Friday, August 14, 2014
Saint John's University
I spent one of my last days in MN at Saint John's Abbey and University. There is a shuttle between the two campuses which operates regularly during the academic year, but only a few times a day during the summer.
After lunch with my friend, Fr. Mel Taylor from my Bahamas days, I visited at Liturgical Press and spent some time lakeside.
After a visit to the Pottery Studio I took what turned out to be a long route back to the shuttle stop--down a winding path, across one of the other lakes via footbridge and through the fields and back to a road. It was a long walk on one of only three 90-degree days here this summer. It was one of my last days, though and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to experience something of the "other" SJU.
The two pictures illustrate well the beautiful, tranquil summer I have had here in central Minnesota. What a blessing!
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
I returned to Studium on July 15, 2015 and plan to be here until August 17, 2015 working on an article about Fr. H. A. Reinhold's contributions to the Church in Worship, the premier liturgical journal in the United States.
Compared with my visit here in the Winter of 2013, the countryside is a lush green instead of a frozen snow-covered tundra. What a blessing!
Yesterday I visited a wonderful exhibit at the Monastery's Haehn Museum entitled Church, Community, Creativity: Testimony of Courage and Hope through the Prism of Latin American Women. The exhibit features the work of the Benedictine sisters from this monastery who worked in Brazil and Chile, but the centerpiece is a collection of creative textiles (cuadros) from art cooperatives in Peru developed by Rebecca Berru Davis, PhD. I was so moved by the women's stories and work that I know I will return to see the exhibit again and again before I leave.
Cuadros, illustrated to the left, are hand-appliqued and embroidered textile scenes. Here you can see the individual pieces before they are appliqued. For this exhibit Prof. Davis invited the women to express their hopes and dreams.
Julia, one of the artists, was so grateful to be invited to stitch her dream of travel with her family to help other people in need. "I had never thought of sharing my dream with anyone," she said, "because no one ever asked us about our dreams." Her cuadro to the right shows how she and her family would leave in a car and travel into the jungle.
Other artists' dreams were to have a home of their own--large enough to house their extended families. One wanted for her father to have a successful store. Their dreams were beautiful and their artwork magnificent. Can you imagine never thinking it appropriate to tell anyone your dreams? In the exhibit I discovered a new kind poverty as well as a new form of beauty.
Thursday, 23 August 2013
Aboard the Celebration Constellation
Somewhere in the North Sea
Here I am back in the ship's iLounge to use up the rest of my minutes by working on the blog. There are so many wonderful memories and great pictures that I want to share them all, but I know that is just not possible.
After a day at sea, we arrived in Warnemunde, Germany, on Wednesday 14 August and took an excursion to Rostock, what I could best describe as a University town. The University itself dates back to 1419 when it began with 160 tudents and 4 faculty members.
Our guide told us a good deal about the town's history and architecture, emphasizing how different things were in the Soviet era, which became a theme for the week we discovered.
After another day at sea, we sailed into Stockholm, Sweden early on Friday, 16 August. I got up extra early to enjoy the sail through the archipelago in which Stockholm is located. It was just gorgeous!
Grace and I had opted for an iPod tour of the city. Once disembarked we were given iPods, maps and taken by shuttle bus to Old Town, Gamla Stan, where we set off at our own pace to explore Stockholm's 14 islands. It is called the "Venice of the North" with good reason.
We began at the King's Garden and stopped at St. Jacob's Church, which wasn't open. At Gustaf Adolf's Square there is a Dance Museum that I would have liked to see or at least learn more about.
Views of the Royal Palace were spectacular and even though we didn't take the best tour advertised, we did walk all around the palace in our travels.
I liked the House of Nobility and took serveral pictures there especially of the medallion "Art and Discipline," in Latin of course, above the door.
Nearby was the Riddarholmen Church (so named because it is on that island) where the Swedish Kings are buried.
After lunch we visited St. Nicholas Church, also known as the Stockholm Cathedral. While most people are attracted by the HUGE, very well preserved 15th century sculptural ensemble of St. George slaying the dragon, probably by Berndt Notke of Lubeck, I was more taken with two other pieces in the back of the church: the ship--ever present in Scandanavian churches as a reminder to pray for those who make their living on the sea; and the candle globe--a prayer globe for the world by the artist Torolf Engstrom.
We sailed overnight and arrived in Tallinn, Estonia on Saturday, 17 August.
I was surprised to fall so in love with this well-preserved medieval city and its resilient people. Our tour guide was wonderful and gave us good insight into the history of Tallinn and life there in the Soviet era.
Our first tour was by bus and we stopped at the Song Festival Grounds where 30,000 singers from all over the country appear every 5 years in costume singing a capella. We were not able to tour the grounds because they were preparing for their Independence Day [20 August 1991] Concert.
Nearby we saw the ruins of St. Bridget's Convent, founded from Sweden by the Bridgetine order in 1407 and home to both monks and nuns from noble families. A decade after Estonia became independent. the community returned and built a new convent.
We saw the tower of the fortress in the oldest part of the city with the Estonian flag flying above it, as we began our walk through the city.
The upper part of the town was home to the nobles. There we visited Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and also got some fine views of the merchants' village below.
We had lunch near the town square and then enjoyed an early music concert on period instruments at Holy Cross Church. It was a lovely production with good explanations of the instruments and music.
While we waited for our group to reassemble, we noticed that restaurants provide blankets for customers who eat outdoors.
After another overnight voyage, we arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a 2-day visit, the highlight of which was a visit to the famed Hermitage, Winter Palace of the emperors.
The length of time it took for the ship to be cleared and for us to get through immigration was a reminder that we weren't in Kansas any longer.
Instead of taking one of the ship's tours, upon the recommendation of friends we had made resevations with a private tour company, Alla Tours. They met us at the terminal and we set off with a dozen other people from the ship on our excursion through St. Petersburg.
Founded in 1705, St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia from 1712 to 1918. Apart from the colorful domes of its churches and palaces, its predominant color is gray and the buildings are in great disrepair.
It was a sunny 78 degrees for our visit--a real gift since they have only 40-50 sunny days per year.
Peter the Great was enamored with Amsterdam, so he modeled this city after it, digging canals, many of which were filled in after his death.
The first day we took a short boat ride through the canals and out into the river before arriving at the Hermitage for a 2 hour tour of its highlights and a visit to the Church of the Spilled Blood (or Resurrection), pictured to the right.
After lunch we visited the market and took a short subway ride before arriving at the hydrofoil dock. The subways are gleaming with marble and mosaics--the oldest line as well as the newest. They go deep, deep underground--twice as deep as London's I would say.
The hydrofoil took us to Peterhof where we saw Peter the Great's Palace only from the outside, but enjoyed a pleasant walk through his extensive gardens before heading back to town by bus.
The next day (Monday, 19 August) our experience at Immigration was easier and our tour guide was at the Terminal to meet us again.
Because the Church at the Fortress of St. Peter and Paul was closed until 11 a.m. for a service (Feast of the Transfiguration, which is a major feast in the Russian Orthodox Church), we first visited St. Isaac of Dalmatia Church. It was stunningly beautiful with exquisite mosaics and marble.
From there we returned to the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul where the Romanovs are buried. It is less interesting artistically, but is more historically significant. To the left you see the tombs of Catherine and Peter the Great. Nicholas, Alexandra and their children are buried in a separate chapel.
At the Yusupov Palace there was a wonderful exhibition of Gregory Rasputin that was both interesting and well organized.
We were given a bag lunch to eat on the bus as we drove to Tsars Village and a tour of the magificent Catherine Palace there, both immense and amazing. In order to tour it, however, we were required to put brown paper booties over our shoes.
One room was more magnificent than the other, although little in the building was genuine--most were copies. This room with portraits of Nicholas and Alexandra interested me, although it was surely one of the most modest rooms.
The highlight was a room made completely of amber, reported to have cost the equivalent of $6 million dollars to decorate. It is the one room in the palace where we were not permitted to take photographs
Overnight the ship sailed to Helsinki, which we toured ourselves on Tuesday, 20 August. Because I had visited there in 1997, I had a sense of what we could see in our few hours there.
The ship ran a shuttle into town and we walked to Uspenski (Orthodox) Cathedral first on a very foggy morning. By the time we had visited it, the sun had broken through so our visit to the extensive Helsinki Market, Senate Square and Cathedral were in the blazing sun.
After seeing the icon-dense Orthodox Cathedral, the Lutheran Helsinki Cathedral (which is in the distance in the picture above) is stark by contrast. Statues of the twelve apostles standing on its eaves, however, was most interesting.
We had lunch at a cafe along the beautiful Esplanade and wandered back to the shuttle in time to catch the ship.
The following day (Wednesday) was spent at sea and we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark early on Thursday, 22 August. A few hours was not enough time to see this lovely city. We had signed up for a ship tour of "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" that I'm sure I have been singing about all my life. The tour enabled us to see the city by land (via bus) and sea (via canal boat).
Denmark is home to 5.5 million people spread over 407 islands. Copenhagen welcomes 350-400 cruise ships between May and September. Its narrow historic streets, however, are definitely NOT made for tour buses.
We spent most of our time in Tivoli Garden, which dates back to 1843 and is said to be the progenitor of Disneyland. It is smaller in scale, though, and both more peaceful and more elegant.
After our visit there we walked though the city streets to the dock where we boarded the canal boat which took us through the city's canals and deposited us back at the ship's dock.
From there it was back to Amsterdam and the flight back to JFK.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Aboard Celebrity Constellation
Somewhere in the North Sea
I am in the ship's iLounge, where internet access is very pricey and limited, so I will be making very sketchy entries here and will add photos and links once I get home. The MACs here will also take some getting used to.
I left Wurzburg by train on Saturday morning, headed for Frankfurt and a flight to Amsterdam. Grace met me there at Andaz Amsterdam Princengracht, a lovely hotel in the Hyatt chain, but designer-inspired in many ways. We enjoyed a delicious dinner there.
The next morning we set out for our day of touring, beginning with the morning worship service at Westerkerk, not far from the hotel. It was a word service led exclusively by the woman minister in Dutch. Apart from taking up the collection, no one else had a role. With the Glo Bible app on my iPhone I was able to follow the readings, but other than that I was alone with my thoughts, prayers and enjoyment of the architecture.
We toured the Anne Frank House, just a few doors away and that was a more spiritually charged experience. There were long lines of people waiting for the tour, but Grace had booked our tickets online from home, so we could enter directly. If you click on the link above, you can tour a 3-D version of the house and benefit from the museum online.
There is a scale model reconstruction in the museum section, but none of the rooms in the hidden portion have been altered at all. Their emptiness is profound, and most people are silent as they climb the ladder-like stair cases and walk through the small rooms. The impact of one life is amazing!
From there we walked to the museum section of the city for our reservation at the Van Gogh Museum. Besides purchasing the tickets online, Grace had also booked audio tours for us, so our time at the museum was very profitable. However, that did not prefent us from being aghast and the number of people who just snap away at the pictures with their iPhones and iPads barely pausing to look at the REAL thing. It's another world!
After another delicious dinner at the hotel we packed up and prepared for an early-getaway the next day.
Our ship left port at 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon and early Wednesday morning we will arrive at Warnemunde, Germany, where we have booked a tour of Rostock, but more about that when we get there.
Saturday, 10 August 2013
The first challenge of using the hotel's business is the German keyboard. There is a different arrangement of the letters. with some additions and subtractions. Automatic pilot just won't work! The directions are all in German and mine isn't sophisticated to understand the computer codes.
The Congress ends this afternoon, but I just miss the closing to catch my flight to Amsterdam. It has been a wonderful meeting, however, and I enjoyed being with old friends, exchanging new ideas, traveling together and planning the future or at least our little corner of it.
Würzburg is a very interesting city. It was completely destroyed during World War II--a payback, they say, for the bombing of Coventry, England. As a result the city was completely rebuilt making it clean and modern. Because it is a university town, it also has a youthful energy that makes it very appealing.
A highlight for me was our trip on Thursday to Schwanberg where we celebrated our Congress Eucharist with the community at Casteller Ring--a religious community of women in the Lutheran Church.
Our tour of Volcach was also very interesting. We had lunch at various restaurants in the town and together visited St. Mary of the Vineyard church pictured here. The vineyards are traditionally tended by unmarried women--not nuns, but they seem to live as consecrated virigins.
It was a wonderful meeting. All the talks were excellent, although I was sorry to miss the last morning's presentation on architecture. However, the Baltic Sea Cruise calls.....
04 August 2013
St. Mary of the Angels Convent
After almost a month at home, except for a too brief 5-day retreat at Glastonbury Abbey, I am ready to set off on the summer's last adventure.
I leave tonight for the Societas Liturgica Congress in Wurzburg, Germany. Societas is an international ecumenical organization of scholars in liturgical studies. We meet every two years in a different part of the world. This year's theme is "Liturgical Reforms in the Churches," and I will be giving a paper summarizing and analyzing my experiences with the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.
After the Congress I will fly to Amsterdam and meet up with Sister Grace Agate, and together we will take a 12-day Baltic Sea cruise visiting some amazing world capitals.
Since I will not be taking my laptop with me, I don't know how blogging along the way will go. I will be relying on business centers. If you were traveling with me in Australia you might remember how challenging it was for me to post in some locations. Already I can see that adding pictures will be a problem, so I might need to fill those in later.
Monday, 01 July 2013
St. John's University
Home! Back to work! How quickly the year went. They do say that time flies when you're having fun, and that I did have as you know if you have been following this blog.
The conclusion of the "Watering Our Roots at the Wellspring of Mercy" program was beautiful. As I mentioned previously, we spent Friday afternoon reflecting and sharing on the month's experience, concluding on Saturday morning with a ritual around the rill, which is pictured at the right.
The well is at the top and when the convent was restored and renovated in 1994 sisters came from all over the world for the dedication ceremony and brought water from their countries to add to the rill. Since then it has been symbolic of our common mission and its source.
After we concluded our sharing, the entire group processed slowly down the stairwell and out into the courtyard, circling the rill three times before concluding with prayer. After morning tea, I said good-bye to everyone and headed off to the airport and the long trip home.
I am sure that I will be processing it all for months if not years to come. It was such a privilege to live for a whole month in our ancestral home and to become a community with Sisters of Mercy from around the world. If you have been traveling along with me all year, you know I set out on a Global Mercy Learning Journey. It could not have had a more perfect ending than the program at Mercy International Centre.
Now it is time to head back into full-time ministry at the University, refreshed and surely changed forever by the year's experience.
Thursday 27 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
Here I am already at the end of the renewal program. How can that be? This week I have been taking time to accomplish all the items on my MUST DO list. As is often the case nothing is quite as simple as it might seem.
I wanted to get a copy of my grandfather's birth certificate. Because he was born in Ireland, my generation in the family is eligible to have Irish citizenship by descent. Fortunately I know exactly when he was born, so my first trip on Monday was to the National Library to use their databases. That told me the volume and page number on which I could find his birth recorded, but for that I would have to go to another office in another part of town. That was Tuesday's task. At that office, for one fee (2E) you can have access to 5 consecutive volumes of the index. With that information, for another fee (4E) they will print a copy of the birth register for you. However, that's not an official birth certificate. For that one needs to go to another office, in another part of town, and for another fee (20E) you can have an official birth certificate. That was yesterday's task, so I now have Papa Jimmy's birth certificate in case I do decide to apply for Irish Citizenship by descent.
On my way back home from another errand today, I stopped in to the Trinity College Library Shop. It was graduation day! I was both surprised and delighted. It was raining, but a soft rain which didn't seem to be bothering anyone as you can see from this photo. The hoods from the various units were all different colors, which surprised me.
Tomorrow is the last day of the program and it will be more of a retreat day for us, so I expect that my next entry will be from back home in Syosset.
Monday, 24 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
It was a fantastic weekend!
I left MIC at 6:30 Saturday morning and headed to the airport for a 9am flight to Birmingham, England. It was an easy flight, and by 11am I was in the dining room at our convent in Handsworth (a Birmingham suburb) enjoying a cup of morning tea.
This was the last foundation Catherine McAuley made before her death in 1841 just 6 weeks after she returned home. Although Handsworth was the 2nd foundation in England, the original convent of the other foundation in Bermondsey (London) was destroyed during World War II.
Both convents were designed by the renowned architect Augustus Pugin whose designs of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are better known than those of our convents. He was the subject of a recent BBC program, "God's Architect." Divided into 4 videos, you can view it via YouTube by clicking here. Pugin is the young chap on the right in this stained glass piece. The other gentlemen are the Earl of Shrewsbury and John Hardman, who provided the land and the funds for building the convent.
