Prioress' Reflection

(Mother Mary Anne OSB shared the following remarks during the Dedication of our Cor Jesu Monastic Chapel on June 29, 2002.)

I rejoiced when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord. And now our feet have arrived in Jerusalem. Certainly these are our sentiments today as we realize our dream of a monastic chapel with choir stalls that has been dedicated to and claimed by God during this beautiful Eucharist and the poignant, symbolic blessing by Bishop Bosco. 

As Prioress and as members of our present community of St. Emma, ours is the privileged generation that was allowed to build this chapel. Seventy-one years have passed since our Sisters came from Abtei St. Walburg, Eichstaett, Bavaria to this country. My three predecessors, Mother Leonarda Fritz (Prioress from 1931-1965), Mother Emmanuel Drey (Prioress from 1965-1973), and Mother Agnes Regensberger (Prioress 1973-1993) have laid the foundations for this day. Another 38 deceased Sisters, whose patrons were all included in the Litany of the Saints, also prepared for this moment through their dedicated lives of prayer and work. 

Certainly we thank God whose providence has brought our community to another moment of "coming of age" of a monastery with the dedication of this chapel and the completion of other renovations which help us live our monastic life more fully and to express it more visibly. 
On this Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, we are aware that we are the church; an ancient name given to a monastery was ecclesiola, the church in miniature. We know that Christ himself is the chief cornerstone of our church, it is He who calls us and keeps us together.

I want to thank our Abbess, Mother Franziska, for her loving guidance and support. She is the number one cheerleader of St. Emma Monastery. It was her vision of a chapel with choir stalls that was the inspiration for this beautiful monastic chapel. I had always loved our previous chapel and had prayed there for over 30 years when she first said to me, "Why don't you tear it down and start over?" I felt like the old guard!

I thank our Sisters, old and young, who sat through the discussions of every proposed sketch, every proposed change of wall or layout of chapel or office space and every choice of finish. Our old Sisters were wonderfully supportive of this whole project and watched with great interest the digging of the foundations and the laying of the block and brick. On the very first day that it was possible for them to walk inside the skeleton of this building, they asked to do so. I thank the younger members of the community for their input, for all their extra cleaning and work, and for all their support of this project and of me with all that that entailed.

The structure of a church is important since we are incarnate beings. We form architecture and architecture forms us. We can never build a building worthy of God but we can design one in which we readily become focused on God and the things of God.

For the creation of this beautiful monastic chapel and the other renovations resulting in this very sacred ambiance, we owe a special debt of gratitude to our wonderful architect, Peter Cecconi, Jr. Pete deserves at least a gold medal not only for his architectural ability but also for the wonderful way in which dealt with the number of our suggestions that in his mind had to approach the infinite.

We asked him to design this whole section to show the Rule of Benedict in architecture: to indicate the primacy of God in our lives in this chapel and the role of the monastic superior as spiritual leader in the Prioress' office. The previously existing monastery entrance shows that we seek God within the community. Indeed our life - as yours - is trying to live out the commandment of loving God and loving neighbor.

Pete was also asked to design a chapel that was "evocative": a chapel that just to look at it would "draw forth" from us every God-experience, every prayer relationship, and every conscious desire for God that we have ever known. This experience of being "drawn forth" would have our taste buds set for God when we walked inside. I can only CONGRATULATE him on his success in achieving these goals in such a wonderful manner.

Probably no one who worked on this project ever read the Rule to hear Benedict tell us to use the tools of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar. But one can see by the quality and craftsmanship that formed every detail of this edifice, that this was their attitude. I thank the general contractor, Raimondo Construction Company, Inc. and his men for all their work as well as those of the subcontractors. Dave, too, knew nearly every "suggestion." A woman on retreat asked me if the contractors allowed me to change my mind as the construction progressed. I said that I did not "change" my mind but that ideas did develop!

