Welcome, Sr. Marie!

Today, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we welcomed Marie Langford as she entered the enclosure to begin her postulancy. Sr. Marie comes to us from the great state of Indiana and recently graduated from IPFW (Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne) with a degree in electrical engineering.

The weather was beautiful for sister's entrance, but it was just a little hot in the Chapter Hall today waiting for the procession to begin! Thankfully the ceremony booklets doubled as fans! During the entrance ceremony the postulant is welcomed into the enclosure by the prioress and then is led through the chapter hall where the community is assembled to choir as the community chants Psalm 122 "I rejoiced when I heard them say: 'Let us go to God's house.'" The new postulant's family is invited to come up to the opened choir grille to witness the ceremony. Once the prioress has led the new postulant to her choir stall the novice mistress reads the reading from Ephesians 3:14-21. Then the prioress prays for the postulant with these words: 

Lord, you have given your servant Marie the desire to serve you.
Complete the work you have begun.
Make her gift of self whole-hearted and bring this first beginning to its perfect end.  
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

The ceremony closes with the chanting of the Dominican Salve, after which everyone greets the new postulant in the community room. It seems to be traditional when you enter to have your veil fall off at least once as you greet the community, and Sr. Marie was no exception! Thankfully the novice mistress is there to help get it back on. 

The community, with the new postulant, then goes to the parlor to greet the family and introductions are made all around. However willingly it's done, it is always hard on the family to give to God such a treasured daughter and sister. We trust God will not be outdone in generosity!

Please join us in praying for Sr. Marie as she begins her great monastic adventure, and for her family.

Novice Mistress's Feast Day

Every year the feast day of the novice mistress is celebrated with special festivity by the novitiate. Sr. Joseph Maria's feast day is the Visitation, but because it conflicted with the Monastic Theological Study program the novitiate had their celebration on June 15th...which just so happened to be Sr. Joseph Maria's 10th anniversary of entrance!

All planning and decorating is done by the novitiate sisters as a surprise for their novice mistress. This year's theme was Home & Garden....very appropriate for our green-thumbed sister! Besides coconut cookies and a veggie platter, the creative novices put together a dirt pudding complete with worms (of the gummy variety). They also crafted a rose centerpiece using all of the different roses blooming in the monastery gardens. 

In between chatting and eating the sisters played Monopoly. Sr. Joseph Maria's crippling hotel taxes ended most of the sisters in jail (a new rule--go to jail and stay there until you can pay!)...which ended up meaning Sr. Joseph Maria was the only one paying taxes! When asked who won the answer was "We don't know!" An interesting twist on an old favorite.

Seeking the Truth-a Contemporary Disputatio

Wednesday evening recreation. The Sisters weren't outside for a walk or sitting in small groups talking and laughing while engaging in various handcrafts. No, this was the night of the Monastic Theological Studies Disputatio, the culmination of fours years of intense study by our newly professed sisters!

In the Middle Ages a disputatio was, to quote the venerable authority of Wikipedia, " In the scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations (in Latin: disputationes, singular: disputatio) offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in sciences. Fixed rules governed the process: they demanded dependence on traditional written authorities and the thorough understanding of each argument on each side. "

A disputatio could and did go on for weeks but ours was a mere 45 minutes in length!

The topic for this disputatio was, "Whether it is fitting to pursue artificial intelligence (machines capable of imitating intelligent human behaviors) as far as possible?"

In the tradition of the disputatio the Sisters cited the authority of scripture, the Fathers of the Church, Popes, such Leo XIII and St. John Paul II and other experts including Bill Gates and yes, even Dilbert!

The two teams of sisters had been working hard the past week and a half formulating their arguments. By Wednesday night they were ready albeit a bit nervous! And since a disputatio is a public debate, we the community, were invited as "the public".

The objections came first. The first team presented theirs in the style of St. Thomas and the medieval schools with a little help from power point and Dilbert. We have to admit it—we were sometimes distracted by the cartoons on the screen!

 Sr. Mary Jacinta presents an objection.

Sr. Mary Jacinta presents an objection.

Then the sed contra and respondeo were presented by the second team with Sr. Mary Magalene as the spokesperson. The respondio written by the entire team cited Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, Popes and other experts just as the first team had done.

After both sides had spoken the teams were given about 10 minutes to formulate objections to what they heard while the rest of us recreated. We then came back together and both teams shared objections to what had been presented by the opposing team.

