Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Today we had a monastery retreat day focused on reconciliation. It was a good way to try to tie up some of our "loose ends" and to make good on resolutions to be better at living community in the new year. Tonight we had First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, complete with a sung "Te Deum," and a lovely candlelight dinner. Very shortly now the party starts!

Hope you all are well and that your 2010 is blessed indeed. Know of our prayers for all of you and for peace in our world!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Time

Merry Christmas! It is so neat to be in the midst of all the Christmas joy that I experience at the monastery. I also got to go to Georgia to spend time with my family there for a few days. I had so much fun. My nephews are so sweet and have lots of energy! We are getting ready for a community retreat day/ New Year''s Eve gathering tomorrow, and I am looking forward to that. As 2009 draws to a close, I have so much to be thankful for- it was an eventful year, and God has been with me every step of the way. I don't know what my resolution is going to be (I'm not very good at keeping them), so I pray that God graces me with the ability to decide on something that will draw me closer to him and that I can live it out each and every day!

Christmas Break

I have come back to the Monastery from spending a few days with my family. I enjoy spending time there with my parents, siblings, and neices and nephews. We had a great time playing games and just hanging out. We even went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was a cute movie. My 3 year old nephew really liked it. It is a shame that my Christmas break is almost over. Breaks always go too fast.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A different Christmas

My prayers this Christmas are different than in years past. They are for those who are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one due to death. This summer I also lost my stepmother after her year long battle with cancer.

Christmas is a time for joy and happiness. A time to be with family sharing food, stories, fun, and play. When a loved one is missing it is usually in these special times we miss them the most. I know that I will miss my stepmother's enthusiasm for decorating the front yard with blow up statues and lighted deers. Although my father does not miss the putting up and taking down of all those decorations some how he does miss some of the experience, including the arguement over putting them up. I believe he did it to get a rise out of my stepmother.

So, for all of you who are missing a loved one this Christmas know that my prayers are with you. We remember that the coming of Christ gives us hope that our loved one is sharing in the joy of eternal life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Blessings to You!

All around the monastery "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!" There are beautiful decorations all around. Our church is gradually changing from Advent to the Christmas Season with the decorations. The trees are up, the stable is in place, and the poinsettias are ready to be placed throughout the church. Christmas Eve will be a busy day putting the final touches on the church so that it is transformed from the Advent Season to the Christmas Season.

As we make these final preparations for the Christmas liturgies, know that you are being remembered in our prayers. May you experience many blessings during this Christmas Season and throughout the coming year.

Tis the Season

The halls of the monastery are abuzz with elves decorating every room and baking wonderful breads and rolls for our "Monastery Christmas" celebration tomorrow. As Santa's elves are buzzing busily around here, I continue to be transfixed in the quiet darkness of these last hours of the Advent Season. We remain in a place of quiet and prayer as we enter in to the Celebration of Christmas just a few short hours from now. My heart is full of joy for the grace of God fulfills me deep within my soul. As Mary says in Luke's Gospel: "My Soul rejoices in God my Savior; my Spirit finds joy in the living God all around me!"

"Let it be done....." says Mary; for all of life is a prayer! May God fill YOUR heart with joy-filled blessings and gratitude this season and always! Amen and Amen!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Home at the Monastery

If you do not already know I live during the school year in Rockport, IN with 2 other sisters. It is such a great privelage to come home to the Monastery. The Monastery is my home. It makes my heart grow each time I come home and get welcomed by the siters who live here at home. They love to hear stories from my students and teaching. I love to hear the stories that they share about their lives. Coming home to the Monastery at Christmas is very heart warming and fills my soul with nourishment.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Although I spend most of my year teaching in Louisville and living in one of our monastery's mission houses, I am now "home" at the monastery motherhouse in Ferdinand for the Christmas break. Whenever I stay at the monastery, I have a room in one of the houses that we have on campus that we like to call The Farm House as it is located down a little gravel path, just past some of the barns leftover from days when our land was an active farm. It's a little bit of a hike from the main monastery buildings, where I spend most of my days, to the little house on the edge of the woods, where I spend my nights. I usually enjoy the short walk out to the house, but sometimes I find myself hoping to see one of our sisters taking a car as she heads out to work or to the store or to any other errand that might call sisters away for the day. Last night was one of those nights. It was cold and windy and dark and I had forgotten my sturdy tennis shoes for the walk home. As I headed out of the back door of the monastery, I was kind of dragging my feet, hoping somebody would come along and offer me a ride to the house. No such luck! It appeared I'd have to make the trek by foot.

I headed down the back hill and made the turn toward the house. Just then I happened to glance over toward the grotto hill area of our grounds. The Christmas lights were turned on and I had yet to see the hill lit up in all its glory. Just as I was noticing how nicely the area was decorated this year, I felt something cold on my nose. Then I felt another, and another and I realized that it was snowing!

I stopped dead in my tracks, transfixed my the world around me. Snow falling silently to the ground, Christmas lights blazing as a sign of the days to come, wooden cutouts of three wise men making their way slowly to the baby Jesus. At that moment, I stopped cursing the sisters who didn't come by and save me from the dark walk home. Instead, I thanked God for the amazing opportunity I'd been given. Had I taken a car I would have missed the first snow of the season. I would have missed the beautiful view of our grotto, and I would have missed seeing God in the everyday glory that surrounds me!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My new life here in Ferdinand

It has been almost five months since I have been here. Time has sure flown by! I can't believe it's going to be the fourth week of Advent already! I have been so busy with everything around here, I guess time just some how got away from me!

I have really enjoyed being here. I have had new experiences. I have taken a class over at St. Meinrad on the Psalms taught by Father Harry. I learned so much in this class. I have also taken a couple of classes here at the monastery. One is on The Rule of St. Benedict and Lectio Divina, the other is on The Liturgy of the Hours. So much interesting information!

I have also learned all about living in community with other sisters all different ages, backgrounds and personalities. I have also had the opportunity to do some service around the monastery. I have been involved with cleaning and decorating the dinning room, helping out in activities up in our HHC (Hildegard Health Center for our older sisters), cleaning one of the older sister's bedrooms, keeping up the Grotto, and folding sheets in the laundry. These opportunities have all allowed me to learn how to do different things, as well as work alongside many different sisters.

My prayer life here has been greatly enriched. I really love the praying three times a day as a whole community. I also love the Lectio Divina and Centering prayer that I have learned since being here. I had not really ever been introduced to Lectio or Centering prayer before I entered. They have really opened new doors for me.

As this Advent Season is drawing to a close, I am reflecting on how I have been and how I am continuing to wait paitently for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even if it is just taking out a little extra time each day to sit in the quiet and listen with the ear of my heart. I hope you all have a blessed fourth week of Advent and a truely Merry Christmas.

Praying with the Team

This year I've taken on a new duty at the high school where I teach: chaplain of the girls' basketball team. I was nervous about it when I started, because frankly, I didn't know anything about the game and I didn't really know any of the usual attitudes or rituals that go with it, save standing for the national anthem. The coach's request was simply that I pray with the team in the locker room before and after games, and sit on the bench with them. If someone would get hurt, I could help tend to them. How hard could it be? I looked forward to getting a chance to see some of my kids in a different context.

Thus far, it's been good. It can be hard to know what to say to God with them sometimes, especially when the team's just lost and the coach has totally reamed them about it. Other times, after a well-earned win, it's easy to give voice to thanks and praise. More and more I am aware of how we bring EVERYTHING to God: our hopes, our failures, our attempts, our joy, our thanks. We come to God as we are. God sees us and knows us better than we know ourselves. What a wonderful thing.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

An eight year old child that I know is very distressed because the lights on his Christmas tree have stopped working and his family cannot afford to replace them or buy cookie dough to make cookies for Santa. The child explained that he is upset not because he cannot enjoy the lights or the outdoor decorations, but because he thinks that the lack of lights, decorations, and cookies will be a poor welcome for Santa, who has been so generous to him.
As I listened to this child's tale of woe, I realized that I am probably not setting up the most hospitable environment in my heart for Jesus to be born. I feel busy, rushed, and overwhelmed -- kind of like my internal Christmas lights have stopped working on a string or two. Like the child, I don't feel ready for Jesus' (or Santa's) coming. I don't have to worry about buying Christmas lights or cookie dough, but I do need to continue to prepare my heart during the remainder of this Advent season. This child's concern about being welcoming for Santa challenges me to be welcoming not only to Jesus, but to others as well.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Nutcracker

Last night, I got to go see the Louisville Ballet perform the Nutcracker. I love ballet and I love the story of the Nutcracker! What an amazing evening it was. It started with dinner at an Italian restaurant, where the food and company were wonderful-then off to see the ballet! Seeing it live, with the breathtaking scenery, hearing the toeshoes tapping on the floor ,and listening to the music helped me to feel God's joy and hope in a special way as I prepare for Christmas. I noticed that there were times today when I stopped and remembered the humorous parts or a particularly difficult lift that the dancers performed. God was very present and I am so glad that I got to attend.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Magic of Advent

The Advent Season is my favorite time of the year! The twinkling lights, the soft glow of the candlelight on the wreath, the eager child ecstatic about visiting Santa Claus and revealing her wish list, the chill of the air - all of it brings to fullness the beauty of the Season! My favorite time of the day right now is about 4:15 a.m. when I rise for the day and sit with my cup of coffee, wrapped in a blanket and spend time with my God praying by the soft lights of our Christmas tree! So peaceful, so quiet, so magical-the stillness captures my heart everyday! What a gift we receive as Christ is born once again into the center of our being this Christmas!

