Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snow-much to Be Thankful For!

Merry Christmas!

The great South Dakota blizzard of 2009 continued through Christmas Day and the following Feast of St. Stephan. The nature imposed grounding gave us time to see our giftedness and feel gratitude in the midst of all that snow! Sr. Mary Kay found some wonderful and powerful images in the snow during the storm...

We were grateful to be together, safe and sound at the Monastery. The snow buried the cars in our front drive up to the windows. How lucky we were to be inside together. The guests and employees alike were invited to share in meals and worship while stranded away from home. Yes, some of us missed the promised to trips to family gatherings and celebrations as well. We joined with each other in play, prayer, and watching the snow fall.

This snapshot of smaller courtyard demonstrates the power of the wind and snow together. I am grateful for the strong protection of our home. The wind whipped the snow to the west side of the courtyard covering all the windows on the main floor of the Monastery, the library and exercise room. The peaks of the snowbank reached the second floor of the sisters' bedrooms in the care center! Our elderly, recovering, and frail were surprised to find their views not just frosted with snow but half covered!

The larger inner courtyard allowed the wind much more play in designing the snowbank. I'm grateful that I can see the beauty in the storm. Again the wind drove all the snow to the west side of the courtyard. We were amazed to find that the snowbanks totally avoided the Creche scene that is just a few feet to the left of this snow bank. This drift covered all of the first floor windows as well, but it didn't quite reach the second story. However, the Alpine style peak was breathtaking. All throughout the storm, sisters would stop in the hallway to watch this bank take shape.

Our green house sits in a corner of our south lawn. It was one of the few places where the snow fell quietly, well more quietly than the rest of the grounds. It was mesmerising to watch as the inches grew and grew on the greenhouse. It has been at least 13 years since I've seen this much snow fall at any one time, and I was a bit awe struck at how beautiful it could be. Powerful--yes, Overwhelming--yes, and even a bit Scary--yes, but still beautiful.


PS...This still shot of the snow is hard for you to judge, but there is approximately 18 inches of snow on the ground. It came about even with the low window ledges of our solarium hallway! The turkeys, squirrels, and birds that usually frequent our south lawn were in hiding among the bushes until
late Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A White Christmas

Merry Christmas!

All the monastic preparations in the world cannot thwart the path of nature in South Dakota! The sisters arrange for Christmas celebrations and services to be open to the public who joins us, we hope to create a schedule that also allows our employees time to be home with their family and loved ones, and many sisters either invite their families to join us for Christmas or visit their family over the Christmas season...then the blizzard creeped in starting on Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday began with some light drizzling rain and sleet. The weather folk recommended getting to your destinations by late afternoon because the roads would be so slick. This was not unusual for December and while the weather channel seemed a bit excited, we assumed it would all blow over. Thursday dawned with more snow and high winds. Neither of these let up throughout the day, soon the swirling snow began to create the most beautiful drifts in the two inner courtyards at the Monastery. We appreciated the power of the storm, but now began to wonder when it would blow itself out. A usual South Dakota blizzard lasts a day, maybe two at the most. Friday morning I met some of our staff at breakfast! Many of the employees had stayed overnight in our guest rooms and retreat rooms! The weather was too treacherous to try to drive home, and if they had, there would have been no way to come back to work the next day. The wind continued to eddy around the Monastery at gusts between 30 to 40 miles per hour! Wind doesn't stop when it hits a brick wall at that speed, it merely turns direction. Now the drifts in the courtyards were growing by leaps and bounds. The smaller courtyard had snow past the first floor windows and the larger courtyard's drift wasn't far behind! Saturday morning dawned with still more snow and wind. The weather folk predict that the wind will slowly
die away today and the snow should stop for a bit, but now we will
believe it when we see it.

For three and half days, the Christmas blizzard has buffeted and blown the state of South Dakota to a stand still. It may be hard to understand for those who have never experienced such a storm, but the wind and snow were so thick that you couldn't have seen more than a few feet ahead of yourself at times, and snow blown this hard creates drifts that are as solid as rock. The pictures I've added today are from the Kelo Land news site, two Yankton residents had posted the pictures one from the north side of town and the other from within the city...they amaze me!

Back to Christmas!
I have never realized how grateful I should be that our Monastery is city on a hill. Our home contains our bedrooms, the kitchen and dinning areas, exercise and recreation space, library and computer access, and most importantly our Chapel and prayer space. As the blizzard enveloped the world around us in a white blurr, we were able to continue our Christmas prayer.

Christmas Eve Vespers began with Statio (solemn procession) into Bishop Marty Chapel. As Sr. Organist played "Silent Night" we processed two by two into the candle lit Chapel all fitted out in gold and white for Christmas. It was a beautiful way to begin our celebrations. The next morning we realized that our preparations for Christmas Day Mass were, well, not needed...the usual congregation from the surrounding area could not make it out of their homes! So, we celebrated the Christ Child as a community, praying for those stranded by the cold and snow.

Christmas Day was also a time for family, fun, and food (of course). There was a break after brunch to allow for individual plans, I napped, and then we gathered for a Christmas party. All the community came together for cookies and coffee, carols, and laughter. We received a gift from the community and a few gifts from the generous parishioners at St. Mary Church. It was wonderful. The blizzard had kept everyone in and there were more sisters home for the extended Christmas celebrations than anyone had planned--we were all home for Christmas. That night we finished our Christmas Day with a wonderful meal...steak, wine, and all the fixin's. The sisters lingered over supper telling stories and laughing together. I was on dish duty with Srs. Julie and Paulette, we decided sing as we worked our way through the mountain of supper dishes. Christmas Carols and holiday songs from our childhoods rang merrily off the tiled walls of the dish room.

I feel so blessed to have been Home for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"O" So Much Anticipation


This morning was a silent witness to the O Emmanuel within each of us. Advent mornings are a quiet affair in the Monastery. We keep a reflective silence in the mornings until around 8AM, this includes our breakfast. Even with this quiet, the sisters observe and serve each others needs. One of our elder sisters had arranged her breakfast tray (we use a cafeteria style line) but was unable to carry it to her place, and by the time she looked up for assistance, another sister had already picked it up to carry to her seat at the table. At the same time, another got up from that table to pour the elder her morning coffee and milk. All this was done in silent orchestration and beautiful to see. I sat munching my homemade cinnamon bread and used our silent breakfast to consider these small acts done with love...Benedict would have approved. Tonight we continue to reverence the Emmanuel with the final O Antiphon.

O Emmanuel, our holy King and giver of the Law,
the expectation of the nations,
their longed for Redeemer and Savior,
O come, come soon to save us, our Lord God with us!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preparing for the King


I had a wonderful day of decorating and celebration. All over the Monastery, sisters are preparing for the King the O Antiphon sings of tonight.

Srs. Kathy, Barbara, and I set to work decking the hall that leads to our refrectory. We pinned hundreds of satin covered Christmas tree balls to the ceiling! The red, blue, green, white, and gold balls now dance above whenever we walk down the hallway. Sisters stopped by our rolling scaffolding to encourage, admire, or offer advice as they made their way to various errands around the house.