Pugin, a convert to Catholicism, thought that society could be saved from moral decay through architecture. His neo-Gothic designs hearken back to a time when society stood on solid moral ground as opposed to the facade of his own era.
The convent is beautiful, and although some of it was damaged in the bombings of World War II, it has been repaired and more recently restored to serve as a Heritage Centre for the congregation.
It is so difficult to decide which of my many pictures to include here. Interior? Exterior? Every corner seemed to hold something of interest for me. The exterior views certainly show the character of the building, and I was intrigued by all the crosses imbeded in the bricks.
Although the chapel looks as it did when Catherine prayed there in 1841, apart from the contemporary furnishings, that is, since this has always been an active convent much of the rest of the house has been altered to suit the purpose of the era. No, that is not a rug you see on the floor. They are tiles. Although I am not sure those are the original Minton tiles, I did find original tiles elsewhere in the building.
The sisters were very generous in sharing archival materials with me as well so I have enough resources to keep me occupied for a long while.
Friday, 21 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
Week 3 with its specific focus on Catherine McAuley is now history, but I don't think that I am ready yet to let go of it as a focus of study or interest. As I often say about life, my question pile is growing taller than my answer pile. That is certainly true about our Mercy heritage after this week.
I am very happy that I still have another week to live here in our ancestral home, have access to its library and heritage center, and investigate the archives as well. It is still a treasure trove for me even though our attention will turn to the Mystics during the coming week.
On Thursday morning we walked over to St. Teresa Church on Clarendon Street where I went to Mass the first Sunday I was in Dublin. Thirteen Sisters of Mercy are buried in the crypt there. All died before November 11, 1841 when Catherine McAuley died. She was the first Sister to be buried here at the Motherhouse. The first member of the community died unexpectedly when Catherine was completing her Novitiate with the Presentation Sisters at Georges Hill. The Carmelite fathers, close friends of the Sisters of Mercy, were just building their church at that time and offered space in the church crypt for the sisters to be buried. They are buried beneath the main altar. We honored the memory of each sister by telling her story and then processing through the crypt singing the Salve Regina. It was a very moving experience.
That afternoon we honored Catherine McAuley's memory in the room where she died, reading from the history about what took place at that time. Then we processed through the building and out to the cemetery and each placed a candle on her grave as the house bell tolled.
Today we concluded our week by moving beyond Catherine McAuley into the world where her daughters continue to serve the poor, sick and ignorant in so many ways. Each of us told the founding stories of our communities briefly. Although Jeanne and I attempted to give some flavor to the American foundations, the story of foundations to the Americas is best presented in a video which was produced for the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the 1st foundation in the United States in Pittsburgh. You can view the video by clicking here.
I had the privilege of giving the homily at our Liturgy today. It is attached here if you would like to read it.
Tomorrow I fly to Birmingham, England, to visit our Heritage Centre there.
Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
We have Wednesday afternoons "off" and I spent the afternoon with Cara McMahon (SJU alum and friend of my San Diego family), who is visiting her relatives here in Dublin. Cara drove me to Howth, 11km north of the city. Spectacular, isn't it?
Actually we had been near there on Monday afternoon when we visited Coolock House, the estate where Catherine McAuley lived for close to 20 years and inherited from the Callaghans when they died. She eventually sold the property and used the proceeds, which would amount to 1 million dollars, it is said, by today's standards, to build the House of Mercy to serve the poor in the heart of fashionable Georgian Dublin. I was surprised to find a brief video online which desribes the house. Click here to view it.
Yesterday we went on a walking tour of Catherine's Dublin, visiting the various places where we know or suspect she and her family lived. In most cases although the exact building is no longer there, one nearby is still intact to give us a sense of how it looked. Before his death when she was a young child, Catherine's father owned a building on this block. The one pictured here is the only one remaining from that era.
The last stop on our tour yesterday was the former Presentation Convent in Georges Hill where Catherine made her novitiate. In a lovely ritual we each renewed our vows and placed our rings on the altar along with Catherine's. Hands down that was one of the most moving moments of this renewal program.
This morning we had another moving experience when we visited the crypt at St. Teresa's Church off Grafton Street, where the first 13 Sisters of Mercy are interred. Their graves lie directly under the main altar in the church, and although I still have a lot to learn about the building of the church and how it happened that the sisters were buried there, the visit was beautiful and we processed through the space singing the Salve Regina, traditionally sung when a sister dies.
Sunday, 16 June 2013 (Bloomsday!)
Mercy International Centre
Road trip! When Mary Kay hits the road she means business. We logged many miles and saw lots of sights, all in one day.
With Mary Kay at the wheel, Jeanne, Pat and I left Dublin early Saturday morning and headed west toward Limerick before turning south. Our first stop was Cashel in County Tipperary. For a complete account and sunnier pictures of Cashel, click here. The video is great!
Although it was a lovely morning in Dublin, by the time we got to Cashel it was feeling much more like winter. Jeanne had donned a hat and the others were wishing they had brought gloves. After touring the Rock, we stopped in the town for lunch before heading further south to Cobh (pronounced "cove").
Cobh, known as Queenstown during the era of British ascendancy from 1850 to 1920, was the single most important port of emigration from Ireland from 1848-1950. 2.5 million of the 6 million left from there, heading to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, or Africa. We visited the Heritage Center there and for the first time I began to wonder if my ancestors left from that port as well.
After several decades of lean times as few as 4 ships per year left from Cobh, it now has new life thanks to the cruise industry. The Carribean Princess was in port on Saturday afternoon. It is HUGE! Most of its more than 3,000 passengers probably opted for the excursion to Blarney Castle, but many swelled the town.
We next drove to and through Cork without stopping for more than a series of red lights and soon were on our way to Waterford where we stopped for a pub dinner before driving back to Dublin. No one can quite believe that we made that circuit in a single day, but I assure you we did.
The same crew set off again for Sunday Mass at Orlagh, home to the Irish Augustinians. It was about a 20-minute drive from Dublin City, which you can see off in the distance in the photo. Orlagh is a large property which serves primarily as a retreat center today although it was once the Augustinian novitiate. In better weather I'm sure it is most magnificent.
Liturgy there was more contemplative and participative than I have ever experienced before. It was nourishing, inspiring and uplifting. We stayed for tea and coffee afterwards and were able to visit a bit with the Augustinians.
We stopped for lunch on the way back to MIC and were safe at home before the heavy rains began.
Now on to Week #3 of the program.....
Friday, 14 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
We have come to the end of Week 2 in the "Watering the Roots at the Wellspring of Mercy" program, and an amazing week it was. Veronica Lawson, RSM, from Australia is a wonderful scripture scholar and a fantastic presenter. It all ended much too soon, but Veronica has left us with tools and resources for a lifetime. To read a wonderful presentation she gave at the 2011 Institute (Australia/Papua New Guinea) Chapter, click here.
Wednesday evening most of us went to see The Lion King at Bord Gais Energy Theatre. A relatively new theatre (2010), designed by Daniel Liebeskind, it seats over 2,000 people. Although I had seen the production in New York in the late 1990s, the staging is still awesome, and I appreciated the little bits of Irish humor that were interjected along the way. The cast came from all over the British empire as well as from the Republic of Ireland, and I'm so glad we had the opportunity to see it together.
Many of the sisters are traveling this weekend, and I will be making another day-trip with three other sisters tomorrow. An adventure!
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
It was inevitable that rain would arrive, but at least it gives me an opportunity to catch up on my blogging. As long as the SUN was out I wanted to make the most of it.
Weekends are free during the program, and Saturday 11 of us set off for County Wicklow and Glendalough on a small (24 seat) bus. It was a lovely trip, and although thousands of others had the same idea that day, Glendalough is spacious enough for everyone to find his or her own space. Although I had been there before, I always did the driving so this was my first chance to thoroughly enjoy the beautiful countryside myself.
Glendalough, also known as "the valley of the two lakes," is an early monastic settlement that has drawn people for many centuries. St. Kevin made a monastic settlement there in the 6th Century. Although much of it is in ruins today, the round tower, pictured to the right, which is now often synonymous with Glendalough, remains completely intact.
On Sunday, after attending Mass at St. Teresa's in Clarendon Street, where the first Sisters of Mercy are buried, I took a short trip on the River Liffey. It wasn't as refreshing and relaxing as I expected because the passenger compartment of the boat was enclosed. Probably few days are as sunny as Sunday was, so it is wise for the boats to be enclosed, but that made for a hot and stuffy ride.
After a bit of lunch I boarded one of those "hop on, hop off" Dublin buses to get an overview of the city. Yesterday, since the sun was still shining, I continued the tour during our afternoon break. I didn't do very much hopping off because the time was short, but at least it gave me the idea for other parts of the city to investigate during the coming weeks.
Friday, 07 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
The first week of the program has ended and we have had 5 consecutive days of SUN here in Dublin. I don't know which is more unbelievable.
The schedule is quite humane. Breakfast is at 8:30 a.m. and we have 2 sessions in the morning along with a break for morning tea at 10:40 a.m.. Mass is at 12:30 p.m. followed by dinner. Most days we have then been free until 4:15 p.m. when we meet for another session. I've divided that time up between going for a long walk and reading in my "Harry Potter" room. At 5:30 p.m. we gather for contemplative prayer, followed by evening tea (aka supper) and then we're free for the evening.
Harry Potter room? Technically I suppose mine is a reverse Harry Potter room. Instead of being under a staircase, my tiny elbow-shaped room is at the top of a staircase all by itself. I kind of like being hidden away in this cozy space.
Although I have been exploring the neighborhood on my walks, I have taken a real liking to St. Stephen's Green, a public park pictured above and to the right, which is just a few blocks away from Mercy International Centre. Like James Joyce, whose bust is to the right, in the end I will probably be regarding St. Stephen's as "my green" as well. It is a very spacious, open park with lots of walkways, and even a small lake with ducks and swans swimming around. Although it is minute compared to Central Park in New York City, from inside the park one still feels as though the city's busy-ness is far, far away.
Natives tell us that the season here is about 6 weeks behind so that we are now being treated to the best of their spring flowers. The park is definitely beautiful, and because of the sunny weather everyone seems to be in a cheery mood. I could get used to this.
We have the weekend free from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening. Tomorrow a group of us is taking advantage of the good weather and taking a bus tour down to Glendalough in County Wicklow. Although I have been there a few times before, I never tire of the beauty and tranquility of that hallowed space.
Monday, 03 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
Although the program officially began last night with opening prayer in the room where Catherine McAuley died, today was our first full day. S. Marie Chin, RSM, a former President of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas is this week's presenter. Her focus is "Religious Life: A Deep-Down Impuse to Care and Make Creation Whole." There were two sessions this morning and we will have one more this afternoon.
Catherine McAuley is ever present in this house. As I walk the beautiful wood staircase in the footsteps of so many other Sisters of Mercy, her grave is just outside the window in the courtyard. She seems to be watching over us all.
In addition to being the Feast of St. Kevin, today is also a bank holiday in Ireland and date for the women's Flora Mini-marathon (10K). Click here to read more about what they claim is the largest women's event of its kind in the world.
During our afternoon break I walked up to Fitzwilliam Square where the marathon began at 2pm and I walked alongside the marathoners for as long as it was safe. I didn't want to get trampled on my first day here. It took 34 minutes for all the runners to begin and just a quick glimpse at all their t-shirts showed that they were running for at least 100 different causes. Last year there were over 40,000 runners. Since it was a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures in the low 60s perhaps today brought out an even larger crowd.
Sunday, 02 June 2013
Mercy International Centre
64A Lower Baggot Street
Here I am home at the Mercy International Centre, the house that our foundress, Catherine McAuley, built and looking forward to spending the next 4 weeks with my sisters who come from Peru, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and the USA.
The flight was the first challenge and I hope the last. Just before takeoff, which was already an hour late, a medical emergency arose which required us to return to the gate. The passenger left the plane, but it was also necessary to locate and remove that person's luggage before we could depart. It was also necessary for us to take on additional fuel. Everyone remained amazingly calm, and the pilot was able to take a more direct route and fly faster with the additional fuel.
The program officially begins with supper this evening but at lunch I began to meet program participants who had already begun to arrive. This image of Global Mercy has inspired me all year, but takes on additional meaning when so many of us have come home to our common ancestral home. The program is called "Watering the Roots at the Wellsprings of Mercy"
The program coincides with The Gathering Ireland 2013 as Ireland welcomes home hundreds of thousands of friends to this year-long celebration. How wonderful to be part of that celebration too. I'm sure my father would be thrilled as well. He loved, honored, and respected our Irish family roots.
Sunday - Saturday, 12-18 May 2013
Global Mercy Advocacy Program
Church Center at the United Nations
Mercy-by-the-Sea, Madison, CT
What a privilege to spend an entire week with Sisters of Mercy from around the world, focused on advocacy training at the United Nations. The previous Friday, S. Bridget Crisp (NZ) and I went to the UN to get our badges. Like magic they let us into the grounds and into several of the chambers with the delegates.
Besides New Zealand and the USA other Sisters and partners in the program came from Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Ireland. We spent Monday morning in the General Assembly attending a high-level meeting on Human Trafficking and that afternoon attended sessions in the Economic and Social Council (Sustainability) and Trusteeship Council (Human Trafficking).
We spent Tuesday and Wednesday meeting several NGO officers at the UN who shared their work and expertise with us. We also had a Skype session with a group of engineer-activists in Cajamarca, Peru who are protesting a mining project that would devastate their water supply. Click here to read more about the project.
Thursday there was more input to begin the day, but then we returned to the United Nations to attend a high-level session "thematic debate" on Sustainable Development and Climate Change. Although we missed the keynote address by Jeffrey Sachs, I found the entire session online. You can view it here.
I was particularly impressed by the presentation made by Prof. Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre. His presentation was energetic, focused, and informative. I later went to the Centre's website to learn more about their analysis of climate change and the concept of planetary boundaries.
Thursday afternoon we moved to Mercy Center in Madison, CT--Mercy by the Sea. There the group spent two full days reflecting on the experiences of the week and using them to formulate action plans for the future. Friday night we were joined by Mary Daly, Margaret Farley, and Janet Ruffing to continue the process of theological reflection. I was not able to remain for Saturday's session, and I look forward to hearing the outcome of all our work in the coming days.
It was a week on which I am sure I will continue to draw for years to come.
Monday, 06 May 2013
Perhaps I have known about the Barnes Foundation all my life. It could be that my father told me about it when I was very young, but it seems as though my whole life I have wanted to see the collection. It used to be housed in in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion and was rarely open to the public. Just a year ago, however, the collection was moved into a new building in central Philadelphia where it is displayed exactly as Dr. Barnes left it when he died in 1951. Yesterday, together with my friend Tim Lyons, I finally got to see the collection, which was much larger than I had imagined. You can visit virtually by clicking here.
The arrangement and presentation of the collection intrigued me as much if not more than the collection itself. Each ensemble was a masterpiece. I was fascinated by the hinges and other pieces of hardware that he collected along with fine art.
As I walked through the galleries (about 20 in all) it seemed as though there were more paintings by Renoir than anyone else. The audio guide eventually confirmed that suspicion and also informed me that I was immersed in the largest Renoir collection (181 paintings) anywhere in the world. The paintings brought back memories of my visit to Renoir's home in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France many years ago.
It was a delight to see so many paintings by favorite artists for the first time. I had never seen this painting of Madame Monet, for example. Discovery upon discovery--such a delight!
On the train headed back to New York I found myself continuing to walk through the galleries, virtually recalibrated by the symmetry and beauty. I know it will not be my last visit there.
Friday, 03 May 2013
Because I was already in Massachusetts, this evening I was able to attend the Scholarship Gala at Marian Court College in Swampscott, MA, which is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. This was my first visit to the college, which is located in a lovely seaside estate twelve miles north of Boston. If you look carefully through that front door you will see the ocean. What a fantastic location!
Sister Ellen Kurz, RSM, who is on their Board of Trustees gave me a tour of the college and a quick history of it as well. Originally purchased in the 1950s by the Sisters of Mercy in New Hampshire as a House of Formation for their postulants, by 1964 it morphed into a secretarial college, then into a community college, and now grants some 4-year degrees.
Since I knew no one at the event I enjoyed speaking with students, faculty, administrators and benefactors. Wearing my Mercy Cross and the RSM on my name tag, it probably should not have been surprising that many people just presumed I work at the college.
The students' stories were impressive. The college serves a unique population and has outstanding outcomes in graduation and employment rates. Two of the speakers had returned to begin college in their mid-twenties after tiring of the "dead end" jobs they took right out of high school. They had begun to find themselves and wanted more from life. Marian Court, with its small classes and individualized attention, had set them on their way. It is definitely a Mercy enterprise. Catherine McAuley would be proud of them all.
