Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent, awaiting Christ's birth

Advent is a time of waiting, of silence. I have spent this season of Advent in prayer. I have thought about how Mary said yes to God. How Joseph her husband also said yes. How hard it must have been for them. Mary, a good, faithful daughter of God, who followed the laws and customs, was found to be with child. How could this happen to a virgin? What would her community say? What would Joseph say? Joseph planned to quietly divorce her so she would not be exposed. But then the angel came to him in a dream. The angel told him to take Mary as his wife, to name the child Jesus. Joseph's yes to God was proof of his faithfulness and love to Mary and to God.
How have I said yes to God? When has my saying yes been going against the norm? It could be when I said yes to answering the call to religious life. It could be when I have served the homeless, the neglected. Another question that has come to me as I have been reflecting this Advent season, is if an angel would ever come to me in a dream, and told me that God wanted me to do something, how would I respond?
May you all have a truley blessed Christmas and new year! I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jesus the savior! I am also eagerly awaiting my family's arrival to celebrate this joyous time of year with me!

Friday, December 17, 2010

St. Nicholas Icon

As we head into the home stretch toward Christmas, I've been reflecting on St. Nicholas. The name and persona of Santa Claus comes from an adaptation of Saint Nicholas, the generous 4th century bishop of Myra. We celebrate his feast December 6th. In our deaneries here in community, as my family did in my home growing up, we put out a shoe the night before in hopes that St. Nicholas will visit us with some little treat. As he so kindly appeared in the night to provide gold dowries for some poor young women centuries ago, so he today brings good things to us. As I begin an icon of St. Nicholas, his generosity and humble attentiveness to what is needed are the true image of Christ's action among us today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas with Our Employees!

Today we celebrated Christmas with our employees. We also recognized those co-workers who have celebrated milestone anniversaries of service this year.

Celebrating 20 years of service this past year: Susan Blume, Carolyn Carpenter, and Margie Bowman
Celebrating 15 years of service: Karen Katafiasz
Celebrating 10 years of service: Diane Rickelman
Celebrating 5 years of service: Jessica Schipp, Rebecca Jones, Renie Kays, Bert Luebbehusen, Theresa Lampert, and Christine English

Unfortunately, the icy conditions in the area made some employees unable to come in. We're happy they're safe at home, but missed them during the meal and celebration.

Check out more photos from the dinner on our Facebook page:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Day!!

Yup! You heard right. Here in the Indiana/Kentucky area we have our first snow day of the year. The world outside is blanketed in soft white and I, a school teacher, get to stay home for the day and enjoy it all.

When I got up this morning, I was so excited at the prospect of completing many, many tasks... a craft project I am working on for my cousin's new baby, Christmas cards for my family and friends, baking for some people, typing the new intercessions for the Easter season, and maybe even getting some housecleaning done in the process. Snow days are great days for getting many things accomplished.

But now it's almost 10:30. I've been up for hours and how many of these things have I accomplished? None! Instead, I have enjoyed the gift that God gave me this morning... a little extra time to breathe deeply, to look at the wonder that He has created and to appreciate the many, many gifts of this day. So instead of rushing to finish my projects, I took a leisurely breakfast and watched tiny flakes of snow continue to fall on our white-washed world. I curled up in my chair with a warm blanket and prayed an early morning lectio. Now I'm taking a few minutes to reflect on my experiences and share them here in my much-neglected space on this blog. Many people may say that I have accomplished very little this morning. I've certainly checked nothing off of my long "To Do" list. But, I think it's been a productive morning of prayer and reflection and a little much needed rest. And now on to the tasks at hand!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saying Yes

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is my favorite holy day. Most people would probably go with Easter or Christmas. Those are at the top of my list also, but I just love the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

This is the day back in 1998 when I first told someone I was considering religious life. That was a huge deal. Religious life???? I was in college!!! I was 21 years old!!! It seemed I was risking everything to utter those words aloud, but the friend I told was very supportive. I had kept it secret for so long. After all, here I was 21, and I first thought about it when I was 12. No matter how hard I tried, the idea of religious life never disappeared.

I find it so interesting that the day we honor Mary's saying yes was also the day I was given the courage to share what I was being called to do with my life. I find it even more interesting that I entered here at the Monastery Immaculate Conception. God has definitely been with me every step of the way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, patroness of our monastery, our diocese, and the United States.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving blessings to all of you!

We pray for God’s blessings on you, your families, and friends. We are grateful for God’s goodness that surrounds us. Join us in praying for peace among nations and peoples and in sharing with those in need. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

When Things Fall Apart

I'm reading a really good book right now called When Things Fall Apart. It's so full of wisdom that after every sentence, I find myself saying things like "I have to remember that!" or "That's so true!" or "That's the same thing Sr. Maria, my spiritual director, has been telling me for years. If only I can remember to apply these things to my life now, when the going gets tough or like the title says 'when things fall apart'."

One pearl of wisdom I've taken from the book is to try to soften up. (I laugh as I write that because I can be a very hard person, like the Simon and Garfunkel song "I am a Rock.") When difficult things happen or when people say or do things I don't care for, I harden up and try to protect myself. Instead of hardening up and trying to keep my distance from things that are painful, the idea is to soften and just be with the circumstances. We tend to run away from pain or problems or at least put up some kind of defenses. I, myself, like to drink caffeine or eat some chocolate when the going gets tough. I also find myself avoiding things.

The book also mentions how we have a difficult time when things get tough because we're holding on to them too tightly. If we realize that everything passes and nothing is permanent, change wouldn't be so difficult. So when change happens, loosen our grip on how we would prefer things to be and then soften up and allow these feelings to enter in rather than avoiding them or trying to change them to something better. I know when I experience unpleasant feelings, I always like to change them to something I have more control over. Instead of feeling sad, it's easier for me to get angry or blame someone. I put the focus outward rather than inward.

Obviously, this book is one that I will need to reread and reread and reread. I know that if I don't keep reminding myself of these ways of thinking and responding to difficulties, I'll forget all that this book has taught. If I don't keep meeting with Sr. Maria, who has been saying the same things as the book (and for years), I'll want to do what's more comfortable and familiar.

As much as I like chocolate, there are healthier ways to respond to life's difficulties.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being un-silent about the silent auction!

Have you heard about the silent auction that’s part of Christkindlmarkt festivities at the monastery this weekend? Visit the crypt below the monastery church. (You’ll find lots of other activities in the crypt, too!) Items – some new, some gently “pre-owned” – include a Waterford crystal bowl and vase, a Precious Moments figurine, angels, a Christmas card holder, St. Nick pillows, ceramic cookie jars, books (including cookbooks), a photo of the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium, a large framed St. Benedict print, a basket with blanket, books, and tea, and gingerbread houses and a church. You can place your bids from 9 to 4 on Saturday and 10 to 2 on Sunday.

Paul Krack, brother of Sister Mary Ruth Krack (who has organized the auction), puts a finishing touch on a gingerbread house, while Sister Jan Youart watches.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm Baaaack

I used to post to this blog quite often, but hung up my blog hat for quite a while. There is a reason. . . . or rather several reasons.

My dad died suddenly in July. He was in the hospital for a blood clot in his foot, which later developed in his lung. There were also other complications. I was on my way home when my brother called to tell me that he didn't make it.

I've also been dealing with the steady decline of my mom over the past 2 years due to Huntington's. If you don't know what Huntington's (or HD) is, consider yourself blessed. It's a neurodegenerative disease that affects every part of your being or in other words, the 3 M's - mood, memory, and movement. It's been described as having Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Schizophrenia all at the same time.

My mom is a fighter, but the progression of the disease has been steady and drastic. Her progression is atypical according to things I've read or others I've heard from. I really think my mom was holding out until after I made profession in October 2008. Before that time and during the profession, everything seemed normal. When I went home at Christmas, it was like night and day. It was a drastic change in 2 months - probably the same progression some would have over several or many years. It's been tough. She continues to decline. She sleeps a lot, her speech is slurred, and she forgets things. Facing reality is difficult, but we know she can't keep living the way she is.

My mom is a nurse, so is used to doing for others. She's also extremely stubborn, which has helped her get this far. It has also helped her to raise a stubborn kid, and I'll count any similarity to my mom as a positive thing. I pray, however, that my mom will let go of her stubbornness and allow us to help her.

