Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lent Begins

For Wednesday and Friday table reading this Lenten season we are reading Australian Trappist Michael Casey's An Unexciting Life: reflections on Benedictine spirituality. We were fortunate to have this renowned monastic author and lecturer for retreat a few years back.

This announcement of the selection of one of his books for reading sent me to his community's website to see What's New. Unfortunately, what's new is the destruction the Tarrawarra Abbey community suffered by the bushfires that swept southeastern Australia last month. Their losses were minimal, but still devastating. As I was browsing through the array of photos presented there---a number set up in a before and after setting---I thought to myself what a profound experience it would be to have ashes from those fires used as their Lenten ashes this year. Maybe they did just that.

New: Morning-Evening Prayer for Lent (see sidebar).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Back to Korea

This is a very sad day for us. After a 10-month sabbatical in Erie with our community, Sr. Elia Lee, OSB, of the Benedictine Sisters of Daegu, Korea returns home this week.

Elia, who came with the intention of improving her English, met that goal very well. Her understanding is perfect and her speaking became so clear that she was able to overcame nervousness and take the Solo reader part during many prayer periods. She also reached the point of understanding our crazy jokes and puns--and even making her own--a sure sign, some say, of the conquering of a language.

The only thing we won't miss is Elia's unending fascination with and prayers for SNOW! "Stop, Elia, stop your praying," we insisted, after our season passed 100 inches. But, it was too late. We're now at 138" and within 12" of the all-time Erie seasonal record. I guess we'll have no trouble remembering her year with us: 2008-09 the record snowfall winter!

Thanks for everything, Elia; it was just wonderful to get to know you and have you with us. The worldwide Benedictine family is a truer reality to all of us now because of knowing you. Thanks, too, for this gorgeous view of Lake Erie down at Glinodo. It's just perfect!

Photo of Lake Erie by Elia Lee, OSB

Photo of Elia in native dress by Susan Freitag, OSB

Thursday, February 19, 2009

SBA Lives On

This week a spiffy brochure came out from the St. Benedict Academy (1869-1988) alumnae association. The brochure announces a new volunteer program that invites the over 4,000 proud Lassie alums to get involved in their old high school neighborhood by assisting the Benedictine ministries both there and at Mount St. Benedict.

There are a dozen options for the "girls" to consider. They vary in type of volunteering needed and time commitment required. (ie. work with the elderly, children, Sisters; cooking, filing, reading, driving, answering phones). Here's one very alive school---even though its doors officially closed over 20 years ago!

SBA Alum office

Monday, February 16, 2009

Moving Week

It's moving week at the Mount. The seven sisters who have been in the ground floor guest rooms for 9 months are moving back to first floor north into more spacious and updated bedrooms.

The sisters who need quite a bit of assistance are moving back to second floor north, into rooms with doorways and bathrooms that more easily accommodate wheelchairs and other home health care equipment.

And, finally, in a week or two, another dozen or so sisters will be moving into the west hall of second floor, another set of rooms with larger spaces and bathrooms that facilitate their current needs.

Yes, it is a little crazy, but everyone is trying hard to have good spirits and everybody is helping everybody else so it's going pretty well.

Here's a quick peek at some of the areas, minus the furniture which wasn't all moved in at the time I took these yesterday. On the left is a walk-in closet, alcove on 2nd north. On the right is our recycled community room ceiling lights that are now in the new large Common Room which is at the junction of the two 2nd floor halls. They look great there.

Here is the junction of the two 2nd floor halls. They form an L, with this nurses' station at the intersection.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eerie Week in Erie

It's always fun to use the word eerie and its fitting right now because it's been an eerie week here in Erie. We are just concluding our annual February respite from winter. It was in the 40s for a number of days, 57 one day and even topped 60 degrees once. Our huge mounds of snow are either gone or one-tenth their size. Drivers can actually see other cars coming whenever they get to a street corner. At the Mount we can open the patio and inner courtyard doors for the first time in weeks and the grass and pavement are visible throughout the city!

Here are some photos from the week: Another sad Take Back the Site vigil for a man who died in a fight with a friend on New Year's Eve--just this week it was ruled a homicide. Roses in winter for the Feast of St. Scholastica, February 10. The inner courtyard before this week's thaw. Our backyard with an eerie mist (sorry, can't resist!) coming off the remaining snow from the high air temp. and strong winds.

Back to winter this weekend--as the Punxsutawney groundhog predicted.

Photo by Jo Clarke, oblate

Monday, February 9, 2009


In the early 1900s the Vatican mandated the organization of US Benedictine houses of women into federations. Today there are four federations in the US with a total of 50-55 monasteries and 2,500-2,600 members. The prioresses of these houses meet twice a year--the gatherings overseen by a president of the Conference of Benedictine Prioresses (CBP). Last week Sr. Christine Vladimiroff of our community was elected for a 4-year term as this president. Each of the four federation presidents serves as a council with the CBP president.

During the last 30 years the CBP has issued a number of statements--on both civic and church issues--on behalf of Benedictine women in the United States. They have also organized and released a number of publications on topics of contemporary interest to Benedictine women of our time. The president herself represents American Benedictine women at international monastic gatherings and events, as well as serving as the organizer of national meetings and occasions.

P.S. There are also about 20 houses of Benedictine women in the US that are either independent or, more likely, associated with a federation or congregation in Europe. For "all things Benedictine" worldwide, go to

Federation of St. Benedict
Federation of St. Gertrude
Federation of St. Scholastica
Ben. Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Monastic Lexicon #8

Anselm's Attic

One of the more interesting pieces of community lore, from its pre-Vatican II days, is the story of Sr. Anselma's door.

In 1969, when the motherhouse moved from downtown on East Ninth Street out to the present Mount St. Benedict, Sr. Anselma Wagner's bedroom door was transported, too.

Her bedroom door served as a kind of scrapbook, memory board. Her little treasures: pieces of cards, little trinkets and anything else she wanted to add to the design were permanently attached to that door--and quite artistically. It was stored at the Mount in a ground floor room along with an assortment of other items rescued from the motherhouse during the big move. Because of the presence of this unusual item, the space became known as Anselm's Attic.

Today's Anselm's Attic is still a large storage area under the community room--not on the uppermost floor as its name implies. It's packed full, (especially now in a time of moving, cleaning out and rearrangements), with everything from bedroom and office furniture to large whatsits--but no Sr. Anselma's door. A few years ago it was finally discarded--but not until some photos of it were taken--as is fitting for this unique legacy to a unique sister.

"I think there may be one down in Anselm's Attic."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Steeler Country

Erie is just 100 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of the professional football team: the Pittsburgh Steelers--who made their 6th trip to the Super Bowl this Sunday.

Yes, Steeler-mania hit big this past week, including two "monastic football pools," black and yellow sweatshirts, posters, terrible towels and our annual Super Bowl party, which took on a special character this year because of the participation of Erie's favorite team. (Ok, there are some Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills fans around, but Erie is primarily a Steeler town!)

Included here is the epitome of Steeler frenzy from YouTube--lots of fun and a much needed diversion from the record-setting snowfall we're having this winter. Don't even ask, it's well past the "Isn't it pretty--a beautiful white wonderland" stage.

Pittsburgh Steelers-Super Bowl XLIII Champs 27-23!

New Morning and Evening Praise for Ordinary Time-February (see sidebar).