2016 Oblate Commitment Ceremony

2016 Oblate Commitment Ceremony

The reading we just heard, the Gospel story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 1-10), one of a series of parables and stories from the life of Jesus that have been presented to us over the last few Sundays, is one that many of us could recite by heart.

It probably captivated most of us even when we heard it as children. Many of us sang about it in the 1960s and 70s with Miriam Therese Winter’s catchy song, “Zacchaeus.” Now here we are years later, the story of Zacchaeus still with us, sending us, as all good parables and stories from the scriptures do, into yet another opportunity to glean from this Word of God both inspiration and insight.

As a reaction to his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaims to Jesus not only that he will give to the poor: “Look, half of my possessions I will give to the poor,” which by itself would be quite generous enough, but he also professes a commitment to make up for any financial wrongs he has done: “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Four times as much?! The generosity of what Zacchaeus offered must certainly have been amazing to those who witnessed it firsthand. It is even that way to most of us in our own time, too. Gratitude is one thing, sharing is admirable, but this is far beyond what is asked or usually offered. What can explain such a response?

I think that grace is at work here.

As I pondered the story with an awareness of the event that we celebrate today, what captivated me was the response of Jesus to Zacchaeus’ declaration of charity: “Today salvation has come to this house.”

Not only has salvation and deliverance come to Zacchaeus, but salvation has come to his whole house: his family—his household—every part of the lifeblood of his home. He has been transformed into a new person with deeper caring and deeper awareness. This moment of grace and salvation has flowed over onto family, friends and neighbors.

That is similar to how I feel every year when we come together to “add to our household” by accepting new initiates into the Oblate Way of Life here at Mount St. Benedict monastery and to witness the reaffirmation of those who are already a part of our community.

In August at our summer community days the sisters share with me their commitment to ministry and their annual response to our Corporate Commitment. As oblates you do the same, indicating how you will live out in the daily, Benedictine values and the ideals that drew you and continue to draw you into the heart of this community and its commitments.

We are transformed by your presence in our lives:
• many of you we see throughout the year as you are able to join us for other celebrations, retreats and weekends;
• some of you who live nearby often come for Morning or Evening Prayer;
• those who live near Erie are faithful in attending funerals for oblates, sisters and friends of the community;
• many of you connect with us and communicate with us through our website and prayer requests;
• and many of you are also donors, helping us to continue our good works both here in the Erie area and afar.

We are grateful for all of these interactions and for all that you are doing to live the Benedictine way of life in your own homes, neighborhoods, parishes and work places.

Many people and situations have been transformed by your words and actions, particularly through your commitment to the Rule of Benedict and the Oblate Way of Life in this community.

In our hearts may we all continue to climb trees and shout out to our God just like Zacchaeus did, asking that the Holy One be with us, making us the merciful, compassionate and justice-seeking followers of Jesus, Benedict and Scholastica that we long to be.

Photo: (Back, L-R) INitiate Karen Wishner, Oblate CO-Director Sister Dianne Sabol, Prioress Sister Anne Wambach; (Front, L-R): Initiates Andreina Alvarado and Bonnie Johnson, and Oblate Co-Director Sister Ann Hoffman

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.