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Summer 2010

Connecting Point Living Sacramentally: Showing Visible Signs of Invisible Grace It is not surprising that the symbolic acts which lie at the heart of the sacraments are all expressions of human intimacy: a bath, a laying on of hands, an embrace, a rubbing with oil, a meal. These actions have become symbols of the coming of God into our lives because they are the actions which have to do most marvelously and delicately with our coming closer to one another. Tad Guzie,

“The Book of Sacramental Basics”

When friends of Sr. Catherine Cleary took some Russian friends to Mass recently, they had a question after the service. They asked, What did you go up and eat? They had never attended a Eucharistic celebration, and were curious about what they’d seen. For the Russians, the experience had been neither Sacrament nor sacramental with a small “s.” Without an understanding of the event, it hadn’t transcended the obvious literal and physical act for them. It wasn’t a visible sign of invisible grace (St. Augustine). It was a curiosity, nothing more. But living sacramentally is about more than participating in church rituals. While the Seven Sacraments formally celebrate the spiritual milestones of humanity, they do so in keeping with our call to a daily spirituality of attention and presence; of sacramentality. They do so, as Tad Guzie says, as “expressions of human intimacy.” Such expressions take place daily. That is, Baptism evokes the loving care with which a parent cradles and bathes a

The Baptismal font in St. Mary Monastery’s chapel was built to accommodate those in wheelchairs as well as those on foot, with water cascading gently down the sides and the font itself positioned close to one side of the tiled basin below. newborn baby. Reconciliation calls us to right relationship with others through the power of forgiveness. Communion reflects the need we have to nourish and sustain one another at the table. Confirmation affirms one’s readiness to go on to the next level. Marriage celebrates our call to lovingly create family and community. Holy Orders celebrates our reverence of the call to help bring God to others. And Anointing of the Sick (formerly Extreme Unction) reflects our empathy with those who are struggling with ill health. Sr. Mary Core says we are all called to live sacramentally, with attention and

presence to all creation. “If we choose to be attentive to God’s love, grace and presence within us, then we choose to live in a manner that reflects Christ’s presence in our lives,” she says. “The result is, we become sacramental to others. We help others to know God through the visible sign of God in who we are.” But a sign is only half of the communication structure. It requires that someone notice it to be complete. If no one notices – as the Russians didn’t notice the act of Communion – there is no communication. That is, grace must Continued next page

Sisters of St. Benedict

St. Mary Monastery

Rock Island, Illinois

Letter from the Prioress

Sr. Phyllis McMurray OSB

Surrender Darkness to Light One late winter day, the sun came out and warmed the earth. An older woman, blind since birth, felt the warmth of the light and followed it outside. She followed it to a bench and sat down to enjoy the comfort. Holding a Bible in her lap, she ran her fingers over the words. Sitting quietly, she absorbed the words in her heart. Though she could see nothing, she understood everything. Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. When we sit still, we become aware of the darkness within, the turmoil we experience. Naming the chaos and claiming it, darkness surrenders to light, to a new relationship with God and a profound hope. Written by Sr. Phyllis for “Hope in the Midst of Darkness,” a publication of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Living Sacramentally

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be actively accepted to be received. “Our lives are guided by signs,” Sr. Catherine Cleary says. “Stop, Yield, For Sale. They carry messages. We too may carry messages of the presence of God, but we need others to read them. We can’t lock ourselves in a room and not come out for one another. It’s a two-way street.” The Second Vatican Council underscored the primacy of Sacramental – and sacramental – living in its revision of the Catholic Catechism. It said, ‘The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men and women, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish & strengthen and express it. Thus they are called sacraments of faith.’ To live sacramentally, then, we must come out of our rooms and - through acts of empathy and Being present to others reflects Christ’s attention - show signs of Christ’s presence in presence in our lives. Above, Sr. Maggie our lives. We must embrace, forgive, nourish, Buergler converses with a friend. affirm, love, and reverence all creation. Start by making and serving dinner with candlelight and a willingness to really listen. Or by laying a loving hand on a troubled shoulder. Or by reaching deeply into the well of forgiveness, and starting anew. Whether our signs are recognized by others for the grace they contain or not, it’s how we are called to live. 2

