Association of Contemplative Sisters

Jo Balsamo, Oblate and long-time friend of Transfiguration Monastery, wrote the following post:

Some may have noticed in our eulogy for Sr. Jeanne Marie that she was a member of the Association of Contemplative Sisters. You may have wondered what that is. Their current President, Marilyn Webb, writes:

The Association of Contemplative Sisters is a group of women, both lay women and women within a variety of religious orders; the Association exists to foster and support the contemplative journey of its members.  ACS was formed in 1969 in order to provide ongoing mutual support in the process of renewal, education and adaptation following the Second Vatican Council.  The original members were all from cloistered women’s religious orders.  During the years following its inception numerous meetings, conferences, classes, etc. were held for educational and renewal purposes.  During this time the membership broadened to persons in non-cloistered orders and then to lay women.  Currently more than two-thirds of our members are lay women; we live our contemplative lives across the United States, Canada, and the Philippines.

Since our early days ACS gatherings were held both nationally and regionally on a biennial schedule.  These gatherings provide ACS members with the opportunities to hear speakers such as Sr. Connie Fitzgerald, OCD, Beatrice Bruteau, Sr. Donald Corcoran, and more recently Ilia Delio and Cynthia Bourgeault and to share our understanding of their messages.  As we gather we also have the opportunity to share our life journeys as well as liturgy, times of prayer, and of course, laughter and friendship.  We also meet in small clusters in areas where there are enough women to meet.  We also are currently working to establish prayer circles and reading groups using Zoom and email.  We currently have a website which can be found at  We also have a newsletter that is published quarterly.

I have been a member of ACS since 1993.  I have found it to be exactly what I have needed to support my contemplative life and to encourage my spiritual growth.  The friendships of these women provide a depth of relationship that I’ve not always found in other organizations.  We’d love to have you join us if you are interested.  Please email Marilyn at with any questions.



Sister Jeanne-Marie


Sister Jeanne-Marie (Lise) Pearse
January 13, 1926 – October 8, 2017

Sister Jeanne-Marie, a native of Rochester, NY, attended Bryn Mawr and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. After college, while working as a teacher in an Episcopal boarding school for girls, she was baptized in the Episcopal Church. She began to feel called to monastic life through contact with the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in whose chapel she heard an inner voice saying, “You will be Sister Jeanne-Marie.”

In 1965, Sister Jeanne-Marie was received into the Roman Catholic Church at Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira, New York, following which she went to France for formation as a novice, at the Benedictine monasteries of Poyanne, Jouarre and Vanves, with the intention of returning to the United States to continue her monastic life here. In 1979, she co-founded Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor, NY, together with Sister Mary Placid Deliard, originally of Poyanne, and Sister Mary Donald Corcoran, of St. Paul’s Monastery in Minnesota.

Sister Jeanne-Marie was very active in the Association of Contemplative Sisters and founded an organization called Contemplatives for Peace. She brought a graciousness to the monastery’s practice of hospitality and was a person of deep prayer.
In 2010, Sister Jeanne-Marie’s health declined to a point where needed 24/7 skilled nursing care, and in January 2011, she moved to the Holy Family Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Scranton, PA, where she was lovingly cared for until her death. She is survived by her sister, Polly Gates, of Claremont, California, a niece and nephew, and her three religious sisters of Transfiguration Monastery.

Visitation will be in the Monastery chapel on October 12 from 4 to 7 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be on October 13 at 10:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Windsor. Memorial contributions may be made to Transfiguration Monastery,
701 New York Route 79, Windsor, NY, 13865

Homily in Honor of St. Joseph

A local guest prepared the following homily for his parish and then shared it with us before Vespers yesterday:


2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16

Romans 4: 13-18

Luke 2:41-52

May the words of my mouth + and the meditation of all our hearts

Be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

I am a little younger than 12 years old, in the fourth or fifth grade; I wake up one morning and decide I would play a bit of a trick on my mother. Mom always makes sure we are awake, up, and getting ready for school. This particular morning, I wake early, creep downstairs to the living room, and hide under the sewing machine table. When mom comes looking for me, I’ll pop out and yell boo. That’s the plan, anyway.

Mom goes to my room and doesn’t see me there. She goes looking for me… just not in the living room. When I hear commotion on the main floor, I decide to reveal myself. I come upstairs to the sight of my mom, eyes brimming with tears, in the open doorway to our apartment. My mother thinks I ran away or was kidnapped. My mother’s demeanor reflects very much what must’ve been Mary’s when she speaks to the twelve-year-old Jesus: “How could you do this to us? Did you not know that your step-father and I were looking for you?”

