Sister Meg Sass
“Monastic life has taught me how to pray,” says Sister Meg. “In particular Sister Josepha, who was challenged by being both blind and deaf, taught me to pray for perseverance, to pray that I stay faithful. I want a relationship with God and I really believe doing it with a group of people whose emphasis is on prayer is the best way to do that.”
Sister Meg began her journey with the St. Gertrude’s community over fifty years ago. Raised in Twin Falls, a rapid succession of events in her teens led her to recognize her call although her parents gave her the freedom to explore religious life at her own pace. “It was their levelheadedness that helped me both discern and live my vocation,” says Sister Meg.
After entering, she completed her junior and senior year of high school and started college as a novice. Then she finished her Bachelor’s degree at Gonzaga University and University of Idaho. In 1962, she made her First Monastic Profession. She taught school for 13 years before heading to Chicago’s Loyola University for a Master in Pastoral Studies. “Chicago was a wonderful time,” she remembers. “I got to experience all the different cultures and had my first entrée into social organization.”
Back in Idaho, Sister Meg found herself working with an ecumenical team of ministers called Interlink in Lewiston that were focused on improving care of the elderly. Soon she became the head of Parish Social Ministry for the Diocese of Spokane. She helped found an outreach services center called Our Place in 1987 that is still serving the community to this day. She also founded or cofounded ecumenical outreach centers in Medical Lake, Spokane Valley, Cheney (Caritas), Emmanual Presbyterian (Omega), and St. Joseph’s (near Mead High School).
After 13 years in Spokane, Sister Meg was called home to the Monastery to be assistant prioress to Sister Jean Lalande. This term of leadership saw the building of Spirit Center that now serves nearly 3,000 people a year. “Like everyone else in the world, even the Monastery is challenged to walk in uncertainty. But you make the commitment and whatever the future brings, God is already there,” she explains.
From 2006 until 2014, Sister Meg served at the Boise diocesan center as Regional Coordinator for Parish Life and Faith Formation, working with the northern part of the state from Riggins to Canada. She now lives at the Monastery where she is taking an active role in liturgy, especially in playing the organ for Mass and prayer. She also serves on the Spirituality Ministry Team as a spiritual director and retreat leader.
“It is a real transition,” she explains. “But there is more time for Lectio and it is easier to stay involved with community. My life has been very focused on direct ministry. Now I am noticing new things about living in community. The threads of our daily commitments weave together. We all do our parts, and when you are bogged down other people pick up the pieces. Some people are especially faithful to prayer. There are other people you can count on to start a conversation when you are tired. We have people active in social justice and other programs that make us an effective community. Commitment isn’t possible without other people.”
Sister Meg has pondered how a monastic community in rural Idaho can change the world. “There are so many problems in the world we can’t even imagine,” she says. “Many people don’t even have a cup of water. The Monastery says maybe we can’t fix these problems, but can keep our commitments to prayer and we can pray. We can tap into the power of God for whom nothing is impossible.”
“I wake up every morning and make the commitment to what God is asking, I promise to listen and then to say yes. There is such a power in commitment. I know people are afraid of commitment but that what you commit yourself to will carry you and hold you — and what you commit yourself to is God.”