Happy (non-)Birthday, to my postulant directress, Sr. Sara Marie!

Sr. Sara Marie at some patriotic event.

Sr. Sara Marie at some patriotic event

This weekend, my former postulant directress, Sr. Sara Marie will commemorate her birthday.  I’ve known her for ten years, since I first visited Hankinson back in 2004, but she’s only celebrated two birthdays since then!  You see, she was born on February 29th.  I love to tease about that, but I am most grateful for her life and all she has taught me, both during postulancy (about the beauty of the Consecrated life) and beyond.

You may have heard the term “postulant” but not really know what this part of formation entails, or what it means.  Before we go further, postulant is the one who is looking into religious life and postulancy is the stage of formation which she is in.  According to our constitutions, “the Postulancy is a time for the postulant and the Congregation to become better acquainted with each other…The duration of the Postulancy is at least six months, and normally not longer than two years. The time may vary for individuals.  (6.5-6)  Our provincial directives further stipulate that “the Postulant lives in our Motherhouse, where she observes the order of the day.”

During my own postulancy, I really discovered the depth and beauty of our vocation through my “classes” with Sr. Sara Marie.  At the same time, I enhanced my skills of cleaning the depths of toilets with my bathroom duties, which I dubbed “Penta-P privileges” (short for Perpetual, Professional, Porcelain and Plug Purification)

Franciscan sisters in the dishroom

I also helped with dishes.

Thanks, Sr. Sara Marie, and happy (non-)birthday!

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Stations of the Cross at Little Flower Convent

Even though their Chapel is very small, our Sisters in Rugby, ND have the Stations of the Cross on the wall there (see photos below).  They also participate with the parish in this devotion Monday and Wednesday afternoons.

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Sr. Jean Louise, who serves there, shared that she “will be praying them every week at school with the Kindergarten, the 1st and 2nd graders and the 3rd and 4th graders.  Sr. Mary Ruth will be praying with the 5th and 6th Graders every week at school, or actually she will walk down to Little Flower  Main Street, our temporary chapel, to pray them with that class.”  (The Church is being renovated and daily Mass is temporarily moved.)


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Adoramus Te, Christe! – Our Franciscan Tradition of the Stations of the Cross

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Stations of the Cross in St. Anne’s Guest Home Chapel

At the beginning of each station we pray this prayer: “We adore Thee, O Christ and we praise Thee…”  There is a beautiful Latin hymn I love to play on the organ based off it also.

This afternoon, here at St. Anne’s Guest Home in Grand Forks, ND, we began our Lenten custom of praying the Stations of the Cross with our residents, scheduled adoration participants, and other visitors.   We will do this every Monday of Lent at 4:30 p.m., allowing residents to be finished in time for supper.

Like St. Francis, we honor Christ’s passion with special devotion.  According to our Constitutions, “We value highly…the Way of the Cross” (3.11)  This is evidenced in the fact that Sisters in our community often pray the Stations privately throughout the year.  Often at our Provincial House in Hankinson, one sees Sisters prayerfully walking from station to station in the chapel.

I know also from serving at St. Anne’s that being able to lovingly commemorate the Way of the Cross as a community is important to the Sisters; we make a special effort to be there.  In fact, Sr. Rebecca, our administrator, even makes a special point to have a staff member fill in for me as receptionist for a half hour so I can be there.

I hope to hear shortly from other Sisters in our Province as to how they honor Our Lord’s Way of the Cross in their local communities.  I will post their input when I receive it.

Try it for Lent…The Daily Examen

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Lent is a time when we look more into our own hearts and try to fight those habits that hurt our relationship with God and others.  With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to consider the practice of making a daily examen, if you don’t already do so.  As Dillingen Franciscans, we are called by our Constitutions “each evening [to] reflect before God on how we have spent the day.” (3.11)

The “when” and “where” varies from person to person and according to circumstances.  My preference, when it is feasible, is to make my evening examen in our chapel.  However, I work at St. Anne’s as a receptionist until 10 p.m twice a week, so that isn’t always practical.  I have found creative settings in which to fulfill this important spiritual practice, even while preparing for bed.  (Shame on me :(, that’s not exactly ideal!)

In this post, I’d like to offer some steps in making a good evening examen.

