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St. Benedict places great emphasis on hospitality. Indeed, his admonition to receive all guests as Christ (RB 53) describes the attitude that we Benedictines and other faith-filled people try to embody in welcoming guests.
The Latin root of hospitality (hospes) means both host and guest. We often picture ourselves as “hosting” God: of trying to live more deliberately in His presence, of trying to spend quality time with Him, of “welcoming.” Him in the events of our daily lives.
How often do we picture God as our host and we as His guests? Do we recall that the Trinity has desired to welcome us into the intimacy of their love? Do we remember that God has “made room for us at His table” within the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Baptism as well as making room for us at the table of the Eucharist?
God hosts us in prayer; He invites us guests to spend time with Him, to listen to His dreams and hopes for us. Our prayer is a response to His knock on the door of our heart, to His attempt to put His foot into the door of our heart to open it to an ever-fuller experience of His love for us.
God hosts us on this beautiful planet, Earth; what garden fete is so orchestrated and arranged for special guests as the beauty and seemingly infinite variety of people, plants and animals are for us? God speaks to us and invites us into dialogue in Sacred Scripture as He reveals Himself in history and takes on our humanity so that we might share in His divinity. In each Sacrament, we are invited into God’s life in a still deeper way. Is it not interesting how unwittingly we refer to receiving the host at Communion – especially when we consider that Jesus is our host at Communion and is inviting us into deeper communion with Him?
Amazingly, we are privileged, on OUR side, to host God in our lives and in our hearts. We welcome the Word of God in the Scriptures, the Sacraments and receive Him in Holy Communion as our guest. We “make room” for Jesus in our thoughts and by trying to say YES to what happens to us each day in our lives.
As Benedictines nuns, we are in the monastery at the invitation of our HOST; in the words of Benedict, we try to prefer nothing to Christ so as to give our undivided time and affection to our GUEST.
Welcoming God within our community, we have the daily, seemingly pragmatic, opportunities to practice hospitality to one another. This includes the helping hand, an expression of patience and/or forgiveness, listening to one another, praying for one another, singing in chapel so as to form one voice, cooking, doing the dishes, and all the other daily services necessary to form a community. We seek to have a faith attitude as the basis of our relationships to one another: the love of Christ informs and forms our relationship with one another rather than the natural base of “like” or “dislike.”
Life teaches us rather quickly that other people are “other.” They think “other” than we do, act “other” than we do, believe “other”: than we believe, etc. In our dealing with the “otherness” of the people near to us, we are ultimately dealing with God who is radically THE OTHER.
We extend Benedictine hospitality and a “welcome to the world” through the daily celebration of the Eucharist and The Liturgy of the Hours that we sing six times a day not just in our own name but in the name of and in the heart of the Church. We “make room” in our hearts for the prayer intentions that are addressed to our community, that are seen in the daily news, that are mentioned by loved ones.
For the past several years our own Diocese of Greensburg, during the annual Catholic Stewardship Campaign, has offered people the opportunity to submit prayer intentions. Each year Bishop Anthony G. Bosco has asked our community if we would accept some of these requests; every one of these prayer requests is read aloud to the whole community so that we might more consciously pray for these intentions.
With the Internet come prayer requests from the larger world: we regularly receive many such requests from a woman in Jerusalem who is in contact with several prayer groups.
At St. Emma, we also extend hospitality to the people who come to the Retreat House, who stay at the Monastic Guest House and who visit our gift shop and bookstore. The highest compliment that we receive from people is that they “feel like they are coming home.” In fact, when making a retreat, these people are coming “home.” Their original “home” was the “family” of Father, Son and Spirit from whence they were created. Their final goal and destination is this same “home”: the shared intimate life of love within the Trinity. Whenever people meet God in a special way, they are experiencing both a reminder of whence they came and a foretaste of where they are going.
Just as we as a monastery are blessed to be this “touchstone” between God and so many women and men, our faithful volunteers and all the people we meet extend God’s welcome to us and mediate God’s interest in and care for us. The welcome in Christ that we try to extend to these people is certainly what we experience from them.
Our communal history of hospitality dates from the arrival of our first Sisters from Abtei St. Walburg, Eichstaett, Bavaria in this country in 1931. From 1931-1987, our Sisters at St. Vincent Archabbey and College, Latrobe, PA extended hospitality to the monks, seminarians, collegians, prepsters and guests through the love and care with which they cooked and served the meals. Their hospitality also included the interest shown in the students, the attention given to relatives and guests of the monks, the incredible witness of their dedication to God in their daily lives of prayer and work – all of which embodied treating the guest as Christ.
