Thursday, June 30, 2016

Staying with the Sisters: Week 1 Recap

From left: Shea, me, Sister Mary Philip, Kelsey, Emily, and (front) Sister T

Week 1 of the Servants to Sisterhood program was already an incredible experience, though we were definitely missing our 5th, Clair, who wouldn't show up until next week, when we started helping with Camp Marian. 

My sister and I showed up first of all the girls and (as I've said before) I was pretty nervous. What if the other girls didn't like me? What if I found this whole place too much religion for my tastes? I am the youngest of the group, only 19, so I expected to feel a little left out from the older girls. Well, boy was I wrong. By the end of Sunday, both Kelsey and Emily had moved in with us and we were thick as thieves. 

Unfortunately, I do not have more pictures of the beautiful house that we are staying in, but I have to give a huge shout out to Sister T, the "Ladies of the Night", and all the other volunteers who put so much work into whipping this early 1900s house into shape, because it really is a wonderful place to live. I think that, as a group, our favorite spot is the walk out roof. We've already decided that we would like to do a weekly bible study there on Wednesdays as the sun goes down. 

The first few days were orientation, where we learned how to navigate through the maze-like halls of the church and academy in order to find things like the Archives, the laundry room, and storage (where we found the secret hiding stash of donated microwave popcorn). Sister T took us everywhere, from the very bottom (the crypt, which isn't as creepy as it sounds), to the very tip top, where we could see for miles and miles over the Indiana hills. She showed us the the quiet spots, the holy spots, where we could use our free time to connect with God like the sisters did. 

By Wednesday, we were rearing to go help the sisters with some of their daily work, and we all split up to different places. I was able to tag along with Sister Christine Marie, who gives communion and does a rosary with the residents in Ferdinand's nursing home. It was here that I first began to realize the impact that these sisters have on their community. As Christine Marie and I went from room to room, I saw Catholic men and women who couldn't walk, speak, or even move light up when we entered the room to pray over them. Many would smile, nod, and bow their heads and I could see that they craved that simplicity that the prayers brought. Even more, I could see how, even though she only saw these residents for only a few minutes of her day, Christine Marie truly cared for each of them, knew them all by name, and remembered the stories that they had told her. Even the slightest bit of her time made these men and women more fulfilled in their lives.

Though we were all happy to see each other and experience the sisters throughout the week, we were sad to hear that one of the sisters in the infirmary, Sister Mary Clare, was not doing very well, and before we knew it, she was gone. We, the servants to the sisterhood, sat in the dining room hearing the news and we saw the sadness on each person's face knowing that this was more than a friend passing, it was a sister leaving for good. We saw the community mourn together and attended the prayer services and funeral for that week, listening to the many stories of Mary Clare's great teaching skills (especially in driving, many of the sisters said they never would have learned if not for her) and all the incredible things, all the people she inspired, throughout her whole life.

It was this week that I realized that these women are not what I thought they would be. Many people think of sisters and nuns as stern-faced teachers with a ruler in their hands as they prayed every hour of every day without ceasing. That is just simply untrue. They are not machines that spout out what they are told, they are women who work together, laugh together, cry together, and pray together. They are sisters in everything but blood, brought together through God. And here I am, with the incredible opportunity to see who they truly are.

I know that I will learn a lot from them.

Thanks for listening,
Tory Lanaghan

Ephesians 1:18 - I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened so that you can see the hope He has called you to, the riches of His inheritance to His glorious people.

Next in this series: Staying with the Sisters: Week 2 Recap

Also in this series: Staying with the Sisters: Week 1 Recap
                               Staying with the Sisters: A Personal Guide

Staying with the Sisters: A Personal Guide

So I realized that there are many of you out there who do not know any of the people that I am with. If you live and work up on the hill at the monastery (Hi, sisters) you don't have to read this post. If you have no idea where Ferdinand is or who the people I am talking about are, then this is for you!

I introduced myself and the program in the last post here, so if you missed that, you can go back and read to your pleasure.

I talked pretty briefly about my sister, Shea.

She recently graduated from Murray State University, where I currently go to school, with a degree in studio art. She has taken this past year off to get some extra job experience before applying to Saint Louis University and Aquinas Institute for a dual master's program in Social Work and Theology, so she's pretty into the whole Jesus/helping people thing. Shea has a boyfriend, Ryan, who she has been dating for almost a year and a half. She says that this monastery is her favorite, most peaceful place in the world.

This is Kelsey:

She is 22 and a recent graduate of IUPUY with a degree in Education. She got a job right out of school in Indianapolis as a middle school math teacher and she is incredibly excited for her job. She has a new niece that she loves to share photos and videos of when her sister sends them. She is from Haubstadt, IN, just a stones throw away from Ferdinand and found out about this program through Sister T, who was her PE teacher when she was young.

This is Emily:

She is 22 and currently at school at USI, going for a degree in Criminology, hoping to work as a coroner one day.  She lives in Evansville, IN and loves to go hunting with her family and friends. She got involved with the sisters many years ago when she stayed in one of their houses during college and has come to volunteer and visit with them often.

This is Clair:

Clair is 21 and attends Indiana University Southeast with a degree in History. She lives in New Albany, IN and works at the Kentucky Durby Museum in Louisville and is involved in campus ministry at the University of Louisville. She hopes to eventually get her master's in Theology, like Shea and she found out about the Sisters of St. Benedict through a mutual friend and came for her first time this summer.

This is Sister T:

Sister Theresa Gunter (Sister T for short) has been in community for over 20 years, and has been working in young adult vocations for a long time. She was once a volunteer firefighter and a special education teacher, but now lives in Evansville as a youth minister. Sister T has been working with my volunteer group from Illinois for many years now and has inspired many young people to get more excited about their faith.

This is Sister Mary Philip Berger:

Sister Mary Philip has been the volunteer coordinator for the monastery for as long as I have been involved with the Sisters. She had always wanted to be a nun just so she could, "wear the veil," even becoming a part of a Secret Nuns Club in her younger years. Along with Sister T, Mary Philip coordinated this entire summer for us through a grant they received at the end of last year. (We are eternally grateful to both of these sisters for doing this for us.)

So that is the list of everyone who is probably going to crop up again and again in my experience here. If you find a name that you don't recognize, you can probably find it by going to the Sisters' website, and typing the name in the search bar.

Thanks for listening,
Tory Lanaghan

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - Two are better than one, because they have a good run for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

Reflection: Matthew 9:1-8

Thursday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 9:1-8

In today’s passage from Matthew, Jesus returned to his hometown. When the townspeople heard that Jesus was home, they brought a paralytic to Him, carrying the man on a stretcher.  Clearly these people had faith in Jesus’ power to heal this man.  Jesus said to the paralytic: “Child, have courage; your sins are forgiven.”

Now there also were scribes with the townspeople.  The scribes began murmuring among themselves about Jesus.  They believed that Jesus was blaspheming.  How dare Jesus think that he had the power to forgive sins!  However, Jesus knew what they were thinking.  Even though they had not spoken a word to Him, Jesus could read their thoughts and their faces. He clearly sensed their disapproval and negativity.

Jesus confronted the scribes about their evil thoughts.  He asked them:  “Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or say to the man: ‘Rise up and walk?’  Jesus then turned to the paralytic and said to him: “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and return home.”  The paralytic immediately stood up, picked up his stretcher and went to his home.  Everyone was filled with awe and the people began to glorify God who had given such authority to Jesus.

Is there a critical scribe within us? I assume so.  Do we recognize when our inner scribe gets activated?  Do we recognize when we are murmuring?  Does our inner scribe automatically judge others?  Do we ever criticize Jesus for what he does or what he does not do?

