by Danielle Calvert from Knoxville, TN

I wasn’t in a sorority in college, so maybe I was just looking to fill that sisterhood void. In any event, when I found theMt.Tabormonastery online, I couldn’t have been more excited. I had graduated in June with a degree in Film and wanted to spend a few weeks in rural Appalachia to do script research before I moved toLos Angelesto pursue screenwriting. As aMt.Taborvolunteer, I hoped to meet some interesting people, hear some Appalachian stories, and maybe squeeze in a little spiritual preparation for a career that deals a lot of rejection before success.

 Now my personal relationship with religion has been about as bumpy as theKentuckymountains themselves—I have always searched God and instead found things to write about. But here I looked for things to write about, and I found God in everyone around me.

 I spent only three weeks with the women atMt.Tabor, but I felt at home. They were warm, welcoming, and pretty hilarious. They taught me to recognize and honor everyone—a path of life that is not confined by denomination, personal success, or income. I joined the sisters for prayer and meals, upping my daily prayer intake from “Please, God, don’t let me break out right before my big date” to it being the first words out of my mouth in the mornings and the last in the evenings. I helped out around the monastery grounds, I helped fix low-income houses with other volunteer groups, and I worked at the St. Vincent Mission in their various ministries. In all of these efforts, I found compassion for and a deeper connection with the people around me. And that includes driving old shingles and rotting wood to the large, highly aromatic garbage dump.

 So after volunteering at Mt. Tabor, I’ll be moving out to LA having made some new friends, gained a deeper appreciation for all people everywhere, and acquired some undoubtedly useful hydraulic wood-splitter skills. And even though most sororities don’t leave you with the fantastic farmer’s tan and bug-bitten legs I got, the sisters atMountTaborare definitely my sisters for life.

A special call went out!

In August we had our community days and chapter meeting.  During that time we realized that there were some items that needed to be addressed concerning our buildings and grounds before the winter set in.  So I sent an email to our friend Keith Deck to see if he could come for a week and help us.  Two days later I received an email saying that he and his wife Janie would be there the following week.  We are so grateful to both of them.  We repaired some roof and gutter problems, cleaned out all of the wood stove flues, took down a dead tree that could have caused some problems and rescreened most of the back porch at the monastery.  They also helped with items at St. Vincent Mission and assisted Elmer in closing out the home repair season.  Not to mention cooked some wonderful meals and desserts for the Sisters.

Thank you both so very much for responding to our need.  We are blessed to have you as friends as we are blest by so many others just like you.         

Sr. Kathleen

Catholic Heart Workcamp Volunteers

For the second year in a row, the Dwelling Place Monastery was blessed by volunteers from Catholic Heart Workcamp, an organization that began in 1993 to get Catholic youth serving those in need and spreading the love of Jesus. Approximately 12,000 students participate every summer at forty “Workcamps” throughout the country spending a week in service to others. Sr. Kathy Di Vaio had a team of six high school and college aged students and their adult leader working with her on the monastery grounds. The students–from West Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania– and their adult leader–from Tennessee–worked for four days on many maintenance and grounds keeping projects. They power washed, scraped, painted and waterproofed the deck at St. Joe’s, our volunteer house. In several places on the Monastery grounds they cleared ditch lines, cut down saplings and pampas grass mounds, weed whacked, mowed and cleared undergrowth from hillsides, on the Stations of the Cross path and around buildings. And they did all of this outside work in temperatures that were ninety plus degrees every day!  

Thanks—Sam, Joe, Shannon, Allie, Megan, Bekkah and Mary. You’re the best!!


The Catholic Heart Team crew


Sr KC and the Green Bay Elves

 You’ve heard of the Shoemaker and the Elves I’m sure but I want to tell you about the elves from Green Bay, Wisconsin that helped me out this summer. It all started with my 1986 Chevy Nova. I love my car (how I got it is another story all together) but it has a vacuum leak problem from time to time. And this summer was one of those times. I had driven to Pikeville and back and the car was hot. I decided to drive down to the garden to pick some lettuce for supper but only got halfway up the driveway and the car konked out. Try as I might, it just wouldn’t restart until it had cooled off. Unfortunately, it had stopped in the middle of the driveway and there was no way to get around it. When I went to put it in park, I noticed that it rolled backward a bit so I had the brilliant idea of just letting it roll down a ways and then push it into the lot (it’s a little car). The only problem with that idea is that I forgot that I am not bery good at driving backward and within moments the car stopped with a thump, a jerk and a crash–all very bad things when you are in a moving vehicle.

 After a couple of deep breaths I got out and saw that I had backed into the iron Benedictine cross in the middle of the parking lot. Nothing seemed to be broken on the car or the cross and since the driwvway was now accessible for the other Sisters, I left it there to cool off and went inside to cool off myself. After Evening Praise, I went to move the car. It started right up, I put it into gear and went nowhere! Ends up the thump was the sound of the right rear wheel going over the side of a fairly substantial rock. I was stuck.

This is where the elves come it. A workgroup from Green Bay were in town to help with the home repair program at St. Vincent’s Mission and some of them were staying at the monastery. I walked (of course) over to St. Joe’s where they were staying to ask for help getting my car from between a rock and a hard place, literally. No one was there (they were leaving first thing in the morning and were at Front Porch Pickin’ at the MAC-another story) so I left a note hanging on the pull chain of the kitchen ceiling fan and left. I didn’t hear a word from them all night.

 I woke up early Saturday morning with some ideas on how to move the car. It was a beautiful morning so clear, cool and quiet that I had my bedroom windows open. I heard the birds but little else so I got dressed to go see if I could dig the rock out from beneath the car before I had to call a tow truck but…the car wasn’t there! Some time in the early hours of the morning before they began their very long drive home, the Green Bay elves came and freed my car. I had left the keys in it, after all it wasn’t going anywhere, so it was parked at the front door of the monastery. I was saved.

 I have been practicing backing up and while I wouldn’t want to be backing between a couple of Mercedes, I can go a whole ten feet now pretty well–that’s the distance I had to go at the beginning of this story. Which is a real life fairy tale and ends…AND THEY LIVED HAPPLILY EVER AFTER. THANKS GREEN BAY!!  Sr. KC


Forty years ago, I went to the mountains of easternKentuckyfor a college independent study, but my heart never really left there. This year theAppalachian mountainscalled me back for a three month sabbatical to volunteer at St. Vincent Mission in David. The hospitality of the Mt. Tabor Benedictines allowed me to live with them while launching the Grow Appalachia project at theMission. GrowAppalachiais a community gardening project geared to reducing hunger by encouraging people to raise their own food. What I didn’t expect was to become a part of a family of nuns. As I ate, prayed, laughed, entered into their causes and ministries, and read from their library, I came to know them as individuals as well as a community. All this has left a deep impression on me; one I will take home to Oregon– Joanne Hoffart

 Joanne  is from Portland, Oregon where she is a Parrish Associate.