My goal this Advent Season is to find ways of seeing and SEEKING God every day and in all the little things that come to light with each new dawn, not just during the season of Advent but every day, all year long! I often get caught up with homework, studying, household chores, and life in general, which is easy to do, but I decided to make a point to stop for a while everyday and see within where God is working.

After all, seeking God in all ways and in all ways seeking God is the core of our Benedictine life together-right? May God continue to bless your Advent and Christmas Season with many blessings and may the stillness of God's new dawn everyday bring you all that you need and desire! Amen!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The origin of the song: The Twelve Days of Christmas.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas pass it on if you wish.'

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone and may God bless us one and all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Healthy Holidays

As people are trying to avoid getting sick and deciding whether or not to get a flu shot, I'm reminded of our Sr. Mary William who once said, "I'm not sick; I just don't feel well."

With all the hustle and bustle, it's easy to get sick. Here's wishing everyone healthy holidays.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Secrets Revealed

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (12/8) is my favorite feast day. It was on this day that I first told someone that I was considering religious life.

I had just gone to Mass in the evening. A friend and I decided to get something to eat and then meet up with a 3rd friend later to go sledding. When she and I got to the restaurant, she said, "Do you mind if I take in a Bible? You know, in case, we want to pray or something." I was surprised by her question, but how can you say no to the Bible, so I said OK.

We had a nice meal and conversation, but the idea of religious life was dominating my thoughts so much that I just couldn't take it anymore. I tried to get my mouth to form the words, to tell her about this thought that was driving me crazy and taking me over, but I had difficulty stringing the words together. I was hoping she'd be able to read my mind. After some struggling, I said, "Do you know what I'm trying to tell you?" She answered, "No. You're just going to have to tell me."

The time had come. Here we were, having just finished supper with a Bible on the table. I couldn't take it anymore, so I quickly blurted out, "I want to become a nun."

That was it.

My big, dark secret revealed in one short sentence on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, right after supper and before going sledding. Then I thought, "Do nuns go sledding? I just told her I want to become a nun. Should I go sledding? How do I act? Do I walk differently now? Are people looking at me differently?"

I'm happy to say I did go sledding that evening and had a wonderful time, laughing and having fun.

I did walk differently after that. My secret had been revealed. I was able to walk lighter, not worrying about keeping my desire to follow God's will bundled up inside of me. Keeping it secret and resisting it really had weighed me down, but now I was free from that.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was a wonderful day to share God's love and plan for me with others. It was also a great day to go sledding.

And in case you're wondering if nuns go sledding, come to Ferdinand and join us at the top of the hill after a nice snowfall.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

All's Well That Ends Well

Today I used one of our Mass songs as a warm-up. We sang the refrain and then the choir sang verse 1. Then we all sang the refrain again. I didn't think anything of it. However, when we sang it for Mass, the loudest kid (if not kids) started with verse 2. (Makes sense. We did already do verse 1 when we had the warm-up before Mass.) The other choir kids are all looking at the one singing the loudest and the wrong verse. I'm playing the piano and shout verse 2 when it comes time for verse 2. The loudest kid (who had a microphone by the way), didn't hear me and went on to verse 3. So we had verse 2 and verse 3 at the same time. It didn't get settled out until we came to the last verse and the kid (or kids) who were ahead had no other verse to sing, so we sang the last verse together. Oh, well. All's well that ends well.

Now, back to work. I have a backdrop to create and a Christmas program to worry about. I try to remember to breathe and put all in God's hands. Laughter is good as well.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Gift of Community

My favorite part of giving tours at the monastery is going to Marian Parlor and pointing out 3 paintings by Sr. Gregory Ems. Her paintings are extraordinary. The story is that the community realized she had a great talent for art, so they sent her to an art school. She had been there only a little while when the school sent her back because there was nothing they could teach her. She had natural talent, so she was told to go back to the monastery and paint.

I find her story absolutely amazing - the first part more so than the last part. The part that says, "The community realized she had a great talent for art." I love that part, for you see, I can really relate. When I entered the monastery, I truly was unaware that I had any musical talent. I had wanted to take lessons as a kid, but since that wasn't a possibility, I taught myself. I didn't think much of my ability to do this. Since I could teach myself, I just figured anyone could do it.

I used to buy classical piano books, ragtime pieces, and popular hits. These were well beyond my ability, but I bought them any way in order to maintain my motivation and also in hopes of one day learning them. I worked hard. I even performed in some competitions and participated in talent shows. I never really did well, but tried anyway. I was unaware that I had any musical talent. After all, I had just taught myself. That must mean anyone can do it if they just put time into it like I did.

When I was a junior in high school, my brother and I decided to invest together in a $70 violin and a book called Teach Yourself Violin. I could follow the directions and figure out the fingerings enough to play some simple songs like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." However, I didn't know how to tune the violin, so it was more like an abstract rendition of the pieces. I remember the parish priest visiting our house once. My mom suggested we play. Not knowing we weren't in tune, we were proud to play our songs. Looking back, I'm thankful that he was so kind as we played. I think he must have also been tone deaf.

In college, I went to Mexico for an Alternative Spring Break trip. While there, I bought a really nice guitar for only $20. I had trouble teaching myself, so I put an announcement in the Newman Center bulletin about a guitar group starting up. Other beginners and some intermediate students came once a week, and we all helped each other learn and had a fun time.

When I entered the monastery, I could partly play a few instruments, but like I said, had only taught myself and didn't consider myself any good. Thank goodness the community saw differently. They helped me realize I had musical talent and helped me develop it.

I still remember a few years ago when someone outside community asked me if I was a musician. I paused because I had never used that word to describe myself. By this time, I had been in community for 3 years. I was taking piano and organ lessons and playing regularly for prayer and Mass. Since I hesitated to answer the question, the person asked it again, "Are you a musician?" Three years earlier, I would have answered, "No. Not really." After thinking about it and since the community helped me realize it, I answered, "Yes." By saying it out loud, it was really news to me as well as to the person who asked the question.

I still wonder how I got to where I am today. I had dreamed of teaching music, but never thought it'd be a reality.

When I show tourists Sr. Gregory Ems's paintings and say, "The community realized she had a great talent for art," I think also of how much the community has gifted me, helping me to realize talents and abilities I didn't know I had.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Small Town Comfort

I went home to Charleston, MO for Thanksgiving. I used to think I was from a big town. It had everything I needed growing up - a school, a park, a convenience store, a fireworks store, a couple grocery stores, and a few restaurants. When I was in high school, we really moved uptown and got a McDonald's. This caused a need for another stoplight, raising the grand total to 2. It was a big deal.

Needless to say my idea of a "big" town changed as soon as I stepped outside our "city" limits. Our population sign as you entered the town read 5,085. Someone once added a sign at the bottom that read "and two old crows."

I was from a town where it was expected that you wave to people as you drive by. People didn't think you were crazy if you said hello to them. Once I was out walking and 2 women on their front porch invited me up for lemonade. I had no idea who they were, so I decided to accept in order to get a closer look at them. My plan didn't work; even though I got closer, I still had no idea who they were. They then told me they knew my mom, so I figured the lemonade was safe to drink. It was hard to go walking in a small town. Cars would stop and offer you a ride, and people outside would want you to stop and chat.

One thing about living in a small town is that people get to know your ways pretty well. This was clearly evident one time when my brother and I were home from college, and my brother went to the grocery store. When he went to check out, the lady said, "This isn't the kind of toilet paper your mom usually buys." She then told him what kind my mom bought and asked if he wanted to change. My brother decided to just keep the kind he had. He couldn't believe that our town was actually that small.

Living in a small town does have its ups and downs. Not much is secret, but you can find people who are willing to help when you are in need, as well as someone to offer lemonade on a hot summer day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

May this Thanksgiving Day be a time of thanking God for all the gifts and bounty that we have. May it be a day of giving thanks for all the people in our lives: family, friends, co-workers, etc. May it be a day of sharing with others who don't have as much as we do and a day of prayer for all who are in need in any way. Let us truly give thanks to God and ask for God's continued blessing on all people.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nun Stereotypes

Every now and then I get asked the stereotypical nun question, "Do you use a ruler?" I don't think I come across as an angry nun who would resort to hitting someone with a ruler, but I've been asked that question more times than I can count.

