Monday, September 28, 2009

Is real life a circus, too?

The celebration of our September-October birthdays took place this Sunday evening with a "circus" theme. These photos tell the story pretty well: there were delicious and different food choices (all pretty healthy!); the decorations, which included birthday presents for the celebrants hung from the ceiling, were colorful and creative; and game-lovers were able to stay and play a variety of active games, including Wii bowling.

Thanks and congratulations to our four sister-planners for all their time and effort this weekend to plan and carry out this event. These kind of "everyday celebrations" are much appreciated!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Autumnal Equinox

It doesn't feel too much like autumn here in Erie yet. The temps this week have been mid and high 70s with lots of humidity. However, the calendar and the flower gardens and bushes indicate otherwise. Here is a beautiful arrangement that we kept in chapel for the equinox. It brought a lovely environment for the special morning and evening prayer we had Tuesday. Our liturgists and prayer leaders seem endlessly creative.

Everyone who loves those autumn colors: oranges, browns, reds, deep purples and every shade of tan--is in their glory. Mums are everywhere, as are tall grasses and the almost-ready grapes in the fields just east of us.

We'll be hosting a Seasons of the Spirit Retreat weekend soon--October 2-4: "The Mystery of Chaos and Change." Another group will travel just over the state line into western NY state for a Benetvision-sponsored retreat the same week. October is a huge month for retreat directors and conference centers everywhere. New England leads the pack with their autumn leaf festivals and tours.

Mary Oliver is a New England resident. Here's one of her takes on trees. May you enjoy some special walks in among the changing woods and trees this fall.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ten Years of Rural Ministry

This weekend over half the community traveled 100+ miles to the little town of Coudersport, PA to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Catholic Rural Ministry in Potter/McKean counties with its founders Sisters Phyllis Schleicher and Mary William Hoffman, OSB.

Community musicians and singers led an Evening Vespers service in the small church (15 rows of pews) which included a presentation by Sr. Joan Chittister on Benedictine life.

It was a delightful afternoon, on a sunny and warm last-weekend-of-summer Sunday.

The bus leaves the Mount parking lot at 10:45 a.m.--right after the Sunday morning liturgy.

A quick stop at the Catholic Rural Ministry center near Port Allegheny--right down the road from the next town: Coudersport.

St. Eulalia's Church.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What a Wonderful World

Taste of the Arts 2009, the major annual fundraiser for the Neighborhood Art House, took place this Tuesday. Thirty-five sisters were among the score of volunteers needed for such a huge endeavor. Over 250 guests came for two and a half hours of under-the-tent performances by the NAH children and delicious hors d'oeuvres and drinks for the early supper hour. Here's a peek at the "festivities."

Before the 250 guests arrived.

A small part of the crowd.

The youngest dancers, all decked out.

Works of local professional artists were part of the silent auction inside the Art House.

Each art piece was accompanied by a stunning floral arrangement.

The theme brought out food from many nations, with accompanying table decorations.

The weather? Gorgeous! Some chose tables just outside the tent.

Click on any of the photos to get a larger view.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Smooth Joining

In 1840 St. Mary's Church in Erie was founded to serve German immigrants in the east side downtown section of the city. The Benedictine priests from Latrobe, PA ran the parish until the mid-1990s and the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, whose motherhouse would be built adjacent to the church property a few decades later, staffed the school until then, also.

In 1946 Immaculate Conception parish, just 6 blocks south of St. Mary's, began and served a predominantly African-American Catholic population for over 60 years.

On Saturday, the two parishes became one--St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, coincidentally the original full name of St. Mary's.

Contrary to the more commonly read stories of inner-city parish mergers, this one seems to have gone beautifully. The new pastor and Sister of St. Joseph who is his assistant are lovely. Both are dedicated to the people of God and parish life. They have spent hours working with both groups of parishioners and have ritualized together many of the steps of the process.