Out of the Cornfield and into the Convent: A Vocation Story When 15-year-old Marilyn Hettinger was bundled off to attend high school in tiny Nauvoo, Ill., she thought she had moved to the end of the world. Some of the streets were not yet paved. The phone poles were made of unfinished tree trunks. Muddy water was pumped directly from the Mississippi River for bathing. And the whole place stank of whey from the nearby bleu cheese factory. Compared with Champaign, Ill. – the town nearest Marilyn’s family farm – Nauvoo was primitive indeed. She had been sent there by her family to keep her older sister – the new housekeeper for Nauvoo’s only priest – company. Although Marilyn feared the worst, she was about to encounter the beginning of the rest of her life. Catching Religion in the Family The Hettingers were a good-sized bunch, with 7 girls and 2 boys and another couple dozen cousins scattered around nearby farms. Summer Sundays meant great gatherings on the lawn for games of croquet, badminton, baseball and archery. It was a loving, tight-knit family. Which set the stage for a decision that Marilyn would make years later. “Religion is caught, not taught,” the Benedictine Sister says today. “We said the Rosary as a family every night, protest or not. It was dinner, dishes, Rosary, homework and fun, in that order. Living on the farm, we were so dependent on God. We caught our religion because it permeated farm life. One of my sisters became a Franciscan Sister and both my brothers became priests.” She laughs as she says she “grew up in the shadow of the Church.” In fact, St. Mary Church – affectionately called the Cathedral in the Cornfield - still is an

active parish, near the old family home. “Because we lived near the church, Mother always volunteered us for church jobs,” Sr. Marilyn says. “I played organ, I sang in choir. I was always involved in the youth groups.” She also attended the parish school. “We had Franciscan Sisters as teachers,” she says. “I wanted to become one of them. But when I moved to Nauvoo and got to know the Benedictines, I began to have a change of heart.” Called to the Family Spirit Discerning between the Franciscans and Benedictines wasn’t easy. With her older sister in the Franciscan order, Marilyn was worried about hurt feelings. She consulted her priest brother. “He said, God gives you a call to the place as well as to religious life,” she says. “I loved the Benedictine spirit, the sense of family. I loved the way they treated one another. They really knew and respected each other. They were individuals. The Franciscans were such a big, impersonal group. They didn’t seem to know each other.”

for the rest of my life! requires a leap of faith,” Sr. Marilyn says. “Everyone will face different challenges. Coming from a large family, my rough edges were already rubbed off. I already knew it wasn’t about me! Sr. Marilyn’s Vocation Advice “It’s a challenge to discern your vocation. Pray about it. Also, meet and talk with real Sisters. See what makes them them. You need to know more about them than their mission or ministry. I supported the Franciscan mission, but the community wasn’t right for me. “Our Benedictine family welcomes those who want to understand who we are. Come and experience our rhythm, our monastic life, our community. Be open to the Spirit. Be open to being surprised by what you find.”

The Rest of the Story Despite her initial reservations about Nauvoo, Sr. Marilyn stayed on after she graduated in 1949, entering the Benedictine community. She had chosen to continue to practice – with the Benedictine Sisters - the family spirit of “God, love and security” that had been instilled in her throughout her childhood. As in any family, some things were more difficult than others. Rising before dawn for morning prayers wasn’t much of a challenge for a farm girl, for example, but not being able to go home was tough (although her family came to visit often). “To really say, This is what I want to do

Sr. Marilyn Hettinger, OSB

Sr. Marilyn died suddenly just before we went to press with the Connecting Point. We decided to publish her story, as we believe she’d have wished us to do. She was a beautiful spirit ... and now is a beautiful saint. We miss her dearly.


