Well it’s been a while since I last posted, and a lot has happened! So here is a quick recap:
- I returned from Winnebago and settled back into life in Norfolk. October 9-10 myself, Sr. Fidelis Marie and Sr. Gabriella took a trip down to Atchison to visit Benedictine College. On the 9th we were able to meet up with my parents for dinner in Atchison. The best part was the Paul and Hannah surprised me and came too! I hadn’t seen Hannah in person since June and she wasn’t showing much then so seeing her this time was awesome! There is a really cute video of Paul and I hugging and you can see tears in my eyes, the truth is I was crying from seeing Hannah and baby P. Sure I was excited to see Paul, and it made a really cute picture, but the tears were more for Han and baby P! 👶🏼👶🏼
- I spent the remainder of October back out in the garden helping to get it all ready for winter, which meant cutting down and tearing out all of the flowers, plants and bushes that will need to be replanted again next year. I also painted yellow parking stripes in the front parking lot!
- At the end of the month we celebrated my birthday and my family came to visit. This time it was my parents and Aunt Kelly and Uncle Carl. We had a wonderful visit and I was able to give my Aunt Kelly the quilt I made for her.
- Laura and Teresa also decorated my door…and other areas of our living space…like the bathroom stall… 😳😳😳 (The did a Harry Potter theme, so if you haven’t seen the movies or read the book the bathroom ones won’t make as much sense.)
(Moaning Myrtle was on the back of my stall door and I about had a heart-attack when I closed the door the first time!)
- The beginning of the month was pretty uneventful, but the end of the month was quite exciting! We celebrated Thanksgiving as a community and I volunteered to help cook Thanksgiving dinner so I was in charge of the green beans and stuffing. I made it like we always did back home, Italian Green Beans and two different kinds of stuffing, one with Italian sausage and one with dried cranberries and almonds. I got lots of compliments on both and it was just like being back at home, just on a larger scale!!
- I also started a new work assignment in November. I now spend 2 days a week in housekeeping with Sr. Monica, 2 day in the library with Srs. Catherine and Jania and 1 day a week in the sacristy with Srs. Leah Ann and Gabriella. I also help set-up for Mass 1 day a week and help clean up after Mass everyday.
- The highlight of November was the birth of my niece Charlotte Marie Prather. She was born on November 26th and in my opinion in the most precious and adorable baby in the entire world! And as any proud aunt would do, here are a few of the literally hundreds of pictures I have of her to prove my point!
- At the beginning of December myself, Teresa and Sr. Michael Marie made a road trip down to Louisville, KY for our candidate assessments (a fancy way of saying psychological evaluations). This is a part of the formation process, so at the end of your first year in the community we do a psych evaluation before begging accepted to move onto the next step in the process. We go to a place called St. Luke’s Institute in Louisville because they are a Catholic organization that specializes in these assessments and work quite a bit with priests, seminarians and other men/women religious. It was a week long trip, two days to get there, two days of testing and two day back.
- We left on Monday, December 3rd and drove to KC where we stopped at my parents place and had lunch with them. Luckily I was also able to meet Miss Charlotte at this time as well. It was a very short visit, but getting to see and hold her was the BEST! (And yes I did cry…shocker!)
- After lunch we made the rest of the trip that day to St. Louis where we stayed with some Franciscan sisters that Sr. Michael Marie knew. The next morning (Tuesday) we went to Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which is GORGEOUS! The entire ceiling is glass mosaic!
- After Mass we went over to the Arch since Teresa had never been. It was a pretty overcast and grey day and pretty windy so we didn’t get to go up, but we spent some time visiting the museum which is pretty cool!
- After the Arch we ate lunch and then made the rest of the drive into Louisville. We checked into our hotel, grabbed dinner and then had an early night since we knew it would be a long day the next day.
