Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Return of the natives

We've left the hot and sunny shores of the Gulf Coast of Florida, their beauty and lifestyle already a memory.
Now it's the Great Lake Plains again with their lush and growing grape vineyards, a newborn fawn the size of a small dog seen in our backyard this week, and the celebration of the summer solstice with bright sun, low humidity and a 76 degree high temperature.

To top it all off I had to go to our next door neighborhood town of North East this evening and while there, parked in a metered spot.

I had quarters, but I couldn't resist--used nickels and dimes instead: Quarter =30 minutes, Dime = 12 minutes. Nickel = 6 minutes!

Ah, home sweet home!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Monastic life in Florida, 2 of 2

The altar at Holy Name Monastery.

A unique wall-hanging in the guest wing.

The backyard of the one-story monastery. Their bell tower kind of looks like a oil rig, but is very nice.

Their new bishop came for the blessing of the guest wing. He is 6'8" and towered over everyone. Then he added a mitre. WOW. Can you say James Comey?!

Another beautiful Florida flowering plant. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Monastic life in Florida, 1 of 2

Gecko are everywhere. Here's one caught in the act of "expanding"! Google says it's related to breathing, social interaction and sniffing!

We could not figure out what these cemented into the grass all over campus things were. Umbrella holders? They are for Disk Golf which is big in the south! 

It's always great to see a whole different world of flowers and foliage.

I think a hawk, in a tree covered by hanging Spanish Moss.

Birds of paradise growing naturally.

Lake Jovita, home to a number of alligators (!!!), is the jewel of the campus. Benches are everywhere.

In 1889 a group of Benedictine monks from Latrobe, PA arrived here and helped establish the first Catholic college in Florida. It was named for Pope Leo the Great (XIII) and Abbot Leo Haid, OSB, the college's first president. Also in 1889 Benedictine sisters from Pittsburgh arrived and began Holy Name Monastery. Today the 14 sisters and dozen monks still have a role in the University, which is, by enrollment, the fourth largest Catholic College in the USA--behind Notre Dame, Loyola and St. John's (NYC).Beautiful campus, too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sand Hill Cranes

Have arrived in St. Leo, Florida, about 45 minutes northeast of Tampa and the home to two Benedictine houses: St. Leo Abbey of monks and Holy Name Monastery of sisters of our federation. We are staying at St. Leo University, an interesting situation, as it almost died away a few years ago, but was resurrected as primarily an online university! And it is flourishing! See here.

It has a very lovely campus with those long and low tan or stone buildings that seem to be what Florida is built on. Here is a statue of what I suspect is a Benedictine monk directing a young man. The arches help show you how stunning the architecture is here. Function for sure, but much more beauty.

And, to that end, St. Leo is home to some of the (famous) Florida Sand Hill Cranes.
We've seen them already, but haven't heard their unique call.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Thomas Merton

A week with Thomas Merton and his "takes" on monastic life. Very fine. Well-presented by Bonnie Thurston, a Merton scholar. Enjoyed by all. We are blessed indeed.

“Every moment and every event of every person's life on earth plants something in their soul.” Thomas Merton, OCSO

Things in the grass with which one becomes enamored when walking around on retreat!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#100 and continuing

Late in 2016 we welcomed to Erie Tom Roberts, the National Catholic Reporter's editor-in-chief, outstanding writer-in-chief, supporter of women religious-in-chief and all around dedicated Catholic and truth seeker-in-chief.

Tom came to Erie to work on some stories, one of which was to hear about our Take Back the Site Vigils for homicide victims and to consider a story of the collaborative efforts made by the three communities of women religious in Erie who sponsor them. Soon after he left, the 100th vigil (since we held #1 in November 1999 in the parking lot of a local Dairy Queen) occurred.

Tom is one busy guy and there are lots of current news and assignments he has to cover, but last week, true to his word, the article on our TBTS--in the streets public prayer--was published online. You can read it here.

