Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Has it really been this long?

        Recently I was requested by Sister Rosemary McCormick the community’s “roving reporter” for our in-house “Word Within” newsletter to write about my 15 year experience as a volunteer at the Women’s Federal Prison Camp in Lexington, Ky. The following is a summary adaptation of what I wrote.
         Over the years listening to the women’s stories at the prison – some horrific, has made an indelible impression on me. No one chooses to be born into an addicted family; or in a family in which abuse – physical, sexual, emotional had become a pattern; or in situations in which abject poverty was the norm. And yes, for some of the women their early lives were neither harsh nor dangerous. And yes, some women do have a real attitude! There is always a mixture of women in the groups that I conduct.
         How to be of help can be a huge challenge. I envy Jesus who looked directly into the person’s soul and knew what was needed! For me, it is listening, providing mental and emotional health education and most of all being attuned to the matters of their hearts – that seem to lead to a positive change.  
        Through the years I have met many remarkable women. Women who own up to the crime(s), take responsibility for their mistakes and use the opportunity in prison to reflect on their lives and begin making necessary changes. Many of them offer kindness and acceptance to the other inmates especially the newly arrived women in the Camp.
        Often, when people come to see me on the Monastery grounds they remark how sacred and holy this space is. This does not surprise me. I am surprised, though, at how often I have felt a sense of sacredness when meeting with the women at the Prison Camp. So often there is vulnerability and openness that makes the space feel holy, and at times, the workings of the Spirit feels palpable.
        I believed then as I do now that incarcerated women are underserved. Through the years I have experienced many challenges! Now seldom do I experience the feelings of dread and anxiety when I drive up the long driveway – but I continue to feel a sense of hope and gratitude when I leave the Camp.

        Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What’s in a Name?

                My baptismal name was Audrey Jean. Somehow I hated the name Audrey and asked my mom how I happened to get that name. She told me that my father wanted to name me Angela, but she wanted to call me Audrey after a street in Ludlow. What? A street in Ludlow! One of my teachers even introduced me to a visiting priest as Jean Autrey! By the time I started High School I didn’t even tell people my first name, so I glided along from then on as plain Jean.
                 After graduation from high school I entered St. Walburg Monastery with six other young ladies. When the time to receive the habit and receive our nun name arrived, we were asked to submit three names in the order of our preferences. My first choice was Victoria after Mary’s title, Our Lady of Victory. I was excited to receive my first choice and to have Mary as my patron. The day after the ceremony the superior informed me that my feast day would be December 23, feast of St. Victoria. I asked whether I could celebrate on October 7, the feast of “Our Lady of Victory.” After a little thought the superior said that the recently deceased Sr. Victoria celebrated on December 23, Feast of St. Victoria, and that changing the date would only confuse people. Believe me I was both confused and unhappy.
                 Shortly after it was time to elect a new prioress, I decided to try again by explaining to her my desire to celebrate my feast day on October 7 in honor of Our Lady of Victory. No problem!  By that time most in the community would not remember when the departed Victoria celebrated her feast day.  Years later Pope John XXIII changed the title of the feast to the “Feast of our Lady of the Rosary.” That event actually expanded my love for the name.
                 When the sisters of our community had the option of returning to our Baptismal name, I chose to remain Victoria. The name had created a close bond between me and my heavenly mother. My baptismal name would not provide such a frequent reminder of that intimate connection. The name Victoria also seemed to have a joyful ring, and I wanted to reflect joy and surrender as Mary so often did. A quotation I discovered recently provided a perfect reason to associate joy with my name.  “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” My final reflection is that the life I live and the good I do will lend beauty to my name as it will to any name.
                
 Sr. Victoria Eisenman , O.S.B.                                      


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Life Lessons from Scrabble

       I love word games and Scrabble is one of my favorites. Most Mondays I play with Sisters David Ruschmann, Margaret Mary Dressman and Estelle Schulte who reside in our infirmary. It is a community-style game, meaning we are free to help each other if the tiles we draw are too challenging.
      As everyone will tell you I’m quite competitive and like winning more than anything. I also like to use good letters, even if they are someone else’s. While we don’t share the points we do share the glory of valuable words.
       So, what are some life lessons I have learned in my recent Scrabble games?

 You don’t always know what you will get in life. That might be people-related or job-related. You might have a day full of vowels (one point values) or a day with the right mix of vowels and consonants (some higher point values). Whatever the combination, you have to make the most of it. Sometimes you can draw from others suggestions; sometimes you are on your own.

           What you plan may have to be adjusted to the circumstances that you don’t control. You have a word in mind but another player takes your spot. I can’t tell you how many times one of us has exclaimed, “She took my spot” before re-examining other necessary possibilities.

Your way is not always accepted as the best way. I’m always looking for the highest scoring spots for myself and the other players. Even when I’ve found a place for someone to use a Q without a U on a double letter space that person will decide to make a four-point word instead. I don’t get it, but she does it. Each of us makes our own way, with or without others' help.


       I’m sure other Scrabble players can think of many other lessons to be learned from their games. I just know I enjoy my time with the sisters and learn from them, whether during Scrabble or at other times.  

            Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A New Beginning for Peace

       September is my month. I have always loved it and looked forward to it even as a child, although it meant the end to summer vacation. My birthday is in September. So to me, it feels like the start of another year, another cycle of living, of leaves falling and warmer clothes donned, a new beginning. Incidentally, the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanah meaning “Head of the Year” and the Islamic New Year  Muharram are observed this year as September 21-22 and 23.
       Among the new beginnings I pray for is a renewed dedication to World Justice and Peace on the part of all of us. Have we ever needed to pray and work for this more? The response to the hurricane damage in our country showed us what harmony we can achieve when we work together for the good of all in need regardless of our differences. But we also have the recent memory of violent clashes between factions of our society who both experience being wronged or threatened by the other. The moral cost is too high when we regard each other as enemies.  Hate and fear cause us to lose a piece of our humanity. We humans have such potential for goodness, truth and love and we have a responsibility that comes with the gift of life to maximize that potential and encourage others to do so.
       Please join me in observing September 21 of this year as the International Day of Peace. See info at http://internationaldayofpeace.org/ . And participate locally in the United in Prayer event 6:00-6:30 PM Covington, KY’s Goeble Park. It is hosted by the Catholic religious women of Northern Kentucky: Benedictine Sisters, Congregation of Divine Providence and Sisters of Notre Dame. (see picture)

      Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Friday, September 15, 2017

Inspired by Psalm 90

To you, O God, I cry.  You are our refuge, age after age.
You are God from all eternity and forevermore.
You, who can turn us back to dust in a single second,
hear our prayer,           
  …for all those…
driven from their dwelling places, plundered by enemies,
swallowed up by the seas, splintered by raging winds  -
For your people of Myanmar, Mozambique, Egypt, Peru,
Kashmir, Darfur, South Sudan, Somali, Afghanistan, Ukraine,
 Iraq, Syria, Texas, Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean Islands, and more…

Up, cry out in the night-time, in the early hours of darkness!
Pour out your heart like water before your Creator,
Stretch your hands to God for the lives of your children.
Little ones and old ones are lying on the ground in the streets;
Virgins and young men have fallen by the sword.
Huge as the Sea is our affliction, who can possibly cure us?
 You, alone, O God.
Open our eyes, ground us in love, and strengthen our will.
Inspire us to act.
 Renew our lives as in times past. 
Then, at sunrise, filled with your mercy,

We will sing your praise and rejoice in your loving kindness!
      Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Nativity of Mary

The New Testament does not give much of a biography of Mary, Mother of God. Seldom does she speak:
  • ·         Be it done to me…
  • ·         Magnificat (from the Canticle of Hannah)
  • ·         Why have you treated us so?
  • ·         They have no wine.
For centuries the Church has filled in the gaps in our understanding. What is fitting and suitable and honorable as we choose words for apt praise of Mary? What just has to be true about Mary? e.g., If Jesus grew in wisdom and stature in their Nazareth home, he did so in the midst of a healthy, loving family. A reasonable assumption.

Mary’s life is celebrated in the liturgy, in dogma, in art, music and poetry, and the homilies and writings of men and women. All these means have entailed making reasonable assumptions about the gaps in the scriptural accounts. Mary now has a wealth of titles and roles, and is shown in many cultural forms. All races and nationalities claim her. Through the work of translators, the storehouses of writings about Mary are open to us.

Anscar Vonier, d. 1938
There will always be the danger for our mind to place Mary’s divine role in a totally unearthly sphere of things, to think of her motherhood as of something belonging to quite another world. With Mary’s motherhood closely related to Elizabeth’s motherhood, we see that Mary is truly a mother in the ordinary human, real, created mode of maternity.

Nicholas Cabasilas, d. 1390
            Just as [Mary] had bestowed her flesh and blood on [Jesus] and had received a share of his graces in return, so in like manner she participated in all his pains and sufferings…And so, after our Savior’s death, she was the first to conform herself to the Son who resembled her and hence she shared in his resurrection before all others.

Thomas of Villanova, d. 1555
For a long time I have been at a loss to understand why the evangelists should have…told us so little about the Virgin Mary, who in life and distinction excels them all…The most important fact of her life, that Jesus was born of her, is enough to tell her whole story.

Ronald Knox, d. 1957
Let us ask our blessed Lady to win for us that continual renewal of strength and holiness
which befits our…destiny. Fresh graces, not soiled by the memory of past failure, fresh
enterprise, to meet the conditions of a changing world; fresh hope, to carry our burdens
beyond…this present world into the changeless repose of eternity.


      With Mary’s birth God’s plan for our salvation came closer to fulfillment. We pray that through her intercession, the Church is renewed in holiness and grace, and in the new life of Christ that grows within.
              Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Let Go and Let God"

             Such a simple statement, but takes us a lifetime to learn it.When I think about it though, it seems that is what life is all about. After all, we let go of infancy to become a child, of childhood to become a teenager, then to become a young adult then to prepare for a career, a job, a vocation, a family, a community, and we build.We accumulate to support what we’ve built.
            Eventually all of that has to go, as we approach the last stage of life.
            Recently I moved from a small house of Sisters to a room at the monastery.You can be sure that a lot of letting go had to happen as I prepared for this change.But it has been a freeing experience as well!
            I let go of my dreams as a community musician as I recycled all the liturgical music I had piled up from meetings and workshops over the years. Old photos were given away. Mementos and souvenirs of travels were read over one more time and discarded.
            At some time we all have to let go of our parents and other family members as they leave this life. Someday, we’ll let go of our own last breath and join them again in eternal life. What a reunion that will be! It’s a good thing that eternity lasts forever, there are so many people I want to meet, including my favorite saints and composers, our Blessed Mother and of course, to be embraced by Jesus Himself!
            Until that day, I’m able to reconcile diminishing physical abilities, and the various tasks I was able to do so easily. I read The Grace of Aging by Kathleen Singh; Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years is on my shelf for constant referral. These books helped me to THINK POSITIVE. But best of all is the example of the elderly Sisters I live with now: their compassion for one another, their patient endurance, their assisting one another, their cheerfulness under difficulties are such a powerful lesson for me, every day!
            And so I let go of the past, while remembering it with gratitude, and I welcome the present, the reality of old age and the blessings which I’m now discovering. Let God in and see what surprises He has for me. There is so much to learn every day!

            Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB