May 18, 2013
The monastic community was honored to receive Bishop Robert Baker of the Diocese of Birmingham as our first Open House guest when he arrived yesterday afternoon for an early tour of our newly-renovated Monastery and Retreat Center. As he toured he met with individual Sisters, taking special care to visit with each Sister in the infirmary and impart his blessing. At 10:00 AM today, Bishop David Foley, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Birmingham, and Abbot Cletus Meagher, Abbot of Saint Bernard Abbey in Cullman, will lead the blessing of the newly renovated and constructed areas. Following the blessing, the Monastery and Retreat Center will be open for tours until 2:00 PM. All are invited. A link to directions is in the previous post.
Pictured above: Bishop Baker is the first to sign the Open House guest book in the Sisters' dining room. While in the dining room, he stopped to entertain the Sisters with a couple of tunes on the piano.
May 16, 2013
The final details are falling into place as the monastic community prepares for Saturday's Blessing and Open House. In addition to last minute touch ups like freshly cut grass, the Sisters and their staff have been busy planting shrubs and flowers along newly-built and freshly-sodded areas, hanging pictures, and putting the final touches on their monastic home after this long season of renovation and construction.
Among the most important of recent preparations was yesterday's arrival of the recognition display panel and placards honoring the many who have contributed to the project. The Sisters are so grateful to those who have given so generously and are most pleased that these individuals, groups, and foundations are now recognized in various areas throughout the monastery.
Driving directions to the Open House can be found here. A link to the invitation with details of the time and date can be found in the previous post.
Above, Sister Kathleen mulches newly-planted shrubs while Sister Therese (below) gives the front lawn a fresh mow. At left, pictures have been retrieved from storage and re-hung in the newly renovated areas.
Above, Sisters have their first look at the recognition display before hand-carrying it inside section by section. At left, Sisters carefully unpack individual placards which designate commemorative gifts. Below, Sisters read the newly-installed board, and Sister Janet Marie holds a sign which expresses the deep gratitude of the community.
May 6, 2013
The Sisters have scheduled a Blessing and Open House of the newly-renovated Ottilia Hall, Sisters' dining room, and the new Retreat Center dining and meeting areas. The event is scheduled for May 18 with the Blessing at 10:00 AM and the Open House from 10:30 AM - 2:00 PM. All are invited. A pdf version of the invitation can be found here.
April 10, 2013
After many delays caused by frequent rain, the paving of the new Retreat Center entrance drive and handicap parking spaces began today. One more day of paving remains, scheduled for later this week.
Completion of this entrance drive will allow for wheel chair and handicap access to the new Retreat Center meeting and dining areas, as well as allow group leaders to unload equipment and programs materials just steps from their meeting room.
For now, non-handicap guest parking remains in front of the main monastery building and in the former Retreat Center parking lot near Mary Hall and Joseph Hall. Following the completion of Phase III (new group overnight accommodations and parking), all guest parking will be near the new meeting and lodging areas.
April 8, 2013
Sister Mary Leo Arnold, the eldest in our community, recently marked her 98th birthday. The Sisters celebrated the occasion with cake and ice cream in the community's new dining room. After the celebration, Sisters Bernadette Sachs and Tonette Sperando led Sister Mary Leo on a tour of the new Retreat Center dining and meeting rooms. We rejoice over the long life of our Sister and her years of faithful witness. Please see page 2 of Benedictine Update below for an article about Sister Mary Leo.
April 8, 2013
The most recent edition of Benedictine Update has been published and mailed to our many friends and family members. The issue gives details of the completion of the first two phases of Reflect Renew Rejoice along with updates on the ministerial activities of many of our Sisters. A pdf version can be read on-line here.
March 25, 2013
The monastic community began Holy Week with a beautiful Mass of Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion with Blessing and Procession of Palms. A large number of people joined the Sisters for the liturgy, including weekend retreatants as well as many others from the Cullman area.
