On Sunday, November 24, 2019, Sisters Paz, Denise and I drove to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Milwaukee. We had been invited to make a presentation on the Rule of Benedict and Benedictine spirituality at their GIFT (Generations in Faith Together) program. This is an inter-generational faith formation program held 10 times a year for singles, families, adults and children of all ages who gather after the Eucharist for social time, a meal and a program.
We arrived in time for mass and were delighted to see that the congregation was diverse in terms of ethnicity and age. The parish does not have a resident priest but is ably served by Parish director, Nancie Chmielewski who met us at the door and directed us to Steve Symanski, director of child ministries. Steve had contacted the monastery in June about someone coming to do a presentation on Benedictine spirituality as part of their theme: The Spirituality of Discipleship.
After making sure everything was set up for our presentation, we went to the sanctuary. The order of the Eucharist was much like the rite we follow at Holy Wisdom. The congregation welcomed catechumens at the beginning of the service with the signing of the cross on each of the senses. Later, the candidates received a copy of the Scriptures and were dismissed before the liturgy of the Eucharist began.
Following the Eucharist, we moved to the parish hall where Claudia Porter, former Oblate of Holy Wisdom Monastery, greeted us. Some years ago Claudia introduced Steve to Benedictine spirituality through the books Always We Begin Again by Michael McQuiston II and Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister, OSB. These books made an impact on Steve’s life and when he and his colleague, Taylor Baar were planning the faith formation program, he thought of Holy Wisdom.
I enjoyed talking with Claudia before the presentation and learned that oblate Mary Kremer is also a member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish. We are grateful to Claudia and Mary for spreading the Benedictine spirit where they worship!
Our time together with the approximately 100 GIFT participants began with informal conversation at our tables followed by lunch prepared by volunteers. Then the youth and adults discussed the Benedictine values that were important to them while the children at the tables had their own worksheet to do. After that, the children and youth went off to classes, while the adults remained for our presentation.
Sisters Paz, Denise and I focused our program on the Benedictine values of community, listening and lectio divina. The participants in the GIFT program are used to discussion around the tables, so we built in several opportunities for conversation on experiences of community and listening. Then we led the group in lectio divina and left them with instructions so they could do it individually or in their families. I let them know that our children do lectio with the Sunday Gospel when they gather for children’s Liturgy of the Word.
We are grateful for Claudia’s enthusiasm in sharing Benedictine spirituality and enjoyed interacting with the people of Our Lady of Lourdes. We hope to return to this vibrant parish in the future.
The sisters desire to reach out to other faith communities where there may be young women interested in Benedictine spirituality and intentional community living. We are open to invitations to speak on Benedictine spirituality as our schedule permits.
Images from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, website.