All of this reminds me of the lesson my mom always taught me growing up. Anytime anything didn't go the way I wanted them to, she'd say, "Now you know how it feels. Now you know what someone else is going through." Now I know what it's like to have a parent die. Now I know what it's like to care for a parent whose health is declining. Now I know what it's like to have to look into other living options for a parent. Now I know what it's like to live far away . . . . . the list goes on.


My dad is a great guy. I believe that he would do anything that someone he loved asked him to do. His sister is involved in the Dubois County Humane Society. Every year they offer pictures with Santa for pets. Well my aunt asked my dad if he would play Santa. He was willing to do it. I went and saw him. It touched my heart to see him. He is such a big hearted guy and looked great as Santa. The beard is real!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Women of the Rule awards first grants

When she accepted the grant, Sister Jean Marie Ballard, Simply Divine supervisor, announced that sisters were at that moment working in the bakery. She then left to tell them the good news. Carolyn Fuhs is at left and Darla Blazey is in the back.

Women of the Rule presented its first grants during a festive awards banquet on Saturday evening, November 6. During the dinner, members voted to select these projects for funding: a new roof and gutters for the sisters' monastery in Morropon, Peru ($4,500), a freezer for Simply Divine, the monastery bakery ($6,657), a year's tuition for three sisters working toward education degrees ($13,000), and development of a long-range facility and property master plan ($11,470.52).

Less than two minutes after the four grant recipients were named, Nancy Habig, who served as emcee for the dinner, announced that an anonymous donor, in the spirit of the evening, offered to provide $1,625 for a fifth proposal that was a grant finalist: scholarships for cancer patients and their caregivers to attend centering prayer programs.

(You'll find more details on the projects on our web site under "Recent News.")

The women's philanthropy circle was publicly launched in June 2009 and, since then, has grown from a core group of 11 lay women and three sisters to 60 members! The core group began meeting in 2008. The idea for Women of the Rule originated with Sister Barbara Catherine Schmitz and Darla Blazey, who that year took part in Connect with Southern Indiana, a program sponsored by the University of Southern Indiana. Program participants collaborated in developing project concepts to benefit the community.

Sister Barbara Catherine and Darla envisioned a women's philanthropy and giving circle that supports the mission of the Sisters of St. Benedict. Members pool their donations and then decide where their funds should go -- a terrific concept that gives women the opportunity to experience the power of giving as they make philanthropic decisions with others committed to the same values.

These are the core group members (listed alphabetically): Teri Hollander Albin, Lynn Belli, Darla Blazey, Paulette Campana, Sue Ellspermann, Carolyn Fuhs, Nancy Habig, Judy Huber, Sister Kathryn Huber, Kathy Kleindorfer (facilitator), Pat Koch, Sister Barbara Catherine Schmitz, Sister Barbara Lynn Schmitz, and Mary Jo Tempel. Congratulations and thanks to you all for establishing a unique and important group!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A busy end of October

We were busy with a variety of activities at the monastery this last weekend in October. We took care of some community business at meetings during the day on Saturday. As is usual for such days when sisters living in mission houses away from the monastery come home, there was a flurry of socializing and visiting over lunch and during the breaks. In the evening we, and the public, were treated to a concert of sacred music performed by Angelus, a group of outstanding vocalists from Mount Vernon (Indiana) High School. This first concert in the Mechtilde of Hackeborn Sacred Music Series, endowed by the Verkamp Family, drew a capacity crowd in the monastery church.

Of course, the highlight of our weekend was our celebration with four of our sisters who observed special anniversaries of their monastic profession. We are proud of them and deeply grateful for their 259 years of ministry to people in Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, and countries of Columbia and Peru. We give thanks for their witness to living monastic life faithfully and with joy.

Photo above: Sister Theresita Schenk, Sister Wilma Davis (seated), and Sister Mary George Kissel (center back), observed 70 years of monastic profession, and Sister Leah Baehl (far right) observed her 60th anniversary.

Angelus concert photos

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sister Jeana Visel makes perpetual monastic vows

We sisters, along with family and friends of Sister Jeana Visel, gathered on October 2 to witness and celebrate her profession of perpetual monastic vows — a life commitment to the Benedictine way of life as a Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana.
After making her profession of monastic vows, Sister Jeana, witnessed by Sister Kristine Anne Harpenau, prioress, and Sister Ann Francis Hillenbrand, her formation director, signs the document on the altar, signifying her total offering of self.

As part of the “Rite of Monastic Profession,” Sister Jeana prostrates in the middle aisle while the sisters chant a litany of saints, asking the saints to intercede for her as she consecrates herself to the monastic way of life.

Sister Jeana receives a ring as a sign of unbroken fidelity to God and to her profession. The ring, worn by all perpetually professed sisters in the community, signifies full incorporation into the monastic community.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Powder Puff Football

One of my duties at the high school where I teach is to plan the yearly After-Prom party. As a major fundraiser for this, each fall for the past few years, I've coordinated the junior-senior girls' Powder Puff Football Game. I never had the experience of a Powder Puff game when I was in high school, but what a flurry of drama! For one night of fun and entertainment, the girls design and order their own T-shirts and sometimes sweatpants, favorite football players are recruited as coaches, a guys' cheer squad has a cheerleader teach them a routine, and multiple semi-secret practices are arranged. On top of this we have a bake sale at the concession stand. This year, right before the game, as both teams were warming up and getting ready on the field, the seniors called me over and asked me to pray with them before they played. We circled up and prayed for a safe and fun game, and then they were good to go. I love my juniors dearly (I teach them during the day), but after a rather hard-fought battle the seniors won. Never underestimate the power of prayer?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Little Kids

I am spending my fall break at the Monastery. I had a relaxing day visiting with Sisters that I don't always get to spend much time with. Then came the Employee Picnic. This is a time when all the Monastery empolyees are invited to come and have supper, and play bingo or euchre. While the grown ups are doing this, Sister Alex and I kept the the children occupied. We played many games of hide and seek, follow the leader, Mrs. Macgoo, and games with balls. We ended the evening with playing the card game Spoons. I love doing this and getting to know the employee's children. I also like that they get to see that we like to have fun too. It was a great time had by all but I am now exhausted.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Powerful Weekend

Last weekend we held a Come & See Weekend for young women who think they might be interested in religious life and in our community. Seven women came from Oklahoma, Indiana, and Kentucky. The theme for the weekend was Discernment: Listening to God's Call. Sister Jane Will provided the input and great discussion followed. It was a fun weekend and hopefully the women left a little more enlightened and with a little more knowledge and lived experience of our community. The next Come & See Weekend is scheduled for January 7-9, 2011. Catholic Women ages 18-40 who are interested in learning about us and religious life are welcome to come.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sunday (I) Sweets

**AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the liturgical world (ergo, in the monastic world) Sunday actually begins on Saturday evening. Therefore, despite the fact that it is currently late on a Saturday night, I have decided to go ahead and title my entry as "Sunday" or "Sunday I" as in our prayer books**

One of my favorite websites when I'm trolling the Internet is a blog called "Cake Wrecks", a site dedicated to showing off professionally produced baking flops. However, every Sunday, in a bold stride to detract from the usual negativity, the site holds space for "Sunday Sweets", pictures of the most exquisite cakes the world has to offer. I love to check this site on Sundays to see what beautifully creative things bakers have recreated using cake, some icing and a little modeling chocolate.

As I reflect over my long weekend here at the monastery, I can't help but to call forth many of my own "Sweets" from my time spent here. So here's my list of all those things that I might have overlooked had I only been paying attention to the flops. And now onto Sr. Kathy's Sunday Sweets!

*** My first great kindness of the weekend came in the form of a hand-delivered note via the "Monastic Mail system." In simpler terms, when our sisters travel to other monasteries, they often offer to carry mail to and from. One of our sisters just returned from a trip and brought home a lovely letter from someone I haven't seen in quite some time.

*** I was struck this evening by a sister, hurrying into prayer at the last minute. As she rushed to her spot, her eye caught on a pair of roses that someone placed in the Blessed Virgin Room, and in a display of acute mindfulness, she took a moment to stop for a sniff and a brief smile before settling into her place in line.

*** Today was a full one for me - practice time at the piano, helping host the seven (yes, seven!) young women who are visiting us, Temporary Professed class, and bell choir rehearsal. However, in between all the craziness, a good friend and I found a few moments to get outside for a lovely October walk and an even lovelier chat.

