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Maria Gara enters Benedictine novitiate

Maria Gara enters Benedictine novitiate - (08-04-2013)

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Photo: Novice Maria Gara (center) took part in the Rite of Passage on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 7, entering into the next phase of formation with the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. During the ceremony in the Adoration Chapel, she received the Benedictine medal, the Rule of Benedict and a copy of the congregation's constitution. Also pictured are (left) Prioress General Sister Pat Nyquist, OSB, and Formation Director Sister Lynn Marie D'Souza, OSB.

After earning a degree in biochemistry in 1997, Maria Gara worked for the National Park Service in New Mexico and the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada. She spent her days monitoring plant life recovery after wildfires and worked in experimental landscape restoration. She surveyed rare plants and conducted watershed assessments.

But it was when the Hamilton College graduate was awaiting foot surgery several years ago that she discovered her life’s journey might take a more eventful turn.

“That’s when I first heard my religious calling,” said the tall brunette who spent a lot of time hiking and enjoying the outdoors. “But I was afraid and didn’t know what to do with it.”

Five years passed, and the East Sidney, N.Y., native felt the call once again. While still difficult to accept, she knew she had to explore that pull to religious life. She briefly looked into apostolic communities, those that teach or work in hospitals, but it was the contemplative life that spoke to her heart. “It was the more obvious fit for me,” she said.

She entered the postulancy of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in February 2012, a time she was happy to see finally arrive. After eight months of visiting family and friends and tying up loose ends, it was “a deep relief to stop moving and live with stability,” she said. 

The first year or so of postulancy allows those in formation to learn more about religious life, adjust to community living, receive guidance from a spiritual director, take classes in a variety of subjects and explore the many jobs to be done in a monastery. It gives postulants a chance to learn how to live with women of different generations and personalities and how to shift the focus on self to that of a group as a whole.

"I'm a one-day-at-a-time kind of gal," Maria said. "I thank God daily for leading me here in his abundant mercy, for my family, for the people he placed in my life over the years and for those I live and work with now."

Throughout that initial period, a postulant undergoes constant evaluation. In turn, she evaluates the community, continuing to discern if it is a right fit for her. At the conclusion, if both sides agree, she is then invited to enter into the novitiate.

That’s where we find Maria today, now Novice Maria, after she took part in the Rite of Passage during prayer services on Divine Mercy Sunday at the Benedictine Sisters’ Adoration Chapel in Clyde, Mo.

“I enjoy the balance of communal time and solitude, work and prayer, working inside the monastic walls and outside in the garden,” Novice Maria said. “Still, the days pass too quickly, and I do not accomplish what I’d like to. However, I arrived here with that challenge, and it seems I still need to work on it.”

The novitiate is a two-year period, which includes a more focused time of intense spiritual formation. 

"I pray frequently that God will increase his presence in me and in us, that we will become more and more the daughters and sons he designed us to be, that we will lead each other to God," Novice Maria said. "The earth will be a more peaceful and wholesome place beginning here with me and my sisters."