December 28, 2010

This will probably be one of the last times I will write “2010.” It seems not so long ago that we started writing “2000.” On January 11th we can write “1/11/’11”

I hope you had a great Christmas. (Folks stranded in airports and other places had a hard time of it.) I have some nice pictures from around the Motherhouse…lots of poinsettias in Chapel and around the building. I counted 20 plants in Chapel. Two families donated ten plants just before Christmas. We are grateful. Thank you.

Many friends and neighbors joined us for the Christmas Eve Pageant and Christmas Eve Mass on Friday. I was pleased at how many people joined us after Mass in St. Francis Hall for cookies, hot chocolate and other goodies. Thank you.

On the 23rd, Sr. Julien and I spent four hours at Coborn’s “Making a Joyful Noise” as part of the Food Shelf fund-raiser. Total collection from the 14-day’s work was over $5,000. Thank you, generous donors and all volunteers who sat near the green collection box. You help make life easier for a LOT of needy folks.

On Sunday we celebrated Sister Sylvia’s 90th birthday. Many family members and friends joined us Sisters for cake and ice cream, etc. Congratulations, Sister Sylvia.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, we start the 24-hour Vigil of Prayer/Fast for Peace. Individuals are signed up to pray every hour for 24-hours for World Peace. May the Lord hear and listen to our prayers. May peace start in our own hearts.

I want to share with you two blessings from our prayer book. It is my prayer for you.

“May God bless us all with peaceful homes and loving communities.”

“May knowledge become clearer in us that we may know the breadth of God’s blessings, the length of God’s promises the height of God’s majesty, the depth of God’s judgments.”

May the Lord bless and continue to care for each of us in the New Year.

Sister Mary Lou


December 21, 2010

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF WINTER!!! This is the calendar day, but to my thinking winter has already been here a month! The snow piles are growing wherever one looks.

At Mass this morning we sang the song, “Soon and very soon we are goin’ to see the King… Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.” We are well into the fourth week of Advent and all the candles on the Advent Wreath are now lit. Soon and very soon we will celebrate the birth of Our Lord. Jesus came in history two thousand years ago. Jesus comes again to us in the Eucharist as His Body and Blood. Jesus comes to us in one another, our brothers and sisters. My prayer, for you, my readers, is that Jesus will come to you in the graces and blessings you desire and need in your personal life.

Last Thursday we had our Employee/Sister noon pot-luck luncheon. After the meal we had the drawings for the baskets and other items. All the proceeds from this Caring by Sharing project were donated to the Boys and Girls Club and to Hands of Hope. Each group received approximately $530. Thank you for your generosity, Employees and Sisters. During the meal a group of employees sang some Christmas songs for our entertainment. What talent!

Last Friday evening the group From Age to Age presented a marvelous program in our Chapel. They are a professional vocal ensemble who makes beautiful music together. They sang the Our Father (Otche Nash) and Hail Mary (Bogoroditse Devo, Raduisya) in Russian. (We had the translations.) Except for the music, the Chapel was wrapped in meditative-prayerful silence. Violin, harpsichord, cello and viola added to the beauty of the evening’s music.

In earlier writings I’ve talked about reading to Mrs. Hanson’s First Graders. I brought a box of Christmas mice from my mouse collection to the classroom and they used them to decorate the Christmas tree in their room. I was please to share my treasures with the students.

Our services in the Motherhouse Chapel on Christmas Eve begin at 7 p.m. with songs and Scripture readings. The Mass begins at 7:30 p.m. There will be refreshments in St. Francis Hall after Mass. You are most welcome to come. Mass on Christmas Day is at 8:30 a.m. The next day, Sunday, December 26th is the Feast of the Holy Family. Again, Mass is at 8:30 a.m.

Merry Christmas to you and those you love. Let us pray for peace in our hearts, our world and our universe.

Pax et Bonum.

Sister Mary Lou


December 14, 2010

BRRRRRRRRR! We got only a few inches of snow last Friday/Saturday and now the cold…it was minus 16 yesterday morning. I’m happy there is no wind. The snow piles are growing. (But nothing like the snow they received in the Twin Cities!) Snow mobilers have something to play on now.

