How does one know she is called to the monastic life?
There is not a "one-size-fits-all" answer to this question. For some, it is simply a certainty that they feel within. Others may be aware of a general compatibility of monastic values with their own values and inclinations. Yet others may be drawn to a specific aspect of the monastic vocation, perhaps the vow of stability, or the priority of community life. For all, it is a matter of trust coupled with careful and thorough discernment. Once an initial "yes" to monastic life is made, the initial formation period offers a sustained time of continued discernment as one lives, prays, and works within the community.
What qualities or characteristics do you look for in those seeking entry to your community?
We value the rich diversity of personalities in our community, yet there are some common qualities that help one adjust healthily to the demands of monastic life. Among the characteristics we look for are:
1) A woman who seeks God through prayer, is active in the liturgical, sacramental, and community life of her parish, and desires to be of service to others
2) Someone who is well-adjusted with a positive view on life, has a sense of humor and the ability to be flexible
3) A woman who is congenial and relates easily with many types of people, and is able to balance this with an appreciation of silence and solitude
4) A healthy individual - in body, mind, and spirit
5) Someone who is able to live simply
6) A woman who is able to make and keep commitments, particularly as they relate to the promises of monastic profession and the commitments of community life
Normally, we expect women to be at least 20 years of age and not more than than 45. Exceptions can be made but more discernment is required. She is expected to have completed high school or a GED and have at least two years of college or work experience. Concerning a convert to Catholicism, or someone returning after an absence from the Church, she must be a practicing Catholic for at least two years.
How long is the discernment process?
The call to monastic life is realized over a period of time. There are no fast answers or quick steps. For each individual, the length of time is unique to her situation. Much depends on the person's psychological and spiritual growth and whether she is able to enter into serious discernment. Practical considerations such as distance from the monastery, overall health, and financial status (such as the need to pay off debts, or to sell a home or property) also impact the discernment process. Normally, a person is in contact with the community for a year or two prior to entry.
What are the living arrangements like for the Sisters?
Each Sister has her own bedroom. They are all simply furnished, and generally contain just a single bed, a desk, a dresser, a chair, and bookshelves. Because of our emphasis on community living, Sisters do not have personal areas other than their bedroom. Instead, there are community rooms on each floor in which Sisters can gather to read the newspaper, work a puzzle, crochet, visit, or engage in other forms of recreation. For those who have assigned work or ministry within the monastery, space and equipment appropriate to the task is provided.
Why is the Rule of Benedict called a “rule?” The word "rule" sounds sort of harsh.
The word "rule" derives from the Latin regula, which means something along the lines of “pattern” or "model.” The Latin title of the Rule is Regula Benedicti. Thus, the Rule of Benedict can be thought of as "Benedict's pattern, or model, of monastic life." As a model, it offers a healthy framework upon which individual monks and monastic communities can grow and thrive.
Although the Rule is challenging, it is not harsh. In fact, it is thought that the moderation of the Rule of Benedict, and in particular its appeal to Christian charity, is one of the reasons it has remained the pre-eminent rule for monastic communities for over 1,500 years.
What do you do during a typical day?
Our times of communal prayer are the focal points of each day. Each Sister also spends time in private prayer and spiritual reading. All who are able have full-time ministries in which they are engaged for most of each day. Most of these ministries are outside the monastery ,such as parish work, nursing, or other forms of service. Some have ministries within the monastery such as community administration, liturgy, initial formation, and retreat work.
Those who do not have full-time ministries fill a variety of roles within the monastery - answering the telephone, preparing the chapel for liturgy, washing dishes, assisting with office work, and many other community tasks. While we have times of recreation together as a Community, most leisure activities depend on the interests of the individual Sister. Many enjoy reading. Some crochet or work on other hand-crafts. Most engage in some form of exercise. In all we do, we seek to have a balance of prayer and work.
Sisters also engage in activities outside the monastery when appropriate, such as volunteer work, participating in community music ensembles, attending cultural events, and other forms of sharing in the life of the broader community.
Can Sisters visit their families?
With monastic profession, the monastic community becomes one's primary focus and commitment, much like marriage vows would be for a married couple. However, filial ties are seen as a sacred bond and responsibility and we place great value on our relationships with our families. The frequency and length of family visits depends on the situation of the individual Sister and any specific needs of her family. This is discerned with the prioress, or in the the case of a Sister in initial formation, with her director.
This is just a sampling of the questions we are sometimes asked. If you have other questions, we will be most happy to respond. Just give us a call or send us an e-mail.
Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, OSB; Director of Vocation Ministry
Sister Magdalena Craig, OSB; Vocation Team
Sister Michelle St. Marie, OSB; Vocation Team