Monday, May 11, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Leah Ann Sison, OSB

(Meet Our Sisters will be a Blog Series to get to know our Sisters from the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk, NE. Each month we will feature a new Sister and her journey to become a Missionary Benedictine Sister.)

Birth Place:  Manila, Philippines
  First Profession:  28 May 1995
 Final Profession:  12 May 2001
    Mission Experiences:  Rome, USA

Why did you become a nun?
As a teenager, I always wondered what my mission in life is.  After I decided to attend the Vocation Search-in of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Manila in 1991, I became more aware of the religious life and felt a deep yearning to be one of them, that is, to be a Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, and the rest, as they say, is history!
What has been your most rewarding experience as a MBS?
Witnessing the graduation of the college students I taught as a Junior Sister; knowing and sharing with the difficulties that some of them went through as students who were financially hard-up but still tried their level-best to finish their studies.
Talk about foreign mission experience
I used to view being chosen and going to the foreign mission as just for the chosen few, but when I have personally experienced it, I realized that it was not so.  The foreign mission experience is:
-    an opportunity to grow in all aspects of my personhood as a religious and as a Christian, as well, with God as my focus;
-    discovering and knowing that God dwells in a particular culture which has its own beliefs and traditions very much different from mine, and continue believing that God is actually present there;
-    being stretched at all sides and sharing your gifts which you did not know existed.
What would you say to those discerning commitment to religious life?
As we do not really know what lies ahead and see what is on the other side of the ocean unless we take the risk, I would say, continue to pray and listen to what God is telling you and take the plunge into the unknown!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Sorocaba Priory

In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.


On September 28, 1905, Mother General Birgitta and Srs. Alphonsa Kellenberger and Lioba Schledorn, all of them Germans, arrived by train in Sorocaba, Brasil, invited by Fr. Miguel Kruse, prior of St. Benedict Abbey in São Paulo.
The purpose of the new foundation was to give new life to St. Benedict Monastery in the center of the town, without monks since more than ten years. Soon more Sisters came from Olinda which was founded two years ago.
Already in 1906 our school St. Scholastica College began with ten students (now more than a thousand). In 1908 the community bought a big old building at Rosary Square with the church dedicated to our Lady of the Rosary, built still by slaves in the 18th century.
On 31st of December of that year, at night, Indians with typical clothing joined at Rosary square for songs and dances to greet the authorities for the New Year. Thus the surprised Sisters could feel a little bit the soul of the original inhabitants of the country.

Increasing number of students and Sisters.
In 1919 a period of new foundations began according to needs – schools, pastoral assistance, catechesis, health care – some were closed later, others exist till today (Itapetininga, Rio de Janeiro, Araçoiaba, Presidente Prudente, São Paulo, Santa Rita d’Oeste, Cunha).
In 1922 our mission work in Roraima, Amazonas region, was initiated (for 27 years).
Our schools developed according to needs of each epoch: music, boarding school, trade, costless classes for poor, basic education for poor adults in evenings, teaching, nursing. 

M. Melania (prioress general from 1920 -27) was prioress in Sorocaba from 1910 – 20 and 1927 – 1937. It was in Sorocaba that the first non-European novice made vows in 1912: Sr. Henriqueta Fernandes d’Araujo (from Olinda, followed by other Sisters from Sorocaba priory). Sorocaba priory sent the first non-European Sister as missionary to Africa (Angola) in 1956: Sr. Cristina Eloy Rosa, still alive. Other Brazilian Sisters followed.

In 1965 and  1985 new construction and modification of our church in Sorocaba with the mysteries of the Rosary painted by the famous artist Claudio Pastro.
Since 1990 groups of oblates were created in our communities. In 1995 the Benedictines of Epiphany (Buenos Aires, Argentina) were aggregated to Sorocaba priory. Now there are two communities in ARGENTINA REGION: Buenos Aires and Los Toldos.
In 1910 financial needs almost led to the end of the foundation; St. Benedict Abbey / São Paulo helped.
During the First World War our school was threatened to be closed, since the Sisters were Germans, but the public supervisor who came for visitation stated that everything was according to laws and the Sisters should continue with their excellent school.
In the seventies a lack of vocations – some years without novitiate – was a big concern of the priory.
v  Increasing number of students, since families look for serious education according to Christian values.
v  Social centers for poor children and youths in three of our communities.
v  Pastoral work in places without resident priest, continued formation of lay people who are involved in pastoral activities, religious orientation of couples and families.
           In spite of our lack of Sisters, two Sisters were sent to our mission in Bulgaria, a country with great poverty and a minimum of Catholics.
            Old and lonely people are visited by the Sisters, who also serve as ministers of the Holy Eucharist.
            In Sorocaba, weekly two Sisters collaborate with the lunch for the street people, which is served near the cathedral.
            In Cunha our Sisters make a big effort to maintain the hospital which serves the big population of the rural county including many poor.


130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Region of Argentina

In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.