Part 2: How Catholic Sisters Changed Everything This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on the history of Sisters along the Upper Mississippi River Valley, written to coincide with the traveling Smithsonian Exhibit, Women and Spirit. The exhibit is currently scheduled to travel to just 7 locations across the U.S., and the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa, is one of them. We are delighted to host this important exhibit from February-April, 2011, and hope you will put it on your calendar. 1900-1965: Let There be Light! As the 20th century got underway, modern conveniences began to change our lives. Automobiles transformed travel. Radio brought the world into our homes. And electricity lit up the night. This was true for area Sisters as well. When a group of Carmelite Nuns arrived in Davenport in 1911, they came by train and by exotic “horseless carriage.” The small community first set up housekeeping in a little Queen Anne cottage on the corner of 15th and Brady. After hosting an open house for townspeople the monastery closed its doors, becoming a cloister for silent prayer that continued with its relocation up the hill in Bettendorf five years later. Benedictine Mother Ricarda Gallivan, OSB, traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 1955 White House Conference on Education. The first such conference of its kind, participants strategized how to provide quality education for the baby boom students flooding classrooms.

New Challenges Not all was quiet following the move, however. The Ku Klux Klan feared that Catholics were destroying America and worked to intimidate them wherever possible. Sometimes the Klan’s tactics worked, but when they erected fiery crosses next to the new Carmelite monastery in Bettendorf, the townspeople came to the nuns’ defense.

The KKK was put down. Another cloistered community arrived 53 years later in Dubuque. The Trappistine Nuns baked cookies to support themselves while following a prayer schedule that stretched from before dawn until after dark. Eventually, they chose caramel-making over cookie-baking, a ministry for which they are well-known yet today. As the Valley’s population grew, classrooms grew more crowded. Sisters often taught 60 or more students at a time, working 60 hours or more a week to keep up. While immigration continued to increase area population, it also affected the Sisters’ communities. The Clinton Franciscans saw 18 Irish immigrants join their community in 1908, followed by 51 from Newfoundland over the next several years. Other communities experienced similar influxes. New building projects occupied nearly everyone.

Education ... for All Sisters met the educational, medical, social and spiritual needs of this exploding population as quickly as they could, but needed more education to do so in a fully professional way. This presented a tricky problem. The busy Sisters could not spare the time from their own classrooms to attend college. And in any event, many universities barred women. Gradually, that changed, and communities began sending Sisters to summer school in a “20-year plan” to acquire bachelor’s degrees. Some traveled to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University when permission was granted in 1912 “for ladies and even nuns” to do so. Others attended nearby colleges - many of which were founded by the Sisters themselves - such as Marycrest, Mount Mercy, Clarke, Loras and Mt. St. Clare. Infectious disease continued to be a great problem into the 20th century. Tuberculosis, influenza, cholera and polio each took thousands of lives. Sisters tended the gravely ill in their homes and in hospitals, sometimes succumbing themselves. One young Dubuque Franciscan Sister died while caring for victims of the Spanish Flu, while four BVM 4

Artifacts from our history include this altar host maker, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary which was carried through the Chicago fire by Mother Otillia Hoeveler, and the “Happy Girls of St. Mary’s,” a collection of poems about our early academy students written by Mother Otillia.

