Reflections from a Franciscan Sister


#1

I’ve posted before, but I thought I’d open a new thread in which to share articles from the blog I keep up for our community (Our Franciscan Fiat). I hope people enjoy them and find them at least a little bit helpful. Many of them are simply reflections on our daily life.

“We’re going shoplifting…I mean shopping.”
JULY 21, 2015
(Please note: We work at St. Anne's, a home for elderly and vulnerable adults.)
This morning, I hurried after prayer to make chapel preparations for Mass before going with Sister Elaine on her bi-weekly expedition.  I normally do not do this, but I am getting ready to make special cheese cakes for our upcoming celebration of St. Anne’s Day and needed a few ingredients.

We left right away at 7 a.m. in one of the big vans to go shopping; we wanted to be back on time for our 9 a.m. Mass.  Sr. Elaine was to play the organ for the first hymn and I needed to be available to make finishing touches on the sacristy/altar preparations.

Along with many other duties, Sr. Elaine helps St. Anne’s by “shoplifting.”  Don’t worry; this does not refer to any illegal activity, but is just the term she jokingly uses to alert staff of her plans; they give her their lists of needed items and she graciously picks them up for them.

Rather than add to her burden (especially since I was a little uncertain as to what I was getting), I went with Sr. Elaine this morning and found my cream cheese and graham crackers.  I was “tickled pink” because I made a neat discovery.  I will be making some chocolate peanut butter cakes along with the raspberry ones and I wanted something for a tasty and decorative topping.  It made my morning when I saw bags of “Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chips”…how perfect; it was exactly what I needed and I didn’t even know that such a thing existed.  It seemed that Someone was looking out for me!  

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

#2

Cross prayers…reflecting on a beautiful custom
OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT JULY 24, 2015 /

Having come of age after the promulgation of the computer and during the expansion of the internet, I am prone to do my research online. So, when I decided to write an article on the Cross Prayers, I went online to see what I could discover about the history of this beloved custom of ours. Unfortunately, this “information highway” was sadly silent about this topic.

Our Provincial Directives (supplemental guidelines for Dillingen Franciscans in the United States) provide a little information: They encourage that “after Confession and before retiring in the evening, the Sisters say the Cross Prayer, which consists of one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be to the Father.”

The reason, it would seem to me, that these are called “cross prayers” is that, while praying them, we extend our arms as Christ did on the cross. Praying in this posture can serve as a reminder to us of all our Lord did for us. To me, it serves as a call to respond in love to the love He has shown me. When praying them shortly before bed, I can be reminded to say “Thank you” to Jesus for all He did for me on the Cross and for all His blessings throughout the day. When praying Cross Prayers after confession, I can express my gratitude for the immense graces of that sacrament won by His cross.

On Friday, a day when we especially reflect on Christ’s suffering, I thought it appropriate to reflect on this beautiful custom.


#3

Variety’s the spice of life, mix it in with ‘Spoons’
JULY 27, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT
spoonsSaturday evening, I biked five blocks to a private home for a gathering of the St. Michael’s (Church) Young Adult Group. I have participated in several of their events in the past, but this time it was for an ethnically themed, potluck-style dinner, “Mexican Night.” The evening was complete with taco fixings, margaritas, enchilada bake, mariachi background music and a horse piñata.

We felt kind of sorry for the poor little caballo (Spanish for horse) as we swung a baseball bat at him, and watched our comrades do so. The borrowed suit tie only did a partial job in serving as a blindfold, so I found myself having to also close my eyes. Even after our little amigo was “busted open,” he remained somewhat intact. (Check out a video of the escapade!) There was some talk of adopting him as the mascot for our young adult group.

I so enjoy these gatherings. They add variety and a time of relaxation with people from my peer group that is very refreshing. It’s a time away from the daily ins and outs of my life, serving here at St. Anne’s.

We finished off the evening with a rousing tournament of “Spoons,” a game I’ve known and played for years. Actually, one of the young ladies at this gathering remembered when we had taken part in this non-violent diversion years ago when she was visiting our convent in Hankinson.

It’s interesting how my potential for competitiveness can really come out as the spoons disappear from the middle of the table and I find myself grabbing wildly for the nearest spoon, before an opponent can get it and I am eliminated.