Unlike the account in this morning’s Gospel, no explanation on my part would have satisfied my mother. She was trembling, fearful, and yes, a bit angry. That look is burned in my mind and I swear to myself then and there that I would never hurt my mother by running away. And I never did.

Picture the scene of Jesus and his parents at the temple: Jesus, an innocent child not grasping the trouble he caused; Mary shaken, but relieved; and Joseph, as traditionally depicted in Christian art, is aged, with grey hair, and worn out from all the walking. According to current scholarship, Joseph was not an old man. He was likely closer in age to Mary than previously thought. If Joseph had grey hairs, Jesus probably gave them to him! Holy Scripture does not give us much information on Joseph, but in what is written, there is a wealth of spiritual wisdom.

Our Lord and his family are at the end of their Passover celebration: This account highlights sorrow that ends in the joy of finding Jesus, and with him, the joy of adjusting one’s focus on God’s love. Imagine your kid has gone off in a crowded city. Think back on the times that, for whatever reason, your children caused you anxiety. Many of us, if not all of us, have either been an anxious parent or have been the cause of a parent’s anxiety. It is not uncommon for children to wander astray from their parents loving instructions and guidance. Mary and Joseph’s three days of tireless searching for Jesus in Jerusalem is just one example of woes for this Nazarene family. It is not the only time that Mary and Joseph ask hard questions and are puzzled at the turnings of their lives.

Years earlier, when an angel visits Mary and gives her the news of Jesus’ conception, she, having never been with a man, asks, “How can this be?” I bet her next question was, “How will I explain this to Joseph?”

At some point, Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant. We read in another Gospel account that Joseph is troubled at her news. He knows the rules of his society: you marry good girls who are virgins. Mary’s claims are just too wild. If he publicly exposes her infidelity, she will be labeled as impure and stoned to death. Imagine Joseph’s inner turmoil. Imagine the questions that run through his mind. He suspects that his fiancé has not been faithful to their commitment. Even worse, he fears that the woman he loves will be killed. Mary would know firsthand that “the law brings wrath.” Joseph decides to quietly dissolve their engagement. But it is the voice of love, come to Joseph by an angel in a dream that settles Joseph’s anxiety and convinces him to wed Mary anyway. God, who is always the God of life, intervenes and saves Mary and Joseph from ruin.

Mary and Joseph’s relationship is off to a rocky start when they should have been lost in the bliss of the honeymoon period. They have troubles all throughout their relationship. But, for Mary and Joseph, love is the guiding principle and foundation of their lives and their relationship. It is the root of love that binds Mary and Joseph together and by which they are able to nurture and bring forth the fruit of her womb.

Among Christians, Joseph has long been honored as a saint. Engaged and newly married couples have asked him, their patron, for prayers on their behalf. Like Mary and Joseph, may we always answer the demands of our marriages and various relationships with love.

After their child’s birth, in order to escape the slaughter commanded by Herod, Mary and Joseph seek refuge in Egypt. Joseph is the patron of so many things! Here we find reason to believe that Joseph takes a special interest in refugees. Mary and Joseph are faced with more sorrow, but they stick together and through love bring Jesus safely into the world. Joseph’s intercession has also been sought as the protector of families and children. May we always see the face of God in the faces of our children.

Joseph has been a special saint for me also. At Confirmation, I chose a patron saint– a lifelong spiritual companion and model of Christian living. I chose Joseph of Nazareth, because he is totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary. Joseph focuses on the Lord and helps bring our Savior Emmanuel into this world. Total dedication to Jesus with the saints, focus on the Lord, and bringing our savior who we know as “God with us” to the world is the joy of every Christian!

For the longest time the idea of Joseph as totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary is merely a nice abstract to me. It isn’t until most recently that my connection to Saint Joseph becomes personal and apparent in my life.

Working as a teacher’s aide, I often ask Saint Joseph, the patron of workers and of children, to pray for me, my co-workers and the students. I ask for God’s grace to bring the staff’s capacity to love and nurture through the door of every classroom we enter.

For more than half my life, I have sought the Lord Jesus Christ and to live in his love. I have seen so much goodness, love, life, and joy in people, and in community, because hearts are gathered around Christ. In response to the love that I have known, I seek to give myself and my talents to the work of sharing the good news that God’s love is for all people. I often ask Saint Joseph the patron and protector of the universal Church for prayers when I do anything related to the Kingdom of God. It is such an honor to speak to you today on the feast of Saint Joseph, my patron saint!

