Final Profession Reflection

Final Profession Reflection

Perpetual Monastic Profession
Patricia Witulski, OSB
October 7, 2017

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Mount St. Benedict Monastery on this very happy and blessed occasion‒the celebration of Perpetual Monastic vows by one of our members, Sister Patricia Witulski.

Today we witness the profession of a woman who is responding to the constant call of God throughout her lifetime.

As Pat wrote to me in her letter of request, “I am certain that God is directing my steps toward a lifelong commitment to love him/her totally, absolutely, and forever through and within this Community. My heart’s desire is to continue to learn how to embody the love of God as a seeker.”

Pat, I think that you are embodying the love of God every day, at this point in time especially, in your dedication to our community and particularly to the ministry you have found here.

We know that there are some 240 million international migrants (persons living in a country other than where they were born) in our world today. At least 43 million immigrants are in the United States alone and 20,000 are in Erie, half of them are also refugees.

You, Pat, and the other sisters and staff at St. Benedict Education Center, have been at the epicenter of this evolving reality and its effects in Erie. The stories you bring home where you tell us about the special immigrant people you have met, relate their stories and rejoice in their accomplishments bring all of us into the same awareness and joy of accomplishment that you have.

We are so grateful for your dedication and your work there. I believe that you surely embody the God you seek as you work with the participants at SBEC. So many of the current residents of Erie need our help and the new immigrants to our city need the same.

In the reading from the Letter of Paul to the Philippians that we will hear this weekend, the apostle enumerates things that are pleasing and worthy of praise as a follower of Jesus. I can parallel his listing with things that all Benedictine women of this community live and proclaim by their lives.

You, too, have come to share these and know that they are the basis of your life, Pat.
• A dedication to the poor and those in need
• Hospitality that sees Christ in all
• A daily listening to God through prayer and lectio
• The special bonds that are formed in living community life with each other
• Daily conversion to the Gospel path of Jesus
• and, the pursuit of peace everywhere, at all times and in all hearts, beginning with our own.

Paul ends his list of virtues with the line, “Keep on doing the things that you have learned, received, heard and seen in me, and the God of Peace will be with you.”
And, we end with the conclusion that for those who have as one of their greatest priorities in life: the seeking of God, these perpetual monastic vows become the capstone of that life:

Your vow of obedience is a promise to listen to the voice of God, wherever and whenever you hear that voice and to make the will of God visible to all. You are to call us all to listen and to respond‒to make a positive difference in the world.

Your vow of conversion to the monastic way of life incorporates monastic virtues and practices that will bring you into the heart of the Gospels and the heart of God here on earth and your witness will bring others there, too.

And finally, your vow of stability keeps you “in it” for the long run. Stability that is based on the sanctity of relationships and a commitment to the people with whom you share life.

Your God has been a constant source of call to you, Pat, and I am sure that your response will be just as continuous throughout all your years as a Benedictine Sister.

Finally, I love what Cistercian Michael Casey says is the cumulative effect of the vows, virtues and practices of monastic life. He says that monastic life becomes “like a second skin.” And isn’t that so true?! We welcome you, Pat, to permanent membership as a Benedictine Sister of Erie. We are blessed, grateful and very happy to have you among us.

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.