Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May you find God's peace and joy in your lives as you celebrate the birth of Jesus and as you ring in the new year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Party

Though we may still be in the Advent season liturgically, many are beginning to look ahead and celebrate Christmas. My deanery* did just that last night. We had appetizers and desserts and enjoyed each others company. We told stories of Christmas' past and played a couple Christmas games.

Pictured are (from the left): Sisters Michelle Catherine (me), Mary Carmen, Martha Marie, Mary Agnes, Michelle W., Mary L., LaVerne, Mary Carmel, Mary Austin, and Rosa Lee.

*Deanery means small living group. We have 173 sisters in our community and 108 of us live here at Ferdinand. Though we pray and eat as a whole big group, for some celebrations and gathering in the evenings we do so in our smaller deaneries. We often visit other groups, too though. My deanery is 5 East and we are 10 sisters. The other deaneries not here at Ferdinand are called mission deaneries and they are generally located in towns and cities within a 3 hour radius of Ferdinand.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

These pictures are of Newgrange, which is one of the passage tombs in County Meath, Ireland. It is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world and the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. Newgrange was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, a narrow beam of sunlight for a very short time illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of the long passageway. I find this a fascinating place, one for it sheer oldness, being over 5,000 years old and two for the ingenuity of those ancient people to figure out how to build such a structure to catch the suns rays as a way of finding hope on the bleakest of days. Click here to read more about Newgrange.

On this, the shortest day of the year, take heart and look for the light. We likely will not see it come through a little opening of an ancient structure but we will see it all around us in the people who surround us. How appropriate that this day always falls during our liturgical season of Advent, when we are watching and waiting for The Light. As we make our way through this day we also are encouraged that after this day the days begin to get longer and we can look forward to spring!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are You Ready for the Ride?

With children, you have to be ready for anything! Sometime between our 9 am Christmas program and our 7 pm Christmas program, Santa lost his pants. Fortunately, he wasn't wearing them at the time. In the morning he had on the whole Santa outfit, but in the evening, he wore a red suit with blue pants. He still looked great and did a good job spreading Christmas cheer. They were later found in his backpack.

Today at Mass, the server I had just taught wasn't there and the cantor who had been practicing was also absent. In every ministry, it's good to always have a plan B and a C and a D . . . In teaching flexibility is the name of the game.

This all ties into Advent, don't you think - where what we are waiting for doesn't come as we expect. What we think will happen is turned upside down. Sounds like life in general. You never know what twists and turns are ahead. Here's praying that whatever comes our way, God may always be at the center.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Seeing Double Christmas Joy

No, this is not a double exposure, they are our identical twin sister, sisters. Sister Mary Carmen (left) and Sister Mary Carmel (right) can be found all over the place here at the monasery. You may find them working in the flowerbeds all over the grounds, inside decorating for Christmas, outside decorating for Christmas, any number of places cleaning, or maybe in the Simply Divine bakery helping bake cookies. They seem to be anywhere and everywhere and it's not just because there are two of them. For being 83 years old, they seem to have a boundless amount of energy, though you will find them sitting down when there is a Notre Dame or Indianapolis Colts football game on - yet even then, they will probably have cross stitch in their hands stitching away as they watch the game.

Blessings on the rest of your Advent! May it be a graced time of holy darkness and radiant light. In the waiting may you find your Jesus!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reflection on Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe by Sister Mary Ann Verkamp, OSB

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6, 10ab; Luke 1:39-47

Reflection by Sister Mary Ann Verkamp
Monastery librarian, chauffeur, gift shop staff
Some of us may think this is a Mexican feast, however, Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared “Patroness of the Americas” by Pope Pius XII in 1946. I personally like to think of her as “Mother of the Marginalized.”

In 1531 Mary appeared to a marginalized Indian peasant and said that she wanted to be known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Many people today do not know the origin of the word “Guadalupe.” Some believe that our Lady used the Aztec Nahuatl word of “coatlaxopeuh,” which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and sounds like the Spanish word Guadalupe. “Coa” means serpent; “tla” can be translated as “the,” and “xopeuh” means to crush. So Our Lady called herself the “one who crushes the serpent.”

This title fits perfectly with today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation. The woman is in a truly difficult situation but the forces of evil are destroyed by God’s saving power. In the Gospel passage from Luke, Mary is presented as the true believer in God’s protective love especially for the poor.

Let us implore Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede for us, for our nation and our world.

Mother of the homeless, pray for us
Mother of the unemployed, pray for us
Mother of the uninsured, pray for us
Mother of all immigrants, pray for us
Mother of all people with disabilities, pray for us
Mother of all on death row, pray for us
Mother of all victims of war, pray for us

We come before you, dear Lady of Guadalupe, to ask you to teach us how to crush the evil of discrimination, alienation, indifference, and aversion for certain persons and groups of people in our society. May we be God’s handmaid and proclaim the Lord’s greatness as we strive to bring all people under your protective mantle.
Click here for more reflections on the Advent readings on our web page.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Santa's Elves are busy at the monastery!

Santa's elves are not just at the North Pole these days. Many of the sisters have gone to Santa Claus, Indiana (about seven miles from here) to help Santa answer the many, many letters he has received this year. Santa is really, really busy and he can use all the help he can get these days. I had the priviledge of helping Santa with some of his mail. Some of the letters that Santa has received are from children who want everything. Their lists are so long! Others are from children who say things like, "Anything you bring me, Santa, will be fine with me. I have some used toys down in my basement. If you'd like to take these to give to other children, that would be fine with me, too." What a giving spirit this child has! Some letters are so sad. The children say things like: "All I want for Christmas is for my Dad to come home from Iraq so we can all be together." Some tell about their parents being out of work and how down and out their family is right now. Some of the letters come from adults who don't have much and are afraid their children will be disappointed this Christmas. Some are asking for help so they can have a nice meal for their Christmas dinner, or for help with their utilities or other bills.

May God bless all the children and their families this Christmas in a special way. May they know our love for them and may they find joy in their hearts and homes not only during this holy season but throughout the coming year. May those who have, be willing to share with those who are in need. May those in need have the courage and strength to reach out for the help they need and not lose heart. May all of us have generous hearts and be willing to share with those around us. May we look to Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, to give us hope. And may God bless all the elves as they give Santa Claus a helping hand with all his mail!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gathering Scattered December

This weekend I met with my spiritual director. I told her how my sense of discipline has flown out the window lately, and she responded with a grin, "'Scattered' is the name of the game in December." In a season where Advent calls us to get it together and be prepared for the coming of Christ, finishing a semester of teaching, preparing finals, and getting cards, gifts, music, and travel plans ready for Christmas seem to spiral everything outward. My desire for inward order is working against the laws of entropy, apparently.

Yesterday I attempted to gather the scattered forces together. I took some extra time for sleep, extra time for personal prayer, and extra time for doing some art. I exercised and ate properly. Usually people make resolutions for the new year in January. Our new liturgical year started two weeks ago, though, so I figure, why not recommit to resolutions now? I will make more time for prayer. I will remain faithful to exercising and eating healthily. I will make time for art. Monastic life is about balance and discipline in the little things.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tricky Words

I recently heard "The Little Drummer Boy" on the radio. I love that song and can certainly relate to the message. Last year I had the students sing it for the Christmas program at school. It was getting close to the performance, so I asked the 3rd graders what they needed help on. One boy responded, "Everything but the pa rum pum pum pum part."

This year the 2nd grade teacher was getting her students ready for the Immaculate Conception Mass. Instead of reading "A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians," he read, "A Reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Amphibians."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I cannot believe that it is already Advent, much less December. It feels like the last few months have gone by at breakneck speed and that I am sitting here staring down winter. The branches here are pretty much bare, and they seem to claw at the leaden sky. While I join everyone in Advent waiting, in preparing my mind and heart to receive Christ, I know that I am also waiting for spring, for the new life that bursts forth from cold earth and barren trees. I am waiting for the days to lengthen and for the sun to once again play among the leaves and blossoms.
As I write this, I have to ask myself, "Am I waiting and longing for Christ in the same way that I am longing for spring?" While I would like to think that I am, the waiting and longing takes on a different meaning when I compare it to my longing for spring. Christ is our light. If I am waiting and longing for Christ as I am for the sun, I am waiting and longing for the light of Christ to fill my heart -- so that even in the dead of winter I am bathed in light. Somehow that is comforting yet challenging at the same time. If I am living as one who experiences that light, how will that change my relationships with others and with God?

