June 16, 2024

Come, Follow Me Formation Retreat

From June 10 – 12, we had a wonderful opportunity to offer formation in Spanish for 40 retreatants using the catechetical program Come, Follow Me. The participants came from several parishes throughout our diocese and even from as far as Minnesota. Because most of the teachers are Spanish-speakers, we offered simultaneous translation for English speakers.

Fr. José Aurelio Jimenez (pictured below) traveled from San Sebastián, Spain to provide formation, experience, and the catechetical context of this beautiful program. Come, Follow Me developed from the lay community Notre Dame de Vie, which was begun by the French Carmelite Blessed Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus.

Emmanuelle Bonhomme (projected below) is one of the formators of Come, Follow Me and Zoomed in from France to share her experience.

It was a moving and fruitful retreat with many graces for us Sister Servants and the participants (some pictured below)!

May 29, 2024

Approaching the Finishing Line

You have accompanied us this Spring in our major work of drainage and erosion control at our pond. We are approaching the finish line, with only some irrigation, electrical, and fencing work remaining – as well as the installation of a gazebo near the pond. We took advantage of this moment to also beautify the entire pond area. Mother Mary Gabriel would frequently tell us, “God is a God of order.” The craftsmanship of the men who helped us with this work reflects the beauty and order of God.

Work at the Pond: January – April 2024

To reiterate, over the years we have struggled with erosion caused by the quantity and speed of storm water entering the pond.

Erosion caused by periodic flooding.

As we built the erosion wall with massive boulders, we took the opportunity to dredge a large quantity of silt, install new drainage pipes, and stabilize the road. We’d like to share with you some before and after photos, and then show you how well this solution handled a recent Alabama storm.

The Scope of This Project!

Slide 1
Slide 2
Slide 3
Slide 4
Slide 5
Slide 6
previous arrowprevious arrow
next arrownext arrow

Before and After Photos

Recently, we’ve had some monsoon-level rains. We want to share the videos of how well the new drainage functioned after that storm.

Returning Levels

One hour after the storm, the pond levels are returning to normal!

Water on our property

Water is better directed and no longer erodes the road.

New drainage

New drainage directs water from our own property into the pond.

previous arrow
next arrow
Returning Levels
Water on our property
New drainage
previous arrow
next arrow

Finishing Touches

Please join us in praying for the remaining details of irrigation, fencing, electrical, and future gazebo (rendering inserted below), and support us as you are able! The future gazebo began through the suggestion and an initial donation from one of our families. We are thrilled to be at the final stages of providing a place that reflects the beauty and order of God for retreatants and the Sisters.

May 1, 2024

Spring Projects at Casa Maria

This Spring has already been very full! We have had retreats nearly every weekend, have been taking a course on Wisdom Literature in the Bible and the Psalms, and still kept up with all our regular apostolic work. While the Sisters have been balancing these activities, we’ve had lots of help addressing the maintenance needs around the property. In February, we posted pictures of the flood and erosion issues at the pond. Thanks to the help from many donations and the hard work of good friends, the pond and the surrounding drainage areas are being reinforced with rock to help meet future water influx.

We also were thrilled that about seventy members of the local Fraternus men’s group came to volunteer one Saturday. They spread out, clearing the undergrowth, fallen limbs, and who knows what from the many wooded areas around the property.

The fountain in the courtyard developed several leaks over the years which required extensive repair and rebuilding of the stonework. A generous donor covered half of the costs at the start of this project, and several others have contributed to the remaining expenses. Below you can see the beautiful results! God bless you for your generosity!

We look forward to your next visit, and we hope all these lovely improvements will provide an even more inviting setting for your retreat!

March 24, 2024

God’s Mastery Over Evil

In the midst of the Church, we Sisters embark on this Holy Week, walking with Christ, and meditating prayerfully on quite a bit of Wisdom Literature during the past several weeks, through our latest course from Augustine Institute on Wisdom Literature and the Psalms. It might seem surprising to spend so much time in the Old Testament as we follow Jesus to Calvary this week, but in Jesus’ own words on the way to Emmaus, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:26-27).

