Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nearing Christmas


The Monastery has begun the decorating, baking, and overall preparation for Christmas. Just in case you're wondering if I've been lazing about while on break for school...here has been my time at home.

I've been tapped on the shoulder (and willingly volunteered) to put up trees all about the house. The care center tree was the most fun with the assistance of our elderly sisters. Another day I joined the bakery in preparing Christmas cookies. The morning included the particulary tempting peanut butter blossom cookies (with the hershey kiss in the center). This year the sisters joined the prision ministry in creating Christmas bags of goodies for the state prisons in our area. The assembly line was well organized! There was also general work like cleaning the Chapel and driving to meet other sisters coming home for Christmas.

My favorite job was decorating the hallway past the dinning room to the care center Chapel! Three boxes of red, green, blue, gold, and white satin balls were pinned to the ceiling. I did the pinning from a scaffolding while Sr. Kara "pushed me around". Sisters and staff wandering the hall offered a diverse panel of advice...some love it and others wished we had forgotten. But I love them!

Last night, sisters gathered in the Chapel to assemble trees for the gathering space and the sactuary. We also arranged the smaller wooden crib for Christmas this year. The greenery and poinsettas warmed and softened the space while the white lights brought in the 'stary' effect. It's beautiful...Christmas is upon us.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gaudete Snow


Gaudate or the third Sunday of Advent is usually a pretty festive affair, even at the church in my hometown. However, when you combine a few inches of powder light snow and 30-40 mile an hour winds you get an old fashioned South Dakota blizzard. Fifty-two faithful souls made it to church last Sunday...one of the ladies in the back counted just in case. We shared a full Mass with quite the intimate little crowd. We even sang without any organ and took up a collection without an church envelopes. Most of the folk had spent the morning digging out of snowbanks and scrapping ice from windshields, making it to church itself was a miracle.

After Mass the celebration continued, the cafe was open! Half the attendees plowed on over for coffee, carmel rolls, and a hearty breakfast. It was wonderful to hear such a hearty din of laughter, teasing, and winter stories. That is a part of small town life that I do miss...you walk into the cafe and everyone knows you, your parents, your siblings and their families, and they know what you or your family has done even before you do it! I myself discovered I was doing wonderfully at school!

I stayed with my family for a couple days and then came home to the monastery through Christmas. It has been a while since I've garnered so many hugs in one evening! It is good to be home...the 6:30 AM prayer is a bit of a shocker after a semester of a slightly later schedule...but it is good to be home.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Work and Play


The papers have been written and the power point set for the final presentation! I've even completed the reflections about how each of the classes has changed the way I look at teaching...ahem..."(insert course title here) has truly changed how I will approach the classroom when I return to teaching". There is still a presentation on Thursday. Since the group didn't want to plan too early, we are finalizing our 50 minute presentation tonight. I'm a bit uncertain about the time delay, so I have my handout, power point, and evaluation of the whole event already typed up and ready to go.

All of this preparation has left me with time to play some cards! Hand and Foot Folk!...do I have some crazy rules for you! I've been learning how to play Franciscan style! The game takes about an hour and a half minimum and you find yourself with a mighty fistful of cards the last two or three hands. It was fun to take time to play for a while. But quite quiet...they take their card playing seriously!

  • Play until someone reaches 10,000
  • Points needed to lay down depends on how high your score is
  • 100 start
  • 150 after the player has passed 2,000
  • 200 after the player has passed 4,000
  • 250 after the player has passed 6,000
  • 300 after the player has passed 8,000
  • General card point values remained the same
  • No picking up the pile for a desired card
  • 13 cards in the hand/foot
  • 2 bonus cards (not bonus points) for counting out exactly 13 cards

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Choirs


I celebrated Advent with a concert of Christmas music at the University. The music department collaborated to provide a 'sampling' of voices and instruments. The concert began with the Gospel Choir singing "Now Behold the Lamb" & "You Are the Living Word". Both pieces were beautiful! The voices were so rich and blended amazingly well that the sound seemed to envelop you. The University Chorus performed next with a trio of pieces. "Children, Go Where I send Thee" has always been a personal favorite of mine, I had to hum along with the choir. They followed it with a piece in Spanish. The last selection was a humorous bit based on "The Twelve Days of Christmas", but it combines a variety of different church and secular Christmas tunes. The Orchestra and Symphonic Band each played two selections as well.

