Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Abby in the Abbey: Thanksgiving


I have a new friend!  Imagine, Glena had surgery and Cindy has been helping out in the front office while she’s recuperating.  Cindy gives me treats, lets me sit on her lap and plays with me.  How much better could life be?  Well, I’ll tell you one thing that could be better and it’s the weather!  This ice and snow makes my feet ache, but it doesn’t stop me from going for my morning walk because that is my favorite time of the day!   Anyway, back to Cindy.  She even gave me two new toys on which I immediately “fixed” them by taking out all of the stuffing and the thing that makes them squeak.  Sr. K said she had to do “surgery” on them to repair the damage, but I did such a good job that the “surgery” didn’t work!

I just wanted to say that now that Thanksgiving is coming up fast we all need to be thankful for friends, old and new, for all the good things that God gives us and for which we forget to say “thanks”.   I’m thankful for my good home with the Sisters here at Immaculata Monastery, for all the love they give me and each other, for all of the nice people who come here every day most of whom want to say “hi” to me.  I must say that I’m not always very hospitable when I bark at people.  Somehow I just can’t help myself but don’t we all do stuff like that?  Maybe a good resolution for us all to be thankful and stop the barking!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: How YOU can Help!

(While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.) 

The Missionary Benedictine Sisters are doing amazing work all over the world, but need partners who want to do good. The sisters in Norfolk try to help our sisters in foreign missions to access partners and opportunities to help with their missionary work. The sisters are working hard to be the hands and feet of Christ all over the world.

If someone would like to donate to Sr. Rosann’s mission in Peramiho they can send donations directly to the Immaculata Monastery with a note specifying where they want it to go or by going online to mbsmissionaries.org and donating there. The online donation page is completely secure and goes directly to the sisters.

 If others don’t have the resources to share Sr. Rosann says, “I really do believe all the prayers that are offered just storm heaven for us and that is so important. I really appreciate the prayers. If people want to connect with us in friendship and promise us their prayers and spiritual support that means the world to me.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

Abby in the Abbey: Hospitality


I’m just a dog, but I’ve noticed that the weather is changing!!!  Sr. K and Sr. GM are wearing jackets and gloves now, but they still haven’t made me wear my jacket which is fine with me because I just hate that thing!  I’m going to put on here a picture of what we saw this morning.  Isn’t it just beautiful?  There were some guys fishing in boats and Sr. K and Sr. GM wished they were out there too!  I remember going fishing with them this summer and I just loved riding in that boat.
I’m still busy making sure that the people who come to the Monastery are friends and not robbers!  Sometimes I have a hard time telling them apart and then the Sisters get mad at me and tell me to stop my barking.  Since hospitality is a huge part of the Sister’s ministry I guess barking is not a good way to greet visitors and I am trying hard to learn that part.  Luckily most of the people are dog lovers and understand that I am still learning not to be fearful of them. 
My word of wisdom today is that being hospitable in how we treat each other especially our family and friends is a great way to make a peaceful world.  It seems like with all the bad things going on that a lot can be learned from us dogs.  I heard from Sr. K just today that some people are chaining up dogs and beating them right here in Norfolk!   Isn’t that just awful???  It makes me wonder how they are treating their own people if they treat dogs that way?  Our world could use a lot more calm energy and you can find that by taking a long walk around the lake with your dog and letting your cares fly away.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: The Sisters' New Project

 (While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.)
The Sisters in Peramiho have a new project that they are excited to get started on! The sisters run St. Anna’s health center in Uwemba and do a lot of work with prenatal care and early childhood development. As of right now, when a woman has complications in her pregnancy and labor she must travel 40-60 minutes to another hospital for a Cesarean section. With conditions the way they are, many women and children are dying as a result.

The government wants to create a safer environment for women to have the operation. They are allowing smaller health centers to create safe and clean operating rooms to have cesarean sections. The sisters are leading the cause in the area with creating a Cesarean section department in Uwemba. One sister will begin schooling in August to further her education to become an Assistant Medical Officer. She then will be able to do the Cesarean sections and other minor surgeries. 

