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Hello, All

I’ve just finished with a very intense few weeks. A few weeks ago, I found out my Uncle Dick was in the hospital to evaluate him for possible heart surgery. As time went on, it became evident to the doctors that he wasn’t going to be able to have the needed surgeries. Two weeks ago, my mom let me know that he would survive only a few more days, possibly a few more weeks. As the week progressed, it became clear that his death would come sooner rather than later, and he passed away last Tuesday.

It was such a different experience to be here as a family member is dying. First of all is the distance, but it is also the factors involved in deciding if I should try to see him before he died, or should I attend the funeral, if possible. I know lots of you have experienced the same struggles and it’s never an easy decision.

More significantly, the difference was being in community. To tell the other sisters what is going on and to know that these holy women are praying for your intentions. In particular, to pray for a loved on as they are dying. To give them the grace to make their peace with God and with their neighbor. To ask that a loved one experiences a peaceful transition from this life into the next. It is a true blessing to be able to prepare for your death, to be given time to deepen our relationship with Christ.

I think so many are afraid to talk about death. They have so much fear themselves about being ready to enter heaven and they fear that the person who is dying won’t be able to handle the truth. But, in reality, it is the kindest, most loving thing you can do for a loved one – to give them the opportunity to say the things they couldn’t say before. To express their love for their family and friends as fully as they are capable of showing it. The end of life can be a wonderful time of spiritual healing if we allow it to be.

I am so thankful I was able to return to Wichita and Hutchinson for the funeral. The same day that my uncle passed, my brother and his family were within a few hours of arriving in Alma for a visit. They arrived later that afternoon and were able to stay overnight before I rode back with them Wednesday morning. we drove to Columbia, MO to stop for the night. I stayed with my sister and her husband and drove to Wichita Thursday. We went to the wake Thursday evening and the funeral Friday afternoon – both in Hutchinson. I was thankfully able to maintain my scheduled prayers which helped considerably with the stress of the situation. I then flew back to Alma on Saturday.

It was a blessed trip to Wichita, despite the cirumstances. I ask you all to pray for my Aunt Karen as she grieves the loss of her husband. Pray for the entire Bridgewater family.

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Love, Sister Shana

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Ash Wednesday

(This post is late because of Brandi, not Sister Shana)

Hello, Everyone. 🙂

Today is Ash Wednesday and Lent has officially begun. This year is different, of course, and it will be interesting to see how the community participates in Lent. We have decided on a group, as well as individual, sacrifices. As a group, the Postulants have decided to limit “frivolous” talk and spend one day a week in silence. We can, of course, talk if necessary, but it should be very limited. One day a week, we will not eat meat and there will be no snacking between meals.

Plus, one day of the week, we will have a bread and water fast. I’ve never done a fast like this before. Basically, we will eat bread (as much as we need to satisfy our hunger) at meals and will not snack in between. We are still able to drink coffee and tea. So, I guess it’s a bread, water, coffee and tea fast. But that seems a little long to say, so we’ll stick with “bread and water.” 🙂

Each particular day of the week has a different intention. One is for the intentions of our families. Another is for the success of our Australian foundation and one is for an increase in the union and charity of our sisters.

One thing I recommend for Lent is that you let your family know whatever you decide to do for Lent. You can also choose a spiritual director. That person is someone who can help guide you and make sure that you are not doing anything too difficult. That is the nice thing about living in a community. Our Superior is aware of what we intend to do and can help guide each of us if we experience any difficulties along the way.

Lent is a very blessed season with an intensification of our spiritual lives and a deepening of our relationship with Christ. May this lent produce abundant fruit in each of your lives.

Love, Sister Shana

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A lot going on

There has definitely been a lot going on late, most importantly, Christmas, which actually went well. I was able to talk with my family Christmas evening and the following evening so that makes it a really good time. I’ll try to give a timeline of events, so that I can catch everyone up on what life has been like here.

The Mothers were in Rome in November (I believe) and met with the Cardinal in charge of the Religious. In the meeting, he mentioned that he wanted to see that all Religious and Priests know and understand Latin. So, within two weeks, the books had arrived and we had our first class in Latin. Mostly, we are starting with pronunciation and a few vocabulary words. When we resume classes in January, we need to know the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be in Latin.