members lost their lives to flu two years later. As in the classroom, the Sisters took pains to educate themselves in medicine, founding and attending their own hospital schools for nurses. Despite the great need for quality healthcare, it was not a profitable industry. The original Cedar Rapids Mercy Hospital earned $1.00 per day per patient at the beginning of the 20th century. Surgeries were performed next to the women’s ward on the second floor of a two-story home. The first operation – to correct a cataract – yielded a total of $27.40 for the hospital. Caring for the Least Among Us Orphans were one of the great tragedies of war and disease. Some children had been born in the River Valley, while others came from New York by way of the Orphan Train. Many families opened their homes and hearts to the little ones. But for the children left behind, the Sisters spread safety nets. The Dubuque Franciscans incorporated St. Mary’s Orphan Home in 1912, while the Humility Sisters added farm buildings, dorms and a gymnasium to St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Davenport. Other communities provided loving homes via their boarding academies. Other Constant Challenges Fire was an ever-present threat in wood frame buildings lit by kerosene lamps, and many communities suffered sometimestragic conflagrations in their early years. Schools, orphanages and even hospitals burned to the ground. In nearly every case, townspeople would band together to help the Sisters rebuild. Money was tight in the early days of every community. Students who could not afford to pay tuition often were allowed to attend for free, and needy families would often ask for help. Nevertheless, bills had to be paid. The Panic of 1907 hit the Benedictine community hard, when an unscrupulous financier swindled their funds. The Sisters were left penniless. Years of begging, borrowing and doing without ensued as the Benedictine Sisters worked to buy back the buildings that had been acquired by the bank. Thanks to the efforts of the Sisters and their friends, the Benedictines were solvent again by 1926. When the Great Depression hit just three years later, every

community was affected. Not only did the Sisters themselves struggle, those to whom they ministered needed help, and “hobos” knocked daily at their back doors for a meal. To help keep afloat, Sisters often taught music lessons to area children. Mid-Century By mid-century, the Sisters’ ministries were beginning to yield great fruit. Enrollment in their schools and convents continued to climb, necessitating new building projects. Graduates of the Sisters’ academies, colleges and hospital nursing schools were becoming teachers, administrators and healthcare professionals. Change was inevitable. Orphanages, once bursting at the seams, were closing. Improved health care was allowing people – parents and children alike - to live longer. For those children who needed safe haven, the foster system was gaining favor. Diocesan schools began replacing those once run by religious communities. Lay teachers – many of whom had been educated by Sisters – were beginning to staff the classrooms and administrative offices. Lay administrators and nurses took hospital positions as well, often with credentials earned at the Sisters’ academies. Modernization and the Approach of Vatican II By the mid-1950’s, the Sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley had begun responding to Pope Pius XII’s call to begin modernizing their communities and customs. To wit, the BVMs adopted a modified habit that allowed them to see clearly while driving! The Benedictines adopted an English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours in 1954, allowing them to worship together in their own language. Pope Pius’s call to enhance their professional, cultural and spiritual education was met with great enthusiasm. As their ministries at home began to change, the Sisters began to respond to needs further afield. Sisters from nearly every community journeyed to South America following a 1961 request by Pope John XXIII to teach children there. They expanded ministries among poor and underserved populations. They began building and staffing retreat centers. The stage was set for the social, religious and political changes that marked the years following the Second Vatican Council. 5

God is All-Good, All-Knowing and All-Loving ... So What’s the Point of Prayer? When St. Paul counsels us to “pray constantly,” or the Catholic Catechism calls prayer a “vital necessity,” even a good Christian might be forgiven for asking, “Why?” Why is it necessary at all, if we believe that God knows our thoughts, loves us thoroughly and gives us all that we need? That is, the sun will still rise, beauty will still overspread the land, suffering will still occur. Joy will fill our hearts. Grief will grip our hearts. Without a word to God. So why pray? The poet Mary Oliver says, How to keep warm/is always a problem,/isn’t it?/Of course, there’s love./And there’s prayer. And keeping warm - keeping our relationship with God warm and alive, that is – may be the real point. “If you don’t talk with your parents, they will still care for you and love you, but you’ll have no relationship with them,” Sr. Catherine Cleary says. “We don’t have to pray, but the invitation is there. It’s an invitation into relationship, into presence.” Coming into Awareness of Our True Selves Prayer nourishes love, for one another, for God. “Relationship is based on love,” Sr. Catherine says. “If I love my parents and my friends, I talk with them. I take time to be with them and listen to them. “We are never more our true selves than when we pray. Prayer allows us to come into awareness of our true essence or being. I believe that God shares his divine life with us and prayer is our consent to that belief. Remember, We do not know how to pray...but the Spirit intercedes within.* By being in prayerful relationship with God and God’s creation, I am my true self.” 6

