Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ta da---real news, real time!

April 22, 2018
Mount St. Benedict
Inner courtyard garden

We can hardly stand it...
spring sprang today!
Daffodils and hyacinths opened--
Welcome, welcome.

Warm, sunny weather rolled in this weekend, just in time for our wonderful event Saturday and for our inner courtyard garden (and others) to begin its transformation. Easter flowers still deck our chapel, guests are numerous and we are all smiles. Spring is here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Winter visitors hang on

Right outside my window yesterday. Everything that comes with snow is not all bad!

We're getting ready for what promises to be a lovely event this weekend, as another sister (this will make #4) from St. Joseph Monastery in St. Marys, PA will transfer her monastic vows to our community and become a Benedictine Sister of Erie. Four years ago the Benedictine monastery in St. Marys closed and the remaining 17 sisters all entered decision-making processes for their future. Four of the sisters have transferred to us and we are very happy to have all of them.

Next week there's sure to be coverage of the ceremony on the front page of our community Don't miss it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


My friends are all laughing at me and with good reason. They say I am showing untruths on this blog as I have been posting spring pictures that aren't quite 2018 reality. They are correct! I am living in a dream when I see our daffodil buds lightly yellowed but not open yet and our hyacinths close to the ground and not bursting into all those little swirls of color that get top heavy and fall over at maturity! Yes, I have been stretching the truth, but like all of us who are squirming in the last grasps of winter (poor folks in Minnesota this weekend--12" of snow?!??!!?) we know that we are oh, so close.

Inside we do encounter spring every day, however. Our chapel is full of lilies and mums and daffodils fully bloomed. It's beautiful and fragrant and, along with the Easter songs and hymns we sing at Morning and Evening Prayer, does at least remind us that we are suppose to be in springtime.

From our tornadoes, no snow blizzards, no flooding, no thunderstorms, ONLY cold temps, a little wind and a Sunday morning surprise: I ran outside with my camera and caught our first ice storm....gone by 9:00 am.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


I didn't want to blog during a week's vacation in Florida, about the 80 degrees, sun and flowers there, especially when I realized that the daffodils were still in their "waiting" mode, as was much of spring, in Erie during that same week. But now that I am home-sweet-home and it's predicted to be 60 tomorrow, maybe the winter that won't leave the whole northern half of the country may finally be leaving it after all.

So even though I am a homebody at heart I am grateful for a week's respite from a very cold and very snowy winter and am looking forward to a beautiful spring that Erie always has. I wish that I could have said, "Beam me up, Scotty" to the whole community for a week in the southern sun, too!

A part of the inter-coastal waterways that wind their way through the cities of southern Florida.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Benedict welcomes everyone

I'm out of town for a week and hoping that this is what I'll come home to.

My favorite season for our front-lawn Benedict:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter-New Life

"Black Swallowtail"

The caterpillar,
interesting but not exactly lovely,
humped along among the parsley leaves
eating, always eating. Then
one night it was gone and in its place
a small green confinement hung by two silk threads
on a parsley stem. I think it took nothing with it
except faith, and patience. And then one morning
it expressed itself into the most beautiful being.

Mary Oliver

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lenten Monday meditation #6

"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,
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
We, too, felt brave!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Window dressing

A shout out to our JC Penney rep. who was here today for the grande finale--the arrival of our new draperies for our guest rooms. Courtesy of a generous donor, we were able to recycle our 30+ year old "tired" draperies to the needy (along with accompanying hardware) and spruce up our guest hall with new ones. Our rep. Linda was terrific--I never knew there was so much to know about windows and window coverings! Step 2 will be looking into carpet--again for floors that have had 1,000s of visitors over the decades.

Hospitality is a growing ministry for us. Between the guest rooms in the monastery and the three hermitages in our woods, we welcome hundreds of visitors a year. They are "easy" to have as guests as they fit right into our schedule and lifestyle fairly well, but the sheer volume takes its toll. In more recent years we replaced old tubs in the adjoining bathrooms with walk-in showers, gave every room an overhead fan for those August dog days and updated bathroom fixtures, bedspreads, etc. Welcome guests!

Old ones are gone.

New ones have sharp pleats and even edges all around.

Yes, they are neutral beige/tan, better to blend with color we can add for bedspreads, et al.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lenten Monday meditation #5

"After Her Death"

I am trying to find the lesson
for tomorrow. Matthew something.
Which lectionary? I have not
forgotten the Way, but, a little,
the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering
peace, peace, and the birds
in the shallows are full of the
bodies of small fish and are
content. They open their wings
so easily, and fly. So. It is still

I open the book
which the strange, difficult, beautiful church
has given me. To Matthew. Anywhere.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The angle of the setting sun

At this time of year the setting sun is at just the right angle to be shining through our west facing stained glass windows during Evening Prayer. On days when the sun is bright (no snide remarks, here...things really are getting better and brighter!) our prayer is overseen by seven beautiful jewel-like windows and their exact reflections on the ceramic tiles. The windows are set in quite a bit, much like shadow boxes, so the reflective area is quite large.