Thanks, Tom, and thanks to all the sisters and oblates of the Benedictines for Peace committee who have been so faithful in organizing and continuing these powerful, yet terribly somber and sad events. They indeed have had an impact on our city and its residents.

Oh, one note: in the very last photo in the article you'll see a tall man in a suit and tie in the back left. This was a photo from TBTS vigil # 104 a couple weeks ago--his first one to attend, though he told me that he had been hearing about them for years. Who is he? He's the favored candidate running for mayor this November for the City of Erie!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Come Holy Spirit

This weekend we experienced two wonderful liturgical events: the First Monastic Profession of two of our sisters during Evening Praise on Saturday night and the great Feast of Pentecost on Sunday morning. They were both marvelous, joyous, deeply moving and significant experiences, especially, I hope, for the large crowd that attended the Mass on Pentecost.

Our presider, Father Mike, gave fine reflections, the two sisters who planned the liturgy were creative and inclusive and at the very end, when a rousing song began for the closing, we had some spontaneous dancing break out in the center of chapel, similar to what happens at Easter.

This never fails to remind me of a note that went up on our main bulletin board a number of years ago from the planners of the Sunday liturgy. Here is what it read: "At tomorrow's Mass we'd like to have spontaneous dancing accompany the closing song. There will be no practice."

A number of very large gardens are in neighborhoods in the small townships and boroughs surrounding Erie. Many of them open their gardens to the public every year. It's a lovely gesture and these self-guided tours are very popular. We drove out to one last week and caught this beauty in one of the flowered areas. I'd say it is about 12-14" in height. Just stunning.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two favorites

I've baptized one of my friends with the new nickname "Willow" because she reminds me of the little owl that I wrote about a month ago (see April 30). Willow is the Tamarack Center's resident hospitality queen, as she's the one they turn to whenever a new batch of orphaned, usually hurt, baby birds come into their place for care. Willow steps right up (flies right up?!) and becomes their friend, protector and guide during their stay. That's what our "Willow" does for newcomers here...she is a natural when it comes to hospitality and, as she is doing this week with our latest 20-something summer intern who has just moved in, has stepped up to become a kind of guide to the who, what, where, when, whys and how of moving into a 65-resident monastery!

This is one of my favorite photos. I first took it 3-4 years ago as I was walking the grounds of Benetwood Apartments which are located on the southern part of our property. To me the rather freely flowing, lovely white and purple irises, up against the weathered, yet practically built out building made a striking pairing. I wait for the scene every year and this is the week. I saw it yesterday. It looks exactly the same! I can't help but share it with you again. I hope that you have once-a-year spring scenes that you eagerly await each year, too.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Then and Now

A year ago Sister Mary Therese Egan's brother, Jack, died in little Franklin, PA 60 miles south of Erie. Unknown to the family, thousands of miles away in Holland, a man named Felix de Klein found the obituary online and wondered if this was the Egan family he had been searching for. As a hobby and a goodwill gesture to the American soldiers of WWII for helping to save Holland from occupation, Felix walks the WWII war fields searching for memorabilia of the many men who died there. Whenever he finds something he does all that he can to find family members and return the memorabilia to them.

Felix had found a Miraculous medal engraved "Joseph P. Egan," Sister Mary Therese's 19 year old paratrooper brother who died of wounds received in October 1944 in the Market Garden battles in the Netherlands. Needless to say, Mary Therese, her brother Tom and other family members were thrilled to receive the initial email and the medal and piece of Joe's parachute. Felix reminded the family that Stephen Spielberg's movie, "The Band of Brothers" was about this very battle.

Buried for 70 years, a medal and piece of a parachute were returned to the Egan family as the result of the findings of a metal detector in a field in Holland that was the site of a US field hospital.

