Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Special Gathering


This past weekend at our monastery we had a gathering of Benedictine women in formation from three monasteries of the Federation of Saint Benedict: Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, N.D., Saint Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, Minn., and our own monastery. 

A few years ago our Vocation-Formation team recognized the importance of bringing together women in formation to give them the opportunity to meet each other, to receive input on a topic relevant to their formation and to recreate together. During introductions on Friday evening we asked that as we introduced ourselves we would mention where we were from originally. The responses highlighted for me, and the others I believe, the new diversity of geographical locations our women come from. What do I mean by that? Well, when I arrived at Saint Benedict's from Canada in 1995, I could count on the fingers of one hand, well maybe two, the sisters - we were 450 at the time - who where from another country or state other than Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. This weekend these women were from the Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and one from right here in St. Joseph. 

The women in formation come to monastic life out of the experience of living rich professional lives, of being single or married with children, of having all the comforts of modern life - house or condo, car, cell phone, laptops, and opportunities for travel, etc.  I did not take a survey but if I were to ask them I suspect that one of the most challenging aspects of setting out in the monastic way of life with scripture and the Rule of Benedict to guide them would be giving up their freedom and self-will.  Imagine at 45-60 years old being told with whom you will live and, discerning with the help of the sub-prioress, what your ministry will be.

These women, along with other men and women who join monasteries and abbeys, learn very quickly that the only way they can grow and accept the challenges of religious life is by being women and men of prayer and deep reflection. Finally with God's grace supporting them they move out of their initial formation years as strong individuals ready for what lies in the future.

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