“But can we come back?”
Kneeling down so that I could see my nephew’s face, I tried to explain: “You can come back any time you like. You will always be welcome here. I’ll be waiting for you, along with the sisters. You remember Sister Lynne, Joanne, Mary David? They’re your aunties now too.” We hugged each other goodbye, and my sister climbed into the car with her family as I waved from the front door of the monastery.
My sister’s visit to the monastery a few weeks ago, along with her husband, my 3-year old niece and 7-year old nephew, occasioned a celebration. It was a week of ferrying the kids through the wonders of Madison: the zoo, the Children’s Museum, the Farmers Market. We took walks through the prairie, chased butterflies and picked wild black raspberries from the bushes along the trails. In the evenings, the sisters hosted them for meals replete with a bonfire and roasting marshmallows with the kids. For city-slickers from Los Angeles, their trip to the monastery was vast and full of adventure.
I often wondered what they were thinking. Did they grasp just what was happening? For nearly two years, I have lived at Holy Wisdom Monastery—first as a Benedictine Sojourner and then as a novice. During her visit, my sister and I talked about what would happen next as I prepared for my first monastic profession, a period of 3-5 years of further deepening in Benedictine life and spirituality. During my time here I have lived, worked and prayed with the sisters. Under their guidance, I studied Benedictine spirituality, the history of this community and the Federation of Saint Gertrude. I recently returned from a semester in Chicago where I participated in the Intercommunity Novitiate, took classes in scripture at Catholic Theological Union and immersed myself in the work of prayer and discernment. I emerged from my novitiate more confident about my relationship with Christ and my future at Holy Wisdom. I felt ready for the next step. How would I share that with my family and friends?
During my sister’s visit, she expressed her surprise and wonder over what she was seeing. Instead of a dark and forbidding religious environment, she saw what I see each day: a vibrant welcoming community of monastic women living in Christian unity and love. As we sat around the table, I caught a glimpse of my bi-coastal Indian-American immigrant family somehow joined together with this Midwest Benedictine monastic community of women. In this ever-widening experience of Christian family, we were all related and relating. Who could have imagined such a thing? Wasn’t this the best witness to the value and power of the life I am seeking at Holy Wisdom? I am grateful for the life and the commitment I am about to make. The generous welcome of God is embedded deep within the call to Benedictine monastic commitment. It is a call I gladly respond to as I prepare to make my first monastic profession on Sunday, September 20, 2015 during our Eucharistic liturgy.
I hope you will join us for the celebration!