Mark your calenders…Mother-Daughter Days

The Dillingen Franciscan Sisters will again be hosting
Mother Daughter Days

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Sunday (7 p.m.) until Tuesday (afternoon), June 14-16
at St. Francis Convent in Hankinson, North Dakota

This is a retreat for mothers and their daughters
who would like to spend some special time together
as well as those who might be thinking about a vocation to the Consecrated Life.

Participants are able to enjoy activities, learn more about their faith and spend time with the Sisters.

For more information or to register, email: ndfranciscan@yahoo.com.

We hope you can join us for a fun and inspiring time!

There’s no place like home…reflections after a visit

I just got back from spending some days back in West St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had been asked to speak at a few gatherings (church youth group, my former professor’s writing class, and a benefit dinner for the youth group).  I’m not very experienced in public speaking, except for a small weekly Bible study for our residents and a college class in the discipline over ten years ago, but I thought I’d better do it when asked. While I was there, I also got the chance to go swimming, something I haven’t done in quite a long time.  We used to go to the city pool very often in the summer when I was growing up, and I love the water!  I had fairly long hair as a girl, and the chlorine took its toll on my prized position at the time (that is, my hair).  My mom had to trim the split ends and cut more than I wanted.  Little did I know at the time that one day my hair would be very short!  Last Thursday, with my short hair, after the fun-filled swim, I didn’t need much shampoo (a short hair cut does have its perks.)

My haircut when I became a novice

My haircut when I became a novice

Along with the nerve-racking speaking engagements, I also had the chance to see some family and friends, which was nice.  I also saw some former members of the church youth group that I hadn’t run into in years.  It gave me a funny, awkward feeling to come back “home” and to realize that life keeps moving on, with or without me.  I used to know the ages of all my cousins, neighbors, and family friends, what grade they were in, and so forth; now, we are all young adults with lives of our own outside the family environments in which we grew up.  As I’ve moved away and embraced a new life, I’m no longer “up on all the details” as I once was. Although I am grateful for this time of my “home visit” and very much appreciate the people who made it possible (namely my parents and people who filled in back here), I was also very grateful to come back to St. Anne’s in Grand Forks, which is my new home.   I felt the truth in the common saying, “It’s nice to go, and nice to get back again.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

“One person’s junk is another one’s treasure.”

It seems to be the season for rummage sales: here at St. Anne’s Guest Home in Grand F, we’re having ours from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, April 24.  The next day, our nursing home in Hankinson (St. Gerard’s) is having their rummage sale and bake sale.

In promoting the St. Anne’s Rummage Sale, the slogan we always use at the bottom of our flyers is “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.”

rummage sale

This inspired me to ask myself, as a religious sister, what is my treasure?  I have made, and strive to live, the vow of poverty in imitation of Christ, who “though He was rich, became poor.”

Ideally, we do not seek after the treasures of this world but hold Him as our true Treasure.  I am reminded of the gospel parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46) and also of the song “All in All,” which prays “You are my strength when I am weak; you are the treasure that I seek; you are my all in all.”

According to our Franciscan Rule, poverty “makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue” and “leads to the land of the living.”  Our Dillingen Franciscan Constitutions further explain that “Poor and empty before God, we will be open for His riches and will await all from His grace.”

Some other time, I’d like to reflect more here on the virtue of voluntary poverty in imitation of Christ.   Suffice it here to say that, if you are materially poor, or even are just looking for a good buy, you can check out either of these sales if you live in the area.  You never know what earthly “treasures” you might find!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

This morning at Bible Study, we read and discussed this past Sunday’s readings, including the responsorial psalm (118) with its refrain, which we sang: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

This refrain brought back to mind the preparations I am making for next week; I have been asked to speak at an event at my home parish (St. Joseph’s Church in West St. Paul, MN)  Preparing this talk and speaking with the youth director who asked me to come led me to reflect on my journey to religious life.  As I did this, I was reminded of God’s goodness to me and His guidance through the years; gratitude was stirred up within me “…for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

In this post, I thought I’d share some of the thoughts I’ve prepared for my talk next week.  When Gina called me up and asked me to speak at this benefit dinner, I had to be honest with her.  I said, “I can’t be your poster child.”  She had become youth director at St. Joe’s when I was already well into my high school career.  When “youth group” started up with her I went by force, rather than by choice: my mom made me.  I remember wishing I could ditch and roam the halls of St. Joe’s School instead.  I was already helping teach CCD and thought the material she was presenting was too fundamental for me; I knew it all already.  However, that fourth commandment (Honor your father and mother) kept me going. However, during my college years I was involved as a leader with the group and went with on four of their summer trips.