We are continuing our classes on Ecclesiology – the study of the Church and the basis of the Church.

Bishop Mengeling, who retired within the last year, has agreed to teach a class on the Bible that will contain history as well as connections between the New and Old Testaments. He will also focus a little bit on the integration of Jewish customs and Liturgy as the foundation of the Catholic Liturgy. He plans to come about once a week for two-hour sessions. He thinks the full course will take about two years to complete. He’s given us one class, but then he flew to Germany for Christmas and New Year’s to lead the year-end retreat at a German convent.

We just finished a five-day course on the Liturgy given by one our sisters from Denver. She is assisting on the research for changes to the Mass that will be instituted in 2012. Several parts have already been approved by the Vatican and the approved changes are posted online complete with scripture references to see exactly where the wording originated (note from Brandi: I couldn’t find an “official” document – here is an NPR story). Basically, with the translation of the Mass from Latin to English, there was a push for equivocal language. This means that the translation wasn’t exact – it was more “similar to” the original. These new translations should be a truer English translation of the Latin.

We are to have more classes over the Spring, which I think will be good. Most will be seminar-type classes. I think they are an attempt to give us some information but mostly to find out where our interests are for future study.

We each have regular meetings with the Postulant director. In a meeting, I mentioned that I liked Sacristy (which is the setting up and service for Mass and Holy Hour). Her reply was “well, the mothers have wanted to send someone to get their Master’s or PhD in Theology with an emphasis in Sacristy. Most likely that person would study in Rome for that. That really took me back – I hadn’t realized before how much a little comment could change the next 10 years of your life – a little scary!

Then, about a week later, we were all sitting at the table for dinner. We had a guest and it was announced that we would all be studying for advanced degrees in Theology – most likely during temporary vows (which follows the Novitiate). I knew that probably a few would get these degrees, but I had not heard this version before – that it would be everyone. Very interesting.

As for Christmas, we all found out on Tuesday (Dec. 23) that we would not be leaving on Dec. 26 as originally planned to go to Connecticut. We would be staying home, have Christmas in our individual homes and invite four guest Sisters and four Priests over. That meant we would need to set up in the basement for dinner (since it’s a bigger space), get a tree, put up decorations, etc. The big problem was that the basement had just gone through about five weeks of remodeling and the kitchen, dining area and pantry (including ever dish) was covered in dust. So, the preparation began! Everything was cleaned by the next morning and all the food was prepared the next day. It was tons of work, but it all went very well.

The next day, the Sisters from around the US began arriving for an end-of-the-year retreat. All together, about 50 of us were there – not counting the Sisters who couldn’t travel from within the United States, the ones n Rome, Germany and Australia.

We have been able to enjoy a 10 a.m. start (with Mass and prayers) every day followed by a meal, conference, evening prayer, supper and night prayer. There’s lots of eating and praying and talking. New Year’s Eve, we had a talent show in which teh Sisters sang, played their instruments, read poems, etc. Then, we had a special Holy Hour from 11:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m., followed by a small reception (more eating and talking). I finally got to bed about 2:30 a.m. We were able to start late again today and we have a quiet evening to be able to get to bed early. Reality hits tomorrow with 5:30 a.m. Mass and prayers.

I really hope everyone is doing well. I miss all of you and think of you all often. I hope 2009 is filled with many blessings for all.

Love,

Sister Shana

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Illumination

NOTE from Brandi: In November, the Sisters of Mercy sponsored an Illumination class. Sister Shana sent her finished illumination to Julia (her niece) for her second birthday. The following is the image and an explanation of the Illumination.

The illumination is an art form that reached its peak in the middle ages. All the colors have some significance and meaning. The calligraphy is a style used at the time. All the colors are created from stones and natural pigments, and we spent most of the first day of classes completing the grinding of the particles into paint. All the gold is real gold either gold paper or gold that we used in powder form to create the paint.

The picture itself was designed by the artist, Jed Gibbons, who came to teach teh class. He ahsdone many pieces in cathedrals and churces all over the world.