Daily, we need to be mindful of our inner scribe’s voice and our tendency to judge and criticize others as well as ourselves!  When we are mindful of our thoughts and criticisms, we have the opportunity to step back, change our minds, and stop our judgment or criticism.  If we do this consciously for a period of time, we may come to realize that we are not judging others as frequently as we had been.  And who knows: we may find that we are more peaceful and more at ease.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 16:13-19

Saints Peter and Paul, Solemnity – Matthew 16:13-19

Today the Church celebrates Saints Peter and Paul.  These two men had a profound impact on the early Church.  Both Peter and Paul were leaders in the infant Church. 

Unlike Peter, Paul did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus when Jesus walked the earth.  However, it is clear from Paul’s writings that he truly knew and loved Jesus.  Jesus was not an abstract person to Paul.  For Paul, Jesus was alive and present to him.  

Is Jesus truly alive for us?  In many ways, we are like Paul: we were not alive when Jesus was on this earth.  Yet, we have Jesus’ teachings and we have the Gospels.  We also have the opportunity to come to know Jesus just as Peter, Paul, and the apostles did, as Mary Magdalene did.  However, if we wish to know Jesus, we need to ponder His words, His love, and His actions.

On this feast of Peter and Paul, Jesus asks his followers: “Who do people say that I am?”  They gave him various replies: John the Baptist, a prophet, even Elijah.  However, Jesus then asks them: “But who do you say I am?” Today, Jesus is also asking us: “Who do you say that I am?”

Today I invite you to sit quietly with Jesus’ question for 15-30 minutes.  Relax, be still and be patient.  Allow your response come from deep within.  Don’t try to rush it.  Just sit patiently and eventually you will hear Jesus voice or sense His presence with you!  

Cherish this sacred time with Jesus!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 8:23-27

Tuesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:23-27

Today’s Gospel is a familiar story: it is the story of the storm at sea.  The disciples were out fishing on the sea.  Suddenly, a severe storm came up and the disciples became frightened.   Despite the fact that several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were terrified.  The storm was ferocious and waves were beginning to swamp their boat.  Unbelievably, Jesus remained sound asleep in the boat while the storm raged all around Him.

Finally, the disciples woke Jesus and they begged Him to save them.  However, Jesus rebuked them.  Then He asked: “Why are you so terrified, you of little faith?”  Jesus then stood up and rebuked the winds and the seas and immediately calm descended on the waters.   Jesus’ disciples were utterly amazed!  They looked at one another and asked:  Who is this man whom the winds and waves obey?”

Take a moment and remember a time in your life when you were extremely frightened.  What was the “storm” that created such turmoil and fear in your life?  Did you turn to Jesus and beg him to rescue you?  Or did you simply hunker down in your boat and hold on tightly?

At various times in our lives, Jesus may appear to be asleep when we desperately need his help and grace to get us through the ferocious storm that we are experiencing.  Despite His seeming absence or lack of concern, do we continue to trust that He is with us?  Do we believe that He is gracing us even if we don’t feel it?  Often, it only as time passes that we recognize and know that Jesus was with us every moment.

The next time you are in turmoil, I invite you to sit down and breathe slowly and mindfully for three to four minutes.  Breathe in peace and exhale stress and fear.  After several minutes, check yourself:  Are you as agitated as you were or are you calmer now? Is your mind clearer?

When we are upset or fearful, we automatically “batten down the hatches,” as sailors would say.  In our language we might say: “I just shut down.”  And at times, we may need to shut down momentarily.  However, we need an additional step: we need to open our minds and hearts to Jesus’ presence.  If we do this for several minutes, we may realize that we are calmer and more peaceful.  Practicing calm and peace will rebuke the winds and waves in our lives.

Love, calm, and peace are gifts that Jesus gives to us.  Today take time to consciously open your mind and heart to receive these wondrous gifts.  It not only will change your day, it will change you!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Staying with the Sisters: Summer 2016


My name is Tory Lanaghan, and I am part of Servants to the Sisterhood, a national program that is beginning anew with the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand. For a whole summer, myself and four other girls will be living, praying, and working with these wonderful women in order to learn what is so special about this order of sisters. When our program is complete, it will be our jobs to draw in women who are interested in monastic life and tell them about this truly incredible community. I decided that the best way to tackle this monstrous task is by writing to all of you, the families and friends of these sisters, so that you might get a behind-the-scenes look at this community and the things that they have done and still do to change this world.

