Reflection at the Jubilee Celebration 2015

Anne Shepard, OSB


The scripture passages for today are concerned with God’s call to us and our response, and especially today, we honor the call and the response of our six jubilarians.

First, we heard about the prophet Amos.  Poor guy.  Amos- he didn’t think he was a prophet.  He was minding his own business as a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees when lo and behold God said now you get to go prophesy.  He didn’t want to do that.  Just know that Amos was no wimp.  He took this call from God very seriously.  His experience as a breeder of livestock, “tender of mulberry figs” and landowner in the South of Israel changed when he went north to become a bold spokesperson against human trafficking, prostitution, violence, excessive consumption particularly as it robbed the poor of what was rightly theirs, and excessive taxation.  In 800 BC, Amos unmasks social evil and calls people to conversion.  He is credited with the phrase that became so cherished by Martin Luther Kings, Jr.  “Let justice roll down like the water, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”  Amos began with a humble career and ended by being a strong and powerful voice ever to challenge personal and institutional hypocrisy and injustice. 

In the second reading we heard what St. Paul wrote to the people of Ephesus: “in him we were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intentions of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.  In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

Theologian Frederick Buechner tells us that “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  All of our jubilarians entered Mount St. Scholastica because they felt called by God to religious life.  All grew into understanding the uniqueness of the monastic dimension of this life of prayer and community.  They are models of fidelity to daily prayer, lectio, community life and they are hope for the future.  Having made the Benedictine promises of obedience, stability, and fidelity to this monastic life,  they knew that they were committing themselves in a special way to Christ as lived with the members of this community.  Like Amos and St. Paul, they did not end up doing what they began to do 50 or 25 years ago.  

The golden jubilarians all began as Catholic school and parish religious educators, as many of the rest of us did.  Entering in 1963 when the Catholic Church and educational practices were changing and evolving exponentially, they studied both together and separately.  For instance, all young sisters had to take phonics one summer, and it did not matter what the major or what the grade level for which we were preparing.  And I got to sit next to Esther!   

But as times and circumstances changed, so did the ministries that these sisters engage in to serve our monastic community and the people of God.  

Susan’s hospice work finds her comforting and praying with men and women experiencing terminal illness.  As they prepare to leave this life and enter eternal life, she comes to them as a joyful presence.   

Esther reaches out to meet those suffering from rejection and sorrow, some who have lost loved ones, some exiled from their homelands, still others tortured in heinous ways.  Her compassionate counseling ministry is her heart’s response to the gifts God has given her.  

More than ever before, our world yearns for, hungers for a deep spirituality.  With training in both Jesuit and Benedictine spiritual traditions, Mary Liz works to bring parishioners, retreatants and spiritual directees to appreciate themselves and our loving God in profound ways.

Cecilia always hungers for monastic study and traveled to Rome to be with the most renowned scholar on the Rule of Benedict, Sister Aquinata Bockmann.  First forming the new members of the community and recently college students, she teaches by word and example the essence of Benedictine spirituality.  

After more than thirty years in formal Catholic education, Carol Ann answered the call of our community in 2003 to begin the Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, a widely recognized place of service to those needing comfort, material assistance, counseling, practical skills,  and spiritual nourishment.  Her passion is to empower women to become the strong people God wants them to be.

Our silver jubilarian’s conversion, road traveled and prophetic role is a different that the five mentioned above.  Australian Jesuit, Brendan Byrne writes that “the Gospel reminds the church that the effectiveness of its prophetic role - its critique of prevailing cultural assumptions and practice- will largely be in proportion to the lightness with which it travels, the trust in the goodness (hospitality) of ordinary people, and the lack of self-seeking its ministers present to the world.”  Elaine’s prophetic role finds her working and caring for both her sisters and the land by her witness to simplicity, unselfishness and hospitality, all in the spirit not only of Saints Scholastica and Benedict, but also in the spirit of the new encyclical  “Laudato Si”- “Praised be You”, a statement published last month on environmental justice, written by Pope Francis.

These six strong women, joined us grounded in the love and faith of their parents, families and close friends.  While the list of what to bring was a bit different than what Jesus asked “nothing for the journey but a walking stick- no food, no sack, or no money”, they arrived with very little.  At the time they had no IPhone or IPad, or FitBit or IWatch.  But they came with and they still have generous monastic hearts- hearts that enable them to be the good news Christ wants us to be.  They have taken and will continue to take the mandate go preach very seriously, by their lives of love and their witness of deep peace.

On behalf of all present- thank you and God bless you. Happy Anniversary.