Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feast of St. Walburg

    Today (February 25) is the Feastday of St Walburg who is the titular patron of our St Walburg Monastery here in Villa Hills,Ky.
    Walburga lived in the eighth century. She was recruited by her uncle, St Boniface to go to Germany to help evangelize this country.  She established Benedictine Monasteries for monks and for nuns.  She welcomed the sick and the poor, healing their illnesses and comforting them.  Even today an oily dew like substance oozes from her bones with healing powers.
    Today as we celebrate this feast of Walburg  may we her spiritual daughters continue to celebrate the presence  of Jesus Christ and serve Him in the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest.       
    St. Walburga, Thank you for being our guide today as you were to many in the 8th century. 
        Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

St Walburg, by your life  of prayer and work, God blessed you
 with the power to heal, to make souls and bodies whole.

Intercede for us that we and those we love may be healed  of sickness and sorrow.
May God hear you and send the healing grace we need, through your  powerful intercession. Amen

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Unfinished Tasks, Unsolved Problems and Unfulfilled Hopes

          I usually get up quite early in the morning to do a series of physical exercises and spiritual exercises (lectio)  If time runs short I do the physical exercises because I know that I will not do them at a later time. The spiritual exercises can be done later in the day.            
         But, no matter the time, when I try to pray I am bombarded by numerous "other things."  "I have to get this done." " Someone is waiting for this." "Don't forget to do that," and on and on.  What ever happened to the grace of the present moment?  Where is it? Are all these "other things" the "evil spirits" of our era of multi-tasking?  I have no answer. Out of this quandary came the answer in the prayer at the end of Evening Prayer.                                   
   "God our Creator, by your loving design
  the world passes safely into darkness
 and returns again to light.
  We give into your hands our unfinished tasks,
 our unsolved problems
 and our unfulfilled hopes.
We commend each other and those who are needy to your care,
 knowing that you bring all things to completion.
 We pray in the name of Jesus Christ,
 who is our unfailing light and hope
 and abides with you and the Holy Spirit,
 now and forever.   
                                                     Sister Kathleen Ryan, OSB 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Men in My Life

            Yes, I am a woman religious, but I do have men in my life.
             First, there was my Daddy, then six brothers, various priests as spiritual directors or retreat directors, my organ teachers, and finally, the men on Death Row. I also had one visitor at the Guest House whom I’ll never forget. That isn’t all, but these are some who have made an impression on me. Each one could be an engaging story on its own.            We are to receive guests as the person of Christ, and in my job as hospitality director for the Guest House, there are many opportunities. One solitary man on a pilgrimage, like a Don Quixote, had a dream for saving starving children. He spoke gently, prayed and ate with us. Yet he was truly a stranger, a vagrant, one whom we might shun, and send on his way. Did I see Christ in him? Yes I did. My only release from guilt was to reflect on the experience by writing about him.
            After visiting the men on Death Row at Eddyville, one of them has considered me a friend for several years. He is a poet, and author of several short stories. He writes to me regularly, and shares a great deal about himself and his family. I am old enough to be his mother, who is still alive, elderly, poor, suffering from cancer, living in a coal-mining town in the mountains on the other side of the state, so far away from him! And he worries about her. “I was in prison, and you visited me,” I hope to hear some day.
            I think of my organ teachers often when I’m sitting on the bench, knowing that I worked so hard on those Bach preludes years ago and seldom get to play them now. Today it would not sound at all like it did when I first learned them, I am so out of practice, but there are the notations from my accomplished teachers on the music, and I am reminded of their expertise and advice, and I am grateful. Will I be accountable for the use of my talent?            And my brothers – two of them have passed on to eternity; the other four, who were such Katzenjammers when we were growing up, are now proud and loving grandfathers. We have such a great time when we get together, though each of them has his own crosses to bear. (I do have three sisters who have provided me with wonderful brothers-in-law!) It is only in these later years, that I realize the tender side of my brothers, when they’ve been able to show their feelings more freely.
            I will always be thankful to the religious men who guided me through some rough times, and who continue to live the Benedictine way in their own communities, as well as to some of our diocesan priests with whom I’ve worked over the years. For example, the changes resulting from Vatican II impacted women religious in unexpected ways, and we are still reeling. Let us thank God for, and continue to pray for good priests.            Finally, there’s Daddy, always the strong one, the provider, the advisor, yet weak and helpless on his deathbed as we watched and prayed with him. Even there, he had a lesson to teach us: don’t wait so long to say, “I love you.” This followed earlier ones: “Do it today, don’t put it off;” “Never give up;” “Label those photographs.”
            So, these are men in my life, each one unique, each one provided by God for a purpose, and I am indebted, and appreciative of them.        Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What are we to do?

