Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Life is grey

We got to hear a wonderful presentation this evening about Christian ministry and how it is and should be changing in this country and in our Catholic Church. Dr. Greg Baker from our local Mercyhurst University shared his ideas on how "pastoral power" is not the mechanism to lead people on their faith journey, but rather accompanying people on their paths of freedom, guiding people along their own seeking is the better way. He used the analogy of fences--that tend to control and hold in, contrasting them with porous boundaries that allow coming and going with the freedom of adulthood.

He shared the statistic that in 1970 55% of US Catholics attended Mass weekly. In 2018 it was 21%. Something is not resonating with seekers. He stressed that this is not at all a Catholic-only trend, as 26% of Americans now identify themselves as "unaffiliated" in religion.

It was a great presentation, full of contemporary, yet solid perspectives and concerns. Greg complimented us on the many social justice areas we address, but we think that with people as himself by our side, they are all the more meaningful, powerful and enriching.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Special weekend

Two special experiences stand out this week, no, let's make that three.

In nature, it's THE week when our larch tree is in its golden glory. Usually one of the last whose leaves turn from green to gold, as well as one of the last to get those leaves again in the spring, it's such a special tree. We get a first hand view of it every day as it is located right outside the dining room.

On the guest list, four of the writers of the book Dear Joan (see the blog entry below) came to visit for the weekend. It was delightful to see them again. They had a chance to visit with Sister Joan, to join us in prayer and just to be "on site" after a year and a half since their first visit. I heard that many of them are doing things with the book: offering retreats, book club sharing, Q & A's. Good for them. The book has already sold over 1,000 copies.

Third, after two weekends in a row of community meetings and obligations, it was nice to have a "free" one and to see so many of the sisters enjoying a weekend to visit friends, catch up on projects, watch movies or TV and just relax.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Today I'm going to plug one of our newer books, Dear Joan Chittister: conversations with women in the church that was published a few months ago. It's a very, very interesting little book, put together by eleven 22-35 year old women who attended a spirituality institute here that Benetvision sponsored a couple years ago. All of them are somehow involved in theology or religious studies or a similar area. In the book they each write a short letter about an issue and Sister Joan responds in a letter back to them.

The topics range from such things as:mentoring younger women, divorce and its effects on women, how to handle patriarchy in parishes, how to live authentically. In this month's US Catholic magazine, with a cover story ironically on Benedictine monks in Chicago, they ran a excerpt from the book---a full letter to and from Joan. The subject was: male only pronouns versus inclusive language. I don't know where to buy this issue, outside of libraries such as ours, but here's a 5-minute youtube video of the editor, Jessie, giving an overview.

The whole concept of young, educated Catholic women musing over the things about "church" that interest and bother them, is very attractive and interesting. Listen to Jessie and enjoy. BTW, six of the eleven letter writers are going to be here this weekend for a kind of reunion and to celebrate their project.

P.S. if you'd like a copy of the excerpt in the magazine, I'll send you one, just ask.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bag Man

In the early 1970s my interests swayed little from my dedication to becoming a good high school teacher and the same for becoming a finally professed religious woman. I had little knowledge of the stories behind the political news of the day and, therefore, only got the big picture of Watergate and the Nixon era. Now, forty years later, along comes Rachel Maddow and her unique and compelling brand of storytelling to get the whole picture behind current events.

Recently Rachel produced a series of seven audio programs, Bag Man, on the background stories that led to the resignation of Vice-president Spiro Agnew, an event that was a pivotal prelude to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. They read like a modern day spy/thriller and have eerie similarities to today's political picture!

I want to encourage you to give them a try. Just listen to the first one (they are each only 30 minutes long). And, if you are hooked, as I was, I know you'll be fascinated with this time in our recent history, knowing now how things evolved over the next four decades and what could have happened--had things gone another way.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ernest Howard Shepard

A little retro admission. I love greeting cards, whether through the mail or hand-delivered. And I have some friends that find the most wonderful cards, really unique and just stunning. Fortunately I am often the recipient of these unique pieces of art. This week I received two of them.

The first one was from one of my favorite illustrators, E.H. Shepard. Hallmark still produces a series of Winnie the Pooh cards, both the Disney ones and originals like this one.

And here's a new type of card, laser cut. They are just lovely. This one is "Birds on a Wire." You can see lots of examples by going to google images and type in laser cut cards.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Peak week #2

Sorry, this is all we're talking about these days! Our trees and bushes absolutely popped over the last 3-4 days, more so than even the ones last week. I was encouraged to share some more pictures when our weekend speaker, who is from San Antonio, Texas, just exclaimed and exclaimed when she saw the autumn colors. "We don't have this in Texas," she said. "I have to take pictures for the sisters that I live with. They won't believe it."

