The closing days of April saw our community gathered for the monthly Information Forum, the opportunity for a sharing of current news and events in the community. The welcome return of spring has enabled a surge of activity in the Great Outdoors. Some garden produce (asparagus and rhubarb) is already coming in to the kitchen. Other varieties of vegetables are in the process of being planted as a welcome alternative to frozen or canned food on the table. It was reported that we still have not consumed all the vegetables that had been frozen or canned from the abundant harvest of last year. Apparently , our appetites have not been able to match our productivity. We will try to do better. We do donate excess produce to local charities.
The warmer weather has also seen efforts to replant over two thousand trees, many of which will replace those harvested recently for material for Trappist Caskets. More areas of our property have been put into prairie planting and have been seeded with wild flowers. We are still anticipating work on a culvert which drains the north side of the church wing, but passes underneath the road in front of the monastery. It would be ideal to finish this project before the guesthouse and church are opened again. There is still no definite word on when it would be safe to reopen these areas.
In the report on our infirmary situation, it was noted that Fr. James O’Connor will be celebrating his 97th birthday this coming June 6th. Fr. Jim still manages to navigate on his own, although some days he needs a wheel chair to attend mass. He does suffer from hearing loss and a form of dementia, but is usually very cheerful and can make some surprising vocal observations. For many, many years he was the author of the very popular Monastery Seasons and would socialize with guests as he happily interrupted his rounds cutting the front lawns.
Towards the end of last Lent, the community sent copies of the Bible to students at Notre Dame school in Burlington, Iowa. The students had asked that each copy be inscribed by a monk, and we were happy to oblige them. Br. Juan Diego drove the bibles down to the school, distributed the books, and celebrated a short prayer service with them. At this meeting, Br. Juan Diego gave out the thank you notes each student had written. The students expressed a wish to visit once the Covid restrictions were lifted.
Outside the confessional area of the guest house, several icons with a penitential theme were displayed to provide images for reflection and prayer. These had been written by the late Sr. Clairvaux of the Rochester, MN Franciscans. Unfortunately, the gold leaf base which had been prepared by another artist proved to be defective. The gold leaf underlying the icons began to peel. But Fr. Stephen has finally located another iconographer who will be able to repair the icons and they have been shipped to him. Not only are hearts repaired and made clean, but icons, too.