I received a three-month Lilly Sabbatical grant for Pastoral Leaders in 2009. The time I chose was April 15 through July 16, closing with a family celebration for my mom’s 96th birthday.
The purpose of my sabbatical was to take time to renew, to reflect and to remember: “to bend back” over my community’s journey of becoming the first ecumenical Benedictine monastery in North America. I accomplished my purpose. To begin, I had some special time, meals and conversations with Sisters Joanne, Lynne and Martha. Sister Martha is a retired member of our community who lives in Sioux City, Iowa; it’s always a blessing when the four of us can be together. There was also a fishing trip with Daniel and Lynne. Daniel calls both Sister Joanne and I his grandmothers, as his parents are longtime friends from China whom we sponsored in their move to the United States. They lived in the monastery for several years before buying their own home. I spent most of my sabbatical time slowing down, listening more closely to the Spirit within, reading and gardening. I retreated from my usual duties and responded only to what was necessary. I continued to pray with the community.
I felt more light-hearted, knowing that I was not the first in line to deal with the many activities at the monastery. I wish everyone in the world could have a three month sabbatical to pursue interests ordinarily excluded from our daily work. I wish everyone in the world could have three months to renew relationships with oneself, God and those special others in our lives.