Monday, December 29, 2014

Snowy Owls

The November 8th issue of our Erie Times News carried this nature blurb: "Will last year's invasion of snowy owls be repeated? It's not likely. An invasion in Pennsylvania comes once in a lifetime. With an abundance of food for the owls during the Arctic nesting season, more young were reared than usual. It's believed that adults would then drive the young birds out, causing a southward invasion into the U.S."

But as luck would have it, the snowy owls have returned to Presque Isle State Park and this weekend, on an unusually warm 50 degree day, one of our best photographers took camera in hand and headed out to trek her way out to Gull Point (accessible only by foot) to see if she could find one. And she did.

It was a marvelous experience she reported and although there were dozens of amateur and professional photographers around, the snowy owls were not perturbed or frightened.

See these two articles in the Erie Times this month to stay up on our 2014-15 "invasion."
Article one and article two.

A "regular" owl taken also at Gull Point.
Ann Muczynski, OSB

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014--inside and out

Last year we received two large wreathes, about 3-4 ft in diameter. This one is in our dining room, the other is on the wall at the front entrance. 

I absolutely love our chapel windows (as does everyone else!). Here's what they did  on the floor at the center of the chapel at noon this week.

The open waters of  Lake Erie at our shoreline--calm and peaceful on December 24th!

Even without snow these red berries stand out along the fence on the Glinodo side of East Lake Rd.

A bat house is poised on the cliff above Lake Erie.

Monday, December 22, 2014

To shake with joy and grief

As you surely know, we love Advent. Everything about it: the songs, the scripture, the theme as the "season of waiting," even the growing darkness and shortness of daylight--which begins to reverse today, thank goodness.

But into these last days of our beloved Advent has come the grief of loss, as we mourn the loss of the Sister who had been among us the longest and two longtime oblates.

We Shake With Joy

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.

Mary Oliver

BEFORE: the very top of one of our evergreens is the community room Christmas tree this year.

AFTER: Our annual Trim the Tree gathering and the transformation that ensues.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December dreary days

This is the only snow we've received in December, and it only stayed about 24 hours. In its place we've had cold rain and dreary days. Bring back a little snow!

But then the poinsettias started to arrive--red or white, we have both kinds. Here's a lovely red one alongside a beautiful arrangement of orchids that came for one of our sisters. WOW, it's a beauty.

Last reminder: don't miss our schola singing Sr.Mary David Callahan's O Antiphons..on the front of our community homepage here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gaudete Sunday

Advent is moving along, as are the days of December toward the "official" beginning of winter, this year on Sunday, December 21.

We had a joyful liturgy Sunday in the Gaudete tradition of the liturgical year. Here are a couple views of the Advent environment in the center of our chapel. Where do these visual artists get their ideas? their talent? their seemingly endless expressions of the sense of our celebrations?

P.S. The O Antiphons start this week, on the 17th, if you enjoy these unique, rich traditional titles of the Messiah. They are on our community's site, under "Pray With Us." Click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Accidental Theologians

Here's an excerpt from the book Accidental Theologians by Elizabeth Dreyer that our community is reading for Advent (and will continue reading in Lent). We will also have one gathering together and share our reflections, reactions and ideas from our reading. It's starting out to be a really great read.

"Along with other Christian denominations, Roman Catholicism has worked to unite head and heart, knowledge and faith, reason and love. The mystery of Christ is best entered into and plumbed for meaning in ways that engage the whole person. In this sense, we can think of full theological knowledge as wisdom. Wisdom weds the work of reason, study and intellect with a life of passionate commitment to Christ and virtuous love. In the case of the four women Doctors of the Church who had no access to formal advanced education, we have theologies that reveal their significant native intellectual gifts, but which are notably grounded in graced experiential knowledge linked to their intense engagement with God."

The book is about Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, the four women doctors of the church and how they shaped Christianity.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Advent Views

Different things do come out for an annual appearance only during Advent. Here Mary and Joseph, who normally share the south niche all year, now have a beautiful Advent weaving between them.