But before I begin, I want to tell you a little about myself and the faith journey that has led me to the Sisters of St. Benedict.

I am a junior at Murray State University, majoring in Public Relations and Creative Writing. My hometown is Millstadt, IL, just thirty minutes southeast of St. Louis, where I have lived with my parents and my older sister Shea for my whole life.

My parents, Jon and Connie 
My sister, Shea, is on the left.

I grew up Catholic, attending St. James Grade School in Millstadt and Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville. I became an active member of my parish’s youth group when I turned 13, which first connected me to Ferdinand.

Though I was too young to go, my mother and sister were part of the first youth group to ever take a mission trip to Ferdinand’s sisters nine years ago. The sisters were a bit tentative when the group showed up, having teenagers live on their campus was pretty wild, but within the first day, the kids had finished the five-days-worth-of-work list and the sisters had to scramble to find more things for them to do. We were told they fell in love with us. 

Scraping walls free of glue on
Mission Trip 2015
Two years later, I was able to join my youth group for my first trip and the experience blew me away. The grounds were beautiful, almost as beautiful as the women they are a home to. It was truly an experience and serving the sisters set me off on a love for others and a passion for service that has continued throughout my life. Every single summer, I came, making my way up the ranks from youth to adult leader and reconnecting with God each time I went to morning prayer.

Honduras Senior Service
Trip 2014

Even after all of this, when the sisters asked both my sister and I to join in this first project, I was nervous. My connection with the Church and God had to be tenuous at best since I had been to college, and though the mission trips always revitalized and affirmed my love for Jesus(and his love for me), I was not sure how I would be able to handle an entire summer of prayer. I was worried that I would be different than the other three girls who were coming, that they would be more like my sister, who is going to receive her masters in Theological Studies, and I would be a bit of an outcast with my non-traditional and rocky faith journey.

But I knew that I loved service, and if I wanted to stick with my life mission of making a difference in the world, this would be a perfect opportunity to find myself in the depths of service and prayer, and so, here I am, in this beautiful little house in Ferdinand Indiana, beginning my first week of waking up at 6 a.m. to go to prayer, learning the layout of this huge campus, and scratching the surface of the loving community these sisters have welcomed me into.

Though it has only been three days since I arrived, I have learned more about what it means to be a servant of the Lord than I could have done in years on my own and I certainly look forward to discovering exactly the life these wonderful women lead. I hope that many of you will follow me on this faith journey. I will enjoy sharing it with you.

Thanks for listening,
Tory Lanaghan

Isaiah 6:8 – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Reflection: Matthew 8:18-22

Monday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 8:18-22

Today’s gospel passage from Matthew is very similar to the gospel reading that we heard yesterday from Luke.  Once again, people seem very enthusiastic about following Jesus “wherever he goes,” but they place conditions on their discipleship.  The second person, in particular, places limits on when he will follow Jesus.  He tells Jesus, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”  Jesus responds, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

Jesus’ response to the man’s desire to bury his father may seem rather harsh.  Was Jesus so coldhearted that he would not let a son bury his father?  I think not.  In all likelihood, the man’s father had not died yet.  It seems that the man wanted to attend to his own business and had reservations about following Jesus.  Instead of telling Jesus that he wanted to follow him but that he felt a little nervous about it, he said that he had other matters to which he needed to attend.

How many times do we put our own agendas before God’s?  What holds us back from following Jesus wholeheartedly?  It is easy to make a list of all of the things that we need to do.  Do we put prayer on the top of the list? 

Today, I invite you to spend 15-30 minutes in prayer.  You may find a place to sit quietly, or you may walk and pray, or pray as you do artwork.  Whatever you do and however you pray, take some time to listen to God’s call.  To what is God calling you?  As you spend some time in prayer, ask for the grace to respond to God’s call wholeheartedly and unreservedly.