*** At the end of the aforementioned Temporary Professed class, we held a short prayer service and blessing for Sr. Jeana who made her Perpetual Monastic Profession just two weeks ago. It was a beautiful time to celebrate with her as she continues to deepen her monastic journey

*** Tonight was community recreation night and we invited all the women who are visiting with us to come join in. I love to see the joy in our community room when it is filled with so many people having fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Race for the Cure

This past Saturday, I volunteered at the Louisville Race for the Cure. It is a 5K walk/ run to raise money and awareness about breast cancer. I helped stuff bags with goodies, and then passed out the bags to participants as they went past the booth. Survivors were given bright hot pink shirts and baseball caps to signify who they were. As the survivors walked past the booth in a parade to celebrate their lives, I was so touched by the sheer number of them. I was inspired by their strength and courage. I prayed for them and was so grateful that God has blessed them with healing, support, and the gifts they needed to overcome cancer. It was a graced moment for me and I was so glad to be a part of it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A different side

If I haven't said it around here, I absolutely love my job. Sure, I get tired of grading papers, and I hate having to discipline my students when they act out. But the benefits far outweigh these little drawbacks. In the classroom I love watching the look on their faces when I hand back a test with a big purple "A" at the top (yeah, I check papers in purple instead of red... it's prettier) and I love watching the kid who really struggled with a new concept one day lean over and explain it to his friend who was absent. On the soccer field, I get absolutely giddy when one of my players masters a new trick or when I watch my whole team huddle up to celebrate a remarkable goal. My job is so full of rewarding moments that fill me with joy!

But I think the best moments are those quiet moments, when I'm not teaching them a new idea in class or maybe during a water break at practice. I love those moments when I get to interact with my students on a totally different level. I love getting to do other activities with them.

This week I had one of those opportunities. Our school participates in a citywide program called the "Joseph of Arimathea Society." Students who participate in this organization are called out of school a few times each year. We travel with the students all the way to the other side of town to a little area that the city has given over for the purposes of burying the poor, the homeless, the indigent. The boys in our little organization go when called to attend the burial and offer prayers for someone who otherwise might have no one at their funeral. We tell the students that no one comes into this world alone and no one should leave this world alone, either.

On Wednesday, I took a group of four students to bury a man, Buddy Carter, who died alone on the streets. They had never met him and knew nothing about him except that he was homeless. And yet they showed up. Our boys were called on to offer a little prayer service for Mr. Carter and then to transport him to his place of final rest and these four souls stepped up and offered to go. These are the same students that I have had in class who tease each other mercilessly, who tell crude jokes and who pretend to sleep through our school masses. And there they were standing at the grave, one with tears glistening in his eyes, another who gently, reverently reached out a hand to touch the coffin as we walked away to leave, and yet another offering spontaneous prayer asking God to accept Mr. Carter into eternal life.

I love these moments with the boys when I get to see them step out of their comfort zones, when they do something that is totally outside of themselves and entirely for someone else. I love getting to witness their conversion of heart, no matter how small it might be. I am so proud to say that I teach these boys, not math or soccer, but how to be men of character and people of faith.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Waiting for fall

As I was walking back to my living group last night, I was awe struck by the orange moon! It was so full and bright! It lit up the night sky! It made me stop and take time to ponder God and all the beauty of creation!

Officially we are now into fall, however, the temperature's tell a different story! Fall is my favorite season/time of the year! The leaves on the trees become these bright, vibrant colors. The temperature's cool off, harvest time begins. I've never been big on Halloween though.

For me, fall has another meaning as well. It's a time of transition/change. Last year at this time I was entering the monastery in fall, and completely changing my life as I had known it! So when the leaves were falling off the trees, I was falling away from my old life, into a new life here. I see the trees bare and taking root into the ground to prepare for winter. I was taking root in the ground of this monastic community.

This year I will also embrace more change as fall aproaches. I am now a Novice. I have entered into another step into my formation. I have become more deeply rooted in this way of life. I continue to learn so much day by day from my studies as well as from the sisters in this community! I am truley blessed!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Becoming an electrician

My school has chosen to be a pilot school for Science kits. These Science kits come with everything you need to teach a part of your Science curriculum. My first kit is on Magnetism and Electricity. It is great fun. I feel though like I have to become an electrician to understand all of the terms involved. I spent one whole evening cutting and stripping wire to get things ready. The great thing is that the students do things hands on and learn and have fun at the same time. My classroom is loud and noisy but I know that they are learning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Getting Ready!

In about two weeks, I will be making my perpetual profession of vows with this monastic community. (I call it final vows or just profession for short.) I don't know what planning a big wedding is like, but I am guessing the past year has been something like it!

Granted, I don't have to find a wedding photographer or decide on a cake design or spend thousands of dollars on a dress, but I did design an invitation, ask a sister to video the ritual, and choose a meal for the main celebration. I spent several long meetings with my formation director and the monastery liturgist planning the mass and other liturgies around the event. I've scoped out readers and candle carriers and Eucharistic ministers and hostesses and musicians. I had my finger measured for a ring. I spent some time last week staring at my closet trying to decide which black or white top I might wear with my nicer black skirt. Presently I'm tracking down RSVPs from friends and family who may or may not be able to come. I've reported to the powers that be who will need room and board in the guest quarters. For fun, I'm working on developing a recital to sing that evening. Have I forgotten anything?

In all this, I'm trying to remain cognizant of what this is all about. Last month I went to the wedding of a friend. It was a very simple, small wedding, with friends and family helping put things together. My friend told me, "You know, the food, the celebration, the music- that's all nice and good. What's important, though, is the sacrament. That's the main thing." Though religious profession may not be one of the seven official sacraments of the Church, it's pretty much akin to them, and it's just as serious. The main thing here is that I'm going to promise to give my whole life to God and this community, in stability, obedience, and fidelity to the monastic way of life. That's the important part. Please pray for me!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cleaning Up

I can't believe how quickly time flies. Already it's the middle of September.

I was thinking today how confusing human behavior is. We are strange creatures, don't you think. Since I'm around kids all day, their behavior really amuses me and leaves me perplexed. For instance, it would be safe to say that the majority of kids do not like cleaning their room. However, if I went outside on a nice day during recess and said, "I need help cleaning the music room," I bet I'd have kids leaving games with the score tied and bases loaded. Kids would stop mid jump rope swing to race up the steps. They'd all fight over the vacuum cleaner.

Part of the lure may be the chance to play the instruments as they're cleaning. Part of it may be just doing something different and getting to help out doing things you don't normally get to do. Part of it may be the possibility of missing part of their next class. Who knows.

During choir practice, I let the kids bring in a snack to enjoy after school and before choir begins. I have a hard time choosing who gets to sweep up afterwards since they all want to do it. Recently, one student wanted to do it. I was expecting her to sweep only the area we were in, and I thought it would only take her a few minutes at the most. (I should have known better when it comes to kids. Things rarely go as you think they would.) About 20 minutes into practice, another student tells me that she is still out there sweeping. I didn't expect such a thorough job in every little nook and cranny.

I'm thinking of this story because I have choir practice again today after school. I wonder how many students will want to sweep and help me with all the behind the scenes stuff of setting and cleaning up. I venture to guess that the number will be far greater than those who respond voluntarily to cleaning their rooms or helping out at home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

School Year Has Begun

My school year has begun. I teach 4th graders at Saint Bernard Catholic School in Rockport, Indiana. I have 15 students this year. We are doing fun stuff like multiplication, division, magnetism, electricity, and studying our great state of Indiana.

I am also working on my Masters in Education. I am taking classes at the University of Southern Indiana. I am taking a class on Thursday evenings. It's called Thinking in the Classroom. It starts this week and I hope that it will be useful for my teaching.

I am also taking a class at the Monastery. Sister Kathy and I are taking a seminar class. We are reading the book Benedictines by Terrence Kardong. We will meet once a month and discuss the book. We also asked 4 other sisters to join us. It is going to be great. As you can tell with all of these activities I stay pretty busy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When I Get Everything Together

I didn't forget about the blog; I've just been preoccupied with other things. It does seem that I took the summer off, but I'd like to now get back to writing . . . . I hope someone is reading. If not, I do find that writing can be therapeutic.

