Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Hard Times

It's been a couple of hard days here this week as our diocese is one of a number in Pennsylvania that are the subject of a two-year grand jury study on abuse by Catholic priests. The whole subject is shocking and has brought great sadness, along with its share of anger and distress, to the people of the Church and many others as well.

Our bishop, who has only been with us for a little more than five years, is turning out to be quite the "stand-up guy" through it all. His communications director, with whom I worked when her 20-something children were newborns and toddlers, is also contributing mightily to the admirable statements and transparent honesty that are marking their compassionate responses.

A difficult, very difficult side of humanity.

But as the poet would say, "And yet the flowers, the flowers continue to bloom and share their beauty without cost or question."

The view right below my window. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

850 LCWR members take on St. Louis

The last day of the LCWR Assembly included a public witness of our resolution to address racism in this country. The Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was heard, was right across from our hotel and its steps became a perfect venue for our event. 

Look right under the word "against" and you'll see someone you recognize. 

A little free time took us to the St. Louis Zoo. 

Their zoo is large and nationally known. Three "twiga" are a highlight of their residents. 

Good-bye St. Louis. The assembly and your city were memorable. Nothing moreso than the Gateway Arch

See our community page for a front page news item on the LCWR's resolution on racism. Here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Under the Arch

Life in St Louis this week means life with the Arch, which is literally right across the street from our hotel and right outside our room’s window, too. Of all the topics we are exposed to within the LCWR‘s concerns the topic of immigration is right in front of us—-the Gateway to the West is right here. And to whom is that Gateway open?

The view from our hotel window.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

L (leisure) continues after LLL Days

A mile and a half walk on Front Street, a ridge above the dock area of the city right along Presque Isle Bay, brought these photos to share with you.

18 new condos overlook the Bay.

One of our many marinas.

The Sheraton on the right and the Marriott on the left. A four-story high walkway connects the Sheraton to the Convention Center....right over the bay. Very cool.

A very attractive home on Front Street with a perfect view out on the bay.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The sunshine waggle

One of our sisters has a very, very green thumb and plants, especially African violets, flourish under her care. One of our parlors has an African violet that she has started from a single leaf on every available table space. They are beautiful. But, in addition to this plant paradise she has dotted the little ledges between the upper and lower parts of the three windows with those cute little sun-powered bobble toys. There used to be just two or three but tonight I counted a dozen, lots of new ones I'd never seen before: a Hawaiian dancer, a rocking Santa Claus and lots of flowers. Since these windows have a southeast orientation the sunshine makes them wiggle and waggle all day. Cute! (We are in the midst of our annual LLL Summer Community Days, BTW, and this blog post fits into the second L: leisure!)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Philip and Andrew

Today's homily is worth least one little piece of it. Father Jim P, one of our regular Sunday presiders, offered wonderful reflections on the readings today, all of which carried out the theme of bread and feeding the people. The gospel story, (the only parable shared by all four gospels, he mentioned) was of the loaves and the fishes and feeding the 5,000.

Jim mused that the two disciples involved in the parable are a perfect parallel for our own times. Philip, upon seeing the huge number of people and realizing that there was no way to feed them, came and said, "What are we to do?" And isn't that what many of us are hearing and saying ourselves these days--either in reference to things happening in our own country or things going on in the broader world? His question resonated loudly with the audience, you could just hear it in the silence.

The second disciple, Andrew, finds the boy with a few loaves and a little fish and brings him to Jesus, despite the absurdity of the amount. Jim's point was clear, simple, and probably the only "answer" to: What are we to do?...we gather up the little we have and bring it to Jesus and it will be taken from there. (He didn't go into the particulars! This was just a parallelism in the realm of what-do-the-scriptures-mean-today genre.)

Months ago, Jim posed a similar question and that day his answer was, "Follow Me." And follow the Holy One, we do.

A couple weeks in the summer find the hydrangea in front of the Blessed Mother statue and the clematis in back of it, both blooming at the same time. This is the week. Sr. Cecilia tells me that the statue came from the convent in Sharon, PA where many of our sisters ministered and quite a few grew up. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer time and the living is easy!

Summer is a time for extra fun and relaxation. Enjoy these!

1. The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.

2. A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

3. Don’t let worries kill you – let the church help.

4. This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Jones to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

5. The visiting monster today is Rev. Jack Bains.

6. The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: “I upped My Pledge—-Up Yours.”

7. If you need to heave during the Postlude, please do so quietly.

8. Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church congregation.