With the help of an organization in the Netherlands, the sisters will have some funding to start this project. The Sisters’ hope is to begin construction in one year and be fully functioning in two years.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: Costs of the Orphanage

(While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory.  One of their major ministries is the Orphanages where they take care of 80 children. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.)  
For the sisters the cost of running the orphanages is extremely high. With the decline of German benefactors and the rising costs of living, the sisters’ expenses are also going up. They have been able to manage because Sr. Fromunda had enough reserves to keep them going. The sisters depend on the help of other people to take care of the children alongside the sisters.

The sisters have the role of covering every aspect of cost of living for the orphans. The cost to cover room and board is $1 per child per day. That is $80 a day for just room and board, and does not include healthcare, education and other expenses. The costs are not like those in the United States, but still are extremely high for the area of Tanzania.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: Blessing and Marko

(While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory.  One of their major ministries is the Orphanages where they take care of 80 children. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.)

For two young people the Benedictine Sisters are the family they never had. Having stayed with the sisters in the orphanage from birth, both have been blessed to find the love and care they needed. For Blessing Benedict she was found with no connections to her family. The sisters took her in and adopted her.  When legalizing her paperwork they asked her what she would like her last name to be. Proudly she told them, “Benedict! I belong to the family of the Benedictine Sisters.” In Latin Benedict means blessed.

For Marko Kapinga giving back to the sisters who gave him so much is important. Marko and his siblings have lived at the orphanage since birth. Their parents were lepers. Marko did exceptionally well in school and was given the opportunity to go to Catholic University by Sr. Fromunda. He became a teacher and is now back at the mission teaching the orphans.

Sr. Rosann says that when you see exceptional children if we have the funds we will do the best we can to educate them. It’s for the good of the person, but also good for the nation. These children appreciate so much and they have opportunities they would never have otherwise.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Abby in the Abbey: The Little Things

Here I am again, Abby, comin’ at ya!  Gee, don’t the months go by fast?  It seems like I just wrote a message to all of you and now, here it is again, time for another update from me!  Well you can see from the picture that we had a great time at the picnic last evening.  I got to sit on Sr. Dorothy’s lap and get some love!  Doesn’t everyone deserve that kind of attention?  Sometimes the days go by so fast and there isn’t the attentiveness to show our appreciation to those closest to us. The people and things around us tend to get taken for granted.  Us dogs, of course, are great at giving unconditional love, but even we sometimes fail.  Like me, for instance.  If my favorite Sisters are around then I always want to run to them and get their petting and attention and kind of ignore the others.  That is something I definitely need to work on!

Otherwise things here at the monastery are going fine.  I went with Sr. Rita Marie for “our” retreat at Hildegard House.  I like it up there, but it is exhausting because I need to be constantly on guard to protect her.  There are all kinds of strange sounds, like the refrigerator coming on, coyotes howling in the distance etc.  that trigger my need to bark!  I even saw quite a few deer and Sr. Rita Marie had to explain what kind of creatures they were.  I liked sleeping in though.  Isn’t it nice to treat ourselves to these small pleasures?  Dogs are great at that and I think it is part of my job to help the Sisters see the small things and give us joy and happiness.

Til’ next time….

Monday, September 15, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: Good Shepherd Orphanage Part 2

(While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory.  One of their major ministries is the Orphanages where they take care of 80 children. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.)
One difficulty with the orphanage is the government takes no responsibility with orphans. They do not even help cover the cost of education. The costs to raise them then lands on the sisters that take them in. They must pay for shelter, food, healthcare, clothing and education. The expenses are constantly growing.
The sisters work with the social workers in the area to bring the children that are in need into the orphanage.  The families sometimes can’t sustain the child because of the loss of the mother. The temperatures in Mjimwema get down to freezing and without a special bond, like the bond between a mother and child, the children could die. The families are encouraged to visit and bond with the children while they are at the orphanage before they go back home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: Good Shepherd Orphanage Part 1

 (While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory.  One of their major ministries is the Orphanages where they take care of 80 children. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.)
Many years ago Sr. Fromunda started an orphanage in Peramiho for children of lepers and HIV victims. At one time Sr. Fromunda had 130 orphans funded by German benefactors. Funds from these benefactors have begun to decline due to the age of the benefactors.