I'm trying to capture the beauty of the windows and their reflections. I don't have it right yet, but you can get the idea here. Stay tuned as I work on my camera setting to try and show them to you in their full glory.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lenten Monday meditation #4

"Broken, Unbroken"

The lonely
stand in the dark corners
of their hearts.

I have seen them
in cities,
and in my own neighborhood,

nor could I touch them
with the magic
that they crave

to be unbroken.
Then, I myself,

said hello to
good fortune.

came along
and lingered
and little by little

became everything
that makes the difference.
Oh, I wish such good luck

to everyone.
How beautiful it is
to be unbroken.

Mary Oliver

My friend, Judy, from whom I learned everything I know about photography, tells me I'm not helping the coming of spring process by continuing to post winter pictures (beautiful though they may be)! So this one's for you, Judy---as we live in hope.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Schizophrenia sets in

I'm caught in a vortex of winter schizophrenia. Half of me is still mesmerized by the beauty that is in late winter snowstorms such as we experienced one day this weekend. (12" of a heavy, wet beautiful whitewashing-type storm...the world went totally white). Absolutely beautiful. Two or three of us went rushing outside with cameras as soon as morning prayer was over, to catch the scenes. Here's one from the east end of the library courtyard.

And yet, I am longing (and I'm not the only one!) for spring: daffodils, blossoming trees, new grass, warm breezes, robins and everything that says s-p-r-i-n-g, new life is here again. My friend Audrey, who has three wood pieces in our annual art show that opens Sunday, gave me this blue bird house that she fashioned in her wood shop. We have one already, store-bought, and the blue birds have stayed all winter. Is that normal? Hopefully this one will bring a new family of these Pepsi-blue birds to our backyard. I love how natural and unfinished it is.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lenten Monday meditation #3

"To Begin with, the Sweet Grass" part 4

Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

Mary Oliver

Friday, March 2, 2018

Extra-just for you who have snowless winters!


The adventure known as "Winter 2017-18" continues!
Friday morning, March 2, 2018, Erie, PA

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Oh my God! What are these that are making an appearance throughout our gardens this last week of February? Could it be another sign of spring? Yes, the little squirrels and chipmunks have started to appear; some birds we haven't seen for 4 months are back; we can drive to work and home without our car lights on---so what are these? Could they be daffodil leaves and other first greenery of a new season? Yes...they are.

Now, can they survive the March wintry days that are sure to come? We'll see. If we can survive another 4-5 weeks, so shall they!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lenten Monday meditation #2

"I will try"

I will try.
I will step from the house to see what I see
and hear and I will praise it.
I did not come into this world
to be comforted.
I came, like red bird, to sing.

But I'm not red bird, with his head-mop of flame
and the red triangle of his mouth
full of tongue and whistles,
but a woman whose love has vanished,
who thinks now, too much, of roots
and the dark places
where everything is simply holding on.

But this, too, I believe, is a place
where God is keeping watch
until we rise, and step forth again, and---
but wait. Be still. Listen!
Is it red bird? Or something
inside myself, singing?

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Three days in a row!

Our Canisius visitors on the boardwalk at the lake....Despite the warm air temps, the lake has large frozen areas and ice fishing huts are still visible on the bay.

Monday: set a new daily record high of 65;
Tuesday: set a new daily record high of 72;
Wednesday: tied the daily record high of 70.

In the words of Pat Brodie, our first Benedicta Riepp member in 1999: "Your winters are so interesting--one week there's 6" of snow on everything and two weeks later you see pavement and grass and it's 65 degrees." Pat was from Vermont where, she told us, once the snow started they didn't see the bare ground again till spring!

Between this somewhat annual February weather phenomenon and the latest delightful group of Canisius students here for a service/spirituality experience, we had a great weekend.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lenten Monday meditation #1

"In the Storm"

Some black ducks
were shrugged up
on the shore.
It was snowing

hard, from the east,
and the sea
was in disorder.
Then some sanderlings,

five inches long
with beaks like wire,
flew in,
snowflakes on their backs,

and settled
in a row
behind the ducks--
whose backs were also

covered with snow--
so close
they were all but touching,
they were all but under

the roof of the duck's tails,
so the wind, pretty much,
blew over them.
They stayed that way, motionless,

for maybe an hour,
then the sanderlings,
each a handful of feathers,
shifted, and were blown away

out over the water
which was still raging.
But, somehow,
they came back

and again the ducks,
like a feathered hedge,
let them
crouch there, and live.

If someone you didn't know
told you this,
as I am telling you this,
would you believe it?

Belief isn't always easy.
But this much I have learned--
if not enough else--
to live with my eyes open.

