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A beautiful life, a beautiful love: Sisters celebrate 50 years of monastic profession

A beautiful life, a beautiful love: Sisters celebrate 50 years of monastic profession - (05-10-2021)

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PHOTO: Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Cathleen Marie Timberlake, OSB (left) and Rita Clair Dohn, OSB, renew their vows during the Ceremony of Recommitment, part of their Golden Jubilee of Monastic Profession held Sept. 29, 2021, in the Adoration Chapel at their monastery in Clyde, Missouri.

“There can be no greater love than this: to give our lives for others; our joy will be complete.” 

Lyrics from the song “Journeys Ended, Journeys Begun,” which opened the Golden Jubilee celebration of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Rita Clair Dohn, OSB and Cathleen Marie Timberlake, OSB, were befitting of the day - and of five decades of dedication to the Lord and to their community of fellow Sisters.

“After 50 years of prayer and work, Sister Cathleen Marie and Sister Rita Clair (might say), ‘This is enough,’” presider Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB of Conception Abbey said. His comment drew chuckles from the crowd of Sisters, relatives and special guests who filled the Adoration Chapel on September 29.

He commented that no one would think less of them if they chose to sit back and take life easy now, especially considering their current work with the elder Sisters at Our Lady of Rickenbach health care facility and with Monastery Creations after serving in multiple leadership roles in the Congregation throughout the years.

“You’ve certainly done and experienced a great deal. We know Sisters don’t retire - even after 50 years of service,” Abbot Benedict added. “He’s calling on you, Sisters, and all the rest of us to a fullness of that unity, glory and love that he’s already given you. But he’s not finished yet.”

The celebration continued with the Ceremony of Recommitment, a moment when Prioress General Sister Dawn Annette Mills, OSB invited the jubilarians forward to renew their vows of stability, conversatio and obedience.

The community responded together with, “We thank you for responding to the daily invitation to seek God among us, for the years of loving service and prayer you have given your community, the church and the world.”

Sister Dawn Annette ended with, “God inspires all holy desires and brings them to fulfillment. May we continue to grow in good zeal, to seek even greater purity in prayer, and strive with even greater fervor to imitate Christ, who is the model for all monks. May God guide us always that we may always fulfill our monastic call with faithful hearts.”

The day continued with a lovely meal in the refectory complete with fellowship and laughter, which seemed quite appropriate given the gregarious natures of Sister Rita Clair and Sister Cathleen Marie. After all, the two have friends and family from near and far, some of whom traveled to take part in their special day.  

“We, as a community, have attended many, many jubilees over the years, and it’s always my experience that it’s not just for the jubilarians. It’s for the community,” Sister Cathleen Marie shared with everyone after the meal. “We grow in our joy and are blessed by that. But it’s a whole different feeling when it’s you.”

She expressed her gratitude with everyone who attended the ceremony and remarked on the passage of time since she entered the monastery.

“When I look back, it doesn’t seem possible it’s been 50 years. Time has gone so fast, and I think - oh - I should be holier or I should be this or I should be that,” she said. “Well - first of all - we’re not supposed to ‘should’ on ourselves. But every once in a while it comes to my mind. But I’m so grateful to so many people who have helped me along the way, on the journey.”

As always, Sister Rita couldn’t help but offer a witty opening to her address. “I don’t know where 50 years went, and I look forward to the next 75,” she quipped, sending the room into laughter.

She then grew serious and shared that the balance of a prayerful life offered by the Congregation was what drew her here so many years ago.

“I was raised in another Benedictine community for seven years, and they gave me a brief foundation. But they weren’t a community like this,” she said, gesturing around the room full of smiling Sisters. “We have changed a lot over the course of the 43 years I’ve been here. Life is different, and it’s beautiful if you’re open to change. We’re more blessed by the people who have come here. God brings all these gifts into our life, and I think we’re all very grateful for that.”