- Wednesday morning started the two days of testing. We were at the clinic at 8:30 and started with some basic paperwork and then the testing began. I started with some computer testing, which consisted of two different tests. Both were to gauge your personality, likes/dislikes, how open you were to new things and just how open to share you were. The questions were things like “I enjoy reading mechanic magazines.” Or “I would enjoy being a journalist.” Or “I hear voices that other people can’t hear.” And the answers were on a scale of strongly disagree up to strongly agree. There were about 700 questions in total, so it took a couple hours to do that. Then I met with Sam would be the moderator of my group. He walked me through two other “tests” that were a vocab test and a logic test, just to test your intelligence level and ability to reason. Next I did the ink blot test. When he told me that was next I said “oh, I’m excited for this one” and he goes “oh, well that’s unusual.” Haha! I actually really did enjoy that one. After that Sam and I sat down and he did the clinical interview. So things like “have you ever been depressed,” “tell me about the most stressful time in your life,” “any family history of mental illness,” and things like that. We then had a lunch break and after lunch I met with Fr. To, who is a retired priest in the diocese who works with the clinic and he conducted my spiritual interview. We talked about things like my spiritual life, discernment process and journey, the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, my prayer life, etc. After that I met with Sam again for a few minutes just so he could give me a run down of what to expect the next day and then I was done for the day.
- Thursday we were back at the clinic again at 8:30 and I met with Emily who conducted my psychosocial interview. We talked about my childhood, family, friendships, relationships, how I view marriage and religious life, etc. Then we had about a 3 hour break while the team met to compile their notes and do their report. We went to Barnes & Noble for a bit, then Mass at the local parish. Followed by lunch at a pizza place and ice cream at this place that makes their ice cream with liquid nitrogen, it was AWESOME! Then we went back to the clinic and I met with the team that did my interviews and Sr. Michael Marie and the team gave a brief overview of their findings. Basically talking about what we talked about and any things they saw as potential areas for continued discernment as well as a lot of positive feedback about my positive attitude, openness and willingness to share and be vulnerable.
- Overall, I really actually enjoyed the entire experience! After I met with my team and Teresa met with hers we hit the road and drove that evening to Ferdinand, IN where we stayed with the Sisters of St. Benedict. Sr. Rebecca gave us a quick tour of the place after Vespers and dinner, including a stop at the brewery that is operated on their property. (They don’t actually own it, they just lease the building out to the guys that do.) We even got to try the beer, and I must say it was pretty good!
- We got up the next morning, joined the sisters for Lauds, Mass and breakfast and then hit the road. We drove from Ferdinand all the way to Conception Abbey on Friday. It was quite a long day in the car! We arrived at Conception just in time to join them for first Vespers of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Unfortunately, because we were there for such a short time I failed to get any pictures, or really get to look around much. Which just means I have to go back!
- Saturday morning we got up and went over to Clyde to join the sisters there for Mass and breakfast. We also got to spend a few hours praying and visiting their relics chapel. At this point in the trip I was so exhausted and just in need of some quiet time with Jesus that I just plain forgot to take any pictures, but trust me when I say it was gorgeous! Also getting to pray in the relics chapel where they have the relics of more than 500 different saints, was pretty amazing! We left Clyde around 11 and made the drive back to Norfolk, arriving back in town in time to join the community for Vespers.
- Overall it was a really good trip and I enjoyed getting to see the different Benedictine communities, but boy was I ready to spend the night in my own bed and be in one place for longer than 48 hours!!
- Christmas at the monastery was a lot of fun! The liturgies were all so beautiful! There are a lot of different traditions, like on Christmas morning we woke up to Christmas music being played in the hallway. The entire monastery is decked out in Christmas decorations. In the evening on Christmas during recreation we all open gifts as a community. We are very blessed by the many people that give us so many wonderful treats and gifts and it was fun to get to open them all together like a big family and see what everyone got and what we received as a whole community!
- December 26th is my feast day, the Feast of St. Stephen (he’s my confirmation saint – a wonderful woman named Stephanie Whisler was supposed to be my confirmation sponsor, but unfortunately she passed away from breast cancer before I could be confirmed so I took the name Stephanie in her honor, hence St. Stephen.) St. Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church and is the first martyr of the Catholic faith and as he was being stoned to death he was praying for those that were executing him. Since it was my feast day I got a cake, candy bar, cookies and flowers from the community and got to sit at a special spot in the dinning room at the Prioress’s table. That evening as a community for recreation we sang Christmas carols and sisters from the various countries (Philippines, Korea and those that served in Africa for many years) shared about the various customs and traditions in their countries at Christmas time. It was neat to hear about how different cultures celebrate!
- That night my parents arrived to pick me up and we left early on the 27th for KC. I had “home visit” from the 27th of December and returned back to Norfolk on January 14th. It was so nice to be home with family and get to spend time cuddling Miss Charlotte and spend time with family and so many friends!