I thank Farrell Electric Company, Tom and his son, Tommy, who were the electricians for this project.

I thank Jay Squared Mechanical Contracting Company, Joe Tamasy and his brother, Chris, who did the heating, air conditioning and plumbing.

When I see the furnace room with its many and exactly symmetrical pipes for the radiant floor heating and with its large electrical panels with its many wires all so meticulously installed, I recognize these as pieces of art. These are pieces of art behind the scenes that only a few people will ever see.  This chapel and the other renovations are the result of this wonderful team consisting of the architect and the contractors.

And I thank all you whose love of God has inspired you to believe in us and in our future and whose generosity has helped make this project possible. This includes our volunteers; many of you come week by week and year by year, to work so selflessly with us. Your contribution of time and work has played no small part in this project and our other projects in the past years.

I thank you who have given in a special way to help build this monastic chapel and make the renovations in the first monastery building. We are so grateful that our lives have touched all of yours in such a way that you want to be part of ours. This monastery is a touchstone between God and us Benedictine nuns. It is also a touchstone between so many people and God.

I also want to thank the Steering Committee for our capital campaign: John Robertshaw, Nunzio Galletta, Joe Koepfinger, Arthur Boyle, Sister Gertrude Foley SC, Chuck Manoli, Rev. Earl Henry OSB (Prior, St. Vincent Archabbey), John Kelman. You gave valuable advice and support for this project that will also include a four-story elevator and a conference room for the retreat house. Our first experience of an advisory committee was a good one. These very busy people added yet another meeting to their already crowded schedules because they believed in this project.

Thank you, Bishop Bosco, for coming and blessing this chapel as well as for your help and support. I thank you, Archabbot Douglas and our brother monks, for all your friendship and support throughout seven decades. I thank our chaplain, Msgr. Shuda, for all his help, the other priests, and the other religious who have also joined us this day. 

And the name: why did we call this the Cor Jesu Chapel? First, it provides continuity with our previous chapel that was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Many of us would identify devotion to the Sacred Heart with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Actually the roots of that devotion are found in the writings of Gertrude and Mechtilde - great Benedictine saints of 800 years ago as well as in the early church fathers. 

Secondly, the symbol of the heart is also very strong in the monastic tradition; the early monastics described the goal of monastic life as "purity of heart", as singleness of purpose and as unity of goal. We pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the heart of the church, for the Church and for the world. The pierced heart of Christ symbolizes Christ's great love for us and is the fountain of all grace. Indeed we all ask Christ to make our hearts like unto His.

May God bless you all richly for helping this chapel come into being. And, indeed, we will pray for you from our hearts in this COR JESU CHAPEL.

Mother Mary Anne Noll OSB

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(Mother Franziska Kloos OSB, Abtei Sankt Walburg, Eichstaett, Bavaria shared the following sentiments during the Dedication of our Cor Jesu Chapel.)

…"The first time I visited St. Emma Monastery - the Priory of St. Walburg in Eichstaett - I came away with two dreams . . . for the community here. The first was the full Divine Office to be prayed (by adding Vigils) by the Nuns of St. Emma's. . .  The second dream was the building of a new Monastery Chapel. I am filled with deep joy today, because God brought both of these dreams to fulfillment.

What a wonderful, spacious, bright house for the Lord is built here…My first comment 10 days ago, when I arrived from Germany was "A church like it should be!" What a wonderful Chapel, where my beloved community of St. Emma's can praise the Lord, sing the Divine Office, celebrate the Eucharist, where they can find rest in the Heart of Jesus in their persoal prayer-day by day…I am always touched and edified by the unique generosity of the American people generally and of the love all of you have for my Sisters in St. Emma in a special way…God bless you and reward abundantly all your kindness."

For full text of Mother Franziska'ss remarks

click here

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For photo section

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COMMUNITY NEWS

This newsletter focuses on the wonderful blessings that we have from God especially the blessings of new vocations and of our new monastic chapel. Our Advent newsletter will highlight other events of the past year both in word and photo. Please check our updated website as well.