So, believe it--here they are. (Plus another, better fire escape sunrise. More sky in this one).

Our backyard #1

Our backyard #2

7:45 am, four stories up and facing east.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Color my world--it's our peak week

Some of our trees have turned, others are as green as ever!

Along Troupe Rd at our side entrance

One of our many "golden" trees.

Even one of our sweet new trees changed colors! 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

October interlude

This weekend was certainly an autumn interlude, a break from our more recent cool and somewhat rainy days that crept in throughout October. But, this weekend the sun shined brightly and the temperatures hit 70.

Two major groups were extremely grateful for this "surprise": the first one I'd say were the groups that came to our place this weekend, three of them. All really did their own thing, so to speak. One was a one-day retreat, the second was here from a local college for a planning meeting and the third was another college small group here for a get-away and probably some planning within that. All of them could enjoy the beautiful sunny outdoors, whether they were actually in it or enjoyed it through open windows.

The second major group that was very grateful for this break were the local residents of the Erie area. We took some time at the peninsula Sunday afternoon and I swear 1/2 of Erie was there! People were walking, fishing, taking their boats out of the water for the season, playing with their dogs and kids, biking, and any other activity they could come up with. We were doing a little walking and passing pleasantries with other walkers and bikers we met, along with trying to get some photos--primarily just for this blog.

Here's the best one of the day--The Victorian Princess must still be having lunch/afternoon trips around the bay. Beautiful!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sunrise, sunset

In our Lake Erie town the sunset is right "into" Lake Erie, allowing great beachfront or parking lot views on the lake's edge and at Presque Isle State Park, as well as right at our Glinodo beach, too. One of our sisters, a great photographer, is obsessed with catching the perfect sunset and has taken 100s of photos in the attempt.

In October, the three weeks that precede turning the clocks back an hour, we have a unique sunrise reality. The sun rises around 7:30 am, give or take 15 minutes during these three weeks. That is exactly when we are arriving at work. So, as you can see from the pictures below, I can run up to my office on the fourth floor, go to the old fashioned fire escape on the east side, open the upper window (no screens) and see these once-a-year sunrises come up over the east side of the city of Erie.

I'm going to try to get our sunset-Sister to come up to the fourth floor window, too, and try her magic eye on a sunrise!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

A chip-monk among us

I wasn't a first-class participant in this (ad)venture--I just saw a little at the beginning and passed through near the end, but here is the gist of the hour and a half event as I understand it.

As I was leaving for a prayer vigil downtown on behalf of the immigrant children being held at our southern border, I passed through chapel and heard a sister exclaim, "There's a chipmunk on the altar!" After verifying this unusual announcement, I grabbed my phone and took this shot.

Soon two sisters, armed with a piece of paper and a plastic bag, tried in vain to coax it into the bag. It would have nothing to do with that and scampered down to the chapel floor. I went off to the prayer vigil and when I returned an hour later, I traveled through the chapel again. Much to my surprise about a dozen sisters were there now (arriving for lectio a 1/2 hour before evening prayer, I presumed) and they were up and kind of dancing around, stamping their feet and waving their arms. The chipmunk had reappeared!

I continued through the chapel but I did return twenty minutes later, wondering what in the world I would see now. All was calm, all was bright. Quiet, serene and chipmunk-less. It seems that all the "encouragement" by the sisters had finally sent the chipmunk to the open door and off it went, most probably grateful to escape this odd group of animals.

"What do you do all day in the monastery?" we still occasionally get asked. It's very hard to give a full accounting!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Funk & Wagnalls---fond memories

No, this is not from National Geographic, nor from our Presque Isle State Park or from google images! This was taken by my friend Io right in the backyard of the Mount yesterday. What a great shot! So, I immediately went to google and put in white-tailed deer, which eventually got me to what I was looking for: their mating season--and sure enough mid-September to mid-November, with October being the prime time.

We seldom see buck, especially with antlers like these, on our property, but we do have plenty of doe with their various-aged offspring--and it is October.

This whole scene took me back to growing up. What did we do as a child or even an adult, when we had questions such as that? Ask the nearest adult? Go to an encyclopedia if we had one? Wait till we got to school to find one? Call the reference desk at the library?! It's a whole new wonderful world of knowledge now: What's that? What's this? When is it happening? How do they do that? Where's that? Who was she? Just "google it" and voila!

