Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My Vocation Story: Part 1

My aunt, Sister Petronella, sent me a holy card for my first communion as a second grader. On the cover was a picture of a girl, dressed in a lovely white dress and veil, kneeling by the communion railing to receive her first holy communion. On the reverse side was a prayer for a religious vocation. S. Petronella wrote, “Pray this prayer after every time you go to communion.” I knew what it was to become a sister, but I did not know the meaning of a religious VOCATION. I liked and admired her, so I followed her advice. I understood the meaning to be like a VOCATION, so I prayed it every time I received communion.

One Sunday, as a 7th grader, having prayed that prayer faithfully after communion for the past five years like she asked me to do, I became aware that this prayer is telling God I wanted to become a sister. When I got home, I ripped it up in small pieces and threw it away making sure that no one would see it in the waste basket. Becoming a sister was the furthest thing from my mind!

While a junior at St. Francis High School, a boarding school for girls, I was sick in bed with the flu. A Franciscan sister checking in on how I was doing also asked me if I ever thought of joining the convent. “Oh, no,” I said. I was not ready for that. During the summer months between my junior and senior year, I started to date a very fine young man, Don.

Soon after graduating from high school, I accepted a one-week trial offer as a nanny for the three children of Eugene McCarthy, a Minnesota democratic senator. During that trial week while being with and caring for their children, I did a lot of discerning what I wanted to do with my life. To accept that job and move with them to Washington, D.C., was too far from home, and I did not feel suited for a full-time babysitting job.

During this time after graduation, I continued to date Don quite regularly. One evening, he wanted to give me a ring. I was not thrilled and couldn’t accept it. In our conversation, I had to be honest with him and say that often when we were at a movie or a dance, I would have images of nuns in my mind. I didn’t wish for them, but they just came. My aunt, Sister Macaria, who taught at Cold Spring, said, “You are not going to find a nicer guy than Don.” “I know," I said, “but why do these images of nuns just come while at a movie or a dance?” Ending that two-year friendship made me sad. Yet, at the same time, knowing that I was not ready to think about marriage and children so soon after high school, I refused his ring. Refusing the ring made it easier to continue with my life.

After several months, my girlfriend, Bernie, who had thoughts about maybe entering the convent someday, invited me to take a trip to Cottonwood, Idaho, where we had aunts in the Benedictine monastery. While in the area, we would also do some sight-seeing and especially enjoy the mountains. Neither of us had been out of state, and we thought it might be good to get away from a very Catholic Stearns County.

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Philosophy on Aging

Jonathan Herda, OSB
I perceive aging as a normal facet of the total process of life. I envision it to have its own distinctive challenges, frustrations and rewards.

I believe that the attitude with which one approaches his/her own aging and how one relates to this growth process in others is a significant indicator of how one views the mystery of life and living, of living fully and richly each developing stage of maturity.

Aging and maturing do not necessarily occur simultaneously. Mental alertness and interest in life are found in very aged individuals, while it is possible to find a young person whose mental alertness and interest have atrophied from disuse. (Jelled!)

I also associate aging with wisdom…wisdom gained from living and loving deeply, from making and keeping commitments, from taking risks and preferring to sustain scars rather than not trying at all. Aging gives a sense of history and one’s place and contribution to it. It gives one the opportunity to recognize true and lasting values. Pain, grief, physical disability and similar realities may be more pronounced at this stage of life, but can also evoke a positive response.

I am convinced that the best preparation for fruitful aging years is to live fully each NOW. Old age is the crowning part of our total NOW.

Written 1978 during a final test, in response to the question, “What is Your Philosophy on Aging?”  The class was “Aged Family."

Jonathan Herda, OSB

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

No Separation, Here!


Pope Francis never fails to both inspire and challenge me! Recently, I read his short message on faithfulness. He invited his hearers to ask themselves “...how am I faithful? Let us take the question with us to think about during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to make my faith seen with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I notice who is in need, do I see everyone as brothers and sisters to love?”

In the big picture, we may think we are faithful to Christ, but is it not in the daily, small, tiring ways in which we meet and speak and live with our brothers and sisters that we prove whether or not our faith in Christ is authentic? No separation, here!

Am I self-giving to my family, kin, stranger, especially those who do not merit it, the suffering and the marginalized? Then, and only then, am I simultaneously faithful to Christ. No separation, here!

