A Day to Celebrate

P3280001 (1)I was grateful to be invited to accompany three of our Sisters from Hankinson to the celebration at the Church in Pembina; 200 years is a long time!

There were many parishioners, priests, and others.  There were even six bishops there for the special Mass!

Two of our Sisters also got to see family members in the area.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On a side note, I wanted to get the word out about an exciting event we’ll be having here in October!

Young women (ages 16-30) are invited to “Pax et Bonum,” a Day of Reflection with the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen Saturday, Oct. 20 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Anne’s Guest Home (524 N. 17th St., Grand Forks, ND) Get more information or R.S.V.P. to Sr. Christina by Oct. 10 at 701-746-9401 or sr.christinaosf@gmail.com.
Click here to access the Facebook event.
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“To Every Thing There is a Season”

Picture1Harvest time is definitely here!  There’s no mistaking that around St. Anne’s the past few weeks!

We’ve had a lot of cucumbers and a fair number of tomatoes donated, as well as some beets and other fresh produce.

We even had a large box of small pears brought in as well as a plastic grocery bag full of apples.  I’m sure there’s more to come!

I don’t have to deal with the beets or cucumbers, but the other items frequently find their way to me.  I am grateful for the helpers who come to my rescue and ease my burden, at times even taking over a project for me.

One project, however, that I did myself (although thankfully the kitchen staff had washed them for me), was processing tomatoes.  Even there, I was dependent upon a trick I learned from my mom; I simply cut out the stem and any bad spots and quartered the tomatoes before putting them in the blender and “zapping” them.  I did this yesterday afternoon; now, we have about four gallons of juicy tomato purée. (I am looking forward to tasting tomorrow’s tomato soup.)

This season of the year is also a time to start thinking about our fall sale and luncheon.  This year, we’re starting a bit early because we’re doing some new things.  Our activity director and I are pretty excited for our “Autumn Extravaganza,” featuring a silent auction and a spaghetti dinner (along with the traditional craft and bake sale).

We’ve even started working on the decorations to make the activity room look festively Italian for the event.

As I think about the variety of seasons, about there being “a time for this” and “a time for that,” The famous passage from Ecclesiastes 3 and the subsequent Byrds’s song come to mind.

It is so nice that we have a variety of seasons.  They say, variety is the spice of life.  Can you imagine having to cut apples and tomatoes twelve months out of the year?

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101 Pearly Gates

Christmas decorating (3)Yesterday, our part-time receptionist was forwarding mail for former residents.  She asked me if I knew of a forwarding address for a certain man, now deceased.

In fun, I replied with an expression taught to my by our Sister Elaine: “101 Pearly Gates” (Meaning: he’s hopefully in heaven).

It wasn’t until I was well into my young adulthood that I knew the background of the phrase “pearly gates.”  Interestingly, I learned, that it is, in fact a reference, to the book of Revelation, which recounts that “the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl” (Rev. 21:21).

The following verse provides us with more to ponder, sharing that “the Lamb” and “the glory of God” provided the light for this heavenly city, eliminating the need for sun or moon.(I had become familiar with this theme through its use in the reading for Sunday night prayer which comes from the following chapter of Revelation.)  

This is a beautiful thought.

Anyway, let’s get back down to earth, shall we?

I definitely did that this morning, working the morning shift as an aide on the men’s floor.  Our current residents (who are very much alive) haven’t reached the pearly gates yet and, at times, need some very earthy assistance with their tasks of daily living.

Even though the verse in revelation speaks of Christ being the only light needed for the saints in heaven, this passage illuminates our daily life as well.

Even if I’m kneeling on the floor, helping one of our men get dressed, I should look to Christ to be the light of my day.

Regardless of which side of the “pearly gates” is our abode, the same Son still shines.

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You—Follow Me!

P1010012Amidst distractions and a wandering mind, my time in chapel was, nonetheless, fruitful.

I started with the daily Mass reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones.  (I only realize now that today’s reading should have been for St. Bartholomew rather than “Friday in the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time.”)  

The spiritual: “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dr-y bones” inevitably came to mind when I read the passage.  I love how this almost goofy song draws directly from the prophet’s ghoulish yet hope-giving vision.

Along with sharing this unusual spectacle, Ezekiel also offers the consoling words of hope in which God promises to open His people’s graves and have the rise from them.

This beautiful passage from Ezekiel 37 was inspiring to me that; no matter how bleak things may look at times, God can breathe new life into any situation.  This can pertain to my life personally, as a member of a community, and as one living within the Church and world.

My thoughts did not tarry in this rather cryptic realm for the entire period of prayer, however.  I cannot say that all of my ponderings were on devout and spiritual.  I’ll admit that it even included scheming for an upcoming event here at St. Anne’s.  I had to keep my mind at bay!