9. Thursday at 5:00 PM there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All wishing to become Little Mothers, please see the minister in his study.

Music concerts on the beach!

Sunday, July 22, 2018


This afternoon, as we do every day at Evening Prayer, we remembered the sisters who died on this date. Today it was Sr. Anne Marie Nolan who died on July 22 in 1995 at age 83. I only knew Sr. Anne Marie in the last couple years of her life but even then I could see how she lived up to her "reputation" as a dickens, loads of fun, and a little bit of a character.

The two events that stick with me are these: 1) whenever you'd be on portress/switchboard duty at the front door, Sister Anne Marie usually came through and asked if Sister Patricia was home yet. Sister Patricia, it turns out, was a longtime friend. She had died in 1967. It was very touching to all of us that even in her semi-dementia Anne Marie was looking for her friend each evening. 2) I guess that in her days in ministry at Glinodo (especially summer camp) Sr. Anne Marie had a car and would tear around in it going hither and yon on errands and outings with the sisters! In her last years she continued this tendency as she rode a motorized scooter around the Mount--however, the tearing around took its toll indoors. One day we heard this terrible scraping sound in the front hall. Sure enough Anne Marie's scooter had hooked onto a little hospitality desk we had for visitors to sign in, and she was dragging it with her down the hall--oblivious to the newly attached sidecar.

It's a lovely experience to hear these sisters remembered and to share all sorts of memories of life with them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Look at all the angles

Four years ago one of our oblates  brought a friend to the Mount. Her friend was a professional photographer. As part of her stay she offered to share some "shooting tips" with any of our sisters who love to take pictures. I was able to attend one session and as is common for lectures, seminars, classes, if I remember one good idea I'm happy. And after this one, I did--and here it is: when taking a picture of something, take shots from all sorts of angles, even unusual ones.

Remembering this tip I took this photo of a mushroom that I found in our inner courtyard the next week---looking right down at it. Not bad I thought!

Last week when I was just walking around our place I came upon a nice patch of Queen Anne's Lace growing up in one of the gardens. One of them was unusually tall and, since I had my camera with me, I thought it might make an interesting photo for this blog. Suddenly I remembered the four-year-old tip and took this shot---from underneath. Not bad I thought!

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Although the purpose of our trip was a funeral, this weekend we had a lovely summer car trip though Pennsylvania. The state, also known as Penn's Woods, is surely at its most beautiful right now--miles and miles of gorgeous farmland, hills, fields and breathe-taking vistas around every corner of Interstate 80. One of our sisters, a Buffalo, NY native, had never been across the state by car. Her experience of PA. has been limited to here in the northwest corner along Lake Erie. She was "blown away" by the great expanses and acres and acres of greenery.

Back here on the lake, we found this unusually large and weathered remains of a tree which looks as if it has totally converted to driftwood--that smooth, white, lightness that typifies driftwood. It's beautiful, but it always sets us musing on where it came from and how it got in the position it is in here on our beach!

The nightly news seems to bring us a daily dose of Mother Nature's assaults this summer, but dare I say, we are having a lovely far.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Two celebrations

We are having two celebrations this week. The first was today, the summer feast of Benedict. Forty oblates, guests, family members and friends joined us for Evening Prayer and supper. The dinner was delicious and the weather beautiful, too. This feast day is highlighted by once-a-year songs and prayers and beautiful chapel decor from our summer gardens.

On Saturday a number of us will travel across state to Philadelphia to celebrate the life of Isabel Wambach, 91, our prioress Anne's mother who died on Monday in Florida, the home of her other four daughters. Isabel was a lovely, lovely woman who often visited us with her husband Mike and her sister and brother-in-law. Later, she and her oldest daughter were regular Holy Week guests each year. We will miss her greatly.

Here's her obit from the Erie paper.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


It is official: we have a single, twins and, just seen for the first time, triplets!
Darling, cute and endlessly entertaining.

Here's my first attempt at posting a video taken by one of our sisters, Sister Katherine, this weekend: triplets all trying to feed from their mother at the same time! Click full screen.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

July: in like a blast furnace

We got a little lulled to sleep in June with a slow, subtle turn into summer. Quite a bit of (summer) rain and moderate summer temps (75-80) most days. Then the calendar turned over to June 30-July 1 and the oven! I believe we hit 89 Saturday and 94 (new high) Sunday. was hot!

