Wednesday, December 28, 2011

“Behold I Make All Things New.” (Rev. 21:5)

     I always enjoy the celebration of the New Year because of my association with the word new. I have been practicing my resolution for 2012 for about a month, and it has given me a new outlook on life. It is the practice of remembering not just the New Year, but every new day and every new moment . It requires much discipline to follow this practice, but it is very rewarding. 
     Scripture abounds with the word new. It occurs numerous times in the Old and New Testament and at least eight times in the Psalms. A common line in the Psalms is, “Sing a new song to the Lord.” How many times have I sung, “Sing a new song to the Lord?” At first I asked myself how I could sing a new song numerous times and find it new. Of course it is new. I’m singing it on a new day at a new moment with the new self with which I awoke this morning. The last time I sang this song is gone forever and so I sing it with new awareness and a renewed heart. Being in touch with the new moment and with the succeeding new moments of the each day can be life changing.  Indeed I am always singing a new song!                                               
     Keeping in touch with the newness of everything I do makes me conscious of the presence of the Lord in each new task. It helps me be aware that everything I do and everything I say needs to be for the glory of God.    
      Sr. Victoria Eisenman, OSB

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas shopping, Advent and Monastic Life

     December 17 is the day the O Antiphons begin. I look forward to Dec. 17-23 when we chant these hauntingly beautiful antiphons at the Magnificat. 
     The timing of the first antiphon, “O Wisdom”, signals to me that it is time to do Christmas shopping. I put it off for two reasons: one, so that I might remain immersed in the Advent spirit as long as possible and not be barraged by Frosty the Snowman in the stores; two, because I need the pressure of dwindling days. 
     I make a list—it isn’t long—and even list stores to visit. I plan out a driving route that makes sense and set out. Every year my experience is similar. In the first couple stores my targeted gifts do not exist. Well, the evening is early, I think, and the stores are open late. I proceed on. Then I find something. Just perfect. And beyond what I am willing or able to pay. I stand there in the store and have a monastic experience. You are a sister with a limited budget. Poverty is a real commitment. But the temptation to overspend is there. The prices and the bustle around me are daunting. I have stood in this aisle for 15 minutes! Do I look as poor as I feel? Will this lesser gift be ok? Whose standards do I use? 
     And is this even a monastic experience of poverty, or rather a common one among those who have little? By the time I finish shopping I have had to wrestle with my commitment, the true meaning of being poor and being rich, and my guilt over bypassing the Salvation Army bellringer. I know what I am in for, and the 17th will be here soon. 
        Sr. Christa Kreinbrink,, OSB

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe

       On Monday, the 12th of December I participated in the Mass at our local Spanish parish for the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. Who is Our Lady of Guadalupe? “She is one of us” responded my Mexican-American friend. This really piqued my reflection on this Feastday of Mary.  The features of Our Lady of Guadalupe reflect her identity with the Indigenous peoples of the Americas which for me is a visual reminder that we are all sisters and brothers not because of ethnic origins, but because we are rooted in the soil of our sister- countries.
       Mary is our mother, our sister, our friend. Our Lady, the Mother of God, is one of us, walking with us on our journey, sharing our burdens and our joys, attending the births of our babies and of our hopes, rejoicing in our celebrations, sitting at the bedsides of the sick and elderly, weeping at graves of our loved ones and of our dreams. For me the relationship with Mary is personal. I see her as taking my concerns to God with an understanding beyond my limited words. She just “knows” and it is enough to just trust that she is holding my heart in her own.
       The Church guides us to see that we also have a communal relationship with Mary by praying that “all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of people in the ways of justice and peace.” Indeed, the Virgin of Guadalupe makes us one by being one of us. How can we fail to share each others’ sorrows and joys, to work for justice and seek peace and happiness for everyone in our family?
                        Sr. Dorothy Schuette, O.S.B.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Give comfort...
Speak tenderly...
Prepare the way...
Today...and today...and today...
          this man
          this woman
          this child
Until Christ comes...  in glory!
           Sr. Sharon Portwood, OSB

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent: the season of rich promise

     Advent, from the Latin adventus, coming, is a joyous season in the church year. The long, dark winter nights are conducive to silence and reflection. The liturgy is rich in symbolism and heavy with meaning. Two of my favorite antiphons coming at the end of Advent beautifully express the sense of the season. On December 21 at morning prayer the liturgy consoles and assures us with the promise, “Do not be afraid; in five days our Savior will appear.” You can count on it! I have always loved that antiphon and each year I look forward to praying it. It expresses the hope and expectation that is characteristic of Advent. It stirs in me memories of the excitement I felt as a child counting the days for Santa to come. At morning prayer on December 24 we pray “Today you will know that the Savior is coming and in the morning you will see the glory of God.” Today is translated from the Latin, hodie, which means this day, in the present, now. This day you will know; in the morning you will see. As I write an inner voice responds, “I can hardly wait!”             
     Be watchful, be alert, be prepared. Rejoice, Jesus is coming. The church places this heightened language on our lips during Advent as we await the threefold comings of Jesus Christ that Christmas celebrates: his birth at Bethlehem, his coming in glory at the end of time and his presence among us now. Perhaps the excitement and anticipation leading to the Christmases of my childhood were preparing me for a richer Advent today and for the truly amazing gift that Christmas proclaims and celebrates.
                                 Sr. Justina Franxman, OSB

