January 8, 2010

Religious Vocations Supplement

At home in the monastery: Sisters of St. Benedict seek God and enjoy doing God’s work

Benedictine Sisters Marie Therese Racine, left, and Maureen Therese Cooney pray during evening prayer on Dec. 3 at Our Lady of Grace Monastery Chapel in Beech Grove. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Benedictine Sisters Marie Therese Racine, left, and Maureen Therese Cooney pray during evening prayer on Dec. 3 at Our Lady of Grace Monastery Chapel in Beech Grove. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

BEECH GROVE—Prayer becomes a way of life for women who answer God’s call to join the Sisters of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.

“You find yourself thinking about God,” said Benedictine postulant Heather Foltz, who entered the monastic community on Sept. 7 after discerning a religious vocation as a member of the sisters’ affiliate program.

“The first thing that attracted me to the Benedictine way of life was the prayer, and how the sisters’ ministry flowed from their prayer,” she said. “I remember the first time I came to prayer at the monastery chapel. I felt at home. I loved the way that the Psalms were sung, the times of silence, the petitions and the community life.”

Since entering the monastic community four months ago, she has had many opportunities to grow in her faith with 70 Benedictine sisters.

“When you’re working and processing things, you learn to see God in the people that you encounter in day-to-day life,” she said. “You grow in your knowledge of yourself, your relationship with God and your relationship with others.”

Benedictine Sister Juliann Babcock, the prioress, oversees the needs of the monastic community as well as the sisters’ corporate ministries. They sponsor the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center and St. Paul Hermitage, their ministry to the elderly, adjacent to Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.

“In light of our Benedictine vocation, our ministry flows out of our community life,” Sister Juliann said. “Benedictines are not founded for a particular ministry like many apostolic communities. We have sisters whose ministries are in the fields of education, health care and social work. Other sisters minister in parishes, serve as administrators and are librarians.”

Their motto, “Seek God,” is displayed over the monastery door and is the focus of their daily life.

“We have a charism of hospitality—seeing Christ in the guest,” Sister Juliann said. “We see our ministries as an extension of our hospitality from the monastery. … We try to base our life as a community on prayer, work and hospitality. Our day hinges on our prayer life. We pray together in the morning, at noon and in the evening.”

Before dinner, a common practice of the community is to have a sister read aloud from the Rule of St. Benedict to deepen the saint’s message in the hearts of the sisters.

“Liturgy is very important to us,” the prioress said, “so we work very hard at the quality of our music and our prayer life.”

St. Benedict calls the sisters to live in common, and they share daily tasks and activities.

“As sisters, we are listening to one another and discerning together,” said Benedictine Sister Jennifer Mechtild Horner, the community’s vocation director. “We are committed to working at our life together.”

The sisters invite women between the ages of 18 to 45 to contact the monastery about a time to visit the community and learn more about the Benedictine life.

“In the Rule, St. Benedict talks about ‘good zeal’ and says that we should anticipate the needs of one another,” Sister Juliann said. “There is a wonderful spirit of generosity in our sisters. As a community, we have a desire to welcome new members and to be of service to the people of God. We’re all about seeking God together. That’s what God is calling each of us to do.”

(For more information about the Sisters of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, call Benedictine Sister Jennifer Mechtild Horner at the monastery at 317-787-3287, ext. 3032, or contact her by e-mail at jennifermechtild@benedictine.com.)

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