After a year in which most of Ottilia Hall was off limits due to renovation, the Sisters were grateful begin the procession "at the star," the wooden inlay at the center of Ottilia's first floor, and in the shadow of our beloved Sacred Heart statue that only a few weeks ago was returned to its spot in the center of our home.
The schedule of Holy Week liturgies at the monastery can be found here. Guests are welcome.
March 21, 2013
Sister Priscilla Cohen was quoted yesterday in an article in Dateline: Alabama, a student-run publication at the University of Alabama. The article focused on the reaction of Catholics to the election of Pope Francis. The article link can be found here.
March 21, 2013
As the Sisters make the final tweaks to their renovated living areas and the Retreat Center settles into their new meeting spaces, they are already looking ahead toward the third and final phase of the project - new Retreat Center overnight accommodations. A total of 24 new guest rooms, each with a private bath and each accommodating up to two individuals will be constructed near the new meeting rooms. The 24 rooms will be spread two separate buildings, each with a covered porch, living room/gathering space, and kitchenette.
Sisters met yesterday with architects and engineers to discuss the plans. It was one in a series of meetings that the Sisters have had with architectural and engineering professionals as the plans have taken shape. Yesterday's meeting included a couple of trips outdoors to assess various areas of the monastery property.
A link to contribution form to assist in this important project can be found here.
March 15, 2013
We rejoice along with the rest of the Universal Church in celebrating the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as our Holy Father, Pope Francis. The entire community has eagerly attended to news from Rome over the past few weeks, and special prayers were offered each evening during Vespers in the days leading up to the Conclave. Our fervent prayers continue for Pope Francis, for the Church, and for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
At the news of "white smoke," Sisters gathered in Ottilia Hall community rooms to await the words "Habamus Papam" and the introduction of our new Pope.
March 14, 2013
The monastic community gathered this past weekend for their Spring community meetings. In addition to hearing committee reports and conducting necessary community business, these meetings give the Sisters a chance to pause from the demands of ministry and enjoy one another's company.
This particular meeting was the community's first in the new Retreat Center meeting rooms, giving the Sisters an opportunity to experience the new meeting spaces that retreat groups have been enjoying for the past several weeks.
At right, Sister Janet Marie Flemming, Prioress, addresses the gathered community. Below are several other photos from the weekend.
March 6, 2013
The Sisters have had special cause for rejoicing this week over the return of several important and beloved elements of their monastic home. Last week, the monastic library was moved into its new space on the 2nd floor of Annunciata Hall. Sisters have been busy cleaning shelves and unpacking and sorting books, trying hard not to check out every interesting title they see! At left, Sister Mary Ruth Coffman, community librarian, rejoices over the progress made in shelving the collection.
Yesterday saw the return of the community's beloved Sacred Heart statue. It was carefully placed in its traditional home in the entrance hallway of Ottilia Hall. Today the Steinway piano was removed from its long season of storage and placed in its new home in the Sisters dining room.
Meanwhile, very slow progress is being made on the drive for the covered entrance to the Retreat Center. Repeated rain has necessitated frequent pauses in the work. As these efforts unfold, Retreat Center staff members continue to welcome groups and individuals into the new Retreat Center meeting rooms and private retreatant areas. Guest after guest has gushed over the many improvements and beautiful new surroundings.
Below are a few photos from the past several days.
Books arrive from storage. Most of the collection, along with the library shelving, had been stored in the basement of Joseph Hall during the renovation and was delivered to Annunciata Hall via the chapel steps. It took hundreds of boxes to store the collection.
Sister Regina cleans library shelves after their arrival in Annunciata Hall. Numerous Sisters, under the direction of Sister Mary Ruth, participated in the effort to get the library situated in its new home.
Sister Mary Vincent plays a piece on the newly-arrived piano as Sisters disperse after lunch today.
Sister Therese pauses to listen.
Rainy weather makes for slow progress on the new drive.