One thing that I find myself saying from time to time is "When I get everything together . . . ." Do you ever say this? I find it nonsense really. When I get everything together, I'll start exercising or when I get everything together, I'll focus more on my prayer life. Who in the world has everything together? If I keep saying that to myself, I'll end up 90 years old and wonder where my life has gone.

School has started and things are in full swing. I don't expect to have everything together (although that would be nice). Until that miraculous day, I'll just have to make time for the things that are necessary. Things don't make time for me. I have to make time for them.

Crazy as it may seem, I am trying to exercise and eat better. I chose an apple over ice cream last night. Crazy! We also have nice parks here in Louisville. I can come up with lots of excuses, but really I need to just dive right in.

Here's to everyone who doesn't have it all together. May God grant us the grace to make time for what is necessary and the determination to keep trying.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My life as a Novice here in Ferdinand

I entered the novitiate on April 24. It was a beautiful ceremony that took place in the dining room here at the monastery. I stood in the enterance way while everyone went in and sat down. Then I had a brief dialouge with Sister Kristine Anne our prioress. She asked me what my intention was and I answered her by saying that I wanted to learn the monastic way of life and follow the Gospels every day of my life. Then I slowly entered the dining room. When I got to Sister Kristine Anne, I stopped and stood in front of her. My director, Sister Rose, was standing next to her. I was presented with my own copy of the Rule of Benedict and the documents of our federation. Then Sister Rose agreed to accompany me on this next step of formation. The community then blessed Sister Rose and I. My parents came into town for the ceremony which made it all the more special!

This summer has been very busy! I have been doing various tasks! I have worked in the kitchen, worked in housekeeping, worked in the infermary, the dining room, and the laundry! I also was on a directed retreat the week of July 9-16. The retreat was a silent retreat, and I had a director that I met with every day. She gave me scripture passages that I meditated on each day and then when we met, we talked about them. I also spent a lot of time out in nature drawing. This is a very meaningful way of prayer for me. After retreat, I felt very renewed and refreshed!

I will be starting classes soon here at the monastery. I will be continuing the class on the Rule of St. Benedict/Lectio Divina. I will also take Monastic History and a class on Monastic Profession. It will be fun for me to learn all of this new information. I am looking forward to every minute of it!

It is so hard to believe that come August 23, I will have been here for one year already! Where does time go? The only one who knows the answer to that is God, because it is God's time!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Teens Encounter Christ weekend

This past weekend, I had the priviledge of working on the TEC #74 team for the Diocese of Evansville. It was an amazing experience! Seeing so many young people draw closer to Christ and deepen their faith touched me in many ways. Spending 3 days building community, laughing, praying, playing- what an awesome time! If you have an opportunity to make one, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Monastic Adventure

Several weeks ago, Sr. Jill mentioned that she and I were heading out on a trip to the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat (also known as BSWR). Well, we're home now and I wanted to write a little about that experience.

The program was in Bismarck, North Dakota, which happens to be about 1200 miles from Ferdinand, Indiana. But, being the intrepid people that we are, Sr. Jill and I asked our director and community treasurer if we could drive ourselves up north. Once we received that "yes", I immediately mapped out our route in a direction that would take us close to some fun sites (we spent a wonderful afternoon at Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota) but also kept us near other monasteries that so graciously offered us hospitality. So even though we were on the road, we continued to be able to pray and eat in community and, thanks to Mother of God Monastery's "Daisy Band", enjoy some excellent nighttime entertainment as well. We also made a great side trip to the University of Notre Dame where we got a tour and had an opportunity to spend some time with sisters who are studying there. I won't bore you with the lengthy details of the nearly 40 hours we spent in the car traveling there and back, but I will say that we only got lost twice... both times in Illinois! I found that impressive for two young sisters and I blame the state of Illinois for not labeling their roads the same way MapQuest does. It was certainly an adventure.

Once we got to Bismarck, the program was outstanding. True to the Benedictine way of life, the sisters of that monastery were some of the kindest, most hospitable people I have ever met. They invited us into their homes and hearts for three weeks as we experienced the BSWR program. Throughout those weeks, we spent two weeks in reflective study of the Benedictine rule and other monastic topics like humility, obedience, liturgy of the hours and lectio divina. The final week of the program was a silent retreat during which we had the time and space we each needed to become more grounded in Benedictine spirituality and hopefully to feel a deepening of our call to this life and to our own monasteries. The whole program was excellent. The sisters who presented to us conveyed a deep love for the Benedictine way of life and I feel like I gained so much from each of them. We also had a lot of time to reflect and chat with other program participants about our experience of monasticism.

And now we are home. Though I can honestly say that I loved the prairies of the North Dakota landscape more than I could ever have expected, I am so glad to be back home in southern Indiana. I missed my monastery and the sisters of my community and the prayer that we share together. As much as I enjoyed meeting new people and learning new things, I was so happy to return here to Ferdinand. So I end with a quote from my favorite movie, "There is no place like home."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Faith in Action

This week I helped lead a retreat for high schoolers called Faith in Action. Each day, our four teams of about ten students, one college-aged leader, and one adult leader headed out to different work sites, where we played games and did art with kids at a Boys and Girls Club, helped with Hispanic Ministry Vacation Bible School, painted at a youth shelter, visited and played games with the elderly, and cleared trails and a downed tree at Mount Saint Francis, the Franciscan retreat center where we stayed. Each day had a theme relating to the cross, and a morning talk set the tone for each day. In the evenings we had guided discussions to reflect on the meaning of what we'd experienced. We also created beautiful crosses out of copper with ever-so-patient Artist in Residence Guy Tedesco. It was an intense, sleep-deprived week of social justice work, but I loved seeing how the real-world experience of seeing Christ in others and nature touched these kids. They were a good reminder to me to be conscious of the presence of God "always and everywhere," as St. Benedict puts it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Heading to North Dakota

Sister Kathleen Marie and I are headed to Annunciation Monastery in Bismark, North Dakota. We will be attending the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat. This is when many sisters from all over the United States gather and prepare for the next step in Perpetual profession to our communities. Sister Kathleen Marie and I are driving. We are very excited and staying at different Monasteries on the way. We will be away from our Monastery for 3 weeks. Please pray for us as we take this next step.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Earlier this week, another sister and I went camping at Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky. We spent one day hiking over 14 miles! Though we both were a little dehydrated and pretty tired by the end, we certainly felt a sense of accomplishment!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Wow! What great pictures of our two junior high camps! It was a wonderful week, in spite of the weather. Everyone was a good sport about the weather and had a terrific time! It was a time to make new friends and to connect with old friends. There were lots of activities as you can see from the pictures: archery, boating, team building, crafts, swimming, slip n' slide, and a host of games. We also had prayer, Mass and skits of our saints. You can view it all in the pictures!

I hope all the counselors and campers can come again next June. We promise you another great camping experience!

Camp Marian 2010

Well, Camp Marian 2010 is now history. What a week it was!!! Last week we had over 100 campers and counselors on our grounds. We enjoyed a wonderful week of two camps and a day of rest in between with the high school counselors. Though we had to dodge storms during the second camp, I think all had a good time. I hope they also learned a bit more about us as Benedictine sisters and about our Benedictine values.

On this blog, down and on the left, you will see some thumbnails of some of the pictures. Click on one and it will take you to the full album of Camp Marian 2010.

Also, here is a link to the album: Camp Marian 2010


Friday, June 4, 2010


June brings big transitions for a mission sister. This week I've given my students finals, attended graduation, and sent my delightful charges on their way. I've tended my beans, squash, and tomatoes in the garden, and done my best to defend them against the rabbits. Last night I packed up a lot of my stuff, today I packed up my classroom, and this evening I headed back for the monastery for the summer- at least for a good portion of it. All this packing is tough: I had to think about packing for a short camping trip, a visit home to my family, a retreat I'm helping lead, a three week college course I'll be taking later in the summer, and then of course the everyday stuff I'll need for living at the monastery again for a while. While the moving part can be stressful, I'm looking forward to some time to soak up the monastic pace again, to reconnect with sisters I haven't seen in a while, and to be part of the bigger community. While I'm here, I likely will be giving tours, answering the phone, doing dishes, working in the bakery, driving elder sisters to their appointments, and helping lead prayer now and again. Phew! Never a dull moment!

Friday, May 28, 2010

No Concept of Time

Kids have no concept of time.