It was nice to take a bit of time to just enjoy the music and the day. I loved all the Christmas music! Since I have forgotten my Christmas CD's at home, I appreciated the choirs and bands all the more! The final treat was playing outside when we left the concert. The University's very own carillonneur was playing Christmas music on the "Tower Carillion". Apparently, this tower bell music isn't played by automatic computer, but a musician pulling ropes and levers to ring the bells for the song. Very impressive exit music.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pretty Distractions


The snow has been falling all day. Not a blizzard or driving snow, just a constant, light, pretty snow softly falling on the trees, bushes, and homes. It has been a pretty distraction all day. I love to sit with a cup of coffee and a good storybook and watch the snow fall. However, there are still two papers to complete and a presentation to prepare for my last week of school. To combat the distraction, I have tried to stay down in the office most of the afternoon, but I still know that snow is falling outside.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent & Wassail

Advent began with children today. Fr. Jerry invited all the children up to the steps of the sacristy to help him explain Advent to the grownups. He compared Advent to a four week game of Hide-and-Seek. Father prompted the kids to explain the game of Hide-and-Seek: there is a counter and hiders, you have to wait really quiet, you have to watch out for the counter, the counter has to say "ready or not here I come". It was so cute to watch the kiddos shoot their hands in the air to get to answer the next question or explain their idea. All in All, I think it was a good way of looking at Advent.
Casa Ruah is hosting a Wassail party this afternoon. The party features several little tasty treats and cider spiced with oranges spiked with cloves, cinnimon, and a secret spice of Sr. Linda's. The sisters invited many of the neighbors and several aquaintences. I had invited a few classmates, but they lived too far from our side of town or had family events with the Thanksgiving weekend. I have been trying to offer my willing services in preparing for the party; however, I have been banished to the office to keep reading. So, I shall...but I wanted to share the day with you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving (careful...I wax eloquent)


I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a day filled with family, friends, and fun. Wherever you are, know that you are in my thoughts and prayers today. Thanksgiving has always been about the celebration of hearth and home for me. It is a time to get together with Community whether it be Sisters or Family and share life together.

I will be joining the sisters in a trip to Sr. Marica's family gathering for dinner. It is very kind of them to invite me along to the family celebration, but I'll admit my heart is with you. I am taking time today to remember some of my favorite things about thanksgiving...
  • Mom cooks the dressing with the turkey and there is this wonderful dark crunchy bit around the edges of the pan. We all vie for it at home.
  • The Thanksgiving meal at the Monastery is served family style and we seem so much more aware of each other and willing to jump up to refill platters and cups. Time seems to slow down a bit over the meal as well, no one is in a hurry for a change.
  • The VanDenHemels sit back and relax after the dishes are done. We tell tall tales about family stories while 'picking the bird' for turkey soup that night. Well, all but Dad, who is 'watching' either a western or a football game with his eyes closed.
  • Prayer at the Monastery Chapel...I love the way our chant sounds in the open space of our upper chapel. There is a beauty in the simplicity of our space and sound together.
  • Either Wednesday or Thursday night often becomes a 'game night' for the 'young' sisters. I love playing Scattagories, Taboo, and Cranium with the patio crowd while we laugh at each other's stories.

To counteract this bout of wishfulness, I've been remembering what I have to be thankful for no matter how far I am from Home and Hearth.

  • There is a great deal of beauty in the snow on the trees by the lake.
  • A beautiful new niece: Hope Jean.
  • Franciscan support in my learning endeavors here at the house.
  • "Life is Good."
  • A Community of prayerful support to welcome me home at Christmas break.
  • A Family of loving care to welocme me home at Christmas break.
  • The gift of a warm meal and bed with a shelter over my head.
  • The realization that there is a wisdom that comes with age
    (compared to the 'young' college folk).
  • A comfort in the prayer and pattern of our life together.
  • A joy in the notes, letters, and packages from home.

Now, I must return to Larabee, Anyon, and Kliebard as I tear apart my former curriculum in light of the damage social mobility has done to the democratic ideal of equal access to education. Yes, I'll have some fun today as well, but I started the day with Ora at Mass and now I need to complete a bit of Labora before the fun begins.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A New Niece!