The human beings are uncomfortable, the nature around us seems much more adaptable. Here are four scenes from this weekend:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Millennials all

Millennials: those born between 1982-2004 (which would make them 36-14 this year)

What a wonderful time we've had with the eight young women that are here for the first Joan Chittister Institute. They are SMART, fun, interesting, articulate, alarmingly open and trusting, and we feel nothing but blessed to have them among us.

Tuesday night they formed a panel with the community as the audience. They answered questions about their studies, their challenges as young Catholic women studying theology and/or religious studies in the Church today, and about their life far.

See for pictures and more information on this special, special program.

A big thanks to the Benetvision staff for the idea and for following through with the logistics and program to bring such delightful gals to our place. They tell us that they are thrilled to be here and we reflect it right back at them!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hitting the Road

Here in "yes-we-did-have-that-much-snow" land, summer is time for hitting the road!

This week I have two friends who attended nieces' high school graduation about 50+ miles to the south; another friend heads to the Philly area next weekend to give a retreat to teachers; another sister just came back from a meeting near Baltimore; and later this week a couple car fulls will travel to  nearby northeastern Ohio to attend a funeral. Most of these day trips would definitely be iffy, if even seriously considered, if we were in February instead of June.

On the other hand, the nightly news of spring-summer natural disasters affecting so many areas of our country is scary: forest fires, tornadoes and lightening storms, volcano lava flows and even flooding from too much rain. Lots of suffering people in those areas. We remember them in our petitions weekly.

Those are not part of our relationship with Mother Nature here in the Great Lakes plains. Ours is pretty much confined to the white stuff!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Two weeks together

The Joan Chittister Institute for Contemporary Spirituality, known as JCICS on all the signs around the monastery, is off and running through Day 4 of its two-week run here at the Mount! Offered to Catholic graduate students or recent graduates of programs in a MDIV, theology, religion or spirituality field, we have 9 women in the program of "broadening their thinking and deepening their understanding regarding monasticism, women in the Church and contemporary spirituality."

Beneath all the rhetoric we are finding them just great to have at the monastery. The sisters are enjoying their presence already and, I hope, that they are enjoying their time in Erie and with us, too. We are so blessed!

Click here to see the news item on our website earlier this week.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

OSB women-alive and well in Alabama

My time in Alabama has been delightful, albeit hot, especially in the afternoons. The early mornings and evenings are much like deep summer in Erie, warm, blue skies and clear---nothing short of simply beautiful--in all ways.

Here are some shots that "called out" to me when I saw them. Their small retreat chapel was built incorporating stained-glass windows that include statements that are perfect for a retreatant at a Benedictine monastery.

The saying goes that in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, you could travel around making stops at a Benedictine abbey every night, as there was one a day's ride away from wherever you were! Of course we're not riding horses nowadays, but you might be able to still do such by car throughout the USA. So if you're doing a "monastary road trip" start with this Geographic Index of Retreat Houses here and see who has available guest rooms that match your path and, if they do, Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

All the same yet each unique

Every single time I visit another Benedictine women's community I find the same thing: we are all alike, yet unique. This week at Sacred Heart Monastery in north central Alabama is no exception.

The ways we are alike are in the important things, the differences are in the little customs, cultural pieces, individual monastery ways that have grown up over the years.

Here is Part I (Part II will be next time) on some of the things that caught my eye!

In the little kitchen in our guest quarters--two panels, that slide sideways.

They reveal a heavy door that opens into....a tornado shelter! I knew this part of Alabama was in tornado alley but I didn't know what they did about it!

And at the back of the room, an "escape" tunnel, with a large wrench to open the bolts, in case you can't get back out the door.  Geeessh, this is serious business.

Meanwhile, on their lovely grounds, a brick-bordered labyrinth. They have a large retreat program with many "meditating" visitors.

And, for all who knew her, Sr. Maurus Allen's grave--13 years now.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Daisy and Iris Time

These first days of June are the days of daisies and irises here in our part of the country. The irises have suffered a bit from our rough winter. We still have loads of them around: yellow, purple, blue, white and multi-colored, but in the inner courtyard and other small gardens they just haven't come up as usual. This happened to our forsythia a few years ago and we had hardly a one in all of the bushes. Luckily they all came back the next year and by now they are their old selves now! I hope this happens to the irises!

Meanwhile, how could I not share this, surely one of Mary Oliver's most frequently quoted and most beautiful poems.