There are now three orphanages that the sisters tend to. The sisters have begun to decrease the number of orphans they take in, in order to give higher quality care to those children already with them. 

They have recently built a new orphanage in Mjimwema because conditions at the original orphanage were not good. The area that the orphanages are at has one of the highest rates of HIV in Tanzania at 22%.

On average the sisters have 20 infants at all times in St. Anna’s Orphanage in Uwemba. Age ranges from Day one to 2-3 years old. After three years old the children will go to the Good Shepherd Orphanage in Mjimwema. The sisters have begun to phase out their Morogoro Orphanage which currently has approximately 20 children who are continuing their high school or vocational training education. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: Peramiho Ministries

 (While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory.)
The sisters in Peramiho work in many different ministries around the area. Sr. Rosann explained some of these ministries and they include:

 Care for Lepers
In the early years, care for leprosy patients was a major concern. Because of fear of contamination, lepers were ostracized from their villages.  By 1911 the sisters had established the leprosy village in Morogoro.  Today, treatment of leprosy has changed dramatically and patients remain with their families while treated as outpatients.  However, 40-some elderly residents remain in Morogoro, as it is the only home they have had for decades.  The Sisters also assist another 40 elderly lepers in the neighboring village of Letisha with monthly food rations.  

 Care for Orphans
Care for orphaned and vulnerable children began immediately with the arrival of the early missionaries as they ransomed slave children.  Currently we have three centers for orphaned and vulnerable children:

1. St. Anna’s Orphanage in Uwemba cares for twenty infants.  Poverty, the high prevalence of HIV-AIDS and complications of sickness or childbirth leave the children motherless or totally orphaned.  The sisters and staff see the children through the critical years of infancy and, when possible, return them to their extended families. 

2. Good Shepherd Orphanage in Mjimwema is newly built to care for 48 children beginning with preschoolers.  We focus on the total care and development of each child, physical, spiritual and emotional.

3. Morogoro Orphanage currently holds approximately 20 children who are continuing their high school or vocational training education. 

Education has consistently remained a top priority of the sisters throughout the decades. Today the community continues to value this ministry.

1. Peramiho Girls Secondary School was founded in the 1960s as one of the first secondary schools to educate girls.  Today, the boarding school serves over 300 girls in six levels and remains one of the highest-ranking schools for girls in the nation. 

2. St. Joseph Nursing School in Peramiho was founded by Sr. Tetwigis following her arrival to Tanzania in 1949.  Today our sisters continue to offer superior education to students in two nursing programs (Level A and Level B Nursing).

3. Dressmaking Vocational Training School in Peramiho offers young women expert training in women and children’s clothing.  This three-year program lays a foundation for these women who want to establish their careers as seamstresses. 

4. St. Gabriel’s Vocational Training School in Uwemba offers sewing, cooking and overall domestic training to young women.  The three-year program focuses on area rural women who have few options for success. 

5. Electrical Vocational Training We are grateful to have a sister involved in the electrical training school in Peramiho.

6. Good Shepherd Kindergarten in Mjimwema (Songea) is our newest development.  With confidence that early-childhood education establishes a foundation for learning, in 2014 the community opened the new school offering English-medium Montessori training.  When the school is fully established, it will hold 150 children, ages 3-5. 

Health Care
Quality health care remains a major challenge in Tanzania. HIV-AIDS and malaria remain special challenges throughout Tanzania.  Our sisters serve the sick primarily in two locations.

1. St. Joseph Hospital in Peramiho is a 400+-bed facility owned by the Missionary Benedictine Monks.  Our sisters work closely with the administration to provide the best possible care in the conditions in rural southwest Tanzania.

2. St. Anna’s Health Center in the mountainous area of Uwemba serves the local people.  The government has recently allowed health centers to have a minor surgery in order to save the lives of mothers and children. Our current project is to establish a new surgery suite at St. Anna’s.

In all of our ministries, sharing the love and light of Christ is our primary purpose.  The sisters are also involved in Basic Christian Communities, catechesis, youth ministry, etc.

Protection of life at all levels is a high priority, be that through our existing ministries or through other avenues. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: Sr Rosann's First Impressions

(While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory. Over the next few week we will explore that work in a series of blog posts and videos.)