Welcome to Hope Jean!
Hope was born on evening of Wednesday, November 26th to Lisa Ann and Michael W. The fluffy little snowflake is 8 pounds, 6 ounces, and 20 inches long!
I cannot wait to visit the newest niece over Christmas break! She had given Lisa Ann and Michael quite a bit of trouble with bed rest and trips to Sioux Falls. So, it sounds like she might be taking after her aunties already. In the end, she was able to arrive in their hometown in Nebraska and all is well!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Gratitude" Gathering at St. Eugene's


St. Eugene's parish held a family formation gathering last night and all were invited to join. So I went, I thought this would be another good way to get to know folk and prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. There was a wonderful cross section of the parish present to celebrate "Gratitude". The youth group served chili and hotdogs and families brought desserts, the energy (noise) around the room was a welcome change from the quiet of my office and the library where I do all my reading. After supper, the kiddos and teens joined different classes to learn about gratitude and the adults heard a speaker from the diocese.

Jennifer Christ talked about cultivating a spirit of gratitude in our lives. I thought I would share the ideas I liked best from the presentation. Mind you, these are my 'translations' of her ideas.

  • "Thankyou" is the recognition of the exchange of life and love we share with another.
  • Gratitude is an orientation toward life, we need to actively cultivate gratitude.
  • Disappointments are tied to our own expectations.
  • Gratitude rejoices in the mystery of the gifts that have been given to you by God.
  • If we are aware of God's constant gift to us, pain and suffering can lead to a deeper joy and gratitude.
  • Do not deny suffering, but place it in light of the blessings that balance it.
  • Our attitude is a light that will reveal that which we choose to see. Do you see with the light of gratitude?

It was good to visit with new folk and meet more people of the parish. The table I joined had a good sense of humor and told some wonderful stories about being grateful in their lives. When Mrs. Christ had us close with prayer, the good humor was especially helpful. She tried to lead a whole church basement of kids, parents, and grandparents in Tai-Chi movement as prayer...at 8 o'clock at night. I'll give her this, she was persistant! The 'quiet' of the movement was punctuated with the dashing about of kiddos, laughter from various tables (mine too, but I didn't start it!), and instructions as she tried to explain all the moves and what they were called. Really, I think the laughter was a wonderful closing, but not quite what she intended.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Ben's Been Misquoted!


I was reading an article by a fellow for my Theories of Learning class, all very quite hum drum. The author was explaining the different backgrounds of the constructivist pedagogy and the pitfalls that surround this new approach to the reform of education. One of the concerns he has is the mixing of the objective (traditional) pedagogy and the reforming style. He summed up the objective style with a quote from "the Benedictine monastic rule: "It belongeth to the master to speak and to teach; it becometh the disciple to be silent and to listen" (Winschitl).

Totally taken out of the context of chapter six's reasoning for silence and restraint of speech! Eik! I won't bring it up in class unless directly asked (they might know which kind of nun I am), but it bothers me that someone would use the Rule with one random quote to explain the 'evils' of a whole style of teaching.

I just had to share my irritation with the misuse of Ben's ideas in the Rule with someone who would understand.

The Feast of our Founding

Happy Feast Day!

Yesterday, I celebrated Gertrude and today the anniversary of our founding. The sisters have encouraged me to remember our celebrations back home. They asked alot of questions about Gertrude yesterday, so I'm preparing for more today!
When I was living in Sioux Falls, I sometimes forgot these celebrations and feasts in the business of everyday teaching and running about. Now that I'm living without other Benedictines from home, I am much more aware of the events at the Monastery. There are so many 'little' celebrations that make up our feasts...I just never realized it until now. Hmmm, could this be a part of stability. Carrying home in the heart no matter where you go?
I do have a technical question about the celebration of our founding. Is this feast celebrating our arrival and founding in Amercian (Missouri) or our grounding in South Dakota? I know our 'homebase' moved around those first few years, so I'm unsure what sense of 'founding' we are celebrating. I know I learned this in the Novitiate (don't tell Sr. Pierre) but simply can't remember!
Blessings & Celebrations!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008



I wonder if God knows that it is easier to stay inside and study when it is gray, rainy, and cold outside? The last few days have been dreary and wet here in Milwaukee; yet, the rain hasn't frozen since we are close to the lake. The sisters say it does take longer for the ice and snow to get started where we are, but I'm suspcious.

