Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sr. Norma Gettelfinger's Vocation Story

I had three sisters close to my age in our family who were all "going to be Sisters" when they grew up...BUT NOT ME...I was going to get married and have a raft of kids!!! Two sisters older than I had already entered and our family was visiting them as usual on a Sunday afternoon at the Monastery at Ferdinand, IN. I witnessed their ecstatic joy, and on the way home had this depressed feeling. As I thought about it and prayed about it, I came to the conclusion that the Lord must be trying to invite me to "at least try out the life." So I gave in and signed up!!! To my surprise I, too, was enjoying a life I never thought could be so full of joy. 55 years later, that joy keeps growing!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Commentary for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom, OSB

The Sunday gospel is filled with familiar images… some of us have even used these images to capture significant moments in our monastic journey.

There is an underlying theme in these 3 parables… that of seeking and finding, of searching and discovering, of unearthing and discerning.

In the first parable, the treasure in the field is not actively sought… the person seems to stumble upon it. We don’t know if the field was being prepared for planting, if it was being harvested, or if, in fact, it was just a nice grassy field that this person was strolling through. Something must have caught the person’s attention, however… and curiosity was rewarded with the discovery of a treasure! Without banks or safes, the surest way to protect a treasure was to bury it. The one who unearthed the treasure buys the field, granting him ownership of the treasure as well.

The merchant’s job is to hunt for precious gems. He has the experience and expertise to recognize a valuable stone. In selling everything to purchase the magnificent pearl, the merchant lets go of the fruits of his livelihood. He becomes poor so that he may be enriched by the pearl he has discovered.

In the third parable, the fisherfolk likely sailed to a spot where they judged the fish to be numerous. Like the merchant, they know their trade and are deliberate in their quest to return home with a good catch. Their knowledge of fish, along with the dietary laws by which they live, help them sort out their catch.

Faith, building the Kingdom, as reflected in these stories, involves risk and commitment of one’s energies and resources. Actually, it is not the OBJECT that matters, but the process of seeking, finding and choosing. Each person in these parables, and each person in this chapel makes an ultimate life choice that reveals and defines their character and gives their life a sense of purpose. We each chose this life… a big yes which has been followed by thousands of smaller yeses. How do we keep actively engaged with this treasure, with the Kingdom of God? How do we hold it reverently without putting it away on a shelf to be admired or guarded?

Jesus asks his listeners if they understand these parables, and they naively reply yes, unaware of the depths yet to be revealed and explored. Jesus urges them, then, to bring forth from their storehouse both the old and the new. We are challenged to do the same.

We have just finished first profession, jubilee and chapter. We have unearthed pearls. We have been challenged to let go of some things, embrace others and commit ourselves to the journey. We have again recognized the treasure of THIS community, at THIS time, with all our giftedness and limitations.

Benedict urges us to listen with the ear of our hearts. Our parables today call us to SEE with the eyes of our heart, to recognize the Kingdom within and around us. They remind us that the Kingdom comes in both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of our lives.

The one who finds the treasure in the field goes OUT OF JOY and sells all. Let us embrace our monastic lives and our call as followers of Christ with that same sense of joy. Let us be people who seek and find the Kingdom in the very fiber of our existence and use our energy and talents to make that Kingdom a reality in our world.

Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ and may Christ bring us all together to everlasting life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sr. Juliann Babcock's Vocation Story

Religious life has been a part of my entire life. I was born and lived in Indianapolis. My parents were very devoted Catholics who lived a very faith-filled life until their death. My brother, sister and I received a Catholic education and learned at a very early age what it meant to serve our parish, what it meant to reach out to our neighbors, and what it meant to love and care for our family. These values formed my religious life as a child. I am so grateful!

I have an aunt who is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Dubuque, Iowa. Her visits to our home and our visits to her convent helped me know more about the life of a sister even before I ever thought about entering religious life. Some of my fondest memories are the many New Year’s Eve parties she spent with us while my parents went out to celebrate with friends. My father also had a cousin who was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, KY. Her visits were also wonderful as I would listen to her stories about her classroom experiences. Little did I know then of their influence on my life.

When I was in junior high my mother told me that she wanted my sister and I to attend the new high school that was recently built in Beech Grove. It was started by the Sisters of St. Benedict, whom I knew nothing about. My mother said that Benedictines were great educators and she wanted us to attend an all girls high school as she had done. My brother also attended Cathedral High School as my father had done. They liked traditions!

