Retreat Day #1: The Wilderness is the Way

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

At long last, retreat time has arrived at St. Mary Monastery. A profound quiet fills our hallways and rooms. Many smiles and pats on the shoulder replace conversation. The sense of relaxation is palpable.

What do we do during retreat? In some ways, nothing different from usual. We follow our same schedule, give or take an hour. That is, we gather for Lauds, Noonday Prayer, Vespers and Eucharist. We pray Lectio Divina. We take our meals together at noon and 5:30. Continue Reading

Answering God's Call Together

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Recently someone told me that young people are looking for community but not a vowed life. Hmmm. While it’s clear not as many women are pursuing religious life today as there use to be, we are still out here. In our hearts, we are looking for something more … together.

As Pope Francis said in a General Audience on May 22, 2013, “… it is necessary to open ourselves once again to the horizon of God’s Spirit.” Continue Reading

Sign on the dotted line …

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

When I was visiting my aunt in Naperville, Ill., she asked me how the Benedictine Sisters recruit. Was it like the military?

I was happy to say no. We don’t stay at the door until someone signs. We don’t give the hard sell with out telling the truth that there will be difficult times. We don’t offer uniforms. Continue Reading

Responding to a Nagging Sense of "Something More"

From the beginning of recorded time, living as a religious Sister has been countercultural. We give up our possessions … our bank accounts … our cars. We take on a new set of priorities. We take on a new set of responsibilities.

In other words, it’s no longer about “me.” It’s about “we.”

What might make someone take such a radical, countercultural step? It’s sure not the salary. (There is none.) It’s not the easy lifestyle. (We begin our days before dawn in chapel for Lauds.) It’s not the nightlife. (Unless that’s what you call a rousing game of cards on Community Night!) Continue Reading

Gifts for the Journey

Gratitude has gripped my mind and heart.

The whole of life:

The continuous journey;

The following of others gone before,

The following of those in the lead,

The keeping step with those at my side,

The helping hand that reaches out,

Those behind who challenge me to lead;

Who challenge me to make ready the way;

For those who choose to join the journey,

For those who cry out from the wayside,

Cry out, reaching for help,

Help to know the way, to see further than today,

With hungry bodies, hungry minds, hungry hearts. Continue Reading

Being Bearers of Hope

The retaining wall outside the dining room is a highway this morning. Chipmunks of all sizes scamper first one direction and then the other, tails and spirits high. A rabbit lopes along and stops to peer in. Goldfinches dart among the grasses that brush the wall, and purple martins dive at insects above them. High overhead, American Pelicans soar in formation.

This is our last morning of retreat. It has been deeply refreshing and renewing, and Bishop Joe has been a wonderful director. Today’s talk is on Hope, a beautiful place both to end and begin. Sister Stefanie reflects on it, too. Continue Reading

The Path to Holiness as Lived Out in Profession

That’s a mouthful of a title! Although the path to holiness can be lived out in other ways – marriage, singlehood – we Benedictine Sisters have chosen religious life (St. Scholastica, left, founded the women’s community to follow her twin brother’s Holy Rule, which we follow 1,500 years later).

Today, Bishop Joe – a member of a religious community himself – reflected on the promises we make in our Monastic Profession. (Sister Stefanie also reflected on the Promises today!) Continue Reading

Bathing in the Light of Forgiveness

The sky could have been painted blue and the trees splashed gold this morning as we gathered for our conference with Bishop Joe. Sparrows, cardinals and jays fluttered about Sister Anne’s birdfeeder, just beyond the podium, beneath the river birch off the patio. Bits of cotton drifted by, stray tufts of dandelion, perhaps, or cottonwood seeds. It was a graced morning, a graced talk. Continue Reading