Recently someone in my class at Indiana University Southeast asked me that question, so I decided to have a little fun with it. When I gave my presentation the next week, I brought in a ruler. I started by saying, "I get asked often if I carry a ruler. I do have one in case anyone isn't paying attention."

Of all the contributions religious sisters have made over the centuries, unfortunately they are probably most associated with rulers and cracked knuckles. I wonder when this stereotype will change.

I know when I was looking into religious life, stereotypes are what hindered me from sharing my desire with others and pursuing the call openly. It wasn't until I visited Ferdinand and met some wonderful, loving, and caring women that my image of nuns changed. I learned they too are just like me - human beings with flaws and weaknesses, seeking God, and doing the best they can in life.

How about it? Consider your image of nuns. What is it based on? Come to Ferdinand to see if your image is accurate of our community.

The next time I get asked if I use a ruler, I'll answer, "Sure, to measure with, just like you."

Monday, November 23, 2009


Sister Agnes Marie and I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) last week, along with about 22,000 other youth and adult leaders! It was an amazing thing to see. The high school age youth in attendance, probably 98% of the 22,000, were so full of life and enthusiasm for their faith, it was inspiring!
While we were at our booth, Sarah and Stephen stopped by to see me. I was their Nanny 13 years ago before I entered the monastery. Looks like they have both passed me up! It was wonderful to see them again!
During the event the young people from Dioceses all over the United States showed their wares representing where they were from, including hats, buttons, and more. Then the trading began and you didn't know who was from where anymore, unless you looked at their name tags. I decided to get in on the trading action, too! What fun! I especially liked my horse hat from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky.
Friday morning there was a procession from the stadium, which was about four city blocks away from the conference center. It was an amazing sight to see. I'm glad I was viewing it from up above and not in the middle of it though.
Please pray for these wonderful youth of our Catholic Church!
If you want to see all my pictures from NCYC click on this link:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let the Markt Begin!

This weekend the town of Ferdinand is celebrating with our annual Christkindlmarkt, a German Christmas market. (Never mind the fact that it's only November and not even Advent yet- this is tradition, at least for the last twelve years here!) Every year it seems to be bigger. Last night I had the honor of ushering in the Markt as the Christkindl, an angel who appears from the church doors singing a proclamation from the Christ Child about the real meaning of Christmas. After that people could listen to harp music, look at some art, and get something hot to drink in the church crypt (lower level of the monastery church). Others headed to a dinner where Sr. Kim and I provided some music.

Today the monastery and the town are abustle with people from all over, eating roasted almonds and examinining antiques in the gym down the hill, taking tours of the church, finding Christmas presents and delicious baked goods at our gift shop, and singing along with various performing musicians as they check out the arts and crafts at the local high school gym and the town community center. I have yet to see it, but I'm told a live reindeer has come this year as well!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Got Laughter?

When you teach 3 year olds to 8th graders, you have to be ready for anything. Sometimes I think, "What would another teacher think about the way I teach?" or "I don't think another teacher would handle it this way." Most of the time, instead of disciplining the students (which another teacher may do), I can't help but laugh. Of course, I don't do this with all the classes. In some cases, if I encourage a little, they go to the extreme and chaos may erupt. However, I can't help it sometimes. I laugh at things the students do or say as long as it's appropriate and they know not to take advantage of it and go to the extreme. Today I was laughing so hard I was crying.

I was practicing with a few students for the Christmas program. One girl was in a small singing group and had the giggles. The methods she was using to "get rid of her laughter" had me cracking up. They might have helped her, but the plan backfired on me. I was crying from laughing so hard. This was good because getting ready for a Christmas program is stressful.

Joy and laughter does increase motivation. Maybe some teachers would discipline more when I would simply laugh, but I'm content with how I manage my classroom as long as the students know the boundaries of controlled fun in the classroom.

Check out this video about the fun theory. Last time I checked, this video had over 8 million views.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

High Expectations

Since entering the monastery in 2001, I've gone through an 8 year conversion process. I told a retreat director once that I'd like to reach a plateau, just a leveling off or break from all this growing and changing. It just proves how much growing and changing is needed.

A plateau and a break would be nice, but I know I'm in need of lots more change. One thing I would like to change is the level of expectation I put on myself. At times, it's brutal. Sometimes I perceive it as coming from others. Often it's my own doing.

I remember one summer helping my grandpa on his farm. Since I was 20, and he was 80, logic told me that I should work 4 times as hard. If you knew my grandpa, even being able to match the work he did at 80 would have been an accomplishment. Quadrupling it would have been impossible. He was a hard worker and also very wise. Surprisingly, he would say to me, "Take a break. Get a drink. Rest a bit." He knew how to work, but also how to rest and take care of himself. A good balance for success.

Somewhere when I was growing up, I got the idea that I was supposed to know everything right away. I've just about driven myself crazy with this belief. Somehow I was to jump from beginner to proficient without all the steps in between.

For example, I remember wanting to take piano lessons when I was 7. However, I didn't start taking lessons until I was 24. Therefore, my reasoning told me I had 17 years to make up. Of course, there was no time to waste. I had to do it overnight. Do you know how exhausting it is to think like that?

In the situation with my grandpa and with the piano, my expectations of myself were unreasonable and impossible. We are very blessed at the monastery with wise mentors who see things more reasonably. When I look at what I think I "should" be, they help me see logically what truly is. I know I can't jump to the final step after taking only the first one. With practice, hard work, and perseverance, I can reach the final step, but only by taking the other ones in between as well.

I have definitely grown a great deal since entering the monastery, and I know I still have lots to learn. Thankfully there are many wise women here who teach me. . . . . . . It looks like it may be a while before I reach a plateau in my personal journey.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Weekend

Although Friday evening, Oct. 30, was windy with rain, children and grandchildren of the monastery employees came to trick-or-treat. There were tiny skeletons and goblins, Egyptian princesses, football players, and some unidentifiable creatures among the guests.
Saturday was a much more beautiful day, and the schedule afforded time for some leisurely activities. Today, Sunday, is gorgeous and a great day for a long walk. Later on I will be making some of my regular weekend phone calls to catch up with friends.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


We celebrated Halloween at school yesterday. It is fun to see all the kids in their costumes. Some of them are very unique and interesting like a twister game and a chickmagnet. Then you have the usual witches and princess. We walked as a school down mainstreet Rockport and the businesses gave out candy. I was grateful that the rain held out until it was over.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Morning Thoughts

I've had a busy weekend with community meetings and getting together with friends at the monastery, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Coming to the monastery Friday night, I was tired after a long week of work. (Work was very good- but I had LOTS on my plate, so it was quite busy). But, it has been so nice to connect with everyone, laugh a lot, eat great food, and hang out with some amazing people- just watching TV, dancing together, or whatever. Then, today I get to go to a meeting to get ready for an upcoming Teens Encounter Christ weekend- which I'm looking forward to. So, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle grading Algebra tests and writing Fox in The Box results this week!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

God's Beauty . . . . Do You See It?

I wonder what the world would be like if we all truly believed and didn't lose sight of the fact that we are created by God. We are wonderfully and beautifully made even when we mess up or don't know something. We are wonderfully and beautifully made even when we've worked hard, but things didn't go the way we planned. We are wonderfully and beautifully made even with all our flaws and imperfections. We are wonderfully and beautifully made even when we forget something, make a mistake, or don't meet another's expectations. We are wonderfully and beautifully made when we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or show up at the wrong place. We are wonderfully and beautifully made because we are children of God. God created us; so therefore, we never want to insult God or any of God's creations.

How much different our lives and our world would be if we truly believed and lived out of the fact that God loves us. We are created by God. We are wonderfully and beautifully made.

We all deserve a place in this universe. Build yourself up by knowing that God loves you. God created you. You are wonderfully and beautifully made.

New Songs

I may have stepped up the "coolness ladder" at school. When the 7th and 8th graders participate and behave well, I let them listen to a song of their choice at the end of class. These have to be preapproved songs appropriate for school. I choose a person who then chooses a song from the list. The students enjoy it. They seem to behave and participate better (at least most of them or they lose the privilege). I also have benefited by being exposed to new music and by becoming aware of the students' favorite songs.

Some of the songs they listen to are extremely sad and touching. One such song is "Alyssa Lies" by Jason Michael Carroll. If you haven't heard it, please look it up. It's a country song about child abuse.

I believe that music gives us a way to express ourselves when words fail. Oftentimes, the music expresses feelings the students (or adults, for that matter) may not be able to articulate on their own. Sometimes the words express loneliness, confusion, or a desire to change oneself or the world.