All along the cloister walk, between the chapel and the dining room, four lovely stained glass sun catchers are hung, a new one each week.

This very large poinsettia was donated to us this weekend by an oblate-friend who won it at the SBA alumnae annual Christmas Party. It came without the gift certificates that were attached!!! But, it's a beauty and, upon closer inspection, is really four separate plants all put together in one larger pot.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

57 Count

For Advent this year we were surprised by a brand new collection of hymns. The booklet (below) features the smallest stained glass window on the south side of our chapel, the one with the little harp.

It also features 57 hymns for this, the first season of the liturgical year. According to my rough estimate we don't even have enough prayer periods from the Vigil of the First Sunday through the morning of December 24th to sing them all--even once! But no fear, many are simple mantras and they will be incorporated into the Sunday liturgies, too.

And yet, even with such a variety, we all have our favorites that we could sing day after day. Here's one of mine: from the then St. Louis Jesuits of the 1970s and 80s, whose individual members are still writing great "church music." This was written in 2001 by the group member Dan Schutte. Click here to hear "A Time Will Come for Singing"---#46 in our new booklet.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent and winter waiting

Advent began beautifully this weekend, highlighted by a phenomenon that we haven't had in quite a while. Each Vigil of Sunday in Advent our tradition is to have the newest postulant carry in the first candle the first week, the youngest novice the second week, the youngest temporary professed the third and the youngest professed the fourth. We've had lots of "substitutes" over the last decade or two but this year---this year---we have all four and it is such a delight. Congrats to our newest postulant Karen who did a fine job this first weekend.

Lots of guests this holiday weekend included at least three groups from Buffalo that I met. All three were asked if they were affected by that horrid lake effect storm and all three said no, and gave us the exact distance it was from them! One said, "I was about five blocks from it." Another said it ended two miles from their house and the third was in downtown Buffalo which was largely untouched! Here, we ended the month at 25" and lost first place in the you-know-what contest. Yeh! We've been down to the pavement all week with no predictions of anything new in the 10-day out forecast.

Here's a huge lake freighter docked at the east pier near our library and Maritime Museum this weekend. Note the fishermen sitting at the open water of the bay.

Nearer to home, a walk in our own woods brought this fallen log covered with fungi.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our special day

November 27 is our very Special day. Not because it's Thanksgiving this year, although that is very nice. It's because four of our sisters share November 27 as their birthday! Happy birthday Karen, Colette, Beth and Ann.

Now, this brings to mind the rather well-known mathematics fact: There is a high probability that in a room of 30 people, that two will share the same birthday. In fact, the probability of that happening is just over 70%.

I am feeling very cocky today and so I am going to try and show you why this is true! Here goes..last chance to get out of this page. I won't blame you......Have a nice holiday.

For those who stayed: the idea here is that it's easier to compute the probability of NOT sharing a birthday and then, subtract that answer from 1 (100%) to get the chances OF sharing, because sharing or not sharing together make up 100% of all that can happen.

We'll start with 30 people. The first person has a certain birthday. What are the chances that the 2nd person will NOT share that date (have her own unique birthday)? The chances are 364/365, because there are 364 days available, not taken by the first person. Now a 3rd person comes along and what is his chance of NOT sharing one of the first two's birthday dates? 363/365, because two days are taken by the first two people, leaving 363 free.

How are you doing with this logic?!

Now, we continue this string of fractions for all 30 people. By the way, the last person's chances of NOT sharing a date already taken as a birthday by any of the other 29 is the fraction 336/365.

Now in probability when you want things ALL to happen in one situation, you must multiply their individual chances. We would multiply all the fractions---all of which have a denominator of 365 by the way. It's a mess, but a calculator or computer does it easily.

When you do this, you get the answer, in decimal form, 0.294 In percentage form that is 29.4% Now here comes the grand finale: Ta Da! Remember all of these were chances that they WOULD NOT share a birthday, so if any two DID share a birthday, it would be 100% - 29.4% or 70.6% chance that at least two WILL INDEED share a day.

