Sister Donald’s Diamond Jubilee, July 11, 2021

This year, the Feast of St. Benedict on July 11 marked the 60th anniversary of Sister Donald’s monastic vows. We are hoping to have a celebration at some point during the coming months, but the timing and other details are uncertain, giving the prevailing caution as the pandemic eases.

In the meantime, a close friend of Sister Donald wrote the following tribute to her and to their friendship and asked us to post it on our blog:

” Sr. Donald and I met, by chance but never really by chance I think, shortly before the start of the new Millennium. My husband Jean and I were introduced to Sr. Jeanne-Marie and Sr. Placide, co-founders along with Sr. Donald, of Transfiguration Monastery; more recently we had the joy, as well, of meeting Sr. Sheila and Sr. Miriam and other friends, both religious and lay persons, connected with this place. Little by little we were shown the Benedictine Way of Life with its lived values of devotion to God, obedience and humility.

Right from the start I recognized Sr. Donald as my role model for leading the spiritual life and also as my special friend and confidante. Ever since our meeting I have always felt the warmth of her caring, witness the fact that she has called me almost daily during the year since Jean’s passing, has shared my concerns, and has offered prayers and blessings on my behalf. In spite of her multifarious duties and commitments both at home and nationally, she always has time to listen attentively to whatever I would like to talk about.

Jean always felt a special connection with Sr. Donald. together, they were able to sit together at the monastery and in our home talking about the history, religion, art, architecture and spirituality of the Christian Middle Ages. Sr. Donald always had, due to her own diligent scholarship, a new point for him to consider, another way to establish connections and to see, again and again, the ways that all studies worth their salt should always be related to God.

Sixty years of service to our Lord is in every way extraordinary! I would like to offer Sr. Donald my sincere congratulations on this special day and the wish that her life, her continued studies and writing, and her service at Transfiguration Monastery receive God’s fullest blessing.”

Katharine Le Mée

Thank you, St. Joseph and the local Carpenters’ Union!

Yesterday morning, a group of 10 volunteers from the local carpenters’ union, organized by Dave and Diane Thomas of Harpursville, NY, donated their time and considerable skills to help us out with a number of home improvement projects. They replaced rotting boards on the fence along Route 79, the entrance to the Used Book Store, the deck of Sr. Sheila’s hermitage and the steps behind the Guest House. In addition, they repaired the dock, installed a storm/screen door on Fr. Dwyer’s former hermitage, which has been repurposed as a guest space, as well as a railing on the deck outside the kitchen door of the main building, and snow guards on the roof of the back porch. At the end of the morning, everyone enjoyed hamburgers and hotdogs, cooked by Diane outside on our grill, along with Diane’s homemade macaroni salad. We are very grateful to the entire crew, and to Dave and Diane for organizing the project!

Paschal Event

Fr. Alessandro Barban, Prior General of the Camaldolese Benedictines, sent us this photo as an Easter greeting, with the title, “Paschal Event”. His commentary follows:

Life is more alive than death. It is what gives death to death, it is what allows one to come out of the shadows of the tomb and begin again. The Risen One invites us to believe that life is alive, that it desires more life and that it gives birth to living fruits.

Wake and Masses for Fr. Dwyer

There will be a wake at Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor from 4-6 p.m. today, followed by a vigil Mass at 6:00. According to Msgr. Putano, the vigil Mass will be live-streamed on the YouTube channel of St. Thomas Aquinas, Binghamton, “if we can get it going”. In any case, it will be posted later on the same YouTube channel. The link is:

The funeral Mass will be held tomorrow at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, NY, Fr. Dwyer’s home church, at 11:00. Here’s the link for he live streaming of the funeral
or – search Our Lady of Lourdes Utica, NY–

Rev. Msgr. John P. PutanoSt. Patrick and St. Thomas AquinasBinghamton, NY  13905

We will be praying the Office of the Dead for Father at Matins, Midday Prayer and Vespers today.

Thank you all for your many comforting messages of condolence.

Father Dwyer, R.I.P.

Our faithful chaplain, Father Robert Dwyer, entered into eternal life early this morning. He was on his way to pray in our chapel at 6:00 a.m., as was his custom, and fell next to the driveway. When Sr. Donald found him, at 6:25, he was trying to sit up, was saying, “Help,” but otherwise couldn’t speak. By the time the ambulance arrived, 15 minutes later, there was no heartbeat. The EMTs gave him CPR for what seemed like a long time and were ready to give up, when they detected a faint pulse, and so decided to keep trying and take him to the hospital. He died shortly thereafter, or perhaps on the way. We weren’t given any further information because we weren’t family.