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cultivate Gratitude and Thanksgiving

     In the past on Thanksgiving Day, I would spontaneously journal pages naming people and events that filled my heart with a deep sense of gratitude and joy. My Benedictine family, my familial family, friends, happy celebrations and the goodness and beauty of the creation were all recorded in joyful detail. These are items which most folks include in their list of gratefulness.
     Recently in reading some excerpts of noted theologian Henri Nouwen's writings on gratitude, a whole new dimension of gratitude as a discipline to be cultivated on a daily basis reopened to me. A gratitude which involves praising God for all events in our lives including painful and adverse happenings, which have formed and shaped us into the beings we are today. Nouwen's teaching on this revolves around the fact that God's sanctifying grace is what gifts us, prunes us, and reshapes us to the point where we can say everything is grace. Without acceptance of this grace a daily basis and relying completely on it, we will never become truly fruitful and fulfilled members of the Body of Christ.
     Benedictine brother David Steindle-Rast is another author who has extensive writings and teaching on gratefulness as an attitude where we never take life for granted, always aware of God's grace working with us. The website, has many added thoughts and suggestions on the attitude of gratitude.
     In conclusion: let us give thanks to the Lord of goodness for God is lasting love. Ps. 107.
                                                               Sr. Joan Gripshover, OSB

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Days

     When I think of November days I think “gray and drizzly” but today is a sunny, clear November day. While some of the trees have lost every leaf others have just turned a magnificent crimson or burnt orange. Now what do I think of November days? 
     I’m forced to admit that there are no “standard” November days. Each day brings its own goodness, its own trials and its own opportunities. As a teacher every day is new and different: every lesson, every student, every activity, every colleague. 
     I think e.e. cummings was right when he wrote in one of my favorite poems:
                 “I thank you god for most this amazing day …” 
     As each day comes, let’s be amazed.  Whether it is a bright day or a dim one; whether people are positive or negative, it is an amazing day. Let’s make it the best day ever.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life as Vacation and Journey

     Life is a journey. This phrase struck me forcefully at the funeral of one of our sisters recently. Many people spoke of her journey.
    Whenever I think of a journey, I think of a vacation. On a vacation we travel to many interesting places. We see beautiful sights.  We have wonderful experiences. We meet many kinds of people. But, the vacation journey has to end sometime. When it ends, we go home. Is our life’s journey on earth like a vacation of sorts? We travel through life, see beautiful sights, have wonderful experiences and meet all kinds of people. 
      But, it has to come to an end. No matter how great the vacation was for me, I am always glad to be home. At the end of life’s journey we go home to God. Home to God’s welcoming arms. Glad to have been on the (vacation) journey. Happy to be home!   Sr. Kathleen Ryan, OSB

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

St. Walburg Monastery's Great Cloud of Witnesses

     Daily at Evening Prayer this community intercedes for its deceased--Sisters, relatives, friends--with  special reminder of of a Sister who died on that particular day. Each time we enter chapel from the infirmary we pass two large charts of necrology, a listing of the dead who served God and this community. The first death occurred in 1863; the last in September, 2011--a total of 286 sisters! My life in this community has brought me into contact, one way or another with 196 of these women. Sr. Mary Jane Andrews died in 1945 and Sr. Ruth Yost in 2011. A favorite early morning or late afternoon walk takes me to our cemetery located up the road behind the monastery. It is a place of peace, quiet and beauty. But as we celebrate the the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, a trip to our cemetery becomes for me an annual pilgrimage. It is so easy to remember!

     A short walk shows, in the distance, the crucifixion sculpture, a gift of the St.Walburg Academy alumnae in 1930. It tops the hillside and overlooks all the graves below and around. First to be buried in this cemetery was Mother Walburga Saelinger, second prioress of St.Walburg Monastery, who died in 1928. those who preceded her in death are buried in Mother of God cemetery in Latonia, and their names are engraved on a plaque near the crucifixion scene. A casual walk among the graves and frequent stops at special markers revive memories and deepest appreciation of my early Benedictine teachers at Holy Cross and my monastic community at St. Walburg's. A private pilgrimage in these early days of November makes me feel part of that "great cloud of witnesses" spoken of in Hebrews 12:1 into which, with the grace of God and the help of my monastic community, I hope to join. After all St. Benedict prays in Chapter 72 of the Rule that Christ may lead us all together to everlasting life.
                                                                                 Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vowed Life as a Benedictine