I'm glad I'm able to hear the music the students are listening to so that I can understand the students better. I become aware of what music they enjoy and what songs affect them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sister Kristine Anne, Sister Betty, and Sister Jane didn't plan it, but today they ended up wearing a slight version of our "new look!" Our new colors for publications are shades of blue, purple, orange, and green. When I saw them and asked if I could take their picture, they were good sports about it.

Sister Kristine Anne is our prioress (superior). Sister Betty is the monastery coordinator, making sure all those little, and some not so little things run smoothly here. Sister Jane is our subprioress.

Have you seen our new logo and colors? If not, check out our web page for a peek.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Solemn Vows

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the solemn vows of a friend from college. While studying, we both were discerning a call to religious life. Eventually Ann became a cloistered Dominican at a monastery in Connecticut, and I became a contemplative-active Benedictine. While she no longer uses email or the internet, we've kept in touch with real letters through our years in initial formation. It's been fun comparing notes on community life in our different orders.

Next year I hope to make my own perpetual monastic profession with this community, so I was curious to see how things would be at a cloistered monastery profession. Though different from the way we do it, the ritual was beautiful. Sr. Ann was so peaceful and happy, and her community of course was delighted finally to have her for good! It makes me look forward even more to the day I can promise "forever!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009


This is my favorite time of the year. I love to watch the leaves change color. I also love the cool weather and being able to wear a light jacket. I also love to watch football during this time of year. My students were in a great debate at school on Friday. There was going to be a big high school football game. I have students from North Spencer County and South Spencer County. The two high schools were playing each other. They wanted to know who I was cheering for. I told them both. They said I couldn't cheer for both. I found out today that North Spencer (Heritage Hills) won in over time. I can't wait to hear the conversation in my room on Monday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Come & See is Here

Today is a day to get ready for our Come & See visitors. We are blessed to have two great women coming to spend the weekend with our community and learn more about our way of life. Our theme for this weekend is, "Discerning God in the Everyday." Sister Becky and the other sisters on the team will provide input on ways to find God's will/God's desire for us in our everyday lives.

Please pray for those traveling today, for their weekend experience, and for the sisters on the team for the weekend.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Learning New Things

My brother once told me that the word "gullible" wasn't in the dictionary. He said, "People just think it's a word, but it's not really." Yeah, right . . . . . . . . . . . I looked it up later just to make sure.

One time when we were young, he was scribbling on a piece of paper. When I asked him what he was doing, he answered, "I'm writing Japanese." I was sooooooo disappointed that my teacher wasn't teaching me Japanese. I begged him to teach me.

Teasing brothers and trusting sisters don't mix well together.

I enjoy learning, but not always in the way that it happens. Unfortunately, we don't get to choose how we want that learning to occur. Sometimes it takes place the hard way or from people tricking us or from those who annoy us the most. Are we open to the opportunities God sends us to learn new things? Do we see them as graced moments?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking Medicine

I may be the daughter of a nurse, but I am the worst medicine taker. My mom would start prepping me 2 hours before by saying, "Catherine, you'll need to take some medicine before you go to bed." I knew I couldn't run from it or slow down time. I would temporarily stop breathing every time she repeated those words throughout the 2 hours.

When the time came, there I sat at the kitchen table with the medicine in front of me, scared to open my mouth. My mom was very patient as I slowly built up enough courage to swallow. It was all quite a scene - one for which I should have gotten an academy award, except I wasn't acting. When I swallowed, you would have thought I was dying from instant poison. I gagged and carried on so! As I did my mom would encourage me, "Hurry!! Drink some water! Eat a cracker! Swallow, swallow, swallow!!"

Then when it was all said and done - 2 hours of prep, 15 minutes of sitting in front of the medicine, and then finally swallowing, my mom would say, "See. That wasn't so bad." Then came the dreaded words, "Now that was only half. You need to take a little more." I certainly had worked myself into a frenzy all for a tablespoon or 2 of medicine.

I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day. She heard me cough and said, "Do I need to come up there and give you some medicine?" I'm happy to say I'm a little better at taking medicine and can do it on my own now, but when I heard those words again, I temporarily stopped breathing.

Why do we resist things that are good for us? I knew the medicine was necessary and beneficial in the long run, however I had a hard time getting past the short term discomfort.

When I look at the decisions I make, do I think long term or am I discouraged by the short term discomfort? When asked to follow God as a Benedictine Sister, I had to face some immediate fears in order to reach long term health and happiness. Immediate fears such as "What will my friends think?" "What about MY plans?" "What all will I be giving up?" "What exactly am I opening myself up to?" "Who else my age is doing this?" I had to swallow all those fears, knowing in the long run that this is where God wants me.

God will only lead us to happiness. On our path toward God, there's only good medicine that will lead us to a more healthy and happy life. Are we brave enough to receive it and see past our fears so that we may experience more fullness of life?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our God Is an Amazing God

I went to a public school for most of my education, but did go to a Catholic school when I was in 1st and 2nd grade. The priest would visit our classroom every so often. The teacher would let us know, and we were to be on our best behavior. (Weren't we always?)

I still remember what happened on two of his visits. Once, he chose different students to be disciples. I was Bartholomew. I remember thinking, "Yeah! I'm Bartholomew. " I had never heard that name before, so it made it extra special.

I also remember in 1st grade when he asked our class how many gods there were. I knew that God was every where and that God was in each person, so I confidently raised my hand and said, "Billions and billions and billions and billions." Makes sense, right? He's everywhere. If God is in my classroom and also in all the classrooms all across the world as well as in each person, there had to be billions of gods.

I'm sure my teacher's eyes got big. How could the brightest student in the class . . . (Ha, ha, only kidding.) The priest called on someone else who answered, "One." WHAT!!!!! You can imagine my surprise. One God! How can that be? The idea blew me away! I remember thinking, "Wow! There's something amazing about this God!"

"OK," I thought, "God's not really everywhere." I then pictured God on a cloud up in Heaven, looking down on each of us. The idea that God sees all of us on earth even when we're inside a building and under a roof blew me away also when a teacher revealed that bit of news to me later in the year.

So, let's get this straight. There's one God, but yet God is everywhere, knows everything, is in each one of us, and sees everything even when we're inside a building with a roof over our heads. Amazing! There's definitely something amazing about this God!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Going on a Bear Hunt

One of my favorite children's books is Going on a Bear Hunt. I only first discovered this book when I was in college and working with children with autism. One little boy named Joey absolutely loved that book. I know I've heard it or read it at least 1,000 times. The message of the book has finally sunk in as I apply it to my life.

In the book (it's also an echo speech piece), you're looking for a bear. You're not scared. You have your "lunch by your side and your camera too." Throughout the book, you come to different obstacles - thick mud, tall grass, a big lake, etc. Each time the same phrase, "Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Gotta go through it," is repeated. As soon as that obstacle is overcome, you state again your focus - "Going on a bear hunt" - and that you're not scared. After all, you've got your "lunch by your side and your camera too."

At the end, you come to the cave, find the bear, and then turn around and run like crazy through the mud, across the lake, through the tall grass, and through all the other obstacles until you are safely back where you started.

Does this sound like life? I believe, "Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Gotta go through it," certainly applies to mine. When I meet obstacles I often want to go around them, but just like the book says, "I gotta go through them."

"I've got my lunch by my side" - food for the journey, the essentials needed in life. I also have my camera - the fun loving part of life, the extra things that make life interesting. The camera coud also represent my memories. It takes documentation of where I've been and keeps it on file.

It's interesting all the obstacles that were overcome in the book, but yet when the person came to the cave, that was the last place he/she wanted to be. In that case, it was a wise decision.

How often in life have I worked hard for something, overcome obstacles, and then not been happy with the outcome? Did I make the pursuit for the right reasons? Was I looking for the greener grass and then realized I was happy where I was? Was I afraid of the success once I achieved it? Was I out of my element and felt out of place once I arrived, so retreated to where I started? All questions to ponder.

Right now, I'm just trying to get through the obstacles, so I tell myself, "I'm going on a journey. I'm not scared. Got my faith by my side and my wisdom too. Coming to (fill in the blank). Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Gotta go through it."

