Thoughts from a Friend of the Sisters

Guest Post by George Wirsing

A year and a half ago, as of October 1, I moved into the independent apartments at St. Anne’s Guest Home, which is run by the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen, who have convents around the world in Germany, India, Brazil, and here in North Dakota.

They have had a long history here in North Dakota, doing ministry among the people in various areas, including Grand Forks, Hankinson, and Rugby.

I have been blessed to get to know some of them: the Provincial, Sister Ann Marie, and just recently, the Superior for the entire Congregation, Sister Roswitha as well as Sisters Jean Louise and Mary Ruth at Rugby, and others who have come to St. Anne’s.  But the sisters that I have had daily contact with are Sister Rebecca, Sister Elaine, and Sister Christina, whose friendships I appreciate the most.  Their insight and overseeing of this facility make it a safe and friendly place for the elderly, the retired, and those with a variety of physical needs.

P1010008I have come not only to value them for their vows and the service that they render to our community, the Church and specially to our Lord and His Mother, Mary, but for their friendship and individual talents that they bring.  And, in the end, I value them among my very best friends.

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A Week of Special Visits

This week is truly a special time for us!

 As American Catholics, we are happy at the visit of Pope Francis to our own country.  I’ve been following the coverage of his travels somewhat.

As Dillingen Franciscan Sisters of the Hankinson, ND province, we’re also having  a special visit: our superior general, Sr. Roswitha, is visiting from Germany, along with one of her Councillors, Sr. Paulit, originally from India.

Here at St. Anne’s we’re ‘getting into the spirit.’  We enjoyed a presentation from our visiting Sisters about their native lands, and this morning our activity director is doing a little program on the pope and using some fun trivia questions I found.

As I type this, from the comfort of the St. Anne’s reception desk, Sr. Elaine is filling a role she enjoys, that of a driving tour guide.  She is showing our Sisters the sites of the City of Grand Forks, complete with insights into the history, especially that related to the infamous ‘flood of ’97.’

I am happy to have other duties that detain me from coming with (working the front desk) so I can avoid getting car-sick.

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Sisters and visitors gather in resident dining room

Nonetheless, I would like to close by reflecting on how blessed we are, this week in early autumn, to have these special visitors!

Welcome to the U.S.A., Pope Francis, Sr. Roswitha, and Sr. Paulit!  It is good to have you with us!

Boy, That Sure is a Noisy Washer!…

20150919_102328This morning, I finally decided to do laundry (or at least my ‘blacks’).  I debated whether I should hand-wash them or throw them in the machine.  Hand-washing tends to be a bit easier on the clothing and does not require running the big machine.  I filled a basin with warm/hot water, preparing to wash them by hand this time.

However, it was a good size load, and I discovered the basin really wouldn’t be big enough to soak them all properly. (I wanted to pre-soak them to make sure they got good and clean and any spots and smudges were removed.) After adding the clothes to the basin, I changed my mind and just threw them in the washer.  I figured if I used the ‘hand-washables’ or ‘delicate’ cycle, it wouldn’t hurt these homemade skirts and vests.

As I was attending to other duties at the convent, I noticed that the machine was exceptionally noisy.  I tried to brush it off, figuring it was probably the canvas piece from my veil.  Not noticing anything wrong with the machine, I just let it be and went on with my day.

However, this afternoon, when I returned to the house to take out my freshly laundered items, I made a discovery that made me chuckle: the plastic basin that I had considered using to hand-wash the items was still in the machine!  I examined it carefully and found, thankfully, that it was not damaged from being tossed around mercilessly by the washer.  Good thing I had used the ‘delicate’ cycle.  As I took my black clothes out, I paid attention but they did not seem to be damaged, either.

How can you forget to take out the tub/basin?  I could hardly believe it!  I must have gotten distracted!  I was feeling pretty ditsy after this.  However, one of my co-workers shared a story of a comparable humiliating experience with laundry, so I’m not alone.

