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Sister Joan takes the helm at Tucson monastery

Sister Joan takes the helm at Tucson monastery - (27-07-2016)

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PHOTO: (Left) Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Joan Ridley, OSB was formally installed as superior of the Tucson community during a ceremony led by Prioress General Sister Dawn Annette Mills, OSB on July 25. (Right) She is thrilled to return to the monastery for which she served as subprioress for several years. 

(Tucson, Ariz.) - Sister Joan Ridley, OSB has been officially installed as the next superior of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s community in Tucson, Arizona.

During a ceremony held July 25, Sister Joan formally took over from Sister Ramona Varela, OSB, who had served as the monastery’s prioress since 2008.

Sister Joan, a native of Philadelphia, entered this world prematurely, which resulted in limited eyesight. However, such limitations have not held her back. The daughter of a beauty salon owner and an architectural engineer, she remembers with fondness family discussions involving politics and events related to her father’s second job as a justice of the peace.

“I grew up with police officers visiting our house, weddings in our front room and the occasional family member crying for help from the justice of the peace,” she said.

The call to religious life was rooted in high school in the mid-1960s, and she entered a missionary Dominican community when she was 18 years old. She earned degrees in social work and law, using them to serve the poor in ministry. In 1996 she embraced the call to contemplative monastic life and made a formal transfer three years later to the Benedictine Sisters.

She has served in a variety of leadership positions within the Benedictine Sisters, including subprioress of the Tucson monastery. Most recently, she was elected to serve on the Congregation’s General Council in 2014. Even though the council is headquartered at the Benedictine Sisters’ community in Clyde, Missouri, she will continue as a general councilor while serving in Tucson.

The Benedictine Sisters utilize two types of local leadership in their monasteries: a prioress, which is an elected position by the community, and a superior, which is leader appointed by Congregational leadership. Sister Joan’s appointment as superior of the Tucson community is for one year.

“Sister Joan knows the Sisters, the monastery and our friends,” Prioress General Sister Dawn Annette Mills, OSB said of the appointment. “She loves the people and the place and will do her best to steward monastic life there.”

Sister Joan is also an author. In 2010 she released “In the Presence: The Spirituality of Eucharistic Adoration,” which offers devotional and theological perspectives and suggestions for modern Catholics to connect with adoration in a contemporary way.

“It has been two years since I was elected to the General Council and moved to our monastery in Clyde,” Sister Joan said, “but it feels like I never left. It was so easy to return, and I look forward to being in relationship again with the Sisters in Tucson and with our Tucson-area friends.”

Wherever - or however - Sister Joan is called serve, she views leadership as a service on behalf of “the whole body.”

“God gives the grace to respond no matter where one is or what one does,” she said. “It is to that grace I desire to cling.”

Her goals are to “stay focused and help the community stay focused on the present moment where God is found and offers grace abundantly.”

Sister Ramona, who during her two terms as prioress oversaw a variety of projects including extensive renovations to the monastery grounds and the installation of solar energy arrays, will travel to Kylemore Abbey in Ireland for a short sabbatical.

“Sister Ramona has been a wonderful leader in our Tucson monastery,” Sister Dawn Annette said. “After some time for rest and renewal, we look forward to her return to Tucson where her gifts in liturgy and monastic life will be gladly received.”

For more information, please contact Sister Joan at (520) 325-6401.