We are into the third week of Advent. May your preparations for Christ’s birth be taking shape…especially the spiritual preparations to welcome Jesus.

Sunday was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe—Patroness of the Americas. May Mary look upon our country and bring us peace and blessings…but we’ve got to work at it, too.

We had two wonderful concerts this past weekend. Friday night’s strings concerts brought a full house with standing room filling up, too. The St. Francis Community Chorale joined the Strings Orchestra in singing the Hallelujah Chorus from G. F, Handel’s Messiah. It was fantastic! You can listen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auZcaznDMRB8.

Sunday night’s Community Chorale Concert brought another full house. I say “Thank You” to those forty singers who practice long hours and so generously share their talents. The fourteen Sestri Na Mir choir opened the program with four Slavic Folk Songs.

Thursday night the Lion’s club members came to sing for us. Then afterwards, we enjoyed pizza with them.

One more concert note. Friday night, Dec.17, at 7:30 p.m., the group “From Age to Age” will be singing in our chapel. They will have excerpts from Handel’s Messiah with harpsichord, a string trio and a cappella selections to help us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This group performed in our chapel last June and they were great. Take the time to come and listen. They will be at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Onamia, MN on Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. And they’ll be at First Lutheran Church in Brainerd at 7:30 p.m. on the 18th.

At the back of our chapel gathering space are two large Christmas trees decorated with all the ornaments containing prayer requests from our donors. After Christmas 5 or more of these ornaments will be given to each Sister and we will pray for these persons all of 2011.

Peace and prayers,

God bless you.

Sister Mary Lou

The Choir prayed before their performance.


December 7, 2010

Here we are into the second week of Advent already. It is nice that we have almost four full weeks of Advent this year. May the Lord bless us and keep us peaceful as we prepare for the Birth of Christ.

Last Saturday we had a retreat day. The presenter was our Sister Elise. One of her comments was something about the tsunami of shopping that goes on in this consumer society. We often get so engrossed with “presents” that we forget about the “presence” of Jesus in our lives. Sunday I was given a button that says, “JESUS is the Reason for the Season.” Jesus coming into our world is what it is all about.

Last Thursday the Franciscan Sisters hostessed the Little Falls Area Ministerial Association Christmas luncheon. The picture shows St. Francis Hall decorated for the occasion. We were expecting between 25 and 30 guests. Our Sister Mary Pat is the representative for the Franciscan Sistesrs.

On December 2nd, the United Church Women’s group hosted a Christmas Tea at First United Church, the church across the street from the Motherhouse. It was a time of prayer, songs and stories of the flowers of Christmas—and then a delicious lunch. Thank you, ladies.

Saint Nicholas visited us on Monday, the Feast of St. Nicholas, and gave us a little treat with our noontime meal. St. Nicholas, pray for us…and help us be generous as you were.

This is a picture of the Second Floor Clare Residence Advent calendar. Each day the message from one of the little bird houses is posted to remind them of the coming of the Lord on the 25th.

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the paternal feast of our religious community. Our original title was “Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Little Falls, MN.” Then because that was too long for computers, we are now titled “Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN” We will have morning and evening prayer together in Chapel, Mass and a festive meal to celebrate the day.

When my sister, Rita, was home from Indonesia two years ago, she gave me a lovely painted picture of the Loaves and Fishes. It is painted on “pulled bark”—tree bark that is pulled and stretched out to a thin sheet. I finally got it framed and we hung it in the mailroom. Now on days when I work there, I am reminded of Jesus’ multiplication of bread and fish and also reminded to pray for missionaries through out the world who spread the Word of God.

This coming Friday we will have the St. Francis Strings Orchestras Christmas Concert at 7 p.m. in Sacred Heart Chapel. It is my favorite programs of the year. Then on Sunday we will have the Community Chorale Christmas Concert—again at 7 p.m. It, also, is my favorite concert. I invite you to attend.

On Friday, December 17, the group Age to Age will be performing at 7 p.m. in the Chapel. This too, is a wonderful performance group. I, again, invite you to attend. This group performed in our Chapel last August—and they were good! This group has been together only a couple years.