The transformative power of prayer has daily implications, in relationships, in work, even in the mundane moments of our lives. “Whether we pray for ourselves or for others, prayer benefits us,” Sr. Sheila McGrath says. “It connects us to those for whom we pray, and connects us to God. It makes us better people.” But when we pray that our sick friend be cured or that we find a better job, do we affect the outcome? Sr. Marlene Miller says that’s something we simply cannot know, at least not in this life.

“It’s a mystery, and we thrive on mystery,” she says. “Not everything can be explained. Does prayer work? It does for me. I couldn’t face the daily trials and tribulations of life without a relationship with God.” Sr. Cecile Baer says prayer keeps her going. “Prayer gives me the energy, strength and will power – through my relationship with God - to get through every day,” she says. “The rare days that I don’t get my prayers in are awful days. I need to pray.” Which is another common conclusion. Prayer is for us. “God doesn’t need anything from me but I need something from God,” Sr. Susan Hutchens says. “The point isn’t God knowing I’m here or God knowing my thoughts. God already knows. Prayer helps me get in touch with my own thoughts. A point of prayer is to calm and focus oneself. To converse with God helps us express the deepest yearning of our selves. It comes out in silence, in Scripture, in just being with God.” And if you wonder how to just be with God, Novice Jackie Walsh suggests you look to the model of friendship. “God should be like a friend, I think,” she says. “You go to your friends in times of trouble, you talk things through. You thank them for all they do for you. I want to stay in touch with my dearest friends. Prayer is simply this. I find my life a whole lot more peaceful when I spend time in prayer.” Sr. Sheila McGrath walks as she prays the How to Pray Rosary every morning Theologian Simon Tugwell makes before Lauds. praying sound easy when he writes, ‘Prayer ... is keeping company with God.’ But is it really that easy?

The Benedictine Sisters gather together in the chapel three times a day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist. At Lauds, above, are (l-r): Srs. Claudia Scharf, Cabrini Rael and Germaine Cupp. Well, yes and no. Praying – keeping company with God - can be as easy as watching the sunrise with love and awe. The challenge is to do it, as St. Paul says, constantly. Why? Tugwell says constant prayer will remind us of who we are and who we want to be. “In our relationship with God, one of the main problems is that half the time we just forget about it. … Somehow we must find a way of remembering God that does not work in fits and starts, but that will actually last through the day; a kind of fundamental remembrance of God that will affect our heart, and allow our most unpremeditated and spontaneous behavior to be transformed, as it were, at the root.” Prayer is gift, given of joy for joy. In words, in Scripture, in silence and in the deep listening we bring to one another, prayer builds relationship with the source of all that is. It is our daily bread. To make ourselves, as Tugwell urges, “available for prayer” - through reading, thinking, meditating, “even lying down and letting the turmoil in our hearts and minds subside” - helps us learn to “live our whole lives with God.” *(Romans 8:23)


Monastery Notes After 95 Years, Benedictines Leave Moline Convent In 1915, the Benedictine Sisters of Nauvoo received a request from Father Joseph Kelly at St. Mary’s Church in Moline, Ill. Will you send Sisters to staff our parish school? As other Catholic Sisters everywhere, we were willing to serve as we were able. Seven Sisters climbed aboard a steam train as it hissed and belched black smoke, and headed north to Moline. The Sisters moved into their new convent, a small wood frame building with two beds to a room and not enough dishes to go around. Jelly jars served as coffee cups and the beds sank to the floor. It was a tight - and sometimes dangerous - situation! Two fires later, they were happy to move into what they called the “Red House,” with ample space but other challenges. Two pot bellied stoves burned coal in the basement, sometimes filling the place with smoke. It was a challenge, indeed, to keep clothing and linens clean! Regardless of the challenges, serving the people of St. Mary’s Church has always been - and will The “new” St. Mary’s convent continue to be - a blessing. was built in 1958, with space Although we were asked to enough for 20 Sisters! move out this spring, and

