Sister Lillian Englert
For Sister Lillian Englert, Benedictine hospitality is more than cordial greetings and an invitation to eat. As a retreat facilitator on the Spirituality Ministry team, she sees her call to hospitality as something much deeper. “I welcome people to this space,” she explains, pointing around to the building that is Spirit Center. “But I also welcome people to a deeper place, God’s space.”
Along with the Spirit Center team, she facilitates individual retreats, the two annual “Come to the Quiet” retreats in January and June, and the Advent retreat. Silence is important, she says, because it is where “we can really listen to God. Silence invites us to be in our most sacred space.”
For many, however, the surrender to silence is anything but peaceful. That’s why Sister Lillian serves as a guide. She and the retreatant will initially meet for Spiritual Direction and then set a schedule that will provide the best support. “Many fear silence,” says Sister Lillian, “so we allow for options to talk. It helps to share what is happening.” She also adds that in the “Come to the Quiet” retreats, people appreciate the opportunity to experience shared silence as “supportive and powerful.”
As someone who prefers working with people one-on-one, it’s interesting to learn that Sister Lillian has also had a long career as a classroom teacher. After her Monastic Profession in 1963, she taught a wide range of ages and subjects, including religion, but eventually settled in for 18 years as English teacher at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise. In addition to her B.A. in Education, she earned a Master’s degree in theology and spirituality. Sister Lillian was called home from Boise to be Formation Director in 1989. During these seven years, she also began retreat work.
“I was a tough teacher,” she says with a sly smile, referring to her focus on developing “grammar and good taste”. “But I love teaching. There is no difference in where I am now. I am still teaching wherever I am.”
Born in Montana, she eventually entered college at Mt. Angel in Oregon, where the idea of religious life began to take root. Sister Lillian affirms that religious life was a natural fit for her even though it wasn’t always obvious. “Oh I was going to get married and have six boys,” she laughs. But after some encouragement from two aunts who were Sisters of Charity in Nazareth, Kentucky, she tentatively entered St. Gertrude’s after college, sight unseen.
Instead of raising six boys, Sister Lillian sees her creativity in terms of the numerous students who left her classroom with a good deal more “grammar and good taste” and the growing number of retreatants she is able to shepherd into silence so that they may emerge more alive and at peace.
“Silence provides an opportunity to meet God face to face,” she says. “That’s why I love this work.”