January 9, 2021

Winter Repairs and Improvements

A typical scene from Fall 2019…  Mother Louise Marie rakes back loose gravel from the drain that struggles to keep up with flooding rain water

Now that Winter is upon us again, our friends at Nature’s Edge Landscaping have begun our next stage of property improvements.  After they did such a beautiful job restoring the lawn outside the Convent wing and adding new drainage lines, we asked them to do similar work outside the Retreat wing.

 

Nature’s Edge at work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beautiful transformation and no more water problem! (Summer 2020)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lawn outside the Retreat wing has long needed additional drainage work.  Over the years the ground has settled and eroded, and often retains standing water after a hard rain.  We are working to control the water in this area and then we will relandscape around the building.

Beginning the project

Installing French drains and additional inlets

New gravel drip edge

We also had a fence installed to screen our air conditioning units and transformer, making the area safer and more sightly.

(Before)

(After)

The drainage in this area is difficult and necessary and we pray the results of this project will be a blessing for both the Sisters and our retreatants!  (To see pictures from previous projects, visit our Photo Gallery.)

December 16, 2020

Sister Servants Sing Cathedral Vespers and Prelude Music

Last month, Father Bryan Jerabek, Rector, and Mr. Bruce Ludwick, Jr., Director of Music and Organist, at the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Birmingham, invited our community to lead the Cathedral’s sung Vespers for Sunday, December 6th.  We had the joy of practicing for this special occasion over the past few weeks.  Our choir, directed by Sister Benedicta Marie, not only prepared Solemn Vespers, but also provided much of the prelude music beforehand.  We shared a few favorite choral and solo pieces that we use for special liturgies throughout the year and two organ pieces played by Sister Margaret Mary.

We were grateful to be so warmly welcomed by the Cathedral Parish and to be joined together as a diocesan family with all those who were able to attend with social distancing.  Music is a cherished part of our community life – both liturgical and non-liturgical music that lifts our hearts to praise God.  When the whole Cathedral joined together in singing the opening hymn, “Lo He Comes”, it was breathtaking!  The congregation joined us in chanting Vespers, including the Magnificat in alternating plainchant and polyphony verses. What a joy to chant the Psalms in such a resonant space, where the echo of voices resounded and seemed like angels were answering!

The event was a blessed experience for us, and we hope the recordings below contribute to your Advent preparations for Christmas!

 

The following is a 15 second clip of the Sisters warming up with “O Sacrum Convivium” by Roberto Remondi.  To hear the full song recorded during the Prelude, visit our Soundcloud page.




Although not part of our usual liturgical repertoire, we thought the following soaring piece by Mozart would be a perfect addition to our prelude music for this occasion.

 

Sister Margaret Mary played Baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude’s “Preludium in D,” which was a special treat for her on the Cathedral pipe organ!

 

The whole congregation joined us in the opening hymn of Vespers, “Lo He Comes”.

 

The Sisters sang the “Alma Redemptoris Mater” Chant to conclude the Vespers Liturgy.

 

The following is a short clip from the the Third Psalm of Vespers.  You will notice the special psalm tone we used to highlight the Alleluias.




December 10, 2020

Bon Voyage, Little Dump Truck!

Sister Marianna with the dump truck she drove during our building days

You may have noticed the array of construction equipment on our grounds and heard stories from the Sisters about their excavation of the parking lot and drainage retention pond.  Along with the expert excavator Robert, our founding Sisters operated much of the construction equipment during the first years of building. Sister Marianna, seen below on the “wacky-packy” as she compacted the dam, also drove the dump truck pictured above, while Sister Mary John Paul operated the Bantam and other equipment.

 

Robert and Sister Mary John Paul working on a project

A picture from the past, as we excavated the retreat center courtyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These machines served us well for several years’ excavation. Now, many years later, they have found a new home! Our friend Zach (pictured below) has been working to get them up and running.

The bulldozer lends a hand getting the truck from the pond up the hill to the parking lot

We bid them a nostalgic farewell…

…and they are seen below, already hard at work for Zach!

 

November 21, 2020

Sisters Launch Christlife Small Groups

An enormous blessing both for ourselves and the faith community at large during COVID has been the virtual launch of a popular parish program called ChristLife. ChristLife was founded in the early 90s by Dave Nodar with the mission of evangelizing “in our own backyard.” It is a small-group relational program geared at transforming adults into disciples and making people stronger in their faith by discussing the person of Jesus Christ and why He deeply matters in each of our lives.

Originally an in-person-only gathering, like many other such endeavors, COVID dramatically changed the scope of ChristLife through its Zoom pilot program this past summer. Both ChristLife and its Zoom participants discovered the abundant fruit of encouraging Catholics to connect from all over the world to share their faith, build each other up, and discuss ways to witness and bring others to Jesus. ChristLife is split into 3 separate online sessions: Discovering Christ, Following Christ, and Sharing Christ, that each build upon each other.

ChristLife is unique because the content is geared toward meeting people exactly where they are at. Although it is a heavily Catholic program, faithful to the Magisterium, it focuses on the fundamental soil that we need to live out our faith and witness to others through deepening our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Small groups get together online each week to watch a simple teaching or witness of the faith and then answer questions that really help you examine why you believe, where you’ve been in your relationship with Jesus, and how the power of Christ can continue to transform you, so you can more deeply follow Him and share Him with others. ChristLife will meet you and feed you wherever you are on the journey.

Several of our families, friends, and retreatants have joined Casa Maria for our first online-hosted session of ChristLife this Fall, and many have found it life-changing and a place where we can share the faith and find support. As Christians, we are meant to accompany each other on the journey to heaven, and we are thankful for ChristLife as a means of doing so, especially during the recent difficulties in our times. If you would like more information on ChristLife, or when it might be possible to join the Sisters on this faith journey, please contact us or visit https://christlife.org for more information.