Do I draw near with tender love to those in need of care? Do I bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of our world? Then, and only then, am I faithful to the resurrected Christ who appeared, unbeknownst to Mary Magdalen or to the disciples on the way to Emmaus and who always waits for me to  recognize Him in the brother or sister I meet on the way!

When we feel stymied, unimportant or even bored with the status quo, we could take to heart what Pope Francis said via twitter to young people: “Be amazed by what is true and beautiful, what is of God! Do not be satisfied with a mediocre life.” God is good. Let us imitate God. He waits for us to both carry Him to others and find Him there.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

We've Always Done It This Way


How often have you heard the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way”? I have an idea that the phrase dates back hundreds of years. You may hear it at family gatherings, at work and yes, we do hear it at the monastery. The phrase could actually have multiple meanings. “We’ve always done it this way,” could be said to a new sister “because it is part of our tradition.” Or else, it could mean, “I like it my way, so why change?” Recently, I was reading some old documents that I found in a file drawer. One document was a presentation given to the sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery on March 30, 1926. From what I was reading, it appeared that the sisters were in dialogue about how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) with the current changing demographics and ministries that took them away from the motherhouse campus. A quote from the presenter challenged the sisters to look to the future in order to grow. He was telling the sisters that they may need to let go of things as they always were. I read “We did not have this before!” and “Must we always do as has been done?” As I read these words, I laughed out loud. I thought to myself, some things never change. As we move into our future in today’s world, there is always a need to let go, in order to let the dreams come alive. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we are looking into the future as we keep the traditions we hold dear to our heart.

If you would like to learn more about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Humor and Health

The month of April is National Humor Month.

My experience is that laughter and humor have been essential ingredients in my life and ministry, especially in bringing healing for myself and for others. There is an increasing number of professionals in the medical and psychiatric field who are seeing the value of humor in promoting the health of an individual. There are laughter and humor workshops springing up in many countries. Some psychologists and doctors are even beginning to study the physiology of humor. Pain reduction and prevention of violence toward self and others through humor raise questions about the mutual interplay of endorphins, immunology and humor.

S. Tamra Thomas (right) and
S. Rita Kunkel share a laugh.
Here are several childhood experiences of humor both in the home and other places that touched me enough to stay in my memory. The earliest memory of my father was sitting on his lap at about the age of two or three, combing his black hair down over his face and over his eyes playing peek-a boo. The more he laughed, the more I would be creative with his hair, combing it in every different direction. It was fun to make him laugh. In his book "God Created Laughter", Conrad Hyers says, "children growing up as toddlers tend to laugh easily – but adults often squelch it because 'one does not play at things,' one works at them. Parents are too much in a hurry to have their children grow up and be serious." To this day, I like being able to make people laugh, perhaps because it is healing and therapeutic. 

Another quality of humor is that it is medicine, not only for the spirit, but also for the body. One particular Friday in March, I had a coordinator’s luncheon meeting with five other local coordinators at a cafe in a neighboring town. After that meeting, my plan was to drive another hour to help lead and play for the prayer service before the lecture to be given by the author of the book "Joshua." Waking up that morning, I felt sick, feverish, had the chills and felt achy all over. After taking medicine to treat my flu symptoms, I ventured to the first meeting. After we completed the first meeting, we sat around the table laughing as we were sharing humorous stories from our past experiences. When I got up from table, the flushness and chills were gone, and I felt fine about going ahead to the evening event. I commented to the group that this laughter dissolved the virus and my symptoms were gone. If it can bring physical healing, it must touch the spirit and emotion as well. It was a real experience of "laughter as the best medicine."

There are many humorous situations in ministry, especially if one is open to seeing and appreciating them. George and Betty were in their eighties and in their own home. When I needed ministry for myself, or to have my spirits lifted, I would visit them because of his humor and her gracious hospitality. After Betty died, George moved into a retirement center and I would keep on visiting him. Each time, his positive spirit and his gift for telling humorous stories lifted my spirits. One day, his senior male friend came to visit him and said, "George, the rumor is all over town that you want to marry this young nurse’s aide. What are you thinking? She is 31 and you are 91." George responded, "Well, if she dies, she dies."