The college president, Denise Hammon, arranged for me to stay at an historic hotel in Salem, The Hawthorne Hotel. Founded in 1925, the hotel is steeped in charm and I look forward to another visit there one day. I remember touring that part of New England soon after I began working--what seems like long, long ago now, back in the olden days when I was an English teacher,
Thursday, 02 May 2013
On this gorgeous spring day I drove to Hingham, MA. After the long haul drives of the last few months this was just a hop, skip and jump from Syosset. I left about 5:30 a.m. and was here in just over 4 hours. The perfect day and the perfect time of day for travel.
All of the spring flowers are out in full bloom and I feel blessed to be here and away from the snow that was falling this morning back in Minnesota.
It is just a quick visit, but hopefully long enough to get a spiritual tune-up. I'm still having difficulty adjusting to my post-Studium life--particularly getting back to my research and writing in a meaningful way. Here I am hoping for some much needed perspective on the situation. The place, the pace, the people and the prayer have always helped before, so I am hoping that holy spirit wisdom will find me here.
Saturday, 27 April 2013
University of Notre Dame
South Bend, IN
I flew out here Thursday morning to attend the festival commemorating Cardinal Walter Kasper's 80th birthday, a conference reflecting on his theology. If you click on this link, you can see a copy of the program as well as a list of the speakers. Two years in the planning, it brought together scholars from around the country--young scholars as well as more seasoned ones. By chance the first nighe I had seat across the room from the Cardinal and enjoyed seeing his reactions to the presenters. I kept returning to that seat and he to his, so I was delighted by his reactions as well as the papers. My how he smiles!
Several years ago St. John's University gave an honorary degree to Cardinal Kasper at one of our Rome Campus commencements. It was the summer I was travling to Ghana, and the Cardinal had some suggestions about traveling there and enjoying the Ghanaian people. At the time I wasn't getting a lot of support from others about the trip, so I appreciated his attention and encouragement.
Notre Dame anticipates publishing the papers in a festschrift. I will look forward to reading the papers in that volume. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ concluded her presentation by gifting the Cardinal with a new question to ponder in the coming decade, focusing on a pneumatological ecology. That would be wonderful and I hope he considers writing at least a small monograph on the subject.
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
St. Mary of the Angels Convent
I left Studium and the Benedictine Community at St. Benedict Monastery early Monday morning and began the 1400 mile drive back to Syosset. By the time I crossed the border into Wisconsin the snow had more or less disappeared. In some ways the drive home was a bit like being in time-lapse photography as I traveled from winter into spring.
The first day I drove 406 miles to Rockford, IL; the second day's trip was 396 miles to Elyeria, OH; and today I completed the trip by driving the 536 miles home. The weather and traffic were on my side for the most part. Not surprising, driving through Chicago was a bit of a bear as were the Cross Bronx and Long Island Expressways which I hit right at rush hour.
Although I will miss my wonderful experience at Studium and with the Sisters at St. Benedict Monastery, it is good to be with my sisters at home. It will take me days to unpack and re-organize my research, but I hope to be back on track soon.
Sunday, 14 April 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
It's my last night here at Studium. I leave after breakfast tomorrow morning and begin the long drive back to Syosset, NY--about 1400 miles. The last few days have been fun, though, with wonderful memories and tender farewells.
Last night 7 of us went to Culver's for supper before attending the 40th anniversary concert the Minnesota Center Chorale. They invited former members to sing and several sisters sang with the chorus.
Culver's is a mid-western family restaurant chain with excellent food and delicious ice cream with unusual flavors. The 7 of us piled into a van and had a great evening together.
The Saint John's Boy's Choir performed early in the program as well. They were excellent and sang some intricate but "fun" pieces.
Tonight the monks from Saint John's Abbey joined the cmmunity at St. Behedict Monastery for Vespers and Dinner. Originally scheduled for Febrary 10th, the Feast of St. Scholastica, the event was cancelled due to snow. The same could easily have happened this evening since it has been snowing for several days and tonight's freezing rain made travel dangerous.
The Oratory was filled with all those wonderful voices, male and female--the perfect way to close out a wonderful three months at Studium.
Friday, 12 April 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
I spoke too soon! Just when I had begun to enjoy seeing the bare ground, another snow storm took up residence here. It has been snowing off and on for more than 36 hours and doesn't seem to want to move on out of here. Enough!
Today I have been on a farewell campus tour, seeing many places for the first time. The college's administration building, the original building on campus, is magnificent.
Faculty offices are located here in the Rotunda. Yes, that is a skylight and each of the gracious offices has a lovely view--very different from my little cubicle in the Theology Department back home.
I also toured the Monastery Archives and Offices, and later in the afternoon Ann Marie, Theresa and I went to the Local Blend, what in college we would have calle a "coffee house ," but now serves other treats as well. Local artists' work is displayed on the walls and all the mugs are original pottery pieces made by a local potter and for sale. The place was packed! We obviously weren't the only ones to think it a good way to end the week.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
"Slowly by slowly," as Abbot Notker Wolf would put it, the snow has been melting. However we have yet another winter storm warning tonight with 8 to 10 inches of snow predicted. We're all hoping the predictions are wrong. Everyone is impatient for spring.
Tonight Ann Marie, Theresa and I went to Saint Scholastica for Evening Prayer and Supper. Time here is slipping through the hourglass and I wanted to visit Sister Linda Kulzer one more time, since she is the one who told me about Studium. It was a wonderful visit.
I have been spending more time at Saint John's Abbey lately as well--finishing up work in the library and working in the Abbey Archives. Monday evening Ann Marie and I went to Evening Prayer at the Abbey and then went to the annual Diekmann Lecture on campus with Rita Ferrone.
My work has been going well and I will be leaving here on Monday with a first draft of the book. Yesterday I sent the proposal to a publisher I think might be interested in it, but there's a lot lot of work ahead. With a beginning, middle and end in place, though, I think filling it all out could go smoothly. Still, leaving here will be bittersweet. I have loved living with the community and having all these wonderful resources at hand.
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
For the first time since I arrived here three months ago the temperature was above freezng when I walked over to the chapel for morning prayer early today. I remind myself of the Wicked Witch of the West when I hear myself rejoicing, "It's melting! It's melting!" Every day I see more and more of the ground, and although the ground is still quite frozen, I do see buds on the trees. There's hope for spring!
The last two days I have spent the afternoons at Saint John's Abbey working in the Library and visiting some of the monks that I know from different corners of my life.
Yesterday I had lunch with Fr. Mel Taylor who used to be the Prior at St. Augustine Monastery in Nassau, Bahamas where Grace and I used to make a winter retreat for many years. Reliving those days with Mel was fun, and gave both of us needed relief from winter even as it makes its last gasps.
Mel also took me on a tour of the crypt chapels under the Abbey Church. I have been reading a lot recently about the building of the church in connection with my research on Ade Bethune who wrote about it as well.
Today I visited with Br. Alan Reed, curator of Arca Artium, who gave me what he called the 20-minute tour of the amazing collection. Original Picasso sketches and Rembrant prints were just two of the highlights for me.
Later I went up to Saint Raphael Hall, the monastery's retirement center, to visit Fr. Daniel Durken, who was director of Liturgical Press for a decade. I met him in the Behamas long, long ago and with his encouragement began writing for the Press. Thirty years or so later I wanted to seize the opportunity to thank him for that encouragement. We had a good visit sharing stories, memories and, of course, books.
Easter Sunday, 31 March 2013
St. Mary of the Angels Convent
It has been a wonderful Easter and I am so glad that I flew home to help with the liturgies and cook Easter Dinner here at St. Mary of the Angels Convent, pictured at left. Signs of spring are all around, including the Canada Geese who have paired off.
Last night's Easter Vigil with the Sisters at the Whitestone Convent was glorious. Again we were joined by Dominican Sisters, Marist Brothers, and the Redemptorists. The chapel was filled with people and GREAT joy, and even a few small children.
After a lovely early-morning walk in the neighborhood, I came hope to begin dinner preparations. We had roast lamb with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions in the pan as well, asparagus, salad, lots of wonderful wine and mousse for dessert. (Naturally they teased me about bringing moose home from Minnesota!)
Tomorrow I fly back to Minnesota for my last two weeks at Studium. The temperatures have been above freezing this week, so maybe I'll get to see the ground yet. I look forward to some long walks without having to cope with hazardous ice.
Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013
St. Mary of the Angels Convent
I flew home on Monday afternoon and finally found spring, at least for the week. Although one has to look carefull to see the buds on the trees and green shoots beginning to sprout from the ground, they are there and such a welcome sight.
On Tuesday I visited the University and caught up with friends for a bit. The campus looked great, and I went through some mail. Although I miss people I'm not yet ready to head back to work full time, so I was quite content to head back home.
This afternoon we had a wonderful celebration of the Lord's Supper at our convent on Parsons Blvd pictured here. I am told there were close to 100 people there. Besides our retired sisters to live there, we welcomed 20 Redemptorist seminarians, several Dominican Sisters, Marist Brothers, as well as other friends. The sound of all those voices filling the Chapel was heartwarming. The seminarins all study at St. John's and their enthusiasm is contagious. It was a blessing to be there.
Palm Sunday, 24 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
We had a beautiful Palm Sunday Celebration here at the Monastery. As you can see the decor in the Gathering Place has changed for the feast. Once again the congregation gathered here for the opening rites, which this week included the blessing of palms and reading of the Gospel. Singing hosannas we all processed into the Chapel together.
The Passion was read by Sister Julie Schleper. The congregation sat for the reading and at each "change of scene" we stood and sang a refrain. They use the NRSV translation here, which sounded new to my ears. For me it was more conducive to reflection than when parts are distributed throughout the congregation.
Although Easter is almost upon us, winter persists as you can see from these pictures. To the left is the walkway from the Gathering Place to Evin Hall. The snow wall is down to about 15 inches now, but you can tell it is trying very hard to melt. Close up the ice crystals are amazing. I've never seen anything like it before.
Even the icicles outside Evin Hall look as though they are on their last legs. Perhaps by the time I get back to Minnesota next week it be looking less like the frozen tundra.
Tomorrow morning I fly back to New York to help out with the Holy Week liturgies at Parsons Manor, the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Whitestone, NY. Maybe I will glimpse forsythia. One lives in hope.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Spring? With wind chill well below zero and the snow about 18 inches deep it's a challenge to believe that it will ever come. Certainly not this week!
While Spring might seem like fiction, today I discovered that Lake Wobegon is not. Yes, there really is a Lake Wobegon and this morning Ann Marie and Theresa treated me to breakfast at the Chatterbox Cafe (aka Charlie's Cafe in Freeport, MN).
The natives were there when we arrived, but soon decided that they had work to do and set off for the day. The food was delicious, and it was both a relaxing and amusing way to begin the day.
The trip there across the frozen tundra was beautiful in its own way too. Still, I'd like to know what's under all that snow.
Sunday 17 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Today I had two adventures. First Theresa, Ann Marie and I went to Mass at St. John's Abbey Church. It was a very nice celebration and I'm glad that I had the experience. All the monks entered in procession, chanting the entrance antiphon. Rarely do I have an opportunity for liturgy as it is described in the ritual books.
After Mass we drove to St. Scholastica to pick up S. Linda Kulzer, who is an important part of Studium and worked here before she moved to the retirement center. The four of us headed out to brunch at Coyote Moon Grille.
The restaurant is located at a the Territory Golf Club, although it is hard to tell that one is near a golf course. It looks just like the many farms in the area--snow for as far as you can see.
The brunch buffet was excellent, however, and with a window seat I was also able to feast on the landscape outside as well.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
On Sunday afternoon Theresa, Ann Marie and I went to the musical "Quilters," which was put on by the Theatre Department here at the College of St. Benedict. The musical featured 16 vignettes of pioneer women's joys and sorrows. It was the perfect selection to be part of CSB's centennial year celebrations. Everyone in the cast sang and danced, and they were all on stage for the entire production. Their energy and skill were very impressive.
Along with the production in two adjacent galleries was a quilt exhibition. Most were art quilts, but there were some in traditional patterns and a few heirloom pieces too. The whole afternoon was a feast for my artistic senses.
The River Project was one of my favorite pieces in the exhibit. The 24 foot long installation was made up of 16 integrated pieces, each expressing the artist's relationship to the Mississippi River, which flows through this part of Minnesota. Most depicted rural areas but one was clearly the city.
What a gentle reminder that I need to get back to work on that baby quilt.
08 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
This afternoon we had another funeral, but this time I knew the deceased. Last month I wrote about visiting St. Scholastica Convent for Evening Prayer and Supper with the retired sisters there. That night Sister Ruth Nierengarten sat next to me and as an artist and former Studium Scholar herself she was very interested in my work on Ade Bethune. As you can tell from the lengthy obituary from the St. Cloud Times linked above, I wasn't the only one shocked this beloved sister's sudden death. Her dear heart was worn out from almost 87 years of loving.
In addition to the loaf of homemade (or "monasterymade") bread which the sisters give to the guests at funerals, copies of Sister Ruth's last book, Laura's World, were also available for everyone.
As family and friends were arriving for the funeral, I saw this little child (probably one of Sister Ruth's grandnieces) on the floor with her crayons, markers and coloring books. No one else seemed to be noticing, but I think Sister Ruth probably enjoyed seeing her so absorbed in living in the moment too.
Last week we said goodby to two Studium scholars. Anne had been here for two months and Patricia for two weeks. As they say here, "Studium is not just a place where people gather; Studium is what happens because these people gather." It is a wonderful community of people sharing and supporting each other in our various projects. On that night together we enjoyed dining out together in the students' cafeteria. Anne asked one of the students to snap our picture and she emailed it to me this morning.
Anne is standing over my left shoulder her and behind her is Theresa. Delores is to my right and between us is Ann Marie, Director of Studium. Standing over Delores' right shoulder is Patricia and a friend of hers who was visiting that evening. You can tell from the attire that winter is still with us along with lots and lots of snow.
Thursday, 07 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Yesterday I made my first visit to Saint John's University. I took the LINK--the bus that runs regularly between St. Ben's and Saint John's, which is about 5 miles away. It wasn't a sightseeing trip. I needed to use the Library, but the bound periodicals are housed in what the students refer to as "the dungeon." Nevertheless it is a treasure trove, and I was grateful to spend a few hours down there. I will need to make more trips, but for the most part the books and articles I need are sent over to St. Ben's for me.
While I was on campus I visited the Abbey Church as well as the folks at Liturgical Press. Perhaps when the weather improves I will spend more time exploring.
Back at St. Ben's last night I went to Simone Campbell's lecture. The room was packed with students, sisters and people from the local area. Once again she was very well received, as were the two respondents, a rabbi and a doctoral student in Communications--both women.
All around it was an energizing day.
Sunday, 03 March 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
It might be "meteorological spring" but there is still at least a foot of snow everywhere with more is expected tonight. Snow just IS!
Last night I was invited to dinner at one of the other living groups at the Monastery. Not only was it a delicious meal, but it also gave me the opportunity to see what some of the other apartments look like. This one was lovely, spacious, airy, and welcoming. It was treat!
One of the nice customs at the Monastery is how the sisters sing a blessing over sisters or others who are going off on a long journey. The other day, though, we were invived to sing the blessing for a father and his young children returning to Mexico. We thought that they were probably being deported which made it very poignant.
Today day the Benedictine Community welcomed S. Simone Campbell, SSS, the Executive Director of NETWORK. Some Franciscan Sisters from the area were invited to join us for the presentation, so the Monastic Dining Room was packed with nuns. Simone spoke about her experiences at the Demoncratic National Convention as well as the "Nuns on the Bus" road trip came to pass. She was amusing, engaging and inspiriing. She will be speaking at the college on Wednesday evening on the "faithful budget." I'm looking forward to seeing how the students respond.
Thursday, 28 February 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
Have you ever heard of frozen fog? When the weathermen reported it here I wondered what they meant. The other day I experienced it. Amazing! All of the trees looked as though they had been flash frozen. The branches weren't weighed down by ice the way they sometimes are back home. These looked more as though they had been sprayed with artificial snow.
As I walked along I was gently pelted by all these microscopic pellets. "Frozen fog!" I exclaimed, finally understanding what the weathermen meant. Eerily beautiful!
Today I drove down to St. Paul to work with the Ade Bethune Collection in the Archives at St. Catherine's Unveristy. When I drove down earlier this month it was 17 degrees below zero. Today it was 27 above and the end of "meterological winter"--another term I had never heard before.