After lunch a more serious preparation was undertaken, We began to decorate our Bishop Marty Chapel for Christmas. We celebrate Mass and Liturgy of the Hours in our Peace Chapel (lower chapel) until Christmas Eve Vespers. So...we have the next few days to prepare our Chapel, and we'll need it. Today, I joined the sisters (and our Benedictine Priest) in arranging trees and the Fontanini Creche set in our gathering space. It turned out simple and beautiful. Those in the Chapel assembled trees to frame our main altar, took down the Advent banners, and the wreath. Later, I helped with hanging the gold and white Christmas banners. Tomorrow the poinsettias arrive to offset our beautiful gold and white with red and pink...around the trees, in front of the altar, by the ambo, and where ever else they might brighten.

Jordan (my small group) is gathering for our Christmas supper tonight. We have a leisurely evening of food, visiting, and prayer. I assisted by making pretzels for an appetizer...but there will be so much at the meal...everyone signs up to make their best. But in a way, this 'family' supper is also in preparation for the King.

O King of Nations, you for whom all lands are longing,
You are the holy cornerstone who bind together all God's people,
O come, come and save human-kind, whom you formed from the dust of earth.


Monday, December 21, 2009

"O"nly a Few More Days of Advent


Today we celebrate Christ our Dawn, but today was also the day I forgot to set my morning alarm clock and missing Lauds. I didn't awake with the dawn at all; however, there was much to do once I found my morning cup of coffee. I had been asked to set up the Christmas tree in our care center in the Monastery. Sr. Barbara helped fluff and arrange all the branches and set the lights (all three strands) on the tree. Then our lights went dead...and she had to get to her next assignment. Luckily, Sr. Virginia found an extra set and one of our care center staff helped me relight the tree! I encouraged our elderly sisters to help choose which decorations to add to the tree to set some on the branches, it was a good morning. The afternoon was supposed to be spent pinning satin balls to the ceiling but it was post-poned until tomorrow.

O Rising Sun, the splendor of eternal light
and brilliant sun of justice,
come and with your holy light,
shine on us who sit in darkness and in death's shadow!

Sunday, Fr. Benedictine (yeah home from Jesuit land!) had a wonderful homily about Mary and Elizabeth. They supported and nurtured the Divine in each other, and we are called to bring Christ to the world and nurture the Christ in each other as well. It was a quiet day in the Monastery. Just nice to be home...evening prayer begins with the chapel silent and in the dark except for the lights on the Crucifix. Then one sister carries in a lit taper to light our Advent wreath. As she steps down from the wreath, the lights come up and we begin our Vespers. I've missed these quiet endings to the day.

O Key of David, and scepter of the House of Israel,
who open the door and no one closes,
who close the door and no one opens,
O come, rescue us from our dark prison, where we sit in death's shadow!

Saturday, I putzed about the house after cleaning the chapel entrance. Somehow, I was tapped to do a bit of dusting, vacuuming, and mopping after being home 24 hours. Then, I wrapped a few Christmas gifts for the nieces and nephews, and their moms, and spent time just visiting with sisters as they trickled home for Christmas.

O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign of the people,
before whom kings shall be silent,
to whom all nations shall pray,
O come, come Lord to free us, and delay no longer!


Friday, December 18, 2009

"O" So Glad to be Home

Greetings...two "O" days in one...

Friday we celebrate "O Adonai" and Advent is slowly giving way to Christmas around the Monastery. The sisters' living groups within the house have begun to decorate their group rooms with trees, tinsel, lights, and nativity sets (with the Christ child waiting until Christmas Day). Holiday baking can also be scented all around the house. Me? For the most part, I spent the morning catching up on paperwork and making deliveries around the Monastery offices. This afternoon I reserved for a deep meditation on silence...truthfully, 6:30AM prayer caught up to me and I rested with God for a bit. Then I helped carry in Christmas gifts from St. Mary Parish!

Tonight's O Antiphon is Jesus as the anointed leader...

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared in a burning bush to Moses and
gave him the Law on Mount Sinai,
O Come, come Lord and redeem us with your strong arm out-stretched!

Thursday...I was home in time for evening prayer and supper, but the day was long. The short version is that all the flights were out and in on time and the connections were good. I was happy to be home and found greetings around each corner. At supper I even received a kiss on the forehead from one of our wise elders, I think of it as a blessing. The O'Antiphon wreath of pine cones and lights was hung in the hallway to the refrectory with a one word written in delicate calligraphy displayed in the center...Wisdom...the antiphon and our prayer for the day.

O Wisdom of God, who came forth from the mouth
of the Most High, reaching from beginning to end,
and with great power yet gentleness
you set all creation in order,
O come, come Lord and teach us the way of Wisdom!

Blessings from the Monastery!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Sleeps!


Only two sleeps until I come home for Christmas and all the holy days that follow! I'm very excited to see all the sisters, family, and friends. I'll have just over two weeks at the Monastery in Yankton and then just under two weeks to bounce around and between family. This is the part of college that I like best, four weeks over Christmas to travel about and catch up with all the folk I've been missing. Okay, so I like the learning and meeting new professors and friends as well.

I sent home an e-mail to our sub prioress, anticipating the possibility of volunteering in a variety of ways while I'm home. The liturgist has claimed me for part of day to help out in preparing the chapel. This could involve carrying/arranging/rearranging poinsettias, setting out new candles, hanging the festive banners from the columns, draping white and gold material, and (of course) cleaning up after all the tramping about. I'm sure I'll get to help put several trees together for our hallways, entryways, and the gathering space by the chapel. My biggest hope is that our baking sister will need help with all the Christmas cookies, breads, and goodies that pour out from her ovens during this season. The warmth and smell from our bakery is intoxicating this time of year.

Sisters, I'm on my way home soon! I can't wait to be hugged over coffee, quizzed about school, and in all ways warmly brought back into the fold.


Monday, December 14, 2009

An Advent Pilgrimage Stop


Today, I stopped by The Basilica of Saint Josaphat after my morning tutoring with the boys. All I have to say is WOW did those Polish-Russian folk know how to embellish their church buildings! The windows told scripture stories, Franciscan saint tales, and a stories from a few Dominican saints as well. All four side altars and the main altar are surrounded by paintings, mosaics, and phrases in not only Latin but also Polish or something similar.
The body of the church was filled with wooden pews that creaked comfortably when I sat down. I didn't venture up to the balcony level, but they were filled with galleries of pews also!

It was wonderfully quiet inside, it reminded me of the kind of quiet at home. I was able to just sit and be for awhile. However, now that I'm back at the house, there are a few last minute preparations I need to finish for my presentation tonight.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gaudete! Rejoice!


Today, I joined the sisters in Gaudete Sunday at St. John's Cathedral. The space was renovated not too long ago (not sure when) and the result is warm and welcoming. It was a beautiful space to celebrate and rejoice during Advent. The whole of the interior seemed to be ready for Advent...a soft tan-rose color was used in much of the repainting and in the floor tile. Still, I must admit that the music was my favorite part at the Cathedral. It was only simple Advent music, but the parish I joined likes to jazz it up during this season and the Cathedral kept the organ subdued and the hymns familiar to the congregation. The result was everyone singing out loud and clear...

Tonight, the rejoicing continues with a wassail party. The sisters have invited family, friends, and neighbors to the house for fellowship, food, and wassail.
Last year it was quite the social event, and I'm assuming it will be filled with laughter again this year.

