Sister Rhubarb?


I just sat down after a busy afternoon, a busy day.  Sometimes, I think, I ‘bite off more than I can chew,” to borrow an old expression from a book my dad read to me as a kid.

I had cleaned house and done laundry in the morning, preparing for company coming and an upcoming trip.  (I must admit, the laundry-washing came about because I reached in my drawer for a certain item this morning and realized I was OUT.)

Late yesterday, a small bag of rhubarb had come in and was waiting patiently for me to attend to it.  I’ve become the chief orchestrator of rhubarb-cutting parties over my years at St. Anne’s.  It was a small bag, though, and I thought it not worth bothering the residents with; I would simply cut it up by myself.

It’s not for no reason that one of our residents has dubbed me “Sister Rhubarb” – what a prestigious title!

After lunch, I was on my way to the activity room kitchen to do just that when, low and behold, I met a couple bringing in MORE rhubarb.  They had called earlier in the week, promising to bring some in.  I had mistakenly thought yesterday’s small bag was the promised allotment, but I had another thing coming.

I graciously thanked them and headed to the activity room with this additional quantity of “the North Dakota State Weed,” as I dubbed this plentiful plant a few years ago.  Actually, my co-worker who was working the front desk helped me carry the (roughly) 3o pounds in.

Realizing that day hours are best for our residents and that I would be tied up working the reception desk on the morrow, I decided that there was “no time like the present” for one of my famous “rhubarb-cutting parties.”

I made a few unfruitful visits, inviting a few residents to help cut and finding others not home.  Eventually, after pre-washing dirty rhubarb, I settled down for a party of just TWO.  One of our blind residents was my only helper. 😦

Eventually, though, a few more people came.  After taking a break for a game, we finally finished up the endeavor before supper time.  I even got a 36 cup batch of sauce cooked up.

Thankfully, an appointment I was supposed to have a 3:30 p.m. got cancelled and I was not needed, as I had feared, at the reception desk until later.

I am thankful, too, for our kind residents and staff who helped Sister Rhubarb make it through a somewhat overwhelming afternoon.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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“Only a Setting on a Clothes Dryer”

Things are finally settling back into some sense of normalcy, whatever that is :).

After months of frequently filling in for one co-worker or another, I am enjoying a new sense of calm and sanity.  (I’d better not hold my breath; someone might call in sick tonight, yet.)

Thanksgiving serviceOne of my co-workers at the reception desk likes to say, “Normal is only a setting on a clothes dryer.”  I think this funny little saying actually holds more than a grain of truth.

Despite my relishing of life’s return to “normalcy,” yesterday, again, really was far from it.

On holidays, we work with a minimal staff, allowing many people a day off to be with their families.  The rest of us, then, have to compensate a bit.

In the morning, I was working my normal shift at the reception desk, but wanted to offer a fun activity for our residents.  I was able to hook up our laptop to the large screen TV and broadcast a patriotic sing along for them.

In the afternoon, I served patriotic Popsicles and pretzels, thanks to Sr. Elaine who had made a grocery run the night before and another staff member who had provided the pretzels (dipped in almond bark and accented with red and blue sprinkles).  This was after our “reading hour,” which drew from thematically chosen stories and poems.

Later that evening, I did not observe my normal bedtime.  Having obtained the needed permission to be out past 10, I facilitated firework watching for our residents from the top floor of the facility.

I guess, maybe we’ll never really have NORMAL…I guess I’d better just view every day as a blessing and try to appreciate the gifts that come every time our feet hit the floor in the morning, whether the day seem normal or not.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF

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Saints for Us – Sts. Peter and Paul

I’ve been praying the Liturgy of the Hours in common for quite a few years, now.  Over time, I’ve noticed the interesting two-toned (red and black) illustrations that accompany a few of the feast days in our breviaries.

The solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, which we began at vespers this evening, is one particularly thought-provoking example.