And back home on a much more peaceful Memorial Day weekend, at our Presque Isle State Park, a young boy was being taught how to fish by his mother! May he never have to fight in a war and risk losing his life or of returning home but psychologically scarred, as so many vets are.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dawn Patrol

A couple of years ago I shared with readers about the addition of two "fierce looking" plastic owls on our back patio, set out to ward off birds, especially while we are enjoying warm weather meals out there. They seemed to be doing a great job, so last year, after consulting with the sister who made the purchase, I bought two more and put them out to discourage the "droppings" of said birds onto the cars nearest the house and also onto the little cement patio and windows of the inner courtyard.

All started out going well but after a bit I noticed that although the incidents were down, they weren't totally gone! Finally one day I was chatting with a guest who works at a garden center and she told me that the birds quickly figure out the "plastic protectors" and adapt! "You have to keep moving them around if you really want them to be effective," she said. Well, that's not going to happen because these two are on roofs!

They came out and went up this week so we'll see. So far, so-so.  

Otherwise our spring continues to be absolutely delightful and I can attest that all Erieites that I run into are brimming over with joy and gratitude--nothing like four complete seasons to bring out appreciation for each of them!

The corner of the inner courtyard garden is a little iris heaven this week.

You can see that the owl is semi-successful.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Blest Are They

Blest are we who were able to attend a church music concert in neighborhood Fairview, PA this weekend where we heard Marty Haugen and David Haas playing and singing their music, which, along with others of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, helped form the current liturgies of the Catholic Church in the USA. I never even dreamed I would have such an opportunity. It was a "sell out crowd" of 500 strong who sang along with them on nearly every tune. Just wonderful.

I found a concert they did with another great writer of the time and genre, Michael Joncas, on line here. It's an hour and a half, but you can move ahead and stop where you wish. There's a sample at 27:56 min. that will give you a perfect idea of our own live event. WOW! Enjoy.

David Haas, creator of: We Have Been Told, To Be Your Bread, You Are Mine and countless others.

Marty Haugen, creator of Shepherd Me O God, All Are Welcome, Eye Has Not Seen and many, many more.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wish you were here!

In the inner courtyard facing west--which happens to be exactly the way my office window faces.

Just on the way across the parking lot. Look who's landed on the car!

If you have to have an air conditioning unit in a garden, at least put it right next to a beautiful pink rhododendron.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spring wonders

How Would You Live Then?

What if a hundred rose-breasted grosbeaks flew in circles around your head?
What if the mockingbird came into the house with you and became your advisor?
What if the bees filled your walls with honey and all you needed to do was ask them and they would fill the bowl?
What if the brook slid downhill just past your bedroom window so you could listen to its slow prayers as you fell asleep?
What if the stars began to shout their names, or to run this way and that way above the clouds?
What if you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves began to rustle, and a bird cheerfully sang from its painted branches?
What if you suddenly saw that the silver of water was brighter than the silver of money?
What if you finally saw that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all day and every day--who knows how, but they do it--were more precious, more meaningful than gold?

How Would You Live Then?
by Mary Oliver

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

First and Last

Two timing references this week:

First: Our Benedictine Women's Service Corps volunteer, Erin from Iowa, is down to her last weeks with us. And I don't want to talk about it anymore. Her last entry on the BWSC blog is just lovely and I don't want you readers to miss it. Please take 3 minutes and enjoy her reflections on her time in Erie. Click here and scroll down to her May 5th entry.

Secondly: This week "Light Through Stained Glass Windows" marks its 10th anniversary!!! Yes, I'm amazed myself! In the right hand column are links to all the years, but I thought it would be fun to reprint the very first entry (minus any photos--I didn't know how to do that yet!). Here it is:

TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2007
Stained-Glass Windows
We are all still reeling from the "official" opening of the renovated chapel this weekend. This morning's Morning Praise was breathtaking. The no-longer-carpeted floor, now ceramic tiled....and the no-longer acoustically-tiled ceiling, now Pennsylvania natural wood have transformed the sounds of the chant and music. It is overwhelming. The 16 floor to ceiling stained-glass windows still make up the north and south walls. I'm taking a seat on the north side, facing south, so that I have a view of the morning sun through the windows and their reflections on the tiles.