Saturday there was a procession from Immaculate Conception, down Holland St. and over one block to St. Mary's. There the first Saturday evening Eucharist was celebrated.

A number of community members attended: Sisters who grew up in St. Mary's parish, sisters who taught in the school, sisters who were principals of the parish school, and sisters who presently work or live in the immediate neighborhood.

A full story of this model merger can be seen here.

In the back of the Mount the grass and a layer or two of top soil were dug up so that a "road" could be laid between the back parking lot and the dumpsters needed for the construction site. It consists of small white stones and is really quite flat and road-like now.

This little yellow weed-flower has sprung up out of one of the piles of soil.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Year Begins

Here we are again--Labor Day has passed, no more white pants allowed, and "a new level" of the liturgical year begins for us. Here's what I mean by "a new level":

(a) The new year's sign up sheets for a whole assortment of liturgical involvement have gone out to all community members. Who wants to be a eucharistic minister or a reader at mid-day prayer or a cantor or a hospitality minister? Who would like to write petitions or plan Sunday liturgies? Who can arrange weekend chapel environment--and who would like to be a sacristan this year?

(b) This week the first Tuesday choir practice took place. We jumped right in with a couple of new songs and lots of responses and one-line melodies that now become available for use;

(c) Handbells started up, too. Ten ringers this year, all of whom admitted to being a little rusty after three months off, but nonetheless managed to produce some decent music by the end of the first hour;

(d)The first rehearsal for the full community schola is this Sunday--probably about 25-30 strong. We might not have a Christmas hymn Sunday, but they won't be far away! With only 2 practices/month, Advent and Christmas events come around pretty quickly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September Holiday Weekend

Lots of guests were with us this weekend, some are former Erie residents here for the final summer holiday weekend, some are sisters' family members getting in their last summer get-togethers. All come to join us for Sunday Eucharist whenever they are in town.

They are always so complimentary about our liturgy--the music, creativity in planning, our presider's homily, the whole atmosphere. They are honest and direct when speaking of what they call "the unique liturgies you have here."

One of numerous reasons for that is due to the many talented and artistic sisters we have. One way many of them can share their creativity is in designing the special "environments" we have each weekend. Here is a look at what we had during this Labor Day holiday.

Here is the beginning of the environment--our late summer flowers, in abundance--placed on both sides of the water symbol at the entrance to the chapel space.

The same flowers are used in an arrangement right at the altar.

The environment continues at the far end of chapel--at the podium where the Scripture is placed, the readings read, and the homily given.

Our own sisters are doing a bit of traveling, too. Our prioress is in Croatia right now, attending and helping to coordinate a CIB meeting of Benedictine women in that part of the world.

In a couple weeks two of our sisters will travel to Hekima Place , a boarding school for girls orphaned through HIV/AIDS. Started in 2005 outside of Nairobi, Kenya, Hekima Place now offers housing and schooling for 54 girls. Our sisters will "join the staff" there for four weeks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

School Bells

Well, the school bells don't usually literally ring nowadays but many of our community programs that service children are starting up or, more accurately, reving up these days now that the official school year has begun.

The Neighborhood Art House begins its 15th full year, as its year-round program began in 1995. Sister Gus's Kids Cafe is finishing its 10th year already; they served their first meal in January 2000.

The programs of St. Benedict Child Development Center began in 1969, forty years ago. Today's Center is a combination of a number of different programs that came and went, morfed in and out of different stages, but all were variations of basic state and federal programs for inner-city children, migrant worker families and young children in need of education, health care and other childcare services. The programs all combined into the present Center in 1992.

I stand in amazement and respect for our sisters who administrate and minister in these places. They are so dedicated to these kids, their families and their futures. What a legacy to continue.

Their latest newsletters can be found here.

Halloween at St. Benedict Child Development Center!

New Light Through Stained-Glass Windows column in September-October issue of Faith magazine--see page 6.

Morning and Evening Praise for September.