Highlighting the varied ministries of Sisters at Mount St. Scholastica.
A reflection on the ministry in which I am engaged has little order, but is related to what I have been trained for throughout my life. I am a Ph.D. trained historian. Even though I did not begin my academic career as a student of history, the history of people and places has always fascinated me. My greatest excitement was as a four year old in California and I met the Pacific Ocean. To this day, I still recall the excitement that I felt.
Now that I have officially retired from academe as, first, a faculty member and, lastly, as an administrator, my ministries have changed greatly. For the last few years – probably eight – I am engaged in the primary life of a Benedictine: praying the divine office daily in community.
After that, what?
As a trained researcher, I am presently researching and writing the history of Queen of the World Hospital, the first racially integrated hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. It has been an exhilarating undertaking to research the history, the people, and the time. To meet one of the original African American physicians who served at the hospital, Dr. Samuel Rodgers, and interview some of the Maryknoll sisters who served there – in particular, Sister Madelina Dorsey – was a privilege.
There is no argument that many researchers could do what I am doing. Perhaps one unique advantage was that I am a nun and some of the sisters felt very comfortable being interviewed by me because of my religious affiliation. While researching, I was housed in the convent and I ate with the sisters in their dining room. There was an obvious comfortableness with me being among them.
In addition to praying and researching, I also shelve books in the community library, wash dishes in the community kitchen, clean bathrooms, and empty the trash. Such is part of the balance of Benedictine life.
What is my ministry/ministries here at the monastery? Well, that depends on the day and season you ask. One of my blessings is that I have variety in my life. I am the director of initial formation—that is, I work with women who come to our community during their first years with us as a postulant, later as a novice. I work with them, assisting them to get to know our community, our customs and procedures. Besides regular conferences, I plan the curriculum that the postulant or novice will be involved in each semester. Usually, the postulant/novice takes 3 or 4 classes each semester. Several professed Sisters, as well as myself, join her for these classes.
I presently serve on the staff of our Souljourners program: a course of study and practice which trains those wishing to be spiritual directors. This is a part of the ministry of Sophia Spirituality Center. Having been trained myself through the Souljourners program, I offer spiritual direction, as well as helping with the program. I have also offered retreats on Zentangle, an art form, through Sophia.
Creating beautiful spaces and flower arrangements – mainly for our chapels – is another gift I share with community. During the summer, our gardeners maintain beautiful flower beds: sunflowers, zinnias, black-eyed-Susans, and more! I have the privilege of going out to gather, then arrange the flowers as needed. The seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost each offer their own environmental beauty, which I help provide for our worship spaces.
A single fabric contains many threads, each contributing its own charm. Our community is woven together through the contributions of many. Each has gifts to contribute. Each task has its own set of skills needed to enhance that job but, for me, the foundation for all is prayer and community. As Benedictines, we gather daily for prayer and community living. It is from these gatherings that I draw my strength to be able to fulfill the work of my day. Without the support of community, I would find it a daunting task to be director of initial formation. With the love and support of this community, I find the tasks of each day a source of energy and enjoyment.