Monday, December 1, 2008


Advent is also my favorite time of the year. I love the music and the waiting and preparing for Christ coming. I am also enjoying teaching Advent to my 4th graders. I want them to get excited for Jesus coming. I want to help them understand that there is more to Christmas than getting presents. I teach in a Catholic school and I think it is great that we don't put up any Christmas decorations until the last week before break. This is a great time to be all about Advent. Have a Blessed Advent!

New Beginnings

Yesterday was the first day of this new Advent season. I just LOVE Advent. It is my favorite liturgical season. Advent is not a word that you will find in many shopping ads. Not many people get excited about Advent, like I do. It is a season full of meaning and symbolism. The prayers of Advent touch each person that may be walking in some kind of darkness and yet awaiting and anticipating light. It is a time for us to hear quiet whispers in our lives of a God gently calling us from darkness into light. Advent is a reminder of how we need this light more than ever in our own lives.

Speaking of new beginnings - today is also another new beginning for me - the beginning of another year of life. Thirty-nine years ago I began my life outside my mother's womb. It was a struggle for us both in that I came out backwards with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. But, by the grace of God I am here! I am thankful for my parents who brought me into this world and raised me. Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Experiencing Christ

As we enter into the season of Advent, a time of watchfulness and expectation for the coming of Jesus, I'm reminded of a story that Sr. Mary Mark told. She used to work with mentally handicapped children and started a school in Memphis called Madonna Learning Center. She had taken a group of students to the St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, IN for a tour. One of the students walked away from the group and went up to the balcony. She then shouted with a loud voice, "Jesus is going to be here in 10 minutes!" I know if I had been there, I certainly would have stuck around.

Jesus is already present among us. We experience this presence in the Word, in the Eucharist, in those around us, in ourselves, in nature, and in countless other ways. Are we aware of this presence? Do we not only treat others as Christ, but also honor the Christ within ourselves and treat ourselves with respect? What are ways that you have experienced Christ's presence?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I am thankful for:
1. Friends near and far
2. My Benedictine community
3. My parents
4. My siblings
5. My nieces & nephews
6. My great niece and great nephew
7. Love
8. A listening ear in time of need
9. Sunny days
10. Morning frost
11. A star-filled night sky
12. My faith
13. Good health
14. Food on the table
15. Flowers
16. House plants
17. Computers
18. Internet to stay in touch
19. Heat
20. A warm, comfortable bed
21. People to look up to
22. All who support our community
23. Teachers & mentors who have helped me along the way
24. Children
25. Prayer
26. Freedom
27. Common sense
28. My vocation to religious life
29. Smiles
30. Tears
31. Laughter
32. Music

Just off the top of my head!

For what are you thankful? Leave a comment and let everyone know!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For the Record . . . .

Thought this article worth reading. If you struggle with knowing what God is calling you to do with your life or if you know what God is calling you to do and have trouble acting on it, join the club. I'm sure all of us would agree - it ain't easy! Benedict tells us to "listen with the ear of your heart." The answer will come and may even surprise you. Also it may take longer than you would want or it may happen quicker than you'd like. Who knows? God's time is not our time. Pray, pray, pray. Then after that, pray some more. I used to pray for openness to hear God's call and courage to respond. Knowing and following God's plan can be challenging and confusing, but I know for me it has brought peace. God's blessings to you all.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saint Cecilia

Thought For Today

‘To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.’ ~Aaron Copland

Today (Nov 22nd) is the feast of St.Cecilia. She is the patroness of music and musicians. We so often take music for granted and yet it is the pulse and heartbeat of life. Music is there for every occasion. It can uplift and it can calm and relax. It can unite and break down barriers. It has been said that music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence and silence is full of music. We live in a noisy world with little room for quiet time and silence. Quiet relaxing music can lead us to a much quieter place where we can often encounter the gentle quiet presence of God. Today we thank God and Cecilia for the great gift of music. As the old saying puts it so well: ‘When words fail, music speaks.’

Taken from Today is My Gift to You written by Fr. James McSweeney, a native of Millstreet, Co. Cork, Ireland.

A Time to Give Thanks

I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday with all kinds of delicious foods, time with family, and the Macy's Parade. I also take time during these days to reflect on the many blessings and graces that I have received this past year. It is a sad state of affairs that in our society we spend more time focusing on Christmas shopping and bargains rather than spending Thanksgiving reflecting upon all that we do have and have been given. Spending time with family and friends reminiscing about the past and sharing our hopes and dreams for the year to come. It may be that the present economic situation will jolt us back into reality of the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let us pray that our country may refocus itself and set new priorites as we reflect on our current situation. May you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What, Me Worry?

I'm in charge of the children's liturgies at school. We often do skits before Mass that pertain to the readings. I recently came across a skit on the internet about worrying. It compared worrying to rocking in a rocking chair. Both give you something to do, but neither gets you anywhere. Worrying is also like using a camera without any film or batteries in it because both give you pictures that will never develop. The part of the skit that struck me the most (because I can relate) compared worrying to holding on to a heavy box even though you've asked someone to help you carry it. Both weigh you down and keep you from being productive.

I know in prayer I often ask God to help me and to work through me. I wonder though if I ever let go to allow this to happen fully. I desire to put everything in God's hands (especially those heavy loads), but I still hold on to certain thoughts, expectations, worries, fears, and past hurts. I bring these to God, while at the same I continue to hold on to them, causing me to not be truly free. I'm still holding on to the heavy box after asking God to take it.

I'm reminded of St. Hildegard - a Benedictine saint who saw herself as a feather on the breath of God. Wherever God wanted her to go, she went. Whatever God wanted her to do, she did. I'm sure at times she must have questioned. However, she also trusted fully and completely in God.

I know I ask God to help me, but how much do I allow this to happen. With St. Hildegard as our guide, let us pray that we may become free from any fears or worries. May we trust fully and become a feather on the breath of God.


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I probably got this from my Dad. This is holiday. It is his favorite because there is no gift giving. We can gather as a family and just be together. I like it because we gather and just be. I love being at the Monastery at Thanksgiving. It is a time to really be thankful for what God has given each of us. I am very thankful for community, my students and being a live. I also like Thanksgiving because I can spend time with my family. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


We got an early start on Christmas this past weekend during Ferdinand's Christkindlmarkt. People from all over came to spend time browsing through several spaces throughout the town that had various booths of Christmas decor, apparel, and gifts as well as all kinds of antiques. It seemed to be relatively well-attended despite the weather, which was very cold and very wet. (Sr. Teresa swears that she saw a few snowflakes on Saturday. I think I saw a few too -- it was that cold.)

The monastery was a hubbub of activity. Quite a few groups toured through our church and grounds. Many of our sisters helped make baked goods to sell last weekend -- everything from cinnamon rolls to springerles. We also hosted the opening of Christkindlmarkt on Friday night with a special appearance by the Christkindlmarkt angel (Sr. Jeana). Several of us also played handbells for it. Children and some adults from the area were also a part of the opening celebration. It was quite beautiful.

On Sunday, a few groups of us sisters gave a Christmas concert. It was very beautiful. I got goosebumps several different times. I was very proud of our community, not only for the supreme effort that went into all of the preparations for the weekend, but also for sharing who we are with other people.

Last night at supper, the sisters in my house were talking about the talents that the sisters in our community have. While that is true, because we have very gifted women in our community, the best part is that our sisters do not keep their talents to themselves. They share them with others -- not only through concerts and such, but also by helping other sisters discover their own talents.

When I entered I had never played a musical instrument before. I didn't think it would be possible. Now I am involved with music through playing bass and handbells. When I entered it wasn't a question of whether or not I played something, but what I wanted to learn to play. I am very proud of our sisters for being selfless and giving through sharing their talents.


This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to take 2 high schoolers from our parish to a large Archdiocesan youth rally/retreat with over 400 people. Steve Agrisano was the keynote speaker and played lots of wonderful music that got the crowd pumped up and inspired to live their faith. It was an awesome event and I was so touched by the call we all heard to love and serve and to reach out to the less fortunate and marginalized at school, at home, wherever we might see someone on the outskirts. Jesus calls us to be with them. Steve told hilarious stories and got everyone motivated to try and see Jesus in everyone they meet.

One man was sharing about his love for Jesus and he said, "You know, servant leadership really boils down to this: The other person should feel better about who they are and their journey because of their contact with you." What a beautiful image- a nugget that I will take with me from the event. We are all called to be servant leaders! All the youth were also challenged to live their faith every day, not just at youth rallies and inspiring events. How true for all of us! It is so easy to let experiences of God's presence slip, but when we stay centered on God, that focus can remain.