Days are getting longer and now I am loving the longer days, especially beginning to see interesting colors paint the sky. This was sunset as I walked back from supper Tuesday night. Spectacular!
When daylight saving time begins next weekend all this will change so I am enjoying the color of earlier sunrises and sunsets while I can.
Friday, 22 February 2012
Studium @ St. Benedict's Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
More snow! Yes, it just keeps snowing. I took this picture yesterday as I was walking back to Evin Hall from prayer. It's beautiful, but it makes me realize how much of a realist Garrison Kiellor actually is. Today a soft gentle crystalline snow has been falling all day but not accumulating very much. For that I'm grateful.
Apart from preventing me from making another research run down to St. Paul the weather hasn't been keeping me from my work.
This is a picture of my office upstairs where the sun floods in each morning. I am up there shortly after 8 a.m. each morning and enjoy working at the desk.
From the picture below you can see that at the desk I have everything I could possible need: a printer, my computer which is connected to the Internet and Library service that rivals anything I could imagine.
The University's library catalog is integrated with OCLC (World Catalog) so within one screen I can see if the University has a title and whether or not it is available. If not, I can order it from Inter-Libary Loan (ILL) right there. If I locate an article in the catalog, I can immediately link to the database that provides a full text copy or order it from ILL. I'm in heaven!
I am so enjoying both research and writing which is made much easier by life here as well as the amazing academic resources and the way they are organized. The folks at home might be getting impatient with me since I keep sending them suggestions.
Monday, 18 February 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Back to work! After a relaxing few days in sunny, warm San Diego, I flew back to Minneapolis Saturday morning.
We had spent most of Friday at the San Diego Zoo. With temperatures in the low 80s it was the perfect day for family fun. I was delighted to discover that Jonah shares my fondness for goats.
Since the Katie and Jeremy are members of the Zoo they know all the places there that delight the children and don't attract crowds. With the holiday weekend upon us many others were taking advantage of the beautiful day.
Katie, Jonah and I headed back to Paradise Point for some pool time while Jeremy took Jane to the doctor. We all met back at their house for a relaxing evening and family time. After dinner the children have their baths, followed by story time and singing. What a gentle way to send them off to sleep. Then Jeremy barbequed chicken and fixed a delicious dinner for Katie and me.
I was back at the Monastery in time for First Vespers of the First Sunday of Lent and to enter more fully into the season. Sunday Eucharist the next morning began in the Gathering Place where the table decor changed along with the season. Instead of the poinsettia, the table is now covered with a purple cloth and a "bowl" which looks like pottery but is actually made of fabric.
The gongs, which begin every prayer hour, were rung and the entire congregation fell into silence as the Opening Rites for the Eucharist began. After the Penitential Rite we all processed together into the church, led by the cross. When the ministers reached the sanctuary we all bowed to venerate the altar together and after the opening prayer sat for the readings. One of the sisters explained to me that it is their way of emphasizing that we are all on the Lenten Journey together. Beautiful!
Wednesday, 14 February 2013
San Diego, CA
Yesterday I flew from Minneapolis to San Diego for a few days with Jeremy and his family here. It was an early start to the day. Sister Ann Marie drove me to the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud where I met the Executive Express which sped us to the Minneapolis Airport in record time. Life in suburbia!
Jeremy and the two children met me at the airport and drove me to Paradise Point where I am staying. It's a lovely 40+ acre island resort on Mission Bay, which isn't far from Jeremy and Katie's home in City Heights. I always stay at Paradise Point so the children think it's myhome. Whenever I come they have a chance to enjoy some play time on the beach. Jonah thinksit's aGREAT life.
Just watching them play is a delight for me!
This morning, while the children were in school, Jeremy, Katie and I went to this charming cafe for breakfast.
It was the most interesting place, and I was quite taken by the guy at the table behind us. What writing project was he working on? I'm very happy with my office at Studium, but he seemed to find inspiration at Bassam Cafe. I thought it would be rude to ask him what he was working on, so I'll remain curious.
Katie, Jane and I spent time in the afternoon enjoying ducks and the beautiful natural environment there. It is so beautiful and peaceful with lots of places to walk. I've enjoyed the mild, sunny weather so much as well as the opportunity to enter into daily life with the San Diego Turners.
Jeremy and Katie are going out for Valentine's Dinner tonight so it will be just me at home with the children. That should be an adventure for us all.
Sunday, 10 February 2013
Solemnity of St. Scholastica!
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Celebrating the Solemnity of St. Scholastica began with a solemn procession at first Vespers last night. The ritual was lush and so feminine! Two acolytes, sisters carrying the incense bowl and book, the cantor, reader and the Prioress all wearing albs, processed into the Oratory. The office was chanted beautifully with graceful Gregorian antiphons.
The highlight for me was the way the sister incensed the book and the community. With great care she approached each section of the oratory, incensed the sisters and then bowed. The sisters in that section bowed in return.
The offices during the day were similar although just the cantor, reader and prioress processed into the Oratory.
Eucharist also reflected the solemn feast with the addition of students playing the clarinet, flute and harp. It was glorious!
Because I was in the Chapel for a good while before Mass I was treated to a private harp concert.
Outside, however, a snowstorm was brewing, which put a damper on some of the other festivities planned for the day. The Monks from St. John's Abbey were expected to join us for Supper and Vespers, but the trip was too treacherous for them to attempt so that part of the event was cancelled. We still had a lovely, festive supper following Vespers.
The walk back to Evin Hall after lunch was treacherous and snow continued falling all afternoon, but by this evening a path had been cleared so the walk back to the Monastery for Vespers and supper was easier and even beautiful. I was bundled up and my HUGE red and white St. John's golf umbrella helped to keep me dry too.
Tomorrow it's back to work on my writing. I finished a draft of Chapter 1 on Friday so tomorrow I begin Chapter 2. I suppose I'll have to make some time to clear away the foot and a half of snow from my poor Prius.
Monday, 04 February 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Yesterday afternoon we went to St. Scholastica Convent for Evening Prayer and supper. It is St. Benedict Monastery's retirement and assisted living community which is located in St. Cloud about 10 miles from the Monastery. St. Scholastica's is home to 90 sisters--one-third of the community, Sister Linda Kulzer told me.
I was amazed the degree to which life there echoes life here at the Monastery. It operates using a home-care model and is located in beautiful surroundings on the outskirts of the city. Using the same books, the sisters at St. Scholastica pray the liturgy of the hours three times a day in a chapel that in many ways resembles Sacred Heart Chapel. They also have daily Eucharist there.
The spacious dining room has windows on both sides and has the same "protocol" as at the Monastery.
At St. Scholastica the sisters also live in small living groups as at the Monastery. We visited one of "pods" in an "angel wing," so called because they are named for Anels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. These wings were added in 1998. Seven sisters live in each wing where each sister has a lovely bedroom room and shares a small living room, kitchenette and dining area.
My favorite part of the building, though, was the community room with this GIANT fireplace. I was ready to cuddle up with a good book. The room also has a large flat-screen television where several sisters were getting ready to watch Downton Abbey after supper. Masterpiece Theater is on an hour earlier here in Minnesota, which makes it easier for all us seniors to view.
Sisters needing nursing care live in the Louise wing where they get the care they need. Linda said that Louise wing is where the sisters go to meet Jesus.
It was a wonderful visit and good to see how another religious community cares for its elders. It seemed to be a seamless way to move through one's later years in community.
Saturday 02 February 2013
St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
It was -17 degrees when I left the Monastery yesterday morning for the 75 mile drive to St. Catherine University in St. Paul where the Ade Bethune's Archives are housed. My Prius started right up after not having been driven in over 2 weeks, but he groaned mightly and it took a long time for the windshield to defrost. It was eerie driving on the highway at those temperatures to see all the steam coming from cars and trucks.
Fortunately it is a straight run on the Interstate from here to the St. Catherine's except for the last 2 miles.
The Ade Bethune Room is in the lower level of the Library. In it is practically EVERYTHING that was in her home except the furniture and much of the art. Ade kept every scrap of correspondence, meticulous files of all the buildings on which she served as liturgical consultant, meticulous records of all of her businesses, and copies of all her publications. Her donation also included 1170 books and periodicals. Yes, a treasure trove!
St. Catherine's has a welcoming environment and I know I will need to make at least one more trip down to Ade's Archives while I am here.
I left St. Catherine 's by 3:00 p.m. so I could drive back in daylight, but no sooner was I back on the Interstate than it began snowing. The snow continued all the way back to St. Joseph. Not pleasant!
However snow here is much finer and lighter than I have experienced before. I made it back safely and later in the evening when I was walking back to Studium from supper at the Monastery the snow was actually glistening under the street lights. Magical! Only 2 inches or so fell overnight, but it is snowing again tonight and is in the forecast for the next several days.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
One of the sisters here died Friday night, so I have had the experience of seeing how the sisters here care for the deceased. There are several sculptures in the gathering space and one personifies the gentle care I have experienced in these past few days. Of course the sisters don't wear habits anymore, but apart from that this sculpture is perfect.
Last night we welcomed S. Mary Roger's body into the Gathering Place pictured below. The sisters had made the simple white pine coffin and they wheeled it into place in the gathering place where the Prioress, wearing an alb , presided over the ritual. After the body was blessed, we all processed into the Chapel--guests first, followed by all of the Sisters and the coffin which was placed near the baptismal font. We prayed Evening Prayer and one of the sisters spoke in remembrance of S. Mary Roger. Afterwards the coffin was moved back to the Gathering Place for viewing.
This afternoon we celebrated the funeral. Once again everyone came together in the Gathering Place and the prioress opened the prayer. Guests processed into the Chapel, followed by all of the sisters in statio, bowing to the altar and then to one another. After the blessing of the body, the pall bearers wheeled the coffin into the chapel, around the altar, and stationed it in the far aisle, in the foreground here.
After the funeral everyone processed to the cemetery. During the winter they cover the new graves with leaves so that they can be opened year round. The pall bearers placed the coffin in the back of a station wagon which followed the crossbearer out to the cemetery. I was in a warm car with the deceased's sister with a clear view of all the proceedings.
Everyone gathered around the grave and after the Rite of Committal the coffin was lowered into the grave. Everyone was invited to throw a handful of dirt into the grave before walking back to the Monastery for dinner. It was all just beautiful.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
College of St. Benedict
St. Joseph, MN
No, I haven't moved to another location. I'm still at the Studium, but St. Benedict Monastery and the College of St. Benedict occupy the same property. Today, with the temperatures still below zero for much of the day, I had my first tours of the college campus and spent some time in Clemens Library.
Yes, as you enter, the first thing you see is this welcoming fireplace and comfortable chairs. Sister Theresa who was helping to set me up at the library, explained that this sitting area is intended to replicate the fireplace in the original college library. A painting of that library hangs on a nearby wall and Theresa promised to show me original library soon.
I have a CSB-SJU email account and an ID card which gives me access to Clemens Library on the CSB campus as well as the libraries at Saint John's University.
They are co-institutional as you can see from their website. There is one Provost, one registrar and one set of academic programs. However each institution has its own president and VP for Student Development. The women live at CSB and the men at SJU but everything is fully integrated. There are men all over this campus--in the library and cafeteria and athletic center. I presume the same is true there, but I will have to see for myself.
Monday, 21 January 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
Is this anyone you know? Here I am ready to head out into the night, back to my residence. Outside it temperature was -8 degrees--the high for the day. Tonight it is supposed to get colder tonight and be -21 by morning. But the days are sunny, and as they say it's a "dry cold." My own theory is that come 0 it's COLD and it doesn't matter how much more the temperature drops because it's still COLD.
It's not so long ago I was enjoying beach time in Tonga and Guam.
Needless to say I have been limiting my time outdoors. The distance from Evin Hall to the Chapel is about the same as from Newman Hall to St. Thomas More Church on campus. Morning prayer is at 7:00 a.m.; mid-day prayer is at 11:30 a.m. followed by lunch; Mass is at 5:00 p.m. followed by dinner and evening prayer at 7:00 p.m.
I spend most of the day working on my writing project in my office upstairs. I am re-reading all of Ade's articles in the order in which she wrote them, looking for connections. In so many ways she was a woman ahead of her times--a woman for our times. Today I read several articles dating back to the early 1950s in which she was advocating placing the baptismal font hear the entrance to the church as a reminder that we entered the church community through baptism. That's where the font is here at Sacred Heart Chapel and at St. Thomas More and many contemporary churches, but in Ade's day baptistries were often hidden away.
I haven't yet found my way to the Library here on campus or over to the Saint John's University (Collegeville) campus. I will save those adventures for warmer weather.
Friday, 18 January 2013
Studium @ St Benedict's Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
The ground outside is frozen solid and it keeps snowing, but the days are sunny and inside it is cozy so far.
This is day #3 and I am beginning to settle into life here at the Monastery. There are 140 sisters who live here and another 100 or so in a retirement center elsewhere and a few out on the missions. The sisters live in smaller living groups made up of 2 to 8 sisters. There are 32 living groups here. Although they have some meals in their living groups, most sisters eat their meals in the Monastery Refectory and so do I.
The beautiful Sacred Heart Chapel (pictured to the left) is used only for Mass.
The Oratory, which is located on the floor below, is used for the Liturgy of the Hours (morning, noon and evening). The sisters sit choir to choir and chant most of the psalms. The prayer is very beautiful--simple but elegant. The voices blend almost perfectly. The acoustics are fine although the readers do use wireless microphones. It looks like a huge room at first, but praying in it three times a day makes it seem quite intimate.
The refectory is located just off the Oratory so we move from praying together to eating together quite seamlessly.
It's a short walk from the Studium in Evin Hall to the Monastery buildings. I like getting out in the fresh air a few times each day, although I might change my tune come Monday when the predictions are for a high of -8 degrees.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Studium @ St. Benedict's Monastery
St. Joseph, MN
The last leg of this trip was 368 miles through Iowa and Minnesota on another sparkinglingly beautiful day. It was 23 degrees when I left Cedar Rapids at 8:30 a.m. and stayed 23 degrees all the way here. Until I pulled off I94 in St. Joseph, however, there was not a lot of snow to be seen.
St. Benedict's Monastery and the Studium are on the campus of the College of St. Benedict. So far I have only managed to unpack and go to Mass and Supper with the sisters. There will be plenty of time for exploring tomorrow and the days after. Snow is expected tonight.
Evan Hall, which houses the Studium, used to be a college residence hall. In that era my apartment was the RA's suite. I am very comfortable here and tonight I'm looking forward to a good sleep and not driving anywhere for a long time.
My office is just across the hall and upstairs so tomorrow I will unpack my books and notes and begin to organize myself for writing.
Monday 14 January 2013
Cedar Rapids, IA
When I arrived in Carbondale on Saturday evening it was 61 degrees. When I left this morning it was 21 degrees and my little Prius had turned int o an ice cube. Elaine and I spent 50 minutes defrosting it so I could get back on the road.
It was a 472 mile drive from Carbondale, IL to Cedar Rapids, IA, all of it on interstates. My but we have a large country! This trip has definitely given me a new respect for airplane travel.
The temperature on the road never got above 23 degrees and for many miles the crystalized trees and crops glistened in the sun. It was magical!
Fortunately Sunday's "wintry mix" had passed and I was blessed with another dry, sunny day to drive. Tomorrow I set off on the last leg just about all directly north to St. Joseph, MN.
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Thursday I made the 600-mile drive from Syosset to Blacklick, OH in just under 11 hours. It was a perfect day for driving--warm, dry and not too sunny.
Rosie and I enjoyed a visit at the sisters' Lake House and I also visited sisters at the Motherhouse. It was good to relax for a bit after the long drive. Here you can see the Lake House deer helping themselves to the birdfeeder. Such a peaceful place!
Yesterday I continued the westward journey and arrived safely in Carbondale, IL, an 8-hour drive from Columbus. Although the weather started out clear and dry, I drove through some terrible patches of rain and threat of tornadoes. Southern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois have wonderful rolling hills so it was a beautiful drive.
Elaine and I haven't seen each other in 45 years but time just melted away and we are having a wonderful visit.
We celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord at St. Francis Xavier Church, Elaine's parish. The Liturgy was wonderful and the Collegeville-educated Pastor was energized and energizing even at 8 a.m.
Tomorrow I continue the trip and will turn northward.
Wednesday, 09 January 2013
St. Mary of the Angels Convent
Syosset, New York
Digication tells me that my last entry was 7 weeks ago just as I was leaving Paris and heading home for the holidays. I enjoyed being home and reflecting on all that I had seen and learned on my Global Mercy Learning Journey. I continued the learning at home through Mary Sullivan's wonderful new biography of Catherine McAuley, The Path of Mercy; Marcienne Kirk's biography of Cecilia Maher, Remembering Your Mercy, which tells the founding story of the Sisters of Mercy in Auckland, New Zealand. I also read two books on Maori spirituality, which continues to interest me.