Some Sisters recently reflected on Job in our class essay: “God’s mastery over evil is not as obvious as that over the material world. Job spends quite a bit of time putting his misfortunes on trial because he doesn’t understand why he suffers, asking the question ‘Why?’ five times in sixteen verses. Interestingly though, when God finally reveals Himself to Job, Job’s words convey the impression that the face-to-face encounter with God is more than adequate compensation for his affliction. In the end, Job knows no more about why he suffered at the end of the story than he did at the beginning. But he has seen the face of God.”

As Christ Himself says, all of these events in the Old Testament point to Him. And during this Holy Week, God’s compassion on the fallen human race and His mastery over evil is unquestionably demonstrated through His victory at the Cross. Any suffering, any affliction, any unanswered question finds its fulfillment through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. God revealed in the Old Testament that He himself is the only answer to Job’s question, “Why?” Even more so this Holy Week, Jesus shows us the visible explanation of God’s answer that each and every one of our sufferings is taken up, offered to the Father, and included in the sacrifice of His own blood. Let us walk with Jesus this week, knowing that when we unite everything we have to the Cross, nothing is ever offered or suffered in vain, and everything is brought to light and glory in the Resurrection.

February 14, 2024

A Special Visit to Huntingdon College

By Sr. Madeleine Marie, SsEW

Before COVID, Sr. Mary John Paul and Sr. Philomena had an opportunity to share a table with Curtis Martin, the Founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. Curtis encouraged the Sisters to visit the various campuses in our region, something we have done ever since. While we make monthly visits to the University of Alabama, Auburn, and the local campuses in Birmingham, we occasionally visit other schools as our schedule permits.

Back in September, Jimmy Schomburg, a young man from Sr. Clare Marie’s hometown of Decatur, AL, invited us to speak to the Loyola Society he started at his school, Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL. Huntingdon is a small private school under the sponsorship of the Methodist Church, and there aren’t many Catholics on campus. Mother Louise Marie accepted this invitation and sent Sr. Clare Marie and me to visit.

Some of the Huntingdon students we met.

With the support of the campus minister, Rhett Butler, the room was full of both students and faculty members for our visit. When we realized there were only two Catholics in the room besides ourselves, we just decided to open the floor to questions. It was a new experience to present the beauty of our life and the Church to a group of people who have never encountered it, but I found it fruitful.

A few months before, a friend recommended Mike Cosper’s book, Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World. Cosper, an evangelical writer, makes the claim that the answer to “re-enchanting” our modern culture is by taking up certain practices, such as fasting and feasting according to the liturgical year, regular examination of conscience, praying the psalms daily, daily silence, annual retreats, and living according to a rule of life. As I read this book, I kept thinking, “This protestant pastor is describing my life as a Religious sister.” It turned out Cosper makes his annual retreat at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, KY, which influenced the development of his ideas.

Sr. Clare Marie explaining our habit to the students.

I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit put that book into my life for that day. I remembered it as we were getting ready to leave, and I pulled it off the shelf of my office bookcase. One of the students asked how they, as non-Catholics, could live some of what we do. I pulled out Cosper’s book and went through how each of these spiritual disciplines–which I pointed out were all Catholic at heart and lead us to encounter Christ–corrects a specific defect of modern culture. It wasn’t what I planned to say, but the Holy Spirit really led us to speak to these students in way that they found both understandable and challenging.

Our experience with the students and faculty at Huntingdon was truly remarkable. We were edified by the zeal of the students, as well as well as the college’s support of its Catholic students’ faith.

Sr. Madeleine Marie and Sr. Clare Marie with some of the students who attended our event.

Recently, Huntingdon College posted an interview with Jimmy Schomburg about his work with the Loyola Society, the Catholic group on campus. We invite you to read about this young man and the good work he is doing to share the Good News of the Gospel to his fellow students which has been influenced by our community.