Many alumni have stories about a special incident as well as the overall impression the Sisters made. Last year a man wrote that he would always remember the extra sandwiches that the Sisters prepared for the football players that they enjoyed after an evening game.
Some years ago, “The World’s Innkeeper” was the slogan for a motel chain. Before the advent of hotels, motels and AAA triptychs, monasteries also functioned in that capacity. Monasteries offered shelter from the elements and a safe haven on one’s journey. Today monasteries still function as the “world’s innkeeper” – with the respite offered spiritually to the weary on this journey through life. We are not a “holiday inn” but a “HOLY” day inn (the original meaning of “holiday”). Many people experience God’s presence in a special way here at St. Emma.
May we all experience the hospitality of God as both “guest” and as “host” in deeper ways. Then we will be able to extend that same God-welcome to one another.
Mother Mary Anne Noll OSB
After her year of postulancy, Angela Uhlott, Pittsburgh, PA (formerly of Oil City, PA) became a novice and received the habit with a white veil (as a sign of being a novice) in a ceremony preceding Vespers on January 19, 2003. Prescribed by canon law, the first year of her novitiate emphasizes the spiritual formation of the novice while the second year, while the second year, according to our Constitutions, deepens her Benedictine spirituality as she continues to live as a Benedictine nun here in St. Emma Monastery. Sr. Angela had taught at Aquinas Academy, Pittsburgh, PA for two years before she entered.
Having completed her two-year novitiate, Sr. Carolyn Littlejohn made her temporary vows for three years during the Eucharist on March 1 and received Petra (Peter) as her religious name. Originally and more recently from Maryland, Sr. Petra had worked for some years as a medical technician.
Having completed her six years of initial formation in our community, Sr. Renata Augustine made solemn vows (for life) May 25. Her home parish is Immaculate Conception, Washington, PA. For the last two years before she entered, Sr. Renata was a bill collector.
The beautiful and symbolic ceremony of solemn profession takes place during the Eucharist. After the nun prostrates during the Litany of the Saints whose intercession is invoked, the offering of herself to God through obedience is shown by placing her hands into those of the Superior. The nun then reads her vow formula, signs it on the altar, and places it upon the altar to unite her offering with the sacrifice of Jesus. From Psalm 119, she sings the Suscipe (“Uphold me, O Lord, as you have promised that I may live and let not my hope in you be disappointed.”) with her arms outstretched to show the total gift of herself to God.
The nun receives her ring inscribed on the inside with her name + Jesus. A wreath indicating consecrating one’s virginity to Christ and the final victory of eternal life promised by Jesus is placed upon her head. She receives a copy of The Liturgy of the Hours and is charged to pray it on behalf of the Church. As part of the Offertory procession, the solemnly professed nun caries up her lighted profession candle.
Through the photos in the middle section of this newsletter, you can catch glimpses of these ceremonies.
Two women have completed their three-month live-in experience as part of discerning a vocation to our community and are planning to enter this fall. A third is in the midst of her three month live-in. We thank you for praying for vocations – not only for our community but also for vocations to the religious life and priesthood in general.
The above women who are beginning their monastic lives profit from the witness of our senior Sisters who have lived their vows for decades. Celebrating her 70th anniversary of monastic profession on June 28, Sr. Gaudentia Kaemmerle entered Abtei St. Walburg, Eichstaett, Bavaria at age 17. Just one month shy of her 20th birthday, she arrived at St. Vincent Archabbey and College, Latrobe, PA in 1934 where she spent the next 53 years. For over 50 of these years she worked in the monastery dining room; many monks refer to her affectionately as their “novice mistress” because they were under her influence three times a day as they served, set the tables, did dishes, etc. For her first 8 years at St. Emma she was in charge of the retreat dining room; later she served the guests and was in charge of our monastic refectory. At age 89 she participates fully in the Liturgy of the Hours beginning at 5:30 am and helps with the dishes, etc., in the monastery.
Sixteen priests concelebrated the Eucharist with Archabbot Douglas Nowicki OSB who was also the homilist.
Green Card Obtained
As part of the process of obtaining her “green card” that permits Sr. Maria Glaubitz to remain beyond just the five years that a “religious worker” visa allows, Sr. Maria had an interview in Frankfurt, Germany. Friday the 13th (of June) turned out to be blessed for her and for us for she was granted her “green card.” After nearly four years at St. Emma, this trip gave her the opportunity to visit Abtei St. Walburg (where she entered in 1965) and to catch up on what has been happening there. Since the fall of 1999, Sr. Maria has served here as novice mistress and sub-prioress – and in many other ways that just happen to be needed on any given day in a small community!
