Cleaning up the Kitchen can be fun?

72779F83-72D7-45B9-8CF6-24EFA7D62D72Well, I ‘got domestic’ again today.  Between Mass preparations and attendance, receptionist duties, lunch, and office work, I decided to sneak in some cookie-making.

I had realized that we were getting low on cookies for Sr. Elaine to serve at “coffee time.”  (That is when people stay after Mass and visit over a cup of coffee and enjoy cookies.)  Rather than her need to buy more, I thought I might as well bake some up right here at St. Anne’s.  It had been a week since I made pumpkin-spice muffins for our residents, and I would hate to let my domestic skills (or lack there of) get rusty.  [Truthfully, I really don’t usually bake this often.]

I still had baking chocolate around that I got at Christmastime and plenty of other needed ingredients, including some that were still good, but needed to be used up.

I thought chocolate-chunk oatmeal cookies would be a good choice and decided to slightly modify a recipe I had used successfully before.  One batch was only supposed to make a dozen cookies, so I thought I might as well make it worthwhile and do a double batch right away.

I discovered, however, that the baking chocolate pieces, which I cut up, did not com close to equaling the two cups needed for the tasty oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies I had in mind.  I remembered, though, that we had received some chocolate previously, which still sat in our refrigerator at the convent, going no where fast.

After confirming with my other sisters that they would not miss it too much, I went ahead and cut that up into small ‘chunks’ as well.  I had also found nuts that were getting eaten at the same turtle-like speed as the chocolates and chopped them with my handy-dandy nut chopper.

Adding the vanilla, though, proved to be a challenge.  The neck on our little bottle of vanilla doesn’t lend itself to opening facility and the little bottle got passed around a little before one of our residents surprised me with her strength and got the stubborn thing open.

A double batch, which I finished early this afternoon, proved to make over 3 dozen cookies.  Sr. Elaine should be well-supplied for coffee time, for a little while at least.  After all, Lent is coming up and that may decrease the rate at which sweets are consumed at the post-Mass gatherings.


Rooted and Grounded in Love

Do you ever find, as you encounter the Scripture, that a passage really strikes you for no apparent reason?  I experienced this last evening when doing evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

003.JPGThe reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians struck a chord in my heart, especially the phrase: “may charity be the root and foundation of your life.”  Sometimes this passage (Eph. 3:17) is translated ‘rooted and grounded in love.’

I was reminded of the fact that charity, love, is to be the driving force for all we do.  Whether I work as a receptionist, assist our residents with bedtime preperations, or simply enjoy a meal with my fellow Sisters, love for the person next to me, and ultimately love for Christ, should motivate and give direction to what I do.

I must never get so caught up in ‘getting things done’ that I forget that charity is the root and foundation of it all. ‘Getting things done” must never supersede acting in love to the person nearest to me.  I have to remind myself to be willing to stop what I am doing, set aside my present priorities to love Christ in the person I am encountering.

Sometimes, when I work at our reception desk, someone will come up.  I sometimes have to force myself to be present to them, to stop what I am working on to give them my whole, undivided attention.  I think of Christ’s words in Matthew’s Gospel: “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers, you did to me.”   At the end of my life I won’t want to have to say, “I’m sorry I ignored you or only half-listened to you, Lord, but I was busy with something I thought was more important.”

I’d like to quote the passage which inspired these ramblings in full, as I think it is very rich and may be a good source of inspiration to you as well.

  • May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain the fullness of God Himself. To Him whose power now at work in us can do immeasurable more than we ask or imagine- to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen.”

Happy Name Day, Sister Rebecca!

72779F83-72D7-45B9-8CF6-24EFA7D62D72I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly wish Sister Rebecca a happy and blessed name day!

For anyone who isn’t aware of the custom, celebration of the ‘name day’ is an observance honoring a person on the feast day of their namesake.  This tradition is still maintained in our community; in fact, each evening we pray for our sisters throughout the world who have their special day on the morrow.  We have a little book that lists them all for us.

Sister Rebecca, our administrator here at St. Anne’s Guest Home, has her name day on January 23.  She had always kind of liked the name, although it wasn’t the name she was born with, having a special fondness for the women of the Old Testament.

When about to enter novitiate, along with nine others, she put it on her list of three possible names she would like to have as a Sister.  She did this almost haphazardly, since she knew that one of her classmates wanted it very badly for her Religious name.

Sister Rebecca recalls the whole episode with a touch of humor, to this day.  The order in which the postulants were to be received had been predetermined.  As the young ladies watched their classmates receive their new names, none of them were receiving what they had requested.  One of the classmates kind of ‘got the giggles,’ as Sister Rebecca recalls, though they were muted because of the somber setting.

