Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lay Women and Women Religious

Recently I was interviewed by a first year college student who is doing a research paper on a topic something like, “The Effect of the Women’s Movement on the Monastery and College of Saint Benedict.” In the course of our discussion, one of the topics that came up concerned the ways in which we as Sisters had begun to have more contact with lay women as they took jobs right within our monastery living and work areas.

We have had the help of lay women as receptionists for many, many years. I believe it is twenty years or longer that lay women began to work with us in our Monastery Dining Room. In earlier times that inner sanctuary would have been staffed only by Sisters. We have had lay women nurses taking care of our health for several decades. It must be almost twenty years since Elaine Wenning became one of the major lights in our business office. Recently lay women have become invaluable in the Development and the Leadership Offices. Our wonderful Volunteer Services have brought both lay women and lay men into our midst; however, the majority of these volunteers are women.

I believe we cannot overestimate the value of these lay women’s influence. They enrich our lives daily. One of the teachings of Vatican II established the fact that the vowed religious vocation was not higher or better than the life vocation of the lay person. In addition, the beautiful statement on the universal call to holiness was clearly expressed in Vatican II.

Perhaps some of these teachings were influential to us in our newfound relationships, but my guess is that it was the lovely experience of getting to enjoy the presence of our lay sisters that has made us value and treasure this relationship. In turn we have found out how heartening the support of these women has become as they take on the many interests and causes of our monastic life together. We have found them to be our dedicated and loyal allies.
photo: Sister Rebecca Schmidt and nursing assistant Nikki Treb at St. Scholastica Convent.

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