Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sit when the music stops

Writing a blog entry twice a week seemed so doable when I started. But now I admit it isn't always easy. Many Sundays and Wednesdays roll around and I wonder to myself, What am I going to write for tomorrow? Nothing too interesting seems to be going on.

After all this isn't meant to be a newsletter. I can't canvas all 104 of the sisters asking for an interesting tidbit from their week. So I always end up asking myself the same question: If I was a guest here today what would I notice? What would I see? What's going on here--these few days in particular? What are we talking about? What are we doing?

It always somewhat surprises me that I come up with an answer--and that's what I often write about. So here's the question tonight: What's going on here at the Mount today? And the answer is: We're playing Musical Chairs.

We have sisters leaving ministries, others coming into them. New sisters are taking over as directors, others are shifting to something else. Some are leaving a long time job and looking for a new one. Some are venturing into brand new fields, others are just continuing in the same one with minor changes. It's one gigantic transition--and everyone's trying their hardest to be calm, understanding and, most of all, patient!

A number of years ago when I was going through a lot of changes personally, a friend gave me the book Transitions by William Bridges. I remember its being just great. I think I'll try to find it again---and maybe order 50 copies!

Monday, July 26, 2010

We Love Our Employees

Yes, we do love our employees who work in our kitchen, infirmary, maintenance and housekeeping departments. And to show them our appreciation for their generous service all year we hold a summer Employee Appreciation Picnic--complete with picnic food, lawn games and fun in our pool---all at our beautiful right-on-the-lake Glinodo Center setting.

Here's a little sampling of the warm, sunny and beautiful afternoon, which followed a horrendous "passing" summer rainstorm that began at about 6:00 am and lasted until about 11:00. It left as quickly as it came and the afternoon was nothing but blue skies and sun. Summer in Erie!

The Free Gift Auction is always a hit. This year's big prize was a large, brand new grill.

And the winner: Sandy from housekeeping!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monastic Lexicon #16

Pacem and Gaia

Though there are more than just two dogs that live in our community houses, Pacem and Gaia are at the Mount the most. Pacem recently moved out after spending his first 12 years here with our former prioress, Sr. Christine. Pacem is a loving, cuddly black cocker spaniel who, unfortunately, is now completely deaf, but that hasn't stopped him from doing everything he wants. Since Sr. Christine has commitments that take her on the road we continue to see Pacem frequently as a number of sisters bring him to the Mount to dog-sit.

Gaia was a frisky, barking pup in her younger years but has turned into a big, fluffy softie now that she's older. She lives with one of our sisters here at the Mount since a change in ministry necessitated a change in Gaia residence, too.

First-time visitors are always a little surprised when one of our four-footed residents greets them in a hallway. Both, however, are good with all kinds of "strangers" as they were well-trained in Benedictine hospitality since they were young!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Charity Weekend

The big news in and around Erie this weekend was the Roar on the Shore--a gathering of 1,000s of owners and riders of motorcycles. I must agree with the cycle enthusiasts that Erie is a perfect venue for this. We have long stretches of country roads and Presque Isle State Park for their rides/parades and a large open downtown gathering area for both the bikes, vendors and the music performances that are part of the weekend hoopla. It is also easily accessible for locals.

Their Saturday bike road trip took them out of Erie and through the beautiful grape vineyards of the surrounding area, right past our monastery. Hundreds of gleaming Harleys making their not-so-quiet way along the lake shore! Quite a sight.

And, speaking of sights, here's our Sr. Mary Miller who was invited by her "biker friend," Dave, to ride with him in the first parade of bikes this weekend. She reported that it was magnificent!

A second event also had participation from our community--sisters, oblates and friends: the 17th Annual Relay for Life by the American Cancer Society. We have had a team since the first one in 1994. This year they asked every team to make a banner around the theme. Here's a group of our team members with ours. Sr. Marcia, far right, made the banner.

Congratulations captain Sr. Dianne and her 2010 team who were second over-all in fundraising, one of only two teams raising over $10,000 in donations.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lily of the Mohawks

Yesterday, July 14 was the feast of Kateri Tekakwitha, Lily Among the Mohawks, patron of environmentalists and a long-time favorite of our former girls camp, Glinodo. Lovely native American prayers and poems about Kateri are pulled out every year on her feast.

This icon is by one of my favorite contemporary iconographers, Janet McKenzie. Her work can be seen on her own website and at Bridge Building, which I believe is out of Connecticut.

