherd boy named Santiago. The story tells the reader about Santiago’s search for a hidden treasure in a faraway land. As he embarks on the journey, he sells his sheep and the adventure begins. He meets a variety of people along the way; some rob him of everything he owns, while others teach him the skills of survival in a strange land. Eventually he meets the Alchemist, who teaches Santiago to be true to himself. The Alchemist teaches him that in trusting and believing in himself, he can become his true self. He tells him it is there in his heart where he will find his treasure. As Santiago learns from the Alchemist, he is transformed. He learns to look beyond what he can see to the things he cannot see. He learns to look into himself, into his heart, and listen to what is most important to his life. Santiago finds his treasure through love, love of self and love of life through transformed eyes. So where is your hidden treasure in your life? Here at Saint Benedict’s Monastery we journey with one another through community living and listening to one another. We help one another find our own hidden treasure, as together we seek God. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

Thursday, June 1, 2017

In Gratitude-BWSC Erin's last BLOG

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.
The women's year of service is coming to an end. This week Erin Carey shares her final thoughts about her experience.
My days left at Mount Saint Benedict continue to dwindle as the last nine months are coming to a close. Many people are curious about what I thought of my experience. It’s a difficult question to answer without a little perspective from the experience, but here is what I have learned, appreciated and gathered so far.

From Saint Benedict’s Education Center: One of the teachers at Saint Benedicts has a refrain in the morning of saying “Look. Listen. Smile,” to the refugees to bring their attention to the lesson. It is a  simple mantra that I’ve come to appreciate. It has a centering effect on the refugees and on me, reminding me to take the time to stop and take in what or who is before me with open ears and a smile. The refugees respond with grins and a few laughs. The mantra reminded me to first greet each person as a person before we begin work.


From the Neighborhood Art House: Before classes start at the Art House the children gather together for announcements and to say a pledge:


May my mind think no harm.

May my lips speak no harm.

May my hands do no harm.

May the children of tomorrow

bless the work I offer.


I pledge allegiance to the earth

and all its sacred parts,

its water, land and living things

and all its human hearts.

I pledge allegiance to all life

and promise I shall care

 to love and cherish all its gifts

with people everywhere.


The pledge’s words taught me a nonviolent, global perspective is possible in all things, including art, music, and dance. I love the intentionality of starting classes with this broad and peace-seeking perspective.


From community: At the beginning of community celebrations the sisters sing a mantra:


 “Glorify God. Cherish Christ. Listen to the spirit. Reverence one another. Uphold all.“

(Teachers and Fellow Volunteers
Photo submitted by Erin Carey)


To me, it is a summary of what  monastic life is all about. Glorifying, cherishing, listening, reverencing and upholding take forms in the sisters’ relationships with each other; the care taken in helping an older sister; the teamwork of a dish team or a group to decorate the dining room for holidays; the presence shown to all residents of Erie: children, migrant workers, refugees, the homeless, and the poor; the hospitality shown to me and other women who come to live monastic life for a little while. I am so thankful to have been in a group of women that glorifies, cherishes, listens, reverences and upholds. I believe it is women religious guiding the church and the world into new ways of being and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to sit at their feet for a little while. The community prayer for vocations begins with the line: “We believe that Benedictine monasticism bears fruit for the world.” After living the life for a little while I can agree one hundred percent. The fruits from examples of awareness, peace, stability, love and acceptance are abundantly given here and I am so grateful.

MANY thanks to all in Minnesota, Iowa, and Erie who have sent prayers, encouragements and love to me. I am touched and grateful for the richness of the opportunity I was graced with the last nine months. I’m looking forward to continuing to unravel the meaning of this experience for years to come.


In gratitude and love,














Thursday, May 25, 2017

BWSC Bethany's last BLOG

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.

The women's year of service is coming to an end. This week Bethany Purkapile shares her final thoughts about her experience.


When I reflect back on why I decided to volunteer a year with the Benedictine Women Service Corps (BWSC), I remember how lost I was. I was graduating college and while everyone else had these big plans to get their dream job, I was not even sure what my dream job was. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had ideas of what I thought I would have liked to do but I never really knew what exactly those fields would entail. I needed more experience and that was one of the reasons that led me to BWSC.

The other reason was avoidance. I did not realize I was doing it, but I was avoiding going home. I was avoiding dealing with the problems that would surround me when I got there. My parents’ divorce finally went through and I knew that going home meant that I had to face the issues left behind from my father leaving, not only for me but for my younger siblings as well. The turmoil left over from that scared me, and it was easier to avoid it than to face the pain that came along with that.

(Photo submitted by Bethany Purkapile)
I often say that my time in Bristow was healing. That is truly, what it was: a year for me to experience fields that I would not get the chance to experience otherwise and to find myself, to heal from past pains and to further develop a relationship between me and God. I got all of those things while volunteering and it is exactly what I needed to feel comfortable and equipped to face my future, whatever it is that God has planned for me.

It has been 270 days of healing and growth. That is how long I have been here in Bristow.  Fortunately, I have way more than 270 memories of my time spent here. Every day has been a new experience and each of these last few days holds even more.

I am going to miss my Friday night hangouts with the sisters; where we begin our evenings with the news, Jeopardy. Our “party nights” filled with yummy snacks and drinks while we watched MacGyver, Hawaii 5-0, and Blue Bloods were something that I looked forward to every week. Every Friday I could count on the same sisters staying up late to hang out, the same laughter from the ridiculous stunts that MacGyver pulled and the same tears that began to fill our eyes with the sweet moments from Hawaii 5-0 and Blue Bloods.