During my four years at Our Lady of Grace Academy, I got to know many of the sisters and found myself noticing how much they cared for each other and how hospitable they were to the students and their parents. As a senior, I was editor of the school newspaper which meant I spent a lot of extra hours after school and on weekends in the Academy’s newspaper room. Those times were especially important as I look back on them. Often the sisters would stop in to offer support or to chat and I found myself becoming more attracted to their life during that year. I now know that God was inviting me to become a Benedictine through the example of these sisters. It was a huge decision since I really wanted to go to college with my friends. I had been accepted at Marian College in Indianapolis and at Clark College in Dubuque. The final months of high school were very difficult as I struggled with this decision. It was after a conversation with our principal, Sister Louise, that I knew I had to follow the voice in my heart and see if Benedictine life was where God was leading me.

In 1966, I entered the community. All these years have only confirmed that voice in my heart that God was indeed calling me to this way of life. The years have been filled with joy and sorrow as is every path of life. I do know that each of my experiences have been blessed with the grace and love of God, the support and love of my community and the presence and love of my family.

During these past years I have enjoyed many different ministries. I taught elementary school for 10 years, worked at the Benedict Inn for seven years, served our community as vocation director for four years and as subprioress for eight years. Presently, I am the formation director for our sisters during their beginning years of monastic life.

It is a challenge to live Benedictine values in today’s culture. Our monastic promises of stability in this monastery, fidelity to the monastic way of life, and obedience which includes simplicity and celibacy, are counter cultural in many ways. I believe they are promises that witness to our world’s desire for meaning, for community and for God.

I love monastic life and I love being a part of this community at Beech Grove. We are women on our journey to God. St. Benedict tells us to “Run while you have the light of life so that the darkness of death may not overtake you.” (Rule of St. Benedict; Prologue)  I know I can only do this with others to guide and support me. That’s my community!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A reflection by Sr. Kathleen Yeadon, OSB

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight...

These words from Isaiah can renew us in  God's love.  We have been chosen to seek God in this monastic life.  Our daily Lectio, our common prayer and Liturgy and our special events of the summer are times to hear the words from God:  You are my beloved in whom I delight.  We can let the words and their meaning wash over us.  We don't have to tell God why it isn't true because God will never stop seeing us as beloved.

One of the lines from one of the books I read this summer, The Shack by William P. Young, says, learning to live loved.  I have taken many years to believe it, but this summer, I knew it and only have to practice that belief.

A bruised reed God will not break, a smoldering wick, God will not quench...And in God's name, the Sisters will hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Affiliate Heather Foltz's Vocation Story

My Journey to Our Lady of Grace Monastery began with an invitation. In fact, most of the significant moments on my journey have been the result of an invitation and the courage within to accept. The invitations that each of us receive on our journey often reminds me of Jesus calling his disciples and the courage that they had to leave the lives that they had been living to follow Him with all that they were.

I am the middle child of Paul and Christie Foltz. I was born on June 17, 1983. I have an older sister, Holly, who is a chef and a younger sister, Hilary, who is studying elementary education at the University of Indianapolis. I grew up in Dyer, IN, which is near Chicago.  I grew up in the United Methodist Church and faithfully attended church every Sunday with not only my immediate family, but also my extended family. The seeds of my faith and the foundation of who I am today are the result of my parents and my grandma Foltz. They taught me to seek God and to be faithful to who God is calling me to be.

The first invitation that changed my life was an invitation by my youth minister the summer before my junior year of high school. He invited my younger sister and me to attend a summer mission trip to Nashville Tennessee. It was on this mission trip that I had my first opportunity to work with the homeless. It was here that I realized that God had given me the passion and the gifts to serve the poor. I returned to my life back home forever changed and open to receiving my second invitation.

My second invitation came from my senior pastor and it was an invitation to apply to the University of Indianapolis to study theology. I was interested and filled out the application and was accepted. I thought maybe that I could serve the poor through ministry in the Methodist Church. In August of 2002, I began my college experience at the University of Indianapolis.

My experience at the University of Indianapolis provided many invitations to grow, change, and seek God. In my sophomore year of college, I met for the first time Sr. Jennifer Horner, OSB. Sr. Jennifer was my Christian vocations and formation Professor. My instruction by Sr. Jennifer changed my life. She taught us about Spiritual practices and about turning our desires to live our life for God into actions. She nourished the seeds that my parents planted and helped grow my faith into what it is today. She also invited me to prayer and to visit the prison with some of her Benedictine Sisters. January of 2004 was the first time that I attended prayer at Our Lady of Grace Monastery. I felt at home. I loved the way in which they prayed the psalms and wanted to return again, which I did many times over the next four years.

My next significant invitation was from another individual from the chaplain’s office, Micah Weedman. He invited me to apply to live in the Intentional Christian Community that they were forming on Campus for the following year. I began dialoguing with him about what it meant to live in community and seek God together. In the fall of 2004, I began living in community with three other individuals on campus. I lived there until I graduated in spring of 2006. We lived under a common rule of life, which included prayer, work, and community commitments. It was here that I was challenged to grow and seek God in new ways. It was in this community that God planted the desire within me to live my life in community. It was also in community that I began to develop deep friendships that help hold me accountable to being the person that God is calling me to be.