We feel extraordinarily privileged to have had Fr. Dwyer as our chaplain for the past 10 years. Thanks to his presence, we have been blessed to have had daily Mass, the grace of which we have felt even more strongly since March, when so many have been denied the Eucharist because of COVID. Father was devoted not only to us, but to the wider community of Windsor and nearby towns where there is no parish priest. Although retired and in his 80’s, he often said Sunday Mass in three different parishes, in addition to the Saturday night Vigil Mass of Sunday at the monastery. He was always available for visiting the sick and funerals. His ministry was nourished by a deep life of prayer. Twice a day, he would spend an hour praying in our chapel, reading his breviary in silence or out loud, and often walking up and down and praying in tongues.

Yesterday, Father was out visiting people in his car and digging in his garden. Although we are glad he didn’t suffer, his departure is a huge loss for all of us.

Our Friends the Squirrels

Since Monk went to meet his Maker in March and our good neighbor, Mike, helped us set up a bird feeder, we have seen a proliferation of red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, and groundhogs. Today a bear cub eyed us through the refectory windows as we were eating lunch. They will eat whatever treats they can scavenge, but the chipmunks seem to have a predilection for pansies and rose petals. The birds are also a pleasure to watch: goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, a woodpecker, a couple of cardinals, a ruby-breasted grosbeak, hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles, with grackles, doves and crows on the ground.

We look forward to adopting Ruby at the end of the month, when she finishes raising her final litter of puppies. Perhaps she will help keep some of the bolder creatures in check, despite her laid-back personality.

Trinity Sunday 2020

Trinity icon Sr. Elizabeth

This icon of the Holy Trinity was written by a Benedictine nun who is currently visiting us from another monastery. If you have stayed in our guest hermitage, you may recognize the ceiling tiles at the top of the photo.

The mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity has a profound message for us, especially in the light of the events of the past week. When God created humans in God’s image, God created them in the plural: male and female. (Gen. 1:27) As above, so below: created in God’s image,  in the image of the Holy Trinity, we “inter-are”, to borrow a favorite word of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. St. Paul tells us that in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). COVID 19 is delivering the same message: we are all in this together, and how we choose to react to this microscopic element in our midst affects everyone in our immediate neighborhood and beyond. 

The inter-being of the Persons of the Holy Trinity negates the us-them mentality that has characterized race relations in the Americas since the arrival of the first European settlers, and which the tragic events of the past week have again brought to our attention. The image of the Trinity reminds us that we are all interconnected, we are all brothers and sisters, no matter what our race, religion, gender or national origin.  Jesus said, “Whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.” (Mt. 25:45) Because we all inter-are, in the image of God, in the image of the Holy Trinity, whatever we say or do to each other affects all of us.

Pentecost 2020

Lorenzo Monaco Pentecost 2

This illuminated letter O by the Camaldolese monk, Lorenzo Monaco (“Lorenzo the Monk”, c. 1370-1425), depicts two parallel passages from today’s Mass readings, the upper half from Acts 2, in which the disciples are all together in one place and tongues of fire come to rest on each one of them, while the lower half evokes John 20:19: “the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the central figure in the upper room, the only figure with not only a flame, but also the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above her head, recalling Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17) Her face is serene, as are those of the two young, beardless men below her, one of whom is surely St. John. The older, bearded men look sleepy. doubtful, anxious, and in the case of the one immediately to Mary’s left, downright suspicious, perhaps representing a range of human responses to the eruptions of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The two figures in the lower half of the picture might challenge us today to consider whom we may be excluding from our faith communities, because of fear or prejudice based on race, social class or cultural differences. Or, in the context of the current pandemic, the two figures may bring to mind those who feel keenly the closing of church doors.

On this particular Pentecost Sunday, we are struck by the contrast between the fire of the Spirit that unites us in God’s love and the fires being lit throughout our country in reaction to a racially motivated murder. What a difference, what an impact any of us can make, in spreading either good or evil in our world!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and ignite in them the fire of your love, you who have gathered together people of all languages in the unity of faith.