Home | Contact Us
Benedictine Sisters
News Center
Harmony News
Spirit & Life Magazine
Please share media and advertising request with Kelley Baldwin, director of communications, at kelley@bspa.us or (660) 944-2221

Sharing God's love long distance

Sharing God's love long distance - (25-05-2023)

< back

In his “Dialogues,” Pope Gregory I provided insights into the life of St. Benedict and his early years after leaving his home and family for the unknown. Ironic, in a way, that St. Benedict spent those first years away from home as a hermit - living in a cave and shunning human interaction - but eventually wrote the Rule and created a style of monasticism that includes a profound link to community, connections and people.

It’s that same spirit of connectedness that the Benedictine Sisters bring to the 21st century with their monastic Oblates. Oblates, who are lay men and women incorporating parts of the Rule into their everyday lives, have been learning through a series of presentations made by Benedictine Sisters via the online platform Zoom the past couple of years.

“Because of the pandemic, the Oblate groups associated with our monastic community transitioned to monthly Zoom meetings in lieu of their regular monthly in-person, on-site meetings. They did this with the expectation that once the pandemic ended, they would return to their regular on-site meetings,” Congregational Oblate Director Sister Kathleen Clare Lahl, OSB said. “This gave me an opportunity to participate monthly with each group; something that would otherwise have been impossible for me being here in Clyde (Missouri).”

Now that the pandemic has officially ended, each group is again hosting monthly in-person, on-site meetings with a hybrid component. This allows Sister Kathleen Clare to participate too - from afar.

“Zoom is incorporated on big screens and/or laptops at the meeting,” she said. “So all Oblates - near and far - can participate in the monthly meetings. I am really happy about this. For others and for myself.”

In addition to the monthly meetings, Sister Kathleen Clare has hosted an online meeting from the Clyde monastery each month the past two years for all congregational Oblates who wish to join in.

“Zoom opened up this new pathway for the Oblates for instruction, staying connected to the monastery and getting to know the Sisters through their presentations and the follow-up questions and dialogue with them,” she said.

With this new form of communication available, Arizona-area Oblates inquired about the possibility of additional input and support from the monastery. So Sister Kathleen Clare asked her fellow Sisters if they would like to prepare a presentation on the topic of holiness and share it via Zoom with the Oblates.

“A number of them were delighted to do so,” Sister Kathleen Clare said. “The Sisters themselves chose what aspect of ‘holiness’ spoke to their heart.”

Topics included “Holiness and Prayer,” “Asceticism - Training for Holiness,” “Saintly Lives,” “Holiness in Scripture,” and “Faces of Mercy.” The one-hour sessions included time for comments, questions and discussion afterward.

“The sessions were so well-received by the Oblates that they requested that we continue them another year with a different theme,” Sister Kathleen Clare said.

This year’s theme is “Applying the Rule to Life.” Topics include “Making Space for God,” “Conversatio: Commitment to Living a ‘Monastic Way of Life,’ “Having a Rule of Life,” and “On Humility.”

Sister Joan Ridley, OSB, whose presentation was titled “Growth is the Only Evidence of Life,” used examples from real-life experiences to show how "conversatio" is about change and growth in God or, as “I called it, ‘not getting stuck,’ she said. “God moves us beyond what we might plan for and is always more than we could have imagined.”

In addition to the congregation’s general Oblate group for members around the world, the Benedictine Sisters offer localized groups, called “deaneries,” in Tucson, Phoenix and Mesa/East Valley in Arizona; Sand Springs, Oklahoma; and Sheridan, Wyoming. These groups allow the Sisters to continue to nurture partnerships with those who live close to the congregation’s former monasteries.

For instance, Benedictine Sister Hope Rodenborn, OSB enjoys time each month sharing with Wyoming-area Oblates, many of whom she knew when she lived at the monastery near Sheridan.

“I have had the gift of sharing reflections on the Beatitudes and how they are reflected in the Rule of St. Benedict,” she said. “Even more enriching is the sharing of each Oblate’s own reflection from the book they are reading. It is a lovely exchange of thoughts and ideas.”

Nancy Kaib, a Phoenix-area Oblate, agrees that maintaining connections with the Sisters is very important.

“We had the (former Benedictine) monastery in Tucson but didn’t get down there more than perhaps twice a year,” she said. “I often wished that I had a monastery nearby, and Zoom has been able to bring me as close as I can get! It has so enriched my Benedictine walk.”

“The Zoom talks are a wonderful blessing, and they keep us bound in the most lovely of ways with our motherhouse and our Sisters,” Phoenix Oblate Nancy Serwint added.

The Sisters take great care in preparing their presentations and in coordination of topics, and it shows. Patty Williams, who lives in the Phoenix area, glowed about a recent talk on humility given by Benedictine Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa, OSB.

“I took so many notes!” Williams exclaimed. “Sister Nancy Rose has great insight and wonderful comments, as do the other speakers. All the talks given have been so different, and we have thoroughly enjoyed that.”

The varying aspects of the theme Sisters visit during their presentations is especially intriguing to Oblate Sharon Hamm.

“It seems that God has provided the right topic presented by just the right Sister to help us to continue to navigate these challenging times,” Hamm said.

Using technology to stay connected isn’t as perfect as in-person sharing, but it still provides a level of contentment among participants.

“When the Sisters moved from Tucson to Clyde, we wondered what the long-distance relationship with the monastery would look like,” Williams said. “I can tell you that we are so grateful, and God has abundantly blessed us.”

“I love the ‘Sister talks,’” Phoenix Oblate Barbara Singer said. “They are very inspiring to us.”

Oblates aren’t the only ones benefitting from the on-line exchange. Sister Kathleen Clare’s idea of asking Sisters to participate in the Zoom sessions has opened new doors for her fellow members as well.

Sister Hope said it allowed her to reflect on a “deeper level and appreciation of the richness of the Rule, especially at this stage of my life,” she said.

“The older I get, the more insights I get from my lectio divina, which is Holy Reading,” Sister Hope said. “The theme I chose was from Chapter 4 verses 20 and 49. ‘Your way of acting should be different from the world's way: the love of Christ must come before all else’ and ‘Be aware that God's gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.’ That verse is right in the middle of the Chapter, and, of course, God is always in the middle of our lives. We need to allow ourselves to be touched by the divine who is within us. The whole Rule is written with this awareness. All of Chapter Four, gives us the tools of the Spiritual life for us to love with our whole heart. Lectio divina calls us to let God gaze into our very being so that we can see the gaze of God in the whole universe.”

It is that connection of the Rule to “everyday” life that strengthens the bonds between the Benedictine Sisters and Oblates.

“I want to continue this connection to the Monastery,” Kaib said. “The Sisters have so much 'real life' experience in living out the Rule to share with those of us who try to live it while dealing with the issues of life 'outside the walls.’”

Learn more about the Benedictine Sisters' Oblate program here.