Finally, those of us in the community were free to add to the discussion by asking questions and formulating objections. The teams as well as Sr. Mary Jeremiah and Sr. Mary Martin who served as the "Masters" and supervised the dispute, responded. 

 Sr. Charia Marie and Sr. Denise Marie asks questions and clarify points of discussion.

Sr. Charia Marie and Sr. Denise Marie asks questions and clarify points of discussion.

What became clear in the discussion was that what is needed as Artificial Intelligence progresses is ethical guidelines. It is here the Church can do a great service to the world of technology and the Popes repeatedly encourage people to be missionaries in this new frontier.

In closing Sr. Mary Jeremiah as the "Master" representing the Schools and Sr. Mary Martin who represented the Church praised the Sisters for their hard work and clear and succinct objections and responses. There was no clear disparity between the two presentations, they were equally good. Both sides presented their points of view well with even a little bit of passion! Since a disputatio is not the same as a modern day debate there are no clear "winners". The aim is to come to a greater truth regarding the disputed question.

Our community greatly enjoyed participating in the student sisters disputatio and the evening ended with a sense that it was time well-spent for all. We all couldn't help be proud of all our young sisters as we saw how much they have grown in the four years they have participated in the Monastic Theology Studies! Well done, Sisters!

First Week of MTS

The sisters in the Monastic Theological Studies program have successfully completed the first of two weeks of class. This is the last year of the 4 year cycle, which means only one more week of class and one more presentation to go before they 'graduate'!

Sunday evening Sr. Maria of Jesus from the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Farmington Hills, Michigan shared pictures with us of her Solemn Profession. Sisters can begin the study program as soon as they are in Temporary Profession (or if a new cycle is beginning and they will make profession shortly after the first sessions), so many of the sisters make Solemn Profession during the four years they are in the program and thus lots of joy and excitement for their fellow MTS sisters (and their host monastery!). 

This week's course was Patristic Christology taught by Fr. Andrew Hofer, OP. You  might remember that Fr. Andrew also taught Theology of Thomas Aquinas in 2015. The sisters also gave their presentations one of two papers they wrote for last year's classes. They are officially done with MTS presentations!  In place of their second presentation they will be holding a disputatio(You can see the Lufkin nuns' blog on the first MTS cycle's disputatio HERE!)  Stay tuned for this cycle's topic! 

Memorial Day

Although the weather wasn't great, we had a lovely Memorial Day.  This year it was Sr. Mary Catharine's turn to cook, and she had a few more mouths to feed as the sisters in the Monastic Theological Studies (MTS) program had arrived over the weekend to begin their last 2 weeks of classes.

While the kitchen sisters were busy about their preparations, the rest of the sisters relaxed and enjoyed each others company. A few dug out our little miniature pool table for a few rounds of pool and Sr. Denise Marie demonstrated how the game Fox Hunt is played.

The game looks ancient and involves pulling the string from a wooden top to try to hit down as many little wooden bowling pins as possible. The fox's pin is farthest from the starting point and requires the top to move through two intricate doors. We didn't successfully hunt the fox, but we had a lot of fun trying!

We enjoyed dinner and supper in the community room since the weather wasn't cooperating for our usual picnic on the cloister. Maybe we'll have better weather for the Independence Day picnic!

"You are a priest forever..."

On Saturday one of "our" seminarians, Patrick Seo, was ordained to the priesthood. When Patrick visited for the first time as a second year theology student he asked Sr. Mary Martin (who happens to be his prayer partner) for permission to have his First Mass in our chapel. Sister said yes and on Sunday we were blessed to not only attend but host Fr. Patrick's First Mass. Quite a few of "our" seminarians, now priests or deacons, also took part in the Mass.

Fr. Patrick did a marvelous job and gave the best "new priest" homily we've ever heard...and that's not just because he talked up the nuns! We feel privileged and blessed to know this young priest and more than a few sisters could be seen wiping a tear or two away during the Mass. 

Right before the final blessing Fr. Patrick explained the tradition of giving the maniturgium to the new priests' mother.  (You can read about that here!)  Father then presented his mother with the maniturgium. Fr. Patrick's father would have been presented with the confessional stole with which Fr. Patrick heard his first confession....except he hadn't yet! 

After Mass Father gave us his first blessing, a special treat for the visiting sisters who are here from other monasteries for the last year of the study program (for this cycle)! 

Please pray for Fr. Patrick Seo and all of the young men being ordained to the priesthood!