Rite of Entrance into the Novitiate

Rite of Entrance into the Novitiate

As we approach the end of the Church Year, all three readings for this Sunday challenge us to understand our life in terms of its ultimate purpose. The gospel parable of the talents and the Proverbs account of the valiant woman urge us to evaluate our service, our use of our gifts and our longing to share in the joy of living faithfully.

I would like to share some reflections on one part of the reading from the Book of Proverbs‒the well-known scripture on the valiant woman. Right in the middle of this reading is a line or two that, I think, speaks of and to all women, and especially to you, Ann, as you are about to enter into a novitiate year in this Benedictine community.

“She opens her hands to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…. A woman who reverences God is to be praised….let her works praise her.”

During your postulancy, Ann, I know that your experiences at SBEC afforded you the opportunity to open your hands and reach out to the poor and needy. Likewise, your days at our publication ministry of Benetvision had ample experiences for you to use your background in theology and the sharing of that with others.

I believe that the upcoming year in the novitiate will be an intensification of the virtues mentioned here. The novitiate is a time to increase the riches and talents that God has given to you. It is a time to spend being conscious of and enjoying God’s presence.
No doubt the years following it will bring days of care and response to the poor and needy among the people of God with whom we walk daily‒here in Erie certainly, and far, far beyond as well.

The novitiate is a time to be filled with the wisdom of the Spirit. This leads, of course, to a lifetime of kindness “on the tongue” as Proverbs directs, in your daily community interactions and in all your ministries with the people you serve there.

For us as monastic women these virtues flow out of the Spirit that we encounter in our prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical communal celebrations that we share. We have been given the “talent,” the gift to seek God in the communal life and to respond in prayer and ministry.

This sacred moment, Ann, the entrance into the novitiate, is a deep celebration of your willingness to begin a unique and special time‒a deep and holy year for you‒ and for us, too. It will indeed be the spiritual foundation of the rest of your life.

Our Federation document, Call to Life, reminds us: “A vocation to the Benedictine way of life is a call from God to shape one’s life according to the Benedictine charism.… During her time in initial formation, each woman studies and lives by the Gospel, the Rule, Call to Life, and the lived expression of these texts in the monastery.”

The material you will read, the prayer and community experiences you will have, are our experiences, too. We, in living with you, feel a renewed call to look at our own lives and the responses and commitments that we are living today. When we have a novice in our midst we, too, are called to growth and change.

I know that I speak for all of the sisters in saying that we feel deeply blessed by the presence of true “seekers” among us: Ann, you in the novitiate; Pat in first profession and Dina and Karen as postulants. Your desire to live the monastic life in this community encourages us and brings us great joy.

Ann, we welcome you to the novitiate. May you be open to the wisdom that you will find there and may you always make kindness one of your greatest gifts as you continue on your spiritual path.

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.