I am going to miss the consistency of my schedule here with the sisters; going to prayer, work, and meal times. Spending dinners with the sisters has created some of my fondest memories. It is where we share stories of our days, our pasts and where I have learned the most about the sisters. It is where they tell me stories of their past, stories of how they came to be.

(Bethany, third from left, with her students
Photo submitted by Bethany Purkapile)
I am going to miss my students and teaching. As much as I don’t enjoy lesson planning, I’m going to miss getting up in the morning and dreading going to class, but the feeling of energy I get from seeing my students smiling and ready to learn. I am going to miss laughing at how ridiculous the English language is and protesting it with my students.

I am going to miss my time at BARN and the strength of each of the residents. The courage and strength of each of the individuals cannot be put into words. I am going to miss spending time with the children watching movies, playing outside and doing arts and crafts. I will miss their sweet hugs when they come home from school and find me in the office.

Most of all, I am going to miss the Sisters. I have created so many bonds and friendships that leaving is going to be very hard. The memories created with the Sisters here in Bristow are memories that will last me a lifetime. I found family here in Bristow, one that will remain with me for many years to come. Like I tell the Sisters, I might be leaving, but this is definitely not good-bye.

Thank you to everyone who has followed my year here in Bristow through my blog posts! Thank you for your continued prayers and support as well as the wonderful emails of encouragement.   


Bethany Purkapile


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wait Patiently for the Master's Arrival

I love the Letter of St. James to his early Christian Church because it is so real!  When they (or we!) gather, we know that everything that can do wrong eventually does; that our Christian churches seem to collect sinners!  St. James, however, is able—lovingly, honestly and wisely-- to bring to the surface, diagnose and deal with the quirks and misbehaviors present in his community.  I especially appreciate how Eugene H. Peterson renders the corrections and encouragements of James in contemporary language (The Message).  Listen, also, as you read the conclusion of the Letter of St. James:

. . . Friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival!  You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work.  Be patient like that.  Stay steady and strong.  The Master could arrive at any time.

Friends, do not complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know.  The Judge is standing just around the corner.   Take the old prophets as your mentors.  They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God.  What a gift life is to those who stay the course! . . . .

Are you hurting? Pray.  Do you feel great?  Sing.  Are you sick?  Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing- prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.  And if you have sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.  The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.  Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it would not rain, and it did not—not a drop for three and a half years.  Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did.  The showers came and everything started growing again.

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered from God’s truth, do not write them off.  Go after them.  Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.


Common Ground Garden
Green Beans Coming Up
Good advice for us too?  I think so.  It’s the merry month of May and the farmers are showing us how to live in quiet expectation  awaiting the Master, the new rains, the crops, and our willingness to live in our Easter communities, helping, healing, praying, forgiving, loving one another and the God who raised Jesus from death unto LIFE.  Alleluia!  He is risen and we, too, shall rise again, on the last day! Alleluia!


Renee Domeier, OSB

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mo's last Blog

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.

The women's year of service is coming to an end. This week Mo Shannon Thornton shares her final thoughts about her experience.
I have about two weeks left here in Bristow. While I’m extremely excited to return home, I’m also sad to be leaving my students behind. I didn’t expect to form such a close bond with them. In my previous blog post, I mentioned how I didn’t think I would enjoy teaching ESOL as much as I did. I didn’t think I had what it took to be a good teacher. I didn’t think I had enough patience, or the passion to be able to teach others effectively. Boy, was I wrong! Not only have I gained patience, but I’ve also gained satisfaction from seeing my students blossom. In November, when I first started teaching, many of my students could not communicate with me or with each other. They were scared to speak the little English they knew in fear of being made fun of. I have students who are from Afghanistan, China, the Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. As one could imagine, it was very difficult trying to get my students not only communicate with me, but also with each other. Not only were they in a new environment but they were also being exposed to different nationalities.
When I hear stories of my students accomplishing their goals against all the odds stacked up against them, it makes me realize that anything is possible! Recently, one of my students got a job in housekeeping at the local Marriot Hotel. This student in particular started out with a very thick French accent, couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone in English, and hated to speak in front of the class. Fast forward to present day, she is one of my strongest students. She now loves to participate in class, and in fact gets a little upset with me if I don’t call on her to answer a question. To see the tremendous progress she has made is truly inspiring. To go from not being able to hold a conversation in English, to obtaining a job that requires one to speak English takes dedication and perseverance. And I’m blessed enough to see that dedication and perseverance in all my students. 
Besides missing my students, I’ll also miss the sisters whom I’ve made a special connection with. I’ll miss playing Rummy every Sunday night with Sister Mary Ellen and Sister Henry Marie. I’ll miss talking about Southern cooking with Sister Connie Ruth, and I’ll definitely miss the needed hugs given to me by Charlotte Lange. There have been many other special moments and acts of kindness I’ve experienced while being here. While living in Virginia I’ve experienced a lot of change in my life. I’ve also experienced A LOT of uncomfortableness. Both which have led me to be more self-aware of who I want to be as a person, and to be conscious of the mark I choose to leave on others. 
My students and the Benedictine sisters of Virginia will always have a special place in my heart. And for that I am truly thankful to have met them!