Listen with the ear of your heart.

Listen with the ear of your heart.

The new PBS Sunday series, Downton Abbey, has a strong Benedictine connection. The creator, Julian Fellowes attended the boarding school at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire, England run by Benedictine monks.

In a recent issue of The Tablet, England’s independent weekly Catholic magazine, Fellowes relates the story of his school years at Ampleforth that he began at age 9, and the influence the monks had on his adult career.

“There came a day when Father Dominic (a monk involved in the student theatre productions) and I were walking from somewhere towards the theatre. I can remember the moment well, and he asked me what I planned to do with my life…. ”If I were you,” he said, “I should look into the world of the theatre and acting. I think there might be something there for you.”

Fellowes goes on to credit both Father Dominic and his own parents for their encouragement. It gave him the courage to pursue what was then only a dream and one that he lacked the nerve to entertain: a career in the theater.

I was a teacher long enough to know that this story is both common and yet very significant. The influence all adults can have on children is great, as is the influence each of us can have on another adult, as well.

Fellowes closes the article by musing on whether or not his growing love of acting and the theater would have “taken root as it did” had Father Dominic not encouraged him on that day when they were walking across the fields of Ampleforth Abbey over 40 years ago. As Benedict tells us, “Listen with the ear of your heart” and be sure to encourage others to take their dreams seriously.

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.