The first week of February has been a week full of disparate images and ideas that have stimulated a wide range of emotions in me.
On February 3 the Vatican Information Service issued three bulletins:

            February 2, the Feast of the Presentation, was the Day for Consecrated Life when Pope Francis presided at Eucharist with the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. In his homily Pope Francis remarked that Christ “became like his brothers and sisters in every respect.” He exhorted members of religious life to “bring others to Jesus.”

                       February 3 Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, “killed in hatred of the faith on 24 March 1908.”

                      February 3 a press conference was held “to present the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. The Day will be held on 8 February, the feast day of Sudanese slave St. Josephine Bakhita who, after being freed, became a Canossian Sister and was canonized in 2000.” The day will be entitled “A light against human trafficking.”

                     And on February 3 the Islamic State published a video online showing a man standing in a cage engulfed in flames. The man was the Jordanian pilot  Moaz al-Kasasbeh who was being held hostage by the Islamic State.

            What are we to think? What are we to feel? What are we to do?

            Christ became like us in every respect. We see Christ in religious women and men who have committed their lives to the love of Christ; we see Christ in the Christian martyrs, who died for their faith; we see Christ in those bound by the chains of slavery and human trafficking; we see Christ in the young Muslim boy burnt alive. And to our consternation and confusion Christ, through his Incarnation as human, calls us to see him in those who commit horrific acts of cruelty and violence.

            Once when I was hurt badly by another person, in my anger and hurt, I came to the disconcerting spiritual reality that God loved and cared for that person as much as God loved and cared for me. God loves the people of the Islamic State as much as God loves those they persecute. God yearns for their welfare and their spiritual salvation as much as God yearns for ours. And all we can do before the God of infinite love is pray that they and we may be delivered from the chains of hatred, vengeance and violence.

                        Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do YOU Hear the Call?

The Church’s liturgy, Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours, this past Sunday was ALL about hearing a call.
  • Morning Prayer—we heard the call of Moses who answered, “Here I am.”
  •   First reading at Eucharist—the call of young Eli who responded, “Your servant is listening:.
  •  John’s Gospel—Jesus’ invitation his first followers to come and see. They came and called more to come.
  •  Evening Prayer—Paul urged us to consider our call.

     I was a bit defensive at the end of my morning lectio. I wanted God (and you too) to know that I did hear a call in my youth. Coming to experience Christ living among the members of our monastery and learning to serve others is the best decision I ever made. Reflecting on Paul’s urging to reconsider my call today, I say happily that I’d do it all over again. The marvel of being called didn't end on the day I entered. Thank God!  


PS: The community is hosting a "Listen Retreat for Single Women"weekend on February 27-March 1. Contact Sr. Cathy Bauer at 859-331-6324 or email her at for more information. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Volunteering at Mary Rose Mission

