On Sunday, April 3, four new oblates joined the St. Gertrude’s community: Judy Murray of Olympia, Washington; Esther Wheeler of Nine Mile Falls, Washington; Becky Bishop of Stevensville Montana; and Angela Padley of Eagle, Idaho. There are currently over 70 oblates of the Monastery of St. Gertrude engaged in nine area groups throughout the Pacific Northwest, from Puget Sound to Montana, and North Idaho to Boise.
Oblates are men and women, married or single, active in any Christian denomination, who closely associate themselves with the Monastery of St. Gertrude through an initiation process and formal oblation (promise). The four recent oblations took place in the chapel, in the presence of the sisters and other oblates, and celebrated several years of formation and discernment. Prioress Sister Mary Forman blessed the new oblates as well as oblates present who renew their oblations each year at this event.
Angela Padley, who is mother to a 10-year-old son and works as an analyst in the healthcare field, learned about the oblate program during a retreat at Spirit Center. She began attending meetings of the Boise oblate group and became a novice two years ago. “Benedictine spirituality holds all the principles of how I want to live my life” she says. “In our world it’s easy to get lost in the chaos and accumulation of stuff. This spirituality has a grounding effect and guides in daily discernment. It is a current and constant flow you can tap into.”
The oblate inquirers are companioned by mentors. Becky Bishop was mentored by Sister Bernadette Stang and Tamara Kittelson-Aldred, Judy Murray was mentored by Pat Thrasher and Peg Griffin, Esther Wheeler was mentored by Lyn Russell, and Angela Padley was mentored by Julie Ann Horras.
“The charism of St. Gertrude’s just resonates for me. It is a life-giving spiritual foundation,” says Judy Murray, who has two sons, two grandchildren, two daughter-in-laws (and her brother is the mayor of Seattle). She became aware of the Benedictines when she attended a master’s program in Counseling Psychology at St. Martin’s University, in Lacey, Washington. Saint Martin’s University was founded by the Benedictine Monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey. The abbey is on the university campus and monks are professors and administrators. Here, Judy met Father Killian, who first showed her Benedictine spirituality by his example. St. Martin’s also has a long history with the St. Gertrude’s community, as many sisters used to work there. Judy is a part of the South Puget Sound oblate group. “They are a dynamite group of women — we just clicked.”
The process of becoming an oblate at the Monastery of St. Gertrude is modeled after both the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and the process of initiation into the monastic community. The model draws from both traditions, each of which have elements of developing lived tradition, a wisdom source, shared prayer and outreach. These elements are developed in the three phases, outlined under the aspects of Community, Message, Worship, and Service. The three phases are: Inquirer (listen and observe), Novice (listen and learn), and Oblate (listen and live).
“The oblate community was the missing link in my spiritual growth,” says Esther Wheeler. “God led me there because I was yearning for a deeper relationship with God.” Esther, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and spent her career as a college professor, retired with her husband to the Spokane area so they could be closer to their grandchildren. She learned about the Spokane oblate group through Barbara Wodynski and began attending meetings and retreats at the Monastery. “The rhythm of peace at the Monastery spoke to me. In my relationship with God, before my oblation I was like a child clinging to the mother’s skirt: ‘I want more! I want more!’ Now, being part of the oblate community, I have this experience of melding into God. I am swimming in this ocean of life.”