Dreams also can be an important avenue to find humor. In one of my dreams, I am at a place where there is a long smorgasbord of food before me. We are through the food line and a woman tells me that my nose was loose. Sure enough, I felt it and the nose was just hanging on with only a little piece of skin on the left nostril. I answered her, “So what is wrong with a loose nose?” My first feeling after waking was delighting in the humor. There was no pain or fear of possibly losing a nose, just that it looked so crazy. The message in it for me was that just as food is meant for our nourishment, so can humor be nourishing. The nose is an organ for inhaling and exhaling and it opens to the breath of life. The expression "follow your nose" could mean to trust one’s gut and instincts in coming to the truth within. Life offers many opportunities, and many choices. Sometimes a good choice is to "follow your nose."

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Remember God

How often do we read a Russian-born, Nobel Prize winner, novelist, historian, short-story writer and critic of his own country and its communism tell us what is wrong with our times??? I am speaking, of course, about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, born in 1915 and deceased only nine years ago! He writes: "If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire 20th century...I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again, 'Men (sic) have forgotten God.' The failings of human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the crimes of this century" (The Orthodox Monitor 15, 1983).

What more can be added to those ponderable words, except perhaps "Risen Savior, King of Glory, come to us in mystery. Let us see your face in glory when you come in majesty"? Our freedom is an awesome responsibility. What have I done in the choices I’ve made? And you, as well? We have failed in our times and we will continue to see unspeakable crimes until we remember God.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Luminous Lodge #6

At the end of February, Luminous Lodge #6 was moved to Rosamond A due to frozen pipes in the lodge. It was a wonderful experience. When we heard about the frozen pipes and had 33 CSB women registered for the evening, we did not want to cancel. We brought our student helpers to see Rosamond A Thursday evening, and within two hours, the room was transformed. We had luminaries lining the walls, candles ready to light and standing lamps to create a prayerful space. We even had an electric fireplace in Rosamond A to enhance the experience. On Friday evening, we began by gathering around a bonfire on the lower plaza - thank you Sister Philip! The group then moved inside for some energetic ice breakers led by two CSB women.



The focus of our evening was based on a book written by Sister Rita Barthel, OSF, called "Finding Life’s Purpose: When Do I Encounter God?" We had given the book to two CSB women last fall and invited them to lead the evening session. Heidi and Ashley’s reflective presentation focused on a section of the book that talked about letting go. Their personal testimonies were a beautiful witness to the other women. The prayer, silence and journaling time that followed was powerful. After the reflection time, everyone enjoyed caramel, apples, popcorn and hot cocoa, which has become the traditional snack we serve. We ended the evening with singing praise songs and a closing prayer. Previous attendees to Luminous Lodge said we did a great job creating the right ambiance for the evening. Luminous Lodge #6 was a success.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Seeing Something Beautiful

When you see something beautiful for the first time, how do you react to the beauty in the moment? Recall that we have just celebrated Easter, a time in the liturgical year when we are remembering the Resurrection of Jesus. For a moment, I want you to put yourself at the entrance of that empty tomb. As you peer inside, what do you see?

We all know the story. Mary looks in and asks, “Where have you taken him?” At that instant, Jesus calls Mary by name; imagine it is you whom Jesus is calling. Visualize the beauty of seeing Jesus alive at the entrance of tomb. When I envision myself at the tomb, I am speechless. My heart simply overflows with such love. It is a feeling of love that words cannot describe. At Saint Benedict’s Monastery during our Easter morning Eucharist, we hear the Gospel sung in three voices. The three voices add to the beauty and mystery of the moment. We not only hear the beauty of the Resurrection, but if we pay attention, we will see Jesus alive in one another. Easter is when the first flowers of spring break through the earth, and we begin to see beautiful flowers beginning to grow. Therefore, I encourage you to take time to see the beauty that surrounds you every day and thank God for the moment.

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Hope Your Life Gets You to Heaven

Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB
My greatest life lessons came from my eight years volunteering for hospice. I listened to people tell me about the importance of spending time with others. I learned about the value of quiet times to think, to appreciate what you have and not worry about what you don’t have. I heard a lot about spirituality, the values God wants us to live by and the missed opportunities to live them. The values I wanted to grow in my life were compassion, patience, humility, love and respecting your neighbor.