We're winding up the school year, and today was my last day to have kindergarten. Several of them said, "Have a great spring break."

Recently, I helped a friend when she was coaching third and fourth grade basketball. I know nothing about the sport. My job was cheerleader. I sat on the side and said, "Good job!" "You all are doing great!" I also answered questions. My favorite was "Is it halftime?" "No, it's the end of the game."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Religion Fair

Yesterday at school, we had a Religion Fair. It is a special day that happens every 4 years. It started with Morning Prayer in Church, and the kids did a fantastic job with that. After that, students went around to different classrooms, where they participated in several presentations, anything from Bible Storytime, to Gospel Tent, Sing-A-Long, or Bible Trivia, plus others. I led the Sing- A-Long session with the younger students. It was so much fun to see them singing and dancing and they gave me so much energy! I really enjoyed it and was inspired by their joy. We ended the day with a volleyball game- teachers v. 8th grade captains. They tied! It was a very fun day. I was very tired when I got home, but had joyful energy inside, though, too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Nice Surprise

I had a nice surprise yesterday.

Students usually bring in treats for their class to celebrate their birthday. If they have extra, the students go around and offer them to the teachers. Since my classroom is in a different building, I usually don't get to benefit from any extra treats. I jokingly lamented about this probably several months ago. Yesterday afternoon 3 students in the 5th grade remembered my anguish and answered my cry. I received a big cookie, a no bake cookie, a pretzel stick with white chocolate and sprinkles, and a 1 inch cupcake with 3 inches of icing. As tempting as the blue icing was, I just couldn't bring myself to eating it. I did enjoy the no bake cookie and the pretzel stick. I have the other cookie to enjoy later.

This reminds me that I need to start exercising, especially now that the weather is nicer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mission Trip to Nazareth Farm in West Virginia

This Saturday I'm meeting some of the students from University of Evansville and going with them on a Mission Trip to Nazareth Farm in Center Point, West Virginia. We'll be meeting and working with other college students from across the country May 16-22. If you have a chance check out Nazareth Farm website:

From their website I've learned that Nazareth Farm provides home repair to families and neighbors in need throughout Doddridge County and surrounding counties. The labor is free: homeowners pay for materials only. We'll be working with homeowners and learn from their hospitality and faith, which are at the core of Appalachian life. Nazareth Farm Staff lead volunteers in a variety of projects ranging from roofing and painting to decking and siding.

Since Nazareth Farm's inception in 1979, thousands of volunteers have served the Doddridge County community as part of a week-long service retreat experience. The Nazareth Farm staff facilitates approximately 22 volunteer weeks a year with over 800 volunteers from all over the United States. Throughout the week, volunteers are invited to reflect upon and live out the cornerstones of prayer, service, community and simplicity, as well as explore the application of Catholic Social Teaching to their lives and local contexts.

As a volunteer, you can spend a week with other groups from across the country while repairing homes, visiting with the local community, and enjoying the outdoors of West Virginia. Nazareth Farm hosts high school and college volunteers throughout the year and also has a week dedicated to adult volunteers and a week for families.

I'm so happy I'll have a chance to be a part of this wonderful experience. I'll let you know how the week goes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Activities

Today will be a busy Saturday. The greatest joy will be this evening when our postulant is received into the novitiate. Her parents are here to celebrate with the community, and it is good to re-connect with her family as they spend a few days with us. This morning two other sisters and I are going to a funeral of a woman whose daughter attended our Academy. The daughter is now working in our health care facility and is also an Benedictine oblate associated with our community. At some time in the future we will celebrate a Mass at the monastery for the deceased woman and invite her family to join us.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Today in my class we were paleontologists. We searched and dug bones from our "cookieasaurus" search site. We used special tools and and then a special scientists even donated a special tool for us to use. You are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about. We used tooth picks and paper clips as tools and searched out chocolate chips out of cookies. We then caculated how much we made minus costs. We had a great time!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home, Sweet, Home

The Easter Season has been very busy for me. The day after Easter, I headed to Minnesota for the National Catholic Education Association Convention. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot and met some great people! I had experiences I will treasure- including a session on teaching spelling to strugglers and a session with David Haaas) Then, after a weekend with friends, school started up again. But, Monday night, my principal asks me to go to a tmulti--day training in Carmel, Indiana for Minds in Motion. That was very thought-provoking! Then, we had First Communion. Everything has been so wonderful, and I feel refreshed and energized, but it's also so nice to be home! After two weeks of being away, it is nice to spend time with my sisters and reconnect with them! And, I got to go to a First Communion party today that was a blast! YEAH! After Confirmation tomorrow night, hopefully, things will settle down.

School Choir

My student choir meets on Tuesdays after school to get ready for our school Mass on Thursdays. This past Thursday's Mass, according to one of the kids, was our "Scrimmage Mass," getting us ready for the Sunday Parish Mass that the kids sang at today.

Before Mass, I was making sure the kids had all their music, knew the expectations, and were well warmed up when one of the students raised his hand and asked, "Are we having donuts after Mass?" Mmmmm . . . . priorities.

I did tell them we'd have donuts. I bought 4 dozen. Those kids along with family members scarfed down every last donut and every drop of milk. I told one kid, "I was hoping for leftovers." She responded, "You thought there'd be leftover donuts??????!!!!!!!! I would have never thought that!" Oh, well. I did get one before they were all gone.

The kids sang very well. I was very proud of them, and they received lots of compliments. One mom even said she had tears in her eyes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday on Mission

Phew! Today I had my first unscheduled Saturday in over a month! A lot of weekends I'm headed back to the monastery for some meeting, celebration, class, or other event, and it's always nice to be "home" with the sisters there when I go. But at the same time, it's nice to stay "home" on mission too. It's all about a little catching up on rest, time to pray, cleaning up and doing laundry, baking some cookies, writing some letters and going jogging on a glorious spring day. What's this? A religious sister also gets to live a normal person's life? Sweet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't Be So Crabby!

I made these crab hats for our spring program. I think I'm going to keep one around for myself to remind me not to be crabby.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My heart overflows with the inexpressible delight of God's love!

Three years ago, with community, family and friends watching, I made a three year profession to God of stability, obedience and conversatio (fidelity to the monastic way of life). Last night, in a simple ceremony before the sisters of my community, I renewed this temporary monastic profession. In the hours before this ceremony, I suffered greatly from the proverbial "cold feet." Do I really want to sign away another three years of my life? Can't I live a good, Christian life without spending the next three years in this monastery? What if I change my mind and don't want to do this anymore? Monastic life has never been easy for me, wouldn't it be simpler to quit now? Doubt washed over me and fear struck deep at my core.

And then... the church bells rang. The bells that have rung three times a day, every day of these last three years. The bells that call us all to stop what we're doing and make our way to prayer. Those bells pulled me out of my fear and I followed all of my sisters down the long hallway to our church. I stood in the Blessed Virgin Room, a small room just outside of the church where the community gathers every Saturday evening. I stood in that room and watched the rest of my sisters gather. Some offered hugs, some even broke the silence to offer a simple word of encouragement. Most just lined up, awaiting the call to prayer that is so much a part of our lives.

There, standing in that ever familiar room, the schola intoned the first notes of the call to prayer and the community joined, just as they have for the last three years of my professed life, as they have for the last 143 years of our community life, as they have for the last 1,500 years of Benedictine life. And in that moment, as our voices were joined as one in our prayer to God, I truly was renewed. The doubt that overtook me washed away and the call of God returned to my heart. This community is a part of me just as I am a part of it. Through all of the struggles, the pain, the arguments, the loss that we have endured, we continue to strive together to discover God in the every day. I could not imagine walking any other path.

I was blessed last night to stand before God and the saints and the sisters of Monastery Immaculate Conception and renew my monastic profession. But I was even more blessed that God renewed the call within me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Good to be home

This weekend we have a gathering of all our temporary professed sisters in formation. Last night, a number of us newer in community got together to just relax and be together, and this morning we talked about our community's Guiding Principles, and what they mean in our experience. It's so good to reconnect with other young sisters who usually are out "on mission" away from the monastery, and to soak up the beautiful liturgy and love of the larger community at home.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Celebration

This is the first Easter since my dad's death. During Holy Week, it was actually helpful to realize in a new way that Christ does know what it is like to face suffering and death. Likewise, the Easter celebration brings a fuller realization that loved ones are not gone but raised to new life with Christ. While I have known all this, there is definitely a different understanding as I think of my dad. There is still sorrow, but it really is tempered with hope and peace.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just the Beginning

Rejoice! Jesus is risen and we're on spring break. Can life get any better? I wonder how things would be if stores followed the liturgical year? They wouldn't start getting ready for Christmas right after Halloween. Also, Easter would be just beginning. I don't mind all the Easter candy going on sale; however, we still have 50 days to celebrate the Easter season according to the liturgical year. Let's load up on 1/2 price chocolate and do it up right.

