Religious Life: Life for the World

Religious Life: Life for the World

July 11, 2014
Feast of Benedict

Two weeks ago I returned home from participation in the General Chapter of the Federation of St. Scholastica. Coincidently, the Gospel for today’s feast is a summary of our discussions and considerations during those days and I want to share some of my reflections from it with you.

The Gospel of Matthew related the parable of a farmer sowing and the various places where his seeds landed. Some places had no depth, no roots; others were places of stability. The introduction to our prayer worship aide at the Chapter began with a reflection on seeds and their significance in the development of the tree, using water and nutrients in their growth.

When the parable ends with “Let everyone heed what they hear,” you can understand how it reminded me that our Benedictine instruction to listen and act on what you hear, was a major component of all of the areas of our Chapter considerations.

Again the Gospel has Jesus reminding his disciples that they “have been given a knowledge of the mysteries of the reign of God.” At the Federation Chapter, which had the theme: “Faithful Evolution: Embraced by Hope,” we had a presentation on living in these evolving times from a Benedictine heart, by Sister Carol Zinn, current president of the LCWR. We were fortunate to have had Carol for a similar presentation to our community just two years ago. She reminded us that a worldview that acknowledges that everything is connected is essential.

In light of her words and ideas we looked at some of the challenging “signs of our times” such as violence, hostility, complacency, exclusion, consumerism, technology, power, exploitation of the environment and economic disparity.

For each of these we were able to find, in the Benedictine heart, a characteristic, a value or the knowledge to parallel these realities‒a monastic quality out of which we live: hospitality, mutual obedience, conversatio, mindfulness, care of the earth, humility, reverence, good zeal and community.

We pondered the words of contemporary religious writers on religious life in our time in history; we were inspired by the ideas of ground breakers in the field of evolution; we incorporated the reflections of great thinkers on the mysteries of life and looked at all of them in terms of the leadership that is needed in today’s world‒in our governments, our businesses, our educational facilities, our church and in our communities.

We were reminded that religious life, though lived in the church and through the church is not for the church but rather it is for the life of the world. Dominican Don Goergen says that a religious community places itself in the center of the unmet needs of God’s people.

The gifts of community and of faith, hope and love that we share, help us to live out this mission, the mission of Jesus. They ground us, they support us and they enable us to meet rather than retreat from the challenges of the new realities that surround us in these evolving times.

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.