Monday, July 30, 2007

Let Us Pray

There are two main bulletin boards at the Mount. One is for community business and information and is located in a room for the Sisters only. The other, near the gift shop, is for more public messages--nearly half of them asking for prayers. It is not uncommon to see Sisters and guests standing there reading the latest requests. I did this over the weekend and here is a sampling of what I read: "F., a frequent retreatant, is having difficulties and would appreciate our prayer assistance;" "L. a 49 yr old who survived lung cancer, now has 14 lesions in her brain;" "K. the sister of our former Sister Mary S., wants to sell her home and she asks for our prayers;" "Would you please offer some prayers for my Dad?" "Your prayers have been requested for K. for healing of her ankle;" "Please hold my grandnephew M. age 21 in your prayers. He is in critical condition in a hospital. He is now on a respirator. His mother and father are still praying for a miracle. Thank you."

These requests for prayers come directly to Sisters from co-workers, oblates, SBA alumnae, family members, friends and even casual acquaintances. They are included with donations to the community, come from guests after their visit here, and even arrive via anonymous phone calls to our switchboard.

Let us remember these and all the special needs of our friends, families and all the people of God.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Swiss Connection

A friend told a friend who told a friend. And that's how lots of people get to our place! This month we welcome Monika from Switzerland, whose close friend visited us awhile ago and encouraged Monika to come. The mother of three young adults, she is also a teacher on a psychiatric ward at a children's hospital. Since English is now obligatory in Swiss schools, all teachers are encouraged to spend some time in the summers in English-speaking countries. For three weeks she has been with us, spending days at various ministries, helping with events, attending prayer, working at the Mount and just participating in as much as possible. Monika comes to gain facility in English and we gain by a firsthand and intimate exposure to another culture through one of their own people. I think we're the winners.

P.S. There are a number of Benedictine monasteries in Switzerland. The largest: Maria Rickenbach, for women, and Einsiedeln Abbey for men.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ceremony of Hope

Erie, one of 4,800 US sites for the American Cancer Society's international fund raiser, Relay for Life, held its 2007 event this weekend at the McDowell High School track. Congratulations to our team who came in #1 this year in money raised with over $11,500--and also had the highest individual fund raiser of the 130-team Erie event. The team from the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, sisters, oblates and friends, is one of only four teams that has been a participant from Year One, 14 years ago. Highlights include the Survivor Lap and the Ceremony of Hope, a stunning after-dark event featuring paper bag luminaria that ring the track. Each light honors a cancer survivor or the memory of a cancer victim. The 24-hour walking event, which raises millions each year for cancer research, has grown to include Relays in over 20 countries.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Compassionate Presence

Our first death and funeral in 19 months occurred this week when Sr. Nora Curran passed away most peacefully. About 10 years ago we changed the prayer card that is available at the viewing: it now has a picture of the sister on the front and a prayer, specially written for her, on the back. It makes a lovely keepsake and can be sent to friends who live out of town or who cannot attend the services. To read Sr. Nora's obituary, go to the obit section of the online version of the Erie Times News.

Here is an excerpt from her prayer card, which tells us much
about the life and person of Nora:

Nora was a compassionate presence
in our midst.
She sought out those whom the world forgot.
Her love knew not borders as
she shared life with the poor.

God, we discover you in the
everydayness of our lives.
We are ever grateful
for your abundant blessings
and the life of Nora.
In her name, we ask your blessings upon
our sisters and brothers for whom
this day will be burdensome and
for those who will have their needs
unknown and unmet today.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oenothera Missouriensis

Finally the Night-Blooming Evening Primroses are comfortable in their new location. Because of the chapel renovation, they had to be moved for eight months, along with most of the inner courtyard garden plants, to a corner behind the house. All three plants returned in early May, but their first eight weeks have been traumatic as we only saw a bloom here, a single flower there. This week their transition time seems to be complete as multiple, strong, bright yellow flowers have been emerging every evening on all plants.

