Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Feast of Our Lady of Ransom (de Mercede)

       It’s my first blog – and it comes on the feast day celebrated by one of our Sisters for many years, Sr. Mercedes.
        When I first met her, I was an eighth grader at St. Henry, and she was a first year teacher there, barely twenty years old, maybe even nineteen. (Sisters went out early in those days to parish schools.) Very likely she was the youngest Sister of all of them at our school, and I was drawn to her, especially on the days when she had “hall duty” in the old gray frame school building. I would go in during noon recess, and ply her with questions: What’s it like to be a Sister? When did you first start to think about it? How did you know it was the right thing to do? Are you happy? Do you like it? What do you do after school? Where did you go to grade school? Where did you go to high school?
          She patiently answered all my questions, and I was hooked.I became ever more sure that I too wanted to be a Sister and teach children like she did. Truthfully though, it was all the Sisters at St. Henry who fascinated me in those days. I had Sisters as teachers since first grade; my piano teacher was a Sister. She taught me to play the organ for parish Masses and rosary devotions, and the Sisters came up in the choir loft to sing. They impressed me as good people, happy people, in love with Jesus, with God’s work. And I so wanted to be like that!
           Now, sixty-five years later, I am grateful.  But what about our eighth graders today?  What are their questions?
            Sr. Mary Carol Hellmann, OSB

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Lessons from My Mother

       When the schedule for us bloggers came out this summer I saw my turn for today and I thought I would write about my new position as treasurer and how I am adjusting to not teaching after 40+ years.  That thought changed on August 1. 
       On August 1, my mother went into surgery for a routine procedure at 1:30 in the afternoon, something that several sisters had had with great results.  At 2:00 the nurse came out to tell my brother and me that they couldn't finish the procedure and that the doctor would talk to us. We thought that they would just do the procedure a couple days later. When the doctor came out of the room the chaplain was with him. We knew that this was not a normal problem with her procedure.   My mother’s heart had stopped and she had been revived. She was unconscious and on a ventilator.
       Naturally we were shaken but called our sister and brother who came to the ICU right away. After several hours watching Mom struggle even with the ventilator we made the decision to remove it. While we knew this was her wish it was a traumatic decision for us. She was able to breathe on her own overnight but with no hope of recovery. She was moved to hospice and lived for about four hours. She peacefully breathed her last in the early hours of August 3.
       I have learned so much since her death and her funeral. The support and love of so many friends, community members and family in the days that followed was overwhelming. I received letters from former neighbors and Villa Madonna alumni, from former Villa parents and Mom’s friends whom I had never met.
       Those who knew her praised her kindness and generous spirit. She would have been humbled to hear their comments. She didn't live her life to be honored; she lived it to be a good person and live the teachings of love she learned from her earliest days in her Catholic family and school.
       Another lesson that stays with me especially is that “we never know what each day will bring.” I can only hope that I will have lived my life as well as Mom and will be ready when that day comes. As we finished clearing out Mom’s apartment, my brother said, “I can’t believe that it’s over.” Her earthly life may be over, but Mom lives on in our memories and in the lives we now live as she taught us. 
       Sr. Nancy Kordenbrock, OSB

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vade Mecum

     Whenever I leave the monastery overnight I always take a paperback bible with me. This bible also serves as a collector of various notes or messages I’ve randomly received. When I opened it this morning in the Great Smokey Mountains I re-found a birthday gift (the reused front of a note card!) from a deceased member of our community, Sr. Anne Beard. Her gift was a list of seldom used words, the first being vade mecum: walk with me.
     Over the past few weeks the community and I have been walking with another member of the community who is walking with her own serious health issues. It’s what we do—walk together with each other. God’s gifts are good—even the hard ones.
      Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, OSB 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Resilience and the Providence of God

       As one ages, it is a blessing and comfort always to be mindful of God’s loving providence. A day or so before the beginning of this year’s annual retreat in a casual conversation relating to a community survey, I could not recall the name of a magazine cited in the survey. A day later an issue of WEAVINGS focusing on Resilience, appeared in my mailbox.
       Retreat with its leisurely schedule of talks, prayer, silence and time for reflecting reading enabled me to absorb excellent articles, especially on by Robert Mulholland entitled “Resilience, a rhythm of life hid in Christ.” Mulholland roots his words in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:6-7: In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your minds in Christ Jesus. Mulholland then develops clearly and movingly five rhythms—prayer, supplication, thankfulness, requesting and centeredness in God
       As we moved through retreat concentrating on the Rule of Benedict, this message from Paul hung over and around me. I compared the translation of 4:6-7 in various sources, my New American Bible and commentaries. As the retreat progressed, Fr. Joel Rippinger, OSB in one of his talks cited Genesee Diary. the personal account of Henri Nouwen’s seven month sojourn with the Trappist monks of Genesee Abbey. I had read this book earlier in the 1970’s, interested because I had visited Gethsemane in Kentucky. Also I was acquainted with John Eudes Bamberger’s family from Holy Cross Parish, the church of my youth. I decided to re-read the book.
       After these many years, I was grateful to meet Henri Nouwen again in his struggle for resilience. How did God’s providence work here? Nouwen’s diary entry for Sunday, September 1, 1974 (p. 107) says but if there is anything you need, pray for it asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving and that peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. And Nouwen concludes, That must be enough for me. (And for me as well!)
               I shall remember and reflect on Phil 4:6-7—a sign of God’s providence at this special time in my life.

                              Sr. Andrea Collopy, OSB