Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our Sister Recycler in the News!

Our Sister Matthew was highlighted in the local newspaper last Tuesday! Her decades-long service to Mount Marty College through beautiful grounds and flowerbeds has long emphasized recycling and caring for all God's creation.  This selfless service reminds her sisters of chapter 31 in the Rule of Benedict, 
"She will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothings is to be neglected. She should not be prone to greed, nor be wasteful and extravagant with the goods of the monastery, but should do everything with moderation and according to the prioress' orders.Above all, let her be humble...if the community is rather large, she should be given helpers, that  with their assistance she may calmly perform the duties of her office" (RB 31: 10-17).
"MMC's Recycling Champ Gets Some Help",
by Shauna Marlette, Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan
Sister Matthew Wehri has always made sure Mount Marty College (MMC) has been ahead of the curve when it comes to recycling.
Now, thanks to a grant from Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and the Coca-Cola Foundation, she is going to get a little help from the students who returned to the Yankton campus on Monday.
This past year MMC applied for and received the national recycling bin grant, where the school was awarded 40 bins designed specifically for placement around campus.
“I think it was 1976 when I started collecting the cans on campus,” Wehri said. “A long-time nun in the Monastery was working in the kitchens and she told me that we could get $0.16 a pound recycling cans. So, I began going around campus, digging in the dumpsters and collecting cans.”
Wehri said that she decided to collect the cans to help fund maintenance of the campus’ flower beds. She added that a small amount has also gone to helping pay for the monastery’s past dog’s food, treats and care.
“Every morning, afternoon and evening - three times a day - I go out and separate the bags, collecting cans,” she said. “Maybe we don’t collect as much during the summer, but definitely when school is in session.”
Noting that in a typical month she will collect between 60-70 pounds of cans, Wehri said they collect enough to overflow the back of a pickup every month.
“Some of the kids-but not many - are good about separating out their cans and leaving them in bags next to the dumpsters, “she said. “Not a lot of them do it though. I would say 75 percent of the cans collected, I have separated out of the trash.”
The college hopes to help lower that number.
“We were looking for a way to be more environmentally friendly and at the same time we wanted to start a good recycling program at the college,” said Greg Heine, the chief operations officer for MMC. “Sister Wehri has been the watch-dog for recycling on campus, sorting garbage to get the cans out. Now we hope we can help her out.”
At Mount Marty College, a plan will be implemented that not only focuses on the daily act of recycling, but will also include education outreach by Keep Yankton Beautiful.
 “We will be working with work our work study program to help provide assistance to Sister Matthew with the collecting,” Heine said. “The education aspect will be all student-driven.”
In thanks for her years of service to the campus, Heine noted that the college had placed a label on each of the new bins that has a photo of Sister Matthew asking the students to help her recycle and keep the campus clean.
“It is just one way we can honor her for her years of service to the campus,” he said. “She enjoys the landscaping and working with the flowers but would never take money to do it. By recycling she is able to fund the projects and every penny she had made recycling has gone back to the campus.”
Wehri said she knows that the students sometimes look at her funny when she is digging in the garbage, but that she hopes they understand why she is doing it and, in the future, will help by recycling their cans into the appropriate bins.
“Almost all of the bins have been installed before the students returned this week,” Heine said. “With the education that is planned because of this award, and the ongoing awareness this will create we are optimistic our efforts to increase recycling campus-wide will be successful."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Service to Community: corn parties


The Rule of Benedict calls the community to service to each other. While a sister's assigned work or ministry might lead to her to teaching, nursing, pastoral care, or other paid ministry, her service to her Benedictine sisters is understood to be a celebration of mutual obedience and good zeal.

"Obedience is a blessing to be shown by all, not only to the abbot but also to one another as brothers, since we know that it is by this way of obedience that we go to God. Therefore, although orders of the abbot or of the priors appointed by him take precedence, and no unofficial order may supersede them, in every other instance younger monks should obey their seniors with all love and concern. Anyone found objecting to this should be reproved" (RB 71: 1-5).

"Just as there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and to life everlasting. This zeal, therefore, the sisters should practice with the most fervent love. Thus they should anticipate one another in honor; most patiently endure one another's infirmities, whether of body or of character; vie in paying obedience one to another. No one following what she considers useful for herself, but rather what benefits another; tender the charity of sisterhood chastely; fear God in love; love their Abbess with a sincere and humble charity; prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all together to life everlasting" (RB 72)!

 With these words of Benedict and the needs of our sisters in mind, our intrepid Garden Sisters dressed themselves in boots and bluejeans and headed out to the cornfields. Our visiting student sisters also joined the labor. The hard work of walking the field and picking corn was punctuated with joyful banter and laughter as the sisters filled the pickup to the brim with fresh sweet corn. When the last bucketful was balanced on the truck, the sisters returned to the monastery for a break. They were greeted with anticipation and cool water.

"And if the circumstances of the place or their  poverty should require that they themselves do the work of gathering the harvest, let them not be discontented; for then are they truly monastics when they live by the labor of their hands, as did our Fathers and the Apostles. Let all things be done with moderation, however, for the sake of the faint-hearted" (RB 48: 7-9).

