Continuing a tradition of Franciscan “Butchering”

Although there may not be anything explicit in our Rule, butchering (pumpkins, that is) actually can be considered a appropriately Franciscan activity.    By this, I mean the process of cutting up, baking, and mashing them before freezing them for future use.

One quote from our directives which supports this idea is the following:

“We are acquainted with the problems of our environment.  Therefore, we use the gifts of nature responsibly; and like Francis, we encounter all creation with reverence.”

Many people simply throw out pumpkins, but I hate to do so.  As one of my fellow Sisters remarked, there are so many people in this world going hungry, and it’s a shame to waste perfectly good food.  The above exhortation for the responsible use of “the gifts of nature” seems to favor the willingness to do some extra work and make pumpkin purée, rather than just tossing them in the dumpster.

I mentioned my history with pumpkins in an earlier post; suffice it here to say that we’ve had a number of them donated again this year.  We had used several of them to decorate our chapel around Thanksgiving time.  Today, in preparation for the first Sunday of Advent and the Advent wreath, we removed them.

I will confess, it is a lot of work, between cutting, baking, and mashing, but I know our residents will enjoy the pumpkin muffins and cookies I’ll be able to provide in the coming months, thanks to the 25 quarts we froze this fall.

I am not the first sister here at St. Anne’s to have any experience with pumpkin.  At lunch today, other Sisters who have served here for years recalled a 60-pound pumpkin which they had to roll down the hallway to transport it to its death; it was ‘butchered’ by the maintenance man throwing it on the ground.

unnamedIn closing, I’ll say that I think I’ll ‘sleep good tonight’ and I’m glad that the butchering seems to be done for the year. I’d also like to express my gratitude to Sr. Mary Ruth, visiting this weekend, and Betty, an apartment resident, for all their wonderful help!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

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Thankfully acknowledging that “His Providence Guides Us Still”

As we approach Thanksgiving, I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a poem, written by our Sister Patricia Forrest, which chronicles our Congregation’s history with a real ‘attitude of gratitude.’

Picture1This poem was written in 1978.  The verse that serves as a refrain, “His Providence guides us still,” is actually stenciled at our facility in Hankinson in Providence Auditorium, whose names draws its inspiration from Sr. Patricia’s composition which I will share below.   Continue reading

Inspired to live our ‘Yes’ like Mary…further insights from our Symposium in St. Louis

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

A week ago this morning, I sat with several hundred other women
religious for what I found to be the most enriching presentation of our weekend gathering in St. Louis (See previous post).

Perhaps, you would call me biased because the speaker, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, is from my home archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and I knew of him personally through two of my siblings.

I would like to share a few of the points he made in his plenary session, entitled “The Evangelical Counsels and the Salvation of the World.”  Like others on the weekend, he spoke of the prophetic witness of the Consecrated Life.  He reflected that a mission of Consecrated Life is to remind the world of the call to holiness, comparing it to a church with a high steeple.  When people see consecrated religious, they should be reminded of God, as people of a town would be when seeing a church steeple.

Bishop Cozzens also reflected that the Consecrated Life is a life totally given (to the Lord through the evangelical councils).  These counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience) come from God and lead us to God.  They were the form of Christ’s life, and according to the Bishop’s reflections, He showed them most clearly on the Cross.

unnamedFittingly for a Saturday, a day in which we especially honor Our Lady, Bishop Cozzens also brought in Mary’s relationship to the Consecrated Life.  He shared how Mary also lived this form of life, with total surrender and giving over her whole life to God.  Our gift of self through the evangelical counsels is a gift without reservation.  It is to be a “yes” like Mary’s at the Annunciation.

Our own Constitutions, as Dillingen Franciscans, call us to “keep the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary…ever before our eyes.”  We turn to her as an example and intercessor in daily saying ‘yes’ to our Lord and following Him in poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Inspired to “Wake Up the World”

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We just got back from a wonderful trip to St. Louis, MO, with stops at various places, including Sioux City and Iowa City, IA, Independence, Columbia, Hannabal and Kansas City, MO, and Darwin, MN.  You’re welcome to check out our Facebook Page for pictures from the trip.

This “symposium” was entitled “Wake Up The World,” after the theme of this Year for Consecrated Life, celebrated throughout the whole Church.  A recurring theme in the talks seemed to be how we, as religious, are to give prophetic witness to people in our society today.  In a sense, I guess, we are to “wake up the world”to the reality and beauty of our faith; we are to point them to Christ.

This meeting of about 500 Sisters from around the country served to help “wake us up” and encourage us in our life.  It was not so much that we learned something new.  Rather, it reminded us of what our life is about, that as Sisters we have a life totally given to Christ, which extends out to His people.

The experience of this trip was so rich that I cannot exhaust it all in one post.  I may devote a couple of additional articles to sharing some of the wealth of the experience.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis…

20151010_094951That first line (which is all I know) of an old song has been resurfacing in my mind from time to time in recent days.

I don’t know when I’ll next be putting anything on Our Franciscan Fiat.  I will be out of town for almost a week.

I know I am a grown woman (and a professed member of a religious congregation, and all that) but I’ve been getting really excited!  The drudgery of a couple hours of laundry, packing, and other preparations has taken its toll on my level of enthusiasm, however.

I’ve known this trip to St. Louis was coming for some time, now.  At a Community Meeting (in May, perhaps?), I was basically told that I should be one of the Sisters from our province attending this Symposium for the Year of Consecrated Life, offered by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR).  I have a great respect for this organization, which was instrumental in my own vocational journey.