Above the antiphons and other texts, there is a picture of these two early followers of Christ, head to head with each other.

This illustration reminds us of the fact that these two pivotal leaders of our faith had their struggles.  They did not always take the same approach, but now they share a feast day together in Heaven.

This shared feast is a inspiration to me on my way.  There are people with whom I certainly struggle, people with whom I don’t see “eye to eye.”

However, as in the case of Saints Peter and Paul, these very people may be key players on my journey.  I might need them, and the tension and turmoil they cause, to shape me into the person God wants me to be.

I remind myself that some day, when this life is over, I may look back and say a prayer of thanksgiving for such and such a person who was instrumental in my life, despite what I would have hoped for.

People who challenge us (if we cooperate with God’s grace and live up to the challenge), may just help bring us to holiness, to sainthood that He has in mind for us.

I surmise that Saints Peter and Paul are good men to turn to when feeling the weight of this challenge.

Help Me; Help Me!!!

employ app.pngAmidst the busyness and long hours of work yesterday, doing my own regular work and then helping train in a new staff person, a little childish fun was one of the highlights.

I wanted let the new person know what the emergency call signal from our independent apartments sounded like and help her learn how to respond to it.

Thus it was that, while she was sitting with the receptionist at the front desk, I took the master key and walked down to a vacant apartment.

I went into the bathroom and pulled the emergency cord, which sets off a buzzer at the reception desk.

Going down on my knees on the floor, I waited for the responding party.  As I heard them draw near (the receptionist and trainee), I began to call out in an exaggeratedly mournful voice, “Help me; help me!”

I had fun, and it reminded me of when used to do little plays for fun as kids.  It was a great way to relieve a little stress and tension on a 16-hour work day.

The above-described dramatized, embellished cry for help, though, is not totally artificial.  I might try using it at prayer when I feel a special need.

It won’t bring my co-workers coming with a gait belt to lift me off the floor, but it would probably bring some help from Above.

First Thing in the Morning

IMG_20180428_212311415_LLLast night, I was not feeling well.  I know it’s June, but the sore throat with headache and low-grade fever seems to be going around.

When I say sore, I mean SORE.  My glands have been feeling inflamed, and simply put, awful.  With these symptoms, I had trouble sleeping last night.  I woke up around midnight and my aggravated throat would not me the refreshing slumber I so needed.

At some point, I realized the futility of laying there and trying to sleep.  I decided, instead of wasting time laying there, to get up and go to chapel.  I normally try to do do this “first thing in the morning,” and it was technically morning, by now.

I knew I would not be able to get back to sleep for at least a half hour so I figured that I might as well get my rosary in for the day.  Since it was after midnight, it would “count” for the coming day and would allow me to sleep later once I finally got back to sleep.

Our constitutions as Dillingen Franciscans instruct us to daily “devote a half hour to meditation before God, and a further half hour to other private prayer.”  So, having fulfilling the latter part of this statute, I returned to my bed.  After a little struggle, I was able to sleep until the real morning came.

Hopefully tonight, I can sleep soundly and restore the habit of praying “first thing in the morning” to its original meaning.

Stepping Back

After some reflection and discussion, I will be cutting back on posting here to once a week.   I think this is for the best.  I am hopeful that it will help me as I seek a healthy balance in my life.

Speaking of stepping back…I am leaving Sunday for our annual retreat.  Your prayers would be appreciated during this time away for reflection and renewal.

20171220_165248.jpgAs I step back for retreat and also modify my posting schedule, I pray you continue to step forward on your own personal journey with Christ.

Good and Busy

This morning, I got up and headed over to St. Anne’s before 5:30 a.m.  I had been planning to set up what I could in advance for 9 a.m. Mass and have a chance to pray before coming to the front desk by 6:45 or so.  I was scheduled to work the reception desk then until 7:45 a.m., at which time we were heading off for Hankinson.