There has been lots of activity in the kitchen as we get ready for Christmas. Last week, one evening, we had a “Cookie Baking” evening. A number of Sisters and friends got together to make cookies and candies.

God bless you and have a good week.

Sister Mary Lou


November 30, 2010

Here we are into the first week of Advent. How will I use this time of waiting so that when the Lord comes, I will recognize the Lord? Will I be ready? Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of all Franciscan Saints. The saints are the ones the light shines through—the light of Jesus’ love and hope. May we be that light to those who are part of our day. All Holy Franciscan Saints, pray for us.

On Sundays, our opening music at Mass, in semi-darkness, is the lone sound of Rita playing the harp. Each week of Advent she will add a few more notes.

I do hope you had a safe and good Thanksgiving. I spent time with my family on the farm near West Union. I know that the deer hunters didn’t get them all—two deer crossed the road ahead of me on my return to Little Falls on Friday.

We had 4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday and today. May all walkers and drivers be safe—and all snow shovelers, too.

This coming Saturday we will have an Advent Day of Reflection presented by our Sister Elise Saggau. Many of us Sisters will be attending. It will be a good day.

St Francis Music Center will be having Holiday Recitals Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

Last Saturday, I went to the 4th annual Christmas at the Mansions. This is a fundraiser for the preservation of the historic Weyerhaeuser and Musser mansions, known as Linden Hill. These beautiful old houses are an important piece of the history of Little Falls.

Before I went to Linden Hill, I went to see the many decorated Christmas trees at the Minnesota Fishing Museum. People worked hard to decorate these lovely trees. The most unique decoration I saw as a chin made of birch bark circles. It was lovely.

May St. Nicholas (feast on December 6th) leave you a few treats—and no chunks of coal—on the eve before his feast.

May you be blest these Advent days.

Sister Mary Lou


November 22, 2010

Happy Feast of St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians. God bless all those who bring music and song into our lives. You be a song, too, and share your love and joy with others.

As I write this, I see tiny flakes of snow falling…and over the icy coat already on the ground, this is not a good sign. I’m not looking forward to going out. The weather prophets give a dismal forecast for Thanksgiving travel. Plans could change. Better to be safe than injured!

Last week I made brief mention of the bilingual Mass last Tuesday. It was to commemorate the martyrdoms of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador on November 16, 1989. Martyrdom continues to take place in our life time. We know the name of only a few, but there are nameless other witnesses to the Faith. Let us pray for the many who are persecuted because of their beliefs in our own day.

Yesterday morning we had the pleasure of a half-hour concert by the younger members of the St. John’s Boys’ Choir. What a treat. These 21 young men so joyfully share their musical talents. (They had performed earlier at St. Mary’s Church here in town.) After singing, the boys had lunch with the Sisters.

From Nov. 29 to Dec 15th, the Values Committee is sponsoring the “Caring by Sharing” project this Christmas Season. Proceeds will help support the Morrison County Boys and Girls Club and the Hands of Hope Resource Center. The Boys and Girls Club’s programs promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence. The Hands of Hope Resource Center provides, free, confidential services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. For each $1 donation, donors will receive a slip of paper for a chance on many donated gifts. Last year I won a pair of homemade mittens. They are great and I am using them now. I find mittens warmer than gloves.

Speaking of donations, the Morrison County United Way Campaign just concluded. Our employees donated a total of $3,078.50 to the United Way Campaign. Thank you to everyone who contributed. God bless you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to each of you. We have much to be thankful for. Let us remember our blessings.

Have a safe and healthy week.

Peace and all good.

Sister Mary Lou


November 15, 2010

With our first real snowfall, I can say, “Winter is here.” Our little covering of snow is hardly enough to mention when I see on TV the 9 to 11+ inches of snow in parts of the State south of us.

Our SFO Regional Council meeting on Saturday was cancelled. All the snow in the Cities was the main reason. The road to Brainerd yesterday was dry.

