Thursday, April 27, 2017

An Easter Experience

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. This week's BLOG is written by Bethany Purkapile.

Photo submitted by Bethany Purkapile

Easter in the monastery was truly an experience unlike any other. Beginning Thursday morning, the atmosphere alone let you know that something was happening - something big! Our evening started with Mass and the official beginning of Triduum. After Mass, individuals were invited to have dinner with us, but this wasn’t any ordinary meal; it was the Seder meal. One long table at the top of the room held Sister Cecilia (prioress), Father Raymond, Sister Glenna and the Monastic Council as well as some of our community members. There were multiple small tables spread out among our dining room, putting sisters, volunteers and community members together. The head table prefaced each aspect of our meal with a short introduction. Each table then passed around a small dish of Matzo crackers, eggs, parsley, lamb, and a cinnamon apple dish, blessing each as they came around. After dinner, the community entered into silence, which would last until Saturday evening. This was the hardest aspect of celebrating Easter for me. It wasn’t that I was homesick or that I wanted to be with my family, but that we had to be silent for three days (really it was two and a half). As an extrovert, you can imagine just how difficult this would be. All I wanted to do was to smile and say “hi” and be my bubbly self.
Saturday evening made being silent so worth it! The chapel was decorated with flowers and gorgeous ribbons of green, yellow and pink strewn from top to bottom. I couldn’t believe how transformed the chapel and everyone’s spirit was. By Sunday afternoon, although everyone was exhausted, reflecting on the past few days simply brought a smile to my face. Silence was hard, but looking back, Easter is a bittersweet holiday. Jesus was crucified for our sins, he died to save us and throughout the Easter holiday, that is what we are remembering. For three days, Jesus’ disciples and family mourned in silence from the time that he was crucified to when he resurrected from the tomb. For me, Easter had always been about the Easter bunny and eggs, not a symbolic holiday to remember what Jesus gave up for all of us. It was during this reflection time that I realized just how important and truly beautiful Easter is.
The last few weeks while I’m here are shaping up to be very busy! Next week my mom will be making the trip to Virginia to visit the sisters and me. We have a trip planned to DC, but I’m excited for my mom to experience a little bit of what I have experienced this year. After that I will only have three weeks left to wrap up my time with BEACON and BARN, plus all of the monastery events (birthdays, parties and even an 80th Jubilee!). Only 32 days left. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone. I’ve grown so much over my time here and although I’m ready to be home and in one place for more than a few months out of the year, I know it is going to be hard to leave Bristow. I’ve had so many great experiences and created such amazing friendships while here. It’ll be hard to put those all behind me and go home.
Sending my love,
Bethany Purkapile

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In Support of "Small Talk"

I have been thinking lately about times when our family had celebratory meals together.  At the end of the meal, we were content and delightfully relaxed.  We often just sat around and told/retold our favorite stories and no one was checking their watches. The retelling always embellished the actual story a bit and often generated a little uninvited editing. If there were guests, they added their stories to the mix.  As I remember it, that is how our friends became extended family.

It never occurred to me that slowing down to exchange small talk was one of the best parts of the meal. The stories often revealed the uniqueness of each person at table.  We glimpsed their passions and discovered what made them laugh or cry. After those exchanges, we knew better how to delight or tread lightly when we met them again.

Recently I heard a young man comment on how he decided to slow his thinking down whenever he met a stranger.  He began by noticing the thoughts he was having about the stranger he noticed on the bus.  After he identified his uneasiness, he chose to sit near the person and slowly begin some small talk. He was shocked at how easily the stranger responded. That choice began to set in motion a new pattern of connecting with those around him.  After about seven weeks, it became easier and easier to let small talk be the bridge that connected him to a wide range of unfamiliar people. The gift for him was learning interesting and tender things about the lives of people around him.

May this joyous Easter time open up spaces for us to slow down, sit down and savor stories that connect us.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What is an Oblate?

Oblate Gathering
(Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB)
What is an oblate? When someone asks me what my weekend plans are and I’m going to the monastery for an event, I always pause because I know I’ll have to answer that question.  It’s not that I want to be a secret oblate.  It’s just a tough question because I want to say so much.  Yet I know I have only 15-30 seconds to answer before I see the questioner’s eyes glaze over. 

So what is an oblate?

My latest answer:  Someone who wants to be part a supportive community, exploring/living in a way that brings us closer to God and each other. There, that was about seven seconds, I have eight to spare!

That answer is the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t address why I’m still an oblate.

I became an oblate when I graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 1987. I wanted to maintain a relationship with the sisters I had come to know and love during my time at college. My oblate practice has ebbed and flowed since then.

Inquirers often ask, “How much time does it take to be an oblate?” It depends how much time you have and how much time you want to give. There have been years when I didn’t devote much time to my practice. Now I meet regularly with others, study the Rule of St. Benedict and pray  Lectio Divina (a monastic way of prayerful reading). 