One of the most popular Benedictine mottoes fits the day: That in all things may God be glorified.

A lovely rhododendron bush bloomed this week at our East 9th St. building.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

From everywhere

This weekend we had a group of women (and one brave man) for a retreat, "Mid-Life, Long Life." These retreats used to be rather small and local, but this time the participants were from NY, PA and OH, as you'd expect, but there were also people from MA, CT, MI and GA!

The difference? The wonders of the scope of the internet, our great website and maybe a little bit of word of mouth.

I remember one weekend a few years ago: it stands out because for those two days we had people in the monastery from six continents: North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Imagine--the whole world passing through our little place here in Erie!

We've had a week of spring rains and cooler than normal temps. The rains really stir up our creeks and Lake Erie. One of the few times when it looks more like an ocean!

All the rain has caused the natural world to "explode"--- growth is everywhere. These purple cone-like things are on one of the evergreens. Not sure what they are.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sisterly care

Conversation overheard at the front door this week as one of our nurses accompanied two sisters who live in the infirmary to a waiting van that would transport them to an activities "outing." The nurse had been telling them what the agenda would be for this first adventure. "The van will take you into town, and then you'll be met by the staff'll meet some new people and enjoy some activities planned just for you. If you need anything don't hesitate to ask. There will be lunch and then the van will bring you home."...and on and on with everything she could think of to ease any anxiety.

The older of the two (89 to 86), who is also the sharper of the two (mild forgetfulness to severe forgetfulness!), listened attentively and when they got to the front door was heard to say to the anxious nurse, "Now we'll be fine, we'll be ok." And gesturing toward her companion, "Don't worry, I'll take care of her."

After 70 years of monastic community life I'd say "they got it"!

The two-toned dogwood in front of the original convent on East 9th St. is in its annual 2-week flowering. Just beautiful.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Free" weekend

After the six weekends of Lent, the weekend of the Triduum and Easter, followed immediately by our Spring Community Weekend, having the first "free" weekend after all of those was time for fun outings by many sisters. I chose to go to our state park, Presque Isle, specifically to see if we could find the owl family sighted recently in a tall hollow tree with their new owlet!

Not only did we find the owl family but we learned that the Tamarack Wildlife Center was holding a live raptor program at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center right at the entrance to the park. Here are a couple photos I took of the "traveling troupe"!!

A red-tailed hawk minus its redness!

Jasper a beautiful little Eastern Screech Owl who lost an eye and an ear but is a regular member of the traveling educational troupe of the Tamarack Center.

A Barred owl, Sophia, I think...another beauty.

But, my favorite was seeing Willow. Willow is a small Eastern Screech Owl who was rescued, along with her three owlets,  from a hollow in a dead tree that was felled in Gridley Park seven years ago. All were taken to Tamarack who released the three babies when they were old enough to be on their own. Willow, however, had a damaged wing and has been a part of the Tamarack education programs for years. She also serves as a surrogate mother to any baby owls that are orphaned and brought to the center.   

See Tamarack's site for more about these and other "residents"!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


For the past couple months we've been borrowing the original DVDs of the show "Northern Exposure" from our library. That wonderful quirky series about Cecily, Alaska and its quirky cast of characters and delightful and quirky stories. What creativity! How did those writers think of those plots?! We are enjoying them immensely. I do love quirky things and I've just found a new one to add to the list.