Anyway, I wanted to share about this experience with you. I've been singing the songs now for 3 days since then! If you get the chance to attend some kind of rally or inspiring event with people from your diocese or Archdiocese, I really recommend it. It might just give you the refreshment you need to continue on your daily journey.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Missouri Pride

Do any of you ever watch America's Got Talent? I don't usually watch it, but the guy who won the million dollars is from Sikeston, MO - 14 miles from my hometown. I think all of us in MO can take pride in what he has accomplished at 32 years old. He stated in a newspaper article that some are telling him he should claim a bigger city as his hometown. However, his family, friends, and support came from the MO bootheel, so he's proud to claim Sikeston as his hometown. Before he was on the show he sold insurance. Just goes to show you what could happen when you DREAM BIG. Check out his website. It's incredible!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This is for Sister Catherine Marie, who's Final profession I was not able to attend because I live on mission in Rome, Italy, but I was very much present in mind and spirit. Sharing these days of joy are what community is all about and this past week I had the opportunity to attend the final profession of Sister Scholastica who lives in the Benedictine community in Assisi. The world of Benedictine women is very much a global community and the only difference in the ceremony was the people and the language. At Final Profession the sister asks to be part of our community and we members publicly accept her into our community. Then the sister makes/reads her vows to the community and sings her "Suscipe"....accept me O Lord. Those of us who have professed our final vows join in singing, with heart and mind. We are renewing our own profession and asking God to accept again our vows. Isn't that what life is all about, asking God to accept us as who we are? But in a Benedictine community we also ask our sisters to accept us as who we are! And we in turn accept who they are and will become!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Grace of Forgiveness

Forgiving myself is probably the toughest and most challenging part of my life because I hold on to many past regrets and mistakes. I heard a story once about a person who wasn't sure if he believed in God. God appeared to this man, and the man started to question God on many subjects. God answered every question. Finally, the man said, "OK. I have sinned many times in my life. Some of my sins are so big and so terrible that I have kept them hidden for many years. If you are really God, tell me my 5 biggest sins." To this request, God responded, "I have forgotten."

We hear the words "forgive and forget." I believe God follows this. If I want to be like God, I should do the same.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Family that Prays Together . . .

Please pray for my aunt who has been in the hospital with a brain aneurysm since August 22. Her family has been keeping us all updated on her progress through a website called I'm always so thankful to read the updates and the messages that people post. She has a lot of people praying for her, which is helping her in making baby steps to recovery. All of us in the family have been given an assignment to send her a picture and information about ourselves in order to help her recover.

My mom's side of the family is very large, but also very close. I know if I were ever in need, all I would have to do is get the word out and my family would answer. Much of this has to do with my grandma. She was the embodiment of love and showered us all with love. She died in 1996 at the age of 94, but I still remember going to her house every other weekend. We would honk the horn when we saw her house from the highway. There was no way she could hear us, but it was our signal that we were almost there. We started waving and yelling "Yoo Hoo" from the moment we pulled into the driveway, parked the car (which seemed forever), got out of the car, ran up the steps and onto the back porch. We were always greeted with a big hug and chocolate chip cookies.

An example of her prayer: In 1995 I had knee surgery that lasted 4 or 5 hours. My grandma prayed the entire time until someone called with news that I was ok. She said she had 5 rosaries out in front of her. When one got warm, she put it down and picked up another one. We never underestimated the power of "Grandma's rosary." Believe me, I kept her informed of anything that was going on in my life - especially any college finals. I still call on her, especially with teaching. She taught school for a few years and drove to school in a horse and buggy.

My aunt being in the hospital is another time in our family when prayers are needed. Without a doubt, they are streaming forth. I believe that my family is so close because of my grandma's love and example. Her constant prayer and nurturing helped us to be a strong family that will answer whenever there is a need. I pray that I can be just a little bit like her.

Veteran's Day Tribute

Thank you God for all those who have given their lives for our country and for other countries! Be with those who are currently fighting and their families. Be with all our world leaders that they will fight to bring an end to all wars and strife in our world.

Thank you Veterans!!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Monastery - School of the Lord's Service

Thanks, Jeana, for your nice reflection. It made me think of lots of things.

I had the privilege a few year ago to be a camp companion to a little girl with Down Syndrom. It was called Camp Quality and was a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings. This little girl had cancer and Down Syndrom. I must admit, I did it originally for a resume booster. I was going into my junior year of college and really didn't know what I wanted to do "when I grew up." I decided to work at the camp for a week, and it really changed my life. I went back to college and changed my major to education. I had wanted special education, but that wasn't an option in undergrad at my school.

People with special needs have so much to teach us. Being open, honest, geniune, and loving are just a few. Also living in the present moment and being thankful for what is. Not getting upset at what you can't do, but celebrating what you can.

I also worked at a camp one summer for adults with physical disabilities. From them I learned the need to slow down and not care what others think, but to recognize one another's strengths and needs. The best dance I had ever been to was at the closing celebration at this camp. People went out and moved one arm if that's all they could move. It didn't matter what you looked like or what your skill was. The important thing was to have fun and celebrate.

From the mentally and physically challenged, I have learned to focus on the present and not worry about the future. When the camp came to an end, I was thinking of the upcoming school year and what all I needed to do. When I asked one of the adult campers what he was going to do now that camp was over, he said, "I'll probably go home and make a sandwich." If only I could be so present.

I know every person has something to teach me. Sometimes I don't always want to learn from certain people. Sometimes I think I need to teach certain people rather than learn from them. I guess that's one of the reasons we call the monastery "the school of the Lord's service." We're constantly learning. We're a motley group of women with a variety of gifts and personalities. I certainly have lots to learn. The common phrase I hear at the monastery everywhere I go is "It's a life long journey." Thank Goodness!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Welcome to Holland!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about anticipating the birth of my first niece. Well a couple extra weeks after we first expected her, our little one arrived safely. Soon after her birth, though, the doctors were checking out her heart and lungs, and broke the news to my sister and brother-in-law: their baby has Down Syndrome. She also has a valve issue in her heart (present in 50% of all babies born with Down Syndrome), and will need surgery to repair it when she is 4-6 months old.

The initial shock of such a diagnosis is hard to describe. You mourn for the child that you expected to arrive who will not be coming after all, but at the same time you have to get it together to properly welcome the little blessing who HAS shown up. A mother from the school where I teach kindly sent me a bag full of info on Down Syndrome, and I soon read an analogy that totally fits. It goes like this:

You've been dreaming of going to Italy for years. For months you plan a trip. You read the guidebooks, talk with friends who have seen the wonders, and research all the possible ways to travel. You book a flight, pack your bag, and get on the plane. Dreaming of the Roman Forum, the shop windows of colored glass in Venice, and the cobalt blue waters off the Isle of Capris, you make your 10 hour flight. And finally, the flight attendant comes to the speaker and says, "Welcome to Holland! We're so glad you're here!" And you protest, "Holland?! Are you kidding? I bought a ticket to Italy! What am I doing in Holland?"

Now, after the initial shock of realizing that you are in fact in another country altogether, you can either bemoan the fact that you are not in Italy and will not be seeing any Bernini sculpture on this trip, or you can accept the fact that you actually are in Holland, and get out to see the tulips. Or Amsterdam, or the Hague, or the art museums, or the fashion world. Holland has its own charms. A lot of us just don't know what they are. What I've found, though, is that when you start calling up your friends and you say, "Guess what? I'm in Holland, not Italy," a number of them do know what's to be seen there, at least the highlights, and they wish you well on your unexpected adventure.

It's hard to put words around the blessing that a child with Down Syndrome is, but everybody seems to know that special things happen in their presence. I know for myself that the class of students I am teaching this year is far kinder, far more gentle, and far more accepting than most groups of high school juniors I've met, because of the presence of one such blessing in their class. I hope and pray that my niece will cause a similar effect in the people she encounters.