However, the student can only come up from her office for a quick bite or two. Tomorrow, each of us in the research class will present our study, findings, and implications to the group. We do plan on a little bit of Christmas Joy as well ~ one can't have presentations and not have treats : )


Saturday, December 12, 2009

One More To Go


School is wrapping up all around me. The library is overrun with students trying to cram that last bit of information or write that last paper, the English teacher in me is suspicious that no outlines or rough drafts are being used in that process. There is this air of frantic, caffeine charged frisson where ever I walk by these clustered groups of students. I'm working down to the line as well, but a little more controlled.

The research study is written and safely saved in three locations (I don't want to loose those 53 pages). I have finished the presentation for class on Monday night as well...speaking in front of my classmates doesn't worry me. It will be interesting to hear about every one's research and conclusions. The paper I'm rewriting for the history course has me a bit more concerned. The prof. read a rough draft for me (very generous) and made several good suggestions, and now I need to reorganize the content of the paper to better fit his requirements.

All in all, I should be ready to fly home soon! I am excited to be home to help prepare for Christmas at the monastery. There will be hallways to decorate, cookies to bake, and a thousand little details to cover. Plus...O'Antiphons to sing and the chapel to prepare. I hope someone is making a list for this willing volunteer when she gets home for the holy days!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feast of the Immaculate Conception


The snow was beautiful today! It fell in large, fluffy flakes frosting all the buildings, shrubs, and grass. The evergreen trees and Christmas greenery seemed so much more cheery when flocked with snow. Small trees all over campus were speckled in little red berries...I love the university campus in the winter time.

The campus Mass was held in the Holy Family Chapel in the union building. Joan of Arc was too small for the Holy Day crowd. Father Jesuit had a wonderful homily. He explained that Mary should be our guide to Advent. She waited in hopeful expectation for nine months. If we allow her, she can lead us through our Advent of growing with Christ. Past the fear what new Call God might ask us to live; to the hope of what gifts that new Call might be in our lives. During the preparation of the gifts, the woman leading the music sang "Ave Maria, gratia plena...". It was the same Gregorian chant tone we use at home. I admit, it brought a tear or two to my eye, knowing that tonight you would be singing it too.

Oh Sisters, say a little prayer for guidance. One of my courses was cancelled due to low enrollment and now I'm trying to find another course. My advisor might turn the course into an independent study; I'm also working with another professor about some possible study/volunteer positions. I tried the theology department,
but they bumped me off to the the undergrad list that is already filled...ah well...


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent Joy


This week of Advent Joy started out with the Old Testament prophet Baruch, "Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God."

It was a beautiful morning here to reflect on throwing aside my cloak of sorrow, sin, and all that holds me back that I may follow Jesus. Fr. Jerry's homily similarly called on the people to consider what they wrap around themselves that keeps God from touching our lives or the lives of others through us.

With only ten days remaining before I fly home for Christmas, I need to focus on my studies without letting them overwhelm my anticipation to be home. There are a variety of due dates within the next week and a half. I have a completed rough draft of my study written! It has topped out at just over 40 pages! Now my professor will look through to check the newly added sections to be sure it all makes sense. The history prof is currently checking out the rough draft of his paper. And I'm finally getting the differentiated education case study presentation put into a power point. But, all is good, and I will be home soon.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A View from Home


This beautiful image from home was a welcome gift from Sr. Marielle! I love how the photographer (P&D) was able to catch our Chapel roof low peak and the full moon in the same frame. The two birds on the cross just make me smile. It could work well as an Advent meditation...waiting upon the Lord...

A December homework update: I have turned in a rough draft of my policy history paper. The Prof is willing to preread student work to make editing and revision recommendations. He is the third former English teacher I've had in the College of Education! I am still working on formulating my discussion of the findings for my study. It has been interesting to peek into the perceptions of first year teachers, but I'll be glad to jump back into some practice of my own.

Speaking of practice, I had a good chuckle while volunteering today. The sixth grade boys were writing directions for making one of their favorite foods. One young man was explaining tamales. When I pointed out the need to be more specific in telling others how to wrap the tamale, I admitted that I had never made a tamale. He just looked at me for a moment and then said, "Miss, you've NEVER made a tamale?" "Well," I responded, "have you ever made pigs in a blanket?" His only response to this was if I had just made the name up.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Awareness


It is a gorgeous day here in Milwaukee. The sun is beaming down brightly and there is a light breeze with just a hit of autumn coolness. The little chapel was locked up until just before Mass; so I sat out in the sunshine to listen and look for Advent.

The trees have lost all their leaves here, but the smaller (decorative) trees are covered in little red berries. The cool breeze waved through tall grasses planted between the flower beds. The grounds crews here at the University were driving about with pickup loads of evergreen branches to cover many of the flower beds for the winter...the whole of campus smells like Christmas already. The squirrels do not seem to appreciate this new development. They bounced all throughout the beds and bushes like little silver balls of fur. I wonder if they were searching for a way to their treasured buried far beneath the evergreens?

I was a wonderful break to just sit in the sunshine to look and listen. It is a beautiful day here, but now I go to the library to face papers, computers, and pages and pages and pages of reading.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Begins


A new year has begun and seems like I was just here yesterday. I've always enjoyed Advent; the music, the colors, the candles and greenery. The hope and challenge that fill all the readings...If we're attentive, Christ is calling us all to keep alert for the next four weeks!

Thats all for today...

I just found this prayer on the monialesop blog (Dominicans) and wanted it share it with my family and friends. They offer this 'novena' of St. Andrew 15 times a day from his feast on November 30th to Christmas Day. I might not get to the 15 times a day, but I think it's a beautiful way to remember Advent in the midst of the commercial pre-Christmas blitz.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer
and grant my desires, (here mention your request)

through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


I wish all a happy and holy day of Thanksgiving! This morning the two sister parishes (St. Eugene's & St. Monica's) held Mass together at St. Monica's. The church is beautiful and large enough to house all those gathered to say thanks this morning. Fr. Jerry's homily began by roaming up and down the church to ask parishioners to share that for which they were thankful. My favorite was this little girl's voice chirping over the mic system, "Mommies and Daddies".

I believe our Benedictine background helps us celebrate this day of national Thanksgiving. He reminds us that all we have is gift, all our goods are to be treated as vessels of the altar, and to be grateful for what we have but to not seek for more than what we need. The sense of gratefulness that is all throughout the Rule can hopefully keep my heart open to living out a thankful life every day and not just this commemoration in November. So today, I've been trying to challenge myself to think out ways to share my gratitude with others to make my thanksgiving more visible.

I have much to be Thankful for today. I have the opportunity of education at a wonderful Catholic university. Our community has given the chance to go back to school to improve my education about education; hopefully, I will have a chance to share this will a new classroom next fall. I've been blessed with a family; a loud, crazy, overwhelming crowd--but I love them. They are gathering at Mom and Dad's tonight and tomorrow. One great aunt (Aunt Marcine is going shopping with the girls tomorrow), three boys between 4 & 5, three girls between 7 & 8, one little girl who turns 1-year-old today, and four parents, plus Nana and Grampa! Maybe it's not so bad that I'm out in Milwaukee? I'm grateful for our Benedictine Community. They have helped me develop strengths and shore up weakness that I never would have been able to do alone. In vocation talks, I tell the kiddos that Community is the greatest blessing as well as the only sacrifice Benedict asked his monks to perform. Still--I couldn't imagine living any other way. I've been blessed with friends in my life who have been supportive and challenging. They have picked me up, dusted me off, and pushed me back on track...and they know I'd do it for them...God has blessed me.