On one of these trips, we had some fun with scripture.  We went around the bus, enthusiastically reciting a modified version of a passage from Jeremiah.  “For I know well the plans I have for you…(insert name here)…says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for your woe, plans to give you a future full of hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 (We cited the verse using certain vocal intonations and holding out the 9).  As I’ve reflected back on my journey, I’ve recognized with gratitude how true this verse has been for me.  A verse from St. Paul’s writings also deeply resonates with me as I look at where our Lord has brought me: “Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory…to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen” (Eph. 3:20).   During my early years, I had no clue what plans God had for me; the gift of my religious vocation which I live today is far beyond anything I could have asked or imagined.

It is beautiful to see how God used so many things in my life to teach me and prepare me for things to come. Gina asked me to share my top three things about being a Sister.  I would say this:

  1. The gift of Consecrated life, of belonging to Jesus in a special way as His bride – it is an amazing gift!
  2. The gift of closeness to Him – we have the Blessed Sacrament in our Chapel.  When I moved to Grand Forks, where I now serve, I was asked if I had a preference in which bedroom to have – my room is on the same floor as our little chapel.  So Jesus is right down the hall!  Plus, as sisters, we make prayer a priority and I get to (am obliged to) spend an hour each day with Him, plus the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours.
  3. The gift of our lifestyle – we live in community with Sisters to support us and challenge us.  Also, we serve as a community and our work is the building up of God’s kingdom, rather than working for commercial reasons and for profit.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

O Queen of Heaven, Rejoice! Alleluia!

During the Easter season, we join Catholics around the world in praying the beautiful prayer ” Regina Cœli.”  Although its authorship is unknown, it dates back to around the time of our founder, St. Francis (1100s), who himself had a great devotion to our Lady.

This Latin hymn, used both as the closing antiphon for night prayer, and also in place of the normal angelus, during Easter-time, can be translated:  Queen of heaven rejoice, alleluia!  For He whom you were chosen to bear, alleluia!  Has risen as He said, alleluia!  Pray for us to God, Alleluia!  Rejoice and be glad, Virgin Mary, alleluia!  For the Lord is truly risen, alleluia!

I am fond of a hymn, “Be Joyful, Mary,” which is based off this Marian antiphon.  I imagine we will sing it on some of the Saturdays during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost  I also enjoy singing the Latin text in concluding my night prayer.

It does strike me, though, that we should be encouraging Our Mother to rejoice; it makes me wonder what all she would have experienced that first Easter.  I certainly am glad to voice the words “Pray for us to God, alleluia” because I am in need of her motherly intercession.

Statue of Mary in our St. Anne's Chapel

Statue of Mary in our St. Anne’s Chapel

A Bad Case of the Giggles?

I remember, growing up, my younger sister had a book of humorous rhymes, entitled A Bad Case of the Giggles.  We very much enjoyed the funny little quips it had.  The conclusion of tonight’s vespers (Evening Prayer), believe it or not, brought the title of anthology to mind.

You see, during Easter week, the flow of our prayers is a little different.  In place of the normal responsory after the readings, we say or sing: “This is the day the Lord has made…”  A little confusion caused the person leading Vespers to conclude in a very unconventional manner (using this responsory instead of the conclusion for Vespers).  The sequence of events caused the corners of my mouth to curve upward a little at first, and a bit of a chuckle.  Then, when she interjected the omitted concluding formulary in between our supplemental prayers after vespers, the giggle snuck out; it could hardly be stopped.  This inspired stiffled giggles from another pray-er.   Another gentleman even caught on.  We certainly didn’t mean to be irreverent – It’s a good thing we have the fine example of St. Philip Neri to fall back on (He is known for his joyfulness and love of humor.)

St. Philip Neri

I suppose, if giggles have to escape in chapel, Monday within the octave of Easter is as good a time as any.

As we wait…

There is a pronounced emptiness as we move through Good Friday evening and the day of Holy Saturday.  I’ve sometimes thought about what the apostles and followers of Jesus must have felt like and gone through during this time.  Nine years ago, I set these musings to poetry which I have saved in a journal:

On that first Good Friday night
what a sad and lonely sight
must have been seen in some room
where mourners went to from the tomb.

Did they for comfort each embrace
with tears ling’ring on each face?
Was the sure hope of Easter strong
as for their Master they did long?

Did they believe that He would rise?
or did sorrow keep this from their eyes?
Depending on the answers here
there would be hope or troubled fear.

Regardless, there’d be sorrow to share
and loneliness for each to bear..
The night would close, and the new day
would bring more sorrow on their way.

As the Church relives this time,
hope of Easter sure does shine;
yet she does still participate
in this solemn pascal wait.         (Good Friday evening, April 14, 2006)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers some beautiful material for spiritual reading, which I come back to just about every Holy Saturday morning.  The whole section is worth reading, but I find the following excerpt especially beautiful:

  • Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began…. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him—He who is both their God and the son of Eve….” I am your God, who for your sake have become your son…. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”488

In our community, we try to observe silence during this holy time (Thursday until the Easter Vigil).  Although work and other needs sometimes require conversation, refraining from unnecessary speaking can help us make this a time of more prayer and reflection.