Today’s message is about journeys, our journeys through life, our journeys with God, in God’s love. At the heart of today’s message, the beginning of Jesus’ journey is a young Christ who is listening to others and asking questions. Love in the flesh enters the world that Love created; Love enters in and listens and asks its questions. Love poured out, abundant life, and relentless grace is the business of the Father that Jesus is concerned with. Jesus wants us to enjoy and share what he has prepared!

LOVE MUST BE EMBODIED ALSO IN US and enter into the lives we are given. Love in us must seek where God’s love is waiting, wanting to be found. We need to listen to each other and ask questions. We all want answers for the struggles of this earthly life. But, we cannot neglect the seeking of the right questions as well as the right answers. Caution in our lives is not unreasonable. However, we mustn’t allow fear to prevent us from the work of sharing God’s love.

After all, isn’t love the basis of everything? In reality, all we do on a personal, familial, communal, national, and global level is based on how much or how little we love. Too often our communication falls short of love and serves to show us and others how right we are. But, in all things, our business with God, our good Father, is to listen lovingly and to ask the questions of love—the love that is of Christ.

In today’s gospel, Love proceeds from the midst of the learned men in the temple and goes home with Mary and Joseph. There, he grows and gains favor with men and with God. With Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, may we learn to be “at home” together– living, growing, and loving in harmony with each other and with God.

Jesus, Love in the flesh, goes through his entire life to bring wisdom, healing and strength to all. Through his work, he builds up his community: touching people of all walks, daring to reach beyond all boundaries. Our journey through Lent will acquaint us with the difficulties and opposition that Jesus knew in his ministry. But, not even fear of death makes Jesus waver from his love for us. How much Jesus must be influenced by the example of his earthly father! Like Joseph does with Mary, we are to bear each other’s burdens! Our Lord asks us to follow his path, to be busy with the Father’s business of love for all… even while taking up our crosses.

The way of love is not always easy. Mary and Joseph’s journey, despite troubles, does not end in sorrow, but in blessedness. It is assumed that Joseph dies in the arms of Mary and his savior. Certainly, our Lord would have said to him, “Come, you that are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” For this reason, Joseph is regarded as the patron of the dying. Joseph’s faith and life with Christ was not the way of a dead-end but the beginning of the journey towards true and everlasting life! Let your journeys go this way. Let love’s light be triumphant over the shadows of death that darken the various corners of life.

Looking back on your lives, perhaps you too will find that throughout your journeys Joseph and Mary have been your companions? Trusting in God and convinced of love, look ahead with Christ, and go forward boldly!

Finally, I leave you with the Blessing of Saint Joseph:

May the poverty of my sweet and suffering little child be your riches;

his sighs and tears the consolation of your days;

the love of his heart, all your earthly treasure;

and the clear vision of his adorable and glorified humanity,

your eternal joy and recompense.


“Evagrius was with me—“, by Sister Donald

Evagrius Ponticus was a 4th Century Desert Father and spiritual writer. Sister Donald wrote the following poem during a trip to Cairo in 1986.

Evagrius was with me…

Evagrius was with me—

Imperceptible on the tour bus

A return visit

After nearly 1600 years.

Monk of the then flowering desert—

He mused again at Great Cheops___

Where did death go?

That mummy at the British Museum?

And he, poor resurrection monk___

Still guiding in the holy sand.

Sister Donald Corcoran, OSB, cam

Cairo 1986, © 2017

Peaceful Greetings on the Feast of St. Scholastica


In the light of recent tensions, Sister Sheila was moved to write the following, which she read at the end of the Sunday Vigil Mass a couple of weeks ago:

“Peace” is the motto of the Benedictine Order, along with “Work and Pray”. Our mission as a contemplative Benedictine community is to provide an oasis of peace and prayer, centered on Christ our Savior, Redeemer and King, in a troubled world.

Especially in times of conflict in civil society, we remind ourselves of St. Paul’s words: “Since you have been raised up to be with Christ, you must look for the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on things above, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died and now the life you live is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3: 1-3)

Benedictine communities in Rwanda and the Ivory Coast are admirable examples of monastics from warring ethnic groups making a concerted effort to live together in peace by staying focused on Christ. We would like to propose this model to all who come to worship in our chapel.

Some of us are delighted at recent political developments, others are extremely upset, and then there are those in the middle. We would like people of all political persuasions to be able to find the peace of Christ in our chapel. Christ ultimately is our peace.

To this end, we would like our chapel and the area between the chapel and the sacristy to be a politics-free zone. If you would like to get together with Father or the Sisters to discuss the political situation, we’ll be available to talk at another time, in another place, but please, not before or after this sacred time when we come together to meet Christ in the Eucharist.

