Four sisters celebrate 50 years

Sister Esther Fangman | August 2, 2017

Last Sunday, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Sisters Anne Shepard, Rita Killackey, Sharon Hamsa, and Rose Marie Stallbaumer.

Sister Rose Marie’s family and friends may have thought they came because of all the wonderful things she did as a principal or working in our business office to help us be financially sound and stable. Sister Sharon’s guests may have thought they were doing so because of how she has contributed to society as a quality high school and college math teacher, imparting not only math but also care to students. Sister Rita’s friends and family may have come to celebrate her contributions as a canon lawyer, aiding people to negotiate a better life within the Church, or the many years she worked in parish ministry to help people love God. Sister Anne’s guests may have thought they were here to celebrate her gifts and her ministry as prioress or her service as superintendent of schools in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

But that’s not what we celebrated on their jubilee day. All of them have done wonderful service within this community and within the larger church. We thank them for that, but that’s still not what we celebrate. Our focus was on something even more important. The reason for the celebration was captured in that day’s Gospel, where Jesus tells of the merchant who, searching for fine pearls, discovers one of great price and sells everything to obtain it. The celebration was about four people who made a decision 50 years ago to search for that fine pearl and then did so each day for 50 years, giving their entire lives to keep that precious pearl. St. Benedict says that monastics come to seek God. That is the pearl of great price, to which they have dedicated their lives.

This kind of seeking is done in very specific ways in a Benedictine community. It is in how we see the face of God in each other in our community, in how we do our ministries and in our prayer life together. Rhythms of prayer punctuate the entire life of a monastic every day. Twice a day a sister continues to search for God by praying morning and evening prayer. For over 50 years, each of these jubilarians has come to community prayer. That is over 18,250 times she has come in the morning and 18,250 times she has come in the evening to pray, or 36,500 times that she came to pray with the community. Each one has done this day after day, year after year. If we add up all four of these sisters’ times of prayer, praise of God has occurred 146,000 times this past 50 years. They have chosen to be shaped daily by the readings of scripture and the psalms to seek that priceless pearl in their hearts. That is worth celebrating.