At first as we played, everyone stayed in the game, simply adding a letter in S – P – O – O – N – to their tally if they lost. After some time, however, the group decided to start single elimination. It wasn’t too terribly long before I was eliminated from “Cucharas” (Spanish for spoons, in keeping with our Mexican theme). Dusk was starting to fall so I took that as an opportunity to head for home. It was already about 9:30 p.m. and I had to be at work early in the morning.

Sister Christina M. Neumann


#4

Please feel free to leave replies and offer your thoughts or suggestions. Have a great day!


#5

Correction: the video link is: goo.gl/photos/tK39WhjmVtxoJ3oC7


#6

Thank you Sister, for sharing these articles. They provide a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of people living consecrated lives. Excellent perspective for those of us caught up in the hustle bustle of daily living in big cities.


#7

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!
AUGUST 5, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT

I put together our resident newsletter here at St. Anne’s, and in our recent August issue, we featured St. Clare as our St. Clare as our “Saint of the Month.” Thinking of her upcoming feast day reminds me of my reception into novitiate and profession of first vows, which both took place on her feast, August 11.

Next Tuesday, it will be seven years since the beautiful, touching, and amazing day of my first profession. Today at Mass, as Msgr. Vetter held up the Host after the recitation of the Lamb of God, the words of Psalm 34, which we used as the responsory at both my first and final profession, came to my mind: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” I remember Sr. Sara Marie (who had been my postulant directress) so beautifully cantering the refrain from the ambo in the chapel at our provincial house in Hankinson.

The inspired words of this psalm were a reminder to me today to be grateful to Our Lord for His goodness, regardless of the occasion. I may be having a hard time, dealing with challenging issues, or whatever, but I need to remember to “bless the Lord at all times,” as we promise when praying this psalm.

Psalm is such a beautiful scripture passage, and so good to remember, that I will quote part of it here. You may wish to join me in praying it, with a heart stirred to gratitude.

Sister Christina M. Neumann

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be always in my mouth.
My soul will glory in the LORD;
let the poor hear and be glad.

Magnify the LORD with me;
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him and be radiant,
and your faces may not blush for shame.

This poor one cried out and the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and he saves them.

The rich grow poor and go hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who delights in life,
who loves to see the good days?

The righteous cry out, the LORD hears
and he rescues them from all their afflictions.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saves those whose spirit is crushed.


#8

I'm really sorry, Sister, but I'm afraid the misprint that talked of another Sister 'cantering' at your profession conjured up such lovely pictures of a snow-white pony with a long swishing mane that I just had to grin!


#9

I'm sorry, I had it as "cantoring" but the spell check didn't like it. I have changed it back to a more appropriate spelling in the original source.

Thanks :)


#10

Topsy Turvey Days
AUGUST 9, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT
Have you ever wondered whether you were coming or going and which way was up? This past week, the course of events at St. Anne’s has been such that produces this kind of feeling.

Between catching a little bug (complete with a bit of a queasy stomach) and schedule modifications, its amazing that I still know which way is up!

After not feeling well already Tuesday morning, Wednesday was an interesting day. I had know a couple weeks before that the day’s schedule would be different. I was supposed to work until ten that night, training in a new employee (I normally don’t work the front desk Wednesday evenings.). Then, there was a funeral one of our other receptionists needed to attend, so I ended up working a fifteen hour shift. It went fine, however, with a couple of breaks in between.

In order to accommodate schedules yesterday, the week’s “topsy turvey” theme continued. The receptionist who normally works the mornings worked the “flip side” instead, beginning at noon and staying until ten. This was so that I would be free to fill in as p.m. aide in the evening. Actually, three of us split the p.m. aide shift, due to scheduling issues. (If nothing else, this is a great way to liven things up and confuse the residents.)

When doing the aide work, my stomach was still a bit queasy. I enjoyed teasing our residents that they better not have any messes for me to clean up. I did not think my stomach could handle it. I joked that if they had a mess for me to clean up, I would probably end up having a mess myself, due to the limitations of my temporarily weak and queasy stomach. Here at St. Anne’s, we enjoy incorporating humor into the little details of the day.

I am so grateful that, as today’s Mass readings clarify, we can depend on God’s nourishment and provision for our daily needs. In the daily reception of our Eucharistic Lord, we can receive the strength and assistance to keep us straight amid the sometimes topsy-turveyness of life.