Why does this kind of thing happen? Who knows? God has a sense of humor, I guess, and gives us what we need, whether or not we recognize it. We may have been hankering for a trip to Italy, but perhaps God knows best that what we really need we will get from a journey through Holland. It probably won't be easy; it may take a while to catch up on this country's guidebooks. We may have to figure out some feats of navigation by trial and error. But like in my childhood vacations where Dad simply suggested we all "go west," I imagine we have some wonderful times and beautiful vistas ahead. Who are we to imagine we're in control of everything anyway?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Teens Encounter Christ

My weekend was filled with spending time with God, friends, and teens. The retreat is called Teens Encounter Christ. This is a weekend where teens can come and be filled with God's love. I learned lots of games. I really enjoyed sharing my faith and my love of God with the teens. This is a retreat that I had made when I was in high school. This time also allowed me to think about practicing what I say I believe in. If I can talk the talk I need to walk the walk.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prayer Needs

Ever realize that the more people you know, the more there is to pray for! Everybody always has so much going on in their lives. It's hard to deal with at times. Are you aware that you can send prayer requests to the Sisters on our website Look on the upper right hand corner. The prayer requests are put on our prayer board at Ferdinand. They're also sent out on email to all the mission sisters.

Please contact us if you have any prayer requests. Also keep us updated with any progress. We have many needs in our personal lives, work places, families, countries, world. The more I hear, the more I know the only thing I can do is turn to God. Please know that the Sisters want to be supportive and offer our prayers. We ask for your prayers as well as we continue to seek God together and reach out to those in need.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Today!

I used to watch this show called "Out of this World." It was about this girl who was part alien. Her mom was human and her dad was from another planet. I believe her name was Eve and she had the power to stop time. I always wished I could do that. I still do actually - usually in the morning when my alarm rings.

I must be fascinated with changing time because another one of my favorite shows is "Quantum Leap." In the show, Sam Becket created a time machine and had the ability to put "right what once went wrong."

This weekend we turned our clocks back one hour. Ever wish you could stop or turn back time? This weekend offered us the opportunity to live one hour over. Since it happened at night probably a lot of people enjoyed the extra hour of sleep.

I know we can't live our lives in the past and say, "I should have. . ." or "I wish I would have . . ." No need beating ourselves up over things that happened and can't be changed. Same is true for other people. We can't keep beating someone else up for things they did in the past.

No matter how much I'd like it, I have no power to control time. The best I can do is learn from the past and make right in the present moment what went wrong in the past.

Here's wishing everyone peace and happiness in the present moment.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Everyday To Do List

Ever wonder what we do at a monastery all day? The answer's quite simple really. We fall and we get up. We fall and we get up. We fall and we get up. The important thing is that we keep getting up. All of us fall. All of us make mistakes. Here's praying that despite it all we continue to get up.

Remembering Sister Carla Mitchell, OSB

You may have noticed on our home page that Sister Carla Mitchell died October 27. Sister Carla was 104 years old and would have been 105 in December! I can't even imagine all the changes and innovations that she witnessed during her lifetime. I've seen many changes in my lifetime and I'm only half Sister Carla's age plus a few years!

Sister Carla was well known as a teacher in Indiana, North Dakota, Arizona, Louisiana, California, and probably a few other places. She touched the lives of many, many children and she touched the lives of their parents. Last night at her wake service one of the parents spoke about how Sister Carla tutored his daughter in Latin because that subject wasn't offered in her high school. Great nieces and nephews spoke about her encouraging them in their studies and the fun they had with her.

Many of the sisters shared their memories of Sister Carla. One memory was about her wanting to take voice lessons as a jubilee gift from one of the sisters. She had one voice lesson and at the end of it she was asked if there wasn't something else she could give her as a jubilee gift! The music teacher knew that singing was just not Sister Carla's cup of tea!

Sister Carla always had such a positive attitude. She looked for the good in whatever was happening and encouraged others to do the same. She was a faithful, prayerful, fun-loving individual who will be missed by all of us. Sister Carla, pray to God for all of us.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Weekend at the Monastery

This past week has been so busy and full of lots of things at work. They were all good things, and I enjoyed every minute- helping students, getting several events ready, and the like. But, I was so ready for the weekend at the end of the day Friday! Then, I got to come to the monastery for community meetings. It has been such a refreshing time- a time to catch up with friends, reenergize myself, sleep, and learn about all the terrific things that are happening for our community and what people are involved in. And we get to celebrate Jubilee this morning! What a blessing for me. I feel ready to tackle a new week of work tomorrow!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ten Spiritual Tips

(1) Stop worrying. Worry kills life.
(2) Begin each day with a prayer. It will arm your soul.
(3) Control appetite. Over indulgence clogs mind and body.
(4) Accept your limitations. There are few who are great and they have enough worries.
(5) Don’t envy. It wastes times and energy.
(6) Have faith in people. Cynicism is caustic.
(7) Exercise. Go for a walk. Get out and about. It clears the mind.
(8) Read a book to stimulate imagination and broaden your views.
(9) Spend some time alone for the peace and solitude of silence.
(10) Try to want what you have instead of spending your strength trying to get what you want.

Taken from Today is My Gift To You, a great daily reflection site out of Ireland. Check it out!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Taking Care of Yourself

I'm taking a Master's class at IUS this fall. I'm really enjoying it and learning about lots of things I'm doing wrong in the classroom. HA! I shouldn't say that they're wrong, I guess. There are just better ways to do things. Teaching 3 year olds to 8th graders does get tricky at times. I am enjoying the class and learning lots. One thing our teacher had us do was write down 16 action steps we'd do for ourselves. It's easy to burn out in teaching - or any occupation for that matter. Especially those that have the person constantly giving and doing. I thought it was a good idea. I tried to write down realistic things that would be fun and beneficial. Some things I already do on a regular basis, but I put them down anyway as ways that I'm helping myself.

It's easy to get stressed and overworked. There's always more to do. If a person's job is serving others, their job will never be done. It's good to make a list of things to do for yourself - either daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, whatever. I plan to keep the list handy and treat myself to different things from time to time. The good news is that the treats don't have to involve money. They could be playing a game on the computer, reading a book for fun, playing cards once a week. Two things I put were that I would play the piano for enjoyment and take time to learn the guitar. Connecting with music is a good way for me to revive my spirits.

So, go ahead. Treat yourself to something fun. Even if it's eating lunch at a park or writing a letter to a friend. Do something for yourself and enjoy it. You deserve it. Dairy Queen blizzards are always a good idea also.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Holy Saturday Time

I know it's not Triduum in the larger liturgical season, but I feel like I'm living in a Holy Saturday kind of time right now. I've been between worlds lately. After a valient struggle with cancer, my aunt Susie passed away last week. I wish I could make it to the funeral tomorrow, but distance and demands at work this week are making that trip unrealistic. Please pray for my uncle and cousins. A building contractor his whole life, my uncle has spent years building houses for other people, and over the last couple years he started building his own house, situated on my grandma's farm where he and Aunt Susie planned to spend their retirement years. The house now is just about finished, but the way things have played out, that dream is not to be, at least not the way he hoped it would be. Talk about a Good Friday heartbreak on so many levels.

At the same time, looking ahead to the Resurrection (or perhaps I'm totally jumping around the liturgical year to the celebration of the Incarnation), my sister and brother-in-law are expecting their first child any day now. We expected the little one by C-section last Thursday, but her little lungs weren't quite ready yet, so they are giving her another week or so to develop a bit more. I am so excited about this little girl's coming into the world. She will be my first niece, and when you aren't having kids of your own, nieces and nephews become even more wonderful! I have been praying for my sister and this baby for months, and now the time is almost here. I can't wait to meet her.

I wonder if God anticipates our coming home to heaven as much as we anticipate the birth of a new baby. Of course we don't want to be born into eternal life too early; some of us need a bit more time to develop our spiritual lives here on earth first. I would like to think God allows each of us as much time as we need. And while I can't believe God actually wills for us the terrible suffering of cancer, I do know that my God loved us enough to experience suffering with us in the crucifixion, and that he also experiences it, in us, with us even now. We are the Body of Christ. While I don't understand the whole mystery of why good people suffer, I do trust that the answer is in the Paschal Mystery, that in Christ's dying and rising to new life, our deaths, our pain, our losses are also transformed into something new, and good, and beautiful. Life is worth living, even if it involves pain, because woven into the same fabric are incredible joys and fantastic beauty- the mystery of love that takes us through pain and death to life.

And so with all the hushed excitement of Easter Vigil, I await the birth of this as yet unnamed niece, with all the prayers and good wishes I can muster for her: may she know joy; may she know love; may she know her gifts, and be a blessing to her family and to the world. May she be a holy child, know God, and bring others to God. May she be good, and true, and beautiful. As Christians, we are an Easter people: in every day, in every pain, in every graced moment, new life beckons us forth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Two Weekends

A few weeks ago, Sr. Catherine Marie made her perpetual monastic profession in our monstery church. Last weekend, my cousing Sarah married the love of her life at their home parish in Louisville. Though the two of them are embarking on very different journeys, the relative proximity of the two ceremonies left me thinking about how they are more alike than different.