The Sisters held a reception to celebrate 95 years of service at St. Mary’s in May. did so gladly in support of the parish, we will continue to serve parishioners at Catholic schools in the area, at area food pantries, in social service agencies. We will continue to offer retreats, programs and spiritual direction at Benet House Retreat Center, next to the monastery in Rock Island. And we will continue our prayer ministry for all people.

Midwest Retreat Ministries Meets at Benet House Meeting to share new developments and ideas from each retreat center, Midwest Retreat Ministries members gathered in May at Benet House. Benedictine Sisters Charlotte Sonneville, Mary Jean Feeney, Catherine Cleary and Helen Carey represented St. Mary Monastery. Sr. Sandra Brunenn, OSB, presented “An Introduction to the Path of Contemplative Dialogue,” while Sr. Phyllis McMurray, OSB, spoke on our use of geothermal heating and cooling.


Jubilarians Celebrate Anniversaries as Benedictines When interviewed by the Peoria Catholic Post as they were celebrating their 60th jubilees, the Benedictine Sisters pictured together (l-r, front: Srs. Anne Newcomer, Cabrini Rael, Rose Joseph Kennebeck; back: Srs. Germaine Cupp, Marilyn Ring) expressed gratitude and joy for their life in community. They offered advice and insight to women discerning a religious vocation today, intoning the first word of the Rule of Benedict: Listen. “Listen to the Spirit speaking to you,” Sr. Germaine said. Sr. Marilyn added, “Visit different communities to learn what their life is like, and how they serve the needs of God’s people.” The Jubliarians all spoke of the peace they found with the Benedictines. “I chose to enter the Benedictines because of their friendly, small atmosphere,” Sr. Rose Joseph said. Everyone also spoke of the importance of the Rule, and of praying in community. “One of the most satisfying aspects of my vocation is praying the Psalms with the community three times a day,” Sr. Anne said. “The community’s dedication to daily Eucharist, the Divine Office and Lectio Divina inspires and invigorates me, and calls me to join in that praise of God.” Sr. Cabrini invited inquirers to “Come see for themselves. … The opportunity to live with a group of wise, gifted, talented and holy women who are seeking God has been wonderful,” she said. “Have the courage to give it a try.” Sr. Audrey, left, who celebrated her 50th jubilee this year, emphasized the importance of listening while discerning a vocation. “It was God who spoke to my heart and called me to religious life. I chose the Benedictines because, during a visit, I witnessed happy Christ-centered women.”

Obituaries Sister Marilyn (Mary Mark) Hettinger OSB, 78, died Saturday, July 3, 2010 at the Monastery. Sr. Marilyn entered the community in 1949 and made her first profession in 1951. She served as an elementary teacher, as a principal and as Associate Director of Religious Education in Peoria. She served as Sub prioress for four years and Prioress for eight years. She then served as Director of Religious Education at St. Thomas More in Munster, Ins. Currently, she served as librarian for the community. Several of her poems - including poems about Srs. Bea and Maureen - are available on our blog at blog1/wordpress/.

Sister Maureen Coughlin, OSB, 92, died April 18, 2010 at the Monastery. Sister Maureen served 41 years as an elementary teacher at Washington School, Peoria; Public School, Arlington; Sts. Peter & Paul, Nauvoo; St. Roch’s, LaSalle; St. Anthony’s, Atkinson; St. Mary’s, Moline, St. Boniface, Peoria; St. John the Baptist, Clinton; Holy Family, Peoria; She also ministered in Catechetical work in Ladd; as tutor and librarian at St. Thomas More, Munster, IN; as librarian at Holy Family, Peoria; and as tape librarian at St. Mary’s Academy and St. Mary Monastery. To read complete obituaries of the Sisters, visit www.

