From the Prioress

Jubilee Reflections
July 27, 2019

July 27, 2019

I am Sister Anne Wambach, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, and on behalf of all of the sisters of our community, I welcome you to Mount Saint Benedict Monastery as we celebrate this very special occasion: the 50th, the Golden Jubilee, of our Sisters Rosanne Loneck, Susan Doubet, Jacinta Conklin and the 25th Silver Jubilee of Sister Ann Muczynski.

All of you‒their sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, friends and co-workers and oblates have had a special role in their lives and, in turn, in enriching the life of our community. We are so glad that you are able to celebrate with us today.

I would like to share with you some of my reflections on the Gospel reading that we just heard and also look at one of the other readings that will be proclaimed at liturgy tomorrow.

This reading from the Gospel of Luke is obviously about praying–and not just everyday praying, but persistent and determined praying. It has three distinct parts. The first is the Prayer of Jesus or The Our Father...a bedrock of Christianity and one of the first prayers children learn…and that, hopefully, stays with them all of their lives.

The second is a literal example of one way of living out that Prayer in which we say, “Give us each day our daily bread” and then Jesus shares a parable about a person coming to ask for bread. The only twist here is that it is the middle of the night and the person’s friend doesn’t really want to get up and do it. This little story ends with a kind of reward or outcome for the person’s persistence and an encouragement to all of us in our relationship with God: “Ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.”

Now of course, as we grow in our spiritual journey we learn that this is not meant to be literally true! But the spirit of prayer, the building of a relationship with the Divine is true and real and evolving, if we are faithful in this relationship, the doors of life are indeed opened for us. We know that as we stay close to God, to the ways of the creator, we will be taken into that life and receive understanding, wisdom and grace as great spiritual gifts for this life.

The third part of the Gospel and the reading from the book of Genesis that we will hear Sunday also caught my attention. I think it’s because they have inside of them a bit of a puzzle, an enigma. One that, when understood, will surely lead to more and more enlightenment as we dive into their messages.

The one at the end of this Gospel uses the analogy that one would not give someone a snake when they ask for a fish, or respond to a child with a scorpion instead of with the egg they asked for. What is this all about?

Of course it is again all about the trust we have in God, the things of God, the mystery of God.

As the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis wrote about prayer and its effects, “I pray not to change God, but to change me.”

Tomorrow’s reading from the Book of Genesis extends this relationship with God. It relates a back and forth conversation between Abraham and God, when the possible destruction of the city of Sodom is near.

Abraham asks God if he would spare the city if there are 50 righteous people living within it, and God says, “Yes, the city would be spared.” Then Abraham bravely asks if the city could avoid destruction if 45 righteous people lived there. Again, God answers, “Yes.” We move then to only 40 good people and then to 30 and then to 20 and then, “Oh God be not angry, suppose 10 are found there?” Abraham laments, and God answers, “I will not destroy it on account of the 10.”

We might ask why Abraham stopped at ten. He should go on to 5 then 4, and get to the really big question, “God will you save Sodom if one righteous person lives within the city?”

What do you think God would say?!

Persistence! Determination. Resolve. Steadfastness.

Abraham, through his relationship with God, has drawn very near to the Divine. He is sharing what’s in his heart. It is an example of what we, too, will do as our needs, anxieties, frustrations, joys and gratitude become a part of our ongoing relationship with the Holy One.

All of this has been prelude to a summary of the lives of these four women with whom we celebrate today. They have been Abraham–they have come for bread or given bread–they have asked, searched, knocked and the door has been opened– time and time and time again.

Their life in community and their work in their ministries among the people of God, within our natural world, and throughout their own lifelong development have enabled them to understand the puzzles, the hidden messages, the mysteries that Jesus relates in his parables and in so many stories of both the Old and New Testaments.

They have persisted and dedicated 25 and 50 years to pursuit of the intangibles, that I believe, that I know, are not so intangible to them now.

Sisters, your talents, your commitments, your love for monastic life have done so much to make our community what it is today and the world a better place for all its people.

We are very grateful for your lives; for your constant and unending search for the Living God, for your generosity to this community, to your families, friends and to the people with whom you have interacted for all of these years. You have touched and transformed so many others.

Jubilee congratulations to each of you and may the joy of today and the celebration of a lifetime of commitment to the ways of God, be with you always.

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.