I think the most striking thing is that both feel quite strongly that they are following the path God has lain out for their lives. At a prayer service the night before her profession, Sr. Catherine spoke so eloquently about how she felt God calling her to this lifestyle. At my cousin's reception, her lifelong best friend spoke of how Sarah and her husband were so different that only God could have seen the beautiful couple they would form. Though the lifestyles are radically different, I believe that God has called each of these young women to the lives that are best.

I was also struck by the similarity in the ceremonies. Both made their commitments as part of a community of faith. My cousin had all of her friends and family there to witness the ceremony. Sr. Catherine had her monastic community along with many of the other important people in her life. Neither of these ceremonies is private. Vows were stated, documents were signed, rings were exchanged, hugs and kisses shared... all done publicly because their vocation is not meant to be a privte one. For both, it is important to be part of the community of God.

Finally, they each stood in the sanctuary and made their commitment not just to the community or to their husband, but also to God, to faithfully live out the lifestyle to which they have been called. Both ceremonies included prayer as the backdrop for everything that was done. I find it absolutely awe-inspiring to see people commit their lives to following the voice of God, whatever it may be.

And so I end with a prayer for Catherine, for Sarah and for everyone else who is striving to find the will of God and to follow it all the days of their lives. God bless them all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love to watch the leaves change colors. I also like the cooler weather. Fall is also a time for Parent Teacher Conferences. I am preparing for these next week. Then we have Fall Break. I am looking forward to a small break. I am going to spend it at the Monastery. I always find it invigorating to spend time at home in Ferdinand. It is a time to reconnect with the sisters that live at home.

Fall Gathering on The Hill

Here at Ferdinand we had a Fall Gathering. Many sisters came to Saint Gertrude Hall where we played games of choice. Some played cards and others played dice or board games. Sister Betty and I played some bowling, golf, and tennis on the Wii, which was donated to us by a very nice family. We also had floats, which they call brown cows around here. The sisters in our infirmary made some wonderful fall sugar cookies, too. We finished off the evening with Compline (night prayers). It was a delightful, fun evening!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mmmm, Mmmm, S'mores

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to share some pictures from Sister Traci's feast day party. I live with 5 others in a house in Louisville. We follow the Rule of Benedict, pray together twice a day, and eat supper together in the evening. And, of course, we like to have fun also. We try not to miss a chance to have a party. October has kept us hopping with 3 feast days and a profession party.

Here you can see we got a little creative with the city life. This idea came to use when we were out of power for a week because of the wind storm, and we decided to do it again. Nothing like s'mores to make things better.

They teach English to immigrants at the school next to us. Some of the kids were playing in the playground and came over for some s'mores also. That was a lot of fun. After the s'mores we enjoyed a game of Pay Me - a card game. It's easy to play and doesn't break your pocket books. We play for nickels. Since I'm writing this, I'd like to brag a little and let you know I WON! My profit was a whopping 80 cents!
Hope you're having fun wherever you are.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Challenge of The Express

As Sister Sarah Cathleen mentioned, she and I went to see The Express this past Saturday. Unlike Sister Sarah, I am not a football fan, but I absolutely loved this movie. While it was inspiring to see a young man overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, I was also challenged by the behavior of the "fans" attending some of the games in which Syracuse played in 1959-1960 or so. I became very distressed by the racism and the absolute hatred conveyed by some of the fans of the opposing teams as well as the judgment of Ernie Davis and the other players through preconceived notions. At one point I thought, "I could never say or do what those people did and said to those players." The thought that followed was, "How do you know? Would you have followed along with what was popular instead of what was right or just? Would you have let fear rule you? How can you say that you wouldn't do that?" I would like to think that I wouldn't, and yet I don't know how I would have responded if I had been raised in that culture and time instead of the one in which I was raised.
At this time, The Express calls me to examine the ways in which I still let judgment and injustice into my life and to decide who or what I am following: the way of Christ or the boulevard of popular opinion.

The Express

I love watching football! This weekend, Sr. Briana and I went to see the movie, "The Express." It is about the first African-American football player to win the Heisman Trophy- an award given to the most outstanding college football player each year. His name was Ernie Davis. He went to Syracuse University from 1959-1962. He overcame so many odds and prejudices in his experiences growing up in Pennsylvania and New York and when he started college. Yet, he knew how important it was to be true to himself and use the gifts God had given him. I was very inspired. Growing up, he was very nervous about speaking and reading in front of people and often stuttered, but throughout the movie, he was put in situations where he had to stand up for himself, use his voice and his actions to help people become aware of the way they were judging him and others because of the color of their skin. During 2 games in particular, fans threw all kinds of things onto the field because he was playing, and the coach pulled him out for fear about a riot if he scored a touchdown. He even had to sleep in a dingy, awful room with cots when his team made it to the national championship game because he was black. Yet, he persevered, hang tough,and showed the world that it is what is inside that matters! He made people believe in him. His teammates trusted him, cared about him, and went to bat for him because of his integrity. It really made me think about my ability to persevere in the midst of judgement on the part of others towards me. Can I live with integrity- truly being the person God is calling me to be, even if people might judge me or not understand? Wow- what an inspiration! (And it didn't hurt that my favorite college team is Syracuse! Go, Orangemen!) If you get a chance, you should see the movie!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Prayer Changes Things

I was rereading some of my journal entries from past years. It was interesting to reflect on where I used to be, how far I've come, and how far I have yet to go. I know it may be hard to know what God's will is and to answer it. At least it was hard for me. Hearing it wasn't too hard, but answering it was difficult. I'd like to share excerpts of 2 journal entries with you.

Dear God,
My life feels so ideal, but yet I feel so lost. I have a great job, but yet I don't feel like I'm inviting God into my life or my decision making. I made a Big step when I went on retreat. I told all the people there I wanted to become a nun, but now I've retreated back into a black hole that I've made for myself. I want it to be a secret from lots of people. I'm more to myself - withdrawn. I want to be close to God, but I want to keep my relationship with God separate from everyone else. I'm lost. I can't give myself over to God. I still have fears and worries and I don't know if I'll be able to get rid of them. . . . It worries me and literally wears me out. Everything takes time, patience and more than anything else prayer. We must pray for the things that we are scared of so that God will give us strength and lift us up. I think that I'm afraid of prayer and its extreme power. When I pray for things that I'm afraid of, I know that things will change, but I'm afraid of that change. I don't know if I'm ready for it and I certainly don't want to pray for it to come. . . I hope I'm ready when I have to face the truth, to walk the path, and live the life that I feel God is calling me to. God, I pray that you unchain my heart and help me to erase my fears and worries. I feel lost, God, and confused. Please help me. Amen.

After lots of praying, visiting Ferdinand several times, and getting to know some of the sisters, I entered the monastery in August 2001. Here's what I wrote in November.

God, I do enjoy being here. I enjoy this life you have called me to. I've been wanting to ask people if they like being a nun. I can't fathom being here as long as the other people. Just one day at a time. Right now I'm loving it. Other people are here and they're loving it. I find it all very crazy really. God, you know what you're doing. I'll just follow you. Thank you, God. I love you. Amen.

God works in mysterious ways. I look back and wonder why I fought it so much. It did take time and education for me to accept where I felt God leading me. We pray that you may be open to wherever God is leading you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Be Careful What You Say

I teach music to 3 year olds to 8th graders. It's so interesting to hear how kids interpret what you say. I made perpetual profession on Saturday. One of the 3rd graders had heard that I had become "a full blooded nun." She was concerned that I had had some kind of surgery! That they had done something to my blood! Having around 450 students, I hear stories like this all the time. I hope you enjoy them too.

Profession was absolutely beautiful. I'll write more when I get a chance. But right now I better get ready for the pre-k students. They're getting ready for the Christmas program.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How Many People?

38,800! Can you believe it! That is how many people showed up to a Friday night football game. Where did this happen? In Louisville, KY Saint Xavier High School and Trinity High School have one of the longest and largest rivalry games in the country. Saint Xavier Tigers had the Trinity Shamrocks for supper that night beating them 30-6

I only mention this because I have worked at St. Xavier (St X) for eight years and Trinity is our rival. There is another sister in our house who is in her first year of teaching at Trinity! Oh what fun we are having making subtle jabs at each other in defense of our schools. So the race is on to see who will have the most State Championships this year. St X or Tinity? Stay tuned the fun has just begun.

Catholics Please Vote!