My time at hospice made me reflect on my own life. As a result, I felt called to become a Benedictine Oblate in 2008. I promised to live my life according to the Rule of St. Benedict. I think people in hospice would be happy to hear I am living my life using the guidelines from the Rule.

I have a community of Benedictine sisters who support and encourage my oblate lifestyle. My sisters and brother monks are always available to listen. Their lives model the importance of spending time with your neighbor and showing hospitality. Since I became an oblate, my life is more relaxed and peaceful. Benedict suggests I take some quiet time every day, to think, to reflect, to have a conversation with God, knowing that God loves me for who I am, even with all my faults.

The Rule of St. Benedict suggests I think about death every day. In my quiet time, I often think about the lessons I learned from the people in hospice. One lady’s comment was my greatest lesson and supports my decision to live an oblate lifestyle: “I hope your life gets you to Heaven.”

I would like to invite you to a gathering to meet oblates and hear about this rich lifestyle. We will gather April 7, 9:30 a.m., St. Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. We will share community, hospitality and love of neighbor. Please call (320) 363-7144 to register. Thanks.

Benedictines hope and pray your life gets you to Heaven.

Bob Lesniewski, OblSB

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Transformation and a New Shore

Richard Rohr in his “Daily Meditation” (March 9, 2018) compares change and transformation. He says, “Change of itself just happens; but spiritual transformation must become an actual process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. The deep mystery of transformation is that God even uses our pain and shame to lead us closer to God's loving heart.”

Photo by Karen Streveler, OSB

Maybe that’s why Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was able to observe that the most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle and loss and have found their way out of the depths. She finds that these persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. When this transformation eventually emerges, it is essential to acknowledge that the transformed space, their arrival on a new shore, likely took time and immense letting go.

For most of us, transformation doesn’t happen without the presence of a variety of companions on the journey. For many, the way to a “new shore” includes leaning on a Source that is larger than themselves. It reminds me of a familiar story that describes the experience of a traveler who was on a plane which experienced a great amount of turbulence. Many passengers quickly showed how fearful they were becoming, but one child just kept reading her book and showed no fear. After the plane landed, the passenger went up to the child and asked her why she was not afraid during the storm. The child replied, “Because my daddy’s the pilot and he’s taking me home.”

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Graced Encounters


Recently, I read Dr. Christopher Pramuk’s book Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line, in which he invites people of good will to stand courageously in the breach between what is and what is possible, daring us to imagine a world of cross-racial friendship, justice and solidarity. "In the breach": not an easy place to stand in difficult, overwhelming situations; we want to avoid danger and so often choose to stand outside the breach, hoping  someone who is wiser, less frightened, more level-headed than we, might take the stand; surely there are those more experienced and knowledgeable about what to do better than we in a world so broken and complex! It is natural to feel pressured from within our own convictions or pressured from without to do what we feel incapable of doing! The result? We stand looking on helplessly and/or let the more powerful and fearless do what we feel we could never do! WRONG!

Common Ground Garden Production Manager
Kate Ritger with some garden members.

Read what one of our CSB seniors, Sydney McDevitt, offers in a recent issue of The Record (11/26). The title alone gives us a clue to her passionate message: "We need tiny, consistent acts of decency to uplift those around us." She writes, in part: "It would be easy in this world we now live in to throw up our hands, say there is nothing we can do and simply get on with our lives. However, this is a position of privilege we cannot afford to take...It is of the highest hubris for white people to tell people of color they will be fine, Christians to tell Muslims their lives will go on, cisgender people to tell members of the trans community their world will not change..."

Despite this, it is hard to keep going. Continues Sydney: “How do we continue? The answer is simple: do the tiny, decent things. We do not have to join in every march or get mad at every ignorant thing...What we need to do is take care of each other...It is dire we show compassion for each other. Lift up the people around you who feel discouraged. Make sure your own friends and family are doing okay. Do the act of kindness that is going to change the day of the stranger you pass by. Then when you’re ready, jump back into the marches, the calling, the discourse...Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told us: 'If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.'"

Thank you, Sydney!
Thank you, Dr. Christopher Pramuk!
Thank you, cherished reader!

