There are many paths to God

There are many paths to God

Full Incorporation
April 21, 2018
Sister Jacinta Conklin, OSB

Good afternoon, I am Sister Anne Wambach, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie and, on behalf of all of our sisters, I welcome you to Mount Saint Benedict, on this very special occasion.

In the summer of 1852, three sisters from the Benedictine convent of St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Bavaria, Germany, arrived in the United States at the request of the Benedictine monks in Latrobe, Pennsylvania who had already been in this country a decade. They were asking if sisters would come and minister to the German immigrants in Pennsylvania, particularly the German settlers in the town of St. Marys.

Two years later, in early 1854, four more sisters were sent from St. Walburg to the Benedictine convent that was growing quickly in St. Marys.

During this time, the Bishop of Erie asked these new US Benedictine sisters if they could send sisters to Erie to teach the children of German immigrants here. In 1856, five sisters set out from St. Marys and came to Erie.

Over the years both communities flourished and started numerous other Benedictine monasteries of women throughout the United States.

Today, many decades later, we celebrate a very happy occasion, as we welcome one of the sisters from St. Joseph Monastery in St. Marys to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, to transfer her monastic vows and become a member of this Benedictine community.

Sister Jacinta has been with us for two years now. In that time we have come to know her and she has come to know us. We have prayed with her, talked with her, worked with her, laughed with her. We have shared meals, celebrations, discussions and community events. We have welcomed her as our sister and very easily grown to love and accept her. I believe she has embraced us also.

It is with the greatest pleasure and joy that we welcome her, formally, into the Benedictine Sisters of Erie today.

The Second Reading for this weekend’s Sunday Liturgy is a perfect commentary for this gathering. From the First Letter of John we read: “See what Love God has given us, that we should be called the beloved of God; and that is what we are….We are God’s beloved now; what we will be has not yet been revealed….”

I suspect that John was not thinking of Benedictine life when he wrote this, but nonetheless, how can we not make the parallel with the Rule of Benedict?

Initially, we set out on our journey to God, in the school of God’s service, the monastery. And yet, as Sister Jacinta and most of us in this chapel know, we learn as we travel through life, that we do not know what will be revealed along the way.

In whatever will be revealed, in whatever we will be as life goes along, there is one thing that is certain: God is there through it all. The same God that was with us at ages 18 and 30 is the God who is with us today. We change, indeed, but God is always the same and always by our side, deep in our hearts.

As the Persian poet Rumi wrote, “There are many paths to God.” And we know that whatever path we happen to be on, we will have God as a companion. As a Benedictine for many years, Sister Jacinta has walked with God and knows God well. She knows the Rule of Benedict and has lived it with great faith and constancy since she was a young girl and first came to the monastery.

I trust that Sister Jacinta, in coming to Erie and entering into a new group of sisters, has found much more in common among us than in differences between us—especially in the things that really matter in living the Benedictine monastic life.

Sister Jacinta, we welcome you into this community—now, your community. We are so grateful to have you with us.

As the Rule exhorts us, “Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may Christ bring us all together into everlasting life.”

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.