Sister Kim Marie Jordan
Sister Kim Marie Jordan made her Perpetual Monastic Profession on March 10, 2012. The ceremony celebrated an eight-and-a-half year formal journey into monastic life that has included triumphs such as contributing to the Monastery’s capital campaign and returning to college to study social work. It has also included the challenges of leaving her friends and family in Houston and eventually, engaging in a battle with cancer.
For Kim Marie, however, it all began when she visited the Monastery for a two-week monastic living experience in the summer of 1997. Her son and daughter were grown and she had made several retreats at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in New Mexico. She was inspired to not only reclaim her Catholic faith but to explore the idea of religious life.
“I was taught by Benedictine sisters from Atchison, Kansas and always felt I had a Benedictine heart,” she says. “I found several Benedictine monasteries on the internet and learned about St. Gertrude’s. All of a sudden I was on a plane to Idaho.” During her two-week stay, Sister Kim Marie participated in daily life with the sisters in prayer, work, study and leisure. “In that time I could hear God say, ‘This is it. This is where I have brought you.’”
Kim Marie returned to her home in Houston to reckon with a growing sense of her calling to monastic life that was not only present in her waking hours but in her dreams. “I didn’t talk about it much until I met Father John,” she says. “He was my pastor at St. Anne’s Church and he really helped me figure it out.”
Father John Robbins, CSB accompanied Kim Marie on a trip to St. Gertrude’s in June, 2003 and encouraged her to take the next step. “He said he could see me here,” she recalls. “He also said that if I didn’t give myself the opportunity, I would spend the rest of my life wondering. The thing is, I knew. I just needed to give myself permission to know.”
By the following October, Kim Marie sold her house, quit her job and gave away most of her belongings. Her friend Father John agreed to accompany her on the drive to Idaho. Her adult daughter and son, Katie and Cary, waved their mother on as she began her journey.
“I learned to let go and let God speak to me. You really have to do that in religious life. A lot of times this call from God is not even in your own understanding. When I made First Profession I realized that actually understanding my call wasn’t necessary. I don’t know why God chose me. What was necessary was being open to the spirit of God that flows within me. It goes back to the Rule of Benedict: to listen.”
During Kim Marie’s early years, she worked in the Monastery’s development office, assisting with the capital campaign and various projects in preparation for the Monastery’s centennial celebration. Then three major events happened: Sister Kim Marie was accepted to the Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) School of Social Work, her friend Father John died of cancer – and she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I thought it really wasn’t very fair,” she recalls. “At one point I felt so bad, like God had abandoned me.” With support from her academic advisor, she attended school full-time that summer while undergoing chemotherapy and grieving the loss of her friend.
“I was also so blessed,” she adds. “My son came and took care of me for several weeks. We were able to come to a new level of relationship and he eventually made some important decisions for his life. And one of the greatest blessings was the support and love of my monastic community. Without their support, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time. It was the most perfect thing. That’s what happens in community: we love and support each other.”
She completed 400 hours of her Social Work internship at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and passed the Association of Social Work boards licensing exam. During her internship, Sister Kim Marie worked with social workers in all areas of the hospital and upon receiving her license, she was hired to work part-time. She was also inducted into the Phi Alpha Honor Society for academic achievement in her social work education.
On May 17, 2013, Sister Kim Marie was awarded an honors degree in Social Work from LCSC and celebrated being cancer-free for the past two years. She attended the Boise State University’s Master of Social Work Advanced Standing Program and received a Master of Social Work degree in May 2014. She works as a Patient Advocate at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, where she also did her internship.
“My first job at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center was as a critical care social worker – a highly rewarding job that allowed me to say at the end of each day, ‘I made a difference in someone’s life.’ Recently, I shifted my social worker’s heart to serve as the hospital’s Patient Advocate, where I spend my hours stepping forward and speaking on behalf of our patients and families. I try to act in a positive way, and to be cooperative, caring and knowledgeable. One of the most difficult things a person can endure is hospitalization for a serious illness. As an advocate for the needs and resources for our patients, I remember that my passion for helping people began with the core values of social work – the equality, worth and diversity of all people, respect for individuality, privacy and dignity.
“I feel called to hospital social work because you’re helping people who are vulnerable to live with dignity and have good outcomes when they leave the hospital. My experience with cancer showed me what it’s like to suffer, to be vulnerable and need help.”
Sister Kim Marie also finds a connection between social work and the Monastery of St. Gertrude’s vision statement: Prayer Awakens. Justice Impels. Compassion Acts. Thy Kingdom Come. “Our vision statement is really what social work is all about,” explains Sister Kim Marie.
She finds the most relevant aspect of the community’s vision is the commitment to prayer. “Prayer is so much a part of what it means to be Benedictine – gathering together to pray. As challenging as it was to learn to live in community, I really feel it suits me. When we are professed, we promise obedience. I have found that obedience is about being present to one another. That’s really good for me because I am kind of a control freak and what saves me is to live in community.”
“During formation I was asked, ‘Does this way of life give you life?’” recalls Sister Kim Marie. “It is, without a doubt, still giving me life.”
Idaho Public Television featured Sister Kim in an episode of “The 180.” What is it like to leave your comfortable life behind and enter a monastery? On this edition of The 180, host Marcia Franklin talks with Sister Kim Marie Jordan, a member of the Benedictine community at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho. Watch episode…