Sr. Christina M.. Neuman


#11

Thanks, I enjoyed reading those.


#12

One hundred and One…Trees
AUGUST 12, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT

In honor of the 775th anniversary of our Congregation’s beginning back in 1241, our sisters throughout the world have embarked on a Tree project, hoping to have planted 775 trees by the time of next year’s celebration.

Our province here in North Dakota is taking its part…In our past Franciscan Review Newsletter, we advertised that if people would like to plant a tree in honor of the occasion, they are encouraged to let us know. Somehow I, Sr. Christina, was given the task of collecting the data and making sure information is gathered, etc. I’m not exactly a “tree-hugger” but hope to do my assigned job well.

I created a spreadsheet and recently reached the 100-tree mark. I informed Sr. Ann Marie, our provincial superior, of the milestone.

This past week, for my weekly Bible study I hold for our residents at St. Anne’s, I started a unit on the fruits of the Spirit. Along with reading pertinent scripture passages and discussing them, we also have a tree. I found clip art of a tree online and printed it on an 11X17 sheet of paper, along with various pictures of fruit, so each week we will be adding one “fruit” to our tree as we study one more fruit of the Spirit. We started with love this past week.

If I include this “tree” as part of our Dillingen Franciscan tree project, we now have 101 trees! More important than any tree planting, however, I hope we can grow daily in the fruits of this last tree: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. I guess a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit would be a good place to start.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann


#13

God Bless You Sister Christina. You are a genuine inspiration. Peace be with you.


#14

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary…A beautiful day with some beautiful customs
From OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT
Recently, we were discussing the (then upcoming) feast of the Assumption at table. Sr. Elaine, who had been a teacher for a time, shared that this was the day on which they would travel to their school assignments for the new year. She did not remember all the details, but recalled that they used to recite an antiphon a number of times: “Mary has been assumed into heaven: the angels rejoice. They sing for joy and praise the Lord.”

I, personally, never took part in this, but have my own valuable memory connected to this feastday. Fourteen years ago, I made the St. Louis de Montford Marian consecration on this day. The last couple of years, I have forgotten to do the prayers and readings in preparation for renewing it, but I still remember the feast in conjunction with this.

I also remember my mother, who grew up on a farm near Karlsruhe, ND, sharing her memories of this special day for our Lady. They would pick chokecherries, rather than take part in the normal farm labor. Even though one normally might take a break on a holy day (the phrase from which holiday is derived), she remembers that they didn’t get a break from the chokecherries even after finishing for the day. She would close her eyes in the evening and still “see” chokecherries before her.

One beautiful custom held around the feast of the Assumption is the annual diocesan pilgrimage at the Carmelite monastery outside Wahpeton, ND. I was privileged to take part in this beautiful gathering in honor of our Blessed Mother once when I was in formation in Hankinson.


#15

…As people rejoice at harvest ~ a fruit of the Spirit is Joy
AUGUST 18, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT
This morning at Bible Study, we reflected on the second-listed fruit of the Spirit, that is joy. As we continued our series of lessons on these Fruits, one of our residents put a little picture on our tree to represent the fruit of joy. Ironically, it was a piece of watermelon (which does not really grow on trees). This morning, we talked about how joy comes from the Holy Spirit, even amidst the challenging times of life.

As I walked out into the hall, after concluding the session and helping put things in order, I was met by one of our apartment residents. She proudly showed me a small collection of potatoes she had harvested from our little bathtub garden.

I was elated, and went around the building, showing off this “fruit” of our labors. The potatoes’ harvester saw me and said, “You’d better be careful; you’re beaming too much!” What an appropriate postlude to a scripture study on joy!

Scripture, itself, alludes to this connection between harvest and joy. Isaiah 9:2 says “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing; They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest…” We pray Psalm 4 at night prayer, saying “You have given me greater joy than they have from an abundance of corn…” Furthermore, Psalm 126 (which we also pray from time to time) says “Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, Will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.” Today, especially, I can relate.

bathtub gardenAlthough the potatoes were fairly dirty from their former place of residence, they produced joy. So, in our lives, amidst the “dirt” of struggle and challenges, we can reap a joyful harvest in our labors in our Lord’s vineyard.