Blessings on your journey. Remember:
1. Consult with God. (Not mentioned in the book, but should be the first step.)
2. Know your purpose. (What's your focus or goal?)
3. Bring along what you'll need. (Faith, prayer, wisdom, experience, help from others, etc.)
4. Continue through any obstacles. (Don't waste energy trying to go over, under, or around. They exist. You gotta go through them.)
5. When you reach your goal, rejoice. Look how far you've come and how much stronger you are because of your journey and persistence.
6. Evaluate. Don't just run back to where you started. You worked hard to get where you are. Ask yourself, "Is the outcome what you want? Is it a safe and healthy place to be?"
7. Start over. (Consult with God, know your purpose, bring along what you'll need, continue through any obstacles, rejoice, evaluate.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

High School Alumnae Day

I attended an all school reunion today in my home town. The oldest grads were from the 40's. We all visited together, sang with enthusiasm at Mass, enjoyed our lunch, and had a short program. We were taught by the Sisters of Providence from St. Mary's-of-the-Woods, IN. Today is the feast day of their foundress, Mother Theodore Guerin, so the day was extra special for the SP's who also attended. Although I didn't join their community as a member, these SPs helped foster my own religious vocation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I never would have thought that I would watch so much football after I entered the Monastery. The 2 sisters that I live with and I like to watch football. Any time there is a Colts or Notre Dame game on we like to watch them. We also have started watching Giants because of Eli Manning and Bears because of Jay Cutler. We don't watch these very often but if there is nothing else on. We are also very animated when we watch, so it is fun.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Broken Recorders

The 4th graders recently received their recorders that they will learn to play in music class. This is a time of great joy for the students and a time of great anguish for many parents and siblings.

One student told me a few years ago that her sister had hidden her recorder from her. I can’t say I blamed her, but I told the girl I would keep replacing any that got “lost.” Another girl told me, “I know all kinds of songs.” Considering she had just gotten it, I was really surprised and asked her what songs she knew. She said, “They don’t have names. I just make them up.” “Good for you!” I exclaimed.

One time a girl came in with her music extremely dirty and crumbled up. When I asked her if she needed new music, she said, “No, that’s OK. It reminds me of home. My brothers step on my music and crumble it up when I’m playing.” One girl who loved playing the recorder was going to her sister’s college graduation. She asked me if I thought it would be OK to play on the airplane. I advised against it.

Many students every year tell me their recorders are broken when they can’t make the desired sounds. I used to always laugh inwardly. Now I’ve come to expect that comment. The fact that my beginning recorder students make . . . shall I say, unique sounds, has nothing to do with the recorder. Any recorder they try (if they continue playing it the same way) will be “broken.” Fixing a “broken” recorder usually involves looking at how it’s being played. And voila! The “broken” recorder is now fixed.

This is true in life also. How easy it is for me to blame an undesired outcome on something outside of myself. This relationship is bad. It must be the other person’s fault. My job is awful. I blame my boss or co-workers. Instead of blaming the brokenness on something external, we could look at our own role in the situation. Sometimes it is a bad situation and we need out. Sometimes, however, if we get out and go to a new location, a new job, or start a new relationship, we may continue getting the same results.

The students with the “broken” recorders didn’t need a new recorder. No matter how many recorders they would have tried, the result would have always been the same until they started playing it differently. It's the same in life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Max Lucado

I'm reading a wonderful book called Traveling Light by Max Lucado. I've read some of his other books, including his children's books and have also had the opportunity to hear him speak. It amazes me that after writing a gazillion books that he would still have more to say and that everything he says is always so good.

I guess certain messages need to be repeated lots of times and in a variety of ways in order for them to eventually sink in and affect the way we live. Messages like "Fear not," "God loves you," "God provides," "God understands," "Be not afraid." Many books have been written to help us truly absorb these messages. I know I need to hear them repeated often, which is why spiritual reading is a part of our life. Ideally, it's a part of our daily life.

Repetition of these messages is so important to me as I face new challenges with each new day. I'm thankful Max has come up with so many new and different ways to make God's message to us come alive and apply to our everyday lives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Love of Community

I was driving home from my night class at the University of Southern Indiana and was listening to Delilah on the radio. If you haven't listen to this before it is a lady who plays love songs and takes callers to talk about their love stories. As I was thinking and listening, my love for community and this way of life kept coming into my thoughts. Sr. Michelle and I have already talked about how our love and committment to this life fits into what some of them are talking about. I have fallen in love with living the Benedictine way of life just like some of these people share about falling in love with their husband or wife. I know that it might sound funny but I really do love this life!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Self Reflection

As community members, we do a lot of self reflection. This is especially so during initial formation. I remember one particular survey we were asked to fill out for community. It was a kind of personal inventory. I was doing fairly well answering the questions the best I could, but one question really stumped me. I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it. Then I started laughing and realized my hesitation gave me the answer to the question, "Do you have trouble making decisions?" Hmmmmmmm. . . . . .

Looking at our personalities reminds me of a Ziggy cartoon I saw one time where Ziggy was asked, "Are you here for the assertiveness training?" Ziggy's response, "If that's ok with you." It's also like asking someone, "Do you think I'm direct?" Well, the fact that you ask the question directly kind of gives away the answer.

Sometimes we're blinded to that which is most obvious. Self reflection and openess to what others tell us help us to see more clearly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kids are Funny

I teach 4th grade and I have taught my students this cheer that we do when they do something well. This is the first class that really likes to do it. It is called the roller coaster cheer. It is very simple but they love to do it. You take your hands like you are the roller coaster and make the sound going up the coaster and then when you go down you make the sound like you make when riding a roller coaster. It is kind of hard to explain but the kids loved it. We also have been going on as a class. This website has all different questions to answer and then you earn so much rice for poor countries for each question answered. I hope my students are learning alittle bit about social justice. Father talked about social justice in his homily the other day and when we got back from Mass, my students said Sr. Jill we do social justice when we go on free rice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

No Peaking!

Ever try to play a game and tell kids not to peak? . . . . . It doesn't work. At least not with all of them. The funniest tattling has to go to the kid that tattles that another kid is peaking. Hmmmmm. . . . and how do you know that?

Retreats are wonderful!

Last week I spent on retreat, a time of quiet for reflection and just spending time with God. I enjoy nature so I spent time outside enjoying the trees, the grass with its dew drops hanging on to each blade, the spider webs spun everywhere it seemed. I enjoyed the rain drops hanging on the spruce trees, the clouds of all kinds, the blue sky, the gray sky, the lake, and flowers and birds. I watched the hummingbirds and listened to other birds singing. It was wonderful to have the time to take all of this in. God is so good.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Confessions of a 5K Cheater

Yesterday morning I cheated in jogging a 5K for the Coaltion for the Homeless. I didn't mean to, but I couldn't find the starting line! After checking in at the registration table and pinning on my nice big number about 10 minutes before the race was to start, I asked one of our sisters working the race where it would start, and she pointed down the road, saying, "That way." So I started walking that way, farther into the park.

I kept walking and saw nothing that looked like a starting line, and when I asked a regular weekend walker if she'd seen it, she wasn't quite sure, but said she'd seen a big group of people down the road a bit: "If you walk really fast you might catch up with them." So I walked on, following several signs indicating where the race was, until I met up with two women with water and stop watches.

"Excuse me," I asked, "but where is the beginning of the race?"
"A mile back that way!" one of them laughed. "The race hasn't started yet!"

Oops. So here I am a mile into the race, a slow jogger type inadvertently well ahead of the real runners, a minute or two before the actual race was to begin. I told the ladies I wasn't playing for money and that I'd just hang out for a bit until the fast people came by. I didn't want to capitalize on my unfair advantage due to stupidity, so I waited until the strung-out pack came by, first some men, then some women; eventually I joined the jog for the rest of the way.

At the end (which was clearly marked "FINISH"), kids from a local choir were clapping and holding out their hands for high fives. I felt like the consummate cheater jogging in, not terribly winded, not at my usual place at the complete end of the pack. But it was a nice run. God bless the work of the Coaltition for the Homeless!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An Ordinary Life

This is my first full year to live with our sisters in formation, meaning those women who are newer in the community. This includes our very newest member who came last month. We really make an effort to spend time together, and last evening was strictly fun as we played games. Tonight most of us are gathering, too, since we want to watch the President's speech about health care.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Throw Logic Out the Window

If I could, I would go back in time to rename a few things to make them more logical. For example, the language of music is confusing. Why does a half note get 2 beats and an eighth note gets 1/2 a beat? Instead of the quarter note getting a quarter of a beat, it gets 1 beat. It's the sixteenth note that gets a quarter of a beat. A student the other day asked me, "Why don't we call the half note a two note?" The eighth note could then be called a half note since it gets 1/2 a beat. Of course, this is all 4/4 time. Change it to 6/8 and everything changes. I didn't think my students were ready to hear all that.

I've tried different things with my students to get them to read music. It just takes time. One of my favorite activities is having 4 chairs that represent 4 beats. I then assign different kids to be different notes. One kid is a whole note and takes up all 4 chairs. Half notes take up 2 chairs, quarter notes take up 1. When we get to eighth notes, there are 2 people on each chair. Sixteenth notes mean that 4 people are on one chair because 4 sixteenth notes equal one beat.

All of it is confusing for some students and will take time and practice to learn. Considering the time that it has taken for music to evolve into its current notation form, I don't think things will change anytime soon. In the meantime, I'll just keep telling the students, "A half note does not get 1/2 beat," and "A sixteenth note does not get 1/16 of a beat nor does it get 16 beats."

