Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Installation Day

Sunday we celebrated the installation of Sister Michaela Hedican as the 16th prioress of Saint Benedict's Monastery. It was a gorgeous day and both the private Rite of Installation in the morning and the celebratory Eucharist in the afternoon were gorgeous liturgies filled with energy and joy.

The Rite of Installation takes place with the monastic community and Sister Michaela. The president of our federation, Sister Susan Hutchens, a Benedictine from St. Mary's Monastery in Rock Island, Illinois, presided. We also invited members of our federation, other Benedictine prioresses and S. Michaela's family to join us for this rite.

At the center of the rite is the "covenanting of prioress and community." Sister Susan asks Michaela if she is prepared to serve the community as prioress and accept this ministry. Her answer each time is, "I am, with the help of God's empowering love and the help of my community." Then the Sisters pledge to assist Sister Michaela by responding together. In the first response we say, "We have called you, Sister Michaela Hedican, to be our spiritual leader, who, by your love and service, are a visible sign of Christ's presence in our midst." The second response is our mission statement.

After Sister Susan has conferred the Rule and Cross to Sister Michaela as signs of her office, each Sister comes forward and places her folded hands into the hands of Sister Michaela. It is that moment that is pictured here. It is very profound, especially in a community as large as ours. We currently have 288 Sisters, of which almost 200 were in attendance.

The whole day was full of light, and Bishop John Kinney remarked that during the celebratory Mass that afternoon, while the Gospel was being read, a shaft of light shone down directly on Sister Michaela. We don't like to put too much emphasis on such coincidences, but it was a glorious moment that could not have been planned by any earthly liturgist.

Sunday was a day of hope and joy in the monastery, when indeed Christ was present to us in many ways.

photo by Paul Middlestaedt; Sister John Bernard Plantenberg places her hands into the hands of Sister Michaela as a sign of obedience and support during the covenanting ritual. Behind her are Sister Danile Knight and Sister Mary Weidner.

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