Another Benedictine practice I’ve been exploring is hospitality. Being an oblate guides how I respond to my life and to others. How do I respond to my friends and family? My co-workers? How do I respond to the person holding the cardboard sign on the street corner? How do I respond to God’s voice calling me to a fuller life?

All of these practices are as important to me as getting a good night’s sleep. They help me to show up, hear God’s voice and respond (hopefully kindly) to all the people and events in my life.

We are having an event on May 20, 9:30-11a.m. in Rosamond A at Saint Benedict’s Monastery for those wanting to know more about what an oblate is and how to become one. Oblates will share how they live their oblate journey and Sister Laureen Virnig, OSB, will answer questions about the process of becoming an oblate. There will be plenty of time for questions and delicious scones and coffee.  If you came to the event last October and would like to come again, please do. 

To register please email or call 320-363-7144 by May 17.  I hope to see you!


Lynda Gradert, OblSB


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Dogwood photo by Nancy Bauer, OSB
April showers bring May flowers; do you remember this catchy phrase? April showers moisten the earth; this moisture nurtures the soil preparing it for the planting of seeds. Recently after a conversation with a friend, I found myself comparing her tears to the April showers of life and transitions. In her April tears, she is on the brink of becoming a May flower, a flower of personal growth. She began to cry right at the beginning of our conversation. I was fearful of continuing. Asking myself, “Am I ready to hear what she has to say?” As I listened to her, the tears she shed were a mixture of love, pain, sorrow, and joy. In other words total confusion. I knew I could not fix the confusion so I simply listened as one story after another unfolded in front of me. As the tears lessened and the conversation was nearing the end, I shared words of support that seemed to relax her. I perceive her tears as those of preparation, for her, to step boldly into her future. To be the May flower I see within her, she will have to get through the April showers in her life. Most likely, we have all experienced our own April showers. We have learned that through faith we all become a May flower when we listen to God. If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Living Stations of the Cross

Going to chapel early on a Lenten morning to meditate on the Readings for Mass and not being touched by them, I put down the book and tried to meditate on the Stations of the Cross, which hung on the chapel wall at our Senior Center where I was recuperating.  Not being moved or touched by that meditation, I put down the book and just watched the residents enter the chapel.  Some needed a helping hand; others managed with the help of a cane, a wheelchair, or crutches. I was deeply touched by how each one had their own LIVING STATIONS OF THE CROSS.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
(Photo by Patricia Ruether, OSB)

Right in front of me, a man in a motorized wheelchair specially designed to carry his weight, became an image of Jesus who carried the weight of our sin. Seconds later, in came a Mother with four little children and a baby in her arms reminding me of the women and children who followed Jesus on the journey. No matter where I looked, there was someone either bearing the cross or, like Simon of Cyrene, helping others to carry their cross. The many volunteers who attended others’ every need, either before, during, or after the Eucharist, were for me, the Veronicas who wiped the face of Jesus. Before Communion was distributed, a Sister came up front with small glasses of water on a tray for those who needed it to help swallow the host. Some residents who came to Mass had the good intention but soon their tiredness or their aching bodies took over and they fell asleep, like Jesus in the arms of His Mother.

This experience of witnessing the LIVING STATIONS OF THE CROSS, so moved and touched me, I was left with some questions:    

How, when and where am I asked or invited to follow Jesus in my every-day life?   When I realize the moment, how do I respond? Do I say, “Maybe tomorrow or next week? I am too busy now.”  Can I be grateful and accept the call?  

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Thursday, April 6, 2017

On Being

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.

This week's BLOG is written by Erin Carey

Some flowers that are trying to say "hello."
There are many signs of spring around the Mount.
(Photo submitted by Erin Carey)
Every Wednesday, I have a ‘reflection day”. A reflection day is a day when you don’t go into work, you take time to reflect and collect all the experiences from the past week, and you do things that refresh you. The people in formation (novices and postulants) and other volunteers also take these days at some point during the week. Some things I do on my reflection day include getting outside by running or going for a walk, reading, journaling, and playing piano. In reality, reflection days are sometimes the busiest days of my week because it becomes a day for meeting with people and getting things done that I have been putting off. But there is an intentionality there to keep it as open as possible to take time to pull experiences together.
Relaxing into this new rhythm of life was admittedly difficult. I felt like I was not being productive. I had no tangible signs of progress for the day. Coming from the ever-busy culture of high school and college, this rhythm of taking time to reflect and recollect was (and still is) a little foreign. Allowing myself to be comfortable simply ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’ is an ongoing transition.

As the community journeys through Lent, we are reading and discussing the book “An Altar in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor. In it, she outlines spiritual practices that awaken people to the presence of God in the everyday: practices of wearing skin, saying no, walking on the earth, experiencing pain, and others. In the chapter on taking Sabbath she quotes the Jewish prayer “Welcoming Sabbath.”
Our noisy day has now descended with the sun beyond our sight.
In the silence of our praying place we close the door upon the hectic joys and fears, the accomplishments and anguish of the week we have left behind.
What was but moments ago the substance of our life has become a memory; what we did must now be woven into what we are.
On this day we shall not do, but be.


