Monday, September 26, 2016

On the Edge

One of my most favorite things to do on our 120 acres is to walk along the tree lines, the end of any grassed area where the mowing stops and the woods begin. Down at Glinodo this perimeter is a gold mine of nature finds and a whole little treasure house that backs up along the creek or the lake border. The "edges" aren't bad up here at the Mount either. In fact, I never fail to spot something I've never seen in awhile or didn't know was ever there at all. This week was no exception as I went out after office hours and took a spin along the south end of the Mount property and found some very special memories.

Our Sister Veronica Byer died in June 2014. For those of you who never met her, you missed a treat. She was a true character--most worthy of the name! Everything she did was so quirky, at least what she did from ages 75-95 when I knew her! One of her most public characteristics was the making of woods art (for lack of a more suitable name). She would put her designs in our woods, usually along the way to the hermitages. Her little black bear caused more than one fright for a hermitage visitor when caught in their flashlight beam after nightfall!

On my walk this week I came upon her last woods characters as they are quietly decomposing in the spot exactly where she last put them. It used to be at the entrance to an alternative path to hermitage #1 and the windmill, but water and erosion washed it out and the grasses and woods slowly closed it up. But Sister Veronica's welcoming signs remained.

This little lamb and deer along side a bench for resting, are the best preserved characters.

She supported our corporate commitment to peace you might say, by placing a Bring our Boys Home sign and a little girl crying along side grave stones.

I thought I recognized this girl in the blue dress, even though she was upside down. When I flipped it over, sure enough, there she was.       Note the ribbon belt...multi-mediums!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We're #2

On my way home one day this week I witnessed something that I had only seen on TV shows, in movies or read about in magazines:


a person going through a dumpster.

It really stunned me, probably somewhat because it came in the same week that our newspaper, the Erie Times News carried its annual story on poverty rates in the city of Erie. Yes, we're #2 in Pennsylvania with the city's poverty rate 26.9% behind only Reading, PA. This is calculated as the people or families living below the government-defined poverty line, which for a family of four is less than $24,300 annually.

The heartbreak continued when I read the age breakdowns: 38% of city children below 18 live in poverty; for those below age 5 it's 50%. And for seniors 65 and older 1 out of every 8 is poor. All this can be summarized by one number: Over 25,000 human beings in the city of Erie are poor.

If you know our community you would tell me that we are doing much in this area, and you would be right. Communally we do quite a bit: soup kitchen, day care, low income housing, job training and placement, after school options for children. But, what am I as an individual doing? That is the question that is haunting me this week ever since I took this picture. I am determined to find something more, just for myself, one individual.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Benetwood 1981-2016

Back in 1981 the community successfully applied to HUD for an apartment complex to be built on our land, directly south of the monastery. This month Benetwood Apartments is celebrating 35 years of operation as a 75-unit complex for independent low income elderly. One of our sisters has always been the director of this special ministry since its beginning and many other sisters have worked/lived at Benetwood over the last three and a half decades.

This weekend Benetwood held an open house for its anniversary and also celebrated the major renovations it has been able to accomplish this past year (new kitchen appliances, new flooring in kitchens and bathrooms for all apartments and replacement of all old wallpaper with fresh coats of paint in apartments and hallways.)

This brainchild of Sister Mary Philip Kiehlmeier is going strong, always has a waiting list, and offers a truly family/community experience for the people living there. We are proud of Benetwood's heritage and especially of the sisters whose work in those early years brought it to be the outstanding "home" it is today.

One of the sweetest statues of Mary and the child Jesus is in the front foyer of Benetwood Apartments.

The large general community rooms look out into the gardens that surround Benetwood.

A few years ago HUD approved the addition of a small computer "lab." It is very well used.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary, the residents purchased this unique clock for the community/gathering rooms where residents spend evenings, holidays and many special times enjoying their Benetwood "family."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Things seen while "just passing by"

I was out by Presque Isle one evening this week, giving my grandparents' and parents' graves a little clean up here at the end of summer. On my way home I cut down to the Bayfront Highway to scoot along the bay (why would I go any other way?!) and, unknown to me, it was sunset (7:30-ish around here right now.) I pulled in and caught this shot.