Thanksgiving Blessings!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Generosity


The students at the middle school have been gathering non-perishable foods for a couple weeks. At the start of the food drive, a speaker came from an area food bank to talk about why they need the food and the many people that come to the food bank. The school backed up the speaker with a challenge to each class (5th through 8th) to bring in 500 cans or other non-perishable items. The prize--middle school remember--for each class would be a Marquette Basketball and participation in a school wide basketball tournament!

I was present for the final can count this morning. There was a flurry of counting and recounting in the 6th grade classroom as students came in with their final additions to the cause. A cheer would come from the boys every time another classmate came in with a bag or box to add, and then they would start counting all over again. The final total for this one class?...650 items!

The teacher sent his students down to the morning assembly, but he was stopped by a 7th grade emissary in the hall. They hadn't raised enough cans to join in the school-wide basketball game, and would the 6th graders share some of their surplus? The teacher said he would have to ask the students who had gathered the goods for those in need. The assembly upped the pressure on the 6th grade boys...the 8th grade and 5th grade students had given their surplus goods to the 7th grade class, but they were still short by almost 70 items! The boys met quickly but denied the request. Their reasoning?...They were raising cans to help the food bank and not just play no ball playing for the 7th grade boys. Unless the principal had mercy later on.

The generosity of the school was overwhelming. This school of about 80 or 90 boys gathered over 2,000 items for the area food bank! The students of this school are not privileged, they are part of the Latino neighborhood on the South Side. This generosity came not from their excess, but from their own need in some cases. The boxes of ramen noodles and slightly dented cans that were donated so willingly will be welcomed by another family in need in the same neighborhood.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful Quote of the Day


I've been receiving weekly quotes from The Merton Institute. Each is from one of Thomas Merton's works and often connects with the Church seasons or events in civic society. Today's quote leads into the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. It was too good to not share with all of you.


"To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given
us --- and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of
His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense
graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never
unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the
goodness of God."
Thomas Merton. Thoughts In Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux): 33.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The End of the Year


I've never quite understood why we end the Church year in the midst of November. Actually, I didn't know when the year ended or started until I was partway through college. I'm so accustomed to the calendars and established seasonal dates deemed important by Office Depot (my current wall calender namesake) that I have to remind myself there is another schedule taking place as well.

However, Today the weather seemed to be celebrating the Feast of Christ the King and the end of the ordinary as well. It was marvelous! The sun was shinning while the last few leaves on the trees fluttered in the light breeze. Beautiful. So warm that no coats or jackets were needed...warm sunshine in November. A bit of celebration by mother nature before the new year begins with Advent next week.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Countdown


I have just realized that there are 26 days until I fly home for Christmas break with Sisters, family, and friends! Living in "November" has let me forget the pressure of December deadlines for course requirements! So, my countdown calender must begin! I'd like to think a homework helper might appear and I'll find that she has organized my messy outlines into completed papers with marvelous APA formatting, but it isn't likely. Thus, my 'office' wall has become a staging area for homework in progress and all the dust has been cleared out of my Ikea filing trays to keep everything in order. All will be done on time and with drafts currently in the works, but the realization of a countdown or deadline really lights a fire of encouragement!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our Founding Feast!


Happy feast day to all our Sisters! The anniversary of our new community in 1880. I often wonder those sisters handled the emptiness of the Great Plains after leaving their Swiss Alps and German forests. The few stories that remain are a good start for the imagination, but I always did they teach the Native Americans at Fort Yates? The sisters spoke some English, but German was their native language. How did they keep their coifs so clean and pleated in the collapsing "houses" during those early frontier days? How did they all fit in that first convent? First they had sisters and Native American boarder students, then they switched from school to hospital and patients shared their convent for awhile.

Amazing...There is so much to learn from our earliest pioneer sisters. I hope they continue to pray for us as we continue to live their faith and mission forward.


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Feast of St. Gertrude

Happy Feast Day Sisters!

O God of love and gentleness,
O heart that abounds with loving kindness,
O heart that overflows with charity,
O heart that radiates pleasantness,
O heart full of compassion,
We thank you for your heart full of love for us.
Invite us into your heart that we may be totally transformed into love.
Adapted by Sister Ruth Fox, OSB,
from Exercises of St. Gertrude, VII

The feast of St. Gertrude is a celebration not only of our Benedictine Mystic, but also a celebration of our federation of Benedictine Monasteries throughout the United States. The Church reflects Gertrude's deep connection with Christ in the readings they use within today's liturgy. Both Paul's letter to the Ephesians (3:14-19) and John's Gospel (15: 1-8) remind us to live in Christ as he lives in us.

Paul says "that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones...the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...". Gertrude's writings centered on this great love that God has for us beyond our faults or failings. I'm reading "Book I" of her Herald of Divine Love right now, and her biographer spends much time showing how Gertrude's humble work on her faults made Christ love her all the more. I hope so...since all I have to show is the effort and not always much success in changing faults. I remember when studying the Rule's chapters on humility as a novice, one of the retired sisters who took the class with me pointed out that we would probably reach the top of the ladder about ten minutes before we died. Hmmm...if she was still working out issues, I have a long way to go and count on both Gertrude and that sister being right!

John's Gospel of the vine and the branches also reminds us to stay rooted in Christ. But beyond that, I am reminded to stay rooted in Community. I try to celebrate and commemorate the feasts that are celebrated at home to refresh that connection. Jesus' parable of the vine tells that the branches don't produce fruit unless they remain on the vine...I hope that my rootedness in the vine of Christ and Community helps me not only complete my time here at University but also in transitioning back to the Monastery this May. So far, I am keeping green and growing in my life here with the Franciscans and course work. I'm adding some volunteering to keep turning the earth over a bit and freshen the dirt. After too much time in libraries and windowless classrooms, I need some change of location...middle school language arts classrooms should do me some good.

Prayer of Saint Gertrude to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, fountain of eternal life,
Your Heart is a glowing furnace of Love.
You are my refuge and my sanctuary.
O my adorable and loving Savior,
Consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is aflamed.
Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love.
Let my heart be united with Yours.
Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things.
May Your Will be the rule of all my desires and actions. Amen.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Miss Substitute


The teacher is home from school! and induction seminar and history class. But I got to go to school today! The principal for Notre Dame is also in my history of education course and was in deep need of one more sub for today. She asked so nicely and I have wanted to get in touch with students again, I just couldn't say no.

The college nun was up by 6:30, in the car by 7:20 and at the school parking lot by 7:45. Yup, it took 25 minutes in traffic this morning. I tried to use the time well; I was able to finish a rosary and listen to a few songs to get me ready for the day. By the time I got through the doors and heard the students voices, I started to feel like a teacher again.

I was filling in for 8th & 6th grade language arts, each 90 minutes, and 2 sets of 8th grade religion, 50 minutes.
Thrown in the mix was a few homeroom sessions for good measure. Sure, there were a few 8th grade girls who tried to pull a few things by me, and they probably did in Spanish, but I did keep us on the move. The morning started with one lovely lady who snuck Skittles into class. I gave her two options: give them to me or put them in her bag. She chose a different option and tucked them in her desk so she could keep I wouldn't notice. So, I quietly returned to give her two new options: give them to me or throw them away. Does anyone like Skittles?