Out of the blue, an unanticipated gift from a friend, comes an equally quirky book, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by first time novelist, Katarina Bivald. Here we meet Sara, a bookstore employee from Sweden, who is arriving in a small (pop. 637), fading town in Iowa to meet her pen pal, Amy---only to find that Amy has just died. Sara stays on and, drawing on her love of books (and Amy's personal library), opens a bookstore in Broken Wheel. And everything changes! The characters are great, the writing is good and the story, in my opinion, is creative, fun and delightful....with just enough quirkiness to keep me hooked.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cokie and Joan

If you can't be with us this Tuesday for "In Conversation" with Cokie Roberts and Joan Chittister, don't despair. Mercyhurst University will have it online very quickly. Watch their site or our site, and I'm sure it will be up within a couple days.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from an interview that the Jesuit-published America magazine had with Cokie three years ago. It's title was: "Catholic woman in the public square." You can find it in its entirety online here.

In the world of media, have you seen coverage of the church by mainstream media change? Have media been harder on the church? Not hard enough?

Well, I think Pope Francis is being treated like a rock star. And that was true of John Paul II when his papacy began. And the media, for the most part, take the church seriously. There are always complaints about coverage of scandal versus all the good things that go on, but that is true in every field. It is not news that thousands of planes take off and land safely; the one crash is news. But for the American Catholic Church, unfortunately, the question of media coverage cannot be separated from the sex abuse scandal. I have personally been involved in several media-outreach efforts by the hierarchy on this and the tin-ear and fundamental ignorance about molestation in the early years of the unfolding scandal was truly shocking. There was only one Christian response: This is a crime. We are horrified. What can we do as caring people to help? How can we make amends and prove to you it will never, never happen again? That’s not what anyone heard. Finally, we are hearing those responses after hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. That’s money that could have gone to educate poor children, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, help pregnant young women see the way clear to give birth to their babies. You get my furious drift. And equally maddening: it caused the bishops to lose their moral authority at a time when it could really be used on those issues.

As a woman in media, have you found prejudice against you? As a Catholic woman? As a woman of a certain age?

Of course. I don’t think I’ve been discriminated against officially as a Catholic woman. But certainly sex and age. Let me count the ways. And when I say officially, I mean no one has denied me a job or a raise. But are there people in this society still who think that to be a believer is to be a little bit simpleminded? Sure. And to be a Catholic, still a little simpler still? Yes.

One of the blue heron that lives at the East Pier.

Our bleeding hearts make me so nostalgic for my grandmother's garden.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter colors

Showing off their Easter "colors" are Gary Good, (green) one of our great maintenance guys, who had surgery; Sister Carol Ann (pink) who took a tumble carrying a computer printer and broke a couple small bones in her hand; and Sister Cecilia (blue) who bumped into a guest at the intersection of two of our hallways and landed on her wrist, also breaking a couple small bones! Neither sister needed surgery, thankfully. Anyone for a purple one to complete the colorful Easter basket?!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Inside and Outside

The four-day celebration of the Triduum and Easter finished with a flourish. All of the prayers and liturgies came off very well--our presider was first rate, the music, creativity of liturgical ideas, and old and new guests were all a special part of the days.

One admission I feel obliged to make however: On the last day, Sunday, a guest was really gushing over with compliments in conversation with me: "Oh, everything was so beautiful and looked so smooth and easy. It must be just a delight to be part of it all." My outside self responded, "Thank you so very much, it takes a little work but, yes, it is our pleasure to share our prayer with so many friends--thanks so much for coming!" Meanwhile a little, but very strong inside voice was saying, "Smooth and easy? We practice and practice for hours to get everything coordinated and looking effortless. We've been singing those songs in choir for 3 months, ditto for handbell pieces!!! Nothing's's hard work!!"

Within minutes doesn't another guest stop me and say, "You must be beat you look so tired, so many events, so much to do--hope you can get a little rest!" My outside self responded, "Well, thank you but I feel pretty good; many of us have tomorrow (Monday) off, so we can relax a little; thanks so much for coming and joining us." That little, but strong voice inside piped up: "Tired? We're exhausted! This afternoon it will be as quiet as a morgue around here as everyone either goes to their room and closes the door to the world or takes a drive to the peninsula to get away from people and be surrounded only by the sounds of nature!! So glad you came to join us, now enjoy your trip home and we'll see you next year...or next month...or at the earliest, next weekend!"

