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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
December 20, 1996     The Message
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December 20, 1996

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KEITH AL.a_N KIEFER An Advent Gift Hours.There were many offers to relieve me of that duty, but the rhythm of the monastic schedule seemed to hold me together and I intoned. There were arrangements to be made, money to be wired to Alaska for cremation, liturgy to be planned for the burial, a cemetery plot to be bought. I began to wonder if I would ever be free of the leaden weight deep in my chest, but there were Sis- ters to help with every task -- Sisters who were alarmed for me that I did not cry. The pri- oress, Sister Kathryn Huber, was present in my every need in those days. She gave me her own courage and her own strength. The late Dick Becher, of Bech- er Funeral Home in Ferdinand, postponed his chemotherapy to be with me at the burial service, which began in chapel. For the procession to St. Ferdinand cemetery, he placed the casket in my arms m a chest about the same length and weight my son was at birth. It was bitterly cold that day, but the Sisters walked down the hill to the cemetery and waited in the wind as Father John Kane, the kind pas- tor of St. Ferdinand, performed the Rite of Christian Burial. I lowered the casket into the grave Mine is a late vocation. It began when my children were grown and had their own chil- dren. My son was working in Fair- banks, Alaska, and my daugh- ter in West Virginia. I realized that I was free to seek God in a more profound manner, with others to guide and support me in the new experience. That's how, at the age of 60, I entered the Benedictine monastery at Ferdinand. The story I share here is one of both grief and rich discovery. It was December 19, 1990, when I was in the novitiate -- a time of intense study and reflection. I was in the gallery over the monastery chapel, waiting with two other Sisters to ring bells calling the Sisters for vespers. I love to ring the bells; each has a distinctive voice. A Sister came to the gallery to summon me to the telephone for an emergency call from a police officer in Alaska. He told me that my son, Keith, had been found dead of bronchial pneu- monia. The announcement stunned me, and I reached for the stabil- ity of the monastic schedule while I digested the news. I rejoined the other bell-ringers as we began the evening service, and listened to the "O" Antiphon calling us all to hope in the Emmanuel soon to come. The prioress told the commu- nity of my son's death as we gathered for supper after ves- pers. I thought my heart would break as I heard her words. My Sisters took me in their arms and wept, feeling my pain. Oh, how I wanted to go to my room and abandon myself to grief; but, that's not the way of com- munity. The next morning it was my turn to intone the psalms (lead the reading of psalms and can- ticles) for Liturgy of the Times of fun and excitement Christmas at the Schenk house has always been a special time of fun and excitement. Each of the six remaining children have sto- ries to tell, thanks to our parents, Bernard and Catherine Schenk. I remember as a small child, the doors to the living room were locked, one week before Christ- mas. Our parents said that Santa was busy, in the room, making and wrapping presents for us. So each one of us would strug- gle to peek under the door, or look through the key hole, trying to see him and what he was doing. We had so much fun pre- tending and believing we saw Santa at work. Then on Christmas Eve, after other Schenk relatives arrived, Santa Claus would open the door to let us in. What joy to see the trimmed tree and under it, pre- sents galore. We all took turns talking with Santa and singing carols. After he left to visit other chil- dren, usually Dad, or the oldest child, would pass out the pre- sents. What fun, everyone open- ing presents at the same time. We never knew what anyone else God knew her birthday on Dec. 13. I lost that ring a long time ago, but not my sister, and she has grown dearer to me through the years and, at this time in my life is a real comfort to me. God knew what I needed for Christmas that year. He gave me a life-lasting gift. Marilyn Singer Evansville i Dr. Jane A. Hormuth Chiropractic Physician 474-0704 received, when we were finished, there was wall-to-wall paper, sometimes covering the baby in it. After that came Midnight Mass at St. Agnes. All the school children, dressed as angels with halos, winds and holding can- dies, marched into the dark church from both sides of the altar singing, "O Come Little Children." These are some special memo- ries I have. Mary 'Teda" Sehenk- Baumgart Custom Made On Your Lot Thousands of References POST BUILDING PKGS. Complete pre-engineered packages for you to build. Very Low Prices, TRUSS RAFTERS Excellent Prices-Any Size to 1OO" OVERHEAD DOORS Hundreds in Stock Nobody Beats Our Prices METAL ROOFING Over 20,OOO Sq. In Stock. Any Length Cut To Inch. Best Prices Around. DAVIESS CO. METAL Hwy. 50 E., Cannelburg. 4 mi. E. Montgomery 812-295-4299 Hormuth Chiropractic IIc. 1111 S Green River Rd., Suite 104 When someone asks about Christmas memories, of course I have many wonderful ones, but the one I want to share today is Christmas 1936. I was 10 years old and learned from my father that there was no Santa Claus. Imagine, a child of 10 today believing in Santa. The reason my father had to tell me there was no Santa was because there would be no toys that year as we had a baby sis- ter born on December 13. ! must admit I did not want another baby sister. I had one who was 21 months old at that time. I wanted the tin wind-up toys that my father always delighted us with. I received a birthstone ring which my father purchased "on- time" for Christmas. My baby sister will celebrate i Merry Christmas lilac EAST 760 HWY 68 O r P.O. BOX 248 GROCERIES- DRY GOODS- HARDWARE- APPLIANCES BULK 8, BOTTLED GAS 68-6104422-3088 myself, and for a moment, I was unwilling to let go of the ropes. I felt Sister Kathryn's hand on my back, willing me to be strong, and I dropped the ropes. Six months later my family joined me from all over the coun- try for a memorial service, but for the burial, I had the prioress and the community. They were enough. I will not say that the coming of Advent each year does not bring sadness, but the purpose of Advent is not to wait for the time to celebrate a past event. Indeed, Advent is the time to prepare for the Lord to be born in us anew, and each year I pray for more openness, so that I may not hold my grief too dearly to let go for the sake of God. There is a passage of scripture which came alive for me after my son's death. It tells me that no matter what is missing in my life, I can have joy and peace in what really matters: Even though the fig does not blossom and no fruit grows on the vine; Though the yield of fail and the no nourishment; Though the from the fold herd in the stalls, Yet will I rejoice tion and sing songs savior. Habakk Keith's d through which I meaning of my munity: obedience stability among honor mona another's burdenS. , This year I will "O" Antiphons at' monastery relive that time so much of our Lord and Sister. first time since stand in the and ring A tropical trea the rush for a goodies. Seven times this t that hot tropics. and fatigue were two of us. surprise to Unknown to us, made from rare part of my Christmas. The children heart. "what? Pancakes and sausage for Christmas dinner? You must be out of your mind!" My Sister companion and I had visited the barrios of a Mex- ican city, leading the children in song and fun and breaking pinatas. What sparkle in the eyes of those little ones as they took turns trying to break the multi- colored animals they knew were loaded with the only Christmas gifts they would receive -- can- dies and fruit. The children gig- gled and cheered and squealed and jumped to hasten the long- awaited moment. Crash! Then TF S Tray/or Ferte00zer Box 68 Montgomery, Indiana 4' Donald J. Traylor President phorle: St. Benedict Parish's New Year's 00Dance with Rick's Music MachiNe Tues Dec. 3 9:00 PM to 2:00 $20 a couple -- $10 per p New School Cafeteria -- 530 S. Cash Bar -- Over 21 Only! Proceeds will benefit the Athletic