Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Favorite

I think I've posted about two dozen of Mary Oliver's poems throughout this site. If you put the word "Oliver" in the search box in the upper left, most of them will be brought up.

I want to end this month with what may be my favorite of hers, though that is really silly to say because there are so many that are truly wonderful. Let's say instead that this one is in the top three--at least for now!

If you don't own a Mary Oliver book of poems I would suggest Thirst as one you might consider. Here's an amazon link if you wish.

"What I Said at Her Service"

When we pray to love God perfectly,
surely we do not mean only.

(Lord, see how well I have done.)

One of our October morning skies--just yesterday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Monastery Almanac

I worked for Benetvision Publications for 12+ years. During that time I got used to very high quality publications, be they booklets, prayer cards, a couple large books, and about 150 issues of The Monastic Way. Everything produced was just first class. After awhile I admit I just took them for granted, but this past week their latest product has amazed me.

Just arriving from the printer is A Monastery Almanac, a 75-page, full-color book that is just magnificent. Why did it strike me so strongly? Because (1) it includes over three dozen color photos throughout, adding strong visuals to the wonderful text; (2) it is written by Joan Chittister and is similar to her Wisdom Distilled From the Daily, where she uses the everyday incidences and events of life as inspiration for her reflections; and (3)many of the daily entries are drawn from monastic life, generally and ours in particular.

We're putting one in every guest room and hermitage and will certainly have a supply for sale in our gift shop--a lovely remembrance for all our visitors. Benetvision's website is here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Traveling through Pennsylvania

Many years I don't get the opportunity to travel through the unique and colorful world of our state during the month of October. This month I've done it twice in the last week and will a third time this weekend.

This time I'm near Pittsburgh at a regional meeting where our immediate past prioress, Sr. Christine, delivered fine presentations on religious life and the prophetic challenges therein---especially for our time and our culture. Here are two thought-provoking ideas: "Who we are and how we live this life is our witness." And, from Sandra Schneiders, IHM, "Religious profession is a promise to live by the coordinates of God's reign not the world's."

On an Erie note, two events are on our website this week: the new residence of our sisters at Sophia House and the annual dinner with our neighbors at Benetwood Apartments. Nice photos of the large groups who attended each.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Faith in Chile

There were two things in particular that struck me about the rescue of those miners in Chile this week. The first was the spirituality piece that undergirded a lot of the story, even to the point where we all witnessed some of the miners kneeling right down when they were rescued to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. The second was the worldwide example of this relatively small and insignificant country (one that is never listed in the G8 or G12 or G anything conference) of its dedication to its people, its ingenuity and determination over the last 2 months, the turning of all its resources to rescue a couple dozen of its people.

Isn't it nice....much more than "nice"....that along with all the problems of our present world, not the least of which is the corruption of leaders everywhere who become among their own people's worst enemies, that a story like this can show us the best parts of being human beings: love, family, sacrifice.

If you haven't read it yet, an end-of-summer reflection by our prioress is here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October Events

Lots of "events" going on in and around our place the past 5 days: the visit by an 8th grade class from Mentor, Ohio; Joan Chittister's presentations both in Erie and nearby New York State; and the AIM USA Board of Directors meeting at the Mount on Tuesday. You can read all about them and see photographs here.

I left the AIM USA secretariat recently after 17 years as part of the staff. It was very nostalgic for me to see the Board members for the first time since then. They are a marvelous group of monastic men and women and I feel blessed to have been among them for so long. Here are the reflections I wrote for our newsletter as yet another transition came along:

"This year the AIM USA secretariat commemorates 20 years in Erie, PA, sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of AIM for most of those two decades, coming on board in 1993. The community and I have been profoundly blessed to host the US secretariat. Our sisters have embraced AIM and all its activities. They each receive every issue of the AIM USA newsletter, reading it from “cover to cover,” they tell me. They marvel at the breadth and depth of Benedictine monastic life as it is lived in the Philippines, India, Latin America and throughout the continent of Africa. Their monastic world has grown considerably throughout these years and so has mine.

Our Benedictine community is no longer just 104 women here in a corner of Pennsylvania on the northern US border with Canada–our “community” is all over the world now. Our sisters have contributed to every AIM USA Lenten Appeal--out of their individual budgets. They have spoken at countless parishes in annual mission appeals, raising money for AIM grants. We are not the same community that we were
before the US Secretariat came here in 1990.

We have three prioresses, Sisters Phyllis Schleicher, Christine Vladimiroff, and presently, Anne Wambach, to thank for being willing to sponsor the secretariat—all who have encouraged sisters to join the staff, did all they could to promote and assist the secretariat, and even served on its Board of Trustees.