Sister Beatrice (Mary Grace) Flahaven, OSB, 82, died April 14, 2010.Sr. Bea served 43 years as a classroom and private music teacher and parish organist. She also served as organist at St. Mary Monastery. When asked to participate in an interview about a car accident that nearly took her life 60 years ago, she agreed, but under one condition. She didn’t want to be made to look like she was complaining. Her recovery was halting and sometimes painful. She said, “With the help of my Sisters and friends, I got through it. And I kept trusting in God. I’ve never felt like I could answer the big question of why it happened, but trust led me to peace.” For more from that interview, visit www.smmsisters. org/blog1/wordpress/?p=382. 9

Every day another alum visits the SMA Blog and writes a bit of news, shares a memory or asks a question of her classmates. Check it out:!

SMA News 1963

Sally Jacobsen and husband Jake celebrated their 40th anniversary last summer with their three children and seven grandchildren.


Mary Alice Kenny Sinton will offer her first Needle Arts Retreat in February, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa near Austin, Texas. For more information visit www.bluebonnetstudio. com or call (512) 308-1234.


Sarah Breheny Fedorko writes that she and her husband live in St. Louis with their four children. They own two businesses which can be seen at and


Merridith Morrison Merridith’s mom writes that Merridith is in the Coast Guard in Boston while her husband finishes graduate work at MIT.

1997 Kazue Kuroda writes that she had a second daughter last October.

Keep in Touch!

Follow the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery on Facebook, where we share pictures and a daily Psalm excerpt from Lauds. Visit the SMA page at for communication from your classmates. You will find messages from alums of every decade, including: Peg Colgan Bankie; Pat Kelly Tracey; Betty Slupkowski Hayman; Maggie Ryan; Kay Pfeiffer Kirkland, to name just a few! 10

From Mary Ann Cahill Weakley: Members of the class of ’53 from Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Mary’s Academy joined together for a celebration of their 57th high school reunion. Bob Baxter, of Nauvoo and Highland, Indiana and Bob Huffman of West Point, Iowa hosted the attending members of St. Mary’s Academy. The two classes have been celebrating reunions together since their 50th in 2003. Bob and Rosie Huffman hosted a dinner on Friday, May 23rd at their home in West Point, Iowa. After coffee and rolls and a tour of Huffman Welding and Machine, Inc., Ft. Madison on Saturday, the group had lunch at Kraus’s Restaurant in Nauvoo. They toured the historical Mormon areas, the Baxter Winery and visited the cemetery where many of their teachers are laid to rest. Bob Baxter hosted an evening dinner at his river road home south of Nauvoo. Pictured at Baxter’s Winery in Nauvoo are class members attending from St. Mary’s: Maureen Howe Hauersperger, Champaign, Illinois, Nona Harp Bauer, LaBelle, Missouri, Mary Ann Cahill Weakley, Spring Hill, Tennessee, Sheila Cain Butler, Champaign, Illinois, and Mary Lou Hecks Goebert, Atkinson, Illinois, also Bob Huffman and Bob Baxter who represented Sts. Peter and Paul.

In Memoriam ... Tom Hancock, husband of Colleen Meyer Hancock ‘51, died Feb. 27, 2010. Marilyn Bayne Schroeder ‘68, died April 1, 2010. Madaline Foresman, mother of Marcella Coffman ‘64 and Maggie Kindig ‘73, died May 28, 2010. Mary Wikenhauser Krug, mother of Carolyn Wikenhauser Blocklinger ‘60 and sister of Rose Benedict Wikenhauser Hayes ‘52, died in January, 2010. Mother of Michelle Depatie Kirwan ‘68, died April 28, 2010. Jackie Rydelski Gibson ‘58, died April, 2010. Barbara Wancket Oldfield ‘61, died Easter Sunday. Katherine Hartman, mother of Carolyn Van De Keere ‘56, Marilyn Van De Keere ‘60 and Ann Van De Keere ‘69, died Feb. 24, 2010.