We are to walk the path of our humanity, no longer ride unseeing through a world we do not touch and only vaguely sense.

No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire.
On this day heat and warmth and light must come from deep within ourselves.
Reflection days are all about weaving experiences into who I am becoming. Barbara Brown Taylor asks the question: “Why are we so reluctant to go?” Why are we so reluctant to be instead of do? It is hard work and probably why I avoid the work by trying to fill the days with endless business. It also is work without an end, which is daunting! During Lent, I’ve tried to be more conscious of how I spend my time on reflection days and on Sundays.

A recent Sabbath practice:
Pizza from scratch with Sister Val!
(Photo submitted by Erin Carey)
This new way of being is also present at Saint Benedict’s and at the Art House. Recently, I’ve seen my role in both ministries as more of a service of presence with people. I help people with tangible skills and we make progress at both places, but underneath it is much more a ministry of being. There was a young man from Syria in class for the past few months. We never worked together because his English was better than most and he was out often interviewing for jobs; however, we saw each other every morning and simply said “hello.” Last week, he got a job in a factory and he was ecstatic. He came up to say goodbye, and shaking my hand he got a little teary and said, “Thank you, teacher.” It was touching. We hadn’t worked together, we had nothing to do with each other but we were graced with the opportunity to be with each other. I think we were both just grateful for the presence of the other around the classroom. It is freeing to know that, while I can do everything in my power to help the refugees and the kids at the Art House, there is only so much I can do. Presence, being and relationship are the ways of service I hope to provide.
Thank you all for the prayers and support. It’s hard to believe it’s almost May! Happy spring!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Journey with the Stations of the Cross

The Via Crucis is recognizable in our churches as well as on the streets of our present world! As children, we wondered at those scenes attached to the wall high above our eye level. What was happening? Why? Why all the abuse and hatred toward Jesus? Why his quiet submission to the cruel extortionists? Why the death and apparent defeat of Jesus?

Have you felt drawn this Lent to gaze, as we did as children, on the Way of the Cross? As adults, we can re-consider Jesus, THEN, as well as NOW in our brothers and sisters the world over who experience condemnation, rejection and the evil that leads them, too, to death. Let us keep our eyes on the cross THEN and NOW as we pray:

Jesus is made to carry a cross; He is forced to take it upon his shoulders. . .

          Who in our world is carrying a cross, even embracing it, simply because they are believers?

Third Station of the Cross, Jesus falls the first time
(Photo by S. Pat Ruether)
Jesus falls . . .

          Who are those in our world who, exhausted by oppression, homelessness, hateful words, fall?

Jesus meets His Mother. . .

Who are the mothers, fathers, grandparents who watch, wait and weep for their child incarcerated for scarcely a crime?

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus. . .

Who are those pro-bono lawyers who reach out to help the poor? Or those who see another’s frailty and brokenness and come/go to their aid?

And then, there is the woman, Veronica. . .

In our world, who wipes the disfigured faces of their children or spouses as they are pulled out of the rubble left by bombs? Or earthquakes?

Jesus is now half way through His journey when He falls again. ..

In our lives, how can we restrain ourselves from heartlessly pushing, striking, goading those already groveling in their suffering?

Women weep over Jesus. . .

Today, who can catch the endless tears of so many mothers and fathers who weep over their wayward children?

Jesus falls a third time. . .

          We keep repeating the age-old enmity and disparity between the powerful and the powerless,  the “haves” and the “have nots”. When will we learn that Love shares?

Jesus is left naked by those who are shameless. . .

In our world who are those who are stripped of everything dear to them, as they are forced out of their homes, into exile, or into the hands of human traffickers?

Finally, Jesus is nailed to the Cross and lifted on high. . .

          Do we nail someone to a cross by our ridicule, greed for power, or blindness?


          When will we learn that no one wins in a war?

Jesus is taken down from the cross, given to His Mother. . .and then placed in a tomb. . .

Where are all those un-named bodies, the world over, who are never returned to the arms of their families to be given a fitting burial?

This, the 14th STATION!

But the story does not end here.  Our faith and experiences tell us that there is a 15th station: Jesus arose and He lives! Though LENT may go underground and, unfortunately, goes on relentlessly, NOW and AGAIN, we can sing ALLELUIA because Jesus is with us in the fray of personal and worldly conversion.

LOVE has triumphed over hatred. . .and it can and does triumph in our midst as well. Christ is risen and He will always be with us : the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor, the migrant.  He is walking with the rejected, the maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering and with all women and men of good will who long to tell us the truth: CHRIST IS RISEN; HE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU!

S. Renée Domeier OSB