Monday, July 30, 2007

An idea blossoms

Since the summer of 2004, I've been listening more intently to what has been a recurring "call" to monastic life. At the end of August 2007, I plan to begin living full-time at St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Currently I am an Affiliate of the community, which means that I'm in a time of more intentional relationship and continuing to get to know the community, but I maintain my job and home, etc. When I arrive this fall, I will be a Postulant, and live and pray, work and play with the Sisters of this Benedictine monastic community as they and I continue to discern whether this is a lifegiving match for all concerned. (See the vocations page for more info on the stages of joining the community.)

When it seemed pretty clear that I would be going to the monastery to live the rhythm on a daily basis and really find out if this lifestyle is as good of a match for me as I think and hope and pray it is, I called my parents to share an idea. I've wanted to do a pilgrimage by bike for a couple of years now, and one day while sitting in the space where the Sisters come together three times each day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it dawned on me that my pilgrimage would be to St. Ben's. I would bike from my childhood home to my new home.

Though my family is supportive of this move in my life, my dad was anything but enthusiasitc about his daughter riding her bike solo on the highways of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. But soon enough he said, "Maybe your mom could go with you." She's an avid biker--has been longer than I have--but she really needed to think about this crazy idea of biking 650 miles across windy and largely treeless terrain in the heat of August. Several weeks later, she sounded more confident that this is something she could try, and would be willing to train for. Especially if Dad would catch up with us in a car on the second week of our journey. Once the plans started to roll, my younger sister wanted to be in on it too. And now plans have evolved such that Dad will be with us the whole time, pulling a camper behind the pickup--which eliminates some of the need to plan our daily distance based on which little towns along our route have a place for us to sleep. He'll also be our main cook and general support crew. (Pray for him as he puts up with three exhausted women on a daily basis!) My brother will stay home to work and take care of the family dog.

Us three girls have been training for months now, and have done some decent practice runs (including a day for my mom and sister on the plains of eastern Montana when the temperature ranged from 67 degrees at their 6:00 a.m. departure to 97 when Dad picked them up at 10:30--and maxed out at 113 that afternoon!). And I biked from the Twin Cities (my current home) to St. Ben's--an equally important branch of the journey as I prepare to move to my new home with the fullness of all that I am, including not only parts of me from my childhood, but also from the nine years during and since college that I've lived mostly in Minnesota and presently in Minneapolis.

Blogging is something new to me, so please bear with me, and be patient with our possible lack of internet availability at some points on the journey. I'm also still trying to reconcile how this technological aspect may influence the spirit of pilgrimage. It will be important to reflect upon as well as document this journey, but this is a different medium than I was expecting to incorporate until very recently.

As I post this first entry, I am also sorting and boxing my post-garage sale possessions according to their destinations: St. Ben's, Mom & Pop's Free Storage, and various friends. I head for Montana in a U-Haul on August 4, and the four of us start heading East on Highway 12 on August 11. Look for one or two more entries before we begin pedaling in earnest.


Sister Sheila Rausch said...

Stephanie--this is a great idea--so exciting. You described it all so well--with just enough humor and revelation about your family. I am especially interested because as you may remember, Montana is very special to me because of my very dear aunt and uncle who lived in Miles City after retiring from the ranch.

Lisa Kittock said...

Dear Stephanie! Blessings on your journey. I loved reading your blog and thrilled to be experienceing your pilgrimage through it!! I look forward to welcoming you in person to your new home. Love, S. Lisa

Leora Juettner said...

Stephanie, I love this bloggingm idea. I will begin praying for all of you today! I really look forward to meeting your family.
My love to all!
S. Leora

Lisa R said...

Hi Stephanie,
I am excited as you begin this journey on you bicycle with your family. Know of my prayers and I eagerly await your arrival.
Lisa Rose

Eunice said...

Hi Stefanie!
Thanks so much for sharing your pilgrimage with us. Your story of how this came to be, and your reflections, are beautiful and inspirational. We are all on a pilgrimage, and having to deal with crankiness, soreness, etc.
is a great meditatin.
Know that I hold you and your family in love and prayer.

Eunice OSB
P.S. I've had a high learning curve in doing a Blog. I guess I'm never to old to learn something new. Peace!

Andrea Lee, IHM said...

Hello, Stephanie. I've had the the Catholic Spirit article about you on my desk for some days now - and have wanted to write. Now I see that I am finally getting to it on the day you begin your postulancy with the Benedictines. Blessings for a life of peace, prayer, and very grounded commitment among those wonderful women.
I understand your need and desire to complete a bike pilgrimage very well. I did the same when I transitioned here to become president at the College of St. Catherine - St. Ben's sister institution in the Twin Cities!
I biked alone some 500 miles from my ministry of 19 years in Detroit, Michigan to St. Paul nine years ago this month. I was TOO OLD to have my dad worried about me doing it alone, but plenty of my friends did!
So, Stephanie, I feel a special kinship with you and will be praying that these next
months and years of formation will be ones of growth and deepening spirituality for you. Your bike pilgrimage - I am sure - prepared you well. Next April, I will be in Rome and will be going on a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of the Benedictines in Italy, so you will surely have a special place in my prayer then.
Perhaps we will meet some day.
All good wishes,
Sister Andrea Lee, IHM
College of St. Catherine
St. Paul, MN