So, I've stayed indoors curled up with "Un-Standarizing Curriculum", "Rethinking Our Schools", and a whole raft of studies and articles centering around African American English in the English classroom. Some of the material has been interesting. The AAE articles are for my literature review and presentation in the theories of learning class. I'll be proposing that a fictional school adopt a culturally relavent approach to essay writing. This would encourage the student body to use AAE in the discussion, prewriting, outlining...all the prepratory work for the essay. The studies have shown that this removes the barrier of constant inner translation that may slow or hinder the process of writing for AA students. The translation of the students spoken and cultural language into Standard American English (or Edited American English) would be done as the last revision and editing for the final copy of the essay. Interesting no?

The cold and damp has also crept into the Joan of Arc Chapel at school. It is the chapel where Joan received her call to arms...long story short, a rather rich family donated it to the university. I like the quiet and simple space inside the chapel. Even thought it is in the midst of campus, the interior is subdued and reflective like a little oasis. It has been a nice place for noon Mass on the days I have evening class, but now it is getting chilly. The building wasn't renovated for heat when it was moved on campus and the little space heaters aren't keeping up with the cool enough for me. Ah well, all the more time to spend in the library.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Sunday Full of Music

Today the Franciscan Motherhouse hosted a "concert" of music by Saint Hildegard! The hour long program was called "Music of Heaven." The vocalist was a soprano by the name of Susan Platt. She is part of the area opera music scene in Milwaukee, and she was wonderful.
She sang a mix of music from Hildegard and other Gregorian and Ambrosian chants. All of the music was performed acapella, she used a pitch pipe and a moment of silence between chants to change key, but there was no other assistance. The sister's chapel had wonderful accoustics for the program as well. Her voice fairly foated throughout the chapel, especially during Hildegard's long lines of variation on one note.
It was wonderful just to relax in one of the padded pews and listen to her voice. The sisters did provide a program which included the latin text of the hymns and antiphons as well as the English translations of the latin. But I didn't read all of the text...listening was enough. I couldn't help but think how lovely her voice would sound in our Bishop Marty Chapel. Patty Ann and Madonna would be proud to know I even recognized a few of the Gregorian chant patterns that we use in some of our own music. My favorite of the antiphon pieces from Hidlegard was "O Virtus Sapientiae."
O strength of Wisdom,
who, circling, circled,
enclosing all
in one lifegiving path,
three wings you have:
one soars to the heights,
one distills its essence upon the earth,
and the thrid is everywhere.
Praise to you, as is fitting,
O Wisdom.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sister Who?


Today I started tutoring at Dominican. I volunteered to assist in the resource room on Friday mornings. They have a very clear process that qualifies students that are assigned to the resource room. It becomes a studyhall with structure and assistance available. The teacher introduced me to each class period and explained (sort of) who I was and why I wanted to be available to assist them.

The teacher encouraged me to float through the room and ask a few questions about what students were working on or why they had decided to work on that subject. They were an interesting bunch, a few of whom were on the B and even A honor roll with the study skills Claudia pushes. I ended up working with one young lady that was trying to type an essay for "Of Mice and Men" before English class in two periods. When I recommended she take the typing off bold since the teacher would notice she was doing it simply to eat up space. She stopped typing, turned in her chair, looked me in the eye, and bold as brass asked, "And you exactly are Sister Who?" (as only a sophomore could). Ahhh...the locations may change and surroundings can differ, but children of God remain the same.

I can't wait for next Friday.

Friday, October 31, 2008



Halloween has finally arrived. My favorite holiday for classroom decoration and fun bonus games with students! Plus it gave me a chance to wear my tiara at school...hmmm, maybe I should wear it while I cook supper tonight? Who knows it could inspire some abstract writing this afternoon as well...back to Halloween. I love how kids (and parents) delve into their imagination and play dress up for a night. I also find it a great neighborhood celebration when I've gone door to door with my neices and nephews. Here in the city the neighborhoods did their trick-or-treating last Sunday afternoon. So, there will be no little goblins at our door tonight.

However, this Halloween is not quite as festive...I'll be doing homework...Scary isn't it! I do plan on watching a scary movie or two while I answer classmates in my on-line class. But the really spooky part of the semester is sneaking up on me.