The students kept me on the go, but I have to admit I enjoyed it. I started each class by writing "Sr. Carol Jean" on the board and introducing myself as a fellow student of Sr. Jean's (the principal). However, I was still "Miss" for the remainder of the class. "Miss" seems to be the general moniker of respect here...once I even got a "Miss Sister", I had to smile.

I was tired by the time I got through observing part of an induction seminar and half my history of education course, but still energized too. There is just something about those Children of God that keep me going along the way. I hope and pray that when I've graduated from University there is a job to be found and students to work with! Hmmm...maybe I can get my St. Charles Borromeo working on that along with St. can't get praying too early.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Beginning of Being Busy


Today was full of places to go and people to see. The University sponsored an annual workshop on restorative justice. This year the focus was on bullying and restorative justice in the school setting; especially, justice circles. Apparently, these are the new wave in Milwaukee. MPS and some private schools are implementing this practice by training teachers and students how to lead these circle meetings to resolve issues. This is supposed to aleviate the need for schools to use punishment systems and instead work to heal the differences between both the actor and receiver of the bullying act.

Next, I drove back to my research site to interview another novice teacher! Only one more to go and I can begin to compilate my qualitative data. So far, there are some main themes that have been made clear in their responses. I still need to read all my transcripts carefully for other themes that might be important to my little study.

Finally, I went back to University for class tonight! Whew! I broke down and brought my supper to take to class. Much of the time was spent in our small groups to plan group presentations next week. (Sigh) God grant me patience...

Before bed, I definately need to make sure to keep my prayer schedule even on the upcoming early mornings. The next few days are full of volunteering, reading, writing, and house events...I'll need a good prayer backup to keep me moving along with more than a smile and good intentions.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Something to be Said for Stability


I have been meeting all sorts of new folk while going to University here in the big city. Milwaukee hosts all sorts of volunteers through religious communities. One of whom, I've been getting to know better through my own volunteer work and here is what I simply don't get...the volunteers' mobility. These past two years he has been here working with the Franciscan Friars, before that he was finishing college, before that it was seminary, and next year it might be something else. Other volunteers I've met have followed a similar pattern of mobility--moving from one need to the next.

I like our Stability. The more I listened to the stories of outreach and subsequent movement, the more I thought about why we "stay put". We take the time to establish long relationships not only within the Monastery but also among the cities and towns of which we become a part. So that unlike the mobile volunteers, we get to know more than the needs or wants within an area; we discover the blessings and gifts of the people as well. The commitment of time to the place allows me time to discover more clearly the relationship of service between me, my community, and the people to whom and with whom we minister.

The time it takes to put down roots is more than a few years here or there. Our commitment of stability has kept me in place at times when my uncertainties where telling me to pull up the stakes and move...but by waiting the uncertainties through, there was a lot to be learned. I know this is quite reflective, but I've been meeting more transitional volunteers, mobile Franciscans, and just people in general trying to get from here to there without much time on the ground in between. So when Fr. Jesuit started talking about the feast of the Dedication of Lateran Basilica today and the permanence of the building as a reflection of the permanence of commitment, it kicked my deep thoughts into high gear.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Feast of St. Charles Borromeo


It's my Feast Day today! When I entered our community, I hadn't heard of feast days or name days and didn't even know I had one to celebrate. Sr. Pierre and I looked for a Carol--none to be found, there were already many folk celebrating versions of Jean, and she offered the monastic suggestion (ahem, that means gave) of St. Charles Borromeo.

It was only later that I started to look into the patron of my feast day. Charles was born in Italy in 1538 and from what I've read, he was a hard working student that did well in Civil and Canon Law not because of great intelligence, but because of his determined work. His uncle Pope Pius IV made him the Cardinal of Milan and Papal Secretary by age 22. So there were benefits to his family situation, but St. Charles used them to benefit others. He reconvened the Council of Trent to clarify Church teachings, established seminaries to improve priest formation, and then his real work began after he left Rome. His attention turned to the poor and their spiritual as well as physical needs. He rebuilt their churches as well as ministered to those dying from the Black Plague.

"If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor". - Saint Charles Borromeo

While his patronage list doesn't include students, I like to think my feast day patron is on my side while here at school. I might not be the brightest in the class, but I do believe I too am determined in my studies and working hard to get there. I don't think anyone in my family has the political pull his uncle had, but I like the quote I found attributed to him and think it too can apply to my life at school while away from home.

There needs to be a joyful eagerness in the start of each new day or I might forget that each day is a gift from God. If I forget the gift of the day, then it could become just another day to "make it through"... and I've had enough of those. The gift aspect can bring a new perspective and new point of view to each day. So, I'm setting on my Feast Day! To enjoy the new challenges that are out there...including Dr. Lowe's history of education tonight : )


Oh! Here is the list St. Charles Borromeo is patron of....against abdominal pain, against colic, against intestinal disorders, against stomach ulcers, apple orchards, bishops, catechists, catechumens, Lombardy-Italy, seminarians, spiritual directors, spiritual leaders, and starch makers.

Anyone else wonder how things get on these lists? However, there are a few I wish I had known in my past...he really was well chosen for my patron!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Feast of All Souls


Today, we remember, celebrate, and pray for all our Beloved who have died.

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God...they are in peace...their hope full of immortality...they shall be greatly blessed...In the time of their visitation they shall shine,and shall dart about as sparks through stubble...and the Lord shall be their King forever.Those who trust in him shall understand truth,and the faithful shall abide with him in love:because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,and his care is with his elect."

As I sat waiting for traffic to move this morning, I started to wonder about that
reading from Wisdom (3:1-9) and wonder if it was a beautiful day at home too. This is a beautiful time of year to reflect in our Monastic Cemetery. It feels so absolutely quiet and still, the leaves are falling, the cool air smells of autumn...and you might think for a moment that the white crosses that surround you are reminders of the dead. But if you sit quietly long enough, you begin to hear the birds singing in the pine and cedar trees, see sisters walking the sorrowful way, and remember that like yesterday, today is also in the 'now and not yet'. Except, you are surround by those who now fully alive in that 'not yet'.

It was a nice way to spend my twenty minutes in traffic. Except for a few horns and some car from Illinois that cut me off, I could really put myself there on the bench in the midst of it all and enjoy Autumn at home. Mind you, it's none too shabby for beauty here in Wisconsin at this time of the year. But the wind has been wild and many of the leaves are now gone into the neighbors' yards. The sisters have trimmed down the flower beds for winter. I've even had to dig out my window scrapper from its hidding place in the trunk.

Have a Blessed Feast of All Souls, I'm sure your Beloved are praying for you.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Solemnity of All Saints


I'm not sure if the Solemnity of All Saints is celebrated if it lands on a Sunday, but here we are and I like the feastday. The scripture that held my attention came from John's first letter.

"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed."

It struck me that like the Saints we celebrate today, we too live in the now and not yet simultaneously. I know that I am one of God's children, his beloved; however, I also know that I need to continue to learn, grow, and seek God in all I do. I know who I am, but I have no idea who I will be or to what I will be called next. So...I need to live fully in the now while I am here (I think Benedict would agree with that) while I prepare in hope for what might be tomorrow.