     At a recent Listen retreat held here at St. Walburg Monastery some of the young women wanted to know more about "vowed life." The topic is broad and may seem a little abstract. I interpret it in a Benedictine sense.
     "Vowed life" means consecrated life or a religious vocation. Both terms refer to a person's response to God by way of a public promise or profession. For Benedictines that includes the community confirmation of her profession to live and grow together in a lifelong relationship with God.
     For Benedictines "vowed life" means participation in a continuing communal commitment to Christ. Benedictines publicly profess three monastic vows which guide and free us to live together and love wholeheartedly. The three monastic vows are: Stability in a particular monastic community, which supports a woman's celibacy; Obedience according to the norms of the Gospel, the rule of Benedict and the Federation's Constitutions. Obedience is shown by the sister's living response to her prioress, her sisters, and the Church with its chief pastor, the Pope; Fidelity to the monastic way of life, which means living out Gospel values with single-heartedness, turning from self-centeredness, and holding all goods in common with her sisters. Common ownership as an effect of Benedictine monastic profession means that we provide for and share life with one another.
     Benedictines give priority to prayer and community because this is where our lifelong search for God happens. We structure our lives to support these essential elements and our mission "to serve Christ in the young and the old, the sick and the poor, the stranger and the guest." Since formation takes place in the center of the community's life, the monastery provides for each member's growth and well-being, physical, spiritual, social, emotional, educational and professional.
      As you see, "vowed life" is a broad topic and involves several other concepts, like authority, belonging, talents, individuality, personalities, relationships, abilities, collaboration, cooperation, etc. Because the long Benedictine tradition of vowed life is an unique call to practical reverences, adaptability and hospitality, these topics are relevant daily.    Sr. Martha Walther, OSB

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where are the women who want to seek God in prayer, community and service??

     I’ve just spent parts of the past two days with over fifty leaders of women’s religious institutes from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. In our discussions it was clear that we believe in the choice we each made years ago to join a religious community—in my case, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery. We are faithful to our baptismal call, to the Gospel, our rule, charism, constitutions and perpetual profession. We are formed in the tradition of complete self-donation. We believe the Church needs and desires such commitment. 
     We know our median ages and our dwindling numbers. As individuals we will die one day. Our communities may die too, but we don’t believe that has to happen. We wonder, “Are there women who aspire to give totally of themselves to seek for God in prayer, community and service to others? If there are, tell them about us. If not, why not? We and the Church want to know.
      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall: the season of letting go

As I watch signs of fall appearing on the monastery grounds I find myself delighting in the splashes of color, the deer eating the acorns under the oaks, and the crispness of the morning air.   These signs occur at unexpected moments, giving me pause to ponder God’s creation and the value of the little experiences.   It is these little experiences which bring a joy that pierces the daily and reminds me of the possibility for beauty amidst change and transition.  Perhaps it is this bittersweet quality of fall which makes it among my favorite seasons.  Like fall, life is about the journey and transitions; about finding beauty and joy even as what is now is letting go for what is to be.  So as fall continues to unfold I pray that you may find moments which bring you joy and a deeper awareness of God’s presence both within and around you. Sr. Kimberly Porter

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Breaking New Ground

     When a series of anything begins, something has to come first. This St. Walburg blog will be a series of reflections, and I was asked to initiate it. 
 Having been around more than 70 years and in community more than 50, I’ve experienced many firsts, sometimes by chance, other times by choice, mine or someone else’s. For me, being first usually brings at least a touch of fear. What do I fear? Risk? Responsibility? Success? Failure?  I found a clue in something Pablo Picasso observed: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” Going first or taking a chance is a creative act, so something has to die. 
     Life itself can be seen as an act of continuous creating and re-creating, of dying and rising; in this regard, monastic life is no different. There’s a saying that in order for something to stay true to itself, it has to change. This is because its context, the world and the societies in it, is always changing. For example, over the past 1500 years Benedict and his thousands of followers have continually recreated the monastic journey, re-shaping the familiar and time-worn to fit into each  new environment, each  new age. 
     When the world we know is beset with one crisis piled on another, as seems to happen often in our time, the pressure to hold on to the familiar in the face of drastic change is huge. To remain in a comfort zone, however, is frequently not an option; stepping out into something new has to be faced. In doing this, some kind of risk is usually unavoidable. The challenge can be daunting, but if we let it, hope is its companion. 
     Not all re-creation is drastic or even dramatic, but each day brings opportunity, even demand for dealing with something in a way we hadn’t planned. As we mature we try to learn how to adjust our vision and expectations when life changes around us. My hope is that the series of reflections readers find in this blog will shed light on some of today’s joys and challenges. One writer’s thoughts might give bit of hope in a tough time; another might reveal ways to experience hidden delights easily missed in the daily rush. At any rate, may the words found in this space help readers more easily know the loving God who is our companion with every step, whether the path is well worn or one needing to be newly broken. 
                                                                                                                        Colleen Winston, OSB

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery Blog

     This is a new endeavor for the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery. The title comes from the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, verse 45, in which Benedict says, "Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord's service." And we intend to share some reflections from our lives in the school of the monastery. In this blog you will hear the voices of many sisters in the community and we hope that you will enjoy the diversity of this group of women who seek God together.    
     We look upon this endeavor as an extension of the traditional monastic virtue of hospitality and invite you to share in our prayer, our work and our journey together.   Sr. Deborah Harmeling, OSB