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Take One Step at a Time

Now that we are beginning the third week of Lent, how are you doing on your spiritual journey? For me, the days of Lent start to get harder right about now. I tend to focus on the days that are ahead of me rather than asking myself, “What have I learned about myself since Ash Wednesday?” As I reflect on my own words, I find myself saying, “Lisa, take one step, one day, at a time.” The step that I will take today does not need to be a big step. I have to remind myself that if I simply take a step in the right direction, it will lead me to God and that is all I need to do. To take this step is what I call “living in the moment.” It is the best way for me to encounter God in everything I do. When I actually pay attention to the people and experiences God has put into my life, I am happier and more at peace. I am happier living in the moment because that is where I find God. I do not want to miss God or His love, so taking one step at a time is another way to live and love every day. 

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sisters Helping Sisters

Welcome to Saint Scholastica Convent!

At Saint Scholastica Convent, the retirement and assisted living facility for the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict in St. Cloud, Minn., sisters respond to Christ’s command that we love and serve one another. The more able sisters regularly reach out to the sisters receiving skilled care. At any time of day, sisters can be found pushing sisters’ wheelchairs, assisting them at the dining room table or attending to the unforeseen. 

A most recent project during the Christmas season evidenced this kind of caring. About 20 sisters signed up to assist with Christmas mail for individual sisters in Louise Hall. Activities ensued, such as enjoying the mail with the particular sister, sending a Saint Scholastica’s common letter to the writer, adding a note from her or about her or writing a thank you note, as needed. It is such a good way of keeping the sister who cannot respond connected with her family and friends.  Part two of this project meant that the return address and the relationship of the sender to the sister would be saved for database entry which, in turn, supplied printed out address sheets for the sisters’ files in the main office. Thus the task is complete until the next Christmas season.

Due to their need for more extensive care, a few of our sisters reside at next door's Saint Benedict's Senior Community. Sisters bring their mail and visit them often. Occasionally, one of those sisters is brought to Saint Scholastica’s for a meal, a visit and/or a prayer service. This is one welcome treat for the individual.

A third example of caring for each other relates to the sisters experiencing dementia issues. Having these sisters' do activities in the unit where they live is very helpful to them. Sister volunteers take turns serving this group one day a week. Directed by them, sisters residing in the unit have Eucharist streamed from our chapel each day, followed by a shortened form of Liturgy of the Hours (LOH). The same volunteers take turns leading the next two daily prayer times at the same time that the sisters pray in chapel.  

These are some of the ways that we at Saint Scholastica Convent respond to Christ’s command that we love and serve one another.

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Migrants Among Us

Sisters Margaret Maus (left) and Dorothy Manuel
sharing their stories with each other.
Many of us have known the feeling of needing to move to a new geographic space as our life changes. This is especially true if where we are now provides almost no potential for our life to unfold in a life-giving way. This “displacement” or migration may be as subtle as “being new in town,” being a new employee or choosing a new life commitment. So as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, said during a U.S. visit, “There's a little bit of migrant in everyone” (NCR, Feb 15, 2018). Tagle, who is president of Caritas Internationalis, the Church's worldwide federation of relief and development agencies, encourages us to base our daily interactions on the model proposed by the "Share the Journey" campaign introduced in September by Pope Francis. It invites people of faith to interact with and welcome migrants to hear their stories. We have multiple opportunities in our daily life to hear the stories of the migrants-among-us with whom we rub shoulders and discover their life-shifting human experiences. This personal exchange and fuller understanding of each other’s gifts and wounds may be a dress rehearsal for choosing even more diverse “Sharing the Journey” opportunities. What would shift in our world if we had an ever-expanding chorus of people saying wholeheartedly, “What an amazing sister or brother you are. I didn’t really know it in the same way until today. Thank you for your sharing.”

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Preparing for Lent

Evening prayer in Sacred Heart Chapel. 

Repent and believe the good news! These words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy remind us of our call to live in such a way that we do proclaim the good news. The readings for this Sunday are a good preparation for the days of Lent, which begin on Wednesday. The stories of the lepers can be reminders to us of our sinfulness and our need to repent.  What are the sores of leprosy that are in us? It could be such things as gossip, selfishness, pride, jealousy, disobedience and the list can go on.  