         Mary Rose Mission located in Florence, Kentucky does a wonderful and needed service—befriending and feeding the needy and hungry. Sr. Cathy Bauer who had already volunteered there invited me to accompany her in early September. At the time Mary Rose Mission served evening dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. My visit on Tuesday, September 2, was for me a new, rich, informative and realistic experience. A grateful 119 adults and 20 children were served dinner by a devoted group of steady volunteers—teens to retirees-between the hours of 4;)0 to 6:00 pm. An opening prayer welcomed early arrivals and a closing prayer after the departure of guests and cleanup ended the meeting. My assigned job was EXIT. That meant I engaged guests in a bit a conversation and asked if they had any special prayer requests after they dined and were headed for the door. My responsibilities began a bit later than some of the others so at my post at the door, I was able to watch the other volunteers carrying trays, clearing tables, helping the elderly, and washing trays. All was done steadily but leisurely, one at a time, in groups or family units of all kinds. This was my heart warming, heart moving first experience at the Mary Rose Mission. I learned much about our guests and their concerns and needs—two long pages worth—and this were the intercessions at our closing prayer. I had a “new” experience at this “old” time of my life. I looked into the faces of the homeless, the desperate young, the lonely old, young families and handicapped—all children of our God who had been fed and comforted. So far I have four visits to Mary Rose Mission. Sr. Rosemary McCormack joined Sr. Cathy and me in January. We will be going on the first Tuesdays of the month. Mary Rose Mission is adding Thursday as another serving day in January.
 Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

For more information on Mary Rose Mission or to volunteer there, go to

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Following a Star: Epiphany, graveside, and beyond

        It was a cold Jan. afternoon as we stood around the open grave. A periodic wind carried the words of the Hebrew Kiddush as it persuaded onlookers to snuggle deeper into their coats. Most eyes were on the white, wooden coffin adorned with the Star of David and poised to be lowered into the ground.
       While I stood there, I became aware of the great diversity that love, history, and prayer were holding together. In the group there was blood mother and adoptive mother, connections broken and rebuilt.  There were believers and non-believers, Jews and Christians, relatives by blood and by legal agreement. There were those highly educated and those less so. This cluster of mourners, family, friends, acquaintances or strangers to each other, had been drawn together by Helen, the strong, diminutive woman to be buried, and her equally strong granddaughter, elegant in simple black. 
      In liturgy the day before, we had celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, and here I was, in the midst of another epiphany. Yesterday it was the magi crossing borders; today it was Helen’s family and friends. Once again love was reaching across boundaries to bring people together. It made me realize how often this happens in our daily life and how many times we don’t even recognize it, much less nurture it.
       There’s a lot about diversity in the news these days, usually focusing on how dissent brought about some kind of sadness or tragedy. Aren’t the stories about terrorism or transgender teens examples of differences leading to conflict? Then there are the personal, smaller differences on topics ranging from politics and religion to driving directions and TV choices.
       It’s safe to say these are common contentions, but do we ever look below their surface? When something is “obvious,” why doesn’t everyone agree?  On the other hand, how is it that we, who in our culture cherish individuality and independence, are surprised at a lack of unanimity on a topic? It’s as though our head tells us everyone’s different, but our daily expectations are grounded in the belief are that it is our “truths” and interpretations that count. How do we deal with this?
       The gospel writers quote Jesus in one place saying he came not to unite but to divide; in another place Jesus is praying that all be one as he and the Father are one. Early Christians had to struggle for unity through many interpretations of what Jesus asked of his followers. Today there are millions of people who worship one God while being at war over how it should be done. Apparently division is common and oneness is not easily achieved. Is community the ideal? What can we do to make it more real now? 
       Helen’s funeral gives us a clue. It was love that reached across all sorts of boundaries to bring a disparate group of relatives and strangers together.  It is love that enables a husband and wife or siblings to find the wisdom and patience to deal with differences. It is love in the form of respect and willingness to understand that can lead to tolerance, whether in families, cities, or nations. Then there are those moments where we see people reaching out to others. Take note each time; it is a holy gift. Sometimes there is an opportunity to honorably avoid conflict. Take it; this too is a holy gift. When we see political leaders trying to follow an elusive star that could make the world a better place, give thanks and support.                Two Jewish people, thousands of years apart, Jesus and Helen, give us epiphany clues for healing a broken world and celebrating the beauty of diversity. Like the magi, may we allow the diversities within and around us become a bridge for love and understanding that will lead us and others to wholeness.
                Sr. Colleen Winston, OSB