Thursday, October 29, 2015

Abby in the Abbey: "Forever" Vows

Whew!  It has been a long time since I sat down to write something to everyone.  This past week-end I was sooo busy helping the Sisters because two of my bestest friends, Sr. Fidelis Marie and Sr. Madeleine made their “forever” vows.  That means they will stay here forever and gosh does that make me happy!  There were so many friends here and I tried hard not to bark and to be on my best behavior.  After all of this I just got to thinking….

How many people in this world can just say “yes” to doing something forever?  I think there is a word called “commitment” that people use.  I really don’t know what that means, but Sr. K says it means that when you say you’ll do something that you stick with it and don’t give up when things get hard.  That is something difficult for me to understand because us dogs just move on when things don’t work out for us.  For people it is different because they are supposed to know what commitment means. 

In the meantime as Sr. K says, “stay the course, keep your eyes on God and have faith that everything will work out” because God will never let any of us down.

Monday, October 19, 2015

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

In 1973 Peramiho Priory had already planted a little corn into Kenyan soil in the Kerio valley with Sr. Ruth Greubel, domestic teacher, and Sr. Margret Maria Arnold, nurse and midwife. They started the community of the Child Jesus in Chesongoch. We owe it to their missionary zeal, their courage, and loving perseverance that the community grew roots amidst the wild thorn bushes and an army of goats.
In 1976 the two sisters were called back to Peramiho and replaced by Sr. Wilgard Lumpp, cook (died at Karen in 2007 as the senior of our Priory); Sr. Heriberta Erhard, domestic teacher (by now retired in Haus St. Benedikt in Tutzing), and Sr. Maria Uhl, nurse and midwife (still in Nairobi-Ruaraka). Other sisters joined them during the next years for short periods.
In 1980 a second small seed was planted, this time in Nairobi with Sr. Irmtrud Wagner and Sr. Chantal Gerster (became then Regional Superior and followed as 2. Prioress). They prepared the ground for further expansion by learning the language, starting a garden and a convent building.
On February 10, 1981 the sisters’ convent at Nairobi-Ruaraka could be blessed as formation house by our late Card.  Otunga with Sr. Chantal as Regional Superior, Sr. Irmtrud, responsible for house and garden, Sr. Magdalena Eberhard, kindergarten teacher, and Sr. Ramira Uy,    physician. The community of Chesongoch was added and Nairobi became a region.
Nairobi finally came to birth as priory on February 10, 1987 at Karen with Sr. Christiane Spannheimer as first prioress. The communities in Ruaraka and Chesongoch became dependent houses. In the same year another community was added in Endo, which had already been mainly furnished by the Chesongoch community.
Since its beginning Ruaraka has grown enormously. The sisters run by now a Primary School with more than 1 000 students and a dormitory for about 300 children who mainly come from the nearby Mathare Valley. They also serve in a big dispensary with a maternity, which is constantly short of beds with daily about 15 deliveries. Also our student sisters find there a loving home.

In the Kerio valley the facilities were improved for present day needs: in Chesongoch was built in 2011 a small hospital with operating theatre and the kindergarten was extended. In Endo the Health Centre received more examination rooms and a maternity, which were blessed in 2015. The sisters also avail themselves for pastoral and social needs.

In the early years our sisters who worked in the Kerio valley were always welcome in the so-called “Procure” of the Benedictine Fathers in Eldoret. They were finally able to buy in the year 2000 2/3 of the land together with the former procure.
The house was remodeled, repaired and extended and in March 2003 the first convent with three sisters could canonically be erected. This convent serves the sisters of Chesongoch and Endo as home during their business visits in Eldoret and on their way to and from Nairobi. The sisters also take care of the sick in a nearby hospital, teach in a Secondary School, welcome retreatants and never missing guests, and have recently a hostel for students and young women studying or working in the town.

In 2007 in nearby Kimumu a piece of land was purchased. The sisters worked hard to build and establish the St. Gertrud Community. By now they already have a growing Primary School, which still is being built up to 8th grade. Their main concern in the school is peace building among the once warring tribes of this part of Kenya.

Also the Priory House in Karen could radiate its activities though having as its main task the formation of young women wanting to become Missionary Benedictine Sisters. These come not only from Kenya, but also from Uganda, Tanzania and of late the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The sisters established a retreat and guest house, they run a dispensary and train their young missionaries in taking care of nature in their vast garden and husbandry. The formandees also teach in a nearby school and respond to the many pastoral ad social needs of the area, like attending to the Small Christian Communities, taking care of needy students and old people.

In all our houses the sisters take care of the needy through pastoral care and social activities.

As already in the early not yet stabilized Church the followers of Christ went out to other countries, so also from our still young priory sisters went out and serve in the Generalate, Peramiho, Ndanda, Norfolk, Manila, Namibia and next in Olinda and Portugal.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Monica Backes, 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: Humphrey, NE
First Profession: Oct. 17th, 1960
Final Profession: Oct. 17th, 1963
Feast Day: August 27th
Mission Experience: 44 years as a Registered Nurse in Norfolk, Lynch, Wayne, NE and Graceville, MN

As I recall, my “vocation story” first began as an “Un-vocation Story” so to speak.  I remember the Franciscan sisters that taught us at St. Francis School in Humphrey to pray three Hail Marys for vocations.  I recall praying them very quickly and without too much devotion, not wanting such a calling for me!

At our mother’s encouragement, we six children always went to daily Mass.  I remember that in the winter we would use the lower level of the Church to save heating expenses, not having to heat the entire large Church. The Franciscan Friars would have the area priests and brothers make their annual retreat in Humphrey.  They would have Benediction each late afternoon and I recall the wonderful experience of the prayerful atmosphere, the singing, the incense, and the nearness of Jesus in the Eucharist in this small chapel.
We certainly were brought up in a very Catholic environment, due to the deep faith of our Parents, especially my mother. But it was not until I was a senior that I felt any inclination toward religious life.  One day in my senior year I was experiencing difficulty with a math problem and went to my Math teacher Sr. Dorothy.  In that encounter she asked if I ever considered religious life.  It was like a thunder bolt from above.  Though still very hesitant, I felt this was what God was calling me to.
Things moved quickly and by the end of my Senior Year I had my application in to enter the Franciscan Sisters of Colorado Springs in August.  Our local doctor encouraged me to work in Norfolk at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital the summer months before this, since I was also considering a nursing career.  It was at this time that God had other plans for me.  I was very much drawn to the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Norfolk, becoming acquainted with them through the hospital.  About six to eight weeks before I was to enter in Colorado Springs, I changed my mind and entered the Missionary Benedictines in late August.
My life as a Missionary Benedictine Sister has not been without its struggles, but I have always know that it was definitely the life for me. I love the Benedictine Spirituality of prayer and work and the accent on community life.  I value very much the time we are encouraged to give to the Lord in prayer – the Divine Office, Mass, Lectio and private prayer.  The “work” part of this life has also been very satisfying for me.  I worked as a Registered Nurse for 44 years in four different hospitals, operated by we, Missionary Benedictine Sisters.  This was a very rewarding profession for me.

What advice would I give to women discerning their vocation?
I guess, looking at my own calling, I would say: If God wants it for you, He will somehow let it be known.  And listening to other sisters “Vocation Stories” this can happen in so many diverse ways that only God could come up with them!  It is a leap, saying YES and taking the first step.  But our Loving God is there as our strong support.