Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Helping Hands at the Monastery

The monastery in Ogden, Utah
Religion can be used to justify acts of inhumanity or acts of kindness and love. When they are acts of inhumanity, they become news worthy. When they are acts of love, they are quiet and unnoticed by many. The latter is the story of the Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph.

Sixty-seven years ago during WWII, a group of Sisters left Minnesota for Ogden, Utah. They established a hospital to serve the huge influxes of workers that flooded into the area to help with the war effort. Their philosophy, "Caring for the sick as if     they were Christ in person."

When local leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed Mormons, learned of this great service to many of their faith, they decided to give a little back. This Saturday about 230 volunteers from the Saint Cloud Stake came to Saint Benedict’s to serve the Sisters.

Local congregations in a geographical area are known as a Stake in the Mormon Church. The Saint Cloud Stake asked these congregations to send volunteers to help in what is called a “Day of Service.” People came as far away as Alexandria and Elk River to serve the Sisters.

Cheri Moore, a Stake leader led the volunteer’s efforts. She worked with Sister Jean Schwartz, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Sisters at Saint Benedict’s. Old and young came together to clean, paint, spruce up the cemetery, and helped to prepare the garden for winter.

A surplus of volunteers was sent on assignments for the City of Waite Park. City officials directed the volunteers as they cleared garbage from parks and drainage ponds and removed weeds from the ice rink and children’s baseball diamond. Some of the youth grumbled when the weeds seemed to never end, but the adults encouraged them on. Tasks that would have taken days of work were finished in a few hours.

Diana Rogers, from Elbow Lake, was asked as she pulled weeds, why she came so far. “Serving is a very important thing to do,” she said with a smile. That sentiment was seen all Saturday morning as the volunteers worked hard. At 1:00 pm, the work ended, lunch was served, children giggled, and tales of the day’s labor were shared.

The Sisters of Saint Benedict have officially come home from their mission in Ogden, Utah. They served with distinction, helping to create Ogden Regional Medical Center. They quietly served for 67 years, practicing what can only be called true religion, the unconditional love for others.

Douglas Ward
Public Affairs Media Specialist
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
St. Cloud Stake 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Enamored of Space and Trees

I am as enamored of space as I am of trees—almost!

I realize that there are needs, opportunities and/or preferences as to living in the  city or in the country.  I was born in a rural area in southwestern Minnesota.  Imagine, if you will, the 1950s, before agri-business became ‘law of the land.’ There were endless open spaces on small farms, one after the other, patterned with a variety of growing things and animals, and only interspersed by tree-lined, long driveways and the protective grove around a home, buildings, and yards that also seemed too big for small kids sent out to do the chores.

Now look at the sea of blue-blossoming flax fields, moving with the breezes, or the long rows of beans, clean and straight, that invite your eyes to follow almost as far as the horizon.  Smell the air—sometimes affected by  manure, but not always—the smell of threshed grain or, even, watch the shockers as they build a sturdy cone of five, or perhaps six, bundles of wheat, skillfully placed so as to resist summer rains.  Listen to the meadowlarks or the mourning doves.

Can you see, smell, hear, imagine any of these happenings other than in the farmlands where SPACE is not just a commodity, but sheer gift, a luxury, a place to revel in, a space to roam in, where, like the proverbial buffalo, deer and antelope, one can almost taste peace ... or as Emily Dickinson would have it, a place where one could create a poem if there were only one clover and reverie ?

Are you enamored of space and trees, as well as I?  I hope so.

Renee Domeier, OSB

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fall Nostalgia

This time of year always makes me feel nostalgic. The end of summer and the approach of autumn carry a sense of sadness with them. Even the air seems to smell different.

I'm nostalgic, too, because it's the start of the school year. And, for me, that sense of nostalgia carries a  certain energy with it, as well as the feeling of sadness. I suppose that's what nostalgia is -  a mix of feelings, not just one thing or the other like, "I'm happy" or "I'm sad." When I first started writing this blog, I thought "melancholy" was the word I'd use, but then that seemed to link the sense I'm trying to convey to negative emotions, and it's not a negative feeling. Instead, it's a particular coming together of different feelings which seem an unlikely combination. I think it's to do with something new (the academic year) starting, mixed with the richness of ripened fruits and leaves just now hinting at turning those spectacular autumn shades (as you can see in the photograph taken by Sister Vernice Ramler); yet all this abundance signals the dying of the year.

It's a paradox: unsettling but somehow lovely at the same time. It's a time, too, when those beautiful words from Ecclesiastes seem so appropriate: "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." It's not really a time to analyze, but to let the feelings be and accept my sense of nostalgia as the gift of this particular season.

Karen Rose, OSB

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Is there anything more haunting than the cry of a pair of loons at 3 a.m.?  You are lying in bed in a dark cabin - no moon, no stars, no lights outside or inside the house.  For some unknown reason you are awake and suddenly a first cry comes - instinctively you know there will be another . . . and another . . . and another.  Only loons can make those sounds that carry across a lake. If you listen attentively and for a long time you begin to distinguish between one loon calling to another checking out perhaps where its mate is, and the loon's cry of distress or fear.

Four sisters and I are back from a week's vacation at our lake house an hour north of St. Benedict's. In addition to the companionship, a few games of card, excellent meals and good reading, there is nothing better than greeting the morning with a cup of coffee and Lectio Divina on the screened-in porch, and savoring the grandeur of God's creation for hours. Each of us was heard musing out loud at least once at the beginning of the week, "There is no schedule . . . really?" It took each of us a day or two to awaken fully to the realization that apart from a noon and an evening meal, our days were our own. It seems that I cannot give myself to reading with the same abondonment here at the monastery as I do at the lake. Many hours of the day were given to reading interspersed with a short nap here and there!

Whether sitting on a bench on the dock, on a lawn chair in the screened-in porch as the sun is setting or staring into a fire roasting marsmallows, these special moments in a day at the lake can stir up in us an incredible feeling of wonderment and gratitude. And if singing is prayer for us then our Sister Delores Dufner's hymn Be Forever Praised rises easily from our heart to our lips in a song of praise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Darkness Prayer

Have you noticed how good news and bad news often arrive in clusters?  A dear friend of mine has had a series of difficult, inconclusive health reports, accompanied by decreased ability to walk or stand for more than brief intervals. When I asked if she ever felt angry at God for all the unanswered questions and her progressive health losses she responded, “Not really.  I just keep repeating this mantra over and over when any negative thought creeps into my mind:

'May God’s Love flow through me for God’s greatest good.'” 

Then she proceeded to say, “I have no idea what I’ll be invited to walk with in the future, but I know that if I keep walking in God’s loving energy, one day at a time, one step at a time, I stay amazingly peaceful.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have times of tears as I grieve the multiple things I need to let go of right now, but I’m being given the strength to not stay there when I repeat my mantra and allow God to gradually reveal to me another aspect of my highest good. I have so many dear friends and family that are like a tender womb of safety, carrying me into an unknown “new me.”

This is not a new stance for my humble and radically authentic friend. As she worked with persons on hospice care and walked gently with their families on the journey, she continually walked the liminal space of mystery. I guess authentic people discover a way to:

Receive and Radiate
God's light of truth
God’s unconditional love
God’s empowering strength and
God’s compassionate presence

She sounds a bit like Julian of Norwich who famously taught us that: “All will be well, all manner of things will be well”.

It is an honor to walk with my friend on her mysterious path.

Mary Rachel Kuebelbeck, OSB