Benedictines are called to a life of stability, obedience, and conversion, according to the Rule of Benedict. As part of the long process of preparing for Final Profession, seven sisters from monasteries across the country gathered at Spirit Center July 10-25 for lectures, study of the Rule, group work, outings, and a final four-day silent, directed retreat.
The Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat (BSWR) was directed by Sister Teresa Jackson of the Monastery of St. Gertrude with co-director Sister Julie Sewell of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana, and Sister Mary Forman, prioress of St. Gertrude’s and scholar in monastic studies.
The prioress gave three presentations: ”Humility: Ancients’ View of Love founded on Christ,” “Cenobitic Community Relationships in the Rule of Benedict,” and “Obedience: Listening with the Ear of Your Heart.” Sister Jeannette von Herrmann of St. Gertrude’s gave two presentations on the topics of stability and monastic profession. Sister Teresa gave four presentations: “Benedictine Charism,” “Discernment,” “Prayer, Silence, Solitude,” and “Contemplation and Social Justice.”
“BSWR is a profound experience for women preparing for final profession,” says director Sister Teresa Jackson. “They have a chance to reflect, share and bond with other women preparing for the same step of radical self-giving that is monastic profession. They are an amazing witness of the gift of religious life in a society where such a commitment is less common than it once was.”
One of the participants, Sister Barbara Younger of Mother of God Monastery in Watertown, South Dakota, arrived at her vocation after service in the Marine Corps, marriage, and raising two daughters. She now has five grandchildren. “Some call us ‘late vocations,’” she says. “My spiritual director has assured me that I am arriving right on time. Everything before has prepared me for this moment. You arrive when it works for you and God.”
BSWR takes place every two years and is hosted by a different monastery each time. The participants anticipate making their Final Professions within the next one to two years. Most vocation journeys last seven to eight years before a sister makes her lifetime commitment.
“All of the women we know are from monasteries that are in states of rapid change,” says Sister Barbara. “We all know we will be serving in smaller communities than the generation before us. BSWR has allowed us to share our questions and stories and get to know each other better. It is a space to ask hard questions and have others ask them of you.”
The BSWR participants joined the St. Gertrude’s community for daily prayer, Mass, and meals. “One of the gifts is to witness how another community lives out their vows to one another,” says Sister Barbara, “how they care for one another and serve in their ministries.”
“A call is a gift,” she says. “I am called to be a part of the changes and cooperate with God’s grace in this.”
PHOTO: Participants and directors of the Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat (BSWR) that took place July 10-25 at Spirit Center at the Monastery of St. Gertrude.