Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Between the Rooster and Keys

              A rooster and key(s) are often present in sculptures and paintings of St. Peter. These symbols represent both the struggle and the glory of Peter’s life. These images resonate with me and after some reflection I have come to think of them as being on a continuum. Each day brings with it an opportunity to move forward in love towards God, to become more fully the person whom God is calling me into being. Or I back away through my thoughts, words or actions by denying God, self or others. Even in my moments of denial I know that God is there, ready to forgive and draw me in closer once again.
                It is in the small daily choices that I move along the continuum.When I lend a helping hand, listen compassionately, share generously my skills, or find a common ground with another person I move closer to God and create a positive impact. In my impatience, anger, fear or indifference I trend towards the denial, my own version of Peter’s rooster.

 It is in these moments of denial, I pray for a gut reaction or stirring of compassion which startles me and moves my denial towards love. I also pray for the humility to allow myself to be forgiven and loved into fully being. In our humanness we learn and grow  It is in our humanness that we realize we are wired for connection with each other. May we all grow in our awareness of our connectedness and move towards our own keys which bring forth compassion, love and healing for us all.
Sr. Kimberly Porter, OSB

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Follow St. Benedict

       In his Rule, St. Benedict counsels his followers to "pray and work." He further advises them to "love one another in charity" by practicing "good zeal with the most fervent love."
       As I pray and work in God's world today, Benedict reminds me "never to despair of God's mercy and to desire eternal life with all passion of the spirit."
      How do these words affect my life now? In my daily life as a Benedictine sister I am challenged to pray and work in a monastic community, to be present, to communicate, to serve, to love and live out my Benedictine profession.
       I am grateful to God daily for this call, and I hope to celebrate it for years to come.
       Sr. Martha Walther, OSB

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Memory and Message of God’s Grandeur

       Today is the anniversary of Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ death in 1889. Seeing a reminder of this fact brought to mind a poem of his that was shared with our class in high school many years ago. Perhaps you had this experience too:

God’s Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things:
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy ghost over the bent World broods
with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

       This is probably the only poem of Father Hopkins that I half-way understand. Like abstract art, it conveys to me reality through the feelings, the images he names with such care. This piece makes me feel awe at the beauty and indestructibility of this World (NB: He capitalizes the word in the ending verse unlike the beginning verse.) At the same time the realism of “man’s smudge” and “smell” does not allow me to avoid my responsibility of caring for creation.

       Thank you, Gerard Manley Hopkins for the beauty and hope you have given us!
       Sr. Dorothy Schuette, OSB

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Founders Day

       Today (June 1) we honor the Benedictine women who arrived from Erie PA to establish a Benedictine community in Covington, Ky. (We usually celebrate the feast on June 3 but this year we transferred it to June 1 because the Feast of the Sacred Heart falls on June 3.)  Three sisters arrived at St. Joseph Parish on June 3, 1859. They were the third group of Benedictines to establish a community in the United States. It may be interesting background to note that the first Benedictines to arrive in the United States from Eichstatt, Germany in 1852 settled in Elk County, PA. In 1856, a group from Elk County established a monastery in Erie, PA, the community of our direct origin. 
       On June 3, 1859, three sisters from Erie, PA, arrived at St. Joseph Parish. These sisters lived in a rented house on Bush Street with few possessions and only a genuine trust in God to sustain them. It is hard to imagine the hardships they faced in a new land with a new language, and little preparation for teaching the children of Covington’s German immigrants’ girls’ school.  How grateful they were that the parishioners of St. Joseph Parish came to their aid with food and clothing. 
       Only two months after their arrival Mother Alexia Lechner (pictured below) was sent as prioress. We give special honor to her as we celebrate our Founders Day. In addition we celebrate the many forebears who planted the seeds and tended the foundation of the monastery we dearly love and call home today. 
       The first reading for today’s Mass from the book of Hebrews honors our forebears well by comparing their faith to that of Noah, Abel, Abraham, and Jacob. We ask God for a similar faith and ask their intercession as we seek to respond to God’s call today. We ask that God continue in us the good work God began in them.        
        As I wrote this blog, I began to feel closer to Mother Alexia and our early forebears than ever before. I attended elementary school at St. Joseph Parish where the founders of our community arrived. It was from the Sisters at St. Joseph School that the first seeds of my vocation were sown. Praise God—a personal reason for me to celebrate!

Sister Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tender Hearted Love

       Not long ago our chaplain made the comment: “The Church celebrates a feast in which we celebrate the Sacred Heart. Have you noticed there are no feasts that celebrate the sacred brain or the sacred gut?!” The heart is seen as the center of love.
       In the reading today from St. Peter’s letter, we are exhorted to “love one another intensely from a pure heart.” Peter knew something about having a pure heart. Through Peter’s many encounters with Jesus, some of them quite intense he learned about the meaning of love.
      I think particularly of the encounter between Jesus and Peter occurring post resurrection. The scene took place “following breakfast.” Jesus asks Peter directly and deliberately three times “Do you love me?” Asking three times perhaps is a reminder to Peter of his recent betrayal. Jesus’ response to Peter, however,  was not a reprimand but one of wanting him to take action – a doing of the word. The first and third time Jesus said “Feed my sheep” and the second time “Tend my sheep” – behaviors that demonstrate Jesus’ tender hearted love.               Acting with kindness, compassion, patience, doing of the corporal works of mercy are deeds that reveal one having a pure heart that leads one to greater love of the Sacred Heart.
        Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Sense of Past and Future

For everything there is a season…God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds…Ecclesiastes 8:3; 11.

       Our founding sisters came to Covington in 1859 and by 1890 they had erected St. Walburg Monastery and Academy. 1903 the community bought property in what is now Villa Hills, KY where we built Villa Madonna Academy and our present monastery. Between 1922 and 1947 we bought neighboring farms, and we ran a full farm until 1967. During the years between 1964 and 2016 we opened Villa Madonna Montessori (’72) in the old dairy barn, developed Madonna Manor (’64). In 2008 we transferred the Manor to the Sylvania Franciscans in order to further its mission and service to the elderly. 
      During the past four years, with the help of the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO), the community has engaged in future planning. Today our plans call us to sell some of our land to secure our community’s continued presence, service and outreach in our neighborhood and in the Church. Selling isn’t easy for us as you might imagine, but we know what we need to do. 

       Decision making in a Benedictine community is very serious business. In our monastery we meet, talk, meet, talk, meet and talk until we are ready to decide. Collaborating, working together, takes time and bears good fruit. During this time of decision making we have also been blessed with the help of the staff of the Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS) and the administrators of the City of Villa Hills who respect our planning process. 
      We appreciate the interest and concerns of our friends, the citizens of Villa Hills, the new acquaintances we are making during this process and those who have offered to help us as we move into the future. We will keep all of you in our prayers and pray that God will bless you for your support and friendship..

      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Prayer for Renewal Pentecost, 2016

                                                Spirit of Jesus,
Lord of our lives…
Come, dwell
within us  anew.

Open our eyes
help us to see
in your presence,
our blindness
and your vision.

our stumbling gait,
our faltering will,
that we might
serve you still

through our dying

and our rising,

hand in hand,
heart to heart,
with you.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB