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Hummingbirds inspire West Side nun to pen latest book

Date: 10/18/2011

Oct. 19, 2011

By Lori Szepelak


WEST SPRINGFIELD — For Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart Sawicki, O.P. of the Dominican Monastery, hummingbirds became a catalyst for a book that fell literally into place in only months last year.

Her latest book, “The Hummer and the Hummed,” published by Dog Ear Publishing, chronicles her spiritual journey that took flight when she made a connection between the observances of hummingbirds and compared it to the journey individuals have with God. Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart calls God the "Divine Hummer.”

“Just as the beauty of the hummingbird and its movements are captivating, so God captivates those who encounter him in prayer,” she said in her introduction.

The full-color book, in its simplest message, is a contemplative reflection on the spiritual life. She shares her experience of hummingbirds visiting the monastery bird feeder, and compares it to one’s encounter with God.

After a friend gave her the ideal amounts of sugar and water to mix for the feeder, the hummingbirds started to arrive.

“I was waiting, reflecting, watching and observing the hummingbirds, and realized the process is like our spiritual life,” she said during an interview with Reminder Publications at the cloistered monastery on Riverdale Street.

Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart has been a member of the West Springfield Dominican Nuns since 1964.

Her favorite memory while she was putting the finishing touches on the book came when a "hummer" as she calls them centered on a bee balm plant and then flew from flower to flower up to the feeder and back to the plants. The hummers also were playful over time, flying over the patio roof chasing each other.

“I don’t know if it was a territory issue, or if they were siblings playing because we seemed to have very small hummers,” she said. “I'm told by one who saw them that Mother Hummer introduced them to the feeder near the window – one on each side.”

Other Dominican Sisters have also been delighted by the antics of the hummingbirds, and would let Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart know when they had a sighting.

Throughout the book, she shares her beautiful moments with the hummers, and reminds the reader while the hummers may be only fleetingly glimpsed, one can remain forever “hummed” in the presence of God.

“When the hummingbird first comes to the feeder, there is a certain uneasiness, and it is ready to take flight at the least movement outside itself,” she said. “As the provider stands motionless nearby, the hummingbird begins to gain confidence, and the fear of being harmed begins to wane.”

She compared the hummingbird’s presence to how the soul's familiarity grows and the relationship develops with God.

“There is a certain comfort level with the Divine Hummer,” she said. “One does not want to jeopardize the relationship, and works to preserve it.”

For those setting up their own garden feeders in the future, Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart notes it is beneficial to have a colorful and varied garden to attract the hummer.

“The hummingbird has favorite flowers that it is attracted to,” she said. “So too in the spiritual life, we must cultivate the garden of our hearts with the flowers of virtues.”

Hummers that visited the monastery were particularly attracted to the zinnia plants.

During the past few months, Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart said she didn't see the hummers as much as she did in 2010.

“Not seeing them much for the most part made me wonder if I saw them so much last year because the Lord wanted me to write the book and since that task was done, maybe I didn’t need to see them so much anymore,” she said.

Upon reflection, she added that our spiritual lives have moments when God seems so absent, but we know he is really there.

“We just carry on and do the best we can amid the challenges we face,” she said. “And then there is that special moment of encounter again. It gives one strength for the journey.”

Books can be purchased for $15 (an 11 percent discount) through the monastery, 1430 Riverdale St. For more information, call 736-3639. Books can also be purchased through, Barnes & Noble, and Dog Ear Publishing. Visit where you can access the Youtube book trailer, and see more information. The book is also available in e-book format for Kindle and Nook. In the near future, the book will also be translated into Spanish.

Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart is also the author of "Celebration with Surprises: Dominican Nuns Celebrate 800 Years."

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