For the past seven years Sr. Rosann has been missioned to Tanzania as their Prioress. What has stood out most for her is the joy of the people. They have a wonderful gift of celebration and a sense of family. It gives Sr. Rosann an opportunity to do whatever she can for the people of Tanzania.

Sr. Rosann had very little time to adjust to the new culture, language and poverty of Tanzania. It was a very stressful time, but she jumped in with both feet ready to take on the task. She had never been exposed to that much poverty before and was bombarded with her sense of responsibility and why God had sent her there.

The first year she was there Sr. Rosann tried to learn as much as she could of the language. She can do basic language, but still needs translators for official business and written communication. It’s not easy and makes relating to the people much more difficult. With the help and love of the sisters they are making it work and making great progress.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Abby in the Abbey: Best Friends


Do any of you have a special friend that you just love?  Here is a picture of me and Izzie (Isabel when she is naughty!).  She is a Schnoodle just like me and when her mom and dad have time they bring her to the monastery for a play date with me!  We get along great and love to run like crazy chasing a Frisbee or just roll in the grass.
  I would say we are best friends but even best friends have times when we don’t agree.  For example, Izzie doesn’t care much for regular dog treats, she just wants the really expensive ones, but I will eat anything!  Do any of you have similar experiences with your best friends?  You can’t understand why simple things aren’t enough and only the best will do? 
 It gets complicated after a while, but luckily we are dogs and just live in the moment.  I don’t think people are that lucky, they hold grudges when they don’t agree with each other or how other people live their lives, for example why some have to shop at Nordstrom’s and others shop at Dollar Tree.
  It sounds funny to us dogs though and to us, people are strange sometimes.  They have all this good stuff that they can get any time they want, but always want more. Hmmm, maybe this is something we should all think about huh?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Peramiho Priory Series: TZ Orphanage

While on home leave Sr. Rosann Ocken, Prioress of Peramiho Priory, sat down with Sr. Inviolata and talked about the work of the sisters in Tanzania-Peramiho Priory. Over the next few weeks we will explore that work in a series of blog posts and videos. One of their major ministries is the Orphanages where they take care of 80 children. If you would like to learn more about the work the sisters are doing check out www.mbsmissionaries.org.

Music: “Do Something”- Matthew West

Monday, August 11, 2014

Returning Home to Tanzania: Sr. Pia's Reflections on "The Best Years of my Monastic Life" Part 4

On May 15, I was overjoyed to be the guest of honor at the “Form VI” graduation (the equivalent of a General Equivalency Diploma in the United States) at our congregation's Peramiho Girls Secondary and High School. The 21 young women who finished their basic education now can look forward to a bright future.

When I arrived in Peramiho as prioress, I was aware of the importance of education for girls. But because I had always worked in a hospital pharmacy, I had no experience in leading a school. This school in Peramiho was entrusted to me, and I had to meet many challenges from the first day. I put a lot of time, energy and love into this ministry, fully aware of the saying: “If you train a woman, you train a nation.”

It was my great joy to learn that our school ranked 21st among more than 3,000 Tanzanian schools that administered the Form IV nationwide examinations in December 2013. The school received a special award for this achievement from the president of Tanzania as well as from the regional government. During the Form VI graduation ceremony, this achievement was celebrated with gratitude for all the teachers, their efforts and their motivation. I was so happy and grateful that I could see this day and this achievement.

My visit in Tanzania, especially in Peramiho, was a homecoming. Besides my fellow sisters, I was able to visit again with some friends, former students, priests and bishops. Talking Swahili had become natural to me during my many years in Tanzania, because only by knowing a nation's language can one fully come to know its people and culture.

I listened to the concerns of my friends and colleagues – and I heard their repeated invitation to return to Peramiho. They assured me that even though I can no longer work as hard as I once did, my presence would be important to them. I am not sure about this, but I am ready to leave my future plans to God, who has always had different plans with me.

I only can look back in gratitude for all the beauty I saw and experienced in my short visit.  Once again, I say: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his faithful love endures forever.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

Returning Home to Tanzania: Sr. Pia's Reflections on "The Best Years of my Monastic Life" Part 3

Along with my fellow sisters, I believe that the best possible basic education gives young people their best chance to pursue further studies. I am proud of our sisters who continue this work.

