We arrived in Mankato a bit ahead of schedule yesterday. (Sr. Helena was at the wheel for the most part.) My talk was at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, one of the oldest churches in Minnesota, a real gem--especially since it was renovated in the 90's, restoring some of the gold stenciling on the vaulted ceiling. The parish was in the hands of the Jesuits for 139 years, so the parish was celebrating a novena in honor of St. Francis Xavier. This being the year of St. Paul, though, the novena talks were all focused on St. Paul in one way or another. It was a bit awkward in terms of technology: the first part of the evening was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, prayers, Scripture and Benediction. Then came my talk. So after Benediction, there was something of a scramble to get the screen set up on the top step, align the projector, computer and mike and then get going, but it worked out rather smoothly. Sr. Helena and I have been enjoying the gracious hospitality of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who have a spectactular place here in town. Their foundation dates to 1912, so many of the buildings are classic old-style boarding school, now fixed up for their large community. Many of the sisters are in assisted living, in a beautifully appointed facility. There was no "nursing home" gloom, and any of the sisters who are able to are still involved in teaching or other works: there is a learning center, ESL tutoring, arts (one sister does pheneomenal woodwork), even a ceramic studio with three kilns! Can you tell how impressed I am? I hope I can get our provincial to visit, because the sisters here have shown such marvelous imagination in the way they have provided for the care of their elderly sisters, while still allowing the sisters to contribute as fully as they can to the needs of the community.
In about an hour, we'll leave the good sisters and head to Saint Paul for tomorrow's retreat. Prayers!