Visitors never cease to be amazed at this live time-lapse photography event: flowers blooming right before your eyes! An 80-year-old grandmother was as astonished as her 12-year-old grandson just this weekend. I can't recall any visitor who has admitted to seeing this 90-second wonder ever before. Many photograph it and a few have even tried to make a mini-video show. You can see the results of the grand openings at To see it're going to have to come for a visit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 11-St. Benedict, patron of Europe

Here's a look at the present Benedictine world courtesy of the newly updated Catalogus Monasteriorum...male and female editions. Among the women: 15,400 throughout the world, over 3,000 in the United States in over 65 houses. Benedictine men number 7,800: in the US over 1,500 in 60 houses. St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN (60 miles west of Minneapolis) is the country's largest with 165 monks. Kathleen Norris wrote her wonderful book Cloister Walk there. Their neighbors, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Joseph Monastery, are the largest women's monastery in the country. These totals do not include the Cistercians and Trappists, followers of the Rule of Benedict as their founders sought to reform Benedictine monastic life in 1098 and the mid-17th c. respectively.

St. John's Abbey is home to the poet Kilian McDonnell, OSB. In his book, Swift Lord, You Are Not he gives a glimpse of everyday life in his abbey....and in every Benedictine house.

The Monks of St. John's File in for Prayer

In we shuffle, hooded amplitudes,
scapulared brooms, a stray earring, skin-heads
and flowing locks, blind in one eye,
hooked-nosed, handsome as a prince
(and knows it), a five-thumbed organist,
an acolyte who sings in quarter tones,
one slightly swollen keeper of bees,
the carpenter minus a finger here and there,
our pre-senile writing deathless verse,
a stranded sailor, a Cassian scholar,
the artist suffering the visually
illiterate and indignities unnamed,
two determined liturgists. In a word,
eager purity and weary virtue.
Last of all, the Lord Abbot, early old
(shepherding the saints is like herding cats).
These chariots and steeds of Israel
make a black progress into church.
A rumble of monks bows low and offers praise
to the High God of Gods who is faithful forever.

For all things Benedictine go to

Monday, July 9, 2007

Of the Probing Heart of God

This weekend brought a final monastic profession (final vows) for one of our junior members. It is always a very moving experience. Reflections on one's own years as a perpetually professed member of the community fill everyone's mind. A 150-year-old tradition accompanies this day: the giving of a community title. In past years these titles have ranged from the devotional: Sister Emily of the Sacred Heart; to qualities of Jesus, Mary or the saints: Sister Jeannine of the Patience of Jesus, Sister Pauline of Our Lady of Good Counsel; to events from the gospels: Sister Mary Bernice of the Ascension. Today the given titles are qualities of the faith journey, often particular to the person. Our latest member received this one: Sister Katherine of the Loving Generosity of God. And it fits!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ite ad Google

Memories of our spring community days speaker Nathan Mitchell keep coming back to me. Unfortunately it's just that one line he used, "Ite ad Google," as he referred to the ease of finding the art pieces he was using in his power point presentations...they were all drawn from google images. "Ite ad Joseph" was the phrase I knew well, back when Catholics of every educational persuasion had Latin phrases slipping off their lips with ease. I'm reading a very witty real-life account of a journalist's year covering the Vatican, When in Rome. In one chapter he relates a day visiting, as he calls him, "the only man in Rome who really speaks Latin." This priest is the reference for all things Latin, for everyone---for official documents and everyday questions from Vatican personnel. The priest contends that Latin for Catholics was akin to Hebrew for Jews. They were proud of it, felt special because they knew some of it, and with its loss lost something unique that helped glue the Catholic community together. He makes an interesting point, but I'm not sure I could go that way if it meant abandoning the vernacular. Some of the translations are certainly more functional than moving, but the ones that are first rate, are just that: first rate. The best translations not only allow us to understand the words easily, they move our souls, give us visual images---without google's help---that make our encounters with the God of scripture and liturgy, true encounters of grace. (When in Rome is by Robert Hutchinson.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Even With Wimples, We Can't Fly

A film crew from Loyola University of Chicago spent the day here last Friday. The director of the Women's Studies Dept. is making a full-length documentary, A Question of Habit, on the visual portrayals of nuns in pop culture (movies, greeting cards, ads of all kinds, even Halloween costumes) versus the reality of who "real" nuns are and what they do. They were here to interview Joan Chittister as one of the most well-known and gifted articulators of the life of women religious in the United States. In addition to the interview they taped the community's Evening Praise and visited some of the community ministries to use as background shots for the film. A producer from the Chicago Sunday Evening Club accompanied the crew and held her own interview of Sr. Joan for her fall appearance on "30 Good Minutes," the CSEC weekly TV interfaith speaker series.