Sister Rebecca also recalled that she really didn’t know what to expect after the first several of her peers received unexpected names.  To her joy, however, she was given the new name of Rebecca.

Her patroness was one of the matriarchs in the Hebrew scriptures, the wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob.  Her story can be found, beginning in Genesis 24.

I hope this day is filled with blessings for our Sister, and all those who bare the same beautiful name.


Tired Feet from Chasing After Men?…

LFS-motto-300x225One afternoon recently, on my way upstairs at St. Anne’s, I told Sr. Elaine, who was around the front office here: “I’m going upstairs to chase after some men.”  She responded: “Okay; don’t worry.  I won’t tell Mother General.”

My “scandalous” activities entailed heading to remind some of our male residents to come down to the nurse, or something similar.

Since I have been doing aide work almost every night since the beginning of the month, I have had other occasions to make this eyebrow-raising remark.  And, Sr. Elaine has been known to make her same reassuring response.  I guess I don’t have to worry about any negative reports being faxed over to Germany, so I’m relieved.

This ‘chasing after men’ has also included helping them with their bedtime preparations.  Even after all these times of helping our men (and ladies), I am still touched with what an honor and a grace it is to be able to do this kind of work.  Graces and blessings can come in unexpected ways, as I experienced one afternoon when men did the ‘chasing.’

I was ‘stuck at the front desk,’ and we needed to get one of our ladies down to the nurse, so I got resourceful.  Shame on me for exploiting men’s natural attraction to women.

We have one floor for men and another for women.  After checking about mixed-gender visiting hours, I sent my willing woman-chaser upstairs to tell a lady it was time to see the nurse.  Not only did he tell her, but he kindly escorted her all the way to the nurse’s office.   I was proud and pleased!  (When I shared the experience with my Sisters afterward, they thought she was probably pleased, too, with the attention.)

This evening, all my chasing got the better of me; by 7:30, when I finished up on the floors, my feet were sore and tired.  Coming once again to the front office, where Sr. Elaine had been filling in for me as receptionist, I informed her that my feet were tired from ‘chasing after men.’

As I type this post, my shoeless feet are resting on the bottom ledge of the computer stand at our reception desk, trying to revive after their scandalous activities.

I guess you might be able to call these tired feet beautiful, in a sense.  Isaiah 52:7 exclaims: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation…”  Perhaps this passage is more appropriately applied in praise to Our Lord, which I certainly don’t want to neglect.  However, I hope and pray that I, too, can be a messenger of joy and of His love in a small way with my tired feet.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

A Weekend to Remember…Eleven Years Later

Guest Post by Rick Neumann
Written January 15, 2016


Picture1.pngToday marks the 11th anniversary of the weekend my wife and I brought our daughter Christina to enter the convent in Hankinson.  We’d never been to Hankinson so I was a bit nervous about what to expect.  It was both a happy and sad weekend: happy because we believed Christina was called to religious life but sad because we knew our family was changing and we wouldn’t see her as much.

As I recall I don’t think any of us talked a lot during the four hour drive from West St. Paul to Hankinson.  We were all deep in thought.  Memories of Christina during her 24 years of life with us dominated my thinking; both the good times and the hard times.

We had met a couple of the sisters earlier when they brought Christina back after one of her discerning visits to the convent.  They had both been very friendly so that made going on the trip less scary.  Once we arrived things couldn’t have gone better.  All the sisters were extremely welcoming and put us up in the “Hankinson Hilton.”  The Hankinson Hilton is the suite of rooms they put “esteemed” guests in.  It is very nice; quite a contrast to the Spartan type rooms the sisters have.

During the weekend we got to know many of the sisters.  We talked, ate, played cards and got the grand tour of the convent.  Everything went great for the weekend.

Picture1.pngOn Sunday morning something changed.  While at Mass, I got an overwhelming feeling.  I started to cry; not out loud but enough that I had to wipe my eyes several times.  I cry very seldom but I did that day.  I wasn’t really sad.  I was just beginning to realize what was happening.  My daughter is going on her life’s mission.  I was excited for her, happy for her but also I was very emotional.  Overall, it is a weekend I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Eleven years later, Sr. Christina has lived her religious life well.  She’s happy with her life and we couldn’t be more pleased.

A ‘Cold & Flu’ are no Fun…unless it’s ‘Cold & Flu Hangman’

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, colds have really been going around here at St. Anne’s.  Filling in as a personal care aide for twelve days, I was not exempt: I am starting to get better from my second cold of the season – yuck!

