Being Grateful

Being Grateful

Annual Appreciation Dinner for Major Benefactors: May 14, 2014

Good evening and welcome to our home. I am Sister Anne Wambach, prioress of this Benedictine community. It is one of my privileges each year to express to you, our benefactors, the enormous gratitude that the sisters and I have both for you, and for your generosity. This evening is a time to relax and catch up with old friends, make new friends and to take a moment from our busy schedules to celebrate what is most important in our lives ─ a community of friendship and mutual support.

Pope Francis says we must “serve with love to protect God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”

He also says: “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete.”

These are challenging words for all of us: serve with love, embrace all humanity . . .

These words of Pope Francis reveal his Benedictine heart! Since the 6th century Benedictines everywhere have tried to live by the belief that all should be greeted as Christ. For fifteen hundred years people have been trying to live this ideal. Like us, I’m sure they struggled.

In the 21st century modern technology and communications reach us in a nanosecond. On our televisions, computers, and phones we are bombarded by images of violence across a world that is becoming increasingly small, and a society ever more divided and fearful. Muslims are pitted against Christians; black against white; rich against poor; the political right against the left; the powerful against the powerless; straight against gay . . . . It’s in this climate of differences that fear and individualism become the norm of the day.

It’s happening in Syria, the Ukraine, Nigeria, and, yes, right here in Erie. People are hungry, don’t have a roof over their heads, don’t go to school, don’t have access to healthcare, are paid minimum wage, and even though a single mother might work two jobs she can’t get out of the vicious cycle of poverty and violence.

When we look at the picture worldwide I expect that sometimes, like me, you might feel overwhelmed and discouraged. The problems of injustice appear huge and insurmountable. Perhaps we feel that we can’t do anything to bring about change. How can we prevent the 18,000 children from dying around the world every day? How can we provide education for the millions of children worldwide who are denied this human right? How can we make schools a safe haven for children where they can learn and flourish in safety and not worry about being shot? The idea that 200 young girls can be kidnapped in Nigeria is unthinkable!

Today I have hope because of you. You are with us because you believe that we can change things. Each and every one of you are helping to bring about change right here on our doorstep, one person, one child, one boss, one company, one family, one neighborhood, one inequality, one injustice at a time. With your help we have been able to do many things:

• Vacant lots are becoming poetry parks.
• Murder sites are being reclaimed through prayer and reconciliation.
• Inner city teenagers are being kept out of trouble through after school programs and are being fed a hot meal.
• Children who wouldn’t normally have access to the arts are broadening their horizons through learning the violin, painting, or photography.
• Imaginations are coming alive because preschool children are experiencing art at our local museum.
• Children forget for one moment that they are in a wheelchair while they play basketball.
• Refugees can begin to chat to their neighbors because they are learning to speak English.
• Low income elders are celebrated, active, and safe ─ living in beautiful surroundings adjacent to this monastery.

The sisters and I believe in empowering people and enriching people. We believe that education and equal opportunity are the foundation for real equality, employment creation, and economic growth for all. I know you share this belief because you are here today.

You join with us to bring about the change needed so all are treated as Christ. Equality for all is the only way our society and world is going to change.

As Pope Francis says, “Serve with love . . . to protect God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”

I thank you again, on behalf of the sisters and all those we serve, for your financial support. Because of you I have hope that we can make a small corner of the world a better place to live ─ a place where justice and equality can thrive. Where to love our neighbor as Pope Francis says “is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete.”

We value your relationship with this Benedictine community. Your friendship and presence here today enriches our lives.

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.