Before my meditation ended, however, I did find further inspiration for my spiritual life.  Somehow, my thoughts turned again to another life-after-death episode in scripture: the resurrection appearance by the sea of Tiberias with the miraculous catch of fish.

Actually, the particular part on which I focused was the conversation between Peter and Jesus (in which Peter inquires about John).  Peter does not receive an explanation that he might have expected, but, instead, the command: “You follow me.”

These three words can speak volumes to us today.  We can talk about all that is going on around us.  We can even get depressed about the dry bones that seem to be all around.  However, in light of Jesus’ words, this is not our main concern.

We, like Peter, are called to simply follow Him.  It may be helpful to imagine Jesus saying to you, to me: “You—follow me!”

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“Else the Journey Will Be Too Long for You”

IMG_0895This morning, I came to Chapel to have some quiet time before starting the busyness of the day.

Since I am beginning my turn at planning and reading for liturgies this week, I thought I’d better cover the first and second readings in my meditation.  (One is supposed to meditate on the scripture passages before reading them at Mass.)

As I was reading about Elijah’s experience in the first book of Kings, one line really struck me.

Having practiced the psalm and heard the gospel, I already knew that this Sunday’s readings had a Eucharistic theme.  I had not realized, though, until this moment, the beautiful Eucharistic foreshadowing that existed in this morning’s first reading as well.

Here, Elijah is being feed to strengthen him for the journey that lies ahead.  Although his hope is faltering, the prophet is commanded: “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!” 

In light of the gift of the Eucharist, foretold by Christ in the subsequent gospel, the beauty of these words and their significance in my life was powerful.

I need the strength, given by Christ in the Eucharist, for my journey.

This past year has not been an easy one.  A number of stress factors have made my journey a bit more rocky of late.  However, I am given the wondrous food for the journey each day: Jesus Himself.  I need to keep turning to His strength, given to me in this marvelous way, to sustain me on my journey as Elijah was sustained with food from above so long ago.

I realize, too, that once a day may not be enough.  I would do well to re-kindle may efforts at making a “spiritual communion” throughout the day.

If I stay close to Jesus, especially by turning to Him in the Eucharist, the journey will not be too long.  He will sustain me.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

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“Behold, the Handmaid…”

employ appI recently returned from parts south.  Having accompanied high-schoolers from my home parish on their ten day summer pilgrimage and enjoying a brief visit with my family, it’s about time I return to normal life (whatever that is).

I still need to finish my laundry and a few other loose ends from the trip; hopefully tomorrow will allow some more time to attend to personal needs.

I did get some done today, but with a large batch of corn to help husk, I didn’t have time to accomplish all that I would have liked to.  (Thankfully, we packed away over 800 ears.)

This evening, still fatigued from lack of sleep and travel, plus the corn commotion of the afternoon, I had to force myself to plan a lesson for tomorrow’s Bible study.  Surprisingly, I am happy with the results and feel prepared for the morrow, despite the struggle I had mustering strength and ideas needed to get it together.

This experience correlates nicely with a phrase which, for some reason, was on my heart at times during the recent youth pilgrimage: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1).

Despite the uncertainties that may lie ahead, and even when faced with circumstances contrary to my desires, this is a wonderful, powerful phrase to use.

It reminds me, too, to strive to imitate Mary, who first gave this “fiat” so many years ago in response to the angel’s message.

I know I don’t come close to living up to this example, but I ask for her prayers and try.  Echoing her “fiat” in the prayer of my heart and choosing to serve is a start.

Every attempt, I realize, is best when accompanied with a prayer for help, as we use daily in our Liturgy of the Hours and heard in the entrance antiphon this past Sunday: “O God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me.”

Checking in from Orlando

Image may contain: SisterChristina Marie Neumann, smiling, standingI’m sorry I haven’t been able to write this past week.  I am busy accompanying the youth group from my home parish (St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul, MN) on their summer pilgrimage.

This has included a long bus trip, an afternoon and evening at Universal Studios & Island of Adventure, and a weekend high school youth conference.

Today the conference finishes up and we head to the beach.

I will write more after I return.

Your prayers for me and for the group would be appreciated.

“…[I’m] Just Well-Trained!”

20180719_205946.jpgYesterday was, indeed, a full day for me at St. Anne’s!  Working a full shift at the front desk, while training someone in during part of the day was just the beginning!

Toward the end of my shift, less than a half an hour before my relief was to come, two LARGE boxes came, filled with items we had ordered for our gift case.

Realizing that there was ‘not time like the present,’ I set to work unpacking pricing the items and exhibiting many of them in our gift case or on the table.

After staying after my shift to finish that project, I quickly took care of something over at the convent.

Next, it was off to fill pitchers with ice for the secular Franciscan group that would be having their indoor picnic that evening in our activity room.  Then, off to Mass at the local parish since we’d been unable to get a priest over to St. Anne’s.