Only two or three sisters were assigned at first to Mjimwema to help in the parish and the hostel of its secondary school. The four sisters who work there now live in a small house built for a family. But a gift of land from the archbishop of Songea has allowed the Peramiho priory to build a beautiful two-story house, five minutes from the new orphanage, as the sisters' future home: the Good Shepherd Convent.

The new convent includes a spacious chapel with access from the outside so neighbors and children may join the sisters in their prayers. The new convent will have rooms for 10 sisters. Again I experienced how a small seed sown in faith can become a strong tree. Mjimwema will become an important ministry of the Peramiho priory, serving the people in this fast-growing city by taking care of the orphans and providing good education for their future. 

I learned that the Tanzanian government has been imposing more and more regulations affecting students' advanced studies. Some sisters are studying to meet these demands, but they pose big challenges for our congregation's young Tanzanian-born community. I had begun training many sisters to teach professionally during my time as prioress, and this work continues. The sisters must have confidence in themselves in order to teach others.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Returning Home to Tanzania: Sr. Pia's Reflections on "The Best Years of my Monastic Life" Part Two

The joy of my reunion with the community in St. Scholastica Priory was mutual. I met many new faces among the younger generations – new postulants and novices and new temporary professed sisters. European-born sisters were predominant during my years as prioress (1995-2007), but now a majority of the sisters in Peramiho come from Tanzania. I also saw that they have been joined by sisters from South Korea, Kenya and Uganda.

On Sunday, May 11, most of the sisters traveled by hired bus to Songea to witness the blessings of MBS' newly built Good Shepherd Orphanage, Montessori preschool and kindergarten, as well as the new Good Shepherd Convent of the Sisters nearby. I was deeply impressed and very grateful for what I saw. A big dream has been accomplished on the three pieces of land purchased by the Peramiho priory in 1997 for our orphanage's new home.

I remain aware that the responsibility for children orphaned due to the deadly impact of HIV-AIDS has been left by the Tanzanian government to the charity of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) as well as to the orphans' extended families. I am grateful that the Peramiho priory was able to find generous benefactors to enable our sisters to serve these children to best of their ability.

The new orphanage's three family houses – each of which can house up to 16 children – offer a new home in a different style for the orphans who were under our care in Good Shepherd Orphanage's original home at a former “leprosy camp” in the the village of Morogoro-Peramiho.

Children in each house will live like a family under a house mother. The houses are built strong and well and are equipped with all that is needed, such as food, water and electricity. The kindergartners and preschoolers will be taught on the same property, which also contains four large classrooms ready to accept students for the English-speaking Montessori school. Primary-school (elementary) children will be integrated into the local primary school in the suburb of Songea, while secondary-school students will attend the school assigned them by the government. St. Scholastica Priory, however, plans in the future to expand the orphanage's Montessori school to include primary grades.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Abby in the Abbey: Teamwork

Well you can see that they took me for another haircut, but this time I think I look pretty cute!  The lady even gave me some “bling” on my tail and a very nice pink collar.  I’ve been pretty busy hanging out by the front office and helping to greet guests and I am even getting better about holding back my barking impulse.  Gosh, isn’t it hard to stop doing things that you just feel you absolutely need to do even when other people don’t like it? 

This picture is of me with some donations for the animal shelter that I helped accept yesterday for, of all things, CATS!!!  Why would anyone want to donate to those hissing, mean things?  One day I just wanted to say “hi” to one and I got a very nasty scratch for my trouble.  You know, it takes all kinds to make the world doesn’t it?  I always think that dogs are the best, but not everyone agrees with me, even in my house here.

The summer is passing by very quickly and I hope everyone out there is really enjoying their family time together.  Sr. K had some back surgery and she is moving more slowly than usual so I’m glad Sr. RM and Sr. LA are there for me too.  There is nothing like teamwork in anything you do in life.  Being able to depend on each other is just one of the best things there is!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Returning Home to Tanzania: Sr. Pia's Reflections on "The Best Years of my Monastic Life" Part One


(Sister Pia Portmann, Prioress of Norfolk and Swiss native, spent 27 years in the Peramiho, Tanzania Priory and recently returned to Tanzania for the dedication of the Good Shepherd Orphanage and School. A project that she helped begin as Prioress of Peramiho. These are her accounts of her visit.)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his faithful love endures forever.

