September 13, 2014 Jubilee Reflections

September 13, 2014 Jubilee Reflections

I am Sister Anne Wambach, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, and on behalf of all the sisters of our community, I welcome you to Mount Saint Benedict as we celebrate this very special occasion─the fifty years of monastic profession with our Sister jubilarians: Sisters Mary, Helen, Christine, Carolyn and Marian.

We are well aware that all of you─the parents, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, friends and co-workers of these sisters─have had a special role in enriching their lives and, in turn, enriching the life of our community through them. Thank you for all you have done for our sisters and thank you for joining us today.

Fifty years ago, in 1964, a simple yet profoundly written book was translated into English and published in the United States. The title of the book was Markings. This book was a kind of spiritual diary, a collection of reflections over a lifetime by the immediate past Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld who had died, while in office, at the age of 56 just three years before.

Not unlike St. Benedict, he came from a family of privilege, yet spent his adult life in service: first to people of his own country, Sweden, and eventually to the whole world through the United Nations. For over forty years, beginning when he was a young man, he wrote down his thoughts on the spiritual journey of life and death, sharing them in Markings. I would expect that the jubilarians, along with many young adults of that period, read it and were inspired by it.

Although it is now 50 years later, I find Hammarskjöld’s ideas, perhaps even more apropos than they were then.

These jubilarians entered religious life as young women and made commitments long before they had years of experience behind them. Hammarskjöld writes of such experiences: "I don't know who or what put the question, I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer yes to Someone‒or Something and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal."

Indeed, self-surrender─putting others’ concerns and needs before one’s own, stifling the allure of self-indulgence and security─is a component of any worthy life. It is surely a "goal" these sisters have achieved.

As Benedictines we anchor our life in our communal prayer. We chant the psalms daily, dedicate our talents to celebrating meaningful Eucharistic liturgies, and foster a life of personal relationship with God. An entry in Markings supports the importance of this internal life: "To preserve the silence within‒amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness where the rain falls and the grain ripens‒no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky."

This foundation allows us to minister in a world of many needs. The jubilarians have ministered with children, in schools and parishes, in Benedictine ministries that serve the poor and hungry and with those longing for and promoting peace in the world and in their own hearts.

Today, fifty years after their first commitment, these sister jubilarians live full and meaningful lives working with the people of God and keeping the charism of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie alive and active.

Sister Mary Miller's days are filled with administering and working at Emmaus Ministries─Emmaus Soup Kitchen, Food Pantry, Kids Café and Emmaus Grove─providing food for both the body and spirit.

Sister Helen Heher is the director of our Wellness Program and provides a full range of services for all of our sisters, including those needing assisted and skilled care. Helen organizes activities for so many of our community's special occasions.

You will find Sister Christine Kosin in Erie at the site of our first motherhouse on E. 9th Street where she works as a pre-school teacher at St. Benedict's Child Development Center. Chris is at home educating the young, once again.

Sister Carolyn G-K's spirituality office is in the same building, though many of her weekend retreat programs are held here at the monastery or "on the road." In her retreat work Carolyn shares the Spirit and awakens the Spirit in others always listening with an open ear and heart.

Sister Marian Wehler has lived and worked in the Oil City area for the last 7 years, ministering to the people of that area of the diocese through the Catholic Rural Ministry program. She touches the lives of young, old and in-between, offering her love of Benedictinism worldwide─both its presence and hospitality.

They are all doing marvelous work and extending an unparalleled dedication to it.

Dag Hammarskjöld would applaud their dedication for he knew well the price of such lifelong devotion when he wrote: "When the morning’s freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and, suddenly, nothing will go quite as you wish─it is then that you must not hesitate."

Yes, we all know the price of a lifetime of faithfulness. We know both the costs and the benefits. The Gospel we heard this afternoon is from tomorrow's Sunday liturgy when the Church celebrates the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It is certainly in reference to the sacrifice and glory of Jesus Christ, but it is also referring to each of us, to all who follow Jesus' way of life and are promised everlasting life through it.

It is an apt reflection for a Jubilee weekend─for these women who have spent their lives believing in, following and anticipating the Long Awaited One and sharing their beliefs with others─"that ALL may have eternal life."

I conclude in the only way that I know how: Thank you sisters—Mary, Helen, Christine, Carolyn and Marian. Thank you for your years of dedication, service, vision and generosity to this community, to all the people of God you have touched, cared for, helped, taught and from whom you also have learned.

Thank you for what you have brought to each of us who share this special celebration with you. We are blessed to have you with us─seeking God as a Benedictine Sister of Erie. We hope to continue seeking with you for many years to come.

May God’s graces be with you today and 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.