Actually, this experience with the ‘noisy washer’ could be an opportunity for me to follow our Franciscan Rule more closely, which encourages humility in more than one passage.  One quotation which seems especially apropos for today’s humiliating experience is: “…all the brothers and sisters, whether they are engaged in prayer, or in announcing the Word of God, or in serving or doing manual labor should strive to be humble in everything.”

Good thing life (or my own shortcomings) provides me with opportunities for this!

Purity of (and power in) Intention

When discussing a deep frustration recently with a trusted friend, I got some direction which gave me courage to face the situation with resolve, hope and peace.  It had to do with intention.  What she said makes all the difference in the world, serving as a powerful reminder to me:

“Do it for Jesus; He’s the one we do it for.”

I pray that I can keep this in mind, when facing frustrations and struggles.  May I do what I “have to do” for Him; this way, a frustrating situation, which once was so hard, can become a way of saying “I love you.”

We have the beneficial custom in our community of praying the Morning Offering before beginning Lauds in the Liturgy of the Hours.  In this way, we can dedicate our day as an act of love to Jesus.  When we do this, we don’t know what this will all include.

I was also reminded by my friend that, “as busy people we can’t be thinking every minute about why we are doing things, but making the intention to live generously and sacrificially …(daily, or even multiple times a day) helps us to build virtue and good habits that allow Jesus to love and serve in us and through us.”

When things are hard, I hope to find courage, peace and strength in “doing it for Jesus.”  Without this in mind, it can be hard to make our way through the challenging situations that life gives us.  If we have the focus, the intention, of doing it for Him, somehow, we find courage (and maybe even joy) to face challenging situations.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

A Blessed Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis!

Today, we honor this feast with special prayers, using our Franciscan Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours.  Being alone this week (with my other Sisters at a convention in Bismarck), I forgot all about the commemoration until later in the day when one of my sisters who lives elsewhere reminded it of me with greetings for the day.

St Francis really gives us an example to try to live up to!

Following the Example of Our Lady of Sorrows

As we again observe the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, I am reminded of a reading from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from a sermon by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  Here, this saint especially devoted to Our Lady, offers some touching insights.

During my college years, I used this “Little Office,” but now, as a Franciscan Sister, my Marian devotion has taken a different turn.  We pray the regular Liturgy of the Hours with the Church and so I no longer use the small volume that I once utilized so often.

Instead, my challenge, as set out by our Constitutions, is “to keep the example of the Blessed Virgin ever before [my] eyes.”  In order to do this, I must do a little reflection.  What example does our Blessed Mother offer us?  Seeing her example takes a bit of work because we know so little about her life.

As we remember our Sorrowful Mother, we might remember her as a model of faithfulness, of constancy, of endurance, and most of all, of love, in the midst of suffering.

May I, each day, have this example of love which she offers, “ever before my eyes.”  May I be willing to stand by Jesus in the midst of suffering as she did.

“Now Thank We All Our God”…a Fitting Song to End My Little Getaway

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Riding back to Grand Forks yesterday afternoon, I put my vocal chords to work in effort to help Sr. Jean Louise with her driving.  After a busy day at school, she was getting a bit sleepy; singing songs together was a way to help her keep awake.  Along with “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “Amazing Grace,” “Now Thank We All Our God” was an additional piece we chose in this safety endeavor.

This song of gratitude was very fitting for me after four days’ vacation spent with our Sisters in Rugby, ND. I had ridden home with them after Labor Day weekend and was catching a ride back now with Sr. Jean Louise, who had to return to Grand Forks anyway this weekend for a board meeting.

Yesterday morning, as I spent my daily meditation time in the small, intimate chapel at Little Flower Convent in Rugby, I found my mind repeatedly returning to thoughts of gratitude. Although it wasn’t the passage I had selected for the morning’s reflection, my mind went to the gospel account of the ten lepers who were cleansed when only one returned to give thanks.  Like this man long ago, I had so much to be thankful for.