Today, I am a student. I need to live fully in the spirit of learning and study, to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to continue learning. However, I am also a solitary Benedictine in a Franciscan land : ) and the opportunity to share our monasticism shouldn't be ignored either. I do try to live in the now of this experience...remembering that the not yet isn't far away. Only God knows where I'll be serving the community next year. I hope to be teaching, but where, what, who, and how have no answers just yet.

Blessings from a philosophical morning,

Friday, October 30, 2009

Scary Time of Year


I love this time of year...crisp autumn air, the changing leaves falling, and even the frost on the trees and cars. The houses in around my area are all dressed up for halloween just around the corner. Soon, small groups of kiddos will been invading in their costumes for treats. I love doing my homework upstairs so I can watch them skipping, running, and pulling their parents along from house to house.

I also love the scary movies and shows during this time of the year. The 'movie' channel here has been playing old Vincient Price~Edgar Allen Poe shows at night. Unfortunately, I missed The Great Pumpkin since I was at class that night. I do have a copy of J.Depp in Sweeney Todd...that will work great for scary movie viewing on halloween for a study break.

Homework itself is scary enough during this time of the year. Between my three classes, I've the beginnings of one research study, one case study, two learning analyses, one policy analysis, and one group presentation. I'm doing okay and I'm trying to keep working ahead of myself. The scary part is that only doing parts or pieces or drafts at a time leaves alot of 'undone' material floating into my dreams at night and around my workspace during the day. It makes me feel quite insecure and a bit anxious at times. However, things have been going well in the exceptionality course, and I just discovered I did quite well on the history of edu bluebook! Now, if I can get all my research participants to return the survey for my study, I can get all those ducks in a row to evaluate my data I will rate things as smooth...but not quite yet.


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Family Monster Mash


I remember halloween being a great time growing up in small town South Dakota. Older kids dressed up in costume or if it was cold painted up faces and met friends to start walking through town in search of treats. Little ones dressed up too and walked with parents around a few blocks. If you were lucky, you caught a ride with a friend who lived out of town and rode around in the back of a pickup to stop in at a few farmhouses...they gave regular size candybars not just those 'fun' size things or wonderful homemade popcorn balls.

In high school toilet papering was the sport of the night. Even geeks like me joined in occassionaly, but it was an interactive sport and you needed to see well in the dark and move fast if the teacher or principal came out their door. However, I always found the pumpkin smashing that accompanied the toilet papering very sad. Not only do I love the color and festiveness of the pumpkins and the designs the kiddos would carve into their faces, but there is also a horrible mess when you smash them.

Still, I loved halloween as a kiddo. My family still celebrates halloween as a night to dress up and have some fun. Both my sisters help their kids either make or find costumes, go trick-or-treating, and maybe even to a school or town halloween party or two. Me? I have kept a few items that are not technically 'costumes' to wear to school on my favorite secular holiday :) tiara, star trek communicator pin, headband with cat ears, and a few clothing items such as orange/black stripped tights and an orange scarf...I loved to play dress up as a kid and I always will.

I've also embedded a Halloween video from my sister Joy and her family to all her family and friends. It was just too good to not share with my sisters, family, and friends too!

Mad Scientist=Shyla
Frankenstien Monster=Dad
Wife of Frankenstien=Mom
Wolfman=Cade (Twin 2)
Vampire=Tate (Twin 1)


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Approaches!


As halloween approaches, my reading and viewing seeks out vampires, werewolves, and other monsters of the night. I do agree with this Foxtrot comic...I prefer my vampires scary and dangerous; not dark, brooding, and wickedly handsome but heartbroken (psst...they don't have hearts).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Joys of an Empty Campus


Ah...the beauty of an empty library. I know as a teacher I should find great joy in seeing the students flock to the library just before and during midterms. They cover all the computer and desk areas in the 'new' library and even filter throughout the 'old' library. But the young folk are noisy...yes, I know I sound old...they are constantly listening to their I-Pods so loud you can hear their music at the next study table, texting or reading texts after their phone 'sings'. So, to be quite honest, I was very glad to have the library to myself today.

After Mass at Gesu (Joan of Arc had no Mass due to break), I was able to stretch out at the Brew coffee house on campus to enjoy my lunch and sip a mocha coffee. It was nice not to worry about hurring along to allow space for the next student. Then at the library, I had my choice of computers and enjoyed spreading my papers out all around me! There were only a few other folk in the library and they were all grad was so quiet...ah.

The calm of my library experience was in great contrast to my morning. It has been raining for the last couple of days out here in the East and that plus the fog created some poor driving conditions. A semi truck ended up on its side blocking all three lanes of traffic on I-43! No one was hurt that I heard of but the truck wasn't moved for almost 2 considering it fell just around 6:30 AM you can imagine the back up on this main expressway. I didn't have to be to my observation until 9 AM, but the traffic was still backed up when I hit the rainy roads and I had to criss-cross my way across town the long way. I was a few streets off at first, but I did get to school on time and found my own way there! Mind you, I do think I gave a few people something to chuckle at when they saw me checking my city map at stop lights : )


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Midterm Mindsets


I am taking a break from my notes and books and outlines to write a note home. I have discovered the best way for me to maintain my sanity during busy times at university is to not read or think for awhile. It gives my mind time to clear from the fuzziness of too much information and not enough oxygen. It gives my imagination time to enjoy the cool air and interesting folk walking by. And most importantly, my attitude in general has time to return to a good-natured humor after academic distraction.

This importance was lost on me until I noticed the folk around me. Not just the stressed out undergrads, but some returning learners as well. Ladies and Gents trudging across campus (or library) with their hair awry or pulled up in a questionable knot, coffee cup in hand, and eyes bleary from late nights, small print, and computer screens. Hmmm...I took a second look at my own practices and decided to promise myself regular breaks even if I was 'busy'.

Fun time has included: listening to bits of books on CD, reading chunks of P & P or Holmes, or watching a funny program online (Castle & Psych are my top two). I've also strolled about campus to enjoy the crisp air. To relax before particularly stressful class meetings, I might stop off at Joan of Arc Chapel or one of a few other quiet places I've found on campus to reflect a bit and sit in some silence. For those health buffs...I've also cut coffee & tea out after 3 o'clock. Instead I take hot water and add a bit of honey & cinnamon. I really don't want my eyes to glaze over with a caffeine haze during an interesting discussion in class.

Well, I should go. I actually have a midterm test at 4:30 tonight and I think some quite prayer might be called for before I tackle writing an essay encompassing the history of education in less than two hours.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Just a Quick Note


Just a quick note to all. Things are well here. I had two visitors from South Dakota in two days! Nick (former student & debater) was at Marquette for a Peace Conference. We met and I treated him to Alterra's coffee and the best darn grilled cheese I've ever had. This was a good thing since the kiddo is now a vegetarian. He is doing well at St. Thomas; currently, he trying to decide between a double or triple major...pray for his parents. The next day I met Jen and her beloved for supper down in Cudahy (other side of town). It was good to hear about the wedding plans, events going on in Sioux Falls, and Al's new teaching job in the city.

I'm doing well in my preparations for Dr. Lowe's midterm. I know I seem to be fretting over this, but the guy is sort of intimidating in the educational sense. Yes, we're learning alot, but its been quite circular and now Erica, Jennifer and I are trying to make it linear for easier essay writing on Wednesday night.