Happy Easter everyone!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all our blog readers! May the peace and blessings of the Risen Jesus be yours! Here at the monastery we've had beautifully simple and rich liturgies. I love the simplicity and silence of the Triduum here. Today though it was wonderful to hear all the instruments again and sing out "Alleluia!" in full voice.

I thank God for my Benedictine community and for the rich traditions we follow!

God bless you all and may Jesus reign in your hearts!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Dinner

I'm not a cook. A show I enjoyed watching recently was called Worst Cooks in America. People were nominated by friends and family as the worst cook. They were then put in 2 teams and taught basic cooking tips and expected to turn out dishes with some help from their teacher. One person went home each week until only one was left and declared the winner.

I agonized right along with them. Simple instructions really do sound like a foreign language to me. I like instructions that say, "Remove from wrapper and place in oven/microwave."

As Easter approaches, I remember some kitchen disasters that would have made me a perfect candidate for the show. One time I made mashed potatoes that turned out runny. It was more like potato soup. My brother then banned me from ever making mashed potatoes again. Another time I attempted deviled eggs. Once again I was banned from ever making deviled eggs. At least I tried and learned from my mistakes. Thankfully that show wasn't around when I was creating all these disasters. I'm sure he would have submitted my name.

Even though I was "banned," I have made mashed potatoes and deviled eggs since then and have been successful. Here's to all the cooks out there getting ready for Easter dinner. If all else fails, at least there's always chocolate and jelly beans.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Texting is certainly it's own language. As one of the classes was leaving my room the other day, I gave each one of the students a sticker. They all responded, "Thank you." One student, however, said, "TY."


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Break

I am spending my Spring Break here at the Monastery. It is great to relax and spend time with some of the sisters that I don't get to spend much time with. I am also excited because of Spring Break, I can be at the Monastery for the entire Triduum. I am also working or maybe you could call it procrastinating from working on a paper for my night class. I am writing a paper on Literature Circles. I have not written a research paper since college which was 6 years ago. I had to get online and find out how to write in APA format. I guess I should go work on my paper. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sister and Power tools

This past Saturday a colleague and I gathered twelve of our juniors for service work with Habitat for Humanity. We had taken a group this past Fall and really had a great time even with the cold rainy weather. This time it was a beautiful day and our young men were tired from attending a prom the night before but came with energy and enthusiasm for the work ahead.

We split into two groups. One went to an empty lot that needed cleaning up and the other went to a house that had just been framed and needed some framing of windows and work underneath the house. It was good to see that they stepped forward when the supervisor asked for volunteers to do different tasks. Even when the tasks were not the most pleasant.

They did a great job and loved every minute of the day. They asked my colleague and I when we were going again.We have had such overwhelming response to our Habitat Saturdays that we will be starting a club and committing to one Saturday a month during the school year and several week days during the summer. The young men see the importance of helping others to have a home and were happy to be a part of the process.

Today at lunch my colleague said that I was the subject of much discussion before class. They never knew that a sister could use power tools as I did and that I could make a frame for a window in a structure. They were suprised that I could use a hammer and was able to lift and carry lumber as I did that day. Today, I am stiff but not sore. They also talked about how they are getting to know some of their teachers in a different way through their service projects and really enjoy the experience.

Young people today have a concern for those who are in need of help no matter what it is. We as adults just need to channel and guide the energy. And even pick up a power tool or two from time to time to motivate them. If they see us doing what we ask of them they will follow.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Yesterday, our 7th graders had a sponsor- candidate session, and they begin their preparation for Confirmation. I was so inspired by the openness and willingness to try anything. We had a lot of fun- played "I Love Everybody Who...", went on an Emmaus Walk in the beautiful sunshine, built card towers, and create songs and poems about scriptures. Then, it ended with Mass. What a terrific day! I was so happy to be able to share in such an important part in the faith journey of these middle schoolers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lenten Promises

It's the 4th week of Lent. How's everyone doing with their Lenten promises?

One thing I chose to do was give up soft drinks. Growing up, soft drinks were a rare luxury. Things changed when I went to college because I had greater access to sodas in the dining halls. Mt. Dew was really helpful when it came to late night cramming for a test/complaining about a class. Now $1.00 sodas at McDonald's are awfully enticing.

I decided to give up sodas because I realized I was using them as a source of comfort. I'm all for people treating themselves, but I had gone beyond that. It was almost to the point where the McDonald's people had my cup ready and my order rung up by the time I walked in the door. (I used to work at McD's. We had our regulars who were very loyal to their routines.)

During Lent, the idea is that we give up something we like or do often or something we're addicted to (like I was with soft drinks) in order to focus and rely on God. It is God I should turn to for help with my day, not a $1.00 Diet Coke.

It all ties in with what St. Benedict says about living a balanced life. All things in moderation. I'm all for treating myself from time to time as long as it remains a treat and not a necessity.

Blessings on the remaining days of Lent and all your Lenten promises.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lent 4.5

Tonight I enjoyed a fantastic Lenten Mission talk by Fr. Joe Mitchell of the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville. He spoke about how we can encounter God in three different senses. God is within our ourselves in our own hearts (1st person), in "the other" as "You, my Lord and God" (2nd person), and in the he-she-its of the world, in other people and creation (3rd person). He said in private prayer we tend to get in touch with God in the 1st and 2nd person senses, and we even tend to serve God in our neighbor as the "he's and she's" of the world. But a lot of us need to work on getting in touch with God in the "it," in creation, the earth. God is manifested to us in creation, and how we care for the earth reflects something of our love of God.

Check out the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center's Lent 4.5 program. The premise is that if we were to divide up the whole earth among the total population of the earth, each person would get 4.5 acres with which to provide for all of one's needs. In the U.S. right now, the average consumption level is closer to 22.3 acres per person. We only have one earth to provide everything we need. If I'm using more than my share, that means someone else is getting less than their fair share. Taking care of the earth isn't just a political agenda- it's a social justice issue.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Exceeding Expectations

I like asking my mom questions because usually her answers are funny and she says what I want to hear. I recently told her that we had 8 girls visiting for the high school weekend and that they had done different activities, including making cookies for the community recreation on Saturday night. When I asked her how many chocolate chip cookies she thought I should eat, she said, "At least 6." I didn't keep track of how many I actually ate, but I didn't want to let her down. In fact, I tried to exceed her expectations. After all, life is short. My mom has always encouraged us to have fun and enjoy ourselves. I enjoyed every cookie I ate and ate some for her as well.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Understanding Accents

When I went off to college I was teased constantly about my accent. I remember the first day in French class, hearing the giggles as I answered, "Je m'appelle Catherine." Thinking back, I'm sure it was hilarious because I had the biggest southeast MO accent ever. Some classmates later asked me where I was from. They guessed Mississippi or possibly Alabama. They were surprised to hear that I was from the same state where I was going to college. I grew up in the bootheel, the southeast part. I went to college in Columbia, MO - same state, but worlds apart in accents.

I wanted to hold onto my accent as a memory of home, but I soon lost it. When I went home one weekend, my mom commented, "You're starting to talk like them northerners."

I do like the southeast MO accent. I find it very efficient. Letters are left out that aren't necessary and the meaning is still understood. For example, the g on -ing ending words. "You all" becomes "y'all." Words are slurred together or middle letters are left out. "Cold" and "told" become "code" and tode." On the other hand, sometimes 1 syllable words become 2 syllable words. A conversation may sound like
"Are y'all code?"
"Well ye-es, I tode you I was code. I'm fixin' to get a blanket."

One time in college, I told a person, "Sorry I was late." I had to repeat it a few times. He kept hearing, "Sorry I was light."

Recently, I realized the mistakes that can happen when we don't fully pronounce our words. The other day, a student asked me why we sing, "Whom should I sin?" Ahhh, endings are important.