  1. Recall you are in the presence of God.
  2. Give thanks to God for the gifts of the day.
  3. Ask help from the Holy Spirit.
  4. Review your day, asking yourself: When did I fail? Where there was a barrier to God’s presence?  How conscious have you been of God’s presence and actions in your life?  When did I love?  What habits and patterns do I notice?  One helpful way of doing this is to “walk through the day with Jesus,” according to one source.  Use the first person plural (We had breakfast…We went to work…We cleaned house…)  Remember that “Christ lives in me.”  This exercise may help you to catch the times when “we” (Jesus and I) did not do something, the times we sinned.  (e.g., “We did not yell at the neighbor.”)  This also can help you recognize God’s presence throughout the day.
  5. Sorrow/Repentance: Tell Christ, who is with you, that you are sorry for the times you failed.  Ask Him to help you do better in the future.
  6. Conclusion: Again give thanks for the blessing of the day. Look to the day ahead.  What challenges can you expect?  Ask God’s help for this.  Maybe plan for a time and place in the coming day when you can spend some more time in prayer.

Information for this article was drawn from: http://www.rcdom.org.uk and from notes I had from the Novitiate.

My Brother’s Keeper?

This phrase from today’s first reading at Mass (Gen. 4) is very well known and has been used frequently.  As Sisters, we are called in a special way to do this, to look out for and to serve our brothers and sisters.  In fact, our Rule for the Third Order Regular of St. Francis mentions the word “serve” (or its derivatives) frequently.  We are exhorted that we “should be servants and subjects to every human creature for the Lord’s sake.  (#19)  Again, we are urged to “willingly serve and obey each other with that genuine love which comes from each one’s heart. (Rule #25)

I must say, sometimes this is easier than others.  An example of a challenge came yesterday.  I worked at the reception desk here at St. Anne’s until 1:30 in the afternoon and was looking forward to an afternoon off, to have extra time to go to chapel and attend to a few other things.  Plans have a way of changing, however.  Our P.M. personal care/laundry aide was required to take one of our residents to urgent care and had to be with her for several hours.  She had been in the middle of doing laundry and had to leave hurriedly, with clothes still in the machines, on the table, and hanging on the rack. She learned that she would not be back until mid-evening so I filled in.  I’m not trying to commend myself, but just to illustrate how opportunities come up all the time when we are called upon to serve.

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I treasure a beautiful quote from the founding days of the Sister in Dillingen around 1241.  When they were given land and their mission founded, “they were to serve God our Creator peacefully, prayerfully, and zealously, praising and honoring Him to the consolation of all believing souls.”  May we do that every day of our lives in whatever circumstances arise!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

Congratulations, St. Gerard’s!

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I would like to extend congratulations to our Sisters at St. Gerard’s Community of Care in Hankinson, ND, on their successful “Giving Hearts” campaign yesterday, February 12.  We are happy for you as you continue your important mission of service to the elderly and the young through skilled nursing, independent living, and childcare.

For more information about St. Gerard’s, visit: www.stgerards.org.

Source & Summit

You may well have heard the now-familiar quote from the Catechism that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).  Here I would like to reflect on how this has been true for my vocational journey.

From the very beginning, Christ in the Eucharist has been central, from my first experience of a call to my investigating various religious communities.  I gratefully reflect that He has been my guide along the path to where I am today.

A major part in my pursuing our particular community was that I saw that the Sisters had devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and that this was part of their daily prayer life.

Now, serving at St. Anne’s Guest Home, I am blessed with access to a chapel where we have Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament throughout the week.  I must say that when I go home to visit family and friends, I do miss having Christ’s Eucharistic presence there, though He is with us spiritually.

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One of the many rich blessings I find in our Religious Life is the closeness it provides (every day) to Christ in the Eucharist.  I am so grateful!

Celebrate with us – the Year of Consecrated Life!

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Pope Francis has declared 2015 the year of Consecrated Life!

If you live in the Rugby or Grand Forks area, we hope you can join us in celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life. Our convents in these two locations are hosting gatherings for the occasion this coming Sunday, February 15th.

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Gathering at St. Anne’s Convent (Grand Forks, ND)
You are welcome to join the Sisters for:
6:30 p.m. Evening Prayer
followed by a visit to our convent with a time for sharing, Q&A, and discussion.
Please RSVP as soon as possible
by calling (701) 746-9401 or emailing sr.christinaosf@gmail.com .
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Open House at Little Flower Convent (Rugby, ND)
2:00—5:00 p.m.
followed by Vespers at Little Flower Church