The world is awash in autumn colors here in Milwaukee. The trees are all starting to turn and the days are a lovely 40ish with cool breezes off the lake. I love autumn! The weather is perfect for walking (no bugs)! The only downer is the number of spiders now infiltrating my office space in the house basement.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn Rain


Well, it is another gray, dreary day here in Milwaukee
. It has been overcast and drizzling since last night. Yes, we need the rain, and if truth be told I really enjoy the rain, but it does make morning expressway traffic a bit more interesting.

The 'observation' time at school this morning was very focused. I worked with one sophomore boy on what they call an MLA paper, but I actually had to ask him to go to the teacher to specify what exactly made it MLA. I didn't want to push to far into the MLA guidelines unless the teacher really wanted it. Turns out that MLA simply means a two resource paper...and no citation/bibliography guidelines were given, so I introduced the kiddo to the wonders of OWL by Purdue! Next, I sat with a sophomore girl as she thought through theology essay questions about human dignity. I didn't worry about the English aspect of it at all, but found that keeping her on the one train of thought was work enough.

The university blessed a new shrine and statue to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta today. As Fr. Jesuit prayed a blessing over the shrine he laughed, he thought God had quite taken care of the sprinkling of 'holy' water and that his few drops wouldn't do much better. The statue is very nice. It is the older Mother Teresa holding a small child in her arms. It was dug into a low hill and surrounded by a half-wall that will be perfect for students to sit on in the springtime. They also planted some ground cover type flowers that will come back every year and a few trees ... a very nice spot to be indeed.

Now, I must go. I have to evict an undergrad from my study space. Midterms are next week and you wouldn't believe all the students in the library! Even my little book corner in the back of the library has been invaded!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Not Just Another Good Car Song


Matthew West's song "The Motions" always has me singing along in the car on the way to or home from class. Even in the house, I hum along when it is played on the radio. Other than it being quite a catchy tune, the song reminds me of how to live our life no matter where I am.

There was such an gracefilled passion for Christ and Monastic life when I promised perpetual profession. This wanes and waxes as a part of life. Still, West's song has been a great reminder of the how the promise to live for Community, Christ and the Church should continue to change how I live and connect with our profession of Converstatio, Stability, and Obedience.

What started this whole reflection? Not just the good music; I attended a final vows celebration at the Franciscan motherhouse yesterday. Commitment ceremonies always make me a bit more reflective.

"The Motions" by Matthew West
This might hurt, it's not safe

But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions

I don't wanna go one more day without
Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I'm finally feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

'Cause I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day without
Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Few Hours in the Dark


Well, we had a bit of excitement here last night! I had been raining for just over an hour when the lights blinked for a moment. Hmmm...sisters Linda and Jane were in the kitchen preparing egg rolls for Linda to take to work tomorrow, they called out to see if I had seen anything in the living room. Nope, the lights were only out for a moment, so I turned the TV back on to catch up with the Sherlock Holmes mystery on PBS.

A few minutes later the lights blinked again. This time there was a loud crackling and buzzing outside as the lights went out. The sisters kept making egg rolls in the kitchen, and I went to the window feeling a bit puzzled. I was raining pretty hard, but there was no wind, no lightning, or anything that would account for the lights going off.

The third time was the charm. The buzzing and crackling started again, and I looked out the window just in time to see a transformer (about a half-block away) burst into sparks like a roman candle or groundflower. Then our side of the block went dark...sigh...the wrong side of the tracks.

Luckily, I have been keeping my flashlight (Christmas gift from my Dad) in the same place since one of those tornado/emergancy drill lectures at the monastery. I joined Linda and Jane in a hunt for the candles and other flashlights on the main floor. Soon we had enough candles so they could see to finish up the egg rolls. I held a flashlight in each hand to shoot some helpful light in their directions. We also called the electric company to report the blowout. The automatic voice told Linda that the company already knew about the 'problem'. We did have the choice of receiving a call either to give us an estimate of when the lights might come back on or when the lights came back on (why get a call to tell you the power is on, wouldn't you notice?).

So, we visited for a while, considered playing cards (but not everybody could see well enough in the candlelight), and eventually Jane headed off to her bedroom. Linda decided to wait for another sister who was out last night and snoozed off and on in the easy chair. I wrote a letter telling the story for the sisters at should give a chuckle or two for the mailroom readers. My only problem is the Sherlock Holmes story. "The Tale of the Three Gables" isn't one of the shows based on a story from the books but written for the show itself, and I may never who done it in the end.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


Happy Feast of St. Theresa the Little Flower. This morning was a good day to reflect on how to serve in little ways with great love. Nothing 'big' was going on and no where to go in a great hurry, just time to sit and wonder how love can change simplest act into gift.

"I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!" ~ St. Theresa of Lisieux


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Archangels and Undergrads

Happy feast of the Archangels!

Today, I returned to my observation school on the other side of town. I was up early enough to take time to pray our Lauds for the feast and even sit in reflection on a reading about Archangels from my Benedictine breviary. The morning proved to be such that I am very glad that I took the time to remember God surrounds us with His TLC via angels every day.

The commute to my observation site was fairly smooth for 8:15 AM (no one honked today, I'm proud). I even hiked up the five flights of stairs without stopping (woo-whoo)! When I reached the resource room, I learned how to continue to be flexible. Today was "star" day and not "B" day which means school ends early and all 14 or so modules are shorted down to like 14 minutes.

The first four mods I assisted with various ALGEBRA II assignments and tests; this consisted of helping some ADHD kiddos keep time on task and no actual math knowledge was required (thank God). Then I worked with an essay assignment, but backed up the kiddo from writing her introduction to reading the two articles she printed off and preaching the benefits of prewriting her ideas before starting the actual essay. Then one the aforementioned ADHD math kiddos returned with a religion assignment the needed to be read aloud or not read at the same time an easily distracted freshman with a month late biology paper was placed on the other side of me.

As I headed out the door, the cooperating teacher asked if I was 'okay' from the onslaught of the fast paced morning. To her surprise (and mine), I smiled and told her I couldn't wait to be back next week. Oh, of course I was frustrated at the quick turn over and short mods that left me with only about 10 minutes once the kiddo was settled and found his/her books and a bit frazzled at helping out with math (soooo out of my comfort zone). However, the students themselves reminded me why I'm here at university... So you can decide for yourselves, who were the angels sent with a message by God (no dramatic lighting effect cues were included)? Me? (probably not) or the Kiddos? My money is on the kids.

Now to the undergrads...if there are other college folk/students/professors out there, please help me with this riddle! Why were they all in my half the library today? I do quite a bit of my reading in the book-half of the library where the only sound is the whir of the air system and the hum of the bubbler (actual Milwaukee word for water fountain). Today, there was a major influx of undergrads not only flooding into the study cubicles but also looking through (hold on to your hats) BOOKS. it mid-term already?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Volunteering Step by Step


Soon I will begin some volunteering at a Catholic high school not too far from the house. I have had some of the teachers in previous courses and a couple in my courses this semester. I knew I would learn alot during my time volunteering; I just never imagined the importance of the lessons before I could even step foot in the classroom. There are many steps and hoops to jump through to be a volunteer.