Please take the time to go to the polls, November 4, 2008!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Parent-Teacher Conferences

We are in the midst of parent teacher conferences at school these last couple of days. My role this year has been to be available to answer any Religion or Resource questions people may have while they are in the building, providing whatever help or info they may need. What a gift that has been for me. I didn't think very many people would want to stop by my office- and I brought lots of puzzles and quirky things to work on- but I didn't have a free moment at all last night! What an awesome adventure to be able to talk and share with people about Confirmation, about Church, about Reconciliation- God in their everyday life! And of course- people stopped by to talk about football and the Miami Dolphins (several families know it's my favorite team!) Each moment is beautiful. I was so grateful for the people I am able to work with and minister with and for- even if it's just to play with my toys I have there while they wait!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What a Blessing

I'm making perpetual profession on October 4.

I'm excited about my friend Jarcia and her family coming from Alabama. Jarcia is a friend of mine from college and is originally from MO. I remember when I went to their wedding. I drove 7 hours from southeast MO to northwest MO. I arrived on Friday, the night before the wedding. While there, I met this guy, and he and I stayed up ALL night talking. I remember thinking he was the one who would break the curse. We were going to fall in love, and he would break the curse of my being called to religious life. I believe I was 19 at the time and just wanted God to leave me alone. We did talk all night and you know a person becomes pretty open and willing to share just about anything at 3 in the morning. The wedding was one of the most beautiful I had ever gone to. After being up all day and night Friday, going to the wedding, and helping out at the reception, I then drove 7 hours back to southeast MO. I did have a friend who rode with me about 5 hours of the trip. Her snoring helped keep me awake for driving. I believe I had lots of caffeine, the windows down, and the music blaring the rest of the 2 hours home. I arrived home sometime Saturday night and probably didn't wake up until Monday morning.

It's interesting to think of how I viewed religious life before I learned the truth about it. Before I took the time to visit places, meet sisters, and learn the facts. It's also interesting to think of how I viewed God's calling me. I prayed for God to leave me alone. I tried to explain to God that I was being confused with a girl down the street. Her name was also Katherine. Same name, but spelled differently. Surely God would make this correction.

The first person I told I felt called to religious life was my friend Jill. Her response was priceless. She said, "What a blessing." She saw the beauty right away, but it took me years to realize it. In fact, I had spent years fighting it, trying to get out of it. It was a blessing when I was finally able to surrender. Not surrendering, giving up, but surrendering, giving in to a higher being. I've been in the community 7 years now. I know, without a doubt, that I am truly blessed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reflection on Sunday's Gospel

Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
By: Sr. Anita Louise Lowe, OSB

Matthew 21: 28-32

When asked to do something, what is our response? Do we say yes or no? But more importantly than what we say, how do we act?

In this Gospel passage, we hear Jesus asking the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people: “Which son obeyed his father? The one who said yes, but did not go to work in the vineyard, or the one who said no, but later had a change of heart and went to work?”

To obey, as we know, means to listen—to listen for God’s voice in the myriad of ways God can speak to us and to the depths of our heart—and then to act on the message we hear. It sounds easy, but we all know better. First, we have to sift through the various voices and messages to determine which might be coming from God. Then, we have to choose to act on that message…or not.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, in commenting on this Gospel story, notices a theme of wrestling with God similar to the wrestling of Jacob with the angel and of Job as he dealt with suffering and hardship. He says that such a wrestling invites us to a certain type of prayer: “Prayer isn’t meant to be a simple acquiescence to God’s will. It’s meant to be an acquiescence, yes, but…one that comes to us at the end of a long struggle.” He continues, “God expects that, at some point, we will kick…and offer some resistance.”

The son who said no but later went to work in the vineyard must have done a bit of inner wrestling. We can all imagine the dialogue that might have taken place within him before he had a change of heart and went to do that to which he initially had said, “No.”

Jesus’ story and questioning of the religious leaders is a sort of indictment against them. They have said yes to doing God’s will but now refuse to submit to John’s baptism of repentance and refuse to see the work of God in Jesus’ words and actions. Jesus’ followers, on the other hand, are a “rag-tag group” composed of sinners—even prostitutes and tax collectors—the worst of all! These initially said no and chose to do other than God’s will. Yet, they listened to John, and they listened to Jesus. They were open to change.

And what about us? This Gospel story is a call to each of us to examine ourselves and our responses to requests and calls. When asked to do something by the community, do we say yes but proceed to do our own will? Or do we say no at first, but then wrestle with ourselves and with God until we have a change of heart? How well do we listen and obey?

As Jesus said in another place, those who have the closest relationship with him are “those who hear the word of God and do it.” May it be so for each of us.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Choice Theory

I just finished reading a book called Choice Theory by William Glasser. In his book, he makes many valid points. He says we are predominantly a society based on control. Most of our schools run on control. I tell you what to do. You do it, and I reward you. You don't do it, and I punish you. If you still don't do it, I punish you even more. Soon we have students who are always being punished and become fed up. They stop caring maybe because they think others have stopped caring about them. Some school, as well as relationships, businesses, or any other groups, are run on control. Who's going to win? Who's going to have control? The Result: failed marriages, failed relationships, and unhappy workers and students.

I know I'd rather be shown respect and care and not control. Knowing what my needs are helps me as I teach and also form relationships with others. I know I have been able to grow and become who I am because of people's acceptance, not because of their control. Why wouldn't I want to show others acceptance and allow them to grow in their own time?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


So last weekend, before the winds came through and wiped out the local power, I went to the local beauty school to get a haircut. I was looking for a change, and I would have let the sister I live with cut it, as she normally does a perfectly fine job, but she said that as it had grown out a lot, a pro probably needed to do it this time first, and then she could follow their lead next time.

If you're on a slim budget, beauty schools are a good deal if you're looking for a cheap haircut. Generally you come out looking good, too, because the head haircutting teachers won't let the students ruin you.

So there I was, and this very nice young woman starts cutting my hair. And after a while she asks, "Have you ever colored your hair?" And I wonder if she can see my seven gray hairs. "Yeah, at one time it was almost strawberry blonde, and I've had streaks put in before." Not too long after that, the head teacher lady comes by, and ruffling through my locks asks, "Have you ever put some color in your hair? I love browns- this would look great with an auburn tone." My student continues cutting, and I comment that my crazy waves are going every which direction; without help they do have a mind of their own. And she says, "That's what flat irons and all that jazz are for. Do you own a flat iron?" And I say no, though it might be a worthwhile investment. "Yes," she says. "You must get a flat iron."

As she starts wrapping things up with her own flat iron, and my hair is looking pretty nice, she's getting comfortable with me: "Have you ever worn makeup?" And I don't have the heart to tell this lady whose business it is to make me look good that I'm a nun, though she might have guessed as much if she noticed the big Benedictine medal around my neck, under the cape. "Yes, I used to," I grin, " I kind of gave it up out of a simple living choice." Thoughtful silence. I could tell that this polished young lady could not comprehend how an otherwise marriageable looking young woman in Louisville would not be flat ironing her highlighted hair and wearing makeup.

As she brushes off the hair from my shoulders, I thank her for the wonderful cut. "You're so welcome!" she says, double checking to see that she didn't miss anything. "And next time you're here, let's put in some color. And get a flat iron... And you really should wear some makeup."

Good News!!

Guess what? My mom is coming to visit in November. I'm so excited.
When I first entered community (16 years ago), she would come 2 or 3 times a year. She and my dad would drive up from Arkansas and we would just hang out. These past few years she has been unable to make the drive. But, my sister is going to bring her up for the Christkindlmarkt.
Isn't it strange that when I was in High School, my mom got on my nerves and all I wanted to do is to be as far away from her as possible. Now, I miss her. I miss her hugs, the way she smells, the way she spells out cuss words, and her day to day wisdom.
I wish I knew when I was in High School that she would end up being my hero, I might have given her more of a break. I wish that I knew then how much I would miss her, I might have stayed home a little more and played cards. But, I'm also glad that I've realized how important she is me and how she has made me who I am today.
Did I tell you that she is turning 80 years old the weekend that she is coming up. I'll have to think of some way to celebrate. Any ideas?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Exciting Times

Hi Folks,

I thought I'd post some words for you today since it's been a couple of weeks since you've heard from me!

The last time I wrote, I had just started my new job as the Director of Music Ministry at the Newman Center at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Three weeks later, things are going great! The music ministry program is growing fast and we are able to do some really cool music! We had the church rockin' on Sunday, September 14th (The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) when we did Rich Mullins' song "Hope to Carry On." Next week for our prelude, my college choir is singing a piece in the African language of Shona. That is going to be really cool!