Sr. Christina M. Neumann


#16

Re-printed from Our Franciscan Fiat

A few evenings ago, I was discussing things of a culinary nature with one of our apartment residents, who also volunteers here. Jokingly, he chided me: "One way or another, it will probably go to waste/waist." (I cannot decide which spelling to use here.)

This little quip seemed quite apropos for this little piece I decided to write about my latest baking endeavor. We had quite a bit of ice cream left over from an event several weeks ago, and I noticed that it was "going no where fast," as I like to say. With no immediate or definite plans or ideas for the use of this diary delight, I talked with our activity director and we decided that I might as well make ice cream cakes for "Birthday Bingo."

Once each month, our activity department recognizes those with birthdays, we sing to them, and they get an extra bingo card. After the games, birthday cake is served.

I don't like to waste, and was up to the challenge of finding tasty ways of transforming the remaining ice cream. Part of the challenge is always the dietary restrictions some of our residents face; some cannot have chocolate and others cannot have nuts. Consequently, I made one large caramel fudge brownie ice cream cake and a couple Reese's peanut butter ones.

What is really fun and rewarding, along with making use of supplies that might other wise end up getting tossed, is to see the enjoyment others get from it. It made my day to hear people say how much they enjoyed the cakes and how much they liked them. Unfortunately, it will probably go to their waist, though.


#17

Looking back on a Journey
AUGUST 24, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT

As I look up August 25 in the little name booklet kept in my “Office book,” I note that it is Sr. Gisholda’s anniversary of death. I keep this listing readily available; in our community, we remember our Sisters in prayer on their death anniversary as well as praying for them on their special days of celebration (name day and birthday).

Sr. Gisholda’s name and date of death will always stand out to me because, although I never knew her, her memory has its place in my vocation story.

It was on the day of her funeral that I arrived back in Hankinson for an extended stay. I had visited the month before for a few days in July of 2004. This time, however, I would stay a number of weeks.

After my initial visit, I returned home to attend a friend’s wedding and serve my time of jury duty. I remember still the words of the Sister who was hosting me when she showed me to the room I would occupy on my first stay there: “Don’t be scandalized,” she said, “our rooms aren’t all like this.” This is because the room they had available at the time was a rather spacious and well-furnished one, normally used for special guests. The one(s) they normally would have offered a visitor such as myself were probably unavailable for some reason; I don’t remember the details.

Another peculiar memory I have of my first visit with Franciscans in Hankinson was from a vacation school we visited when I was there. I went with Sr. Jean Louise as she was giving a “vocation talk” at a summer camp in nearby Foreman, North Dakota. In the course of events, she showed the children her ring and asked them if they knew what “IHS” (which is inscribed here) meant or stood for. One little boy ventured to guess to stand for “I hate Satan.” Some things, you just don’t forget! (In case you don’t know, in reality the letters in this monogram are actually an abbreviation for the Holy Name of Jesus in Greek.)

So why did I come back, and how did I eventually come to bear this beautiful ring myself as a Franciscan Sister in our community? I guess what I must say is: God has been good to me and has led me graciously along this journey. I do remember, from that first visit at St. Francis Convent in July of 2004, the sense of relief which engulfed me after much searching. I had felt called to religious life since the summer of 2000 but until then I didn’t know where I would be privileged to begin this journey.

In closing, may I use the words St. Francis’ did to close his own Canticle of the Creatures?: “Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.”


#18

Looking back on a Journey
From Our Franciscan Fiat / AUGUST 24, 2014

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

As I look up August 25 in the little name booklet kept in my “Office book,” I note that it is Sr. Gisholda’s anniversary of death. I keep this listing readily available; in our community, we remember our Sisters in prayer on their death anniversary as well as praying for them on their special days of celebration (name day and birthday).

Sr. Gisholda’s name and date of death will always stand out to me because, although I never knew her, her memory has its place in my vocation story.

It was on the day of her funeral that I arrived back in Hankinson for an extended stay. I had visited the month before for a few days in July of 2004. This time, however, I would stay a number of weeks.

After my initial visit, I returned home to attend a friend’s wedding and serve my time of jury duty. I remember still the words of the Sister who was hosting me when she showed me to the room I would occupy on my first stay there: “Don’t be scandalized,” she said, “our rooms aren’t all like this.” This is because the room they had available at the time was a rather spacious and well-furnished one, normally used for special guests. The one(s) they normally would have offered a visitor such as myself were probably unavailable for some reason; I don’t remember the details.