Aye, aye, aye.

Getting the Facts

It's important to get all the facts before answering a question or giving an opinion.

Recently I heard one little girl ask her older brother, "Can I eat my candy?" The brother said, "Yes," but then quickly added, "WAIT! Did it fall on the floor?" The girl answered, "No . . . . it fell on the ground." The brother was wise and realized there must be a catch. I think if I were that little girl and really wanted that piece of candy, I would have left that little piece of information out too.

Facts are important and so are the sources of those facts. Imagine two people are in a race. One is reported as coming in 2nd. The other is reported as coming in next to last. Not knowing how many people are in the race to begin with, which one would you say did better in the race?

How easily reporting can manipulate the facts and alter our opinions. It's easy to twist things around to get an outcome or an answer we desire.

Do I believe everything I hear? Do I gather all the facts and consider the source?

Friday, September 4, 2009

How Work Becomes Prayer

The last day and a half I have been substitute teaching for a friend of mine in her second grade classroom. What a joy it has been to be "back in the saddle" as they say! In today's first reading from Paul's letter to the Colossians, Paul tells us that Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In the time I have spent with these children this week, I've seen a whole new image of God come to life in them in their smiling faces. Their fire and zeal for life has inspired and renewed my own fire and zeal for life a thousand-fold!

For all of you college-goers out there, I too, am a full time student right now. We started classes on Monday and I already feel as though I can get easily overwhelmed with all that has been given to me this week. Yet, as I've watched the joy come to live in the eyes of each child in "my" class these last two days, I too, have rediscovered the joy of learning with them! As I write this blog, I am taking a break from studying Math-my weakest academic area. At least I keep telling myself that. However, that attitude is about to change from "I can't do Math because I don't have a strong Math mind" to "I CAN do Math-I just need to change the way I think!". My friend, Melba, who is the principal of the school I have been subbing for this week, told the children today and reminds them every day in her morning announcements to walk through the day with a "can do attitude!" So, I intend to follow her wisdom and do the same!

God speaks through many and various people in our lives. So, though it would be easy to get frustrated with all of the "work I have to do" for school as well as all of the other pieces of my life; I make it a point every day to thank God for the opportunity to be in college again and to be a part of these various ministries I share both within and outside the monastery every day. As we all know, school is expensive so I acknowledge with a grateful heart every day what a gift that I have been given to be able to go back to where I find joy and the face of God at each moment of each day in the process of learning and becoming who God is calling me to be!

So, my friends, where is it that you find that "invisible" image of God in your life? God is everywhere, yet, it us up to each one of us to seek God out in everyone we encounter and in every experience that we are given!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Trip to Cincinnati

This past weekend, I went to the Cincinnati Museum Center with two sisters I live with. There are 4 different Museums in one large building! It was so much fun. The best part was seeing the "Women and Spirit" exhibit. It was all about the contribution sisters in America have made for the country. I really admire all the ways they pioneered this way of life for us I learned a lot and it was so cool to see everything there. The other museums were very neat, as well, and it was a lot of fun hanging out with the other 2 ladies and just enjoying a nice Sunday today together. I learned a ton about geodes, too, as well as children from around the world!

Where Have We Been?

Whoa! Where have we been? Last weekend I went away for a few days to spend some time with friends on a houseboat at Lake Cumblerland in Kentucky. It was a wonderful weekend. It was so nice to just relax on the boat, go for rides in the run-about (smaller boat), play games, and my favorite, ride the wave runner. I love the speed and following speed boats and jumping the waves created in their wake. I actually got pretty good at it and could get some awesome air time.

Blessings on all of you who are going back to college these days. I hope you got all the classes you wanted and good professors. I know this is the beginning of a busy time for all of you. Know of my thoughts and prayers!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Welcome to Our New Postulant!

This Sunday we welcomed Postulant Alex to our community. It was so beautiful to gather as a community, to celebrate with her, and to rejoice in new life for all of us. New members bring a new perspective to the monastery. They tend to ask questions about why we do what we do, and that's good for everyone. They also are a good reminder as to why each of us came, and why we stay. The obvious reasons that bring you to the monastery door aren't necessarily the ones that keep you committed after a few years. Of course, if it's God who called you in the first place, it's God who will keep you living the life for the long haul!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Taking Things Literally

Children really do take things literally. When I was in kindergarten I told my teacher that my mom and dad had buried my brother Joe. I stuck to my story, so my teacher called my parents to find out what had happened. It turned out he was grounded.

Another time toward the end of my kindergarten year, I remember being so excited and exclaimed, "Grandma, Grandma, I'm gonna be a cupcake!" My grandma, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, so she looked at the paper I had brought home from school. I was actually going to be a Brownie - the first step in being a Girl Scout.

Grounded. Buried. Brownie. Cupcake. To a little kid, it all sounded the same.

Entering the Unknown

School started for us on August 19. In the mornings, the students come to the cafeteria to read quietly until they are dismissed and the school day starts.

The first day was filled with both digital and video cameras. Some embarrassed students pushed their moms away when they tried to hug and kiss them good-bye. Others held on to their hands for dear life. Some students were so excited wanting to show off their backpacks, shoes, and other new items. Lots of the little ones couldn't remember their teacher's name, weren't sure where their rooms were, and left their backpacks or lunch boxes in the cafeteria instead of taking the items with them to their classrooms. Needless to say, the first week of morning duty wasn't filled with quiet reading, but rather sleepy kids who were returning, confused new ones who were trying to learn the routine, and scared kindergartners who were crying.

One little kindergartner was so cute. He stood outside his room, clutching his backpack close to his body and determinedly stated, "I'm not going in there." His older sister was there, telling him how much fun he was going to have. He remained against the wall, shaking his head, trying to hide behind his backpack. His teacher then came out, took him by the hand, and helped him enter the room. The same little boy came to my music class on Friday, so I know he survived the first week of school. He just needed a familiar face and a helping hand to make those first steps into the room.

Life is about risks, isn't it? Trying new things even when they're scary for us. It's nice to have familiar faces and helping hands so that we can make those first steps into the unknown, just like that poor kindergartner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Founder's Day

Today is a very special day for our Ferdinand Benedictine community. On this day 142 years ago four young sisters arrived here after traveling from Covington, Kentucky and founded our monastery.

Today, now 164 members larger, we celebrate that day two ways. One way is to plant a tree. As you can see in the pictures, many of the sisters, employees, and guests gathered around for the prayer and planting. This new little tree replaces one that was stuck by lightening a couple months ago.
The second way we are celebrating is to unveil our "new look!" We now have a new logo, mark and new colors for all our publications, letters, signs, and more. Part of our "new look" is a new tag line. While "Discover God in the Everyday. With Us." is good and says a lot about who we are, our new tag line is even more succinct and says it all -- "Seek. Pray. Share." It is taken directly from our mission statement. So, you will notice the new name for our blog is now set to match our new tag line.

Take some time to visit our web page and see a taste of our "new look." You will see the new logo and mark and colors!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Go, Sell What You Have . . .

Yesterday's Gospel was about the rich young man. "Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

I know when I entered the monastery, I certainly didn't have many possessions. All the furniture I owned came from yard sales. I had a really comfortable $10.00 couch that when you sat in it, you just about touched the floor. I had a $5.00 coffee table and a couple $5.00 chairs that were covered with sheets to make them more attractive.

I always had 1 or 2 roommates except one year when I had an internship in campus ministry. The church had given me a place to stay that consisted of a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Pretty small, but it also had air conditioning and cable, which meant my brother visited quite often. (His apartment lacked these 2 luxuries.) The TV I had won at a high school graduation party.

When it came time to enter the monastery, all my yard sale items once again became yard sale items or Goodwill donations. I was planning on selling my French horn since I hadn't played it in 6 years. However, someone told me to bring it, and it has been used at prayer and liturgies and also in my music classroom. (I never thought I'd be a music teacher. Community has a way of helping you discover hidden talents.)

I was a college student who was always looking for ways to get free t-shirts. If the sign said, "Come to this event and get a free t-shirt," I was there. Blood drives were great. You save lives, get some snacks, and walk away with a free t-shirt. What more could a poor college student ask for?

As far as material possessions, I didn't have much to begin with, so I had no trouble getting rid of things. Some women, however, enter and have a much harder time. Some give up a house, car, pets, and personal belongings worth more than my $10.00 couch.

Because it takes a few years to become a sister and it's hard to know from the beginning what you're getting into and whether or not religious life is truly your life's calling, getting rid of possessions is a gradual process that comes as stronger commitments to the community are made.

Before I entered the monastery, I thought of all the things I would have to give up. What I didn't realize until after I entered was how much I would gain.