The community had a farewell party the night before she left and gave her gifts for her trip. Among them were a three pound cup of coffee and a 30 cup coffee maker – in case the airlines would no longer serve coffee! Other gifts included “light reading (volumes from the Encyclopedia) for the flight, first-aid kit, LARGE bottles of Tylenol, HUGE statue as a small gift, etc.
The Sisters in the Novitiate also honed her English vocabulary for her interview so that she would say room and not “cell,” stressed not “disturbed,” medications not “drugs,” and community members not “inmates!”
Vocation Brochure Available
In April we designed a brochure depicting our Benedictine, monastic life here at St. Emma Monastery. This brochure features our praying in the Cor Jesu Monastic Chapel, photos of the nuns doing various tasks, and our daily schedule. If you would like some to distribute, we would be delighted to send them to you.
We also have a wonderful display of photos in the shape of our monastic chapel and a smaller one as a book (“Rule of St. Benedict!”).
COR JESU MONASTIC CHAPEL
On June 29, 2003 we celebrated the first anniversary of the dedication of our monastic chapel! We have already forgotten the dust, dirt, mud and other by-products of the construction process! We have experienced the entire liturgical year (with the adaptations of our previous liturgical practices that this wonderful sacred space encourages) as well as the ceremonies of two 70th anniversaries of monastic profession, reception of novice, triennial vows, and solemn vows.
First Anniversary Celebration
About 100 people joined us for the First Anniversary Celebration of Cor Jesu Chapel June 29. An organ/classical guitar concert and sung Vespers highlighted the afternoon. Director of the Liturgy Commission of the Greensburg Diocese, Dr. Fred Moleck played the organ. Professors at Carnegie-Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA), John Marcinizyn and James Ferla were the classical guitarists.
If you live in our area, you probably wondered the “reason” for the snowfall beginning about 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve and continuing into the next day. This picture perfect snowfall was to enhance the beauty of our chapel for its first Christmas!
This year we combined Vigils with Midnight Mass and began at 11:15 Christmas Eve. When we began to sing Lauds at 6:30 Christmas morning, HUGE snowflakes eased their way to the earth so as not to disturb the “silence of the night when the world was asleep and the Almighty Word came down.” The windows by the entrance reflected the 9-foot trees (covered with miniature lights) by the tabernacle so that it was a perfect mirror image.
On Palm Sunday the reading of the Gospel and the blessings of the palms took place in the Atrium, the large room that is the “sacred prelude to the chapel.” We processed outside and entered through the main doors of the Cor Jesu Chapel.
On Holy Thursday after the Eucharist, we processed outside to the Atrium that had been prepared for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
For the blessing of the fire on Holy Saturday, we met at the cross near the chapel and, carrying lighted candles, processed into the chapel answering the proclamation of “Christ our Light” by our chaplain, Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Shuda, with our “Thanks be to God.” As our custom during the Vigil, we used all the readings and sang all the responsorial psalms.
Easter Sunday morning we sang Lauds at 6:30 and celebrated the Eucharist at 8:00. The bright sunny day reflected the glory of the Resurrection! Beyond the Cor Jesu Chapel, the two rows of ornamental crabapple trees crammed with white blossoms framed the Crucifixion Scene that overlooks our cemetery. The new life of the blossoms and the crucifix expressed the realities of our faith that we had just liturgically celebrated: the death and Resurrection of our Lord.
Chapel Open All Day
If you would like to see our monastic chapel, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or join us for any of the Liturgy of the Hours, we are very happy to say that our Monastic Chapel is open all day. Our daily schedule of prayer is printed on page seven; please check with us for a specific day’s schedule before coming to pray with us.
Four-story elevator project
The community has spent considerable time studying and finalizing the architect’s plans for the addition/renovation project for the retreat house scheduled to begin spring 2004. This includes the long awaited 4-story elevator and conference room addition as well as the enlarged and completely renovated retreat kitchen to bring it up to current codes (current as of July 2003!), renovated dining room and renovated conference rooms beneath. The windows in the retreat house will be replaced and a ceiling fan installed in each room.
With this second stage in view, our Campaign Steering Committee sent each of you a letter detailing our progress, defining our need and, highlighting our goal. Your response to this May letter has been wonderful! We are so grateful! St. Emma has always been built brick by brick. Whether your gift provides just one brick, several or many, YOUR GIFT is very important
“A mile is a cinch inch by inch” also applies to a pledge: $10 a month over three years is $360, while $15 a month over three years is $540, and $50 a month over three years is $1,800! We know that you receive numerous letters from many worthy causes. We count ourselves very blessed when you count us among the chosen worthy causes you support – whether by a one-time gift, a pledge or a remembrance in your will.