I also remember the confusion between calling the evening meal either supper or dinner. During the first week of college, someone asked me if I wanted to go eat dinner. It was 5:00 in the evening. I responded, "Dinner? I had dinner 5 hours ago." I wasn't trying to be smart, I really was clueless. She also had no idea what I was talking about, so she changed the question to "Do you want to get something to eat?" That was an easier question to answer.

I had lots to learn in college - including the language barrier.

Friday, February 26, 2010


We had parent-teacher-student conferences this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we taught a full day, and then had conferences in the evening both nights. I really enjoy getting the chance to talk to parents and students about progress and success and to offer encouragement and support as needed. It is so neat to see the smile on a student's face when they begin to see that, yes, maybe they can be successful. Seeing the parents so proud when they hear the efforts their child is making also makes my day. So, even though they were long nights (and Monday was also long, because I had a meeting and banner-making stuff for First COmmunon after school), it was totally worth it. I think our students are now ready to conquer the rest of the year! And, I am going to gratefully enjoy this day off because of conference break!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I had the best day yesterday teaching. We are getting ready to take the ISTEP + test. This is a test in the state of Indiana that all students have to take. Well, part of the test is writing. The students are given a prompt on what to write about. We were doing a practice one in class and I said it is time for lunch and my students groaned because they wanted to keep writing. It was the greatest feeling that a teacher could have. It just made my day and made teaching great!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All the Jobs Are Covered

I'm getting ready for the spring program. It's called Go Fish and will star all the kids in pre-k to 2nd grade. It's about a shark who wants to be friends with all the other sea creatures. Of course, everyone is afraid of the shark and no one wants to be his friend. There are some unusual creatures, for example a 7-legged octopus, a star fish without a leading role, and a tuna fish that can't keep a tune. In the end, they discover that all their differences make them special. They learn to appreciate themselves and each other. A lesson that is good to learn early and hopefully will remain with them through the years.

I don't assign the speaking parts. I let the homeroom teachers do that since they know what their students are capable of. One little boy told me that he didn't want a speaking part. He wanted to be the prop manager. He must have heard that somewhere. I think that's great. We have lots of props and costumes to get ready for over 100 students. I hope he's ready for the challenge.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another Beautiful Day!

This morning, as I left the house to go for my 30 minute workout, the snow was falling beautifully and quietly! The trees are barren, the sky is gray, and the wind chills the air! The season of Lent is truly upon us! The image of Lent for many is the picture of Southern Indiana this morning-gray, cold, and barren. Ironically, the cold darkness of Lent prepares us for new life as does the cold darkness of these winter months. Just as the trees await the warmth of the sun to return so that they may bud and flower once again, we wait for the warmth of our Son to embrace us on the day of his Resurrection so that we may bud and flower once again!

Lent is one of my favorites times of the Liturgical Year. In the Gospels, we hear that this is the time to repent and turn back to our God who lovingly awaits us! This is a time to go into our quiet depths and sit with God. For me, Lent is a time of rewewal and refreshement. Lent is a time for me to stop in the midst of the frenzy of midterms, papers, lesson plans, and Geometry and rest in God for a while. To rest in God for a while-my heart's deepest desire!

Thank you, God for the cold and darkeness of the Lenten Season. May this time of fasting, waiting, and prayer bring us back to you in forgiveness and Reconciliation! Amen!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"She's our coach!"

When I give vocation talks or when I tell people that I'm a sister, I am frequently asked if there are certain jobs that I have to do because I'm a sister. I always tell them that we have sisters in lots of different areas. Yes, we fill some traditional roles (teaching and nursing) but we also do a lot of other interesting things. And I always like to tell people about my second job!

In addition to teaching high school math, I coach my school's freshman soccer team. When I was offered the job of coaching soccer, I jumped at the chance. I had always worried that I would never have an opportunity to coach, since I work at an all-boys school where all the entire coaching staff (in all sports) is male. But I had played soccer through both high school and college and I have a passion for the sport that is evident anytime I watch a game. So, the head coach offered me a job working with the young players and I love it.

Coaching is an awesome experience for me. I get to play soccer every week, teach skills and tricks to my players, and best of all help cheer for their wins and console them in their losses. I have never had a better job in my life.

My favorite soccer moment from last season was at our first away game. It was just a freshman game, so there were no other coaches going along. I was a little worried that my players would be resentful that they had been stuck with a woman as a coach, but they proved me wrong immediately. As we approached the gate, the ticketman began allowing the players through, but he stopped me saying, "Parents have to pay $5.00 for the game." Before I had a chance to say a word, one of my players turned around and announced to all who could hear, "She's not our mom, she's our coach. Come on, Sister." And that was it. I am their coach and they'll stick up for me.

We had a great season, winning more games than we lost but mostly having fun and learning skills for next year. As we are beginning spring weight lifting, I look forward to another great year to come!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Grateful for Snow Days

Thanks to two snow days this week, I am almost finished with my icon! At this point I'm doing finishing touches. I'll make the inscribed crown a bit more obvious soon. Here's where things are right now.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Party

Well, our Indianapolis Colts may have lost but we sure had fun cheering them on! We had a Super Bowl party in the group where I live. Some sisters from other groups also joined us for the fun. We had great snacks and LOTS of LOUD cheering going on... and some pretty loud moans, too. Our guys were just out-played this time. Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints. Back row: Sisters Mary Carmen, Michelle W., Mary Carmel, Jolinda, Mary Austin
Middle row: Sisters Mary Carol, Mary Agnes, Michelle Catherine (me)
Front row: Sisters Rosa Lee, Karen J.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Advancing Technology

I had to laugh the other day when a co-worker said, "The only thing I can do with my cell phone is make and receive calls." The comment took me off guard because I thought that's what a phone is for - to make and receive calls. However, nowadays if that's all the phone does, it's behind the times. Many of us at the monastery don't use cell phones unless needed for our ministries.

Growing up, my family wasn't up on the latest technology. In high school, I thought we were the only family without a VCR or Nintendo. When I asked my mom about it a few years ago, she said we didn't have a Nintendo because she didn't want 4 kids fighting over the one TV. Also, we didn't have a VCR because she was waiting for the DVD player to come out. Ha Ha! Now that it's been out for a while, my family doesn't have a DVD player either, so they must be waiting for the next big thing. Either that or it's just not that important.

I write about this because my co-workers and I recently had to look at ways we use technology to communicate with students. Cell phones, facebook, myspace, e-mail, all that stuff can be good for communication if used well. I try to keep up with technology so that I can speak the kids' lingo, but I know I'm archaic. Can't help it - I grew up that way.

No matter how convenient technology is becoming, I hope we don't lose our personal contact as well.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sr. Geraldine

Sr. Geraldine was an amazing member of our community and a terrific inspiration to me. For the last 10 years, I have gotten to meet and share my hopes, dreams, fears, and most especially where God is working in my life. I know that she is heaven right now and is in peace and without pain. May God be with her! The joy and the lessons she shared will live on! SHe was a blessing and gift to all of us.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Catholic Schools Week

We have been celebrating Catholic Schools Week. It all started on Monday when we wore as much blue as we could and wrote Thank you letters to different staff at St. Bernard for making it a great place. Tuesday we came to school, Wacky for our Catholic School. My 4th graders really got into it. Wednesday was Indiana Sports day. We ended the day with a pep assembly. Today was Saint and Angel Day. I went as St. Gertrude. Some of the students said wow a real nun, like I wasn't one without my habit I wore today. Tomorrow we are going to end the week wearing pajamas and an all school movie. It has been a great and busy week. Catholic School is stupendous!

Sister Geraldine Hedinger died peacefully at 4:25 a.m. February 2, 2010

Sister Geraldine will be, and already is, missed by all. She died peacefully Tuesday in the early morning on the feast of the Presentation. The readings for that day at Mass were so appropriate for Sister Geraldine. "Now Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace..." It was as if the readings had been planned for her death. Even the music we used that day spoke so much to us of her life and death and passing to new life! It was touching and so beautiful how everything fit together with what we were experiencing that day.

To learn more about Sister Geraldine go to the bottom right hand corner of our home page: and click on her Memoriam. Sister Geraldine touched the lives of so many people. We, her religious community of sisters, miss her deeply. I know she is missed by all those who knew her. She was loved by all.