The first step was to make initial contact...several times. I called to inquire, visited the school with a teacher co-student who teaches there, and e-mailed once a week. Approximately three weeks to a month later I met with Joe who fellow who coordinates these things. Now is when I realized the importance of persistence in becoming a volunteer. While I was waiting patiently for him to get back to me after discussing the possibility of me volunteering with the English Dept. folk, many events too place at school and the volunteer was forgotten (it's okay). Luckily, I was inspired by Vanessa and Mark to e-mail again (and again) to show that am still interested. Step three is predict what the office might need. Just in case, I attended the safe environment session in my parish and got the signed certificates needed to prove I had seen the videos and speakers. Ah-ha! When Joe replied to my e-mails (pestering), he asked if I would attend one of the sessions...woo-who...I even remembered to print of the diocesan code of ethics thingy. So setting up for this meeting today with the English department head and Joe actually started way back in the middle of August. This doesn't mean I get to start volunteering soon. They have to run a background check on me and set up a couple more hoops first, but then I'm set for the rest of the school year.

For a couple weeks I harbored thoughts like "this wouldn't happen at my previous school". Then I realized, I've never been on this side of the fence. It very well could take this long to get into a volunteering spot at our schools. I'm just hopeful that I can be useful to the English folk while I'm here. It will also be nice (for the first few days) to be working with students me reconnect to how I can use my courses and learnin' when I return home.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Autumn Colors


I wonder if God's favorite season is Autumn? The season has begun to creep up on the city and it leaves my favorite quiet spot on campus absolutely gorgeous! The flowers are still blooming while the leaves turn due to the cool dry year they have expereinced this summer in Milwaukee. I think the autumn colors on campus are more striking than the lush green landscaping that they cultivate during the late spring and summer seasons. Once the colors hit their high point at nearby Lake Geneva, I plan to do the scenic drive and take in their fall festival. It is supposed to be one of the most colorful areas in this region of Wisconsin.


Thursday, September 24, 2009



Sr. Marcia sent this on to me via her e-mail. I love it! My family has been practicing 'yoga' for years and we never knew it! Yup, I think we should add it to our Monastic practices.

“My friend Doug Wilson has developed a potent, new spiritual practice,” writes best-selling spiritual author and the founder of Bread for the Journey, Wayne Muller, in his book, Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest (Bantam, 1999). “He calls it Slotha Yoga. It consists of one simple precept: When you wake up, don’t get up. Stay in bed. Give yourself time to review your dreams. Notice how it feels to be in your body this morning. Do not be hurried by your impending responsibilities, but rather luxuriate in the softness of the bed covers. Watch how the light comes into the room today, read a little, daydream, wonder about breakfast.
“Many couples begin their Sabbath this way,” says Muller in this beautifully simple collection of gentle solutions to the “violent enterprise that a successful life has become.”


Life in the big city has been a bit of a whirlwind lately. A good whirlwind...Sr. Julie was in town for a week! She joined the house for room and board while attending a conference and then stayed on a few days so we could spend some time together. And before you ask...I did extra homework while she was at the conference so I could play without worry later.

The highlights of our playing tourist were the museum and the university. The house has season passes to the Milwaukee Art Museum, so we set aside Sunday afternoon to enjoy the creative nature of creation. We were treated to some interesting icons from different ages, quite a bit of work from 1500-1600 in portraits, but our favorite was Georgia O'Keefe's work. I fell in love with a beautiful painting of a river fall scene. The colors and movement reminded me of our view from the Riverview porch at home. I could have sat all day to take in the painting. However, the museum also houses quite a bit of modern artwork...and I admit freely that we don't have the training to appreciate this form. There were several that made us chuckle, but two took the cake. First, there was this large, black, bulbous shape done in a stiffened netting with a circular wooden trapdoor on top. It reminded me of a half melted jelly bean on steroids. Julie discovered a triptych of color that led to several quips about the Department of Motor Vehicles. This triptych was one solid yellow canvas, one blue, and one red; you couldn't even see brush strokes! Hmmm... So, we went back to Georgia's work and sat quietly for awhile.

Tuesday, I had class in the evening, but Julie volunteered to spend the day on campus with me and then putter about the library while I was in class. The day was a comedy of errors: coffee spilling down one's white shirt (a few times), pouring rain, and lost umbrellas. However, we had a very nice time in Joan of Arc Chapel (Julie loved the historical aspects) and a quiet respite at lunch in the coffee shop in the union building. Julie also found some good materials in the library as welll...I left her there with a quick orientation to the computer system, building layout, and my ID card to make any copies she might want.

It was good to have her here and spend some time together. But now I need to get back to the pattern of my school day. I've begun my observation/tutoring hours at Pius XI that is required for my class. It has been nice to see kids in action again. The school's resource room is only for students that have been accepted into their program for students learning disabilities. And the room? Well, fifth floor of course right above the band room on the south side of the building...quite warm and toasty right now with a constant soundtrack from below. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I was glad to be up there. I'm still working on getting into Messmer for my volunteer work that could go through the whole semester and into next semester. It is much closer, the kids come from a greater diversity of backgrounds, and there are folk I know who already work there. Plus, the commute would be so easy!

Well, I need to return to my history of education reading; it seems to be multiplying if I turn my back for too long.


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Exaltation of the Cross


Today, as I was reflecting on the readings for this Feast, I started to think about how we Exalt the Cross without even realizing it. In the heart of our Monastic cemetery is a large cross with the crucified Christ with the words of the Suscipe on the base. Surrounding this cross are the crosses marking each of the resting places of our sisters. Each one reflecting the hope of the Suscipe..."Uphold me oh Lord, according to your Word that I may live; and let me not be disappointed in this Hope I cherish."

We don't use the cross as a symbol of sorrow but one of hope and exaltation in Christ. Each sisters' name lovingly written into the center of the cross as they too are lifted up to Christ.

So, if today you walk along the Sorrowful Way and cemetery, say a little prayer for me; I will be thinking of home and our hope filled reflection of this Feast.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Laughter Keeps Us Close to God ; )


The show that makes me giggle, laugh, and gafaw is "Psych". Their clever combination of who-done-it mystery and humor makes it a great show to just sit back and enjoy. Two or three times a season they change the show's theme song to reflect a certain episodes character or the season. My previous favorite was the Hispanic style them when Shawn got a job on a Telemundo soap opera set...very funny...but this new reflection of an upcoming Bollywood episode may take the cake!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Feast of The Nativity of Mary

Feastday Greetings,

In honor of the Feast and in memory of Sr. Theodore, I'm writing in Blessed Virgin Blue. It was her favorite color, Theodore's--not Mary's.

I had to chuckle a bit during prayer this morning. When I was a postulant and novice, I was asked (along with the junior sisters at the time) to prepare a birthday cake for Mary. We even frosted it in Blessed Virgin Blue. However, my accomplices dressed in fuchsia while serving the cake that day. They insisted that Mary would have worn hot pink...I'm not sure why.

I love this memory. Is it theologically sound to bake Mary a birthday cake and ponder if she would have worn blue or pink? Who cares! I like the community connection. As sisters gathered for cake and coffee, they shared how the community had celebrated (or not) this day when "they were a novice". Others teased us about the clash of the cake and outfit colors. But in general it was a good practice in learning about the community.

Happy Feastday everyone! Your in my thoughts and prayers!