Monday, June 22, 2015

Abby in the Abbey: New Resolution

It’s about time I get another note out to everyone!  Time just flies around the Monastery these days!  The Sisters are busy getting ready for their special day called “Dessert with the Sisters”, and I for sure know what DESSERT means!  I’m one of those dogs that loves to eat so whenever something happens that involves food I’m really excited.  Sr. K says that the Sisters are hoping that lots of people come and visit with them and they will have plenty of delicious desserts too!  It is on June 28th from 2-5 p.m. here at the Monastery. 
I heard from Sr. K that there are poor people all over the world, but the people in a place called Angola really, really need our help.  Part of the big day will be something called a “silent auction” and I just went with Sr. K to a special room where she is collecting all kinds of wonderful things for the auction.  Lots of them were made by the Sisters so they can help the poor people with their talents.  I checked it all out and was so happy to see everything.  Gosh, so many people want to help and have been real generous.

I get worried sometimes about all of the bad things that happen and then I just have to bark about it to get out my frustrations!  When I see how nice people can be though I really feel good and then I calm down.  My new resolution is to try and see only the good stuff that happens and not focus on things I can’t do anything about.  I think I’ll still have a problem with barking but maybe it will help me think about it first? 

Until next time…have a beautiful summer and relax!

Monday, June 8, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Manila 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.

A little bit over a hundred years ago, five young, adventurous women left their monastery in Tutzing, Germany. They sailed to the Far East - to a strange land they had never seen nor heard. They sailed in mid-August 1906 and arrived in Manila, on September 14, feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. From the harbor, they were led through a fishermen’s district along Moriones street in Tondo. Their first house consisted of three rooms. The pioneers were Sisters Ferdinanda Hoelzer, Winfrieda Mueller, Cresencia Veser, Petronila Keller and Novice Alexia Reudenauer. The prioress general of Tutzing Mother Birgitta Korff, OSB had received an urgent appeal from the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Dom Ambrosius Agius, OSB to please send some of her Sisters to the Philippines, soon! “Hundreds of thousands of children grow up without any instruction, “he wrote,” and thousands upon thousands must die without the sacraments.” Catholic schools were needed to remedy the religious ignorance among the population due to the lack of priests. The American government imposed separation of Church and State, and forbade the teaching of religion in the public schools.

At the turn of the century from 1880 to 1906, the Church in the Philippines was in a crisis. Spain which had colonized the Philippines for 300 years (since 1521), was engaged in a war against the United States (an emerging power in the West). In 1898 Spain lost in the war. During the Treaty of Paris Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. The United States in turn paid Spain $ 20,000. Spanish priests and religious left the country in large numbers. The Church faced a vacuum with only a few Filipino priests and Spanish friars. Within three months - December 3, 1906 - the sisters established a small school with 6 girls and 2 boys, who could afford to pay some fees. With the small amount of money they earned, they started a free school with 50 boys and girls from the neighbourhood. The school was later called St. Scholastica’s College. The missionary Benedictine pioneers had just one purpose: to spread faith in Jesus Christ.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese made their triumphal entry to Manila. St. Scholastica’s College was sealed as “property of the Japanese Imperial Forces.” Parts of the school were converted into a hospital. Sisters opened the school gates to welcome people who sought refuge in the concrete buildings of the school. Thus, St. Scholastica became the sanctuary for people suffering from the terrors of war. But on the fateful day of February 13, 1945, an incendiary bomb set St. Cecilia’s Conservatory of Music on fire. The other buildings followed, and razed to the ground. St. Scholastica’s buildings were all gone. But by God’s grace, all the Sisters in the campus were spared.

The Sisters who lived amidst the ruin of St. Scholastica’s had their vision of the buildings once more rising from the debris and prayed for the further fulfilment of their missionary dream.

More schools were founded. Tutzing sent more sisters to the Philippines. Local vocations began to grow and flourish. Perhaps this was mainly due to the pioneers’ Christian example and the way they did their service with great determination and unflagging devotion. They were missionary Benedictines who put emphasis on choir prayer, lectio divina, communal life and communal apostolate.

St. Scholastica’s College has become particularly well-known for its Music Education and Women’s Studies. The Conservatory has educated many pianists and music teachers, and continues to extend scholarship programs for poor but talented students. It has established a niche in the cultural history of Manila and continues to be active in the region’s cultural events. St. Scholastica’s College is considered a pioneer in Women’s Studies, not only in the Philippines but in Asia. The program engages in women’s advocacy, and offers courses in eco-feminism, women and spirituality, women and development, gender-fair education and lately, gender studies for men.

Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) plowed across the cluster of islands in the heart of our country. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in the world in recorded history. It leveled entire villages, and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing. It displaced more than 4 million people, and damaged more than one million homes and buildings, including our two colleges, one hospital, and a retreat / seminar house in Ormoc,Tacloban and Alang-Alang . Ravaged were: St. Scholastica’s College, Tacloban; Divine Word Hospital, Tacloban; St. Peter’s Colege, Ormoc; and Alang-Alang Retreat/Seminar House.

DECEMBER 2014. Mother Adelaida Ygrubay, OSB, subprioress Sister Lydia Villegas, OSB and the rest of the community transferred to the new Priory House located at the serene cool place of Tagaytay. The Manila Priory as of 2015 is composed of 170 Sisters in twenty communities. We serve in 10 schools, 2 immersion communities, 2 hospitals, 3 retreat/seminar centers, 2 retirement homes, and 1 formation house.

Pope Francis reminds us: “Jesus teaches us to put the needs of the poor ahead of our own.” While we give priority to the materially poor, as Jesus did, we take to heart also the sufferings of the victims of other forms of poverty. Such works today include - intensifying our work for women, ecology and family evangelization; training for new ministries to help victims of child abuse, dysfunctional families and AIDS; venturing into concrete work for farmers like promotion of sustainable agriculture, facilitating land security and acquisition, reforestation and preservation of watershed to ensure continuous water supply and soil conservation for food production.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Kevin Hermsen, 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.)

                                               Born: Rapid City, South Dakota
                                               First profession:  April 15, 1974
                                               Final Profession:  December 12, 1977
                                              Mission experience:  Norfolk Priory
                                                     (Spent 6 months in the Philippines preparing
                                                      for final profession)
I really did not think much about a religious vocation in high school, but God had other ideas!  After completing training as a radiologic technologist I began working at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Norfolk.  Again, I had originally planned to get more training as a nuclear medicine technologist, but due to the politics of the time I did not get a scholarship so I had to get a job!

I couldn’t find a decent apartment and after a lot of searching the Sisters offered me a small apartment in the old hospital building.  Very nice because it was close to the hospital and inexpensive.  This brought me into closer contact with the Sisters because they were my landlords and I worked with them every day at the hospital!  I met several of the younger Sisters who asked me if I had ever considered religious life.  I immediately said “that isn’t for me!”  But the seed started growing in me.  I decided to re-locate to get distance and to think about a vocation more seriously.  I joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and was sent to Montana to develop immunization clinics for under five children.  After that I decided to come back to Norfolk and enter the community to give it a try.  So, why did I become a Sister?  Because God threw out the net and I was caught up in it, but in the end I didn’t want to escape it either, because I truly felt the call.

My most rewarding experience as a Missionary Benedictine Sister was having a part in saving the life of a man while I was working at Providence Medical Center in Wayne.  Of course, in my more than 30 years as a radiologic technologist there were several times when I was part of the team, but in this instance the man came to the emergency room in excruciating pain.  I happened that I knew the person….the physician ordered some x-rays before coming to see him from the clinic.  Because by that time I had quite a lot of experience in looking at x-rays I could see immediately that he had a life threatening emergency condition.  I immediately called the physician who came running and after evaluating what I had seen decided to send him by life flight for emergency care.  The man survived! 

Challenges?  Of course.  In 2001 I was called to leadership in my community as Prioress and served for 8 years.  There is no school to teach you how to handle certain situations, you learn by doing!  The two major challenges were when I was tasked with leading our community in divesting ourselves of healthcare ownership.  At the time we owned and operated three acute care hospitals and two nursing homes.  By 2010 the task was pretty much completed except for one final transaction.  In 2006 we decided to renovate our monastery.  This was a huge task!  We had to move the community to an apartment building for two years and put all of our belongings into storage.  Then in 2009 after completion of the project we moved back.  It was a learning process for all of us, but keeping all of the balls in the air at one time was quite a challenge because the projects….hospital divestment, construction, relocation etc. were going on simultaneously.  I hope I dealt with them gracefully, but there was a lot of stress.  I just tried to go one day at a time with things.

To those discerning…. don’t be afraid!   The whole novitiate is a time of discernment.  There is no shame in trying religious life if you feel called!   Perhaps after being in community you would think “well this certainly isn’t for me!”, or on the other hand think “Yes! This is where I fit”.  God calls everyone to a vocation of some sort.