I have final papers starting to loom in the distance. Foundations of Curriculum wants me to evaluate a curriculum I know and have used through showing examples of the curriculum, student work, interviews, and a 10 page paper (not too bad); Thories of Learning wants a 20 minute presentation advocating a school wide change based on a learning theory researched in 12 articles (I'm supposed to write a one page abstract for each) and explained in a 6 page paper; and Learning in a Diverse Society would like a 15 page paper explaining a current bias against a segment of the diverse population and suggestions on how to overcome the bias.

A month ago I was more worried about these all landing within the same week of each other for final assignments. Then I finally received some grades for my earlier papers. Apparently, I do have a clue about some of the writing and research. My teachers have been positive about what I have written as well as how I write for class...this is a huge relief to me and makes these next assignments alittle less daunting. It also helps that I realized I can use the same topic for the two bigger assignments! Culturally Relevant education can fit both as a learning theory and as a change in how teachers overcome bias! Yippee!

I hope everyone has a great Halloween! Celebrate a little...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Franciscan Halloween


Happy early Halloween! Tonight Maricia and I went to the Motherhouse for an early Halloween celebration with their older sisters. There were around 90 sisters gathered for the 23rd annual halloween party! Supper was held in a festive hall complete with table decorations and flower arrangements. Many of the sisters were in costume too...bakers, witches, clowns, and even a moose hunter from Alaska! As I sat down to join a group, another sister tapped me on the shoulder--"Will you help carry plates to the table?"--I guess it doesn' t matter where you go sisters will put the youngest to work!

After supper a four part band struck up a lively set of polka music. This group of older gents had quite the combo with a tenor sax, drums, guitar, and an accordian. Suddenly, there were groups of franciscans polka-ing around the room. Some of the sisters wheeled some of the 90 to 100-year-old (and plus) sisters around the dance floor and others danced in their chairs. Then nearly the whole room got up for the chicken dance! I would like to remind you all that this was and is an international order...the sisters from Milwaukee were chicken dancing right along with sisters from Taiwan, China, and Africa. By now I had been asked to help clear tables...no chicken dancing for me. After the chicken dance, small gamming groups started to gather...the hand and foot group in one corner, poker in another, garbage players by the stage, and rummy cube near the door. I can assure you all that these Franciscans know how to enjoy a celebration.

The news that a sister from South Dakota spread through the gathering. Sr. Noreen from Parkston called me over to ask about sisters from the old academy. She remembers Sr. Jane, Radagund, and Leonarda in particular. Our Sr. Mary Kay's "aunt" Sr. Francella called me over to hear what her niece had been up to lately (I reported only good things). They have good memories of our sisters in school. It will be a few weeks before I go again, but they are very welcoming at the Motherhouse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Room with a View


I moved my laptop upstairs today. I've seen searching the universtiy library systems for journals and books about the analysis and improvement of writing by the African American student...fun right! Actually, it is interesting, but the basement office was a bit dreary.

So there I was, sitting by a lovely south bay window, researching quite diligently when a sudden movement caught my eye. A fluffy squirrel peaked from under my car. They are quite cute here...a light gray cast to their coats with only a slight hint of brown beneath. This little gal was also quite busy with her winter preparations. She darted from under my car to the front flower bed of the house, then she crept to the corner by the stair and burried her cache. Suddenly she was off again! This process has been going on about 15 minutes now...there must be a walnut tree nearby. No matter where she is coming from, the approach to the house is the same. She is so cautious with her fluffy gray tail flitting. It has been a good break from the computer screen.

Also outside the south window is a whole neighborhood of color! Many of the trees have kept their leaves through the recent wind and rain. Now they are even brighter golds, reds, and oranges. The family across the street has a whole row of neat little burning bushes all bright red. And for today, the streets are clear of leaves and debries. A truck with a huge hose came along and sucked them up like some great vaccuum cleaner! So the area is quite picturesque.


Monday, October 20, 2008



Well, my luck has run off with the rain. A week ago I dashed to school to
meet with a librarian. It was cloudy but I foolishly left my umbrella in the car. By the time I left the library the rain was coming down steadily...not pouring, but I was not going to make it to my car dry. I was moving along quickly and doing fine, until I started to cross Wisconsin Ave.

