The following is a report from Sr. Mary Catharine, our novice mistress, who is attending the Novice Mistress Meeting for the Association of the Monasteries of Nuns of the Order of Preachers in the United States of America.
It's hard to believe that I'm in California except for the fact that the weather is beautiful! Now I see why people from the east coast, when they come to California, they want to stay!
I arrived Saturday afternoon after an uneventful flight that even left Newark on time! Our good friends, Mike and Linda met me at the airport and brought me around San Francisco and even over the Golden Gate Bridge! For some odd reason, the bridge is one that I used to want to see when I was a kid. Then it was time for Vespers and we were near their parish of St. Dominic's which is the novitiate for the Friars of the Western Province so they brought me to pray with the Brothers. Unfortunately, since the novices were away on retreat and the friars were scattered about preaching there weren't many present but it was a wonderful gift to be able to pray I Vespers of Corpus Christi with them and to get a quick tour of this beautiful church.
Then we got a quick bit to eat. A nice juicy hamburger with onion rings which was a big treat for me! Meanwhile, my eyelids kept getting heavier and heavier. We then continued on to the monastery in Menlo Park driving over the San Andreas fault. Fortunately, it didn't react to my presence!
I can't explain how wonderful it was to cross the threshold and be "home" again in the monastery. As you know, we are like fish out of water when we travel, even though at the same time we enjoy the different gifts God gives us, like seeing Mike and Linda again and that juicy hamburger! Did I mention the scenery, too?
The next morning, Sunday, Readings and Lauds were at 6:30. I made great efforts to be on time despite feeling quite tired but it was Corpus Christi and I didn't want to miss Office. Well, 6:30 came and no one showed up! Then I realized that I had set my clock two hours, not three hours back and it was only 5:30! My one chance to sleep in and I blew it!
We had a beautiful Corpus Christi Mass and then Benediction. After a festive meal in the community room with the friars and student brothers who attended we had a second Benediction with the nearby parish. This is the monastery's patronal feast so the air was filled with joy!
The sisters from the other monasteries began arriving on Monday and by Tuesday evening most of us where here. Sr. Mary Martin will arrive on Saturday and Sr. Mary Veronica on Sunday. Sr. Mary Assumpta (the prioress and part of my group of "study sisters" when we were newly professed) and I had planned a short orientation and then a quick tour of the monastery. Sr. Mary Sacred Heart didn't think we'd be able to do both before Compline but we proved her wrong. This is a very big monastery with beautiful artwork, religious images, gardens, etc.. The choir and chapel are especially beautiful. Coming from a small monastery I feel a bit dwarfed. The sisters are so welcoming and well, I am with my sisters! So, I feel right at home.
Our lectures with Fr. Basil Cole, OP began Wednesday morning. Fr. Basil's insights mixed in with his humor are a rich treasure for us as we grow in our role as novice mistresses and learn how, with God's grace, we can best help those entrusted to our care as spiritual mothers.
In the afternoon we have group discussions about various topics the sisters have sent in as we were planning the meeting. We have sisters who have many years experience as novice mistress and others who are brand new so it makes for some interesting conversations. Yesterday, we didn't even stop for our break! That says a lot because both the West Springfield and the Langley, BC monasteries sent homemade cookies for our breaks!
Recreation provides time for us to go for walks and to meet with the sisters of the Menlo Community. With our presence the choir sounds quite full! Tomorrow for the feast of the Sacred Heart we will have a picnic supper and another one is planned for Sunday. The schedule is planned so that there is plenty of time for some rest, prayer a conversation with another novice mistress or just enjoying the library. On Saturday we will have a retreat day with Fr. Basil preaching on "The Novice Mistress as Preacher of Grace".
Of course, I miss you all and think of each one of you as you continue the kitchen clean out and the renovations. I won't recognize the place when I get back! I am so grateful to each one of you for making it possible for me to attend this meeting and ask that you continue to pray that it will bear much fruit in all our monastic communities.
Your sister in St. Dominic and Our Lady,
Sr. Mary Catharine, OP