|Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois
Discerning your path in life
|Searching for Answers in a Benedictine Monastery|
19-year-old Anna Sewell is nothing if not bold. Comfortable
both onstage (Anna is a theater
and religion major at Cornell College), and off (she loves getting to know all
kinds of people), she got the idea to immerse herself in a
profoundly-countercultural and little-understood lifestyle last fall, to see
for herself what it would be like. She asked her professor for approval*,
received it, and wrote a letter to Prioress Sister Phyllis McMurray requesting
consideration of her project.
Anna wanted to move into St. Mary Monastery.
The Sisters set aside a room at Benet House Retreat Center
next to the monastery, where Anna could enjoy privacy and yet have complete
access to community members, their prayer and their ministries. Anna arrived in
September, parked her car and didn't leave again for nearly four weeks. We
asked her to reflect on her
experience. Here are her thoughts!
On First Impressions
I came here with very few expectations. I'm not Catholic but
attended Catholic school. I love the Mass.
I expected to shut myself into my cell and learn from books
and prayer. I didn't expect to be so embraced by the Sisters. What had they to
gain but a pair of curious ears? But they were so warm and welcoming, happy to
share what they knew with me. Happy to give their time.
When you think about it, that's what they do with new
members too. The elder Sisters mentor the youngest members. I feel that's what
young people are craving today. They are craving to be fed with wisdom. These
women mentored me with their most precious gift, time. They did it despite
knowing they might never see me again. I feel like they saw my value in God's
On Daily Monastic Life
A monastic's prayer life is big. Learning to stop work in
order to pray is foreign to me, as an Evangelical Free Church member. I think
most people see praying as something to try to fit in during the day. But here,
they pray the Liturgy of the Hours three times a day, plus Mass and Lectio.
I loved doing Lectio with Sr. Mary Core (our formation
director) every morning after Mass. She would always answer all my questions,
in very respectful and meditative and responsive ways. Lectio taught me a lot.
I'm approaching the Bible in a more embracive way now. It's become more of a
friend than a rule book.
After morning prayers, I would sometimes go with a Sister to
her ministry and other times maybe read or work on calligraphy. They have a
wonderful art room here.
I had the luxury of time, here, to think about the big
questions. I had time to ponder them, and not just be bulldozed by them.
On the Rule of Benedict
The Rule is a misnomer, I think. It's more of a guide. I
learned a lot about it from Sr. Joan Chittister's book, Wisdom of the Daily.
She showed me the Rule is not about making cookie-cutter people, but
enlightening free people and helping them use their gifts.
People think that freedom means being able to spend money on
clubs, parties and getting wasted. The Rule goes straight past that. It helps
bring meaning and peace to lives.
I learned the power of being quiet. As a theater major at
school, I'm rarely quiet. It seems like everyone in the department is
constantly moving, either watching movies or talking about someone or learning
how to imitate someone. If they ever took a moment of silence, I feel like it
would be terrifying for them.
In silence, you address what you're living for; what your
life is about. A lot of people never question that.
I was fortunate to be here for Oblate Day. I was amazed that
some laypeople have chosen to live under the Rule as Oblates. They have loving
relationships with their spouses but still are monastic. I'm thinking about
becoming an Oblate.
I came here to do a bit of soul searching. What I was
looking for turned out not to be what I needed, though.
I was looking for answers, as one who values
logic. And a lot of times the answers have defined my faith. But what I've come
to understand better is that there are lots more questions than answers. I
understand better that to be open to discovery and learning new things is what
|Join us for a visit!|
|To give you a chance to learn about Benedictine Sisters and our way of life, we welcome you for a visit. Call (309) 283-2300 or e-mail Sr. Bobbi to set up a good time. Or join us and other single Catholic women for a Benedictine Experience Weekend October 2-4. No matter when you come, there is no cost to you. We look forward to a morning, evening, weekend or week with you! And visit our Web site at www.smmsisters.org.|