– Psalm 136:1

When I arrived in the Tanzanian capital of Dar-es-Salaam on May 5, 2014, I was excited to be back in the country I love and in which I worked during the best years of my monastic life – namely, the 27 years from 1980 to 2007.

The big city has changed enormously. The road construction and the increase in the number of cars and motorbikes make traveling in the city an adventure. When I arrived at the airport, I was amazed that Sr. Rosann Ocken, my successor at Peramiho Priory, and her companions were not waiting for me and Stefanie Wegner, my traveling companion from Europe and the project director of the Patrizia KinderHaus Foundation in Augsburg, Germany.
After communicating with Sr. Rosann, we learned she had been driving for more than two hours from our congregation's residence in Dar-es-Salaam to the airport, but was caught in the traffic. Due to this problem, we had to cancel our plans for sightseeing in Dar-es-Salaam the following day.

Sr. Rosann, Stefanie and I, along with our driver, Georg, left at 4:30 a.m. on May 7 for Uwemba, a town in Njombe District. We would stay overnight there with our sisters in our congregation's mission house there.

The long drive through this big country delighted me as it used to. Passing through Mikumi National Park (a drive of 50 kilometers) brought me a lot of joy. It seemed all the animals came to greet us on this morning – elephants, zebras, giraffes and antelopes. Even a lonely Africa buffalo greeted us from a ditch. He must have been wounded.



We traveled from sea level to the Southern Highland (elevation of 6,000 feet), which includes Uwemba, through the long and beautiful Ruaha Valley. Once a year, the little white, pink and purple flowers bloom and drape themselves over the bushes and trees like a veil. I had seen this effect only once before in my many travels to and from Dar-es-Salaam. But on this day, God’s beauty in nature provided this magnificent view once more.


We reached our mission in Uwemba at about 7 p.m. In this fruitful “Ubena land,” the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing own St. Anna’s Health Center. The sisters meet the physical needs of the people in Uwemba and surrounding villages. They also run an orphanage, caring for 21 children from birth through age 2. These children have lost their mothers or even have been abandoned by them. The sisters try to find and contact family members so they eventually can be returned to their family or clan.


The mission also includes a girls' vocational training center that teaches dressmaking and cooking. I was impressed how our Tanzanian Missionary Benedictines have taken over this important work of reaching out to the sick, poor and suffering and educating young women to equip them to sustain themselves for a lifetime.

After visiting the sisters' ministries and remaining with them for a short time, we left after lunch on May 8 to drive the final 4½ hours south to Peramiho. St. Scholastica Priory, founded in Peramiho in 1901, is the oldest priory in our congregation. Through the years, our sisters there worked in schools and hospitals and carried on pastoral and social work in as many as 12 outstations. They also founded the first congregation of African Benedictine sisters, known today as the Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes, Chipole.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Abby in the Abbey: Take Time to Smell the Roses, Kick Back and Relax

(This is the first episode of what will be a regular blog from Abby.  She is a Schnoodle who lives at Immaculata Monastery and has a unique insight into the workings of the house.
Hi!  My name is Abby and I have lived at Immaculata Monastery for a whole year now.  I have been busy learning my manners and being a good guard dog for the Sisters.  Sometimes I get a bit overzealous in my duties and bark too much!  Then one of the Sisters shakes a can with something loud in it and makes my ears hurt!  They say it is to help me learn to do things the right way, but come on! At any rate I thought it would be good to see things from my perspective as an unofficial member of the community here.)
Hey everyone!  This is Abby comin’ at ya with some thoughts.  It feels sooo good to roll in fresh grass in the spring.  Just to kind of let everything go.  I went fishing last week with Sr. K and Sr. GM.  Sr. K was kind of forgetful and forgot to bring the camera to take pictures of me sitting right up front in the boat trying to spot fish for the Sisters. Sr. K had to only remind me once not to bark and scare the fish!  Do they have ears???? 