But both voices sincerely say "thanks" to all our oblates, family members, friends and guests (especially first-timers) who were with us for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Tenebrae services, Holy Saturday and/or Easter Sunday. They really were great, great community and prayer experiences!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

And the conclusion is...

1. This year we had below our average snowfall;
2. Our last measurable snow was in mid-March;
3. This year, because winter was shorter, spring got an early start;
4. 6-7 very warm days over the past two weeks have accelerated blossoms and buds;
5. The heavy winds and rainstorms we've been seeing all around the country did not hit us;
6. Sunshine has accompanied our higher temps;
7. Easter is mid-April;

Ta-da: We are in for (crossing our fingers) one of those rare--but remembered from childhood photographs of pastel dresses, navy blue coats and white hats or miniature three piece suits for boys-- warm and beautiful Easters--where your winter coat does not have to be worn, covering your Easter outfit;

And, ta-da, ta-da....our daffodils and hyacinths are strong and upright, full and glowing!
WOW! and Alleluia for spring and Easter!

Even the tree in the center of the library courtyard is beginning to bloom. Here's the view from indoors. It will be gorgeous in a couple days.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Holy Week

"The Poet Thinks about the Donkey"

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight!

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined
what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been:
small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man
who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped,
as he had to, forward.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


I was "hanging around" one of my old haunts this week, St. Mary's Home East, as a couple of our sisters are there right now for rehab following falls and broken bones. My mother was a resident there for 7 years, most of it on the 100-room assisted living side, but the last year or so on the 100-room full care side following a stroke.

Between her time there and living in a community with a number of 80 and 90-somethings, I've learned a lot about "parenting." The number one thing I've learned is this: although all parenting is basically the same, every parenting situation is unique and special. The trick is to find the parenting options that "fit" you and your family. St. Mary's East was a great fit for my Mom and me.

One of the things we both enjoyed was the seemingly endless celebration of holidays. Every window sill, desk corner and table top went through an annual progression from July 4th to Back to School to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas (which was hands down the biggest and best) to New Year's, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and with nary a breath, ta da, what I found this week: Easter (Never mind that we're headed into Holy Week....don't be a Scrooge bunny!) Can Memorial Day be far behind?!

St. Mary's was founded in 1884 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Erie, who had already begun a hospital in nearby Meadville, PA and St. Vincent's hospital here in Erie. In 1991 they added a separate building for Alzheimer's patients and in 2001 a twin complex, St. Mary's Asbury Ridge, in west Erie.

There are a number of fine senior care facilities in the Erie area---we are indeed blessed. St. Mary's is surely one of them.

Thinking of you, Mom.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

An Altar in the World

This weekend we finished the last session the community held discussing the marvelous book by Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: a geography of faith. Our formation committee organized the discussion gatherings during Advent and Lent--each around one or two chapters that all Sisters read. The sessions were creative times of discussion, artistic expressions, DVDs, writing and many other group activities that were all opportunities to share with each other. Barbara Brown Taylor is a marvelous writer and her topics resonated strongly with our experiences of church, spirituality and community living. Her last chapter on "Blessings" just blew us away! We'd love to get her here but right now she is teaching in a college/seminary, so her time for travel commitments is very limited.

The recent rains cleared on Sunday and the sun called us outdoors. We drove to Twenty Mile Creek, just across the PA/NY state line, and spent some time roaming on the beaches and the park that is there. A cool wind blew off of the lake, but the sun made the early spring day lovely as we found numerous groups of those hardiest of hardy spring blooms, daffodils, popping up everywhere.

The mouth of Twenty Mile Creek, where it empties in Lake Erie, appears to be about 30 feet wide right now. By mid summer we'll be able to walk across to the houses on the other side, as the creek flow lessens considerably and a rocky path will appear across it.

"Bat habitat" in a field. We have a couple bat experts in a local college and bat houses are common in our area!