The root of our Region was in the call of love from God to a woman who wanted to follow Him and make Him known. 
So in 1956 Sr. María Leonor Lorenzo along with other young women founded a religious community in the city of Santa Fe, Argentina.
Father Andrés Azcárate OSB awakened in her a strong desire of the Benedictine ideal,  not only that but also accompanied and guided the community throughout the development of the foundation that they could live with fidelity and enthusiasm the monastic life and at the same time participate in the work of Evangelization.
Later, in 1961, Sr. María Leonor with Sr. Argentina Lens moved to Buenos Aires and settled in the neighborhood of Belgrano, near Saint Benedict’s Abbey where they received all the support and the necessary direction.
The sisters had many apostolic activities like giving retreats, workshops, courses and mission to the neighboring areas for many years.
In 1970s, some vocations joined but not sufficient enough for the nascent Foundation to be recognized as Congregation. 
Included in that group of new members was Sr. Helena Martínez who lived a life of true holiness, esteemed by all who knew her.
From 1992, they were concerned about the future of the Foundation, so the Sisters decided then to merge with another Congregation for a conducive way to continue. By the time, the Abbot of Saint Benedict’s Abbey, Martín Elizalde OSB facilitated the contact with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Sorocaba in the 1994’s EMLA (Benedictine assembly for Latin America) in Brazil.

Sr. Ofelia Roggero was delegated to represent them in Sorocaba and met Mother Cecilia Torres, osb Prioress of Sorocaba, at that time, to express their desire to integrate to the Congregation of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing.
In 1994, after the General Chapter of the MBS decision, Sr. Assumpta Batistela, osb was sent as responsible for the process of incorporating the Benedictine Sisters of the Epiphany to the Benedictine missionary charism of the Sisters of Tutzing.
On the 6th of January, 1995, the five Benedictine Sisters of the Epiphany were officially integrated into the Congregation. They made their Perpetual Profession on the 10th of  February 1998. Sr. Assumpta Batistela,osb was the first superior and at the same time formation directress of the Argentinian community. Up to the present, the Region of Argentina is under the direction of the Sorocaba Priory, Brazil.
That is why this year we celebrate the 20 anniversary of our presence in Argentina!!
The mission grows, the Divine Providence is with us!
On the 6th of August 1998, a second community was established in Ucacha, Diocese of Córdoba, in response to the invitation by a family who requested assistance from the sisters for the people, and they donated a house to the community.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, the community could not remain in this place and closed after 3 years.
Then came a new opportunity to open a second mission in Los Toldos, Diocese of Nueve de Julio, province of Buenos Aires.
On the 20th of  March 2002, a group of sisters took charge of  the retreat house from the Sisters of the Holy Cross together with it is a farm and a small rural school.
 After opening this community, throughout the whole region, including the monastery, suffered a massive flood that lasted one year.
Nevertheless, from 2000 the Argentinian vocations began arriving. The communities in Argentina were always international with sometimes more than five nationalities together.
On the 29th of September 2004, the communities of Argentina became a Region under the Sorocaba Priory.
Our current evangelization in the Region

We assume varied activities in different services: our Guest House receives people who come to the Monastery seeking an encounter with the Lord or a time of rest and relaxation. Others come looking a place while performing other activities in the city.
The pension house for students is one of our source of income, and we also provide support and presence to many young people from the interior part of the country coming to Buenos Aires for study.
We are involved in a socio-pastoral work in a marginal district, in the town of Los Toldos in "Juan el Bueno" a project aiming for  an integral formation of  children  and  accompanying women for pastoral and social development of the area  through pastoral services, weaving, sewing, art work and  networking. In “Laferrere” vicinity, we assist a community in the formation of leaders.
We not only accompany our oblates for their formation but also to other groups giving bible workshops, Lectio Divina, Mission Group, etc.
We also visit sick children in the hospital, giving a word of encouragement to parents, praying and assisting them with things they need.
We provide assistance to homeless people.



Monday, May 4, 2015

Abby in the Abbey: Spring is Here!


Well everyone spring is really here!  I go outside several times a day and just enjoy the smells (especially the rabbits and squirrels but I’ll save that for another time).  This past week a new friend came up and played with me a while.  He is really a handsome guy and I loved running around in the courtyard with him, we had a great time! He is between homes because his family couldn’t keep him anymore.  Sad isn’t it?  But we dogs can live in the moment and keep hoping for better things to come. 
Speaking of better things, Sr. K says this is a special time of year for many people because lots of nice things happen like graduations, weddings, and family reunions. I (and the Sisters) hope everyone stays safe and has a wonderful time together.  There is something so great about getting together with those we love.  I love my Sisters here and couldn’t imagine living any place else.  I get all the treats I want and all the petting and love too.  It is the simple things that make me happy and I think for most people the simple pleasures are the best ones.  Just sitting outside in this nice weather and enjoying hearing the birds sing and the lovely flowers coming to life. Sr. K and I go for walks around the monastery every day and just soak up the beauty. Maybe I could invite all of my friends reading this to do the same. Take time to smell the roses (and other flowers) and soak up the wonder of it all!