During these days before Ash Wednesday, let us take time to pray and ask God to help us to see our sores that need to be healed. The Church suggests that we make resolutions for the season of Lent. These resolutions should cover three areas: PRAYER, FASTING and ALMSGIVING. Some suggestions for prayer might be to attend Mass during the week, attend the stations of the cross, say the rosary as a family or set aside 10 minutes of quiet in your day to pray and talk to God. Fasting calls us to give up something that we really like to eat, a favorite TV show or some activity that we spend too much time on, like playing computer games or time on your phone! Use this time for family or for reading the Bible! Finally, almsgiving means sharing the gifts that we have with others. This can be as simple as giving to the food shelf, using the rice bowl for money to give to the missions, helping an elderly neighbor or relative or doing extra tasks at home without being asked.

Use this week to prepare for Lent through family sharing and quiet time. What does God want us to do this Lent that will deepen our relationship with Him? 

Betty Larson, OSB

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Power of the Eucharist

Sisters Modesta Arceneau (front) and
Lisa Rose prepare the gifts for Eucharist.
"Amen," I say when I receive the body and blood of Christ at Eucharist. The "amen" of my response is a simple word. Yet, at the same time, "amen" is a word that confirms for me that the bread and wine I am receiving is Christ. In receiving Christ through the bread and wine during a Eucharist celebration, no matter where I am, I am with people who believe as I believe. This belief is a source of strength for me as I strive to live as Jesus taught. 

In his book titled "One Great Act of Fidelity", Ronald Rolheiser says the following about the Eucharist: "The Eucharist is meant to send us out into the world, ready to give expression to Christ's hospitality, humility and self-effacement." As I read this quote, I remind myself that as a follower of Christ, I am to serve as Christ served. At the same time, as a follower of Christ, I am to serve for Christ in today's world. Receiving the Eucharist strengthens me to be Christ for the people I meet every day. At Saint Benedict's Monastery, we celebrate the Eucharist every day and receive this spiritual nourishment. 

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

Lisa Rose, OSB

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Life in a Wheelchair

"Blue Wheelchairs"
Provided by Pexels.com
I fell
and injured my back.
I can see, hear and talk
and my mind is as sharp as a whistle.
Ninety.

Wheelchairs.
Bring on changes.
They minimize visits.
"Can anyone who can't walk, talk?"
Seems not.

Shopping. 
With companion. 
Person I knew came by. 
Greeted only my companion.
Ah well! 

Today.
A gent "gets" it.
"Did she fall?" asked a lady.
"Ask her. She can talk," said the gent.
I'm real!

I smiled. 
It made my day. 
The wheelchair's a helpful thing;
but I never stop being a person.
Thank you!

Janet Thielges, OSB

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Day at Shodair: Part 2

Sister Trish Dick works as a spiritual counselor at Shodair Hospital in Helena, Mont. The hospital serves children who have undergone extreme trauma.

Our patients, if they are not on the acute unit, attend school, starting around 9:15 a.m. My mornings are usually given to staff leadership meetings, one-on-one spiritual direction with clinicians and staff. Because of the severe acute trauma that the staff and clinicians experience as they work with these patients, the staff experience their own secondary trauma and struggle with ethical and moral issues. As one puts it: "Your office is like a sacred space that we can finally share our concerns, struggles and secondary trauma." My role with the staff and within the hospital includes maintaining confidentiality, except where there is the possibility of harming others or suicide. I am honored that people trust me to be their companion they as work through their secondary trauma.


A smudging stick.
My afternoons are filled with meeting with the patients. I will meet with a patient in their room or, if they can be taken off the secured unit, they will meet in my office or we will go for a walk, weather permitting. I prefer to take them to my office or outside to give them some fresh air and absorb the beauty of the surrounding mountains of Helena. I might also do smudging with the Native American purification ritual with patients who request it. A Native American elder gave me a lesson on how to smudge and his blessing to do it. The hospital has a sizable number of  Native Americans and this ritual is important to their healing and identity. This is a new form of prayer that I am learning and growing into. I was gifted a smudge stick and sweet grass from the Native American elder. I googled how to make a smudge stick and made two of my own from the hospital garden that the patients had planted.  

I am learning, growing and stretching in so many ways. I am grateful for this ministry experience and my compassion runs deep within me as I work with and alongside these folks who suffer from acute mental illness. 