It will be nice to meet with other women religious from around the country and be enriched by reflections on the Consecrated Life.  However, This is not the only cause of my eagerness.  I also will be able to spend time with three dear Sisters from our community; we’ll have plenty of time to visit and enjoy each other’s company, as we are driving down together.

Furthermore, I love history.  I remember learning about the pioneers travelling in wagon trains.  We always heard about them leaving from Independence, MO, and that is where we will spend the night Thursday (before the last leg of our journey).  We know another community of Franciscan Sisters there who have offered us hospitality.

As if all that was not enough, I’ll have the opportunity to meet up with my uncle who lives in the Kansas City area.

So, yes, like a school girl, I am excited!

“…but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”

handsSr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF                        Certain Gospel passages I just love for their ability to draw me in. I can put myself in the scene and imagine myself doing what the individuals involved did. These passages inspire me to do, on a spiritual level, what the individual in the story did physically.

Today’s account of the poor widow is such a story.  When meditating on the daily scriptures this morning, the words: “but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”” struck me.  These are the words our Lord spoke to his disciples about the widow who contributed but two small coins to the temple collection.

It made me think of my life as a religious sister.  At my profession of vows, I said, in a sense, “I give you all that I have, my whole livelihood, my whole self.”  This morning, spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, I felt an invitation to renew this in my daily life.

Our giving of self is not just a one-time thing; it is to be every day, in a thousand different situations.  It reminded me of the words of my Confirmation Saint, the Little Flower St. Therese.  She once wrote: “I do not want to be a saint by halves.”

These sentiments resound in my heart as well.  In everything I do, whether answering the phone, helping residents, or writing a blog post, I want to love Jesus with a whole heart, “contributing all” that I am and have.

Holy Spirit, please help me to remember and to be faithful to this resolution.  Amen.

Gourmet Pumpkin Cookies…or Humble Pie?

pumpkins

From various sources, we’ve received our share of pumpkin again this year.  For practically my whole life, I’ve had something to do with pumpkins in the Fall.

My mom used to carve them with us as kids.  Later, in Hankinson, I can remember designing and carving jack-o-lanterns with Sr. Sara Marie. Then in Rugby, ND, the day after I completed my canonical year of novitiate, Sr. Genevieve and I baked 22 loaves of pumpkin bread!  We ate 1/2 loaf each week so they would last for 44 weeks!  Wow…that was a marathon day!

At St. Anne’s, these overgrown gourds still seem to find me!  On Monday, with help from two of our apartment ladies, I froze eleven quarts of pumpkin.  I was tired, but satisfied at the end of that day, the final hours of which I spent as receptionist at the front desk here.

The next morning, I decided to put some of that pumpkin to good use; our residents would be having Bingo in the afternoon so I would make homemade pumpkin cookies for them to enjoy!  Well, easier said than done!

A cook or baker learns certain tricks and techniques over time.  Unfortunately, this baker (me) forgot an important step for baking with homemade pumpkin puree that’s been frozen: always thaw it thoroughly and press it in a strainer to remove as much excess ‘juice’ as possible.

As I peeked at my cookies, and saw them spreading out and melting together, I decided I was more successful at making ‘humble pie’ than tasty pumpkin cookies.

I added more flour, spices, and baking soda to my remaining dough, and made other efforts to remedy the runaway pumpkin cookies.  When I was already feeling pretty humiliated, I knocked a cooling rack onto the floor.  What a morning!

As Franciscan Sisters, we are exhorted to always be simple and humble.  The morning’s undertaking helped me fulfill the latter quality, but not the former.

Between cookies, Mass, reception desk work, and preparing and leading Bible Study, it was far from ‘simple.’  I am most grateful to our activity director, Shelly, who stepped in and helped me get it all done.

This was a lesson in humility.  I have baked with pumpkin many times before, and when I looked back on it before starting this years endeavors, was pleased with how my past treats had turned out.

This experience taught (or reminded me of) a little lesson; just because things worked well before, I can’t assume I can “bite off a bigger chunk than I can chew” (to use an old expression), and that things will just work out.  Being a limited human being, in humility, I ought to look carefully at the time I have and consider that before I start another big task.

Otherwise, I’m likely to end up with ‘humble pie’ again.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

National Vocation Awareness Week…to make You known and loved

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

3rd gradeWhen I was still in grade school and attended Mass at St. Joe’s in West St. Paul, MN, we started using the “Archdiocesan Prayer for Vocations” at Mass.

This week’s National Vocation Awareness Week reminded me of this custom.  The prayer goes as follows:

O God, we earnestly ask You to bless this archdiocese with many priests, Brothers, and Sisters who will love You with their whole strength and gladly spend their entire lives to serve your Church and to make You known and loved.  Bless our families, bless our children. Choose from our homes those needed for your work.  Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us, pray for our priests, Religious, and deacons. Obtain for us many more.

It is interesting for me to look back on this.  I can remember standing in church, next to my dad, and reading the words to this prayer.  At the time, they did not really resonate with me; I just prayed along because that was the thing to do.

At the time, I certainly did not anticipate that my life would take the direction which it now has.  I wonder what I would have said had someone told me back then: “You’ll be one of them!”

Today, I’d like to adapt part of this prayer.  May I be a Sister “who will love You with [my] whole strength and gladly spend [my] entire life to serve your Church and  to make You known and loved.”