The regularly scheduled game for the afternoon, ‘Roll-it Tic-Tac-Toe,’ is one that is fairly conducive to the spreading of germs, which seem to be so rampant this time of year.  Instead we decided to have some fun with the whole cold & flu theme, while also encouraging ‘infection control.’

I suggested to Paulla, our activity assistant, the idea of playing ‘Cold & Flu Hangman,’ which would mean less sharing of objects, and thus less germ-sharing as well.

We had fun, and the residents did fairly well, guessing letters to complete words pertaining to these winter ailments.  Our list included words like: mucus, pneumonia, cough, sickness, feverphlegm and (a particularity fun one) snot.  This last one was guessed right away!

After the game, I went around and sanitized the tables and chairs, where people had enjoyed their afternoon snacks between nose-blows and coughs.

003.JPGI’m glad we can use humor and turn an unsavory experience into an opportunity for some fun.



The Beauty of a winter sky


Looking out the window from the reception desk, I was touched by the simple, quiet beauty of the winter sky outside.  Tonight is a very cold, clear night here in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Psalm 147, which refers to snow and hoarfrost, reminds us to “praise the Lord.”  I love this psalm, which we pray Friday mornings in the fourth week of the Liturgy of the Hours.

For some reason, this psalm is one of those scripture that always stirs my heart in a special way.  (I guess the fact that it’s the inspired Word of God might have something to do with it.)

The fact, too, that it speaks of snow and hoarfrost also has a particular resonance to a Minnesotan living in North Dakota.

Even though cold nights like this can be a source of complaints, why not try to be open to their beauty?  A glance outside, for me this evening, was a call to praise the Lord who is the source of the goodness and beauty that surrounds us every day, He who “strengthens the bars of [our] gates” and has blessed us.


“You’ll do in a pinch”…filling in as a personal care aide

A few nights ago, as I was washing out ted hose for one of our residents, he made some remark like “Oh, it’s you again.”  I asked if I was doing alright or why he said that.  He went on to tell me: “I guess you’ll do in a pinch.”

When I asked where my services were lacking, I was informed that I didn’t get all the ‘toe-jam out.’  Since that time, I’ve made a special effort to thoroughly wash out the toe section of these special doctor-ordered socks.

My official title, when I started at St. Anne’s, was ‘receptionist.’  However, I end up getting involved in many other things.  Most recently, this has consisted in working as the evening personal care aide.  Ironically, both of our regular evening aides are out and not available to work presently.

One neat thing about the experience is that I’ve realized that we are never too old to learn.  When I started filling in last Friday, I had my handy ‘cheat-sheet,’ which spelled out all the details for the evening resident cares that the aide needed to do.  I have noticed, over these days, that I am relying less and less on this paper each time.

Also, there is something kind of special about caring for the people who live here at St.Anne’s.  Taking out dentures, washing ted hose, helping ladies into their pajamas, and passing out snacks to diabetics are ways in which I can serve Christ, who is present in them.

Each of them is a child of God, with great dignity.  I am privileged, filling in as a care aide, to help make their life a little better and care for God’s people.

006Hopefully, I can learn from my mistakes, like with the toe-jam incident, and get to be a little better as these days go on.  Also, hopefully, I can be more patient, too!

Sister Christina M. Neumann

“When the fullness of time had come”

003At St. Anne’s Guest Home, where I serve, we are privileged to have priest come daily for Mass.  Residents, Sisters, and visitors alike are thus enabled to participate in this wonderful Mystery.

Msgr. Wendelyn Vetter is one of the main priests who make this possible. we are blessed also by his wonderful homilies.  Today, he drew from the scripture read in the second reading for this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, wrote:

Brothers and sisters:
When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son…
so that we might receive adoption as sons.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”…

Although he spoken of this ‘fullness of time’ before, I appreciated hearing again Msgr.’s inspiring words about salvation history and God’s wisdom in guiding it.  In this morning’s homily, he again reflected on God’s timing.  Christ came in the fullness of time; the time was right.

At the time of Jesus’ coming , with the Pax Romana, travel was comparably easy (e.g., they had created roads.)  This facilitated the apostles’ missionary journeys and the spread of the gospel around the world.

Msgr. Vetter took the reflection on God’s fullness of time also to another level, a personal one.  God’s timing is perfect in our own lives as well.  He knows when the right time is for different events.

Msgr. Vetter reflected on how people ministering to others can be sensitive to timing, to whether or not a person is ready to hear a message, to whether it is the fullness of time for them.

We can also look with gratitude at how our Father has worked in our lives, how He has guided us and drawn us to His Son.  I have looked back over my own life’s journey and have seen, with gratitude, His gentle, loving hand guiding me with His great wisdom and foresight.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann