Being Benedictine in the 21st Century

Being Benedictine in the 21st Century

A total of 20 Erie Benedictine sisters, oblates and friends joined 200 other Benedictine seekers connected to more than 50 monasteries around the country for the Being Benedictine in the 21st Century Conference and Conversation last weekend, May 28-30.

Erie Benedictine Linda Romey, whose dream to have such a conversation came to fruition with the event, explained, “Sometimes it’s simply a matter of following one’s heart. I was fortunate that the other people I asked to help pull this off shared my dream.” They were Judith Valente, an oblate of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS, and an author and retreat leader, who co-chaired the gathering and Sister Judith Sutera, a member of the Atchison community, monastic historian and scholar, who completed the three-person visioning and planning team.

Nearly three years in the making, the gathering was initially to take place on site in Atchison in June, 2020, with Erie Benedictine Joan Chittister giving the keynote address. Because of the pandemic, it became a virtual gathering. Regardless of the medium, Sister Joan captured the essence of being Benedictine in her keynote.

To be a Benedictine means, Sister Joan began, “to be a card-carrying member of one of the most long-standing spiritual institutions (1,500 years) in the church.” She continued, “But being Benedictine, being in heart and soul a Benedictine, now that is something different.

“That’s something that develops from era to era bearing its values through time, and as it moves across the world, shaping it to fit the age they are in. Being Benedictine requires us to mean something real today, to shine a light into today’s darkness, to live as Jesus lived, with integrity and courage, not in a particular century but in every century and that makes all the difference between to ‘be a Benedictine’ and ‘being Benedictine.’”

Oblate Judith Valente and Sister Judith Sutera were conference presenters, and a four-person panel, Kathleen Norris, Judith Halling, OSB, Martin Shannon, and Katie Gordon, each offered insight from their own experience of being Benedictine: as oblate, millennial seeker, vowed member, and non-traditional community.

The core of the weekend consisted of facilitated sessions, the conversation itself. Although somewhat hampered by the limitations of Zoom technology, small and large group conversation began a process of exploring how the Benedictine tradition could be lived more broadly in response to the needs of our time. Mark Clarke of CommunityWorks, Inc. facilitated the sessions.

“We took advantage of the year-long delay in our conference by holding periodic Zoom gatherings throughout this past year,” said Sister Linda. “This gathering built upon those conversations, and we hope to continue holding this space for ongoing dialogue, a Benedictine think tank of sorts.”

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