Strange Decision

Reunion Announcements Class of 1968 Reunion

To celebrate their 60th Birthdays! When: October 8-10, 2010 Where: Nashville, Tenn. Contact: Rene Carnes Algrim at

Class of 1962 Reunion

When: September 14-16, 2012 Where: St. Mary Monastery Contact: Veronica Hecks Minnaert or Nancy Kelly Platt 813 Canal Shore Drive LeClaire, Iowa 52753 (563) 289-3001

from back cover

What did you do while you were here? During the first week, I did a lot of reading and settling in. But then I had a bit of a routine. I went to prayers, of course, and did Lectio with Sr. Mary Core every day. I took piano lessons and music theory from Sr. Mary Jane Wallace. I practiced my flute and played it at Sunday Mass. I worked in the retreat house, setting up and helping serve coffee during the Valentine’s Day married couples program. I got to know the Sisters.

Visit blog3/wordpress for more Reunion info!

What did you learn? I’m really soul searching, discerning my life’s path. I used to be so sure that I would be a high school religion teacher, but I don’t know anymore. Sr. Charlotte Sonneville told me God’s call starts out as a subtle attraction to something. Eventually, it becomes more of a gentle nudge in your heart. That was important for me to hear. The Sisters helped me think of different ways to use my religion major. They gave me some idea of what working for the Church could mean for me. I’ve always been attracted to nursing, so Sr. Sheila McGrath suggested hospital chaplaincy as a way to combine it with religion. Sr. Catherine Cleary suggested campus ministry, which I think I would really love. I learned a lot about getting myself centered and calmed in the midst of a busy and hectic life, and making the space for God to move me or speak to me. The Sisters do that. They have their hands full, but everyone makes the time to go together to prayer. I’m going to take that with me: finding time for prayer. How did the experience change you? I think I learned to have an open heart. A compassionate heart. It’s amazing how much Sisters care about every living person, and I think some of that rubbed off.

Connecting Point Summer 2010 Published three times a year by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, IL 61201 Phone: 309-283-2100 Fax: 309-283-2200 Editor Susan Flansburg

I used to want to be a Sister when I grew up, and it’s still possible. I’m open to it. Maybe God is calling me to this. We’ll see! 11

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“Strange” Decision to Visit Monastery Yields Lasting Treasures Rebecca Spanier’s friends thought it was “strange” when she decided to spend 3 weeks at a monastery. But that is one of the most common reactions to a woman’s desire to explore religious life … and one that anyone might expect of college students. In fact, religious life is radically counter-cultural. Turning away from material possessions, the bar scene and the corporate model of success for a lifelong journey with others who are committed to seeking God together is, in our culture, really strange! Rebecca Spanier had a wonderful 3-week stay with the Benedictines late last winter. She is shown here with Sr. Martina Brinkschroeder.

But Rebecca – a Cornell College* junior from St. Cloud, Minn. – was pulled by a strong desire to learn more. So she, as college student Anna Sewell before her, made arrangements for a 3-week immersion project with the Sisters. She completed her stay in late February and offered the following thoughts about her experience. What surprised you the most? I had been a bit apprehensive about how the Sisters would react to seeing a random student show up, but I found everyone here incredibly welcoming. They didn’t care why I was here. They just wanted to get to know me.

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Also, I had expected monastery life to be like a constant retreat, but found out it is as busy as my life at school! The Sisters have jobs that can be hectic. It’s not an escape from the world. But no matter what, they make time for prayer. Continued on page 11

Connecting Point Summer 2010  

Spiritual nourishment, inspiration and a bit of news from the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois.

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