When we got back I rolled in the grass and ran like crazy to burn off all that energy I built up sitting all morning.  Sometimes we just have to let everything go and relax don’t we?  That is what summer is all about and for us dogs it is the best time ever!  People sometimes get caught up in their work, supporting their families and doing chores around the house.  My feeling is that everyone should take time to smell the roses, kick back and relax especially in nature.  Take a lesson from us dogs and live in the moment!

Love, Abby

Thursday, April 17, 2014

REPROACHES of THE PASSION #12: You Hung Me on the Cross

O my people, What Have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.

With great power I lifted you up, but you have hung me on the Cross

This complaint is the summary of what God did for His Chosen People: He exalted them in the sight of other nations. He built them up from a no people to a great nation. He established them as a kingdom and they reward for that was the Passion of the Messiah. When He sent them the long awaited Messiah, they crucified Him. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself,” Jesus says in John 12:32. To this prophetic declaration, the crowds respond with “Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:34). That is the eternal question which remains as new today as it was 2000 years ago among the Jewish people.

Which identity of Jesus do I like? I am ready to accept the infant Jesus, the miracle Worker, or the transfigured Jesus. But how do I relate to the Crucified Jesus? How could the Christ suffer and die? It was the baffling question among the Jews and even Jesus’ disciples. It remains the mystery to us as well. That is why we call the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus “The Paschal Mystery.” Jesus will forever be the Crucified Lord. The Cross is the best explanation of what Jesus was all about. Jesus chose to embrace the Cross, so this complaint is more about where we are in relation to Jesus, than where Jesus is on the Cross.

From His Cross, the Savior says to us: You hung Me up there on the Cross, but you are still on the earth below; All I ever wanted was to exalt you, so that you would be where I am; I want you with Me, because you are the reason I embraced the Cross. Where I am there My servant will be also. By My death on that Cross, I have exalted you up too; I have won for you an eternal place in the house of My Father. I have lifted you up and set you apart; I have consecrated you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. Therefore, take up your cross and follow Me. And remember, whenever you crucify yourself for My sake, I will be right there with you on the Cross.

O My People, What Have I Done to You? How Have I Offended You? Answer Me

Because I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, you led your Savior to the Cross.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

REPROACHES of THE PASSION Set 7: You Gave Me a Crown of Thorns

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer Me. 

For you I struck down the kings of Canaan; you have struck My head with a reed.
I gave you a royal scepter; you have given Me a crown of thorns.

“We have no king but Ceasar!” was the cry of the bloodthirsty crowd on that Good Friday. That was definitely a lie, because they hated the Romans, hated being under the dominion of Ceasar, and they could not wait for the Messiah to come soon enough to liberate them from the Roman rule. By this cry, they were rejecting God as their King, they were rejecting their place as the Chosen People. Recall in 1 Samuel, the people asked for a king so that they could be like the other nations around them, and while Samuel was distressed, God assured him that it was not Samuel they had rejected but God Himself as their King.

God established the Kings in Israel. He established them as a sovereign nation having an exclusive relationship with God as their King. He gave them a royal scepter, both as a historical symbol of power and the spiritual symbol of the Messianic reign. Just as to them, God has given us a royal scepter: a free intellect and free will. Unfortunately, we have taken the scepter and turned it into an instrument of destroying the Kingdom of God. We have turned our royal scepter into a reed with which to strike the head of Christ.

Forming a crown of thorns is not an easy feat. It took skill and thought to twist those thorns right. It was meant to hurt, especially considering the thorns were pressed onto the head of Christ. That was not an accidental thought. Let us think of all our willful, premeditated wrongdoings and sins. They are thorns piercing the Sacred Head of Jesus. Let us consider times we have encouraged others to sin; moments we have refrained from doing the right thing due to fear; moments we have flattered others instead of helping them by telling them the truth; moments we have been bad influence on others. At all those moments, we have offered a crown of thorns to Christ. 

A crown of thorns and striking the Lord on the head  with a reed were all acts of mockery, meant to hurt and humiliate Him. Think of how Christians are persecuted because of their faith; think of instances when the civil state dictates what the Church can or cannot do. Those are thorns pressed into the head of Jesus. From the Cross, the Savior asks us to remember His pain and humiliation.