January 11, 2013

2013 Religious Vocations Supplement

Turning point leads sister to help people find their way to Christ

Benedictine Sister Anne Frederick meets with Postulant Gayla Aspromonte in her role as the formation director for the Benedictine sisters at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. (Submitted photo)

Benedictine Sister Anne Frederick meets with Postulant Gayla Aspromonte in her role as the formation director for the Benedictine sisters at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

BEECH GROVE—She remembers the moment as one of the turning points of her life—a moment that came when she was driving in her car, returning from a visit with college friends.

In her early 20s at the time, she always envisioned that the road ahead of her would lead to marriage.

But as she drove home that day, she thought about all the signs around her that seemed to be steering her in a different direction—including a question from a friend that filled her mind during the drive.

Noticing her deep involvement in her faith and the gifts she had as a person, the friend had asked her, “Have you ever thought about religious life?”

The question stayed with her because she had experienced a dramatic change in her faith in the midst of some personal challenges in her life.

“I went from a belief in God to an encounter with God,” she recalls. “I experienced the love of God. And when you feel that love, you want to return that love. I felt God inviting me to consider religious life. When I allowed myself to be open to these promptings, I discovered an attraction.”

That’s how Benedictine Sister Anne Frederick recalls the beginning of her faith journey as a religious sister.

For Sister Anne—a former engineer, a longtime high school math teacher, the only sister of seven brothers and the formation director for her community—it’s been a faith journey that has continued to drive her closer to God and to share his love with others.

Experiencing the presence of God

“The times that stand out for me are when I was able to help others get in touch with the presence of God or helped them to experience the love of God,” says Sister Anne, now 52, as she relaxes in her office at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove.

“This could happen when I have led prayer or helped on a retreat or had a one-on-one faith discussion with someone. It has happened as I have hiked with teens through the mountains in Colorado or when I have helped a student struggling with math.”

She has taught at Roncalli High School and Bishop Chatard High School, both in Indianapolis. She is currently the math curriculum coordinator at Roncalli.

“Her work within our mathematics department is exemplary,” says Chuck Weisenbach, Roncalli’s principal. “In addition, Sister Anne is a deeply spiritual person who has a real gift in bringing a sense of God’s peace with her wherever she goes.”

Sister Anne enjoys the opportunity to make a difference for teenagers.

“I love their energy,” she says. “There are many opportunities to listen to them, to encourage and help them when they are struggling, to celebrate achievements with them—both big and small—and to pray with them. All of these opportunities have enhanced my life as a sister.”

So has her role as formation director for her community of Benedictine sisters.

“The Rule of St. Benedict instructs that new members should be entrusted to a ‘senior who is skilled in winning souls who will diligently pay attention to them in everything,’ ” Sister Anne says. “That is quite a charge. It is a privilege and a responsibility to enter into the discernment and faith journey of new members. They come with such a desire to seek God.”

Benedictine Sister Heather Jean Foltz is one of the members of the community who has been guided by Sister Anne in her faith journey the past three years.

“She is first and foremost a woman who is deeply rooted in prayer,” Sister Heather says. “She has taught me the importance of taking everything to God in prayer, which opens us up to the grace we need to respond in love to others.

“I feel comfortable sharing my monastic journey with her, both the joys and the challenges. Anne is fully present when she is with someone. She is slow to judge, and models ‘beginning again’ when one makes a mistake. Anne interacts with sisters of all ages and temperaments. She reaches out in compassion to those who are sick or in special need. She lives the common life well, and teaches us to do the same.”

Leading others to Christ

In teaching others, Sister Anne draws upon the lessons that she has learned as a religious sister.

“We hear that life is not about perfection, but about growth,” says Sister Anne, who grew up in St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “I find that this life is filled with challenges and filled with loving support. That is a good environment for growth to happen. I have grown in self-awareness and grown in my knowledge of God. My prayer practices have deepened as I share this environment with a group of women who are all seeking God.”

Sister Anne’s desire to grow, share and help others move closer to God has touched her sisters in community.

“She has a wonderful gift for working with people,” says Benedictine Sister Jennifer Horner, the community’s vocations director. “She truly cares about people, and desires what is best for them. Her goal is always to lead them to Christ.”

In seeking that goal, Sister Anne says she tries to follow the example of the people who helped lead her to a deeper relationship with Christ.

She talks about how her mother of eight children kept a small food pantry in the garage of their home to provide food for families in need.

She remembers how her father played a key role in helping start a child care clinic that offered free health care in Columbus.

She mentions a religious sister who influenced her during a service trip to Appalachia, a sister who showed her how meaningful life could be when a person commits their gifts to serving others.

She refers to the influence of her seven brothers and the blessings she has received from following her vocation as a religious sister.

“One of the greatest blessings is being part of a community,” she says. “I have been supported and loved as we pray together, learn together, laugh and enjoy each other’s company, and serve the broader Church together. I grew up with seven brothers and always wanted a sister. Now, I have a whole community of sisters.”

(To learn more about the Benedictine sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, log on to www.benedictine.com.)

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