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

My favorite iris photo: one of the Benetwood out buildings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


A few years ago I discovered the fine mysteries written by Charles Todd. Since then I've been working my way through them, generally from #1 in 1994 to #21 in 2017. According to my maybe-it's-accurate list, I have six more to go--and after this weekend it will be only five, as I finish Legacy of the Dead.

What do I like about them that has held me through 15 books?
1) The writing is good, very good;
2) The setting is 1920s, post WWI rural England which is teaching me a bit about WWI, from a European viewpoint, and about life in the proverbial small English villages, which always seem to hold the most quirky inhabitants;
3) Inspector Ian Rutledge is a great character: high commitment to truth and honor, humble about his own abilities, and struggling with the internal demons of returning from dreadful war experiences.

Ah, summer reading. I must get about bugging the sisters to send in paragraphs from their own summer reads for our What Sisters Read section of our website. I believe we're fast approaching 100 "book reports"!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A rare event

Yes, since I am beginning my 12th year writing a blog under the name "Light through Stained Glass Windows" I do feel a strong affiliation with our stained glass windows--especially those in the chapel. But, in truth, we all love them. That is why this entry is so special to me and, I hope, for you.

Here's the back story. Last Thursday I stopped by chapel at about 7:45 pm. Since I was the reader at Morning Prayer Friday I wanted to check to be sure the reading was marked so I that could open the book right to it (a helpful thing at 6:30 am!)and I wanted to be sure the microphone was at the right height for me. As I was standing at the lectern getting those things settled something caught my eye and I looked over to the windows. No, not to the south windows, the ones on the left as you walk in, the ones through which all the light comes, the ones where all the reflections are made on the ceramic tiles, the floor and on the Pyrex stands that we use for the environment, the ones that everyone takes hundreds of pictures of, including me.

No, I was staring at a very rare moment when the setting sun was bright and perfectly angled through the NORTH windows. I really cannot remember ever seeing these reflections before--or at least not all at one time and not as bright and clear and full. WOW--luckily I had my camera and did the best I could to catch some shots of this rare occasion.

Enjoy them with me!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nature girls all

Isn't this a riot?! Right under our windows here on the east lawn. This is just another example of "nature" appearing all around us these days. Even the prayer leaders have taken to offering praise in their closing and opening prayers for the beauty of the natural world of spring.

I know that many of our sisters have been "nature girls" for a long time, but it seems this spring as if everyone is especailly attuned to it: telling each other of the hummingbirds, fawn, bluebirds, blossoming rhododendron etc. that they saw that day. Could it be our 198" of snow (at the airport.....130-140" here!). Yes, I think that has to be a definite factor.

A new resident to Erie said to me this week that she comes from a four-season region but was never so aware of the seasons as she is here! I laughed and said that yes, in order to love Erie (and other Great Lake regions) you have to be able to embrace and appreciate all four INTENSE seasons, not just four seasons! Luckily she's on her way.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Food connoisseur

One of our sisters could be our local newspaper's restaurant/food critic. If there's a new place anywhere within 10 miles of center city, she's there in the first two weeks. And she shares her critique with everyone she meets over the following two weeks.

The thing is, she's really good at it. So, I feel rather intimidated even writing this review of a new restaurant, but it's not really in her realm--just a standard brand all-American place--but very nice.

For you Erieites, it's the latest place to open in the old Fergie's building on W. 26th St. Most recently it was the Summerhouse Cafe, I believe. Now it's Arnie's! Don't let the casual guy-name discourage you, it was just fine. And, yes, I'd go back again.... moderate prices, clean, fresh, nice wait staff and both of our meals (1/2 to eat and 1/2 to take home) were generous and tasty.

Here's my pasta dish. Don't you love the presentation? It comes with chicken or shrimp, but I had it plain...but there was a bite to it that was not unpleasant! 

My friend's pork chops don't look as special, but the meat was golden and the potato perfect. I forgot that we both had generous (not all lettuce) house salads that were great!

Extra! Extra!

One of those photos I never even
dreamed of catching.
West lawn of the Mount, under the trees.
Sunday, May 27, 2018

click to enlarge

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Before, during and after

About 250 of our sisters are buried in Trinity Cemetery in Erie. The gravestones are flat and therefore have made it a losing game to keep the ever-spreading crab grass and other weeds at bay--from overtaking them and making quite a number unreadable. To the rescue this week came our landscapers who agreed to help. The results? Beautiful.

Come to 8th and Peninsula and see for yourself. Click here for a cemetery map.