On Sunday there was a Belgium Waffle Breakfast in Annandale as a fundraiser to purchase medicines for the mission trip to Nicaragua in January. Several of the Sisters from the Motherhouse attended.

Last week I was in Dave’s Framing Shop here in town. I saw the biggest puzzle I’ve ever seen. It was six by four feet and made up of 6,000 one-inch pieces! It was beautiful—and will be hung in the pre-school classroom at Bethel Lutheran Church. I can’t imagine working on a puzzle that size!

Last week, too, the Sisters and employees finished this beautiful 1,500 puzzle. It is very timely with Thanksgiving next week.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 16th, Fr. Tony Kroll will be the presider at our Bilingual Eucharist/Mass at 11 a.m. We have them several times a year. We have been learning any number of songs with Spanish words.

I hope all the deer hunters had/have good luck in their sport. The more deer they get, the fewer, hopefully, there will be on the roads.

God bless you.

Stay safe and healthy.

Sister Mary Lou


November 8, 2010

I like the kind of November weather we’ve had the past few days. And when it changes the end of the week, we’ll say, “Well, this is November!” This week, November 8 to 12, is Winter Weather Awareness Week. Refresh in your mind your driving skills and clothing types needed for bad winter weather conditions. Be prepared for winter weather…and in the meantime enjoy the present conditions.

Last Sunday, my friend John said something about the Mississippi River being high and flooding their lower lawn in Royalton. So after brunch I took my camera and went to look at the dam here in Little Falls. I was amazed to see all the turbulent water—much coming right over the top of the spillway. As I was looking, I was thinking this looks like how I’ve seen the river in the spring snow-melt season. I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that to the north of us places got three inches of rain a couple weeks ago and now the water was coming our way.

Tuesday was Election Day. I worked the second shift at City Hall in Ward 2. We were busy. Had lots of people registering, many because they had moved, and some were new voters. I took this picture of first-time voter, Joshua, as he put his ballot into the counting machine. It does disturb me that some people do not take the privilege of voting seriously and show it by voting for Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny.

Last week, too, we had the Red Cross Bloodmobile here for three days. Our goal was 260 and we got 254 units of blood. Had the 25 people we had to turn away been able to donate we would have gone way over our goal. Thank you, all you generous donors. YOU are a blessing.

Saturday evening we had another successful Spaghetti Supper. Many hungry spaghetti eaters filled the main dining room twice and St. Francis Hall once. I’m hoping there will be some leftovers for today’s noon lunch. The gift shop seemed to do good business, too.

God bless you.

Remember God loves you.

Love God in return.


Sister Mary Lou


November 1, 2010

What a nice way to start November. It is so bright and sunny. One day last week three trees in our yard dropped all their leaves in one day…and with all the winds most of the leaves have moved to our neighbors’ yards…and theirs to our yard.

Last Monday evening several of us Sisters attended a program, IL POVERELLO: EXPLORING ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI’S LIFE AND DEEDS at St. Francis Church in Brainerd. The musicians were the Rose Ensemble from St. Paul. What a wonderful presentation. The music was of 13th and 14th century origin. Some of the instruments were new to me.

The big events of this week are: the elections Tuesday; the Bloodmobile at St. Francis Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; Taize Prayer at 6 p.m. on Thursday; and the Spaghetti Supper from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Saturday.

On Sunday I saw Sisters Olga and Blase playing with the kittens. Last summer a mother cat adopted the Motherhouse as her home. The kittens seem quite tame and don’t mind being held.

The Halloween ZooBoo event at Pine Grove Park was a great success Saturday night. Lots of kids and parents attended. We had 72 Trick and Treaters at our house Halloween night. I expect lots of students are on sugar-highs today!

Sister Joel put up the Memorial Board in Chapel. Each year in November we have listed the names of Sisters, Priests, Family, Associates and Friends who have died the past year. We remember all these people in our prayer and at Mass each day of November.

Remember to set your clocks back one hour Saturday night before you go to bed.

God bless you.

May the Holy Spirit guide voters in the elections.

Sister Mary Lou

Every couple weeks I go to read to Mrs. Hanson’s First Graders at Lindbergh School.  Here we are when I went to read a couple days before Halloween.  Having taught first grade for so many years, there is no other grade as good as first grade in my estimation.