If Sr. Joan Chittister hadn’t first accepted the AIM USA’s Board request to be its director and immediately set out to establish an endowment fund to assure a future for the secretariat, it may not have evolved into what it is today. If Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki hadn’t brought her professional skills in journalism and fund raising to her role as director, again the office may not have become what it is today. And if so many monastic men and women throughout this country hadn’t responded positively to a request to serve on the Board of Trustees, it surely would not have spread throughout the US Benedictine and Cistercian communities in both knowledge and support.

This month I leave the AIM USA secretariat to minister at our monastery as subprioress and we pass its directorship on to a fourth Benedictine Sister of Erie, Sr. Stephanie Schmidt. I know that she and the staff will continue the dedication and love for the good work of the Alliance for International Monasticism. Welcome to the “AIM world,” Sr. Stephanie. May you make as many new friends, enjoy the expanse of your monastic heart, and broaden your own commitment to the Rule and the Gospel of Jesus as I have through my years with AIM."

In the midst of all our "special" events and visitors, everyday life goes on. Here in the form of stained-glass window repairmen, helping preserve our windows from decay and wear and tear!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Lists

We are "packed with guests." Some are here for retreat experiences, others for recent lectures; some are family, others are just getting in some away-time during the beautiful month of October, before the bad weather or holidays set in. I, for one, love having these guests and a full, full chapel on Sunday mornings, too.

Here's our internal communication about guests. It's put out every week or so by our sister in charge of hospitality, so that we are all aware of who we might be running into in chapel, the dining room or around the grounds. It's very helpful and this is the actual list from October 1...except in reality the columns are straight and even...just couldn't figure out how to do that here! (The names have been changed to protect the innocent)!


Annie Bradshaw    1    Sept. 29-Oct 4
Cherie Davidson   2    Sept. 29-Oct 10
Edie Falco, obl     3    Oct. 1-2
Gerrie Harrison     4    Oct. 1-2
Isabella Jackson    7    Oct. 1-3
Kerri Lawler,obl   9    Oct. 1-2
Melinda Nicolia    10  Oct. 1-2
Ophelia Post        12   Oct. 2-3
Sr. Aquina,SND   1   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Betty, SND     2   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Carla, SND     3   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Dolly, SND     4   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Edith, SND     5   Oct. 8-9
Sr. Fran, SND      6   Oct. 8-9
Q. M. Rodrigues   7   Oct. 7-9
Sheila Tarquino     8   Oct. 9-10
Una Victorino       9   Oct. 8-10
Wilma Xavier       10  Oct. 7-10
Yolanda Zoey      11  Oct. 8-10
Anna B.obl          12  Oct. 8-10
Carl Davis, obl &
   Ellen Davis        14  Oct. 9-10
Frank George      15  Oct. 9-11
Hank & Ida Jenk 16  Oct. 8-13


HILDEGARD   Kevin Lleander  Oct. 3-7
                      Marie Nelson    Oct. 8-10
WALBURGA Sr. Ophelia Pew  Oct. 3-10
SCHOLASTICA Rita Scalzetti  Oct. 4-6
                      Terri&Ugo Vanco Oct. 8-14

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oct 7 - Our Lady of the Rosary

A couple weeks ago a friend asked me, "Want to ride out with me to deliver a rosary?" A rosary? What in the world is this about?

The day before, she had called a woman who had been in our community for years and, after she left, became a college professor. She was a real go-getter---a larger than life person in everything she did. She is now in her late 70s and after a series of serious physical ailments has come to the realization that her days of independent living are over. She has round-the-clock care and is on the waiting list for a local nursing facility. When my friend asked if there was anything she could get for her she hesitated and then rather sheepishly replied, "I suppose I'm the only person left who still says the rosary, but could you bring me one--I've lost mine?" So off we went, with two: one red, one blue. She was extremely and humbly grateful. It was a simple, yet beautiful experience to see what this gift meant to this woman--who has everything and could have anything she wanted.

It took me back to the last time I had said the rosary. It was during a 60-minute wait on a plane on an airport tarmac after arriving home from a long, long trip overseas. I was tired and weary and didn't think I could stand sitting in that cramped little seat another minute, let alone endure the now familiar waiting game of "a mechanical difficulty." Then I remembered the blue rosary that spends its life at the bottom of my tote--in its soft blue zippered case. Desperate for calm, lo and behold I found it in the mantra-like prayers and consoling repetition of saying the rosary.

I have a friend who says the rosary has been Catholics' prayer beads long before the New Agers brought forth theirs.

Today the liturgical calendar celebrates this "old-fashioned" devotion.

Electronic copy of our Mount magazine online here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Feast of St. Francis

In case you're not a regular NCR reader or you only see it occasionally. You might like to check out this week's column of Joan's "We need St. Francis now."

This weekend she is engaged in a rare public speaking engagement in Erie at the Wayside Presbyterian Church's annual fall event. They expect a very good crowd.

Here are some new items posted on our community website this week--namely Sr. Stephanie Schmidt's "retirement" party from 13 years at House of Healing. You can view them here.