The Sacred Heart statue looks right at home in its familiar spot in Ottilia Hall. The Sisters are grateful to have this important landmark back in the center of their home.
February 18, 2013
After years of planning and months of renovation, the new Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center meeting facilities opened this weekend. The Sisters were delighted that the first retreat in the newly-renovated space was led by Bishop David Foley, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Birmingham.
The new center features 3 meeting rooms of varying sizes, an enclosed sun porch with comfortable seating for visiting or reading, an additional quiet sitting room, and two handicap-accessible bedrooms. A lovely chapel graces the east end of the meeting area. The gift shop is currently being stocked and will be open soon.
At the close of Mass on Sunday, Bishop Foley commended the Sisters for what they have done with the Retreat Center, even leading the congregation in a round of applause as he thanked the Sisters for their efforts to create a place in which faith can deepen and "lives can change, even in just a few hours."
We look forward to welcoming many to this wonderful new place of spiritual nurture and retreat.
Below are several pictures of the new Retreat Center, and from last week's move.
The Retreat Center office was the first to be moved on moving day last week. St. Therese of Liseux watched over the process as the office was the through-route for most of the meeting room furnishings.
Chairs from the former St. Joseph meeting room are stacked and ready to move.
Furnishings for the new private retreatant area make their way from St. Joseph Hall to the new building.
Because of the quantity and size of items to moved, professional movers were hired to transport the furniture and larger boxes. However the Sisters moved as much as possible on their own. In this picture, Sr. Elisabeth, Retreat Center Associate Director, takes a photo from behind the cart she is pushing, as Sr. Therese, Retreat Center Director, wheels a cart up ahead.
St. Scholastica, pray for us! St. Scholastica graces the outdoor corner between the Large Meeting Room and the Sun Porch. This photo was taken from the meeting room window looking toward the Sun Porch. The new Retreat Center dining room is reflected in the Sun Porch windows.
The former St. Joseph room chairs look right at home in their new surroundings. The two larger meeting rooms each contain a counter and sink for groups that wish to serve refreshments.
Two of the meeting rooms feature views of the woods along the Sisters' Cemetery Road.
The third meeting room offers a courtyard view on two sides, along with space for a quiet one-on-one conference...
...or for a dozen people to gather around a table for a meeting.
A cozy nook for reading or quiet conversation.
The Sun Porch offers another welcoming space for reading or relaxing.
The exterior of the new Retreat Center dining room. A small courtyard offers exterior access from the meeting rooms, while a corridor provides an interior route.
Updated beverage service equipment in the dining room offers a significant improvement from the old facilities.
Windows brighten the dining room.
The same familiar Sisters and staff are on hand to welcome guests.
A rocker stands ready to welcome private retreatants in the new area dedicated to the silence of a private retreat. This area contains a kitchenette, a sitting room, and five bedrooms, each with a private bath.
Until our new overnight group accommodations are completed, group lodging remains in Mary Hall and Benet Hall. Our telephone number (256-437-8302) and email address (email@example.com) remain unchanged.
February 4, 2013
The Sisters are filled with excitement and anticipation as the end of Phase II of the renovation project is now within sight. As noted in the previous post, the new Retreat Center dining room has been up and running for several weeks. Retreat Center meeting rooms and administrative offices have tagged behind the dining room but will soon be ready for to receive guests. These areas have now been turned over to the Sisters who today began the process of cleaning them to "convent clean" standards. This is in preparation for Retreat Center meeting room and office furnishings to be moved next week, and the reception of guests to follow the next weekend.
Below are several photos from the past few days.
Sisters and staff alike pitched in today to clean cabinets, baseboards, windows, and walls in the new Retreat Center meeting areas.
Abundant windows allow expansive views from the new medium-sized meeting room.
New floors gleam in the large meeting room.