Trish Dick, OSB

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Heart-Healthy Hugs

I got to wondering about the etymology of the term "hug." I found out the origins of the word are not known, but there are two theories about its origin. One used in the 1560s relates it to the Old Norse word "hugga," which meant to comfort. The other related it to the German word "hegen," which meant to foster or cherish, originally meant to enclose with a hedge. Both of those origins seem to have layers of meaning. To comfort, cherish and surround with safety seem to be needed at all ages. Research shows that well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults and elderly who feel lonely can feel less so by being hugged.

In certain parts of the world, the hug includes both the left-side and right-side hug and even one more for good measure. Somehow, the left-and-right-hug has a unique quality about it that appeals to me. The left-side hug is definitely sufficient, but when the right side is added, it includes a heart-to-heart connection. I call that a whole-hug.  

Today, when I walked around the corner, I found myself face-to-face with a friend. I automatically opened my arms as though inviting a hug. She immediately responded with a gentle hug. Then, I heard myself acknowledge, "My heart isn’t in a good space right now, so I needed that." That was a not-so-subtle code for "I’m a bit upset at the moment." I could feel my tension decrease a bit. I guess there’s a scientific basis for that. According to health research, hugs increase oxytocin and reduce blood pressure [BBC News. August 8, 2005].

May 2018 bring all of us an extra dose of heart-health in its many forms.


Sister Miriam Ardolf (left) hugs Prioress Sister Susan
Rudolph on her installation day. (Photo: Andra Johnson)

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Search for Peace

The monastery's "Peace Pole"
I can’t stop reading what Pope Francis, via Fr. Rosica, sends out to me almost daily! He speaks and writes a dangerous message to those of us who desire to be followers of Jesus Christ, and yet, his message is full of direction on HOW to fulfill not only God’s desire, but ours for PEACE ON EARTH! On January 1, the 51st World Day of Peace, his topic was “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.” He wishes PEACE to all people and nations on earth! The peace which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, the peace all of us long for, especially those who most keenly suffer its absence: the 150 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, men and women, children, young and elderly, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace!

Pope Francis begs us, in a spirit of compassion, to embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands. But, how do we SHOW compassion concretely? It is not sufficient to simply have ‘bleeding hearts’ for the disadvantaged; they need concrete commitment! Again, Pope Francis answers that question saying: “Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.”

Welcoming, he writes, “calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us that in showing hospitality to strangers, we may be showing hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebr. 13:2).” No easy task, but an outstanding possibility!

“Protecting involves the recognition and defense of the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security. He writes: “I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement. God does not discriminate: He watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow (Psalm 146:9).” If we were in their shoes, what would be our needs?


Promoting” entails our enabling the migrants and refugees to cultivate and realize their potential through education, learning English, being in dialogue with them, assuring them and ourselves that God “loves the foreigner residing among us,” giving them food and clothing, loving them as we recall that “we, too, were once foreigners (Deut. 10:18-19).” If not I, then my ancestors of yesteryear sought a home in this lovely country!


Integratingmeans both giving of our life blood and receiving the life skills and gifts of the other! We need to recognize the process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation within our local communities when we are able to acknowledge the beauty of human development, even when there are likenesses and differences among us! St. Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people (Eph. 2:19).”


Pope Francis emphasizes the fact that all of us have but one home and she is called Mother Earth! Family life, of course, is not always easy nor peaceful, but where else do we go when we are broke, cold, lonely, sick, hungry? We search for home, for peace, for compassionate family traits somewhere on our Mother Earth. What do we/you consider our family traits?

Renée Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Different Kind of New Year Resolution


Happy New Year. Many people like to make New Year’s resolutions that may focus on physical health, such as a healthier diet or renewing an exercise program. In the past, my own resolutions have had this concentration. Recently I asked myself, “Have you ever considered a spiritual resolution?” “One that will encourage you to deepen your relationship with God.”  So with that idea in mind, during Advent, I started a spiritual renewal program for myself. I decided I wanted to grow in my awareness of God throughout my day, every day. In choosing to commit to a greater awareness of God, I had to learn how to pay attention to my normal daily activities. “When was I paying attention or not paying attention to God who was interacting with me through prayer, people, or a variety of events?”  Every evening during Advent, I would recall my day’s activities and look for where I sensed the presence of God. I would then write in my gratitude journal focusing on where I encountered God. This exercise also gave me the opportunity to thank God for His presence to me. Because I found it to be a growthful experience for me, I plan to continue my spiritual resolution throughout the year. If you would like more information about our community, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.