Golden Jubilee: September 23, 2017

Golden Jubilee: September 23, 2017

On behalf of all the sisters of our community, I welcome you to Mount Saint Benedict as you celebrate this very special occasion with us: the 50th, the Golden, Jubilee of our Sister Margaret Ann Pilewski‒Sister Peg.

I know that all of you‒her sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, friends and co-workers and oblates have had a special role in enriching Peg’s life, being enriched by her and, in turn, enriching the life of our community. We are so glad that you are joining us today.

From what I read there were nine young women who began the Benedictine novitiate back in 1966, but as the weeks passed, the months moved into years and the years into decades, we find ourselves today 50 years from their first monastic profession of vows in 1967, with one of them, one woman, Sister Peg, who has spent her lifetime on that same path that she began many years ago.

The 1960s were a tumultuous time in the Catholic Church and in American society. In the aftermath of Vatican Council II, the emergence of the women’s movement, the upheavals of the Vietnam War and numerous other societal changes, young women found themselves with a new abundance of choices for their careers and for their life commitments. Even within religious life, women who had entered very young‒age 18 for most‒were able to freely pursue a different path if they discovered that their call led elsewhere.

I know that Peg was aware of all this, as we all were. But for her, this early commitment remained where she found the call of God, and a strong call with an equally faithful response was to be her journey from those days until the present.

My friendship with Peg was formed over our mutual ministry at the Inner-City Neighborhood Art House, as we both were part of its very first year and our friendship continued there together for fifteen years in total.

Peg took hold of the art curriculum and offerings with great skill and love. A love for the many and varied aspects of art, but also for art education. Her own excellent teaching in clay and other art media benefitted the hundreds of children that have gone through her classes.

In 2010 both of our ministries changed and for the past seven years Peg has found herself more into administration at the Art House, fully involved in finding the best teachers not only for the art classes, but for classes in music, literacy and dance, as well.

Your energy, enthusiasm and commitment, Peg, have modeled a dedication to ministry and to children that I’m sure was cultivated in those earliest years in parochial grade schools and high schools, but which has truly flowered in your Art House experience.

Thank you so much for helping to make the Neighborhood Art House a vibrant ministry for more than twenty years.

Now for the “rest of the story,” one that perhaps those of us in community with Peg know best.

There are three lines that I am choosing among the many that we will hear in the readings for this weekend. I believe that one phrase from each of the readings perfectly fits Sister Peg’s life and her contributions to this community.

First: in tomorrow’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah we will hear: “Seek God while God may be found, call upon God while God is near.”

Seeking God is a Benedictine virtue nurtured from the very first days the monastic comes to the monastery. Our life of lectio, daily communal prayer, a personal relationship with God, contemplation, and the daily ins and outs of sharing community life are all about this seeking. We look for God everywhere and we find God everywhere. Peg, you certainly have found God in many places, in many people and in many experiences throughout your Benedictine life—and in turn you have enriched the lives of so many others.

The Gospel of Matthew, that we just heard, ends with this question: “Are you envious because I am generous?”

God-like generosity, even when it makes little sense in the human measurement of things, also typifies our life as Benedictine women. We give ourselves away and we give our talents freely—whenever and wherever they are asked or needed. There is no “pay” worth this profuse sharing, no just recompense for a lavish heart. We are here to be generous, to give our life away‒and Peg, you have given in abundance.

And, finally, in the reading to the Philippians, Paul writes: “Live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”

It’s almost as if the reading was chosen for a Golden Jubilee moment. Your life, Peg, and hopefully all of ours, too, has been lived in a manner worthy of a follower of the Gospel of Christ. Fifty years of “remaining a viable presence in my Benedictine community” as you wrote in your own reflections on being a jubilarian; fifty years of love and faithfulness to your family, your friends, your community of sisters, your commitments and goals‒it has all been exemplary and commendable.

We are very grateful for your life, Sister Peg, your fidelity to those hopes and dreams of the young woman five decades ago and the fulfillment she now experiences and enjoys today.

Jubilee congratulations to you and may the graces of our creator God, our savior Jesus Christ, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit, be with you today, as they have been throughout your life

‒and may they continue into your future days.

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.