Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sisters part of new education service

Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand are collaborating with the Family Scholar House of Louisville to bring a new service to Dubois County to fight poverty through education.

Sister Barbara C. SchmitzThe effort, called Family Scholar House, was begun in Louisville in 1995 to end the cycle of poverty by giving single-parent students the support they need to earn a college degree and attain a viable independent lifestyle.

Family Scholar House started operations in Dubois County recently by opening an office in Monastery Immaculate Conception, the home of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand. Sister Barbara Catherine Schmitz of the monastery is the on-site staff person beginning the program’s implementation.

The program seeks to provide academic advising, case management, family support, community activities, connection to other resources, peer support, and eventually, housing, for qualifying single-parent students. It predominantly serves women, often single mothers, who are unemployed or underemployed and desire additional educational and career opportunities.

(Read more on our web site.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lost Keys

I recently walked around the monastery looking for lost car keys.  If you've been to our monastery, you know how big it is.  I got lots of exercise, and I'm happy to say I eventually found them.

My search for the keys reminded me of a Sufi story.  Maybe you've heard it before.  There are many versions, and one goes something like this. 

A man is looking outside for his house key.  One of his neighbors sees him and helps.  The neighbor finally asks the man, "Where do you think you lost it?"  The man answers, "Inside the house."  Baffled, the neighbor asks, "Then why are we looking for the key out here?"  The man answers, "There's more light outside here than inside my house."

This story makes me ask myself, "What is going on in my life that I'm afraid to look at?  Am I putting my energies in the right areas?  Am I taking the easier road to avoid decisions that may include difficulty, risk, or more work?" 

What does this story say to you?  Blessings to you as you allow this story's message to unfold in your life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Double Whammy or Double Blessing

Several years ago, my mom told me, "You're stubborn like your father."  Ironically, shortly after this, I was with my dad.  Unaware of what my mom had said earlier, he told me, "You're stubborn like your mother."  I thought, "Oh no.  I'm doomed.  I can't win if I get it from both sides."

Although it has a negative connotation, I believe stubbornness can be a positive quality.  It has certainly served me well in the past.  When used in a good way, a person can be seen as motivated, determined, strong-willed, or persevering.  When used negatively, however, a person can be seen as closed-minded or unwilling to compromise.  Our personality traits may serve us well in one situation, but may be detrimental in another.  It depends on what's needed and how we approach the situation.

Stubbornness can help us overcome obstacles and achieve goals.  On the other hand, it can also keep us from becoming who God wants us to be.  It can keep us locked up rather than free, stuck in the past rather than open to the future.

I received a double dose of stubbornness, which can be seen as either a gift or a curse.  I just have to be mindful of how I use it.  Is it helping or hurting myself or others.  If it is hurting, what do I need to do to change the situation?  Am I open to following God's will or am I dragging my heels and wanting my will to be done. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thinking Big

I have to admire the 4th graders at my school.  This is always a great time of year for them because they are so excited about learning the recorder.  This year, some of the students have decided to form a recorder band.  Nothing wrong with thinking big.  They've had the recorder for about 3 weeks, know 3 notes, and about 3 songs.  I say, "Come one!  Come all!  They'll be happy to play for any audience anytime!"  You'll recognize 2 of the 3 songs - Hot Cross Buns and Mary Had a Little Lamb . . . . . at least I hope you'll be able to recognize the songs.  Remember, they've only had the recorders for about 3 weeks.  They're starting small and thinking big. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Instrument Are You?

I volunteer at the KY Center for the Arts, so I get to see a lot of things for free.  I recently was able to see the Louisville Orchestra.

When I was in college, I asked my co-workers, "If you were an instrument, what instrument would you be?"  At the time, I felt like I was a guitar because I thought God was picking on me.  I wasn't all that thrilled (to say the least) about being called to religious life, so I prayed that God would "stop picking on me."  God is certainly persistent and the "picking" only got stronger.  I then realized I needed to change my prayer. Instead of asking God to leave me alone so I could follow my own will and make my own plans, I began praying to accept God's will in my life and the courage to act on it.  Instead of fighting against God, I threw in the towel.  I realized I had to listen and follow God's plan rather than my own.  Instead of thinking God was picking on me, I learned to realize a little more how much God loves me.  God was using me as an instrument and was wanting to play through me. 

In this huge orchestra on earth, what instrument are you and why?  Are you allowing God to play through you?  What does the music sound like?     

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ask Away

I get asked a lot of questions about religious life, and I really enjoy it.  My favorite came from a couple of kindergartners.  They asked me if my mom was a nun.  I thought that was a very good question.  We do learn from our parents.  Often we look up to them and want to do what they do.  In this case, however, I explained to the kids that if you're a nun, you don't get married and don't have kids, so my mom couldn't be a nun.

I know some people have questions, but they are hesitant to ask them.  One reason may be because that person may not want the question to be misinterpreted as a desire of seeking religious life for his or her life.  I guarantee you that if someone asks me about religious life, I won't assume that that person has a personal desire to be a religious sister, brother, or priest.  On the contrary, I would see it simply as an openness to learn more about different lifestyles and vocational choices.  When I was looking into religious life, I prayed for openness and courage.  I was scared to ask questions for this very reason.  The internet was a good resource for facts, but personal contact and the information gained through asking questions about real life experiences and struggles are also important. 

Another reason a person may be hesitant to ask questions is because maybe that person doesn't want to intrude.  It is my personal life you're asking about, after all.   I think it's equivalent to asking a woman what it's like being a wife, mom or grandma.  If there's joy that comes from that, you want to share it with others.  The same is true with religious life.  I love my vocation.  It's not all roses.  Just like being a mom isn't wonderful 100% of the time or being a wife isn't all glamour and glory.  There are difficulties and sacrifices in every vocational choice; but as crazy as it sounds, I can think of nothing better I'd rather do with my life.  Ask me questions, it helps confirm and deepen my commitment. 

Maybe questions aren't asked because the person is afraid of asking a "dumb" question.  Let me state again that I really do love answering questions about religious life.  I think I've been asked it all, including what my 2nd favorite color is.  I've given talks to elementary school students, high school students, college students, and adults.  I can assure you, I've never been asked a "dumb" question.  I can think of no dumb question other than (obviously) the one that isn't asked. 

So, if you have questions, please feel free to ask.  I guarantee I won't assume you're interested in joining and give you some sign-up papers.  I won't feel burdened or annoyed in sharing about my life, and I certainly won't think the question is dumb.  I would feel honored that you were interested and overjoyed to share something that means so much to me. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Governor on monastery: "can't think of a more peaceful place"

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels sat in the Benedictine Parlor recently at Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana, talking about the challenges of his upcoming new job as president of Purdue University.

Sister Sylvia Gehlhausen, 88, sat nearby, listening intently. Then, flashing the grin and facial expression that has warmed so many hearts through her years as a minister of hospitality, Sister Sylvia said, “We could be your getaway place.”

Governor Daniels smiled, “I can’t think of a more peaceful place to get away to.”

It was the second time Daniels has visited the monastery during his eight-year term. The first visit came in 2008 after Sister Sylvia invited him. She remembers him saying to her, “I’ll come back,” as he left.

When the governor greeted Sisters Sylvia, Kristine Anne Harpenau, Jane Will, Betty Drewes, and Jean Marie Ballard on the monastery steps this time, Sister Sylvia said, “Oh, you did come back.” The governor replied, smiling, “I always keep my promises.”