Jesus says, "Come, follow me." By following Jesus, our needs are provided, and we discover inner happiness and peace.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New School Year

I have officially started back at school. We have had 3 days of school. I am excited. I just love teaching. I love working with my students and watching them grow with each new thing we learn. I work at St. Bernard Catholic School in Rockport, Indiana. We have 107 students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. The theme this school year is "We Are Called." My students and I have been talking about different ways of being called and being kind.

I came home to the monastery this weekend after going out on mission (what we call the little "monastery" houses we have away from our motherhouse in Ferdinand). There is something about coming home every once and a while and being here at the monastery. It rejuvenates my call to this way of life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

End of Retreat

I took a few days for retreat this past week. I begin a new job on Monday morning and thought some intensive prayer time might be appropriate. There were no earth-shattering discoveries, but there was God's presence.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Louisville Flood

You may have heard about the 6 inches of rain that fell on Louisville in an hour. Massive destruction. I was in Missouri when it occured, so can't tell any personal stories. I only saw pictures and can't believe the reports and damage that was done. Here's a link to some pictures of the flood.

It's amazing how drastically things change in an instant. Our prayers are with all those affected.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Starting School

I don't know if this would be classified as "living in the present moment" or "being downright clueless." Probably a mixture of both. During the summer before my 4th grade year, I was outside playing with my brother. My mom yelled from the back door, "Catherine, where are your scissors? What about your crayons from last year? Are they still good? Do you still have glue?" I answered my mom's questions, but found them very strange, so I asked my brother, "Why is Mom getting our school stuff together." His answer, "School starts tomorrow." I had no idea. Somewhere I had missed out on that information. I went in the house and helped my mom gather up all my school supplies.

Starting back to school can be an exciting time, but it is also difficult for parents as they gather up all the "school stuff." The supply list seems to get longer every year and, of course, it goes without saying, times are tough. No one needs to be told these words, but the words when spoken do connect us. Struggling is part of the human experience. This is definitely a time of great financial struggle.

My heart goes out to all parents who are struggling to make ends meet and who now have schools supplies to buy on top of that. There are also teachers who buy many things out of their own pocket and who wish they could supply all their students' needs - physically, academically, and emotionally.

May God bless you and give you strength.

End of Summer Thoughts

I can't believe that this summer is just about over and in a week 430 students will be brightening my school's doorways! It went so quickly. This summer was a summer of unexpected joys and adventures, including an unexpected surgery, but God was in every single moment and I felt that presence very strongly and surely. I feel refreshed and reenergized and ready to begin a new year. Even though it went very quickly, this summer was probably one of the most blessed of my life! I can't wait to see all the wonderful faces of children ready to learn and grow!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Spirituality of a Tree

I must admit I am fascinated with trees. My dream vacation would be to go out west and see the Sequoias and the great Redwoods. I find them absolutely fascinating!

About 8 years ago when I first entered the monastery, I read a book on the spirituality of trees. Trees are so resilient. They're deeply grounded, but have to be flexible enough to endure storms and strong winds. In the harsh cold days of winter, they shed their leaves becoming vulnerable. Despite the weather or growing conditions, trees are strong and persevere because of their groundedness and flexibility.

Being a true tomboy growing up, I did my share of tree climbing and always had scraped up knees and elbows. Once when I was in college, a friend of mine yelled to me in the grocery store, "Hey, tree hugger." Although I haven't visited it in a while, the tree near our monastery garden used to be a nice getaway. I'd take a journal, sit in its branches, and soak up its wisdom.

Go out. Look up. Check out the trees around you. They've been through a lot. Let us learn from them. They simply honor God by being trees - by being what they were created to be.

Do I do the same? Am I grounded, yet flexible? Am I vulnerable during hard times and trust that God is present? Do I trust that the seasons, the cycle of life, are God's plan? Do I reach toward God, the source of life and light? Do I honor God by simply being me?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Monastery Days

I'm home now at the monastery for a few weeks of "summer break." I spent the summer taking classes at the University of Southern Indiana and enjoying every minute of my experiences.

It was wonderful to come home and see everyone over our "community days" that Sister Michelle described in an earlier post. We had a great week full of discussions as well as some good prayer and reflection time.

Last week I made retreat and had the most life-changing prayer experiences that I have ever encountered! What a beautiful and sacred time in my life! My retreat was filled with much resting in God and heartfelt gratitude for all that I encounter each and every day in our monastic life.....

Now I'm busy working a retreat being given here at Kordes by Megan McKenna, theologian and a phenomenal story teller of the Sacred Scriptures! I'm also happy to help fill in duties on the hill for our sisters who are making the retreat this week.

Next week I head north for a vactation on the beaches of Lake Michigan..... Can't wait to sit on the beach with my coffee and watch the beautiful sunrises and magnificent sunsets!

Many Prayers and Blessings to you, all of our readers!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Living Group Celebration

I currently live with six other sisters, one of whom just celebrated her 25th jubilee (anniversary of her profession). This past Friday evening and Saturday our group went to Evansville for an extension of her celebration. We ate, watched movies, prayed, walked; we just had a good, relaxing time together.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Planning Ahead!

It generally takes 6-9 years to become a perpetually professed sister in our community. Quite a long time!

I remember talking to my mom on the phone about 2 weeks after I entered the community. She told me she had everything figured out. Some relatives were going to stay at my parents' house. Some were going to stay in other houses of nearby relatives. At first, I had no idea what she was talking about. Then I realized that she was already planning my profession. When I told her it was going to be a few years, at least 6, she said, "I know. I'm just planning ahead."

Then I had to break the news that it wasn't going to be in my hometown. (I'm glad I told her that before she started planning the parade.) When she realized it was going to be in Ferdinand, she said, "Oh, I guess I'll just get a bus and pick up people along the way."

My mom and I both spent 7 years preparing for perpetual profession.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Blogger with New Job

I am finishing my last week of orientation in the long-term health care center for our own sisters. On August 17 I will begin my work as the administrator. I worked in health care several years ago; and although I have enjoyed every ministry since then, I do look forward to returning to health care.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Going back on Mission

I am headed back to my mission house today. I have spent the summer here at the Monastery. During the school year I live at what we call a mission house. I live in Rockport, IN. I live with 2 other sisters. We pray together and enjoy time together in the evening. I teach 4th grade at St. Bernard Catholic School. I am looking forward to getting back to school. The rest of this week and next week I will spend time in my classroom getting ready. It is so exciting for me. I love teaching.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy New Year!

First of all, I would like to apologize for not posting more this summer but as you can imagine, it has been a busy one for all of us, as I'm sure it has been for you as well.

Last week we had our Community Days, which consists of meetings, time to reconnect with each other and a little fun along the way, too. After two full days of meetings we had what we call Familian Fest or family fest. Each year a group of sisters plans a way for us to "play" together the Friday afternoon of our Community Days. This year we went on a road trip inside the monastery. We were divided into groups and each group traveled around following clues left at the various locations. Once at a location, the group performed a task, such as playing a game, praying, trivia games, and much more. It was a LOT of fun!!!

Then on Saturday morning we had what we call Missioning. As part of our Morning Prayer, our prioress (superior), Sister Kristine Anne, delivered a sending-forth message and then blessed each of us, giving us our mission card, which contains the deanery we are assigned to live and our ministry (this is not a surprise as it was in the old days). This ceremony is the beginning of a new year for us.

Here is a link to my Facebook photo album of the Familian Fest and Missioning. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BSWR and Back

Summers at the monastery are a wonderful treat, if you're a mission sister. Of course, sometimes it seems everyone is coming or going on vacation or retreat, or is off studying somewhere, or who knows what! For about three weeks in June I was one of the travelers, attending BSWR (Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat, a.k.a. "vow camp") at the Benedictine monastery in Yankton, South Dakota. Basically the program is two weeks of participating in lots of conferences on various Benedictine topics, then a lovely week of silent retreat. It provides time and space for sisters preparing for perpetual profession to reflect on whether this really is the life for them.

I enjoyed the conferences, for the most part, and the various artsy things we did, but I loved talking with the ten other sisters from other monasteries. We were able to compare notes on how we live this life, to laugh at some of our communities' common quirks, and to appreciate the gifts that make each of our monasteries special. While every one sounded good in its own way, I was happy to realize that I do love my own monastery and my own sisters the best! Sometimes being away helps you realize better where your home truly is.

We also talked about the future of monastic life, and I think we all were surprised and delighted to realize that while we may live the life a little differently, we all have a common vision of what we'd like Benedictine life to look like in 10-15 years. We agree on the main values, and we want to live our charism as authentically as we can. Benedictines have been around for 1500 years; while changes may come, especially for individual monasteries, as an order, we probably aren't disappearing any day soon. We all shared a lot of energetic hope about where we are going.