Last Wednesday, September 17th, I took in my first Indiana University Philharmonic Orchestra concert with guest soloist, violinist Joshua Bell. If you don't know Joshua Bell, you need to look him up on YouTube! He's amazing!!! If you saw the movie "The Red Violin" he played all of the background music for that movie. The concert was amazing--and free too because he is an alumn of IU!

If the orchestra concert wasn't enough excitement for the week, on Saturday, September 20th I was invited to attend an IU Hoosiers vs. Ball State Cardinals football game. (That's me in the pink Hoosiers T-shirt!) Even though my team lost 20-42, the game was still exciting. please pray for the wide receiver from Ball State, Dante Love. He took a head-on hit from one of our guys and suffered a fracture in his neck! He underwent 5 hours of surgery on Sunday morning and as a result can move all four of his limbs. He has a long road ahead of him though so send your prayers his way!

This week I'm heading home to the Motherhouse for a few days. Since I live "on mission," I try to get home as often as I can to reconnect with the home community. While I'm beginning to really love mission life, I very much miss my friends that live at home.

I hope everyone reading this is well. Look for me again in the coming days and weeks!

Sister Kim

My Birthday

Last Friday was my birthday. It was a great day. My students sang to me twice. Another teacher brought in donuts. I live at mission house with 2 other sisters in Rockport, IN. We decided that we are going to celebrate each sisters feast day and birthday. We went out to eat at O'Charleys. It was a good evening. I also found out that I am going to be an aunt again. My brother and his wife are expecting their second child. It is always a joy for the family to get bigger.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Equinox Egg

Today is the fall equinox. The equinox occurs when the Earth's position on its axis, as it rotates around the sun, places the sun directly over the Earth's equator. On this day, day and night are of approximately equal length. Legend has it that on the equinoxes, when all things are equal, one can balance an egg straight up.

Because this was the topic of our conversation at the table during lunch and the meteorologist on T.V. did it, I felt the desire to try it myself. Sure enough after not much effort at all I was indeed able to get the egg to stand on end. So I took the egg up to my living group to show the sisters there my proud accomplishment. To my dismay, the egg refused to stand! So I went to my office to make some phone calls and decided to try again and wouldn’t you know first try that egg stood straight up!

Now, some scientists say this egg trick actually has nothing to do with the equinox. They say you can balance an egg on its end any time of the year if you have the patience. All I know is it worked for me today. Will I try it again tomorrow or in 3 days to see if the scientists are right – probably not. But, it sure was fun to try today.

Happy equinox, wherever you are!

Winds of Change

Ditto to Sister Kathleen Marie's post. I too live with Sister and what a change it was. I was grateful for the time of quiet and living one day at a time. It felt like I was suspended in time and that week was certainly a gift from God. I also did not focus on the future but on keeping the generator running and shutting it down at night and then starting it up in the morning. I was very happy that we have a gas water heater so at least we had the comfort of a hot shower every day. The simple joys of life are really appreciated in times of trouble.

I felt that we did very well at our house with adjusting to the circumstances. We spent most of the days on the back porch and our evenings playing card games by candle light. The first two evenings we used an old bucket and made a small fire to make S'more's and singing along with Sister Kathleen playing the guitar. Little Boxes, Take me Home Country Roads, Rocky Top, and Yellow Submarine were just a few of the songs we sung. We were not worried about what time it was or what preparations to make for the next day. Just simple living that came through the experience of hurricane Ike.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Living in the Now

When Hurricane Ike's winds began to rip through the city of Louisville last Sunday, I didn't worry too much about it. I was working at school, focused on writing a test for my geometry students and grading notebooks from students in my Algebra I classes. I was also checking my e-mail, looking up some videos for my homeroom class and thinking of all of the things that I still needed to do when I got home.

Just as I entered the last notebook grade into my on-line gradebook, the power flickered once, then failed completely. Left alone in the dark in the midst of a most impressive windstorm, I grabbed a few things I thought I could work on at home and headed out of the school.

It wasn't until I made it halfway home and discovered that all of the main routes to our convent were blocked, that I began to think of something other than my list of tasks to be accomplished. With tree limbs and garbage swirling around me at an alarming rate, I began to realize that this storm was more serious than any I'd experienced. By the time I arrived home, about two hours after I had left school, the storm had ended and the city was quiet in more ways than one. Electricity had been cut to nearly 300,000 residents leaving most of the city in the dark. The usual hum of our refrigerator, computers and air conditioner had been silenced. The other sisters who live on my mission were gathered in our darkened living room, discussing what had just occurred and what needed to be done until the power came back on.

It's amazing how quickly priorities change. When I left the house, I was consumed entirely with the week ahead: what needed to be done at school, the friend I was trying to meet, the chores I had left unfinished in the house. Upon my return, we had more immediate, pressing needs: how to prepare supper, where are the extra candles and flashlights, where can we get ice so that we can save our food if this continues. I was no longer thinking about tomorrow, but about what is going on around me, right now.

This storm was kind of a wake-up call for me. So often I let myself become consumed with things that are about to happen, that I forget about what is going on around me. Over the last week (yes, five days later the power has still not been restored), I have had lots of time to sit and reflect upon the present moment. I could not plan for tomorrow, as I did not know what tomorrow would bring. Will there be school? Will I be able to use the computer to finish my test? Will we able to make our supper in the kitchen? I was forced to take each day at a time, each task at a time, and take nothing in the future for granted. After the initial shock wore off, I found the time to be a gift. I could be more present to my housemates as I was not so worried about where I have to be next. I could enjoy the peace and quiet that comes when all the appliances are stilled because I was not trying to live in the future. I could even relax into my prayer time as I was in no hurry to move on to anything else. These are all things that I think I need to learn to do in ordinary life. Amazing how God can speak in so many ways!

Though I will be extremely grateful when electricity returns and schools reopen, I will be a little sad to lose this time that I believe has been a true gift from God.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Worth Reading

I am an avid reader. Over the summer, my "real" sister (one of my most favorite people in the world) recommended a book entitled Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. I like to read fiction, but tend to lean more towards mysteries filled with suspense. My sister likes to read books that make a difference or "matter." She is a very good conversationalist, and I suspect it has something to do with the type of material that she reads (that and the fact that she began speaking early and has always had a lot to say). My sister loaned me Love Walked In while I was visiting her in California, but I ran out of time to read it before I left. I recently checked it out of our public library here in Louisville (which is the most awesome public library system I have ever experienced). I started reading this book and I couldn't stop. It was so good. I love the way de los Santos wrote it. I felt like she was telling me the story of Cornelia and Clare and all of the people in their lives, rather than simply spinning a good tale. I felt like she knew these people intimately and it made me want to know more about them too. So, if you are looking for a good work of fiction, I recommend this highly.


Do you know what my favorite sound is? No, it's not the opening notes of Vivaldi's Four Seasons or even the crackling noise of bacon in the frying pan (although that is a very good sound). It's not even the sound of the wind rustling the trees (and we had plenty of that last weekend here in Louisville) or the sound of our church bells ringing calling us to prayer (also a wonderful sound). I decided last Saturday that my favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of my mom's voice when I call her on the telephone. She usually lets the answering machine screen her calls, but last weekend she answered the phone right before the answering maching picked up. When I said hello, she said "Hiiii" in the warmest, most welcoming tone of voice -- like I was the most important person in the world and the one to whom she wanted to speak most at that moment. It made me feel very good -- all warm and fuzzy inside, like she had somehow sent a hug through thousands of miles of telephone cables right to me.
As I pondered this throughout the week, I thought that God would probably speak to us that way, if only we could hear God's voice in the same way we can hear the voices of our loved ones here on earth. Can't you just hear God saying, "I love you so much and I just can't wait to just sit and talk to you. I have been waiting for you to call me and I am so glad that you did."? Since most of us cannot hear God speaking plainly in words that we can understand, God relies on other means.
This past week has been one of hardship for many of the people here in Louisville. Winds from Hurricane Ike came through here on Sunday and broke trees as if they were match sticks and twisted electrical wires into knots. The public schools were not in session all week due to the lack of power and the impassable conditions of some of the streets. Some homes and businesses continue to be without power and some of the homes in Southern Indiana across the river from Louisville have been without power and water because the water companies rely on electricity to pump the water into the towns for use. People have handled this situation remarkably well, and a lot of people have been sharing with one another. This situation had the potential to be far more difficult than it was, and I think that God's love resonated throughout this in the actions of neighbors and strangers as well as police, fire, emergency personnel, men and women of the national guard, and those working to restore power and water. The dedication is intense.
I realize, though, that our situation here, while tough, pales in comparison to the devastation in Texas. On television, however, I have seen stories of resilience and determination, and know that God's love is present and abundant there as well. I continue to hold in prayer all who have been affected by the hurricanes and flooding. May you feel God's peace surrounding you and strengthening you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thoughts of God from Atlanta