The next day Anne and I took a walk after dinner down to the lake and as we were walking along we caught sight of what we first thought was a white plastic bag. Then we said, "Is that a volleyball?" and then as we got closer: "What in the world is that big white thing?" We never see garbage or trash along the drive or paths. The walk-in fishermen and women are factitious in their fishing decorum! We finally got right up to it, felt it and declared that it was a huge mushroom! Easily the size of a volleyball!


These two events cause me to muse, once again, on the blessings of the natural world that surround us. Erie has some tough realities right now, there is no denying that. But we have had a beautiful summer here, the grape harvest is going to be tremendous this year and the great majority of grasses, trees and flowers have been consistently green and full and lush. Yes, I know, we also have to take the 100" average of the "S" word every year, too....but, spoken as only a native would, the other three seasons more than make up for winter (and we only had 72" last year, BTW). I hope that others throughout our area have been able to enjoy the beauty of nature all around us...and have some solace from the heaviness of life's realities.

I hope that you, too, have some of the glories of God's creation near you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Twenty-somethings abound

Twenty-somethings are abounding in our house right now and we love them!

Our "oldest" twenty-something is our new novice Valerie. She formally entered the novitiate of our community Saturday evening at the Vigil of Sunday prayer. We had quite a large attendance as many community members were able to attend along with guests and oblates who happened to be here for the weekend. Sister Anne ended her reflections by saying to Val, "May you walk in the Holy Presence" a surprise reference to Val's weekly blog! If you haven't read her online journal you might try it. It gives a very fine look into the life of a young "seeker" in a Benedictine community.

The second twenty-something is a young oblate of ours from Merida, Mexico. She has come to spend 6-12 months with us to experience Benedictine spirituality up-close-and-personal and, as a bonus, to improve her English. Jessica will join our Benedicta Riepp program which is set up exactly for women wanting to immerse themselves in the life for awhile. You can see Jessica here, as I believe I found her in a photo in our spring/summer 2015 MOUNT magazine: (page 9--rt column, 2nd row, back left!)

And third, the Benedictine Women's Service Corps (BWSC) out of St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, MN, offers recent graduates of their college, the College of St. Benedict, an opportunity to live and minister in a Benedictine monastery. This year three recent graduates are in the BWSC and one is with us, Erin. I was at St. Joseph a year ago and loved the community, its grounds and the works they are dedicated to. Benedicta Riepp is buried there, as she left Erie, going west, and landed in St. Cloud, MN--the beginnings of St. Benedict's. Erin can be seen here, the middle one of the three gals.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Away from home---things change!

I was out of Erie for three of the four weeks of August and when we returned September 3, WOW, have things changed. We are now into the deep last days of summer, still hot and muggy this past week, but hinting strongly of September and the start of autumn. Also, you can tell that many of our flowers and greenery are into their final stages. Here are three views that our visitors get from their bedroom windows on our ground floor as they look out into the Library Courtyard.

The statue of St. Scholastica doesn't have a lot of flowers around it these days. Just a few "last roses of summer."


Most of our black-eyed Susans have wilted away, but this one patch is still pretty perky. It's located right below my window! How appropriate! 


Our grounds have many, many types of these grasses and they are just beautiful. They are all in full flourish right now.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Acadia, crab quiche, white pants--it's September

Well, it's September; "Where did the summer go?" can be heard everywhere this weekend. School has started in our town and vacation days are over for most of us. White pants are washed and put away (Not really! just bringing up the old wives' tale!!) Here is a final look at our time away, though we are very happy to be home, for sure.

We spent 5-6 hours in Acadia National Park, south of Bangor, Maine. That amount of time is the proverbial drop in the bucket at a place where people spend a lifetime exploring. The rock formations that we saw throughout Nova Scotia are present here, also. Hundreds of beautiful, stunning vistas. 

We spent some time in lovely gardens that featured many different flowers, grasses and plants.

We were able to have breakfast with Judy C at Martha's Diner and then dinner at Lyta and Bob S's place, in the Acadia region. The crab quiche was delicious and dessert was this pecan pie, appropriately decorated with an OSB on the top!