Having gained a little perspective, I am happy to be back in Ferdinand again, being hospitality minister for our chaplains and guests at prayer and mass, answering the phone at switchboard, helping in the liturgy office, and working in the bakery. (Not all at once!) I count it a grace to realize anew how blessed we really are. Feel free to come visit sometime!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I have been the tour guide here at the Monastery this week. I just love to give tours. I like helping others to understand who we are and what are ministries are. I also like it because I get to meet many people for all over the United States. I gave a tour yesterday to a group from Kentucky. They asked lots of questions, which makes the tours fun. Sometimes though you just never know what the question is going to be. One woman asked "What is your diet?" My first thought was how does she know I am on a diet? But what she meant was what kind of food do we eat. I commented how we just eat regular food like everyone else. Sometime if you are in the area stop by for a tour.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Home at the Monastery

I am here at the monastery for two weeks of service. I love spending time here. This week I am giving tours. Next week I am working in our nursing facility with out older sisters. The great thing about being home at the monastery is being with some of the sisters that I don't get to spend time with very often. I just spent a week with my family. That was a great time and I got to spend time with my nieces and nephews. But it was great just to be back here and be able to be at communal prayer and meals. That is something I really miss when I am not here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's Better to Give AND to Receive

If you've been to the monastery, you know it's a pretty big place. I used to not think twice about running here and then forgetting this and running back to get that. That is until I had knee surgery on Wednesday. Now I'm aware of conserving my trips as well as the most efficient routes to take. It's not as easy nor as quick as it used to be to get from Point A to Point B. I'm a very independent person, so this is certainly a lesson in humility and vulnerability. I'm usually the one doing and giving, so I've had to switch roles and be on the receiving end.

I have needed more help with everyday things that I didn't think twice about before. I know there are people who will help me if (and here's the tricky part) I get out of the way and let them. We often hear, "It's better to give than to receive." I had this quote embedded into the fibers of my being, so receiving becomes down right strange. Foreign.

Grace has to come in order to be able to give and receive. It is a grace to be able to give to others. It is also a grace to be able to receive, to be aware of our limitations and weaknesses, and to accept kindness and help from others.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Right on Target

I don't know where I first heard this story, but I thought about it today, so wanted to paraphrase and share it with you.

There was once a king who had great fame, fortune, and power. He was extremely talented and could do just about anything, except shoot a bow and arrow. This caused the king much distress because he thought he should be able to do everything and to do everything well. He summoned all those who were the best in archery and told them that the one who made him improve the most would receive half his kingdom.

Some came and helped him on his form. They taught him to stand a certain way and hold his bow and arrow just right. He improved, but not as much as he would have liked.

Others came and helped him with his aim. He learned about physics and how to aim given the direction and speed of the wind and the distance of the target. He continued to improve, but the king still wasn't satisfied.

Still others came and worked on his concentration and focus. If he could quiet himself, become one with the bow and arrow, he would improve. Once again, the king did improve, but still not as much as he would have liked. The king wanted to be perfect. After all, he was the king. He was looking for someone to help him hit the bullseye every single time.

He was just about to give up when one day, he was riding through the countryside. Everywhere he looked, there were targets painted on everything with the arrow in the exact center of the bullseye. Amazed, the king said, "Bring me the person who has shot these arrows. I must learn to do this also. If so, that person will receive half my kingdom." Word was sent out across the land. The king was dumbfounded when the person brought before him was a little girl.

"Young lady, did you shoot all these arrows?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"Well then, you must teach me at once. If I learn to shoot arrows just like you, you will receive half my kingdom."

The little girl wasted no time. She taught the king how she clears her mind and concentrates. She stands up nice and tall, pulls the arrow back, and then let's go. "Wait!" the king interrupted. "There's no target. Where do you aim?"
"Oh," said the little girl. "I don't paint the target until after I've shot the arrow."

The king laughed. He learned his lesson about trying to do everything and being perfect. He gave half his kingdom to the little girl.

The king thought he should be good at everything, including archery, because after all, he was the king. Do you ever hear yourself or others say, "I should be good at this job already because I've been at it x number of years." "I should be better at my prayer life because I go to church and have read lots of spiritual books." "I should know the direction of my life because I'm xx years old."

What are the "shoulds" we tell ourselves? What are the reasons we give for these "shoulds?"

How about "I should be easy on myself and love myself just as God loves me."
God loves us just because. No reason necessary.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What a GREAT Week!

This week we held our 9th annual Camp Marian! Actually this camp began in 1995 at Mount Saint Francis in Floyd Knobs, Indiana but in 2000 it moved to our monastery grounds and has been "put on" by our sisters ever since. Because of the popularity of the camp, beginning last year we started having two camps, so more girls could attend.

Monday through Wednesday, 12 high school counselors and 42 fifth and sixth graders camped in tents, played lots of games, sang, prayed and had many other fun adventures. Then after a short break with just the six counselors who stayed, two college counselors joined them and 26 seventh and eighth graders for more fun from Thursday through Saturday (today!).

It rained, it stormed, it was HOT, it was beautiful, it was clear, it was cool... you name it and we had it weather wise. Yet, all had a great time anyway! New friends were made. Lessons were learned. Lives were shared.

If you would like to see pictures from the camps, see the slide show to the right. If you click on it you can see a bigger version of the album. Enjoy! We sure did!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life's Instruction Manual

Don't forget Sunday is Father's Day. If you no longer have a father, is there someone who is a father figure to you now?

No one gets a "how to" book when becoming a parent. I guess there are probably books and classes that someone could take or groups new parents could join, but for the most part it's trial by fire. There aren't instruction books for any part of life really. At least not the instruction books I would like to see sometimes that have everything spelled out in nice, easy to follow steps - like instructions for making a cake or building a deck. Unfortunately, we don't have things written out for us. Our instructions would have to come from God through prayer. God may give us these instructions for life in all kinds of ways - through a friend, something we read, our feelings, a dream we have, or any other way God wants to speak to us.

I know some of us desire lightening bolt messages that tell us which decisions to make in difficult situations. I don't know if God speaks in lightening bolts, but God does speak in a variety of other ways if we open our minds and hearts.

Life is a "live and learn as you go" kind of thing. As one of our sisters would say, "We do the best we can with what we have where we are." We learn as we go, and hopefully get better along the way. Certainly we all make mistakes (a.k.a. learning opportunities). We all do the best we can though and have to trust that everyone else is also doing the best they can with what they have where they are.

The Bible - Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth - is our "how to" manual.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rise and Shine

I am not a morning person. I've tried to be, but I've never made it; nor do I think I ever will. In high school, I'd wake up so grumpy! Everyone in my family knew to watch out. I had getting ready for school down to a science, and no one had better get in my way.

I woke up every morning at 7:32. I spent 3 minutes banging on the door for my brother to get out of the bathroom, 2 minutes getting ready (getting dressed, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth), 6 minutes looking for my shoes and matching socks, 3 minutes looking for my math book, and 4 minutes eating breakfast. Ta Da! I was then ready to leave at 7:50. Granted, sometimes that meant going out to the car with my shoes and socks in my hands.

In monastic life, we want to spend our best time of the day in 45 minutes to an hour in personal prayer. I entered the community and heard the sisters talk about how wonderful the mornings are. According to some, it is a time when everything is still and the sun is just coming up. Everything is quiet and peaceful. (I had to take their word for it because of my limited knowledge of mornings.) It sounded ideal, so I tried on two different occasions to give my mornings to God in personal prayer. I tried it each time for a little over a week. Guess what? I became the grumpiest person ever! I didn't even want to be around me!

Mornings sound good, but they're not for me. At least they're not my best time to give to God in personal prayer. I'm definitely a night owl, and that's OK. We're certainly not all the same here at the monastery.

It may sound a little crazy, but my favorite time of day is 8:07. I love that time. I love when I look at the clock and see 8:07 whether it's in the morning or evening. I always say a prayer of thanks for I am reminded that God is with me. 807 is my parents' address. The numbers take me back to when I grew up at 807 State Street.

I remember when I was going to meet the vocation director for a behavioral assessment test (one of the pre-requisites for entering). I was to meet her in St. Louis for the evaluation. When I got in my car, I looked at the time. You guessed it. It was 8:07. I knew beyond a doubt that God was with me. I was thankful for God's presence and for my upbringing.

There's room for a lot of variety in monastic life. I'm a night owl and have become good friends with other night owls. I may give mornings another try down the road, but right now I know they're not really for me. I do know that I've grown in this way of life. I'm no longer as grumpy as I once was upon waking up and I have an easier time finding my shoes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I am enjoying my time here at Ferdinand. This week I am busy helping with cookie making. We are making Springerle cookies. This is a German press cookie. I have been helping with these since I was a postulant(the first step to becoming a sister). Monday we made 189 dozen, Tuesday we made 172 dozen, and Wednesday we made 115 dozen. That is alot of cookies. We then sell these cookies in the gift shop. You can visit our website and check out the gift shop. It is great fun, but a lot of work. I am also working on getting ready for a Junior High Camps next week. Pray for good weather.