Here's some summer beauty up close and personal out by our greenhouse.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Installation Weekend

This weekend brought two sunny, warm (80 degrees) days that served as a perfect backdrop for our community dinner of celebration on Saturday night and a day full of celebrating on Sunday: morning liturgy and afternoon evening prayer with the installation of Anne Wambach, OSB, as our 21st prioress.

Here is a sampling of photos from around the Mount during these events:

The Monastic Council: Back row: Annette Marshall, OSB; Charlotte Zalot, OSB; Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB; Diane Cook, OSB. Front row: Anne Wambach, OSB, prioress; Susan Doubet, OSB, subprioress.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Secret of Becoming

Here is my column from our diocesan magazine, Faith--the July-August issue.

The mournful question, “When am I ever going to use this?” always followed the presentation of seemingly irrelevant concepts in my math classes. One of the highlights of teaching for me was trying to give a good answer to that just-try-and-convince-me-if-you-can question.

One mathematical topic that had a “secret” application, that went much farther than the immediate, was the unit on integration.

Integration, or in its verb form “to integrate,” is nothing more than a process like subtracting or multiplying. It can vary from being quite simple to being overwhelmingly complicated and, thankfully, with the onset of computer, is probably done by them instead of by hand most of the time.

Integration enables us to find the area of an oval or ellipse, the length of a line that curves instead of staying straight, or the volume of a vase, all things that basic geometry usually cannot do. Not that we encounter these every day, but when you go into the world of engineering or architecture or design, there was usually an acceptance that it is important to get the exact answer for such –at least I hoped so.

The “secret” side of integration that always was inside my mind while I was explaining the mathematics on the outside, was the importance of integrating into our lives all that life sends our way–rather than its opposite: reaching a certain point in our adulthood and from there building barriers to all that comes from that point on.

No, I didn’t go into this with 17-year olds–or maybe I just hinted at it ever so slightly, knowing full well that decisions such as this would be theirs soon enough. I was hoping and praying that the natural openness and curiosity of adolescence would carry over throughout their lives and not end in a kind of all-knowing arrogance at age 50.

The point here is this: the process of integration–constantly bringing new experiences, new attitudes, new ideas into our life–is a lifelong process. It is life-giving and it is invaluable to our growth–particularly if we are dedicated to the life that Jesus laid out for us: a constant growth into God.

Hard as that may be at times, the “payoff” is worth it–for like my high school math students when they learned a new skill, the more we learn to stretch and grow and integrate, the more we are able “to do,” the more we are able “to be,” than we ever dreamed of becoming back in those teen years.

Photo by Margaret Ann Pilewski, OSB

Monday, July 5, 2010

Take Back the City

This Wednesday our BFP committee and the Sisters of St. Joseph have organized a Take Back the City prayer vigil for nonviolence to be held in the center of downtown in the gazebo at Perry Square.

Our city is reeling from six homicides in the first six months of this year. Though this is nothing compared to what major cities in our country experience, it is way beyond our average.

Our local paper carried a large article on the nearly 11 years and 45 vigils which have been held in Erie since November 1999. It started on the front page of our Sunday paper and continued inside to a full page article. Here it is online: Erie Times News along with a portrait of Sr. Marlene Bertke, BFP's primary organizer of the Peace Vigils.

And on a happier note, here is part of our July 4 picnic table before the 75-80 celebrants dug in!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Summer Week

Not much going on this week, except everyday life! We're having our usual large number of summer visitors: the hermitages are packed all the time and sisters' families from out of town are stopping by as part of their annual visit to Erie. The Art House started its 5-week summer session Monday, our deer are seen every day now, our kitchen manager and staff are starting to get lots of local fruit with the comment that the produce are early this year because of our mild April and May, and, finally, our courtyards and other garden areas continue their continuous blooming--and they are just beautiful.

Here's Mary on this first day of July:


I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,

yet paused
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head

and her wet nose
the face
of every one

with its petals
of silk,
with its fragrance

into the air
where the bees,
their bodies
heavy with pollen,

and easily
she adored
every blossom,

not in the serious
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom--

the way we praise or don't praise--
the way we love
or don't love--
but the way

we long to be--
that happy
in the heaven of earth--
that wild, that loving.

This is an everyday green plant that we pass 1,000 times a year on the way in our side door. But for this week it produces a really pretty flower--but if you're not paying attention all you'll see is the plain old green bush.