Monkey Business on New Year’s Eve


Jerry (tall, with the beard) and Jengo (small, with the tail) were our overnight guests last night. They did several performances at First Knight, New Year’s Eve festivities in Windsor, sponsored by local churches and the Community Center. Jerry brought us a gift of cinnamon swirl whole wheat bread that he had made himself. They were delightful guests, and we hope they’ll come back some day.

On the Feast of Stephen: Reflection by a friend who joined us for Morning Prayer


Yesterday, we celebrated the birth of Love with Christmas. Today, we memorialize a man, who filled with Love, came up against the cruelty and harshness of the world and was killed by those who could not see Love. December 26th is the feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr. His story is as follows:

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him. (Acts 7:54-8:3)

As I was driving to Transfiguration Monastery in Windsor, NY, I passed my high school, where up until about a month ago a young man, a freshman, also attended. My heart sank to think of him and how his parents must be grieving him, their son whom they lost to suicide. My heart sank further to think that it was cruelty in this world that killed him, the cruelty of his fellow classmates. Yesterday, I was speaking to a friend of his parents and learned how students constantly taunted him for being small-framed, and called him “gay.”

This young man was not gay. Gayness and sexuality is not the point. Cruelty is. It is very much the point that we must persist in the doing of all good works that Love has prepared for us to walk in; we must continue to teach our children love. We must refuse ignorance and teach our children that individuality is not something of which to be afraid, something we must push away from us. We must open our eyes to the truth of our commonality—this young man was a son, a grandson, a friend. He was a student with his own dreams, a hope for our future. He laughed, cried, loved, learned, and wanted to be included in his community the same as we laugh, cry, love, learn, and want.

It was more than stones that killed Stephen. It was the anger of the men which blinded them to Love that killed him. Stephen only lost his body in death. They could not kill Stephen’s spirit—even at the point of being stoned, in love for those who were cruel to him, Stephen prayed. Stephen did not lose sight of Love. In reality, the greater death here was not Stephen’s, but his community’s. Like Stephen, we must fix our gaze on Love.

It says that Saul approved of their killing Stephen. It says in other translations that Saul “was complicit” in Stephen’s death. Saul was later converted and worked for the love of the same community that he once persecuted. He was renamed Paul and joined the ranks of Jesus’ Apostles. It is Love that brought both Stephen and Saul to peace. It is Love that saved them.

We do not want to be a community complicit in death. But, if we do not teach our children to respect each other, to see themselves in each other, that is what we have—a community complicit in death. That is not what living together in this world is to be about. We are here to live life, to praise life, to love life. To be alive and thrive in this life, we need what we desire in the deepest parts of ourselves—love. We are beings that are sustained by love permeating every facet of our lives. We must love Love.

With Stephen, let us gaze to the heavens if we must. But, each of us, let us gaze within ourselves—then we will find an opening to the vision of where Love stands. Let us see Love and in Love let us know how to live fully who we are. Let us love so much that we pray for each other’s forgiveness in our part of wrongdoing. Let us love so much that we drop our stones that they draw blood no more.

We may in some corner of our thinking be like Saul, hardened against love and life. But we can become Paul, we can become people of life. We can defend life by teaching love. We can love our lives that we cherish for ourselves so much that we ensure that others can live. Eventually, Love came around and it is what converted Saul and renamed him Paul. Each of us, doing our part, can covert our community.

If we are persecuted, we can sling stone for stone and hope to come out on top. Or we can be like Stephen. We can refuse to let anything that others do to us detract our gaze from Love. We can refuse to let hatred cycle through us and creep into our thinking. We can be like Stephen and love at all costs. If we find ourselves in unkind situations, we must have faith that our actions of returning love for hatred will have an effect. Not allowing cruelty to continue with us; one by one, perhaps this is the only way we can truly honor the life of that young man from my high school who shot himself.

A sermon written by a bishop long ago was read during prayer at the monastery. It said: Love is the ladder by which all climb to heaven and God. Let us make our ascent together!

Let us ascend to higher thinking, Let us ascend to being more pro-active in our community. Let us rise and meet our challenges so that no more parents will feel they have failed their children, that no more students will feel that one of them is so unbearable that they must put one outside their margins, that no person be pushed out of life altogether, that no more teachers are left wondering what more could they have done to protect the students in their schools.

Let there be no more death, except the death of harshness, derision, ignorance, and hatred. Let all that is against life, life for all, be killed by your love. Let all that is against precious life be what love kills.

© 2016 Daniel E Crocker Jr