This is truly amazing, because when you realize that you'd really have to have 366 people to be 100% sure that two would share a birthday (Hint: the first 365 could all have separate birthdays, couldn't they? But the 366th person would have to double up with someone!)

Now, if you've survived this far I hope you realize that you are much smarter in Math than some bad experience in math class in some grade made you think!! And the next question in your head is probably, In a community of 101 women, what are the chances that four share the same birthday? And the answer is, I'm nowhere near smart enough to even set it up, let alone do it! Suffice is to say that we have such and it's loads and loads of fun....which is what I hope you had a little of here.

Happy Thanksgiving and Blessed Advent, which begins this weekend, too.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend delights

If you haven't seen it through our community website already, don't miss the online edition of this week's Faith Life newspaper. We're the major story on page three, excellently done by editor Mary Solberg. Yes, we are both proud and happy that these four "seekers" are doing their seeking with us!

Sunday we hosted the dress rehearsal for Tennessee Backporch's Christmas Show, "Follow the Star." What a creative and marvelous holiday event! Nearly two hours of top notch music with arrangements that are contemporary and charming. If you want a wonderful Christmas experience for the entire family, even teens should like it, here are the 6 sites where it can be seen this year.

Friday, December 5, 7:30 pm
Asbury United Methodist

Sunday, December 7, 4:00 pm
Saint Peter Cathedral

Sunday, December 14, 6:00 pm
Our Lady of Mercy, Harborcreek

Tuesday, December 16, 7:30 pm
St. Jude the Apostle

Thursday, December 18, 7:30 pm
St. Francis, McKean

Sunday, December 21, 4:00 pm
Saint Joseph, Warren

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chalk in hand

I am in front of an old fashioned blackboard, holding a piece of white chalk and writing, a hundred times:

I will not talk about snow.
I will not talk about snow.
I will not talk about snow.

My holiday cacti are blooming beautifully. One is pink, one white, one salmon and one yellow and since they grew too large for my bedroom or office window sills they now live in our library where there are much wider ones. Here they are all lined up in a snow.

Because of the early setting suns and late rising suns of winter, we had a not-often-seen scene Saturday at 4:00 pm, at the end of our community day: three fawn and their mothers, a couple snoe, appeared in the backyard, romping around in the cool air, wearing their dark, dark winter coats.

Two of my favorite book series have just announced the holiday release of another of their movies: The Hunger Games, part 1 of Mockingjay, the last of its three books and the final segment of the movie of Tolkien's The Hobbit. Both are basically the same classic story of good over evil, with the underdogs and seemingly powerless ones finally overthrowing the evil rulers. Both also employ the simplest of weapons as part of their victory: snows and arrows.

P.S. We have some nice new things on our community website if you haven't been there lately. Sno here.

Monday, November 17, 2014


OMG, that darn Golden Snow Globe site has started up again with its annual "contest" for cities of populations over 100,000 and their seasonal snowfall. During the 5-6 years it's been "awarding" its prize we've certainly been in the top 20 or so, but last year when we won'd think by the coverage in our local paper that we'd hit upon a new tourist attractor! Geeesssh.

And now, in just mid-November, aren't we already in first place for 2014-15! Oh my. Not my type of "Visit Erie" PR! Go to the link and see for yourself!

On a nicer note, here's a good reflection for a Monday, from Mary:

"What I Can Do"

The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won't even mention cell phones.

I can turn on the light of the lamp beside my chair
where a book is waiting, but that's about it.

Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make fire.

November 13

November 16
Ok, ok...we live in a snow globe!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter Entertainment

Erie got its first snowfall this morning which reminds me of home entertainment, especially in the winter months. Last year I found the website and under his subheading "Entertainment" found British Crime and Mystery TV series. For each he gives a short overview of the main character, setting and time period. Very accurate.