- We celebrated Christmas with Paul and Hannah the night of the 27th and I was able to give Charlotte the quilt I made for her! This one was definitely a labor of love as it consisted of over 300 pieces that were only 1.5 inch squares…Plus many more that were only a tad bigger!
Of course Porter had to join in on the photo shoot! 🐶
- The 28th consisted of a much needed haircut and a visit to Atchison, KS with Abby to visit my favorite monks in the whole wide world! I got to visit with the newly ordained Br. Luke (ordained to the transitional diaconate on December 15th), Fr. Simon, Br. Leven and many more! It was sooooo good to see them all and catch up! Unfortunately, we epically failed and forgot to take any pictures while we were there, so you are going to have to settle for some pictures that were taken during Br. Luke’s ordination. (Photos curtesy of St. Benedict’s Abbey – I did not take any of these.). Please keep Br. Luke in your prayers as he returns to seminary for his last semester and as he prepares for his ordination to the priesthood which will take place on June 29th!!
- I rung in the New Year with my friend Abby and her roommates. It started with a trip to the Escape Room KC where we successfully completed the mission in under 60 minutes and escaped the room! It was a lot of fun! Then we went to Joe’s Kansas City for some DELICIOUS BBQ and to expose her roommate from the east coast to real BBQ! We then went back to their house and watched a movie. The movie ended at 11:58 (way past my bedtime at this point) but I stuck it out for the 2 more minutes, wished them all a happy new year and then hit the hay!
- My family came over for dinner one night and I was able to give the rest of my aunts on the Miceli side as well as my grandpa the quilts I had made for them.
- The 5th was spent celebrating Christmas with the Prather side of the family. On January 6th we welcomed Charlotte Marie into the Catholic Church with her baptism. It was such a beautiful day and I am so glad I was able to be there for it! The baptismal gown she wore is actually my mom’s wedding dress that she had made into a gown to be passed down through the family!
- We also took some family pictures on the 6th.
- I spent much of my home leave just getting to relax and visit with friends. I went to lunch with my friend Claire, dinner with Laney, and dinner with family friends Nick and Kim. And of course there was a lot of time cuddling with Charlotte!
- On the 9th I got to see many of the girls that I led in small group while volunteering at St. Andrew’s. It was so wonderful to get to see all of them and hear about how they are doing!
- Home visit also included getting sushi with Carolyn and getting to spend time with family watching the Chiefs and eating at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in KC, Margarita’s!
- The 11th was “National Jenna Day (at Cerner)” aka I went out and spent the day at Cerner which including a BSB jam session with Steph, an OG lunch date with Amy, Steph and Britt and getting to see many of my former co-workers!
- The 13th I got to meet baby Emily and spend time with my best friends, Anna, Allison and Abby during our annual Christmas get together which is one of my favorite traditions!
Finally on the 14th my parents drove me back up to Norfolk. It was such a wonderful visit home and bitter sweet to leave. I was so torn because I loved being home with family, but also so excited to be back with my community!
So, what’s next you might be asking. I have officially completed my postulant year and have been invited to continue on in the formation process. On January 17th I will begin with first year in the novitiate. This first year (of two) is called the “canonical year” because it is required in Canon Law (aka Church Law). This next year will be a year of more intense prayer and learning more about the community and myself. During this year we don’t have any ministries outside the monastery grounds and really spend the year growing in our relationship with Christ while taking a step back from some of the distractions of the world. So what does that look like, it means no Facebook, limited contact with friends and no Skyping with family (though we do still get to talk on the phone once a week or so). Now I know to many this sounds very extreme, but it really is there as a way for me to grow closer to Christ and spend the year discerning if this vocation is what I am called to without being distracted by the outside world. It allows me to focus on my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with members of the community and how I as an individual can grow.
So with that said, I guess this is a “see you later post” as I won’t be able to post for the next year! And while I may not be able to respond I would still love to hear from you all! Whether that be life updates, prayer requests or just pictures of cute puppies, babies or llamas (whatever your heart desires). So, feel free to send me letters as your time allows and I will do my best to respond as I am allowed to!
Novice Jenna Prather
300 N 18th Street
Norfolk, NE 68701
Finally, keep an eye on my mom’s Facebook page as I am sure she will post updates from me as she sees fit!
See you all in a year, be assured of my prayers for all of you and keep praying for me!