Foremost in my mind was this beautiful time I had enjoyed with our Sisters.  Along with having a much-needed get-away and enjoying some extra R&R, I had been able also to help out with some of the fall work at their convent, including making a pot of chili with some of the plentiful tomatoes. I sometimes enjoy cooking and baking and this was a chance to make have a little fun in the kitchen.

In the course of my stay there, I did get moist eyes, though not from emotions of gratitude.  This was because I was helping make a dish akin to salsa by dicing onions; they were quite potent, and by the time I was finished, my left eye was sealed shut from moisture.

Over the legal limit…of apples

I asked myself if I was going crazy as I entered the building laden with apples.  I set down one plastic grocery bag and took off my dark blue back pack, left still from college.  In it, I had two more bags of small apples.  What had I gotten myself into?

Actually, the warning signs of delirium had begun almost half mile earlier when I had heard the metal on my bike rattle, the speed of the beat fluctuating with my own rate of motion.  Did I really want to deal with all those apples?

When I was finally able to catch my breath and take off the heavy back pack, I felt a little tipsy;  I hadn’t had any alcohol, but the poundage of apples that I bore was none to small.  The funny feeling I had made me wonder if I had indeed exceeded my “legal limit” (of apples) for driving (a bike).

This all came about because I had been in contact with an acquaintance of mine (who also helped with Religious Ed. at St. Michael’s Church).  She had informed me, as a side note, that “the apples are ready.”  She had hoped to pick apples again with me near her home, but wasn’t able to due to the imminent delivery of her new baby.

Having heard the news about the apples, I checked here with Sr. Rebecca, our Administrator, if I should really pursue this.  She seemed in favor of it, so I called the facility to whom the apples belonged; I explained what I had heard and that we had picked the apples there before because no one else had wanted them.  I was informed that I was again free to help myself this year.

apple sauceAfter giving our receptionist her lunch break, and having dinner myself, the partying began. Although I advertised an “apple cutting party,” I didn’t have a huge turnout of helpers for the task of transforming the little things.  Some did help however, and a few hours later, I had several gallons of tasty apple sauce.

I guess one lesson can be learned: if you stick to a job, even though it can be hard work and take time, you can enjoy the results.  Another slogan might be applicable here as well; that is: “No rest for the wicked!”  This same afternoon, someone donated two flats of tomatoes.  After evening prayer, I ended up attacking these 76 tomatoes to preserve for the winter.  Thankfully, Sr. Elaine came around, took pity on me, and helped a lot with getting them processed.

Need a Place to Raise Frozen Dough?…Look no further!

sister with breadIs there anything more enjoyable than the aroma of bread baking in the oven?

Now, if you do not want to go through the work of making bread from scratch, here’s a brilliant solution: go to the local grocery store and buy frozen bread dough.

A year ago in July, Sister Rebecca and I took off for a long weekend reprieve at the lake.  The outdoor temperature was in the upper 80s – HOT!  So was the lake house!  Consequently, the first thing Sister Rebecca did was turn on the two window air conditioners which brought down the house temperature to a comfortable level.  However, this was not conducive to raising frozen bread dough.  I mentioned that I was going to turn the oven on to 200 for a short while, then turn it off and let the bread raise in the warm oven.  Sister was concerned that the house would warm up and suggested to let the loaves raise outside on the picnic table.  Yah, I thought, our luck a bird would fly over and ….  But then, I thought, “Hey, how about the van?”  So I put the three loaves into the van which was in the sun with windows closed.  Yes, a really warm area.  Perfect!

Well, I completely forgot about the loaves.  About 5:00 pm I happened to walk past the van – “Oh, the loaves!”  I cautiously opened the van door – You should have seen those critters!  They were HUGE!  WOW!  So, I carefully carried them into the house and put them in the oven to bake.  We had three delicious loaves of homemade bread, with the aroma of fresh baked bread.

An easy summer solution!

By Sister Elaine Marie Roggenbuck