Vocations

We are so blessed to share the news that we now have three postulants. Having taught at Aquinas Academy, Pittsburgh, PA, worked in various nursing homes and rehabilitated mentally challenged adults in their homes, Angela Uhlott orginally from Oil City, PA entered on January 27, 2002.
Originally from Ashville, PA, Sandra Chverchko, re-entered our community on July 22, 2002. During the last three years, she worked as assistant manager of Christopher & Banks, Greensburg.
Having worked in a factory that made vibrational components, Laura Walters, Meadville, PA learned about us by making retreats here. She entered our community on August 30, 2002.

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We ask God to continue to bless and guide Vincenta Grum who discerned that God was calling her to another life than ours. Blessings to you, Vincenta!

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Recent Graduates

Two years ago Pennsylvania passed a law that goes into effect next July requiring that a cook from every establishment/group that serves food to the public be certified by passing a 16 hour SERVSAFE course. Not only did we have a party to celebrate our "graduates", Sr. Franziska and Sr. Renata, but they also received and wore our home-made "mortarboards!"

 

COR JESU MONASTIC CHAPEL

Construction

When we wrote to you last, the bricklayers were working on the ends of the chapel and we were awaiting the roof. We rejoiced over each major accomplishment: walls, roof, cement floors with the radiant heat, windows, heating/air-conditioning system, wiring and light fixtures, the metal studs with the plaster board and plastering, painting, porcelain tile floor, large crucifix suspended from ceiling, cabinets in the sacristy, the faceted glass windows, and finally, the installation of the CHOIR STALLS and the pews. We also watched the mounds of topsoil being returned to their rightful places, blacktopping the entrance and around the Stations, outdoor lights and the seeding of the lawn.

Inside the first monastery building we watched the Prioress' office and the other offices take shape as well as the archive rooms and the monastic library with all that entailed with new ceilings, walls, porcelain tile floor for hall and carpet for the other rooms. The delivery and installation of the beautifully crafted and very well-made wooden bookshelves by Chuck Noll, Loretto, PA also brought us great joy.

Dedication Celebrations

The photo centerfold lets you review or experience the Dedication of the chapel itself on June 29, 2002 as well as the Open Houses and Solemn Vespers on June 30 and July 6. Nearly four hundred people joined us for these wonderful occasions in our history. We also received wonderful publicity from various local newspapers.

Thanks

We are grateful for all the many generous ways that our volunteers serve so faithfully and we will enumerate those ways in our Advent Newsletter.

We thank those in a special way who did the extra to make the Dedication Celebrations so special. Volunteers helped with all aspects of the reception: baking cookies, making meatballs, carrying and setting up the serving areas, serving and the clean-up. Several took days off work to make sure that the grass was cut and trimmed to perfection. Plants and flowers were provided. Extra cleaning was done. Others helped move the library, the archives, paper storage and sacristy supplies - endless trips. Whether your efforts were visible to the "public" eyes or just to our "private" eyes, we could not have done this without these generous people - nor could we make it through the rest of the year either without our wonderful volunteers.

 

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN

Although major construction has been completed under our capital campaign with its theme, Monastic Life: A Gift Received, A Gift Shared, we continue to work to our goal of $2.6 million that will also enable us to build the four story elevator and a large conference room for the retreat house.
In May we sent fliers to you with the update on the campaign, the progress of the construction, and the projects yet very much needed to ask for your continued assistance. We thank those who have already given and to those who will. We are grateful for whatever size gift that you can sacrifice as a one time gift or a pledge over three years. We appreciate your ongoing support of prayer, help and financial assistance.

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To repeat: "May God bless you all richly for helping this chapel come into being.
And, indeed, we will pray for you from our hearts in this COR JESU CHAPEL."

 

For photo section

click here