The four lanes of traffic stop for students and I wasn't worried about being run over. I was worried about the rain and the laptop in my backpack! As I crossed the street, my shoe slipped and I ended up on my knees with my coffee tumbler rolling away from me. Apparently, the paint used to mark the road with lines and other traffic symbols is slippery when wet. Fortunately or Not, I was surrounded by a whole gaggle of helpful kiddos on their way to class. One young man, seriously he looked all of 12, was worried as he helped me up, "Ma'am are you okay? Do you need anything?" I assured him that the only wound was my pride. Another guy returned my coffee cup and asked if I had lost anything else. I thanked everyone and ran (more carefully) for the parking structure that was only a block away!

That was last week...it was raining again today as I ran a few morning errands on campus. Ahem, I don't know if I was born with no luck or if it has washed off in the Milwaukee rain, but I slipped again. This time I righted myself before I met the pavement! Then I headed right home...I don't plan on leaving until it is dry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Autumn's Beauty & Oddity

Autumn is amazing here in Milwaukee! Just walking around my suburb in the mornings is meditation in fall colors. The neighborhood is filled with bright yellows, deep golds and oranges, and a few rusty reds. I hope to go to Holy Hill (see left) before all the leaves drop. I've heard it is absolutely breathtaking.
The oddity with Milwaukee is how they take care of all these leaves as they fall...you rake them into the street. No Really, you rake your leaves and pile the tree and bush trimmings to the edge of your property right into the gutter and the city will eventually drive by and pick it all up. You don't even have to bag this stuff! Just pile it up! In my neighborhood, parts of the street look like they have fences made of leaf and branch.

Friday, October 10, 2008



Before I left O'G, one of my freshman boys came to the brilliant realization that Sr. Carol Jean was going to be a freshman when she went to school. I debated this idea fiercely--I inisisted I was a first year student and NOT a freshman. However, I have just turned in my first of many papers due this second half of my first semester back at school, and now I am willing to admit. I am a freshman.

Pray folks, pray.

On the up-side, the small group presentations I'm working with have great senses of humor! One of the groups has chosen to hold meetings at the campus Starbucks! Those who know me know this is a coffee haven! Even better...one of the members works at another Starbucks and buys the beverages for a cool 30% off :) As we plan our "Multicultural Curriculum" presentation, we sip our coffees, laugh about events of the week, and every now and then talk about the online discussions of the class (this whole class is conducted online). I try to remind them that my karma is not good and that one of those folk could be in the building at any time. They don't believe me--yet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Franciscan for a Day

I am Franciscan for a day! The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, AKA the Lake Franciscans, held their celebration for St. Francis today. The sisters are scattered all about the city and surrounding areas, but they came to the lakeside motherhouse to remember Francis.
I didn't quite feel like a Benedictine fish out of water; the presider at Mass was none other than Archbishop & Abbot Primate Weakland! He started Mass with a bit of humor. The sisters had set up a lovely environment to the side of the sanctuary--a statue of St. Francis surrounded by pots of fall mums. Weakland looked to the statue and quipped, "Well, he tries to look like Ben, but he doesn't quite pull it off." As I chuckled, one of the sisters I lived with elbowed me with a grin.
His homily felt more like a kindly grandpa sharing with his family and friends. He spoke of Francis being one of the great saints who lived a synthesis of all that it means to be Catholic. He spoke of the few who had been able to do such a thing, Benedict was another of his examples. Then he looked out at all the sisters and associates (oblates) and asked them, "Who among you is going to take the lead next?" The assumption is not if there will be another saint to live the call to life so that others can follow, but who will it be and when.
As we moved to lunch to continue the celebration, I assumed I would follow one of my house mates to a table of Franciscan folk. Nope, Apparently the Archbishop is like one of the family here at the motherhouse and he was joining them in the dinning room...since I was the only other Benedictine, I was to sit at the table with him, Linda (house mate) and some other folk. Now, take a guess a what deep theological issues could be discussed at table...Franciscan peace, Benedicitne stability? The hot issues were the Brewers playing game four today for the playoffs! He was rooting for them and Linda for the Phillys. Other conversation centered around his new cooking skills. Apparently, Weakland now lives alone and is learning how to use his slow cooker in a variety of recipies! He shared the fixings for his favorite apple dessert, I recommended adding cranberries for a bit more fall flavor...he thought it was a good idea. Finally the table talk moved to politics, sort of, he had seen the Saturday Night Live impersonations of Palin and wanted to know if we thought they were funny too! Not quite what I expected today!
We did follow some fairly Franciscan protocol throughout the celebration of Mass and meal. The responses and prayers were all tied to a deep awareness of the poor in their midst and a call to humble service. The Francis' peace prayer and celebration of nature were also found throughout the Mass. The meal was simple but wonderful. There were recycling bins for pop/beer cans, bottles, and the paper placemats.
I was also introduced to more sisters than I can count. Many of them had heard tell of me through Sr. Jane who works with the sisters at Claire Hall (our two west) and the care center. I also met a few of those who had entered out of Farmer and Salem, South Dakota. They were quite chatty once I explained who I was and where I was from. One even had the cheek to suggest I just move in and stay there after school.
I hope this Franciscan Festival finds you all well!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