On my Global Mercy Learning Journey I expected to enjoy meeting my sisters from around the world and learning about their ministries. What I didn't expect was becoming so interested in the sisters who founded those communities. I've only just begun learning about their lives and admiring the courage and grace that enabled them to leave Ireland and bring the mission of Mercy to the ends of the earth.
It is time now to turn my attention to my theological research. Tomorrow I leave for Minnesota and continue my work on the Ade Bethune biography. I will be diving out there and taking a "southern" route to visit a few college friends along the way. My destination is St. Benedict Monastery in St. Joseph, MN where I will be part of their Studium. You can find information about it among the website's "quick links" OR wait for a further installment of this blog.
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
For about 40 minutes this morning there was sun as I set off for Musee Carnavalet, the national museum of the history of France. It is located in two mansions in the Marais district and is loaded with art and artand artifacts divided by centuries from the beginning of France into the 20th century.
I was most taken with some of the art and with Marcel Proust's bedroom (rather small). This detail from a painting by Jules Adler (1865-1952) entitled "Printemps de Paris Les Communicantes 1923" shows a Daughter of Charity escorting her charges. Clearly these are not 7 year olds preparing to receive the sacrament. In that era communion was given in the early teen years.
By the time I finished my visit to the museum, the weather outside had changed completely. A dense fog and chill had moved in making it decidedly unpleasant for a stroll along the Seine. Instead I headed back to my cozy hotel room after stopping at St. Gervais one last time and attending noon Mass at Notre Dame.
I spent the afternoon tying up loose ends--finishing my journal and beginning to organize things for packing.
I had dinner at my favorite restaurant, La Petite Chaise on Rue de Grenelle, where the chef's selection coincided perfectly with my preferences. It was a delicious meal so I am leaving quite satisfied in every way.
This is one of my favorite stained glass windows in Paris. It is one of the contemporary windows at St. Gervais and depicts the Heavenly Jerusalem. Located in the back of the church above the pipe organ, it is what you see each time you leave the church. It is a powerful reminder of where we are ultimately heading. For tomorrow, though, I have more modest plans--back to JFK and HOME.
What a wonderful life! What and extraordinary adventure this has been. I'm sure I will be drawing on its reserves for years to come. Thank you for keeping me company on the journey.
Tuesday, 13 November 2012
The weather is actually improving a bit--still no real sun, but at least the rain has stopped. I haven't even carried an umbrella for the last 2 days.
Sunday I went back to St. Gervais (behind me in a photo from another Paris visit) for Mass and intended one again to visit Musee Carnavalet located not far from the church. I walked all the way there only to find a sign on the door of the museum, "Ferme 1 er 11 novembre. Bonne journee!" I might try one more time tomorrow.
Instead I went for a lovely walk through the Jardin de Tuilleries where there was about an hour of sun and on to Musee d'Orsay where I spent another afternoon with Van Gogh--this time with many of the paintings from his time in Auvers sur Oise. I had been to the museum before and seen the paintings, but this time they told a different story.
I bought a dual-ticket which entitled me to see l'Orangerie for a very reduced rate. I had been there before as well, but with just a few days here I am enjoying visiting places I love and taking time to reflect more deeply on all the experiences I have had in the past 3 months.
Today I visited our Paris Campus where I began this year with 33 graduating seniors. Paris hasn't been quite the same without them, but because of the time I had with them in January I experience Paris differently--perhaps more through their eyes now.
They set up a Facebook group back then and even though they have all graduated now and gone their separate ways, we still connect through that group. I posted on that group earlier today about my visit to the campus and within a few hours a dozen had "liked" the post. It's a different world!
Saturday, 10 November 2012
I arrived back in Paris yesterday afternoon and had dinner last night with Fr. Pat Griffin at his favorite Chinese Restaurant.
Today I set off by train for Auvers sur Oise which is about 30 km north of central Paris. It took about an hour to get there from Gare Saint Lazare. Auvers sur Oise is where Van Gogh spent his last 70 days, during which time he produced 70 paintings, some of them his most famous.
Here you can see the Church of Notre Dame d'Auvers sur Oise as he painted it in 1890 and as I saw it today in 2012. What life he gave to it! To us!
I spent a lovely autumn afternoon walking the streets and lanes he walked, seeing what he saw and comparing it to what he painted. I have always been touched by both by what seemed to be the contrast between his sad life and his vibrant paintings. So unappreciated in his life; so celebrated after his death.
Vincent's brother Theo supported him by giving him a living allowance and as much paint as he needed. If you have ever seen an original Van Gogh you know that he used a lot of paint. It is very tender that they lie together in the cemetery at Auvers sur Oise, nestled under the same blanket of ivy.
Theo died about six months after Vincent and was originally buried in Utrecht in the Netherlands, but 14 years later his body was moved to the cemetery in Auvers sur Oise at his widow's request.
I got a HUGE laugh, though, when I returned to the train station for the return trip to Paris. You have to walk through a tunnel under the tracks to get to the other platform. The entire tunnel is decorated with the most vibrant VanGoghesque murals you could imagine. This is just a sample. It felt like his vindication ... or perhaps his triumph. At the very least it sent me back to Paris in a cheerier mood.
Thursday, 08 November 2012
Yesterday morning I explored two quite different churches in the neighborhood.
At St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, not only did I enjoy seeing the church, but there was a exhibit of exceptional sculpture by Myriam Kahn that moved me deeply.
This sculpture, "Sarajevo," was inspired by a cellist who after the bombing there played the cello every day for several days in the ruins of a great cultural center. Kahn wrote, "all who listened could hear not only his sadness but also the power of hope." I could see that in her sculpture too.
Although it is in French, this video demonstrates her work and gives 360-degree views of her work. Click here to view it.
I'll bet you never heard of St. Gudula before. You're not alone! Born in the 7th century Gudula came from a family of saints and is venerated as the patroness of Brussels.
I also visited the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, a sweet little church established by the Brothers of Mercy (no relation!) in the 13th century. It once stood where the Gare Central is located, but was moved to its present location, stone by stone, in the 1950s.
In the afternoon I took an excursion to Antwerp, Belgium's harbor town, about an hour north of Brussels. Our first stop was the MAS Museum, not to view its art, but to view Antwerp from its 10th story top. Here you see a windblown Julie overlooking gray Antwerp.
We walked through the town square and spent time in the Cathedral which is home to several wonderful Rubens paintings as well as the most extraordinary confessionals. (I collect pictures of confessionals.)
Today I toured two cities: Ghent and Bruges, both northwest of Brussels in Western Flanders. Both are medieval cities and very interesting, but I would have liked to spend more time in Bruges.
We visited Ghent first and I didn't have time to do more than visit St. Bravo's Cathedral, which is famous as the homeof Jan Van Eyck's "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb." Unfortunately much of the altarpiece is out for restoration, but one enterprising teacher used that as a teaching opportunity. His students studied the work of art and its history and then painted their own version, which is displayed at the Cathedral. How thrilled they must be!
We spent the bulk of the day in Bruges and had lunch there too. It is a lovely city laced with canals and I enjoyed walking around the city, although I won't be sorry to leave all the Belgian cobblestones behind.
At the Basilica of the Holy Blood a vial containing a few drops of Christ's blood that was brought to Bruges after the 12th century Crusades is venerated in a chapel of the upper church. Downstairs is an astonishingly different Romanesque chapel.
Tomorrow I head back to Paris for the last few days of this remarkable journey around the world.
Tuesday, 06 November 2012
On yet another rainy day I arrived here in Brussels, just a 90-minute train ride from Paris. My hotel, Le Meridien, is located at a transportation hub, although international trains arrive at another railway station.
I spent the afternoon trying to familiarize myself the city. Before I left the US I had purchased a 48-hour ticket for their "hop on, hop off" buses, but yesterday I just hopped on one and stayed. I think I could easily get lost here. I bought a map and studied it to see where the bus had taken us. It was too late in the day to take the other bus, so I left that for today.
My only purpose in coming to Brussels was to visit Schaerbeek, Ade Bethune's old neighborhood, to give me a better sense of her early life and upbringing. Ade was born in 1914 and lived here until she emigrated with her family to New York in 1928. She made many references to her early life in her talks and essays, but I like to see things for myself. I did the same thing when I was working on Fr. Reinhold's biography and visited Hamburg. It enabled me to write about him more vividly.
Grateful for sun, I visited Schaerbeek twice today and in between I went farther afield on the other "hop on, hop off" bus.
Schaerbeek is one of the 19 communes surrounding Brussels, just a 15-minute bus ride from Central Station. Besides seeing the neighborhood, I was hoping to visit L'Eglise royale Sainte Marie, the neighborhood church where Ade was baptized. Its Roman-Byzantinestyle is so inviting and beautiful from every angle. However, it was not open and when it is open Mass is held in the crypt chapel. Apparently the main body of the church is in disrepair.
Later in the day I returned to visit the Municipal Maison des Arts, which was previously owned by Ade's grandfather. I wasn't expecting to be able to tour the "chateau," but a very generous person there showed me all around and let me snap as many photos as I wanted. It certainly made up for the morning's disappointment at the church.
I spent the rest of the afternoon touring La Grande Place and seeing some of the other sights in the neighborhood. I had a late lunch at a Belgian Tavern where there was a welcome fire roaring on this cold day.
Then it was back to the hotel to download pictures and begin to synthesize all that I saw while it is still fresh in my mind. Tomorrow and Thursday I will be touring other cities in Belgium, so it was important to pull all my Ade work together now.
I'm grateful to Ade for this experience. If it weren't for her I would never have thought of visiting Brussels or Belgium. This is a very interesting city--a global city for sure. I have heard more languages on the streets here than I have heard anywhere else. How appropriate for my global adventure!
Sunday, 04 November 2012
I arrived in a rainy Paris Thursday evening after a 13-hour flight from Seoul. Since I was more tired than hungry, I fell right into bed and had a good night's sleep.
After breakfast I mailed all my tropical clothes back to NY, replenished my supply of euros, and headed to the Miraculous Medal Shrine on Rue de Bac, close to my hotel, for their solemn celebration of All Souls Day. Then I gave myself over to wandering the streets of Paris despite the weather.
Fr. Griffin and I had dinner together at my favorite restaurant, La Petite Chaise. Founded in 1680, it claims to be the oldest restaurant in Paris. It is small, simple and cozy, and the food is delicious.
Saturday I took a long walk along the Seine heading for mid-day prayer at St. Gervais and returned there this morning for Eucharist. Even in the pouring rain walking along the Seine lifts my spirits.
The Liturgy at St. Gervais is exquisite, and is under the leadership of the Monastic Community of Jerusalem. This dual community of brothers and sisters was founded in 1975 to provide an oasis of prayer and peace in the midst of the city. The church was full this morning and many people come early to pray. Just about everything is sung and in 4-part harmony which often has Eastern overtones to it.
Yesterday afternoon I went to Sainte-Chapelle. Although the sun wasn't out, I thought it would still be a good opportunity to see its magnificent stained glass. I bought a few postcards because I didn't think that my pictures would capture its beauty, but this picture I took with my iPhone might even be better than the postcards.
After Mass today I stopped for lunch and they walked back to my hotel to get myself organized for tomorrow's research trip to Brussels. I have never been to Brussels before, but it is where Ade Bethune was born and spent the first 14 years of her life. I want to make the most of this opportunity.
Thursday, 01 November
Seoul, South Korea
Back again! This time I have only a 6 hour layover, and it will be my last visit to Seoul on this sabbatical journey.
I spent my last day in the Philippines visiting 2 churches in Cebu--the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Basilica of Santo Nino. Previously I wrote about one of the dances in honor of Santo Nino. Seeing the real image and witnessing the simple faith of the people was deeply moving.
As the story goes, Magellan gave this image to Queen Juana at the time of her baptism in 1521. It was found by Spanish explorers in 1565 and the Basilica was erected at the place where it was found. Known as the "Refuge of the Christian Familiy," the holy image draws hundres of thousands of people to Cebu each year.
The image is kept in a shrine at the Basilica and never removed. An exact replica (pictured above) is kept in the rector's office and used in the processions. Each year a new vestment is made for Santo Nino provided by a generous benefactor. Part of the ritual each year includes the priest dressing the image in his new clothes.
The higlight is the Sinulog festival which takes place in Cebu on the 3rd Sunday January, commemorating the feast of Santo Nino (January 14th). This huge festival is preceded by nine days of preparatory activities and the celebration itself extends into the following week. Hermie tells me that the local people leave town each year during the festival because the streets are clogged with so many visitors. If you click on the link above you can get a sense of the celebrations's scope.
I left the Philippines just as another feast was beginning. For the feasts of All Saints and All Souls Filipinos travel back to their home villages to commemorate their dead. It sounds very much like our Thanksgiving celebrations.
In this week I really only caught a glimpse of the Philippine culture, but it was a time that I will treasure.
Next stop Paris!
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Dreams do come true! Yesterday, Hermie and I traveled to the Victorias Mill Company on Negros Occidental so I could see the church Ade Bethune worked on in 1949-1950. That a young woman was willing to travel alone to the Philippines in that era has long impressed me, but I also wanted to see for myself how her work had survived. There have been very few color pictures published and all those date from 1950, so my curiosity kept growing.
It was a very quick flight and I was surprised to see Negros is quite different from Cebu, or what of Cebu I have seen. On Negros the roads are wider and sugar cane fields stretch as far as you can see. Peter and Hermie have an office in Bacolod, so the director there hired a car and driver and then served as our director on the visit to Victorias Milling Company, one of the largest sugar refining companies in the world.
October is harvest time so we passed many people working in the fields and lugging the cut cane to the mill. Here you see a water buffalo (called caribou here) working in the field as well. We passed them on the road lugging carts filled with cut cane.
Together with assistance from local people who supplied her with broken bottles and crockery, Ade designed and installed mosaics on the facade of St. Joseph the Worker Church and in the Bapistery. As her work continued and the results were seen, the project expanded and many more mosaics and paintings were included.
The original mosaics on the front of the church are in the poorest shape, probably because of the weather (sun and water damage). The baptistery in a much more protected location, is in the best shape. Chips of 7-Up bottles make up the grass and the wter is made of bits of Coke bottles. Milk of Magnesia bottles constitute the blues and pink and yellow crockery pieces make up the dove/Holy Spirit. The browns are whiskey and beer bottles. Beautiful!
It will take me a long time to process all I learned in that one short morning, but I have the luxury of time for that now.
Since our flight back to Cebu wasn't until later in the day, we explored a few other sites in Bacolod. These included the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian and "the Ruins," the remains of a Mansion with a beautiful love story that has been turned into a successful tourist attraction AND "destination wedding" site.
So here I am on another beautiful, sunny day in Cebu resting up from our adventure and watching Hurricane Sandy coverage on CNN a world away.
Monday, 29 October 2012
Yes, we did go to Mass at St. Isidro Labrador for the 4:30 a.m. Mass Sunday morning. The church was quite full, the congregation quite young, and the music plentiful. The celebrant even chanted the presidential prayersl Unlike most of the other churches where I have worshiped on Sundays during this trip, this was not the only Mass in the parish. Additional Masses are scheduled for 7:30, 9, and 10:30 as well as 3, 4:30, 6 and 7:30 p.m. Yes, 8 Sunday Masses are scheduled in that parish. Two of the Masses are in English; the others in the local dialect (Cebuano).
As we drove back to the house at 5:30 a.m. the streets were already beginning to come alive as shopkeepers began to open their shops.
Later in the day Hermie and I went out shopping at one of the local malls. By then the streets were crowded with people and assorted vehicles. Many people walk, but white taxi cabs (mostly Toyotas), tricycles and jeepneys clog the narrow roads as well. Tricycles are motorcycles with colorful side cars suitable for an additional passanger, but usually loaded with several more. Colorful jeepneys (pictured here) seem to jeep jitneys, generally packed to the rafters with people, animals and luggage.
This morning Hermie and I have an early flight to Negros Occidental, a nearby island, where we will spend the day. Our first stop will be at the Victorias Milling Company where I will be able to study the work of Ade Bethune.
Saturday, 27 October 2012
After a long but pleasant day at the Incheon Airport where I was able to do a lot of writing and reading in preparation for my research tip on Monday, I settled into the short flight to the Philippines.
I am staying in Cebu with my elementary school (Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Forest Hills, NY) classmate, Peter Cullen, and his wife Hermie. Peter has been heaven sent! They have a beautiful home here and have welcomed me to it and to their heart. Since Peter and I have not seen each other in 53 years there is a lot of catching up to do.