May you experience the graciousness, fidelity and the generosity of God for your generosity to us!
SPECIAL RETREAT PROGRAMS
Married Couples’ Retreats
Looking for a special way to celebrate your wedding anniversary? Looking for a way to express your love for your spouse and for God – and to deepen it? For nearly 50 years, St. Emma Retreat House has offered retreats for married couples. On October 24-26, 2003 Rev. Msgr. Joseph Kiniry, Johnstown, PA will be the retreat director; Rev. Mark Gruber OSB, St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA will be the retreat master for October 31-November 2, 2003. The stipend is $190 per couple for the entire weekend. For information or reservations, please call, fax or e-mail.
The very first retreat held at St. Emma Retreat House was for men in January 1955! The tradition of men’s retreats continues every March and August. There are still openings for the August 22-24 Men’s retreat ($100) given by Rev. Mark Carter OFMCap.
Pro-Life Days of Prayer
On Saturday, October 18, 2003, Chris Kahlenborn MD, Altoona, PA will offer the conferences for the fall Day of Recollection for People Concerned about Pro-Life from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The founder of the St. Polycarp Institute on the web, Dr. Kahlenborn has been very active in the pro-life movement and has had various articles published including the relationship of abortion and breast cancer. The website address is:
Rev. Donald Raila OSB, St. Vincent Monastery, Latrobe, PA will celebrate the Eucharist and offer the homily.
Day of Recollection for Sisters
Beginning this Advent the semi-annual Days of Recollection for Religious Women are open to all Women Religious. On Saturday, December 6, 2003 Rev. Lester Knoll OFMCap will conduct the Advent Day of Recollection from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Day includes conferences, Eucharist with homily and opportunity for Sacrament of Reconciliation. For additional information or reservations (which are necessary), please contact St. Emma.
The Lenten Day of Recollection will be held on Saturday, April 3.
“Development” is a concept that appears in more and more non-profit organizations as they realize the need to plan for the future financial needs and security of the organization. St. Emma Monastery and Retreat House are no exception.
During this past year we have received several legacies from people who had been so kind to remember us in their wills for which we are very grateful.
According to AARP, only 60% of Americans 50 and older have a will. There are many reasons (and PRACTICAL reasons) why a person should have a will, not the least of which is that a will can help to minimize the impact of federal estate taxes.
If you have an efficiency apartment or a bed in your name, you have an estate! Now that you are feeling among the Fortune 500 crowd, you need to know that if you do not have a will at the time of your death, the court will dispose of your “estate” according to the laws of the state.
If our monastic life has touched yours in such a way that you would include us in your will or estate planning, we would be most grateful. Contact us for more specific information
Our legal title: The Sisters of St. Benedict
of Westmoreland County
Beauty of Summer
The grounds have been especially beautiful this summer. For the beautiful gardens, we thank the local greenhouse that supplies us so generously with the plants each summer, the volunteers and Sisters who planted and weeded, and God who watered them abundantly for a seemingly endless period of time and gave the abundant increase!
For the grounds keeping, we thank all those who cut grass, weed-whacked, trimmed hedges, weeded, sprayed, cut out dead branches, hauled topsoil, etc. We are so blessed: both by the natural beauty of our landscape and by the beauty of our many volunteers in whatever way they work with us.
Grace of the 11th Hour
On the last full day of the February Directed Retreat for Priests at the Monastic Guest House, Rev. Tom Acklin OSB, retreat director, said that God sometimes gives the greatest graces at the “11th hour”.
Rev. Msgr. Timothy Stein shared his experience in his editorial, “The Grace of the 11th Hour” in THE CATHOLIC REGISTER (March 10, 2003). “That evening, during a Midnight Holy Hour in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar…I prayed for the Grace of the 11th Hour. What I got was proof positive that God has a great sense of humor – for at 12:25 a.m. the fire alarm began blaring, with flashing lights going off, and retreatants running in all directions. Not quite what I was praying for, but a nice touch on God’s part. He may not always come with the Technicolor miracles or special effects movie makers love to employ, but sometimes He can still shake us up a bit”.
We are grateful for all the many generous ways in which our volunteers serve so faithfully and for all the gifts we receive. We will enumerate both of these in our Advent Newsletter.
for photo section