Sister Geraldine, pray to God for all of us. May you have eternal rest.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How God Created Hair

I was speaking with my sister the other day and she told me about a conversation she overheard between my 7 year old niece and my 8 year old nephew. My niece was asking her brother how God created her hair. Her brother answered, "God used strings from heaven." My niece was not fully satisfied with the answer and so she elaborated on her question, "How did God make MY hair, with color and like this?" Her brother answered, "Oh, God took (this part is gross) human skin and shredded it up and colored your hair." Well, needless to say my sister was happy about the first part to the point of tears and then the gross things some boys say comes out and ruins the moment.

This conversation reminded me about the scripture passage where Jesus challenges the listeners to "become like children". To be curious about how God created us is one of those childlike questions. To take time to reflect on the awesome mystery of how we were created is to be childlike. Yes, as adults we know how we are created in the womb of our mothers but, how awesome is that! Who else would have created such an event or way of creating another human being.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Kids Say

Today in the kindergarten class, we were singing the song "Star Light, Star Bright." I went around and tapped each student with a wand as we kept the beat. If the student was tapped at the end of the song, he or she then got to wish for something. Some wished for a magic pony or a trampoline or a Barbie car or a transformer. I laughed hysterically when one little girl wished for a bologna sandwich. She responded, "What! Haven't you ever been hungry?"

Also, according to a 3rd grader, the 5 second rule doesn't apply when something falls in mud.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Some of you may know that I have been learning to paint religious icons over the last couple years. I've been learning the ancient techniqes that involve making your paint with egg yolk and dry pigments, gilding with gold leaf, etc. It's opened up a whole new world for me, and it's what I love to do best when I occasionally have a free day at home.

For the last year or so I've been working on an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I started this one from scratch, getting my own board cut, gluing on and then scraping out the ridge around the edge called a kovcheg, sealing it with rabbit skin glue and cheesecloth, making gesso of marble and chalkdust, spackling the surface, sealing it, gilding with gold leaf, painting on the basic drawing with India ink, and then finally painting in the actual image.

There is so much spiritual preparation that goes into this, too. Every night when I say Compline before going to bed, I end with the "Hail, Holy Queen," and as I pray that last prayer I always pray with a little image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It's a sweet, sad image, and Mary's eyes are so merciful, so kind. It's an image that speaks to what it looks like for God to be with us in the hard times. God knows what we feel, no matter what we're going through.

After almost a year, I finally am getting near the finish, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it! Here's what things look like about now. Pretty soon I will add lots of gold lines delineating details of the clothing. Pray that this will come to a happy conclusion soon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Chances are you have been affected by someone's suicide or suicide attempt. Maybe a friend, classmate, relative. Or maybe you've read about it in the paper or heard it on the news. It's always a tragedy and leaves many unanswered questions and feelings of guilt. There comes a point when all we can do is trust in God and remind ourselves, "I did the best I could. I did all I knew to do. It's not my fault." And maybe even repeat the last sentence over and over until it eventually soaks in. There will always be "what ifs," but only God knows. I'm sure God is weeping also.

Please take some time to watch the youtube video "Why" by Rascal Flatts. It is a powerful song that addresses the feelings of loved ones who are left behind after someone's suicide.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Daily Blessings!

Life is full of unexpected gifts and surprises! Every day I discover something new about the art of being a good teacher. I observed two friends of mine today-one in her 8th grade Langauge Arts Class and another in her 5th grade Language Arts Class. Both were just phenomenal lessons to watch in action. In my 8th grade class, their teacher used "Vocabulary Cartoons" to enhance comprehension of vocabulary words with visuals and in my 5th grade class, they worked in their pods to create word searches with their key vocabulary words. The students just LOVED what they were doing! This is exactly why I love being a teacher! When I see the kids light up with joy and enthusiasm, I light up with joy and enthusiasm!

God is revealed in the most unexpected of places in our lives. The anticipation of each and every day is exciting because we never know what God has in store for us! We make a choice every day-to receive life with joy or to receive life with fear and anxiety of what might be. Today, I saw God in the faces of those students-their energy gives me life. Their joy and zeal for life and learning is God revealed in the ordinariness of a gray, cold, January day! Thank you, God!

First Communion Enrollment

On Saturday night, 37 students became candidates for First Communion. They proudly received their White books after their names were called. Then, they and their parents attended a meeting. I always love First Communion preparation. It is one of my favorite parts of the job. They are genuinely excited and they really want Jesus to come into their hearts. Their joy and their love are infectious. And, their parents seem so haooy as well. The parents had all their questions answered and it was a great meeting! God is good, and I pray that these students will know and experience God's awesome love and grace as they get ready for this sacrament.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Go Colts

I had a great time watching the Colts play the Ravens. I watched the game with a group of sisters. We really got into the game with yelling and cheering. It was amazing. Hopefully, next week the Colts can play just as well. My favorite player is Dallas Clark. Another neat thing is that I can talk to my students about this at school. They think it is really neat that their teacher (a sister) watches football.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

To Live In Grace

This week I had a surprise that brought me to tears. A former student of mine knocked on the door of my classroom the other afternoon while I was teaching. Now, this student was not the top student nor the most likable. Not a student most teachers would like to have a visit from but, this student left school near the end of his Sophomore year never to return. He has a rare blood disease that he has battled for the past two years. He has lost the sight in one eye and many other side effects due to the experimental treatments he has been receiving.

I have been keeping up with him via the baseball coach. This young man loved baseball with all his heart and soul. This past year he was very low and he nor his parents, or friends thought that he would make it very long. The other day the baseball coach had mentioned that this young man would be at school for a short visit. I thought that I would not be able to see him. I heard the knock and opened the door and there he was, that young man whom I butted heads with. I was so surprised that I was speechless. I gave him the biggest, gentlest hug. I had very few words and I know that he realized that our head butting did not prevent me from caring about him and keeping up with him via the baseball coach. It was only a few minutes but it made my entire week, month, year. Needless to say that it was difficult to return to instruction and I was happy that the period was about to end. My other students began to ask who that was and when I said his name they were all quiet. This was the young man that we had been praying for as a school and in my class from time to time. They realized how special this moment was.

I have been teaching my students about the sacraments, grace, rituals, symbols and liturgy the past two weeks. The knock on the door was the knock of grace, a sacramental moment. That the grace of life transcends all other differences. And just as the people of Haiti are now struggling to survive the world is full of grace to help those who have lost everything and are in the "valley of the shadow of death". To live our lives gracefully would certainly have the power to transcend all differences. The young man at my door and the people of Haiti call us to be our best possible selves, to live in grace.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Be Yourself

Part of my ministry involves discussing the readings with the class that is preparing for Mass. Together we come up with a focus, which is done before Mass and may include a skit, a short reading, or a song. We then create petitions that tie in with the readings and the focus.

I enjoy doing this and try to relate at the kids' level. I still remember the misunderstandings I had as a small child and the difficulty I encountered when I reached the middle school years - the dreaded adolescence when you think everyone is noticing every imperfection about you. Your hair, your clothes, your weight, everything is of utmost importance.

I still remember the revelation I had when I realized, "If I think everyone is noticing everything about me, maybe everyone else thinks everyone is noticing everything about them, so really no one is noticing anything about me because everyone else is worried about what everyone else is noticing about them. So really no one is really noticing anything about anybody." Whoa! That's a mouthful.

The reason I bring this up is because on Tuesday, January 24, the 1st reading is about Saul being jealous of David. As I was discussing this with the 6th graders, I wanted them to know that when I was their age, there were classmates I wanted to be more like. "If I could just be (smarter, prettier, funnier, etc.)_ like ________, my life would be better." I could rattle off several of these statements. Adolescence is a difficult age when comparison may be the norm and unfortunately damaging. The sad part is that it continues into adulthood.

It's not easy, but I encouraged the students not to be jealous of others, to recognize their own gifts and talents, and to be the person God created them to be.

There's a story I heard about Rabbi Zusya, an 18th century Hasidic rabbi. He said to his disciples, "In the world to come I shall not be asked, 'Why were you not Moses?' I shall be asked, 'Why were you not Zusya?'"

The same can be asked of us. Why spend valuable time and energy being jealous and desiring to be more like someone else? Hopefully when the time comes, we will be able to answer, "Yes, God, I spent my time on earth being the person you created me to be. My desire on earth was to become more fully who I was called to be, not what someone else was called to be."