As younger Sisters and staff engaged in the heavy-duty room and window cleaning, older Sisters gathered in the Sisters' dining room to clean blinds and smaller items and ready them for installation. In these photos, Sister Ursula, Sister Mary Ruth, and Sister Regina clean and prepare blinds for installation.
Even as the Sisters and staff ready these new spaces to receive guests, planning is underway for the new overnight retreat guest accommodations called for in Phase III. Here Sister Janet Marie and Sister Tonette prepare for one of many meetings that they are having with architects and Retreat Center administrators.
January 30, 2013
The much-anticipated completion of Phase II continues to be set back by weather delays, especially the completion of the new road and driveway up to the new Retreat Center entrance. Inside activities continued, however, starting with the move into the new kitchen and dining facilities. On January 12, the first Retreat Center guests were welcomed into the new food service facility with high excitement. By mid-February, the Retreat Center Office and meeting areas will be in their new locations. Benet Hall and Mary Hall will continue to house guests for all overnight events until the completion of Phase III. To see photos of January's progress, click here.
January 29, 2013
Early this morning, Sr. Dominica Rigotti passed away in the community infirmary. Numerous Sisters gathered in Sister Dominica's room and surrounded her bedside as Sister Janet Marie Flemming, Prioress, led the community in prayer.
Sister Dominica was 90 years of age and in the 72nd year of her monastic profession. She had many years of ministry in the field of education, excelling in the teaching of math and physics at John Carroll Catholic High School. She was deeply engaged in the life of the school, including keeping sports statistics courtside for many years.
Sister's body will be received in the monastery chapel for Vespers of the Faithful Departed at 5:00 PM on January 30. Mass of Christian Burial will be held on January 31 at 3:00 PM with burial following in the monastery cemetery. A link to Sr. Dominica's obituary can be found here.
January 17, 2013
Last evening at the beginning of Vespers, the community welcomed Minona D'Souza into the Postulancy. The brief ceremony began with Minona's knock on the chapel door, a knock that was answered by Sister Janet Marie Flemming, Prioress. Minona then responded to Sister Janet Marie's question, "Minona, what do you seek?" Sister Janet Marie responded in turn with a brief exhortation, and then the community offered a promise of prayer and support for Minona as she begins her initial formation into the monastic way of life.
During this period of formation and continued discernment, Minona will take classes in various aspects of scripture, theology, and monastic spirituality. She will also have several work assignments within the monastery. Sister Magdalena Craig will serve as her Director during this stage of initial monastic formation.
Minona comes to Sacred Heart from Houston, TX. Several family members joined the community for the entrance ceremony.
Minona is pictured at right enjoying today's snowfall.
January 17, 2013
After days of persistent rain, a sudden snowfall accompanied by thunder and lightening blanketed Cullman this afternoon, quickly covering the monastery grounds. Several of the Sisters left their offices or other assignments to enjoy the rare Alabama snowfall.
Below, Sisters Therese, Lynn Marie, and Tonette enjoy a walk through the snow.
At right, Sisters Lynn Marie, Elisabeth, and Tonette hard at work on a professional-quality snow sculpture.
Novice Sister Michelle was relieved from her infirmary duties by Sister Tonette so that she could come out and join in the fun. Several of the Sisters in the infirmary enjoyed watching from the windows as the snow sculpture took shape.
Sr. Lynn Marie puts on the finishing touches. With the cones of magnolia blossoms for eyes, construction gravel for a mouth, and crowned with a sprig of holly this Southern snow-sculpture is a true work of art.
With the sculpture complete, the Sisters were not quite ready to come in so a few snowball tosses were good-naturedly traded. In this picture, Sister Therese trades the aim of a camera for the aim of a snowball.
The snowfall ceased as suddenly as it began, revealing the first blue sky the Sisters have seen in days.