I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn't a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness--

as now and again
some rare person has suggested--
is a miracle.
As surely it is.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Where do you get your ashes?

I received ashes at our Morning Prayer, right after the psalmody this morning. Very nice. The prioress also distributed them before noon prayer. Many of our employees and friends come by for them, too.

I however have two Ash Wednesday stories: one 20 years old, the other, brand new. First the old one. One of our faculty members was on her way home one Ash Wednesday and realized that she hadn't been able to get ashes as one of her homeroom girls needed attention during the service and she had missed going up for them at the school Mass. Not wanting to face her husband's questions (he was a great guy, but she was tired and didn't want to get into the day's adventures) so she improvised--as she admitted to us sheepishly the next day. She reached down to the floor mat of her car and fashioned the cross on her forehead with the "ashes" she found there! Jack never knew the difference! What a card this gal was...and very clever. We assured her that God would not hold this against her!

This year Erie is fully into alternative ashes distribution. So one of our employees, who missed getting up, on her day off, to get them with us or at an early Mass, took her friend's advice and drove into a local Presbyterian church who advertised "Drive through ashes for Ash Wednesday." (Or as one of our sisters said, "They're giving drive-by ashes all over town.") Everything was going fine until she noticed a photographer from our local newspaper. She tried to beg off, "I work for the Benedictines, I don't know how they'd feel about this," she tried to plead. But, he was not to be deterred and voila, there she was on the paper's afternoon website in a full Ash Wednesday drive-through pose with fresh ashes on her forehead. Can't wait to see if it makes the morning newspaper tomorrow, also!

Thanks, Greg, (photographer) and Robin (minister), both friends of the community, for attending to our Health Services Director--who, with all she deals with caring for the 90 of us and our health needs, can use all the help she can get--Presbyterian ashes or not!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A mid-February lift

If I Were

There are lots of ways to dance and
to spin, sometimes it just starts my
feet first and then my entire body, I am
spinning no one can see it but it is
happening. I am so glad to be alive,
I am so glad to be loving and loved.
Even if I were close to the finish,
even if I were at my final breath, I
would be here to take a stand, bereft
of such astonishments, but for them.

If I were a Sufi, I would be
one of the spinning kind.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Where to look

When you visit our chapel, don't look up and out our stained glass windows--look down, too.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Remembering Lenore

Lots of sisters grew up in the greater Philadelphia area, which made our annual Super Bowl party more fun than usual. The highlight for me was the 16th Annual Memorial Lenore Shaw Super Bowl Pool. Sister Lenore Shaw was unique— entered the community twice as a young women and then 30 years later came back for a third try and stayed. She was funny, loving and outrageous... she ran the Super Bowl pool every year and we keep it going in her honor.

Day before the “big game” brought a ride at the peninsula... too cold to walk outside much, but brought these views of early February at PI.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Winter party

A good time was had by all...lots of laughs and fun "family" time together celebrating Prioress Anne's 65th! Note the summer, beach, "Down the Shore" theme--great morale booster for all of us in the snowy, wintry northeast!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

January "thaw"

January "thaw" is a kind of misnomer. The temperatures may get into the 50s, as they did this weekend and we can see grass and bushes again, but nothing is really singing "spring" yet! I took a walk around our grounds, including all the way down to the lake and, although I wish otherwise, this is just a temporary break....more winter is surely to come. Now if it was March 28th...that would be a different song to be sung!

Here is St. Scholastica (abbess, as the crozier attests) with her faithful ceramic bunny that someone added to the scene.

These two photos show the breakup of the ice right at the shoreline of Lake Erie on our property. There is such a large, large expanse and it really looks c-o-l-d!

PS. We had a lovely ceremony this weekend at Evening Praise. Our resident postulant became a novice and began her year of novitiate study and full immersion into the community. Her three sisters from out of town came for the short but meaningful event and with another sister who is already a member of the community, it brings to five the pairs of blood sisters we now have. Sr. Jean Lavin, who passed away last week, was one of a sixth pair, as she and her sister died just 11 months apart.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Life well-lived

The rituals that we hold for our sisters when they die are simple, elegant, poignant and beautiful.

This week's for Sister Jean Lavin were as personal and memorable as ever. When you read her obit, here, you can easily see that she had three distinct "ministerial lives": musician, teacher, spiritual guide. What a talent and what a dedicated woman! The memory service for our sisters is perhaps my favorite of all the rites we hold. Because I learn, through stories and anecdotes about the sisters whom I only knew in their last years. A close second to the memory service, however, is the "display" that one of our talented members puts together for family, community members and friends to help them "remember."

Here are two photos of just part of Sister Jean's display. If you click on them they will enlarge and with a sharp eye, and a magnifying glass, yes, you may see Ed Sullivan--TV personality and host from the 1950s-60s. And the nun in the original habit? Herself, having just directed a chorus of Erie OSBs on his show. What a life!