He has listed dozens of great British TV mystery series, many of which we already knew and loved, such as:
Foyle's War
Midsomer Murders
A Touch of Frost
Inspector Lewis
Pie in the Sky
Inspector Morse

But, since our Erie County Public Library has a large number of the series we tried more of them and, voila, happened upon the most wonderful treasure trove of DVDs. Bring on those Lake Effect Snows that bury us for weekends on end--we travel to the British Isles: London, small towns, Ireland, wherever and find the BBC-rich actors and actresses in mystery after mystery. WOW!

Here are the new ones we now love, too:
George Gently
The Last Detective
New Tricks

PS There is some advantage of watching them in order--character development!

Sister Susan Freitag got this view from her window this morning!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dignitas, JES and the Common Good

Friday night about 40+ community members were able to attend the Jefferson Educational Society's presentation of its Dignitas Award to Sr. Joan down at the Bayfront Convention Center. You can read more about it, including viewing an Erie Times News interview, here on our website.

It was a truly lovely evening as Joan spoke about the search for the common good, for the U.S. and especially for the whole world. The proceeds from this event in their week-long Summit are graciously being donated to the community.

The convention center is a goldmine of photographic opportunities. Here are three quick ones that I got:

Benetvision had a good selection of materials for the 500 in attendance.

The convention center is a long building running south to north. You enter on the south side and the main hallway runs the entire length of the building toward the peninsula/lake (north). But that also means it runs right along the bay--gorgeous views. Here's one of the Sheraton and part of the public dock, taken right through the floor to ceiling windows.

I don't even know if I can describe this adequately. Its title is "Airbourne" and it appears to be, when you get close enough, hundreds of birds, some on four wires and others flying. The description by the artist states that it is indeed that, with the birds made out of pieces of board games: Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, etc. So creative!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

In Memory

In honor of and in memory of our Kathleen Ruszkowski who died in April 2012 at age 63, Monica Brown, the acclaimed singer, songwriter and spirituality leader from Australia, came down from Toronto this week to share with us one of her "programs" as a memory of Kathy and for an opportunity for Monica to see the place that Kathy spoke to her about so often.

It was a mutually enjoyable time for all of us. One of Monica's songs we have begun to sing, "Listen," based on the Prologue of the Rule. It's really a mantra, sung throughout. As Monica is an oblate of the Benedictine Rule following Good Samaritan Sisters in Australia, it seems fitting. Here it is from a listing of Monica's songs online. Click here.

November 5th in the prioress's garden!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tis the season

Tis the season for:

1) holiday cactus to bloom. Here's the first full one I've seen. It's a beauty. My yellow and white ones live in the library now, but haven't started with buds yet;

2) those wonderful refractions of our windows in the late fall/early winter sun. Here's one from November 2 at 10:30 a.m.

3) fellow "seekers" to join us--and my goodness, have they ever. Seems like every time we turn around we're having another ceremony: in mid-August our novice took first vows; 3 weeks ago we welcomed a new postulant; last weekend over 200+ oblates renewed their commitment, 1/2 of them on site along with six new oblates; 2 days ago two sisters from the St. Marys community formally began the transfer process to our community; yesterday we welcomed another postulant and in 2 weeks a third postulant will become a novice! Need a dance card?!

We are indeed blessed!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween weekend

In case you didn't have any children trick or treating at your door, you can have some of ours--from St. Benedict Child Development Center.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October ends

Roses, Late Summer

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall
away? What happens

to the singing birds
when they can't sing
any longer? What happens
to their quick wings?

Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?
Beyond the trees
the foxes keep teaching their children

to live in the valley
so they never seem to vanish, they are always
there in the blossom of light
that stands up every morning

in the dark sky.
And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them,
nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses,
and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

Mary Oliver

Monday, October 27, 2014

One last look-St Ben's, MN

Sacred Heart Chapel-100 year anniversary this weekend.

Huge cemetery for hundreds of sisters.

Mother Benedicta Riepp -age 37.

Home Sweet Home