As you can see, Peter and Hermie have a beatiful home here in Cebu. Peter was stationed in Cebu during his time in the Air Force, fell in love here, and later returned to settle here and open a business.
Last night they took me to a delicious Filipino buffet and cultural show at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort. I'm relatively adventuresome when it comes to food, as long as it isn't too spicy, but I love the music and dancing of different cultures. The first dance honored Santo Nino, the Patron of the Philippines. I suppose that was my first introduction to faith in the Philippines.
Halloween is a MAJOR production in the Philippines. It was celebrated in the neighborhood here this evening. Only residents and their guests were permitted in the sub-division, but a steady parade of children passed through our street beginning about 4:30 p.m. Many houses in the neighborhood were decorated extravagantly, and Peter's house was no exception.
In addition to giving the children granola bars, we also threw out New Orleans "lucky beads" from the balcony, which caused quite a sensation.
Tomorrow begins very early--Hermie and I will be going to Mass nearby at 4:30 a.m. (No, that is not an error!) I'm not sure what kind of a celebration I'll experience at that hour or how many people will attend, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
Monday we Hermie and I will be flying to Negros Occidental, another island, where I will have a chance to see and photograph a church Ade Bethune helped to decorate with mosaics. The adventure continues ....
Thursday, 25 October 2012
Seoul, South Korea
On my last full day on Guam yesterday I visited Santa Barbara Catholic School and joined the students for The Living Rosary that began the day. I was impressed that the children were so attentive and prayerful. In celebration of United Nations Week, at each decade the Lord's Prayer was prayed in a different language, led by a child from that nation: Chamorro, Filipino, Polish, Japanese and Chinese. There are 464 students in grades K4 (Nursery) to 8. I visited some of the tiny ones during their snack break afterwards and also looked in the K4 classroom.
Afterwards Sr. Cecilia drove me to Two Lovers Point on Tumon Bay. This two-tiered lookout commemorates a Chamorran legend of two lovers--their Romeo and Juliet story. The views were beautiful; the legend was gruesome.
Tonight we had dinner with the sisters at another local convent, so I have met all 30+ sisters who live in Guam. They have all been warm and welcoming. It seems as though everyone is related to everyone else here, and to a certain extent that is true. Families are very big, but it is also the custom here to refer to your first cousins' children as your neices and nephews. At that rate instead of having 2 nephews I'd have 20 or more nieces and nephews. Big difference!
Now I am back at Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea ready for a 13-hour layover. I had a 3:20 a.m. flight from Guam which took close to 5 hours. I slept most of the way, which was a blessing. This is a transition day for me. I move from my weeks of meeting the global community of Sisters of Mercy into the last few weeks abroad focused on my research on Ade Bethune, pictured here. So I plan to use this time in the Lounge to complete some Mercy writing projects and then prep for the research adventure in the days to come. If you want to know more about that project, just click on the "Current Research" tab above and it will give you a brief introduction to that project.
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Mercy Heights Convent
I've had a busy two days visiting several ministries in which the Sisters of Mercy here are involved: two elementary schools; two nursery-kindergartens; and one secondary girls' academy.
We began yesterday at Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School, which is a merger of two former parish schools. It has 600 children in grades K-8 and all were assembled in the gymnasium to welcome me with leis and several songs. At the conclusion of the program the principal congratulated all the sports teams on their weekend games and standings. I got a kick out of the idea of people cheering for the Osbispos.
Our next stop wasthe Infant of Prague Nursery and Kindergarten. It provides care for 100 children from 3 months through Kindergarten. The 4 and 5 year olds performed a few songs and dances and invited us to join them for one energetic number.
In the afternoon we visited St. Anthony's Catholic School which has an enrollment of close to 750 children in grades K-8. There I was welcomed with a lei and other gifts and entertained by children in the honor choir accompanied by the ukelele players; songs and dances by the second graders pictured here; and performances by several dance teams. It was quite a production! The photo gallery and you tube videos are already up on their website. Don't miss the 2nd graders' rendition of "Take All of Me."
This morning began at Mercy Heights Nursery and Kindergarten, our neighbors here at the Convent. The children (ages 2-5) were adorable and I joned them for morning prayers and a few songs, among them Catherine McAuley's Suscipe.
Later in the morning I visited Academy of Our Lady of Guam, which shares a campus with Guam's Cathedral, Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica. The students I met seemed very happy and of course I invited them to think about enrolling at St. John's University when they graduate from the Academy.
We had lunch at yet another Japanese restaurant--this one in a "duty free mall" where Louis Vuitton, Lacoste, etc. all featured winter attire. This seemed quite incongrous on Guam, but here they cater mainly to tourists from Japan and Korea.
Tomorrow will be my last full day in Guam and it has a full schedule too. There is one more elementary school to visit, and Sister Cecilia also plans to take me to visit Chamorro Village where I will get a better glimpse of local culture.
My next entry will likely come from Seoul, South Korea once again, while on a long layover there. My flight from Guam leaves at 3:30 a.m. which doesn't seem very surprising to people who live here.
Sunday, 21 October 2012
Mercy Heights Convent
We began yesterday morning with an early morning (6:30 a.m.!) swim right inside the photograph that headed my last entry. To me the water was crystal clear, warm and calm. Waves break at the coral reef in the distance, so the water is calm when it reaches shore. The sisters, though, found the sea cold and rough. It's all a matter of perspective.
After Mass at the Carmelite Monastery nearby, Sisters Cecilia, Evelyn and I set out for a drive around the entire island. What beautiful views! There are lovely villages, beaufiul hills, and of course, amazing views of the sea.
We stopped at Fish Eye Marine Park, an undersea viewing station where you can see colorful fish in their natural habitat.
Later we drove to Tumon, which really shocked me. After being away from the United States suddenly I found myself on a street, which although smaller and more compact, could have been Fifth Avenue or the Champs Elysees to see all the posh stores.
We had dinner at Rotary Sushi--a remarkable experience. Customers sit at a counter and plate after plate of Sushi rolls by in front you of you. It was fresh and delicious and endless.
This morning we went to Mass at the Cathedral, Dulce Nombre de Maria, which is in the capital Hagatna. The original 16th-entury cathedral was destroyed during World War II. Its beautiful replacement, built in 1959, is filled with light and color, and this morning also with vibrant music.
Most of the windows in the building are clear glass. Stained glass, completed in 2001, is located in the back (Resurrection) and the two transcepts (Pentecost and Santa Maria Kamalin), each of which is surrounded by images of Our Lady (8 in all). This image of Our Lady of Mercy, which commemorates the work of the Sisters of Mercy, gives you a sense of the windows.
This afternoon nine of us went to the National Wildlife Refuge, operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The tour we took led us through the jungle and into caves giving us a sense of how the native Chamorro people lived in this lettlement 600 years before the Spanish arrived in 1521.
We also heard stories of how people survived after the Japanese invasions by hiding in the jungle. All the while I was thinking back to my father's stories about life in the New Guinea jungle during his World War II deployment there. Ninety minutes was enough for me! So I have a new appreciation for Dad's experience and sacrifice.
At the end of the tour, we were rewarded by ocean views. Watching daylight fade on this beautiful beach, even with its dangerous currents, was awesome.
We ended the day with another delicious Japanese dinner.
Friday, 19 October 2012
Mercy Heights Convent
Hafa Adai! I arrived in Guam in the wee hours of the morning, but even at 2:00 a.m. Sisters Cecilia and Stephen were at the airport wiith leis, smiles, and hugs, welcoming me the heart of Mercy that beats here on Guam.
If you're like me, you don't know much about Guam, but even in one short day I have begun to learn about its place in the world and in history.
Guam is 30 miles long, and 8.5 miles wide, and people delight in telling you that it is where America's day begins. Guam's native Chamorro culture is said to be the oldest civilization in Micronesia.
Colonized by Spain in 1565, Guam was ceded to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. A few days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Guam was occupied by the Japanese invaders who forced the native Chamorro people into concentration camps until the island was liberated by U.S. forces on July 21, 1945.
The Sisters of Mercy came to Guam the following year, when three sisters from Congregation in Belmont, North Carolina, accepted the Bishop Baumgartner's invitation to send missionaries here.
I am staying at the Mercy Heights Convent where eleven Sisters of Mercy live. Next door is the Sister Roberta Center, a Nursery and Kindergarten. Imagine my surprise this morning when I was preparing breakfast and saw about 30 pre-schoolers enjoying their breakfast in an adjacent room.
Attached to the convent is a beautiful, spacious, modern aged-care center which is home to nine sisters. We celebrated October birthdays there today with a festive lunch.
After lunch we visited the newly renovated War in the Pacific National Historical Park and Visitor Center. Its bi-lingual (English and Japanese) interactive displays approachd many aspects of the war and its aftermath, as well as informative presentations on the current threat of climate change in the Pacific.
On our way back to the convent we stopped at the local cemetery to see where the sisters are buried. There was lots of activity in the cemetery preparing for the festivities surrounding November 2nd, the Feast of All Souls. I'm sorry I won't be here to see that side of Guamanian religiosity.
Tonight I had dinner with the Leadership Team here at a Chamorro restaurant in the capital. I was adventurous enough to enjoy a local fish while staying away from the extra-spicy food they seem to prefer.
Tomorrow morning we are scheduled to go to the beach for a swim at 6:30 a.m. No, that's not a typographical error. They prefer to swim before it gets too hot and the sun gets too high in the sky.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Mary and I set out this morning for Nudgee which was home to many of the Mercy community's ministries over the years but now serves principally as a center for their aged care services. First we visited the cemetery where Mother Vincent Wh itty (foundress) is buried as are the 884 other Sisters of Mercy who have served in the Brisbane Congregation over the past 150 years.
Then we stopped by a new complex of 6 apartments where Sisters in need of "supported living" will move at the end of the month. Sisters will have one served meal per day and shift for themselves at other times. Each apartment has a terrace, bedroom, bathroom, lounge area, and kitcheette. There is also a prayer, community room, dining room and large outdoor patio.
Everyone in Australia seems to live in a house or unit with a small garden and garage. Its metropolitan areas have grown outwards while ours have grown upwards. There are only 22 million people in Australia, which is approximately the size of the 48 United States. They have a lot more room to spread out.
From there we traveled north into the mountains again. Mary Tinney founded Earth Link, an eco-spiritual ministry of the Brisbane Congregation. Until just a few months ago or so it occupied 40 acres in Ocean View known as "Four Winds." which had orriginally served as a retreat center for the sisters. We visited there today where I made friends with the new residents.
After lunch before the drive back to Brisbane, we went for a short "bush walk" in a nearby national park. It was amazing to walk into the "bush" that I have been admiring from the road. The sounds earth life were awesome! It was a wonderful way to end this adventure in Australia.
Now I'm back in Zillmere to pack up once again. I leave early tomorrow morning for Guam via Seoul, South Korea. It will be a long day of travel, but I am looking forward to meeting my sisters in Guam at the end of it.
Tuesday 16 October 2012
It was another beautiful day here in southeast Queensland. The year-round average temperature in Surfers Paradise is said to be 77 degrees, so it is probably not too different here.
Mary Tinney has a lovely little house on a creek with predominantly northern exposure and lots of windows. Because of the creek many local birds hang out here too and because there is no traffic their sweet sounds (none familiar) fill the air. Four other Sisters of Mercy live in units nearby and we will be having tea with them later today.
Yesterday afternoon I met with Chris Hill, who is the Sustainability Director of the award-winning program at the Mater. With his engaging personality it is easy to see why he has been able to be such a successsful advocate for sustainability practices through the organization.
The Mater is a complex of 4 hospitals on the same site with above-ground walkways linking them in interesting and varied ways. Most of them are private hospitals, but there as also a public hospital as well. Pictured above is the Convent where some of the sisters still live.
From there we went to see the play "Managing Carmen" by David Williamson which was in priview at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in the South Bank (of the Brisbane River, that is) section of the city. Williamson is a well-kinown Austr alian playwright and "Managing Carmen" was hilarious. It had touches of Aussie sports and political inuendo which were lost on me, but they were far from essential to the plot.
If you imagine Lincoln Center on the banks of a river interlaced with natural parklands, it will give you an idea of the setting. It was a relaxing place to eat and enjoy some Australian culture.
Our first stop today was at the Mercy Heritage Center at All Hallows School in downtown Brisbane right on the Brisbane River. It has a very extensive collection of Mercy Memorabilia spread over two floors of the original convent building.
The Sisters of Mercy began the school upon their arrival in Brisbane in 1861 and it is still going strong today, educating young women in grades 7 to 12.
As you can see, it has a magnificent setting. It has several buildings built over a period of time, including a modern library and gymnasium.
The students look lovely in their typically Aussie uniforms too. Mary pressed this young woman into taking our picture and in return I was happy to snap hers. I don't expect this style will catch on back in the USA.
In the courtyard is a newly-installed (2011) statue of Catherine McAuley offering her shawl to someone else. The sculptor of "The Offering" is Meliesa Judge. I was particularly taken by the artist's interpretation of Catherine's face. I took several pictures of just the face from different angles.
After noon Mass at the Cathedral, Mary and I drove up to Mt. Coot-tha for lunch and an amazing look down at Brisbane from above.
Tonight we had dinner at a local Thai restaurant with Sisters Monica, Margaret, and Mary who also live in Zillmere. After getting to know more about the Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane at the heritage center, it was nice to meet a few more in person.
Tomorrow will be my last day in Australia.
Monday 15 October 2012
Christine and I spent the weekend along the Gold Coast at Surfers Paradise with Mary Tinney. This was the view from our apartment on the 10th floor of the Zenith Apartments. One of the sisters' brothers owns the apartment as a holiday home and loaned it to us. Some say that the Gold Coast gets its name from the golden sands. I didn't notice that as much as I did its velvety feel underfoot. It was a bit too chilly for swimming, but I did get my feet wet in this side of the Pacific.
Sunday morning Mary and I said goodbye to Christine and headed north toward Brisbane. First we travelled inland a bit and up Mt. Tambourine. We stopped for lunch at a resort at the top of the mountain and looked back to the Gold Coast. It was a spectacular view.
After wandering through some of the craft shops, Mary and I continued on our way to the city where I will be spending a few days. Mary lives in Zillmere, a Brisbane suburb.
On the way home we stopped briefly at the Mater, a hospital complex founded by the Sisters of Mercy more than a century ago. I will return later this week to learn more about its award winning sustainability program. More about that when I learn more on this exceptional Global Mercy Learning Journey.
Saturday, 13 October 2012
Surfer's Paradise, Queensland
Christine and I left Gunnedah in the rain Thursday morning and began our trip north and east. We stopped to have lunch with the sisters in Inverell, and continued on to Glen Innes where we spent the night. As we traveled on, the temperature began to fall, so we were delighted to enjoy dinner before a roaring fire at the New England Motor Lodge.
We were NOT so pleased to find snow falling in the morning. That was a shock--not just to us, but to everyone. For the children who had never seen snow before, it was a delight. Glen Innes is called as "Celtic Country" and known for the Standing Stones. Although we had planned to visit them that morning, the snow changed our plans and we had to settle for a virtual visit here.
We set out east over the Gibralter Range and as we drove on the snow gradually disappeared, which was the real blessing.
Our first destination was Grafton--another of the original Mercy Foundations in Australia, this one from Bermondsey, England. The sisters there welcomed us for morning tea and gave us a quick tour of the convent. It is located on the Clarence River and their former high school (St. Mary's College) has now been converted to housing for the sisters.
What a beautiful, peaceful setting! I was ready to set up camp, but we had to move on, now turning north and heading up the Pacific coast.
At Claire's suggestion we made a slight detour to Byron Bay and its lighthouse, which is the eastern most point in Australia. As you can see below the views were spectacular!
Although I would have liked to stay longer, I was also looking forward to getting to Queensland, another Australian state and one that I had not yet visited.
About an hour later we arrived here in Surfer's Paradise, which was the first seaside community on Australia's Gold Coast. Compared to living in a country town for the past week and the beautiful natural wonders we saw on the drive from Gunnedah, this is surreal. Yes, the Pacific Ocean is across the street, but here we are in a nest of HUGE apartment buildings. However, I will reserve judgment until we get out and do some exploring later today.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
This is the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Gunnedah. Before the foundation of the Institute it was the Motherhouse here.
Yesterday Christine and I went kangaroo spotting at Gunnedah's aged-care complex. How differently they approach caring for the town's elders! There is a complex of about 50 village homes. Each has two bedrooms and a garage, although quite a few have converted the garage to an additional room. They seem to opperate much as a co-op would in New York. You pay for your unit (c. $80,000 thousand dollars--that part's NOT like NY!) and a monthly maintenance fee.