Sunday, October 6, 2019


It's mushroom time at our Glinodo property, especially along the boardwalk down to the lake. There are three large evergreens rather close together and in the grasses around them a colony of mushrooms seem to pop up every fall. I've been disappointed that I haven't seen them this year, even thinking that I'd missed them entirely, as I don't get down there as much as I wish. But, today I did and found this amanita mushroom. Well, I'm not sure it is an amanita, for 20 minutes on google and google images doesn't make one a mycologist (one who studies mushrooms)!

Anyway, if it is an amanita it is not one of the edible kinds of mushrooms, poison in fact. No fear here, I wouldn't even think of picking it, as it is beautiful to just behold! I hope some of its friends come along soon though, they make a lovely setting for October viewing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


I just finished Louise Penny's latest effort to bring us outstanding, thrilling mysteries mixed with equally enthralling characters. The Better Man is the 15th in her series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the cast of characters that he works with in the Montreal Surete as well as those in his village, Three Pines. One of my friends said that this might be her favorite of all of them, but that's hard for me to say after fourteen others! If I really, really had to pick one (which I do not want to do) it would probably be How the Light Gets In, though as soon as I say that I think of others that I loved equally!

In this book one of Penny's recurring themes is in full view and that is the theme of conversion or redemption, you might say. This time it's Clara, the brilliant artist in Three Pines and Jean Guy, Gamache's protegee and son-in-law who continue to struggle with their demons--not that they haven't made progress, they have...but conversion continues each day--as the Rule of Benedict professes!

The books continue to charm, the excellent writing by itself is reason to return to them. The only downside is the fact that only the first, Still Life, has been made into a film. Come on film makers...there are many more!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Time of Harvest

A lovely early fall-like day made Sunday absolutely perfect for the annual Emmaus Harvest. These fertile grounds once again produced a large amount of produce for the faithful gardeners who planted and tended them all summer. Friends, supporters and guests mingled outside of the food pantry and roamed the remnants of this summer's gardens hoping to catch a peek at any leftovers. Here's what I found:

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Autumn comes

Thanks for the beautiful Morning Praise Monday courtesy of our prayer leader.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Retro blogs

On our community website we have a section of "Sister blogs." And according to the statistics we receive, they get a fair number of hits each week. But when it comes to the members of our community themselves, the number one blogs they read are posted on doors. Yes, doors, I said--two office doors in our administrative hallway.

One is a once or twice a week posting of an inspirational thought about the Sunday scriptures or something about a special feast day or even occasionally about a civic holiday. The quote and the accompanying full-color illustration/picture are beautiful and they attract a steady line of viewers on their way to a meal, the elevator or just down the hall for business. I have written about this "door blog" before.

A few months ago, on the other side of the hall, a second "door blog" appeared. This one was an instant hit and has rivaled its neighbor in attention and readers. This one is humorous. Witty in word play, humorous photos and just plain fun. She "posts" 5-6 of these at a time and everyone quickly has their favorite of the week. As in, "Did you see the one with the cat? It's so funny."

Here are a couple of the most recent from our latest blogger. Hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Photos tell the tale

We're hanging onto summer for dear life. Most flowers are gone,
replaced by ever-ripening grapes vineyards throughout the county.
You have to get up close and peek underneath the leaves, but it's worth the view.

These cosmos are just about the last flowers we have.
Well worth the wait, I'd say.
Wispy and very showy--when there's no competition..

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A sad milestone

This week we held our 125th Take Back the Site prayer vigil, reclaiming for nonviolence a place in our city that was the site of a recent homicide.

Since November 1999 we have been sponsoring these and if you have attended a number of them, as most of us have, there are repetitions in the stories and circumstances that are all too familiar. That's why this latest one stands out--it was very unique from all the others.

Quoting from the Words of Comfort, written and read by one of our sisters, "Michael (who was 23) was from Michigan, visiting Erie briefly. No one seems to have a clear idea of why he was here or for how long. Someone somewhere is mourning his loss but for most of us, he was a stranger to our city--no obituary to read or guest book to sign in our local newspaper, no calling hours in a local funeral parlor, no family or neighbors to come forward to acknowledge his loss and be comforted by our care."

Once again a group gathered along a busy street and mourned the loss of a human life in our city. Over the years we have had multiple homicides in the same families and have lost many, many young men. Commonly the venues are disputes on the streets outside business establishments, often fueled by anger and alcohol or another drug. But Michael's case was special and although there were no family or friends present, the sadness was the same, the prayers as sincere, and the mourning deeply touching each soul. Rest in peace, Michael.