Another peculiar memory I have of my first visit with Franciscans in Hankinson was from a vacation school we visited when I was there. I went with Sr. Jean Louise as she was giving a “vocation talk” at a summer camp in nearby Foreman, North Dakota. In the course of events, she showed the children her ring and asked them if they knew what “IHS” (which is inscribed here) meant or stood for. One little boy ventured to guess to stand for “I hate Satan.” Some things, you just don’t forget! (In case you don’t know, in reality the letters in this monogram are actually an abbreviation for the Holy Name of Jesus in Greek.)

So why did I come back, and how did I eventually come to bear this beautiful ring myself as a Franciscan Sister in our community? I guess what I must say is: God has been good to me and has led me graciously along this journey. I do remember, from that first visit at St. Francis Convent in July of 2004, the sense of relief which engulfed me after much searching. I had felt called to religious life since the summer of 2000 but until then I didn’t know where I would be privileged to begin this journey.

In closing, may I use the words St. Francis’ did to close his own Canticle of the Creatures?: “Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.”


#19

Need a Place to Raise Frozen Dough?…Look no further!
SEPTEMBER 4, 2015 / OUR FRANCISCAN FIAT
sister with breadIs there anything more enjoyable than the aroma of bread baking in the oven?

Now, if you do not want to go through the work of making bread from scratch, here’s a brilliant solution: go to the local grocery store and buy frozen bread dough.

A year ago in July, Sister Rebecca and I took off for a long weekend reprieve at the lake. The outdoor temperature was in the upper 80s – HOT! So was the lake house! Consequently, the first thing Sister Rebecca did was turn on the two window air conditioners which brought down the house temperature to a comfortable level. However, this was not conducive to raising frozen bread dough. I mentioned that I was going to turn the oven on to 200 for a short while, then turn it off and let the bread raise in the warm oven. Sister was concerned that the house would warm up and suggested to let the loaves raise outside on the picnic table. Yah, I thought, our luck a bird would fly over and …. But then, I thought, “Hey, how about the van?” So I put the three loaves into the van which was in the sun with windows closed. Yes, a really warm area. Perfect!

Well, I completely forgot about the loaves. About 5:00 pm I happened to walk past the van – “Oh, the loaves!” I cautiously opened the van door – You should have seen those critters! They were HUGE! WOW! So, I carefully carried them into the house and put them in the oven to bake. We had three delicious loaves of homemade bread, with the aroma of fresh baked bread.

An easy summer solution!

By Sister Elaine Marie Roggenbuck


#20

Sr. Christina M. Neumann

Riding back to Grand Forks yesterday afternoon, I put my vocal chords to work in effort to help Sr. Jean Louise with her driving. After a busy day at school, she was getting a bit sleepy; singing songs together was a way to help her keep awake. Along with "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "Amazing Grace," "Now Thank We All Our God" was an additional piece we chose in this safety endeavor.

This song of gratitude was very fitting for me after four days' vacation spent with our Sisters in Rugby, ND. I had ridden home with them after Labor Day weekend and was catching a ride back now with Sr. Jean Louise, who had to return to Grand Forks anyway this weekend for a board meeting.

Yesterday morning, as I spent my daily meditation time in the small, intimate chapel at Little Flower Convent in Rugby, I found my mind repeatedly returning to thoughts of gratitude. Although it wasn't the passage I had selected for the morning's reflection, my mind went to the gospel account of the ten lepers who were cleansed when only one returned to give thanks. Like this man long ago, I had so much to be thankful for.

Foremost in my mind was this beautiful time I had enjoyed with our Sisters. Along with having a much-needed get-away and enjoying some extra R&R, I had been able also to help out with some of the fall work at their convent, including making a pot of chili with some of the plentiful tomatoes. I sometimes enjoy cooking and baking and this was a chance to make have a little fun in the kitchen.

In the course of my stay there, I did get moist eyes, though not from emotions of gratitude. This was because I was helping make a dish akin to salsa by dicing onions; they were quite potent, and by the time I was finished, my left eye was sealed shut from moisture.


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