by Julie Ferraro, volunteer

Coming to the Monastery of St. Gertrude started out as an adventure, and continued as one through my four-day stay.

Driving up from Twin Falls, I passed through unknown territory – I’ve only been in Idaho since May, working as a reporter for the Times-News. As I approached Boise on I-84, I was greeted by a host of rising hot air balloons. I felt my spirits lifting, as well.

Then, the real fun began. On State Highway 55, the scenery is very picturesque, but the road is… frustrating. As I glanced periodically at the ripping white water of the Payette River, I also had to be careful of the many sharp curves and the vehicles ahead of me (which wouldn’t allow my red Mustang to go as fast as it likes to “gallop”).

Finally breaking free of the mountains, I gained a little time, but then on U.S. 95, things slowed down again. I was so glad when the landscape leveled out near Grangeville, and even more glad when I pulled into the drive of the Monastery.

Meeting the sisters and participating in their liturgies brought peace to my soul. Saturday morning, I was up early and, while the temperatures were still cool, I grabbed my walking stick and hiking up to the cemetery.


Sister Placida in the orchard.

Or, Murphy’s Law in action.

After breakfast, Sr. Placida took me under her wing for some work detail. Lo and behold, we were headed back up to the cemetery! Once done there, we trekked down to the orchard, where hoses were needed to water the trees with extra fluids before winter.

Hooking them together and making sure they didn’t kink, our task was delayed somewhat when Sr. Placida took a bite from an Early Gold apple on one of the trees. They were ready to be picked.

We grabbed the pickup truck and a few boxes, and set about deciding which apples were suitable for pies, and which for general eating. Some went into the “deer bucket” to feed the daily animal visitors.

Just as we finished that tree, it was determined that some of the red pears were good for picking, though those two trees weren’t excessively loaded. The other apples, pears and other fruit will be ready in a week or so…

But I won’t be around to help.

Then, using the really, really long hoses, I gave each tree in the fenced-in space a hearty drink. At the last tree, Sr. Placida had a few more apples in hand, and when I returned her wrist-watch, it got dropped in the grass.

We had already returned to the pickup when she noticed it missing off her wrist, and we retraced our steps to that last tree. It took awhile, with Sr. Placida even down on her knees hunting through the undergrowth, but it caught the sunlight and was restored.

Over lunch, I sat at table with some of the sisters, chatting about my experience. Sister Mary Forman, the prioress, was talking about a meeting with the different departments, including long-term volunteers, about the future of the Monastery.

Jokingly, I ventured, “When I come back as a long-term volunteer, please don’t put me in the apple-picking department!”

We all laughed.

That laughter, though, and the smiles of the sisters, their welcoming hospitality and dedication to prayer and service, will bring me back someday soon, I hope!