January 17, 2013
Yesterday, Sisters Karen Ann Lortscher and Elisabeth Meadows attended Vocation Awareness Day at John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham. Sister Karen Ann is Director of Vocation Ministry for the community and Sister Elisabeth serves on the Vocation Team. Sister Sherrie Brainard, who is on the staff at John Carroll, joined Sisters Karen Ann and Elisabeth in interacting with students who stopped to chat. The Sisters enjoyed explaining the Benedictine charism of prayer and community to the students as well as sharing bookmarks with a quote from the Rule of St. Benedict.
Depicted above from left to right: Sister Sherrie, Sister Karen Ann, and Sister Elisabeth
January 7, 2013
A reporter and a photographer from the Cullman Times stopped by the monastery last Friday to see who the Sisters would be rooting for during tonight's BCS national championship match-up between a Catholic university and a home-state university. Many Sisters are Alabama natives, and some are graduates of the University of Alabama or are life-long Alabama fans. Others are Notre Dame fans, and some are graduates of Notre Dame. Many are fans of both teams. So yes, the game has captured the attention of the community.
The feature article that resulted from the interview with Sr. Kathleen Gallas and Sr. Lynn Marie McKenzie made it to the front page of the Sunday edition of the Cullman Times. You can read the article here.
Today, Sr. Therese Haydel was interviewed by a Huntsville television station for her take on the game. The link is available here.
The Sisters are grateful that their Benedictine life of prayer and work can be balanced with recreation, especially recreation that can be engaged in together - even if they are rooting for different teams.
January 3, 2013
Christmas joy continued in a special way today for the monastic community as they moved into their new dining room and kitchen. This move was the culmination of many years of planning and over a year of renovation during which the auditorium space underneath the chapel was transformed into a beautiful dining room with a new kitchen at the rear of the dining area. The new Retreat Center dining room also received its tables and chairs today in preparation for serving guests in just over a week.
The dining room is a focal point of monastic community life, and tonight, with great thanksgiving, the Sisters shared their first meal in their new dining room. Thanks be to God!
Following are photos from throughout the day.
At breakfast, the Sisters gather for their final meal in the dining room that has served them so well for so many years.
Meanwhile, the new dining room stood empty and ready.
The new Retreat Center dining room, at left, also stood ready and waiting.
A storage room near the kitchen awaits cabinets and dishware.
Sr. Mary greets the arriving movers.
Chairs begin to arrive.
Sr. Mary Adrian and Sr. Jane unpack glasses.
Sr. Mary Vincent (below) watches from the old dining room window as tables are being moved across the porch.
Dressed for the weather, Sr. Mary Jude (right) serves as portress for the workmen as they carry tables from the old dining room. Meanwhile, Sr. Ursula (below) attends the door as they enter Ottilia.
Sr. Janet Marie pauses mid-day to assess the progress.
Sr. Kathleen Christa gives each spice jar a good wash as it enters the new kitchen, and then arranges them on the shelves.
Sr. Brigid and Sr. Mary Adrian organize utensils.
Sr. Karen Ann unpacks dishes in the storage room that was depicted empty above.
There were numerous pauses for consultation...
...and much collaborative work.
A place for everything,
and everything in its place.
The dining room begins to take shape, along with two sitting areas, one of which is depicted below. The Sisters purchased no new furniture or supplies for the dining room, instead using furniture, lamps, utensils, etc. that they have used for many years, and in many cases, decades. New kitchen equipment was kept to an absolute minimum, with the only new purchases being items that required updating to meet current codes, along with updated beverage service equipment for the Retreat Center in order to improve service for guests.
Tables and chairs fill the new Retreat Center dining room.
The microwave and toasters arrive...
...along with milk, eggs, and potatoes.
A quiet nook for monastic reading or sisterly conversation.
Ready for breakfast...
...or a snack.
Our first meal in the new dining room was a simple pizza supper. Sr. Mary Ruth takes in the moment.
Sisters Tonette, Mary Jude, and Mary Vincent linger after supper for a visit.
A wonderful sight...lamplight in the dining room window at dusk. Thanks be to God for the many gifts of this day!