Meeting one of the night aides on my way to chapel, I was informed that one of the men’s floor aides had called in sick.  Boy, did that through a monkey wrench in my day!

Instead of praying after doing the sacristy work, I rushed up to the men’s floor with the clean laundry cart…If I was to help out the other aide and still get to the desk and be able to go down for our community gathering in Hankinson, I had better get a head start!  (I did finish up my prayer while on duty at the front desk late this evening (not the ideal, but it could hardly be helped.)

I was able to get people up and even help with a bit of cleaning before returning to the front desk, grabbing breakfast, working a bit and heading off on our mini-road trip.

This wasn’t just any “mini-road trip;” this one was quite special.  We went to attend the Mass at which our new provincial administration took office.

We were even able to stick around for dinner and visiting with our sisters.  It was very nice.  I even got to go shopping :), picking out some blouses and a jumper which had belonged to other sisters.

We got back here to Grand Forks on time for me to take over at the reception desk and do my p.m. aide duty.  Now, I am finishing out the evening, working at the front desk until ten.

Despite the hectic schedule, this truly has been a blessed day.  I guess it could best be described as “good and busy.”

Back to the Salve Regina


Last week’s May Crowning at St. Anne’s

Now that the days of Easter are over, we find ourselves returning to Ordinary Time.  The altar cloths and vestments are green and we return to some of the “ordinary” hymns.

Another way we can tell that the days of Easter are past for another year is in the Marian prayers we use.

At table, we have once again started praying the Angelus, a beautiful prayer reminding us of the wonder of the incarnation.  At the end of Night Prayer, Compline, the Marian antiphon Salve Regina is again utilized.

I don’t mind that too much.  I like both the Regina Coeli and the Salve Regina.  The latter has some special memories for me.  I can remember attending evening Mass at the local minor seminary when I was in college and being touched by the beauty of the seminarians’ voices joined in song honoring Our Lady in this hymn.

I also have memories of playing this on the organ (I think this was at a summer course out east).  Another connection I’ve had with this lovely prayer/antiphon is having used my Spanish knowledge to try to understand it in Latin.  This was quite a nice experience as well.

It is fitting that, in whatever season we find ourselves or whatever language we may be using, we make it a point to honor Mary.

The Power of a Few Words

belief bible book business

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a troubling relationship.  On top of the difficulty this poses, I was also feeling blamed for something I had nothing to do with.

My time of prayer this morning was largely spent in praying about the situation and even writing about it in my prayer journal (which I only use occasionally).

I gave a little note to an individual, who was indirectly involved, and whom I felt was holding me responsible for this troubling situation.

Her few words, her kind response, expressing that she understood and she did not blame me, really made a difference.  This helped restore my peace of soul and gave me new fortitude to deal with the situation.

The power of her few words, her gentle touch of understanding, gave me insight into my own actions.  My words and actions, small as they may be, can be a force for good as well.

I will try to be more attentive to providing words of encouragement, support, and joy to those around me.  It is wonderful that we can each be co-workers with the Holy Spirit in bringing peace and strength to others!

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

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“Sauer Likes Her Sweets”

Resized_20161020_131437.jpegSince first coming to community, I’ve always felt a special connection to and fondness for our dear Sister Carmelita Sauer.  Her kindness and sense of humor would make it difficult not to.

This Pentecost Sunday, though, I got some sad news; our dear Sister has died.

Although I haven’t lived in the same convent as her for several years now, I know I will miss her.  On visits down to our Provincial house in Hankinson, it was nice to stop in and visit her again, even if her health had declined.

When I think of Sr. Carmelita, one thing apt to come to mind is a favorite saying of hers.  When taking dessert (or being offering something with a high glucose content), she would say “Sauer likes her sweets,” or some similar words, indicating that, despite the connotations of her surname, she was not apposed to sugar intake.  I guess I can’t blame her.

Please join me in praying that our dear Sister. Carmelita may soon be enjoying the sweetness of heaven.

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