While living in community, I was first invited to attend mass. I went one Sunday evening to mass on campus and I fell in love almost instantly with the liturgy. I spent the next two years attending a Methodist service in the morning and Mass on campus at night. In my senior year of college I felt that I needed to make a choice. I realized that God was calling me to live out my Christian faith within the Catholic Church. After Graduation, I joined RCIA and was confirmed a Catholic on Easter 2007.

I graduated college in May of 2006 and began working at Horizon House, a homeless day center in downtown Indianapolis. I currently serve as the employment placement coordinator. I am responsible for all of the activities that take place in our employment center. I teach job readiness classes and provide employment placement counseling to our homeless neighbors. I love working with the homeless and I am thankful that God has given me the gifts and passion to serve them.

Since graduation, I have continued to visit the monastery on a regular basis. At first when my friends and family asked if I was thinking about becoming a sister, I adamantly would tell them that I just liked visiting the monastery. But God had a couple more invitations in store for me, which has led me to where I am today. In the fall of 2007, Sr. Nicolette gave me a brochure to attend one of the vocation retreats and asked me to read it. I believe that I responded that I enjoyed reading. After reading the brochure, I knew that God was calling me to discern further whether or not I have a monastic vocation, but I was still unsure.

A few weeks later, I was on vacation with my family in Florida. We were talking about relationships and I hadn’t really told my parents yet what I had been considering. I remember I said something about well you know my future plan has always included a husband and four kids. My dad responded with well maybe God has something different planned for your future and that I should remain open to other possibilities in my life. My dad’s words spoke to me and invited me from that point on to be fully open to listening and discerning where God was calling me. I attended the vocations retreat in February of 2008. I realized on the retreat that God had given me the gifts to successfully live life in community as a Benedictine Sister. Although I still have a lot to learn about what it means to live out my life as a Benedictine Sister. I also realized that over the past few years of visiting that I had already fallen in love with a particular Benedictine Community. Shortly after the retreat, I requested to begin the process to become an affiliate of the Sisters of Saint Benedict.

On June 19, 2008, I began my Benedictine Journey as an affiliate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery. It is with great joy that I am continuing to seek God and discern more seriously my monastic vocation with such a wonderful group of women. I also look forward to the many invitations and the many lessons that God has in store for me in the years to come.

(The picture above was taken the evening Heather became an Affiliate.  She is being handed The Benedictine Handbook by our Prioress, Sr. Carol Falkner.  Our community continues to be blest with happy, holy and healthy women in search of God in this monastic way of life.  Please continue to pray for Heather and all who seek to do God's will on a daily basis.)  

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Souls Journey in the Garden: Summer by Sr. Cathy Anne Lepore, OSB

“The one who sows the good seed
is the Son of Man;
The field is the worlds,
And the good seeds
are the children of the kingdom;
The weeds are the children of the evil one.”
Matthew 13: 37-38

Ah, Summer time!! Most of the planting is done. Now it’s time to sit back and let God do all the work. As the days get longer and hotter my focus changes, I relax in the garden. Yes, I just watch the flowers grow. It may sound strange but now is the time to play in the garden. Yes, dare to walk barefoot in the grass, make a crown or necklace of flowers, bring armfuls of flowers inside, create a scavenger hunt for guests and have a campfire.

Summertime, for me is a time to find a balance between rest and work. Life can be so serious! I need to take a step back, and find the lighter side of things. In Scripture the serious passages that keep me on my toes are always there. I need to find the texts that are lighter, that lift my soul to heaven. For example:

Psalm 92
The just shall flourish like the palm tree,
Like a cedar of Lebanon shall they grow.
They that are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
Vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the Lord,
My Rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Yes, I know there is work to do in the summer also. These tasks may include: weeding, staking, edging, maintaining of the paths, and harvesting. Each of these tasks in turn brings its own prayer questions to mind. What behaviors do I need to weed out of my behavior patterns? Where do I need support and protection? What boundaries do I need set to maintain in my relationships? How can I keep the edges straight when I try to bend into what I think other people want of me? What are the fruits of my labors, (both seen and unseen)?

During the “dog-days of summer” I rejoice in my favorite plants, the ones that are always included in the vegetable garden or the flower bed (the Black Eyed Susans, Snap Dragons, Geraniums, and Tomatoes). In her book The Sacred Garden: Soil for the Growing Soul, Patricia Barrett challenges us to look at the people in our lives that are our “old favorites.” She asks; “Are there people in our lives that we take for granted? Who are those people who are always there when we need them and who keep up friendship under any circumstance? Have we told them lately what they mean to us? Or have we just treated them as ordinary occurrences in our lives?