The sisters have one unit there at the moment, although they had others in the past. The units are attached and all have lovely outdoor views as
you can see reflected in this picture.
Across the drive is the nursing unit which has several levels of care in it, including a dementia unit. As one's needs increase one can stay in the same area but at a different level of care. It all seens so peaceful--like the rest of the town.
We had gone up there in the first place to look for kangaroos and were not disappinted. We saw several in the field across the way and they actually seemed to pose for me.
On our way back home we stopped at the Gunnedah Information Center to pick up a few brochures for our trip tomorrow and I spotted a koala in the tree outside. I'm leaving very satisfied with my country experience with the sisters and its other residents.
Monday, 08 October 2012
Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
Success! Christine and I went out looking for kangaroos later yesterday afternoon and managed to spot 5 in 3 different locations. Kangaroos are not dumb! Like deer they stay out of sight during the day and only come out later in the afternoon or early in the morning.
While we were out I also shot the picture below. Although I think the purple and yellow dappled fields which one sees everywhere are charming, to the locals the purple "flowers" are known as Patterson's Curse. These thistle-like purple flowers in large doses harm the sheep and cattle as they graze.
Today we drove into Tamworth for lunch and some shopping. As I wrote previously, Tamworth is a regional city about 45 miles from Gunnedah across the Liverpool Plains. There are miles and miles of plains with sheep and cattle grazing as far as your eye can see. Beautiful and peaceful. However, there is also the very real danger of flooding.
A post in Gunnedah marks the level to which the floods reached in preceeding years. There are dozens of marks going back to the 19th century with the most recent one this year. In a neighboring town, Carroll, they plan for the floods by building their homes on stilts. Across the road we saw a trailer park where there were cement blocks under each edge of the trailer. Since there are a lot of mines in the area, the sisters thought that the residents are probably transient miners.
After a lovely lunch at a restaurant in Tamworth we returned to quiet little Gunnedah. We'll see what rural adventure tomorrow brings.
Sunday, 07 October 2012
Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
We had Sunday tea (translation: mid-day dinner) with the rest of the Sisters of Mercy in Gunnedah. Seated are Sisters Gabrielle, Regina and Monica; standing are Sisters Christine, Bernard, Mavis, Margaret and me. Another sister is in "aged care," which means she is in the local nursing home; and two others are out of town at the moment. As I said before, Gunnedah was the smallest of the foundations in Australia.
In December 2011 most of the congregations in Australia and Papua New Guinea merged to form the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papa New Guinea. Their website gives the background on this merger and demonstrates the resulting vitality. Click here.
It is energizing to be with them. Three congregations (Parramatta, North Sydney and Brisbane) voted not to join the Institute but several members decided to leave those congregations and join the Institute.
In the afternoon Christine, Gabrielle and I went looking for koalas and kangaroos. I was successful in spotting a koala, but the kangaroos were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps we will have better luck later in the day.
As you can see koalas like to nestle themselves between the branches of the eucalyptus trees (alternately called gum trees here, which always confuses me). Because their coloring matches the trees they are not easy to spot. They spend most of their time sleeping to, so spotting a koala face is even more of a challenge.
Saturday, 06 October 2012
Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
Sister Gabrielle and I went grocery shopping yeserday afternoon and she took the long way home to show me some of the sights. I spotted this warning sign for Kangaroos on the road and t hen looked across the road to see not one or two, but three kangaroos sunning themselves in the late afternoon sun. Amazing!
Then we drove to the top of Porcupine Hill so that I could get some good views of the surrounding area.
These three photos are quite different although they were taken in three directions from the top of the same hill. Doesn't it look peaceful?
I'm not sure how well you can see the colors the the picture below, but I love the pastels in the landscape. It makes me wonder how Georgia O'Keefe would have painted it.
At least this gives you a sense of Gunnedah. I expect that Christine and I will be doing some traveling around the area in the next week, but at the moment we're just reading and relaxing. That's a blessing!
Thursday, 04 October 2012
Gunnedah, NSW, Australia
Never heard of Gunnedah? You're not alone! It is the smallest of the Mercy congregations in Australia. I had been warned that Gunnedah is a country town, but it is actually larger than my imagination drew it and HUGE compared with the size of some of the towns we passed through on our trip here yesterday.
Claire and I left Sydney early yesterday morning and drove northwest through the Hunter Valley into Gunnedah. Famous for "mines and wines," they say, the Hunter Valley is much more "scruffy" than the Yarra Valley. Claire calls it "bush," which is probably the more correct term.
We drove through magnificent countryside and stayed in Tamworth overnight before arriving here in Gunnedah this morning. Tamworth is a regional city (another Australian concept) in New England and it was fun to be there overnight. We were booked into a nice motel and enjoyed dinner outdoors in a nice bistro.
According to the signs, Gunnedah is the Koala Capital of the World. That remains to be seen. I've also been told that the kangaroos come out at dusk. Lots to look forward to in the coming week.
When I was at Manly last week Mary said that Manly was "8 miles from Sydney and 1,000 miles from care." Gunnedah is more than 8 miles from Sydney--more than 250 miles, actually. Maybe it will prove to be 1,000,000 miles from care.
Tuesday, 02 October 2012
We had a wonderful, relaxing family Sunday afternoon in Sydney under the Harbour Bridge. Claire's sister and brother were able to join us for a lovely luncheon at Ripples Cafe, right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Anne drove in from WaggaWagga (about 250 miles away) and
arrived in time for lunch. Mark and his wife Jenny, who live in Sydney, also came. [Claire's other brother, Chris, lives in England and I haven't met him yet.] It was a beautiful, clear, sunny warm afternoon and I enjoyed both the company and the view.
Anne is spending a few days with Claire as well, so we have a bit more family time together before Claire and I leave for Gunnedah on Wednesday.
I spent Monday and Tuesday with Sisters of Mercy in the area. Sister Mary McEnearney and I spent Monday at Manly Beach. She met me at home and we took the commuter train down to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly. Sydney commuter trains put any I've ever seen (Yes, even the DC metro!) to shame. They are comfortable, quiet, clean and unc rowded even on the holiday (Labor Day).
On Tuesday Sister Ailsa MacKinnon, who is Executive Director of Mercy Works, hosted me to an extraordinary day with the global community of Sisters of Mercy. Mercy Works was established by the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea to support relief and development activities at home and abroad. I learned about inspiring current projects in Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.
After having lunch with the new Institute Leadership Team, Ailsa and I headed out to the Mamre Project in St. Mary's, NSW. After restoring a wonderful old homestead and opening it as a museum and tea room, the Sisters of Mercy developed the 220-acre site to a host of set of wonderful development programs. To name just a few, developmentally disabled people are trained and work in Mamre Garden Services; refuges are taught English and employment skills; children in danger of being expelled from their schools participate in a successful rehabilitation program; and refuges from Burma farm their own piece of the land.
After a brief visit to the Parramatta Motherhouse, Ailsa, Catherine Ryan (their congregational leader) and I were treated to a gourmet dinner prepared by two other Sisters in their home in the Sydney suburb, Artarmon.
So, farewell to Sydney! Claire and I are headed north tomorrow for Tamworth and Gunnedah.
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
Adele Howard, Anne Walsh and I have spent a glorious two days in the beautiful Yarra Valley, which is laced with the most magnificent vineyards. It is about 90 minutes east of Melbourne and we arrived there in time for lunch in one of the vineyards Wednesday afternoon.
The vistas are beautiful and so very peaceful that it calms the soul instantly.
After checking into our hotel we traveled to Tarrawarra Abbey. It is a Cistercian (Trappist) foundation from Roscrea, Ireland, made about 50 years ago. Abbot David Tomlins welcomed us warmly and after a cup of tea we joned the community for Vespers and Mass after which the Abbot gave us a tour of their new library. Yes, I practically had to be dragged from the Library!
Today we had a chance to walk along the wetlands beside the Yarra River before heading off to the Healesville Sanctuary. It is a not-for-profit conservation organization dedicated to Australian wildlife. Since it is springtime in Australia, we were entertained by the "joeys" (aka baby animals).
We watched a joey climb in and out of his Wallaby mother's pouch even though he looked much too big to fit. The rest of the kangaroos were having a siesta.
Also amusing was a baby koala who climbed all over his mother who seemed to be napping in the eucalyptus tree.
There were platypuses and emus and Tasmanian devils as well, although we never did manage to find where the wombat was hiding. The sign noted that they are solitary animals and I could identify with that. I will never forget my peaceful few days in the Yarra River Valley.
All too soon our restful sojourn in the country was over and we had to head back to Melbourne. Tomorrow I fly back to Sydney for a few more days before heading north.
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Today Adele and I did some touring in and around Melbourne.
First we visited the Mary MacKillop Museum and Heritage Center in Melbourne. Twelve years ago when Virginia Farnan and I were in Australia we visited the Mary MacKillop Museum in North Sydney. The Melbourne exhibit is much smaller, but still very reverent and inspiring. You can visit yourself by clicking here.
Adele and I had lunch at a restaurant along the Yarra River (pictured here) before heading to Abbotsford and a visit to the Good Shepherd Sisters' convent there.
When the Bishop invited the Good Shepherd Sisters to come to Melbourne to care for homeless women and girls in distress, the sisters purchased a HUGE piece of property along the Yarra River where the river bends. There they set up a working farm and ran it for many years.
Twenty years ago or so they sold the property to the Victoria Government, retaining for themselves only the Chapel on the property. More recently the Chapel has been renovated so that weddings and baptisms can be held there and part of the chapel has become a heritage center which preserves the story of their work in Melbourne. Adele has been involved in all the hertige center's video and graphic production work.
The property retains the name "The Convent" and the public is free to wander its gracious gardens. Closer to the river is a Children's Farm which also attracts many families. Since the two-week school holidays have just begun this week there were many families out and about enjoying spring in Melbourne.
We enjoyed afternoon tea at "The Convent Bakery" which was very pleasant too. It is wonderful to see all the old buildings having new life. Adele tells me that many artists have studios in the buildings and there is an Art Gallery as well. You can read all about the Abbotsford Convent by clicking here.
Tomorrow Adele, Anne and I will be heading into the Yarra Valley for another adventure. They have done a fantastic job of hosting me here in Victoria.
Monday, September 24, 2012
I arrived in Melbourne yesterday morning and am staying with Adele Howard, who lives in Preston, a Melbourne suburb. Staying with Adele and spending time with Anne Walsh is an experience of the Global Mercy community in itself since both have worked so extensively with the Mercy International Association. Anne edits and publishes Mercy eNews and Adele recently returned from Nairobi, Kenya, where she is working on a project forthe Sisters of Mercy there.
This morning Anne took me to Carlton where she introduced me to Readings, a marvelous book store, where I found some wonderful children's books about Australia.
Later in the day Adele and I participated in two Mercy celebrations. The first took place at the Southern Regional Offices of the new Institute offices in Alphington, another Melbourne suburb. Close to 100 Sisters of Mercy from the Melbourne area attended afternoon tea, which was served by the institute's staff members. It was the first time this community had gathered since the Institute's foundation in December 2011, so the room was alive with the excitement of old friends meeting again.
The offices are lovely, and as you can see in this photo they have included elements of their former convents in the new setting. The symbols certainly seem to be universal.
In the evening we joined a local community of about 15 sisters at Nicholson St. for Evening Prayer and tea (aka supper). This was the sisters' original foundation in Victoria and where their foundress, Ursula Frayne, is buried. It is home to the Academy of Mary Immaculate, and on their website is a short video which tells the story of that foundation. Click here to view it.
During both the afternoon gathering and evening prayer in different ways we renewed our vows. It was very moving for me to renew the vows I made in New York almost 30 years ago here on the other side of the world with the Global Mercy community.
Saturday, 22 September 2012
Happy Mercy Day! Sisters of Mercy around the world celebrate "Mercy Day" on the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy (September 24th), the day on which our foundress, Catherine McAuley, opened the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831. So far I have been celebrating for 2 days and it looks as though this might continue through Monday, which is the actual feast.
I spent Friday at St. Kevin's Primary School in Eastwood, a Sydney suburb, where my cousin Claire teaches. The school was established by the Sisters of Mercy (Parramatta Congregation) in 1925, but they left the school in the late 1970s. In recent years the faculty and administration have been working toward reclaiming their Mercy heritage by naming the Mercy values as their own.
Friday the entire school attended Mass celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy during which their new Mercy Cross was unveiled. I had been invited to introduce the Mass and spoke a bit about our family, the Mercy family, and the meaning of the Mercy Cross. The school principal then unveiled the large marble cross, which will be placed in the school office.
At the Mass 18 children, selected by their teachers and classmates, were presented as the inaugural members of the Mercy Action Group. They will be responsible for insuring that the values are lived out in the school.
For me the tenderest part of the celebration came during communion when they sang all the verses of "The Circle of Mercy" by Jeannette Goglia, RSM. To hear 400 children's voices sweetly affirming that "the circle of mercy IS timeless" brought tears to my eyes.
The next day I was invited to join all the Sisters of Mercy in Sydney for their annual celebration of the feast, which was held at Monte Sant'Angelo Mercy College, a secondary school for girls (grades 7-12) sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in North Sydney. Mass was celebrated in the Chapel pictured here, which was followed by a lovely luncheon served in the elegantly transformed gym. There were over 100 sisters in attendance, which gave me the pleasure of meeting more of my sisters in the Global Mercy community than I ever expected. They welcomed me warmly and when I return to Sydney next week I will be able to meet some of them in their ministries.
Tomorrow I will be off to Melbourne for another leg of this most amazing journey.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
It is another gorgeous Spring day in Sydney and I have been taking full advantage of it.
Yesterday I spent the day with Carmel Pilcher, a "brown" Josephite who lives in Sydney and is a colleague of mine in Societas Liturgica, an international society of liturgical scholars. Carmel has been doing some mission work for the Mater Hospital here in Sydney. Although the hospital is no longer sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, it continues to celebrate Mercy week and fosters Mercy values and outreach into the community. On the hospital website the Mater is described as "a private hospital renowned for its quality care and compassion" and the Mercy Cross and name are still clearly visible. What a resilient mission we have!
The Sisters' work in Sydney continues through the Foundation they established when they sold the hospital.
Since Carmel lives in the neighboring suburb we met on the bus and traveled to the end of the line at Circular Quay. We walked around the Quay, encircling the Sydney Opera House and then had lunch in the Cafe atop the Museum of Contemporary Art. As you can see it has a wonderful view of both the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House.
Today I returned to the Circular Quay, this time at the Customs House which is also home to the City of Sydney Library and free wireless. Later I will return to a wonderful craft shop on George St. which Carmel introduced me to yesterday. I resisted even asking the price of this coat and settled for simply snapping a photo instead.
Tomorrow I will be going to school with Claire for their celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. Although the Sisters of Mercy left that parish school in 1978, the school has been in the process of reclaiming its Mercy heritage. Another example of resiliency!
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
I arrived in Sydney Friday afternoon and am staying with my cousin Claire and her husband John in Ryde, a Sydney suburb.
Claire and I are third cousins once removed. My great grandfather, the famous Irish patriot and author, William C. Upton and Claire's great great grandmother Maria Upton Norrie were siblings. Maria was among of the oldest of the family's 10 children; William was among the youngest. Maria immigrated to Australia and William to America but they maintained a correspondendence that has enabled each generation to visit the other for more than a century. Here Claire is showing me a waratah, the state flower of New South Wales.
My major challenge in Sydney has been connecting to the Internet to update this blog. I tried McDonald's on Sunday, but that proved too challenging so I eventually gave up without publishing. Today I am in the Public Library at the City of Ryde Shopping Center. It's a beautiful new library, but I haven't been able to get my laptop to connect to the Internet. Challenges abound when traveling and this makes me empathize with our students with similar challenges at home and abroad.
Sunday Claire and John took me on an excursion down the Pacific Coast. The ocean views were spectacular.
We drove down along the Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney to Gerringong where we stopped for lunch. Then we turned inland and traveled over the Jambaroo Pass into the Southern Highlands and then back to Sydney.
Yesterday I went on a road trip down to Canberra (Australia's capital) to see Floriade, Australia's celebration of Spring in Commonwealth Park. There were so many beautiful floral gardens. I've linked you to their website, but I just wish there were some way to package the sweet aromas and amazing sounds of the birds too.
The entire park is converted to a festival. School bands performed on the stage and the ferris wheel and other games attracted many families with young children. There were tents where one could shop, but not many craftsmen.