After enjoying a wonderful gathering with the secular Franciscans, I helped clean up from the festivities.

Before finally heading home, I met one of our male residents in the hallway.  He and I have a special ‘thing’ going, where I give him home-baked goodies on the occasions that I have them available.  This is substituted for the usual pack of graham crackers he gets at the front desk.

This evening, don’t ask me why, but I opened my mouth.  I told him that I had made cup cakes, asking if he’d already received his graham crackers.  He indicated that he’d gotten the crackers but that he’d still take a cupcake.

I went to the freezer, where my efforts from earlier in the week were awaiting a topping of cream cheese frosting for their use in this coming Sunday’s cake walk.

The mix had made two dozen cupcakes, far more than I would need for the event.

There fore, I got out a cupcake for this resident, and offered it to him, warning him not to choke or break his teeth on the morsel; it may still be frozen.

In this little encounter, taking extra time after a tiring day to bring joy to someone, I recalled a little phrase sometimes used around St. Anne’s; actually, it is in reference to the dogs here.

With so many doting people around, it has been said of them: “Our dogs are not spoiled; we’re just well trained.”

An appropriate adaptation of this phrase popped into my mind: “Our residents are not spoiled; I’m just well-trained.”

Sister Rhubarb?

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I just sat down after a busy afternoon, a busy day.  Sometimes, I think, I ‘bite off more than I can chew,” to borrow an old expression from a book my dad read to me as a kid.

I had cleaned house and done laundry in the morning, preparing for company coming and an upcoming trip.  (I must admit, the laundry-washing came about because I reached in my drawer for a certain item this morning and realized I was OUT.)

Late yesterday, a small bag of rhubarb had come in and was waiting patiently for me to attend to it.  I’ve become the chief orchestrator of rhubarb-cutting parties over my years at St. Anne’s.  It was a small bag, though, and I thought it not worth bothering the residents with; I would simply cut it up by myself.

It’s not for no reason that one of our residents has dubbed me “Sister Rhubarb” – what a prestigious title!

After lunch, I was on my way to the activity room kitchen to do just that when, low and behold, I met a couple bringing in MORE rhubarb.  They had called earlier in the week, promising to bring some in.  I had mistakenly thought yesterday’s small bag was the promised allotment, but I had another thing coming.

I graciously thanked them and headed to the activity room with this additional quantity of “the North Dakota State Weed,” as I dubbed this plentiful plant a few years ago.  Actually, my co-worker who was working the front desk helped me carry the (roughly) 3o pounds in.

Realizing that day hours are best for our residents and that I would be tied up working the reception desk on the morrow, I decided that there was “no time like the present” for one of my famous “rhubarb-cutting parties.”

I made a few unfruitful visits, inviting a few residents to help cut and finding others not home.  Eventually, after pre-washing dirty rhubarb, I settled down for a party of just TWO.  One of our blind residents was my only helper. 😦

Eventually, though, a few more people came.  After taking a break for a game, we finally finished up the endeavor before supper time.  I even got a 36 cup batch of sauce cooked up.

Thankfully, an appointment I was supposed to have a 3:30 p.m. got cancelled and I was not needed, as I had feared, at the reception desk until later.

I am thankful, too, for our kind residents and staff who helped Sister Rhubarb make it through a somewhat overwhelming afternoon.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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“Only a Setting on a Clothes Dryer”

Things are finally settling back into some sense of normalcy, whatever that is :).

After months of frequently filling in for one co-worker or another, I am enjoying a new sense of calm and sanity.  (I’d better not hold my breath; someone might call in sick tonight, yet.)

Thanksgiving serviceOne of my co-workers at the reception desk likes to say, “Normal is only a setting on a clothes dryer.”  I think this funny little saying actually holds more than a grain of truth.

Despite my relishing of life’s return to “normalcy,” yesterday, again, really was far from it.

On holidays, we work with a minimal staff, allowing many people a day off to be with their families.  The rest of us, then, have to compensate a bit.

In the morning, I was working my normal shift at the reception desk, but wanted to offer a fun activity for our residents.  I was able to hook up our laptop to the large screen TV and broadcast a patriotic sing along for them.

In the afternoon, I served patriotic Popsicles and pretzels, thanks to Sr. Elaine who had made a grocery run the night before and another staff member who had provided the pretzels (dipped in almond bark and accented with red and blue sprinkles).  This was after our “reading hour,” which drew from thematically chosen stories and poems.

Later that evening, I did not observe my normal bedtime.  Having obtained the needed permission to be out past 10, I facilitated firework watching for our residents from the top floor of the facility.

I guess, maybe we’ll never really have NORMAL…I guess I’d better just view every day as a blessing and try to appreciate the gifts that come every time our feet hit the floor in the morning, whether the day seem normal or not.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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