I just got back last night from a weekend visit to Atlanta. I was there because my nephew was being baptized, and I was asked to be a godparent. It was a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful day! In the midst of the family fun, laughing with my playful niece, and spending time with people I hadn't seen in a while, God was definitely there- speaking in awesome ways. During the baptism, as I was standing there, I couldn't help but think about how special God's call is to each of us- the call that comes through our own baptism. God loves each of us and has a unique plan for each of us. That is an amazing thing! Sometimes, it's harder for me to figure out where God is leading me than others, but as I held baby Jack, a sense of trust came to me. God's in control, and God is never going to let me down, let anyone down. God loves us enough to call us as children. Even though I may mess up a lot, as long as I stay in touch with God, somehow I'll know what I need to know in God's time. It was a welcome reminder for me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


This fall I've joined the RCIA team at my local parish in Louisville. I will be helping accompany a group of people who are thinking about becoming Catholic. Thursday we had our second meeting, and I loved it! One of the other team members was presenting on the Creed, and every so often we would go off on a tangent to explore another angle on an issue. For instance, when we got to the part "I believe in the Holy Spirit," we had to pause and share how we imagine the Holy Spirit to be. One woman had always heard this Person of the Trinity called the Holy Ghost, so she imagined it to be "like a ghost: white sheet, holes cut out for eyes!" But she knew that couldn't be the whole picture. Another woman talked about having heard the Trinity presented as an apple: one person the skin, another the flesh, and the other the core: all necessary for one apple, but different aspects. I shared my own understanding of the Spirit (Hebrew ruach, Greek pneuma, Latin anima) as wind or the breath of God breathing in us. And so we'd share. And then we'd get back to wherever we were in the Creed.

Some of these inquirers have not had much formation in any tradition; others already have a deep faith. I am floored by how connected they are with God. And yet they want to know Catholicism. They have so much to bring to the Church, and I am so excited to get to journey with them. Their seeking God strengthens mine. In teaching Sacraments during the day, I've been sharing with my high school students about the adult process of coming to the Church; on Thursday evenings, I get to live it with real seekers. Wow. What a gift.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cracked Up

This has been the view out my office window for the past couple weeks. Two men have been working diligently on the ever-so-tedious task of sealing tiny cracks in the mortar of the bricks of our monastery church. Starting at the bottom of the rose window and working their way up they have searched and sealed one brick at time. What a job! This is an important task in that even the slightest crack can allow water in and cause damage to the inside. As I've watched them I have pondered the tiny cracks in my life - the business, inactivity, drifting thoughts in prayer... Though none of these "cracks" are monumental in themselves, left alone they could eventually cause damage. I am aware that I need to slow down, get outside, go for walks, and focus in prayer. As I continue to watch these men “heal” our church, I will take extra care to not become too cracked up myself!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Birthday Surprise

Believe it or not, we're already getting ready for our Christmas program at school. The students have lots to memorize. I asked the students what the date was for Christmas. One knew it was December 25. She said she knew because it was her dad's birthday. Another kid said, "Your dad is Jesus!" I told her they were just born on the same date, so another kid said, "Your dad's as old as Jesus?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just For Fun

Sunday and Monday I had the privilege of participating in our Dome Gala and Classic. The Gala had a Hawaiian theme and the spirit was very up beat and relaxing. It was a time to talk with those people who support our community in many ways. Many people from the local area as well as the Louisville area were present. There was music and dancing. As Sister Teresa said in her blog that you are as young as you feel is absolutely true. There were people in their 70's "cutting up the rug" on the dance floor to the sounds of Big Band music. My students would have certainly thought that we were all nuts!
Monday was the Dome Classic Golf Scramble. We had a beautiful day to golf and enjoy the outdoors. Although I had some great drives and putts it was fun just to enjoy the game. Our team, the sisters, were the last place team with a gross score of 95. So when they called our name for the first place net score we were all in shock. We just went out to have fun and enjoy the day because we knew that we were not the best players on the course. We love the game and that is what counts. Life is fun so enjoy your day and take time to play!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Who cares how old you are?

I set up this blog this morning...and I entered my birth year --1967. When I checked what was there it said that I was born in 1941!! That would make me 67 years old. I thought dude...that's old. Then I remember that when my students usually ask me how old I am, I tell them 67...thinking that they'll figure out that's the year I was born. Anyway, it was kind of a shock, but I know some Sisters who are older than 67 and they are living a life of youth. They are involved in so many activites and ministries. Some even have more energy than I do. It also makes me wonder, as I mature, how am I going about getting older? Am I acting like I'm so old that I have no energy to be with community, or am I trying to live each day to the fullest and get all that I can out of it...for we do not know what tomorrow brings. From what I've been told, the older you get, the faster the time go enjoy today, do something fun, then go hang out with an elderly person and see what they have to teach you.

Reflection on Sunday's Readings

Almost every Saturday evening for 1st Vespers of Sunday, one of our sisters gives a relection on that Sunday's Gospel. This weekend Sister Mary Carmen gave a wonderful reflection. Enjoy!

Reflection for the 23rd Sunday of the Year – Cycle A By Sr. Mary Carmen Spayd

Allow me to paraphrase a portion of the first reading from Ezekiel for this Sunday. “You, Sisters of this monastery—you, spiritual direction interns—I have appointed you watchpersons for this community, for your families. If I warn the wayward one and you fail to dissuade that one from her/his sinful way, I will hold you responsible.” The second reading from Romans, I think, tempers Ezekiel’s warning with the statement, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another for the one who loves another fulfills the law.” And in the Gospel just read to us Christ lists for his disciples the steps to be taken to bring about reconciliation between persons at odds with each other. Thus it should be quite obvious to us that scripture points out our obligation to help one another to turn from sin, to grow in holiness, and to attain eternal salvation.

Each one of us has a need to turn from some type of sinfulness or laxity and thus we need to hear the Divine Word, as well as the warning words of community and family—not just with the ear but with open hearts. In this week’s
Living with Christ, Phyllis Groux stresses this so well, stating that the intentional opening of one’s inner ears to the word of another, especially God’s word, is quite different from letting mere sound wash over our ears. She continues that whether and how well we hear is not just OUR business; it affects others as well. Closing ones heart cuts off the voice of others and thus fractures community life and breaks down the Body of Christ.

Where better to open our heart ears than in the presence of one another within the church community, within this very chapel. Recall that prior to August 21,
2005, this place was merely a structure in process--of stone, sand, wood, plaster, and marble. It became a holy place only through the rite of anointing and sprinkling of holy water and the intercession of the Holy Spirit; and, yes, by the presence of a loving, holy community of people. Likewise, a newly built house is transformed into a home only through the presence of loving family members who help one another become better parents, better children, concerned neighbors.
Buildings change for better or worse because of its inhabitants.

Within the confines of this holy place we are most blessed, given the opportunity daily to hear Jesus’ words to us about changing, experiencing conversion, becoming new. That renewal happens in a community of love which “does no evil to the neighbor.” We become something “other” than we are through concerned community members, spiritual directors, family members, or good friends who draw us out of our selfish “me, myself, and I” tendency; our opinionated attitudes; our critical stance of everything under the sun, our stubborn spirit, our lack of concern for the needs of others.

The church’s liturgy reminds us unceasingly of the need for healing and forgiveness. For example, the Penitential Rite at the beginning of each Mass gives us the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness and to be reconciled with one another. Unfortunately, and I speak for myself, we too frequently allow this rite to be a meaningless, blank, or distracted opportunity. Recently I have told myself, “Mary Carmen, get with it; pay attention; God is talking to you.”

As we survey the world around us, we see the tremendous need for conversion and reconciliation also within families, church communities, local government and nations at large. Even though the situation seems so totally hopeless much of the time, we must remember that with prayer all things are possible and that hearts of stone can be melted as St. Monica experienced with St. Augustine. Moreover, let us lead and encourage through good example.

In closing, let me quote again from Living with Christ, “May our hearts be open to hear, our words wise and courageous, for the sake of the Body of which we are a part.”