October 25, 2010

Now it looks and feels like fall. Tree leaves are mostly down. The 1 ½ inches of rain the past couple days have probably slowed corn harvest. I’ve heard and seen the word “snow” in the forecasts for later in the week—and strong winds, too. Enjoy(?) the changing of the seasons!.

Last Tuesday we had the funeral for Sister Mary Gerard Wald. Abbot Brian Wangler, OSB, Sister’s nephew, was the Presider at the Mass…and it was his birthday. There were four religious Sisters in her family. At the time of the death of a Sister, the Archives folks put up a beautiful memorial display of the Sister’s life and achievements. Sister Gerard loved to dance. One of her favorite songs was “You Are My Sunshine.”

Last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 55 to 60 wonderful volunteers came to “stuff envelopes.” The envelopes are to about 17,000 of our generous donors in our Annual Christmas Appeal.. The volunteers started Tuesday morning and before noon on Thursday had stuffed, sealed and addressed all those envelopes. They work hard and fast and have a good time, too. Next week the post office will get a big present! We pray for our donors every day. God bless them.

We’ve all most likely, heard about the changes in the Liturgy of the Mass that will come about the First Sunday of Advent 2011. Last Thursday evening, I attended and informational meeting at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in which Anita Fischer, from the Diocesan Office of Liturgy, gave a very fine presentation. I understand the “what” and the “why” a lot better now. There is much more information at www.USCCB.org’romanmissal, if you are interested.

A number of us Sisters attended the Geritol Frolics program in Brainerd the past week. Geritol Frolics is a 2 ½ hour lively, fast-moving vaudeville song, story and dance type show. All singers, dancers and performers are senior citizens: age 55+. I was most impressed with the tap dancers, two of whom were over age 80. It’s a wonderful entertainment and if you can, think about attending next year.

The Take Back the Night program will be held in St. Francis Gym Thursday starting at 6 p.m. I am always touched to see the clothesline display of shirts and the stories remembering the lives lost through physical abuse of children, women and men.

Halloween is next Sunday. Some up-coming related events are a Sister/Employee Pot Luck noon lunch on Thursday (28th), ZooBoo at Pine Grove Zoo on Saturday from 4-8 p.m. for the younger children and Cage of Terror for people age 13 and older also at Pine Grove Park. After 8 p.m.

Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. are two Halloween music recitals sponsored by St. Francis Music Center. Young performers will come dressed in costume. These concerts are always fun. And I am always amazed at the talents of these young performers.

Remember to vote on November 2nd. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you exercise your right to vote.

The Bloodmobile will be at St. Francis November 3, 4, and 5. Times: 1 to 7 p.m. on the 3rd and 4th, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the 5th.

We have a Spaghetti Supper November 6th from 4:30 to 7 p.m. This will benefit the St. Francis Music Center and St. Francis Health and Recreation Departments

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday November 7th. Move the clocks back one hour before you retire on the 6th.

God bless you,

Sister Mary Lou


October 18, 2010

The temperatures are getting a little more fall-like, but the warm sunny weather surely is welcomed. The leaves are hanging tight on the oak trees, though most of the other trees have shed their colorful dress. Sister Joel has a lovely corn shock set up in chapel. Makes one really believe that fall is here.

They did it! The Vikings won their game Sunday. It didn’t look good at half-time.

Sunday was Mission Sunday. Who is a missionary? A missionary is one who shares her or his faith in Jesus Christ with other people and thus brings them to Christ and His Good News. I’d have a long list if, I listed all our Sisters who have served in foreign missions. Let us keep all missionaries in our prayers.

Early last Thursday morning, our Sister Gerard Wald left us for heaven. We knew she was on hospice and getting weaker. Then suddenly her breathing changed and her soul took flight. We welcome her body back to the Motherhouse this afternoon with a short prayer service. The Franciscan Wake is at 7 p.m. tonight and the Funeral is Tuesday at 11:a.m.

At the death of a Sister we do what we call Project Alert calls to all the Sisters.