The day after a heavy rainstorm with fierce winds passing through our region,
our neighbors congregated under two oak trees and feasted on the acorns
that were all along the smaller tree limbs that fell during the windstorm. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Afghanistan has been back in the news lately and that has made me listen to the song, "Far Afghanistan," sung by James Taylor. It has a haunting melody and lyrics so I wanted to share it with you, as I did this week with a friend. The line that most affected her was, "If he makes it home alive, they teach him how to fight" and for me it was, "But nothing could prepare me for the beauty of the place." It should give you pause for thought, I'm sure. Beautiful, sad, haunting all wrapped up as one.

Many years ago the Erie Times News reported that there had been a sighting of an albino deer on our peninsula, aka Presque Isle State Park. My friend Nancy and I often took rides around the peninsula and sure enough one weekend afternoon we saw it in a field with other deer. It wasn't totally white, more of a very, very light tan, but certainly albino-ish! Flash forward decades and our kitchen/food service manager shared this photo of an albino deer that is living near them, south of the city. Amazing!

Sunday, September 8, 2019


This week's guest list showed some unusual names--three priests--from the Pittsburgh area, I think.

It's not that we don't have priests come as guests--often we have Benedictine men for meetings or hospitality if they are passing through on the way to the east coast or from the east coast on the way home. And we occasionally have one of our own diocesan priests or local ministers for a day of quiet or R&R. But we hardly ever have priests, just for no specific reason show up on the list. The story I've heard from the sisters who have chatted with them is that they were on their way to the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina and had to cancel (Dorian!). One of them had been here in the past for some retreat time and remembered our place, Presque Isle State Park, etc.

They seem to be having a good time. I saw a couple riding bikes and I heard they already made it to Presque Isle. Today all three were at our not-like-a-parish Sunday liturgy and were singing and seemed to get into the spirit of it just like everyone else!

Glad they remembered us and hope they've enjoyed our hospitality and our warm late summer weather and local attractions!

The last of our four trellised climbers,

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


We Erieites do not define ourselves by our winters!

Our self-definition is through all four glorious seasons....and here is my first (and only) sail boat trip of the summer season...on beautiful Presque Isle Bay. Fourteen of us enjoyed the generosity of a community friend for an hour and a half sail last evening---WOW!

Lots of sailboats out for their weekly races on the bay.

The sunset shining over and through the trees on the peninsula.

The Brig Niagara in its home berth behind the library.

We had a ball !!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Aptly named

Vacation days are over and we arrived home after an eight+ hour drive across Pennsylvania. If one ever had a doubt that Penn's Woods was an appropriate name for our state, all you'd have to do is drive right across the middle of the state from near the New Jersey border to near the Ohio border, along Rte 80 (as we did) and you'd know why it is the perfect name.

Every hill, valley, small town and countryside is a Currier & Ives/Grandma Moses vista of beauty. Every time Rte 80 makes a considerable turn, you come out of the turn into a breathtaking view. Here at the end of August the fields and grasses are lush, the trees line the highway for miles and are as thick as can be and late summer flowers, crops, farms and farmlands are everywhere and stunning to behold. One gorgeous scene follows another, mile after mile after mile. (Our neighbors New York State and Ohio have much the same, too!)

And, since the Labor Day Weekend traffic must be at its least on Sunday, we practically had the road to ourselves. The absence of trucks was very noticeable and the only time we encountered anything that could even be considered to be "mildly heavy traffic" was when we turned onto I-90, 15 miles from home!

Home sweet home--and look what was awaiting me when I got there:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Closing days

Vacation days are quickly coming to an end. Here are a couple "things I did on my summer vacation" to share with those of you whose vacation is long over or is still to come...even for a few days away from the daily!

We took a long walk on the North Wildwood Sea Wall--a marvelous mile long sidewalk built along the shore line on top of huge rocks that have been there for decades.

And here is a view, from the beach, of the Hereford Lighthouse. If you're into lighthouses, as many shoreline people are, take a look here to read about this Wildwood, NJ lighthouse right on the Atlantic Ocean.

And, finally, we have watching some DVDs that we were able to check out at the local library. The ones we're really enjoying are movies that I believe are called "cozy mysteries" because they have no serious violence, sex, guns. They are movies made from Alexander McCall Smith's books The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Set in Botswana in southern Africa, they offer a delightful mixture of African culture within and around the mysteries that are presented (and solved).

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Photos not usually for the album

I set out to take photos of things I wouldn't normally consider, but that have their own "interest."

At the Christmas Store on the boardwalk: everything is an ornament.
 If you'd like one, let me know right away.

Again at the Christmas store, the Halloween corner,
 but I have never seen a Halloween tree.

Smokey the Bear lives in New Jersey,
in case you've wondered.

Exit 0 !?!?!?