Most of all I enjoyed the peace of the place. Although I might be missing the beautiful autumn colors at home, I'm also getting this amazing second chance at spring this year. Jackie would have taken the most spectacular photographs of all these flowers, but I'm quite content with the "magic" my camera produced in this photograph.
I have connected with the Sisters of Mercy and a few "liturgical" friends in Sydney. I'll be with them over the next few days.
Thursday, 13 September 2012
I flew back to Auckland early yesterday morning and am spending my one last day here reflecting on these wonderful 3 weeks and giving thanks.
Yesterday afternoon Rosemary took me on one last gambol around Auckland and its myriad of sheep (Psalm 144). I have seen thousands and thousands of them it seems over the course of the last 3 weeks. The lambs are precious and plentiful. Pictured here is probably a cluster of orphans. The one up in the corner trying to get climb the fence gave me a real laugh. It was close to feeding time and they seemed quite sure that Rosemary and I were there to feed them.
We stopped in Clevedon Village where I did some shopping. It's about a 20-minute drive from Auckland and I continue to be amazed at the wide variety of terrain that is possible within a few miles of the city.
Just when I think that Rosemary has taken me to every regional park in the area she reminds me that is not possible because there are 365 of them--one for every day of the year.
I was happy to have some last glimpses of this city that I have come to enjoy so much. True, I have not spent any time exploring its "downtown," but I don't regret that at all. Maybe I'll get to do that on another visit. I have come on this Global Mercy Learning Journey to meet the rest of the sisters and that I have surely done, thanks especially to Rosemary, Senolita and Anna who made sure of that.
This is my last entry from New Zealand. Early tomorrow morning I fly to Australia and will be staying with family in Sydney. The last time I was there I was able to access the Internet only from McDonalds. We'll see tomorrow what might have changed in the intervening years.
If you ever have the chance to visit New Zealand, do it. You'll never regret it.
Tuesday 11 September 2012
Dunedin, New Zealand
Today began with snow and Mass at Mercy Hospital in Dunedin. Spring seems far advanced to look at the beautiful flowers blooming, but winter still made its appearance felt.
Although there are not any Sisters of Mercy on the staff of Mercy Hospital there, several sisters are members of the hospital's board, the hospital is still sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, and the Mercy charism and tradition is clearly evident in the people as well as the environment.
We had driven from Alexandra to Dunedin on Monday since I had a meeting with Dr. Philip Hill, who is the McAuley Professor of International Health at the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago and directs the Center for International Health there as well. He has done some interesting research himself, having lived in The Gambia for six years, but he also directs the International Health Research Network that is of particular interest to me.
After Mass this morning we hit the road heading back to Christchurch. Anna coped well with snow, sleet, rain, sun, and treacherous mountain patches. They don't use ice for their roads here, just grit.
We stopped at the Moeraki Boulders along the way. You might want to read about these unusual rock formations that took millions of years to form. Click here for some interesting views of the boulders.
What astounded me most, though, was looking out across the ocean and knowing that the next body of land out there is Antartica. This is probably as close as I'll ever come.
Now we are safely back in Christchurch --well, as safely as one can be in earthquake-prone Christchurch. I've enjoyed my visit to the South Island very much and tomorrow I head back to Auckland for the last few days of my New Zealand experience.
Saturday, 08 September 2012
Anna and I left Christchurch in the late afternoon yesterday and headed south into the Southern Alps. Our destination was Lake Tekapo where we had reservations to see the night sky at the Mt. John University Observatory. It was just beautiful driving into the snow-capped mountains, but we were racing for our date with "Earth and Sky." We just made it in time.
It was extremely windy at the Observatory and quite cold too, but it was all worth the adventure. I've never seen a night sky like that. Of course we have too much ground light in New York, and white light of any kind is forbidden up at Mt. John. That made the expedition difficult and challenging, but well worth the effort.
There were several telescopes on the montain which the guides set up so that we could observe specific stars and planets. I was most thrilled to see Saturn and the Southern Cross, but we had opportunities to see several other celestial sights as well.
The tour included a visit to the largest telescope in New Zealand, which wasn't able to be operated last night because of the fierce winds. (Anna is standing over my right shoulder in this picture.)
This morning we set out in the pouring rain for our trip to Alexandra where we will spend the next two nights. It was a beautiful trip through the mountains and the sun ven came out for a while. Sisters Pauline Gallagher and Eleanor Pelvin have welcomed us to their homes and it is wonderful sharing Mercy life with them.
Friday, 07 September 2012
It was a quick flight from Auckland to Christchurch. At the domestic airport you print your own boarding pass and baggage label, put it on your suitcase and load it on to the belt. There is no line at the security scanner; you need not disrobe; and no one asks you for ID. It reminded me of the pre-9/11 world.
On the other hand, as soon as I arrived here in Christchurch, S. Anna Nichols gave me my earthquake instructions. It's all a matter of perspective.
Anna gave me a brief earthquake tour on our way to Marian College, where she works. Roads buckled, crumpled buildings of various sorts, and empty lots where houses once stood. I thought the Cathedral was particularly sad.
Marian College, a diocesan school formed in 1982 when two girls' academies merged--St. Mary's College, established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893, and McKillop College, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Both traditions are maintained. Following the February 22, 2011 earthquake the school was forced to relocate. Because the ground here is still moving, it is not yet known if the original property can be repaired and restored.
Recently the students, in an effort to meet local needs, sponsored a free carwash. Over 500 cars were washed during that week in a city still suffering from ongoing demolition, liquefaction and grime. You might be interested is seeing their video of the event. Click here!
We're heading further south this afternoon and with luck will be stargazing tonight.
Thursday, 06 September 2012
Papatuanuka ki Taurangi (Earth Promise)
Ellerslie, Auckland, NZ
There was great excitement here in the garden yesterday. S. Rosemary Revell has been named a finalist in the New Zealand Gardner's Veggie Gardener of the Year Contest. There was a photo shoot in the garden yesterday and everyone is looking forward to the publication next month. I have attached the nomination which was written by two of the volunteers here in the Garden. It gives you more background on this wonderful garden and the ministry of the Sisters of Mercy here in Auckland. Rosemary's Nomination.pdf
In a little while I will be leaving for Christchurch on the South Island and the next chapter in this adventure. Although I will be back in Auckland again next week for a couple of days it is still difficult to leave this wonderful place. Where else does one get an egg specially delivered each morning from "chooks" who live on the property?
I have no idea what kind of Internet connections I will have in the coming days. S. Annan Nicholls and I will be traveling over the weekend to Dunedin, which is even further south, so whenever I get back to the blog I will have lots to add.
Monday 03 September 2013
Kingdom of Tonga Reflections
I arrived back in Auckland this afternoon after 5 days in Tonga. While there S. Senolita totally immersed me in the daily life and culture of the Tongan people. I know we refer to the Kingdom of Tonga as part of the "developing world," but in many ways I see that they are more developed than we in the first world are.
One of my favorite books is Bill McKibben's The Age of Missing Information. In it he studies all that we have forgotten as a civilization as we have "advanced." I hear echoes of Judy Collins singing "Both Sides Now" as I write this, "Something's lost and something's gained in living every day."
The Tongan people make use of EVERYTHING and they know how to do things I can just marvel at . On Friday Senolita and I visited some of the projects Caritas helps to fund and I saw every stage of how the women make tapa, their traditional cloth.
Throughout the island you can hear the flax being beaten into strips which are pieced together with a mixture of flour and water. Designs are then pressed into them and dyed, using mulberry berries. As I saw the women working together on this massive project it reminded me of quilting groups in Amish communities.
One night we went to a resort for dinner and a show. It is a family-owned business catering to tourists, but it was a remarkable lesson in sustainability. The tables and chairs were made from trees; the table cloths were large banana leaves; the "plates" were layers of bark from banana trees; and the decorations were bunches of small bananas which doubled as dessert.
Dinner and the show of traditional dances each took place in caves on the beach. I was enthralled!
Saturday morning after we visited the market Senolita took Mary Lynch, another visitor from NZ, and me to another island for some relax ation. Pangaimou was about 10 minutes by motor boat from Tongatapu. You can rent a cottage there, but most people came just for the day. It was lovely and peaceful as you can tell from this view from my chair.
Sunday in Tonga is all about worship. Everyone goes to church! Nothing is opened except the bakery and no sports are allowed. Planes are not permitted to land or take off except in a dire emergency if someone needed to be airlifted. Mass at St. Michael's was long by our standards and for me its most memorable element was the music. Accompanied by brass, the choir sang lustily in 4-part harmony and most of the congregation joined in as well. They sang everything!
The rest of the day is spent visiting family and eating a big feast. People share food with their friends and neighbors and this includes the sisters. We went to our other convent in Kolonga and brought along the food that had been given to us and enjoyed a big meal, conversation and deep relaxation.
But I'm glad to be back "home" in Auckland for a few days.
Friday, 31 August 2012
Kingdom of Tonga
Although I have had the use of my iPhone since I arrived, Internet access is not generally available. The Caritas office where S. Senolita works has wireless, so today I came equipped with my laptop. However, the connection is very weak and it won't allow me to load pictures, so I'll have to wait until I return to Auckland for more sophisticated opportunities.
When I arrived here on Wednesday, Senolita was at the airport to greet me with a garland. On the way to the convent we stopped at Takuilau College (high school) where S. Fa'eo is the principal. Although it is not sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, immediately it was obvious that it the spirit of Mercy and Catherine McAuley are alive and well here.
Tonga is tropical, flat, and sparsely populated. The people are warm and welcoming. They say it is the first country to seen the dawn each day and it is the only surviving Polynesian monarchy. They take great pride in never having been colonized and so refer to themselves as "the real South Pacific."
The Kingdom is comprised of 176 islands of which 40 are inhabited spread over 700,000 sq km of ocean. It has a total population of 101,134, but most live here on Tongatapu, a triangular-shaped island, which seems to be about 20 km across at its base.
Their greatest challenge with regard to climate change is erosion. Although we hear most about the threatened disappearance of Kiribati, many other South Pacific Islands are similarly threatened. Tsunamis, which are new here, pose the greatest threat since the islands are flat.
Yesterday we attended a funeral, which was a most profound experience. No coffin! The body is wrapped in a mat and laid out on another mat on the church floor and covered with a white pall. After the Funeral Mass, rich with music of all sorts, relatives shoulder the body and carry it to a truck and slide the mat into the back. The truck is covered with a mat which overhangs it like a canopy. Family members walk behind, holding up the back of the canopy, as everyone walks to the cemetery.
The daughter of the deceased works at Takuilau College, so the school band led the procession, followed by the cross bearer, acolytes and priests. Once we arrived at the cemetery, two men jumped into the grave to assist with placing the body down gently. It was all so loving! The pall was removed and then the men covered the vault with 4 cement blocks, after which sand was shoveled into a huge mound and smoothed over the entire grave. This was completely covered by layers and layers flowers and leaves by the family members. A spokesperson thanked everyone for coming and the crowd dispersed.
Each village has a school, cemetery and several churches--Catholic, Methodist, Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventist, Assembly of God, Christian Church of Tonga, etc. Yes, more than one church in each small village. All of those churches also run schools as well, some very large boarding schools.
Our Catholic Church has daily mass at 6 a.m. and Senolita tells me that 200 people attend. We will go to mass later today at the Basilica, but from my room in the Convent I could hear all the people singing in 4-part harmony at 6 a.m.
Tonga has both a Basilica and a Cathedral, and we visited the Cathedral yesterday. It is huge, even by our standards. [The Basilica is the building above and the Cathedral the one below. Each could easily hold 800 or more people.]
As I said I'll add the pictures in when I get back to Auckland on Monday.
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Ellerslie, Auckland, New Zealand
It has been a busy two days. Yesterday I visited several ministries of the Sisters of Mercy here in Ellerslie.
First I visited Te Waipuna Puwai (Mercy Oaisis). This community develo pment initiative provides tertiary and personal development education, creativ e opportunities, healing therapies and environmental projects and a supportive community for young women who have been disadvantaged. Also on site is an early childhood care and education unit so their children benefit as well.
Next door is Mercy Parklands, a nursing home with approximately 120 residents sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, but not begun by them. The sisters purchased this nursing home which was in financial difficulty right at the time they were seeking to extend their services in geriatric care.
Later in the afternoon Rosemary and I went to see the film "How Far is Heaven," an award-winning documentary film of the Sisters of Compassion's ministry among the Maori people in the remote village of Jerusalem / Hiruharama on the Whangauni River. I've linked you to the film's website so you can get a sense of the blend of Christian and Maori life.
I spent this morning in the Garden here, Papatuanuka ki Taurangi (Earth Promise) building a compost heap. Yes! It makes our own compost attempts with scraps at home se em mighty puny by comparison. It took all morning, but under Rosemary's expert direction we prepared a layered tower of garden scraps, twigs, matured compost from the kitchens, real cow manu re. Yum! You can read more about their ministry on the Ooooby website.
Tomorrow I'm off to Tonga. I have no idea what internet or wireless opportunities I'll find there. It's all an adventure! Stay tuned....
Sunday, 26 August 2012
Red Beach on the Hisbiscus Coast of Auckland, NZ
We have been weekending at the sisters' beach cottage here in Red Beach. It overlooks the beach where beginners are learning to surf even in the winter. (Yes, they this "winter," but it is not anything like a NY winter. It's really early spring, with temperatures in the upper 50s or so and magnolias blooming.)
Before driving up here yesterday we stopped at St. Mary's Convent where Rosie gave a brief talk to a group of young alums who were having a retreat
/ formation day. They are in a discernment process to become associates or members. All are Samoan and now university students, with wonderful, generous hearts. It was a privilege to be with them.
Later that afternoon we drove to Shakespear (not misspelled!) Regional Park where I had a chance to walk on the beach. High tide at Red Beach made that impossible. Shakespear Park is on the Hauraki Gulf which becomes Waitemata Harbor. The sand is white and finer than ours at home and I picked up some shells, also smaller and more fragile than we have in NY.
Mass this morning was at St. Francis by the Sea, which seems to be a vital community where everone participates in the liturgy even at 8:30 on a Sunday morning--the only Mass they have on a Sunday.
Friday, 24 August 2012
I arrived in Auckland, NZ yesterday after an 11 hour flight from Seoul. Sister Rosemary Revell was at the airport to welcome me. She dropped me off at her house and headed to work. After a nap and shower I felt fit and ready for the NZ adventure to begin.
Sister Barbara, who lives next door, took me to their former Motherhouse, where Rosie works in Pastoral Care. I had afternoon lunch with the sisters there to celebrate Rosie's feast day and then Rosie took me on a tour of the rest of the ministries there.
St. Mary's College (aka high school) was founded in 1850 and is still in operation. Some of the girls were still around at that hour of the day, mostly engaged in sports of various sorts. Their former novitiate is now Mercy Hospice, a beautiful, peaceful place where people live their last days free of charge.
Other sisters in the neighborhood joined us for a Feast Day dinner in Rosie's honor at a local restaurant, and I was happy for the opportunity to meet more of my sisters. (Rosie is on my right and the other sister pictured here is Barbara, who lives next door
Today we set out on another adventure to visit Hamilton where K'aute Pasifika, a community-based Pacific Island initiative provides primary healthcare, social services and education for Pacific Island people free of charge. Rosie's brother, Leo, is their physician and justice advocate.
On the way back to Auckland we stopped at the Hot Springs in Miranda, the largest hot mineral springs pool in the southern hemisphere. We bathed in the sauna. So relaxing!
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Seoul, South Korea
It was a 14 hour flight from JFK to South Korea on Korean Air. A relatively comfortable flight, I give Korean Air high marks for being genteel. From check in through departure, the flight and arrival everything worked with military precision. It was a great start to this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
The layover here is 13 hours and then I continue on Korean Air to Auckland, New Zealand. There are "transit tours" from the airport into Seoul, but I decided to forego that experience this time around. I'll be back to Seoul several more times with long layovers and might try one of the tours then. For now I'm content simply to sit and wait. The lounge is comfortable and I can power up all of my assorted devices for the next leg of the trip. I have a great window seat and they even have "real food." What more could I ask for?
Pentecost 2012 /
Memorial Day Weekend 2012
I traveled to Chicago this weekend, along with more than 1,000 mostly young people who traveled from 36 States, 6 Canadian Provinces, Haiti and Mexico as part of Taize's Pilgrimage of Trust at DePaul University. Awesome! It was a privilege to pray with them all weekend and I hope that peaceful pulse lasts a good long time.
This was the first time that one of their pilgrimages was held in the United States, but I hope it won't be the last. The folks at DePaul did an amazing job preparing for the event, and all of the Chicago churches pitched in to provide housing for the pilgrims.