Usually I am the one to make the calls, but because I was out of town most of the day Thursday, Sr. Julien did most of the calls and I finished the list when I came home. Besides the calls we also do an e-mail to all the Sisters who have e-mail. I do that, too.

We also do Project Alert calls at the death of a parent, brother or sister of a Sister.

Saturday, October 23rd is Make A Difference Day. Shaq O”Neal says, “ If you can help someone, do it. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. People with influence can help make the world a better place.” He is working to make a difference. How can I make a difference on October 23? And every day? Do it.

God bless you.

Sister Mary Lou


October 12, 2010

What a difference a year makes. Last year on October 10th we had an inch of snow on the ground. This year we have temps well into the 70s and 80s. I’d be happy to keep this nice weather for a couple more months!

Sunday we welcomed 8 new Associates into our Associate Relationship. We had many guests for the Mass and a delicious meal. At the afternoon program Sister Janice Wiechman was one of those who received the first Franciscan Earth Citizen Award. This award was given to those who have observed well the principles of the Earth Charter. There were also many others deserving this award. I congratulate you, Sister Janice, on receiving this award.

Sunday I attended the Canonical Establishment of the Saint Alphonsa Fraternity as Secular Franciscans in Columbia Heights, MN. It was a happy time for all. Congratulations.

Monthly the Chamber of Commerce hosts an event called “Friday Morning Coffee.” Last Friday The Franciscan Sisters hosted 57 Chamber members and guests. Many Sisters also joined the Chamber members for rolls, fruit and coffee.

Homecoming was celebrated last week in our local public school. It was a beautiful day for the parade and football game…and the Little Falls Flyers were victorious.

Friday afternoon we celebrated the 90th birthday of Sister Leonette Bursch. Her brother and sister-in-law joined us for the celebration.

Work is being done to repair a leak in the roof of the bell tower section of Chapel. God bless people who can work in those “high-up places.” The view must be great from such heights!

God bless you and together let us thank God for these lovely Indian Summer days we are experiencing.

Sister Mary Lou


October 6, 2010

Oh, so many things to write about!

First was the celebration of the Feast of St. Francis on Monday. Our celebration starts with the Transitus the evening before the Feast. The Transitus is a prayer service commemorating the death of St. Francis. Seven Sisters, Associates and Friends do the acting out of the narrative with another group reading the dialogue. It is a prayerful time for all who attend. The Feast itself started with Morning Prayer together in chapel, followed by brunch. Next is Mass and lunch. And the day ended with Evening Prayer and a festive meal. It was a good day. St. Francis, pray for us.

Sunday noon we participated in the Blessing of the Animals at the little park across from the Episcopal Church. There were LOTS of dogs, two cats and a gerbil. At Brainerd’s blessing they blessed a pet snake, too.

Last Saturday we hosted the 50th Orphan Train Reunion. We had a full house with over 150 guests. The main morning event was a theatrical performance by Pippa White. In spoken narration and song, she gave a touching presentation of the history of the Orphan Train and the stories of some of the riders. Senator James Oberstar was one of the speakers in the afternoon. In the United States there are still 100 survivors who rode the Orphan Trains…Minnesota has 11 of these and six of them attended the reunion. Orphan Trains ran from 1854 until 1929. An estimated 250,000 children from the urban East Coast, predominately New York, were placed out on what has become known at the orphan trains. One of the planners for the reunion purchased a Lionel train which was given away at the end of the day. One lucky Orphan Train descendent went home with a nice toy for her grandchildren to play with when they got to Grandma’s house. Our 98-year-young Sister Justina had a wonderful day visiting with her many family and friends.

Yesterday morning when we came to prayer we had a special birth. A beautiful Monarch Butterfly spread its wings for the first time. After prayer we set the bouquet outside and during the day the butterfly took flight and left us.

Tomorrow we have the flu clinic for Sisters and Employees. I’m scheduled for 8:45 a.m. I hope you seriously consider getting a flu shot, too.

Sunday the Associates will have their day with the renewal of their commitments and new persons making their commitment. More about that next week.

God bless you.

Sister Mary Lou