This Illumination was created by Sister Shana and was given to Julia Herrman, Sister Shana's niece, for her birthday.

This Illumination was created by Sister Shana and was given to Julia Herrman, Sister Shana's niece, for her birthday.

The “A” surrounding Mary is the beginning of the prayer and also symbolizes the tent of the Art of the Covenant from the Old Testament that prefigured Mary (As Mary is the new Arc who carried Christ).

The five pearls are referenced in Job. 28:18: “The price of wisdom is beyond pearls.”

The white lily represents purity and is the iconic symbol of Mary

Blue symbolizes Mary and is the color used on teh dress because it has a reflective element to it

The Holy Spirit overshadows Mary as in the Annunciation

The beads surrounding the piece represents the rosary, with the 20 beads represnting the mysteries: 5 joyful mysteries in blue; 5 sorrowful mysteries in purple; 5 glorious mysteries in gold; 5 luminous mysteries in white.

The cross is the mercy cross, which symbolizes the darkness fo the world with the Light of Christ as the Center – to bring Light to the darkness.

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Much-anticipated Pictures

Mom and Dad got to visit Sister Shana at the end of October. She wanted to be able to take a trip away from the convent as she hadn’t really left the convent or Alma since she got there in September. Though they had to plan around morning and evening prayers (and sometimes afternoon prayers), Mom, Dad and Shana were able to take day trips. They went over to a nearby town to get some supplies. Being from Kansas, I guess you can think you’re prepared for the cold of Michigan, but really have no idea. Shana needed some warmer clothes.

Mom and Dad took Shana and the rest of the postulants to dinner.

Mom and Dad took Shana and the rest of the postulants to dinner.

EDIT: Mom says Shana was actually talking to Chase in the picture with Dad. She got in a convo to all the kids! Even Julia – for a bit.

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Hello, Everyone.

Thank you to those who have written me and for all those who have checked out how my life is going. This is a brief synopsis of what’s been occurring over the past few weeks.

About two weeks ago a seamstress came in and helped us all get our habits started for next year. The only different between the postulant dress and the habit is the length of the dress and the veil. During the two years of the Novitiate, the veils will be white and are very beautiful. Once temporary vows begin, we transition to black veils. However, during the Novitiate, we wear the black veils when outside the community. One of the reasons is that, especially as new teachers, students would see that the novice was new and be harder on her than they would an older sister. So, the tradition continues. All told, I will need to have 10 habits and 4 veils made, hopefully all done by the Spring.

This last weekend, we had a woman come in to give the postulants singing lessons. The singing is very important here since we join together two to three times a day for prayers with a lot of chanting of psalms for the Liturgy of the Hours. We also sing canticles and other songs and prayers. The idea is that the whole community can sing in one voice. It’s a difficult task, so we have lots of help. The instructor is a friend of the community and has been working with us for the past three years or so. In particular, she focuses on the postulants who have to come in and join the main group – and not throw everyone else off. Trying to sing soprano as an also is very difficult. Now I am going to start learning how to sing 2nd, which is more in my range.

Also last weekend, we had a retired Doctor and his wife come to talk with the postulants and novices about their relationship with the community over the past few decades. There is definitely a mutual love between the sisters and the couple. It was so wonderful to see how much appreciation and respect was present at the lectures.

This week is getting back into a more normal schedule and things will probably settle down for a while. I hope all is going well with each of you. May you each be open to God’s work in your life.

Sister Shana

Below are a few links that may be of interest

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Sept. 8 was the entrance into posulancy cermony for all seven of us. We then started to be addressed as “sister.” Now, I am “Sister Shana.”

The rest of teh day on Monday was relaxing and having fun. We went to a retreat area and had a cookout and explored the paths.

Our prayers start early at 5:30 and continue for a few hours. This week, we have had classes in teh morning and afternoon on St. Thomas Aquinas. On Thursday and Friday, we did a lot of yard work with mowing and weeding and cleaning. We return for prayers at about 5 p.m. and then have dinner after 6:30 p.m.

I hope all is going well with you and know that you are all in my prayers.

Sister Shana

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