Intergenerational living group celebrates Young Alumni Award

Sister Karen, Katie, Sisters Rosanne, Lucia and Claire Marie live in intergenerational community.

The four sisters who live in community at Pax Priory, a small-group living community of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, have been responding to the call of the gospel and living according to the Rule of Benedict for decades. They know intimately the blessings and challenges of community life and are well-seasoned in the art of patience and fortitude necessary to face the daily challenges of working for peace and calling for justice. The youngest of the four is 80, the oldest, 87.

In early October the sisters, Karen Kosin, Lucia Surmik, Claire Marie Surmik and Rosanne Lindal-Hynes, hosted a small COVID-limited gathering to honor the fifth member of their small living group, Millennial Katie Gordon--whose presence makes the group "intergenerational." Katie, a 2013 graduate of Alma College in Alma, Michigan, had recently received the college's Young Alumni Award for her work with Nuns and Nones.

Katie is a co-founder of Nuns and Nones, a nonprofit organization focused on creating new futures for the legacies and sacred spaces of religious and monastic life. Through a series of synergistic connections Katie came to know the Erie Benedictines in 2018 and, after completing her Master of Divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School, with a desire to live in intergenerational community she asked to move into Pax Priory. She continues her work with Nuns and Nones and joined the staff at Monasteries of the Heart, an online movement sharing Benedictine spirituality with contemporary seekers, a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters. She splits her time between the two.

"I wanted to live in a community where I could learn and live into rhythms of contemplation and action in my daily life," explained Katie. "As I continue to grow in my spiritual and social activism, I knew it was essential for me to be rooted in a tradition that has been practicing this not only for generations, but for centuries - and millennia. "

The shared living has been beneficial for the older generation, too. "We have been building community and working for justice for so many years," said Sister Karen. "Sisters are aging and younger members are fewer so we are excited to know first-hand that there are young people doing the same work we are, people who want to be connected to community."

The Erie Benedictines do have Millennial members and there are other Millennials like Katie who have chosen to live in Erie (although not with the sisters), work in Benedictine ministries and be involved in peace and justice efforts alongside the sisters and oblates (men and women formally committed to a monastery and to living Benedictine values in their lives). This Millennial presence creates a unique peer group within the larger group of professed sisters and oblates. "It is a fertile ground for exploring questions of spirituality, community and justice," said Katie.

Likewise, the presence of the Millennials stretches the older generations. A recent student of Zoom technology, Sister Lucia joined Katie for an online training offered by the Poor People's Campaign. Katie and the sisters also participated in the virtual Nuns on the Bus 2020 tour. "Katie is helping us learn the new technology," said Sister Lucia. "We have been doing this work for years and now we're learning new ways, especially during this pandemic, to keep doing the work."

"It gives us hope for the future," said Sister Rosanne. "The message is the same, it is about bringing hope, making the world a kinder place for all of us, but especially for the poor and disenfranchised."

Pictured above, Sister Karen, Katie, Sisters Rosanne, Lucia and Claire Marie live together in intergenerational community.