High School Daze

Today I toured two very different high schools! First, I drove across town to Piux Xi to observe a couple classes and tour the building. The 1950-60 six-floor building...I declined the need to go all the way up to the sixth floor to see the art department. The school runs on 14 20+ minute modules a day, a different pattern of these mods every day of the week. Not confused enough? They also have a shortened day each week to allow for staff development. They have a very diverse school with about 1,100 students freshman through senior.
This was in great contrast to Dominican, the second school I attended today. This school is in the same suburb as me and feels a bit like O'G. I spent a great deal of my time meeting with the principal--very energetic man. The school is also highly diverse, but also extremely demanding. They are working toward attaining an international level endorsement. While I'm not quite sure what that means, it sounds fairly intensive to me. It requires the staff to attend training workshops (nation wide) and the adjustment of curriculum format and assessment.
I loved seeing the students in both schools. While watching classes at Pius, I was quite homesick for my little O-14 classroom at O'Gorman. Then I remembered that my classroom was the first to be struck down by the wrecking ball last spring! Sad. I did love being around students again. There is an energy and zest for being that seems to seep right out of high schoolers...especially those freshmen and sophomores. I am considering tutoring a little at one of the schools after I get my feet on the ground. Don't worry--I won't do too much or even start until I have myself in the academic mindset.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Feast of the Archangels


We celebrated the Feast of Angels with a vespers feast of Kopp's Custard. We brought home Carmel Cashew for the vespers treat. I was amazed to find not pieces, but whole cashews in every spoonful of carmely custard! Sisters, all who visit me will be visiting this Milwaukee institution! Not Schwan's, not Blue Bunny, not even Culver's can rival the tasty smoothness that is Kopp's Custard. Their flavors are quite inventive...tomorrow is syrup and pancakes, but I dont' think I'll try that one just yet.
The custard shop is quite near the house, which was good since they have little to no seating in the establishment. The oustide has some nice seating on benches and low gardening walls. The back of the parking lot is surrounded by the Kopp's Cows all in white! There were folk everywhere enjoying custard or burgers and fries. The sisters say the cold treat is in high demand even through the winter! Oh, to get back to the feast. I'm sure even the Archangels would have been tempted by a cup of Kopp's custard! Happy Feast!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Connection Home

I have been wondering what would be the best way to keep connected to home. Then it struck me...a Blog! So, I have started this site to share the events as I journey through school.
The city of Milwaukee has been good to me thus far. The weather has been good, the traffic has been tolerable, and the people have been great. I have been comfortable driving about and finding all the places a nun needs to survive, like Walgreens. The interesting part has been learning the correct geography terms to get where I need to go. I drive on an expressway--not interstate. I live in a suburb, but my suburb is a city and not a village.
My house has been a great choice. The Franciscan sisters are welcoming and understanding. They have been teasing me about all this reading I have to do for class. Apparently, this is not a new situation and they have some interesting tales of their own from school days past. They always invite me into whatever might be going on for the day, but don't take offense if I need to say no. Yesterday, I spent reading about 'motivation' while they celebrated birthdays with a couple students from their college.
Well, I need to go. I must return to Elliot Eisner and his view of the imagination in curriculum. Chapter four won't read itself, but it short and will leave me time to read some Lord of the Rings after supper.