Sister Cecile Uhlorn
Sister Cecile has devoted her life to music, especially the music of the monastery. A unique aspect of praying the Divine Office is that the Psalms are meant to be spoken in unison. Each person listens to the others as the prayers are read and together they make “one voice.” Sister Cecile sees music as providing a similar unifying mystery. “My favorite music is something we can all sing together. That brings us all together, praising God,” she says. “Music is a way community can be together.”
Music as a form of togetherness is something Sister Cecile has known from an early age. She grew up in a musical family, with both parents who sang and played instruments and made music a part of all of their twelve children’s lives. The family even sang together as they did household chores.
She has spent her life on the western edge of the Camas Prairie, growing up on a farm near Ferdinand, only about 10 miles from the Monastery of St. Gertrude. Because she was taught by the Sisters from St. Gertrude’s and her family was acquainted with some of those living at the Monastery, she was familiar with the Benedictines and their way of life from a young age.
Although her older sister Angela had joined the Monastery a few years before, her parents were surprised when she announced after high school graduation, that she, too, wanted to join the Monastery. “There were so many kids in the family, so much going on all the time — and I’m kind of an introvert — that my parents never suspected that I was even thinking about becoming a Sister, too.”
Much of her monastic life was spent as a teacher in local schools, primarily in the fourth through eighth grades, including Cottonwood, Grangeville, Nezperce, Rupert, Nampa, St. Maries and Lewiston. My years in campus ministry were some of the best times of my life though.” Serving at St. Augustine’s in Moscow, Idaho, and at St. Martin’s in Lacey, Washington, Sister Cecile worked with young people who were learning how to make their faith their own, instead of simply an extension of their upbringing. “They were excited about their faith and it was wonderful to be a part of that.”
Sister Cecile is especially adept at singing harmony, plays music (on most any instrument) by ear, and has taught music most all her life. She has a Master’s in Liturgy from St. John’s University and also spent six years playing and teaching the organ at St. Andreas Monastery in Sarnen, Switzerland — the motherhouse of the Monastery of St. Gertrude.
“I love to play,” she smiles. “I like to learn new music and work hard. Music really touches your heart. It speaks to your soul. If I couldn’t make music, it would be pretty hard. Music and the community: these are my life.”