If there is much work to be done, Benedict called for an 'all hands on deck' mentality. However, each sister is to carefully consider what she can do in moderation. Our sister Leonette, just shy of 99, as well as sisters Arthur and Margaretta, who travel the halls by scooter, brought their willing hands and hearts to husking the bounty of sweet corn. They weren't alone!

As soon as the husking note was posted, sisters donned their aprons and joined the hallway filled with heaps of corn to be husked. The sound of husks ripping became a background to the sharing of stories and memories.

This is only part of the preparation of the sister's work in preparing the sweet corn for freezing. Other sisters gently brushed the corn, washing the remaining silks from the ear and trimmed any damaged areas from the ears. Then the kitchen Sisters and staff steam the ears before the corn cutting 'party' in the evening.

The evening corn party finds sisters in every corner of the kitchen and serving hall! As the cutters trim the kernels away from the ear, other sisters carried away buckets of now empty ears or began weighing the kernels into five pound tin pans and prepared them for the deep freeze. All sisters assisted in whatever way possible; from prioress to postulant, helpful hands made quick work of the hundreds of ears. Even our Sister Virginia, who just celebrated her 100th year, held pans for others to fill. Here again, the work was accented with laughter, story, and memory.

The tradition of working together to care for the needs of monastery continues. Only two weeks after her entrance, Postulant Terry found herself tucked among the sisters and up to her elbows in corn...and listening to the stories across the generations. We invite you to join us in our lived tradition of mutual service, prayer, and laughter too.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Welcoming Rites of Postulant & Profession!


The start of August has traditionally been marked with celebrations honoring not only the milestone moments but also the beginnings of our Benedictine life.  Friday, August 1st, was filled with joy as we celebrated Diamond Jubilarians: 75 ~ 70 ~ 60 years of religious life.  Among the twelve sisters being honored, we recognized a milestone of 775 years of professed life and loving service to the Church and all God's people.

Sister Vocation Director,
Postulant Theresa, and
our Sister Prioress
The beginning of our religious life was honored on Saturday evening as the whole community gathered at the front doors of the monastery to welcome Terry into the Postulancy. The Rule of Benedict teaches us, "Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but as the Apostle says. Test the spirits to see if they are from God. Therefore, if someone comes and keeps knocking at the door...then she should be allowed to enter...A senior chosen for her skill in winning souls should be appointed to look after them with careful attention" (RB 58: 1-6)

The newcomer, escorted by our vocation director, knocked at the monastery door. Prioress Penny greeted her and asked, "Terry, what do you seek?" She responded, "I seek to live in loving service to God in this community." Each new postulant offers her own response to this question.  After the Postulant Director proclaimed a reading from the Rule of Benedict, the Prioress called upon the whole community to live as example and share our support with Terry as she begins this deeper discernment of our monastic life.

Finally, Sister Penny dressed Postulant Theresa with a Benedictine medal as a sign of our acceptance of her desire to seek God in our community.  The community processed on from this entrance rite to the Chapel to Vespers while singing: "What can be sweeter to us than the voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold in his loving kindness, the Lord shows us the way to life."

Our community symbol & sign waiting to be
blessed and given to N. Peggy as a sign of our unity.
Novice Peggy chose a line from Jeremiah for the theme of her first Monastic Profession, "For I know the Plan I have for you, says the Lord."

Sister Penny, Prioress, looks on while N. Peggy
declares her first Monastic Profession.
The dialogue within the rite of profession reminds us that while the community tests and receives the new member, the initiative is hers. Sr. Penny, Prioress, asked, "Novice Peggy what do you ask of God, of the Church, and of this community?" And Novice Peggy responded, "Mindful of God's merciful love, I ask to share in the life of this community by making my first Monastic Profession."

Following the instruction of the Rule, she was then invited in the name of the Church to declare her promise of profession before God and His Saints. After this, Sister Peggy and our Prioress signed her profession document on the altar as an offering to God where it remained throughout our Vespers prayer.

The profession document is signed on the altar as a
sign of Sr. Peggy's offering of self.
Sister Peggy singing the Suscipe with her sisters.
"When she is to be received, she comes before the whole community in the oratory and promises stability, fidelity to the monastic life, and obedience. This is done in the presence of God and the saints to impress on the novice that if she ever acts otherwise, she will surely be condemned by the one she mocks. She states her promise in a document drawn up in the name of the saints whose relics are there, and of the prioress, who is present. The novice writes out this document herself...puts her mark to it and with her own hand lays it upon the altar. After she has put it on the altar, she begins the verse: Uphold me, O Lord, according to Your word that I may live; and let me not be disappointed in the hope I cherish. The community repeats the verse three times, and adds the 'Glory be to the Father'" (Rule of Benedict 58: 17-22).

As a sign of her Profession and commitment, Sister Peggy received the symbol of our community. The Benedictine cross with the Sacred Heart of Christ in the center, and the flowing love of His mercy and our ministry of prayer and service. This pin (and pendant) stands as a uniting sign of her membership in our community and a reminder to her of our life together in Christ.

As a vowed member of our community, Sr. Peggy will continue to discern God's call in her life throughout the next four years of temporary profession. She will continue to engage in lighter schedule of monastic classes while returning to her service as a nurse in ministering to the needs of God's people. Follow this link to read more about Sister Peggy.

Please pray for Sister Peggy and Postulant Terry as they continue to discern God' call in their lives.