First Profession

First Profession

First Monastic Profession
Sister Dina Lauricella and Sister Karen Oprenchok
June 3, 2017

Good evening and welcome to this very special occasion, the First Monastic Profession of Sister Dina Lauricella and Sister Karen Oprenchok.

Nearly three years ago, both Dina and Karen literally “turned their lives upside down” in order to pursue a call that they had been hearing and decided to follow.

They left their homes, their careers, family, friends and all that had been familiar and comfortable in their lives, to come to a “new land” and step into a world of unknowns, into a new culture, a different way of moving through life‒all to see if the God they were seeking was calling them to a new path for their life’s journey.

Today Dina and Karen come before us to take the next serious step along the way: First Monastic Profession.

It seems fitting that this ceremony takes place on the weekend that the Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost. We heard in today’s Gospel: “Receive the Holy Spirit” ‒ and we echo that for Dina and Karen. Earlier in the reading Jesus turned to his followers saying, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you” and I repeat the same message today…it is truly what life is all about for a follower of Jesus:
1) We know that the Holy Spirit is always with us‒never leaving us, always accompanying our days;
2) Peace is the basis of Jesus’ life and message: peace for the whole world: among nations and peoples and within each of our own hearts;
3) We are not given these graces and blessings to keep for ourselves. We are sent out into our own part of the world:
• sent to dedicate ourselves to making life better for others;
• sent to tell all that they are worthy and precious in God’s eyes, and in ours, too;
• sent to bring the Good News of mercy, love, compassion, justice, community and kindness to everyone, everywhere, in every situation.

This is the way we are walking through life.

This is the “culture” that we are fostering and exemplifying by our own choices and our own behaviors.

This is the monastic community life that results from following the Rule of Benedict and the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Sisters Dina and Karen further embrace today.

Sister Aquinata Böckman, in her well-known commentary on the Rule of Benedict, has written this about monastic profession: “All three vows are concerned with community, the Rule, the prioress, and with following Christ and service to Christ. The promise through the vows refers mainly to living in community.”

Of the vow of stability she says, “Commentaries on stability vary from one to the next.” In reality stability has many parts:
• There is stability of heart: remaining in the love of Christ on the journey to God;
• Stability of feet: facing your own shadows, accepting yourself and trusting in God, where you are;
• Stability under obedience: accepting the direction and wisdom of others, particularly the prioress and the community;
• Stability under a Rule: remaining under a rule, which helps us to live according to the Gospel;
• And, stability in community, which is the core for us. The bond is to people, more than to a place. “We run together” along the course of love.

Obedience is the vow of listening: listening to the Rule of Benedict, to the Word of God, to the wisdom of the prioress, and listening to the sisters in community. It’s much more about listening and discerning what God is saying than it is about obeying directions blindly and without discernment.

The third vow, conversion to the monastic way of life, is just that: we promise to be in a constant state of change, of growth, of movement to our better selves; to be on a journey that will end in union with God.

Another wisdom source that I often consult is Joan Chittister’s commentary on the Rule, Insights for the Ages. We talk often, these days, about being seekers and about our own culture as being full of seekers‒seeking someone or something that will give meaning to life. We have hosted discernment weekends full of sincere and honest seekers where we have experienced this to be true.

In Insights for the Ages, Joan writes a classic statement about being a seeker: “The person who seeks God has already found God.” And, “If you want to be holy, stay where you are in the human community and learn from it.” These are, of course, profound monastic postures. If there is holiness to be found, it is right here around us. The hindrance is our sight, not its existence.

And, finally, this weekend is the great Feast of Pentecost‒the coming of the Holy Spirit to the first disciples and to us. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit become our wish and blessing to you, Dina and Karen:

• May the gift of wisdom help you to see the world as God sees it and make decisions always for the good of God’s people;
• May the gift of understanding help you to listen to and understand the messages of the scripture and prayer, leading to truth and peace and justice for all;
• May the gift of counsel lead you to good judgments and to speaking up for right relationships among various cultures, differing faiths and all nations;
• May the gift of fortitude give you courage to follow a steadfast journey in the ways of God;
• May the gift of knowledge of God’s plan for you and for our community be a light of clarity throughout your life on how to respond amidst the many divergent paths and opinions that exist among us;
• May the gift of piety, of reverence and devotion to the spiritual life, sustain you this day and every day of your life, so that your love of God grows deeper and deeper with each passing year;
• And may the gift of fear of God, the awe and glory of God, bring you ever closer to the ways of the divine and away from anything that is not of God for the life of the world.

These are our desires for you, Sister Dina and Sister Karen, on this day of your First Monastic Profession.

We are very happy to have you among us as Benedictine Sisters of Erie.
May peace be with you, today and always.

Photo: (L-R) Sisters Dina, Anne and Karen

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.