Help me to cultivate the garden of my own soul, God. Teach me to recognize the parts of my personality that hold me back from giving all I can give and hold me back from receiving all I am capable of receiving.

- Maintain the paths:
Walking a path many times can become a way of prayer, a communion of spirit with God under the spell of the beauty of the garden.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Souls Journey in the Garden

Passions and Perspectives of the Four Seasons

Personal Reflection by Sr. Cathy Anne Lepore, OSB

As a child, I followed my dad around the garden. The vegetable garden that is! We had a plot about the size of a tennis court. Keeping things growing was a family affair. My brothers turned the soil by hand, using the spade, doing one row every day. Four brothers meant four rows a day. Dad would start planting as soon as the Jonquils announced spring. The garden map went like this. Jonquils came up on their own at the top of the garden, and then we planted snow peas, radishes, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, green beans (again), zucchini, and the “you can’t kill it” rhubarb.

My memories of the garden are rich with tastes and textures. The tastes of those first snap peas, a warm tomato fresh off the vine, tangy radishes in salads, crisp cucumber sandwiches, and the always-favorite rhubarb pie are encoded in my being. I also remember that I hated to pick the green beans. Dad planted two rows of pole beans right next to each other. They were the natural screen that hid the garden from passer-bys. Well, of course it would be mid-summer. The humidity and temperature, which made everything grow so well, made me wilt with childhood fatigue. If you’ve ever picked pole beans you know what I’m talking about, when one is between the rows surrounded by greenery, the leaves would stick to their clothes like Velcro. We would pick two brown shopping bags of beans every third day. Then of course later in the summer was the zucchini battle! You all know what I’m talking about! One day the little zuc is too small to pick, the next day it’s a “caveman’s club.” Talk about God working when you aren’t looking. So many memories, literally seeing the plants grow overnight, measuring the heights of the tomato plants, filling the basket so full that I couldn’t lift it, chasing rabbits, (yes, visions of Mr. McGreger flash before my eyes), sitting on the back porch watering the garden in the evening, and of course the many meals that included the bounty of the garden.

I didn’t know it as a child, but gardening was in my blood. I remember as a novice in community asking my director if I could start a little garden plot at the monastery. She said “what ever would you want to do that for?” I remember saying that it could be part of my personal prayer time. She chuckled and said, “No, no, I don’t think that would work at all.” I bided my time and as soon as I made my first vows, I cleared the sod and started a small vegetable garden. Well, needless to say the garden space has been growing ever since. The simple lessons of getting my hands dirty, kneeling to plant and weed, watering the parched soil, and harvesting the fruits of my labor touch my spirit in profound and holy ways. The grand passion of being a part of the creative force of the universe is almost inexpressible. I hear the whispers of God in my daily activities in the garden. This makes me long even more to be outside in the presence of God.

In future blog posts, Sr. Cathy Anne will share with you her seasonal prayer reflections that corresponds with the gardening tasks.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Commentary for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Mildred Wannemuehler, OSB

In reading the section of Matthew for today’s Gospel I am reminded again how our Founder, St. Benedict, was steeped in Scripture. This section brought back many thoughts from our community retreat given by Fr. Brendan Moss, OSB.

Today’s section from St. Matthew follows the chapter where Jesus calls His twelve disciples and sends them out to continue teaching His message about the Father. Today’s section is addressed to the “little ones” who are the recipients of the message. Here I was reminded of the opening of our Rule, “Listen, my daughter, to the master’s instruction, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” We are called as Benedictines to be students in the School of the Lord’s service.  We follow the Gospel as we “seek God” throughout our lifetime.

Knowing that this learning can become difficult Jesus gives us today
one of the most compassionate invitations of the whole Gospel. “Come
to me all who labor and are burdened..take my yoke upon you and learn
from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” This brought me back to our conference during retreat on simplicity and moderation. A yoke is a heavy burden but it is also a means of balance. Picture the yoke on a pair of oxen. Together they share the weight and the burden. Isn’t our Rule noted for its moderation and balance? Doesn’t St. Benedict assure us that as we “seek God” we don’t do it alone? Doesn’t he refer to many areas in our life that need to be balanced? Out of curiosity I went to RB 80 and found the references to moderation: there were twelve areas listed. Just a few: it must be a quality of the Abbot, it has to be evident in our daily schedules, in the food we eat, in the arrangement of the Psalms, in speech, in punishment and many more.

In conclusion, in today’s Gospel we are reminded of the life we are committed to: we are continual learners, the “little ones” and we need to remember that none of us carries the burdens of life alone.  We are “yoked’ to Jesus and to a group of other women who are also sharing our life with its challenges. We continue the work of Jesus in making the Father known through the Gospel message.